jesus Posts

The Time of Your Life

time_of_your_lifeWe often don’t understand and appreciate the time of life we’re in, or we make choices that make our time of life harder than it needs to be. It’s true that we are all individuals who can’t be pigeonholed into a set grid, but there are also some generalized times of life for people. Even though it’s different for each of us, God has designed now to be the best time of our lives. We just need to look at things through His perspective.

Your life is not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon. It’s more of a cross-country race or a steeplechase. There are ups and downs, curves and straightaways, rivers to ford and meadows to meander, times that are fast paced, and times of coasting, pacing yourself and catching your breath.

Each time of our life morphs into the next; it doesn’t usually happen abruptly, although there are times it may feel sudden and unexpected. When we stop and reflect, there are almost always little changes we’ve adapted to that are leading to the next time of our life. They were just gradual and not very noticeable. For instance, a mom may feel like her last child going to school all day was sudden, and may wonder what she should do now. She may feel like her identity as Mom is slipping away, never to return. But the reality is, those little ones have been moving toward independence, day by day, since they were born; they were made for that.

Just like there are seasons of the year that signal change and difference, there are seasons of our lives. Just as there are places where there are distinct changes in the weather and climate, so there are also changes in our behavior. For some, summer is a time of being outside, with activity and fun, whereas winter may be a time of slowing down, staying inside by the fire and reading a good book. We need to recognize and get in step with our life seasons to make the most of the varied times of our lives.

Rather than trying to get back to the last season of life, we need to recognize the values of the new season and take advantage of them. Even the Proverbs speak of the ant that gathers in the summer for the times in the winter when there is nothing to gather (Proverbs 6:6-8). There are seasons of our lives that are fast paced, crazy busy and almost maddening. We will be much better prepared for those seasons of life if we have relished in and taken advantage of the slower paced season when we could charge our batteries and recharge our emotional strength.

Lastly, a bit of advice (from someone who has not always practiced this), no matter what season of life, no matter what time of life you are in, take time to lift your head and look for two things.

One, look for what is ahead of the immediate “right now.” It’s so easy to put our head down and forget that this is just a season, or to just coast and forget that the hairy, busy time will come. Two, look at what the Lord is doing in your life, your marriage, your family and your community of friends, and get in step with Him and what He is doing. Ask Him, “God what are you doing? What do you want me to learn? How can I get in step with you in this time of my life?” By doing so, you can live life to the fullest now, the way He intended you to live it.

Being a Friend When Someone Has Experienced a Loss

Being_A_Friend

When Judy and I lost our 5 ½-year-old son Kyle, we were shocked and numb for several weeks. During that time, and through many conversations with others in the last 37 years, we have learned some of the best – and worst – practices for being a friend to someone who has experienced loss.

Loss comes in many shapes and sizes. From losing a child to losing a spouse, through death or divorce, from losing your health to losing a job, all these are forms of loss that call for our friendship to step up to another level of care and compassion.

As we think about being a friend, let’s think about what we go through in our heads and hearts as we contemplate helping someone who has lost. We want to do something that will really help, but are at a loss as to what that might be. What would really help is to undo the loss in the first place, but in most cases that is impossible. So what do we do that would be meaningful? We must resist the temptation to think that anything we say will make them feel better or “fix” the situation.

Within a week of losing Kyle, we had comments from well meaning friends who were trying to use words to make it all better. We heard everything from, “Well at least he’s in heaven” to “God must have known that he would have made your life miserable later on and was sparing you that grief.” We were glad for the assurance that our son was in heaven, but we would rather have had him with us right now. And we would have much rather have had a son, alive, even if he did make some bad choices later in life that would have been painful for him and us.

Words can bring some comfort in the midst of the pain, but they can never fix the pain one suffers in loss. Comforting words may include “I’m so sorry” or “My heart is aching for you right now” or “If I can do anything at all, please tell me. Can I…?” Don’t take over and become a bossy cow in the person’s life, but genuinely be there for them and with them, willing to do whatever.

The two people who helped the most right after we lost Kyle were very different, but both made a real impact. One dear friend just took the initiative, went to the store and bought some diapers for Eric, another of our sons, who was 2 ½ and in the hospital fighting for his life. He too had drowned, but was able to be resuscitated. Then she offered to take Bryan, our 3 ½ year old, to her house while we stayed overnight in the hospital.

Another dear friend came to the hospital to see me in the middle of the night. I was sitting in the hallway on the floor, reliving the horrors of that day over and over in my head. And my heart was aching from the reality that I would never see our son Kyle again in this life. Andy just sat next to me on the hallway floor. He put his arm around me and we just cried together. I’m not sure he ever said a single word in over two hours. He just sat and cried with me, and his presence meant the world to me in that moment.

One of the best things you can do is be a friend who is present and cares. Not a fixer. Be one who empathizes, not one who takes over and forces your help on someone else. Be one who says little, but loves greatly. It is your love, spoken or unspoken, that will mean the most to someone in their time of loss.[1]

[1] For more on this subject, consider my book, When Life Is Changed Forever: By the Death of Someone Near.

Love Letters

Love-Letters

Before Judy and I were married, we had a long distance dating relationship for a while, where Judy was in California and I was in Texas. We had to get creative, so we wrote letters – real hardcopy pen and paper letters – almost daily, and talked on the phone once a week. Even though we wrote daily letters, we didn’t always receive letters every day. Sometimes it would be three to four days between letters, and then I’d get several in one day.

No matter when I got a letter from Judy and no matter how many I received at a time, I always cherished them. I recall treating each one like a prized possession. I’d carry it from the mailbox to my apartment, put everything aside and prepare to relish every word on the pages I was about to open. The anticipation was always exhilarating.

I would take my letter opener and carefully open the top of the envelope to reveal the words on the pages that Judy had personally penned for me. I’d carefully pull the pages from the envelope and open them to reveal Judy’s heart and mind in ink – for me.

My mind and heart would race with anticipation of what I was about to read. Why? It was from Judy. A million different people could have written me a personal letter, but none of them would have steeped my expectancy like these words from Judy.

As I read the words on the pages, I savored every one. I analyzed each word and phrase. I wanted to make sure I drew out every nuance and meaning that Judy was thinking and feeling when she wrote this love letter to me.

I found myself pouring over the letter over and over again. I would read it again and walk away pondering the thoughts, the feelings, the meanings once again. There would always be a line or two that would particularly grab my heart or mind. I’d repeat it over and again in my mind. So many of Judy’s words spoke life to me, and gave me inspiration and determination to face the day ahead.

Today, Judy and I have been married for more than 44 years, but I will never forget those letters. And as I remember all that those letters meant to me – the anticipation, the pouring over them for meaning, the encouragement, the challenges, the words that spoke life and inspiration to me – I’m reminded of someone else who has written letters to me.

The God of the universe has spoken to me in the form of letters in the Bible. They are from the heart and mind of God to me – because He loves and cares for me. God did not put me here and say, “Good luck. I hope you can figure it all out.” He has given words of life. Do I cherish His words like I did Judy’s? Do I keep pouring over His words searching for meaning and intent? Do I long for the next time I can read His words? Do I keep rolling His words over and again in my mind?

If I truly love God as I have loved Judy, shouldn’t I treat His words to me with at least as much anticipation, joy, excitement and urgency as I did Judy’s letters?

Biblical Families: The Helper

What does it mean for the wife to be the helper of her husband? Rick and Judy take a look at the wife’s biblical role in a marriage and how a woman can be a true asset to her husband.

 

Biblical Families: Headship

Headship from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

God designed men and women differently. So what roles should a husband and wife have in a marriage? Rick and Judy talk about what the Bible says a husband’s role of headship really means and how that looks in a healthy marriage.

 

Prophecy: The New Heaven and Earth

 

New_Heaven_Earth-1

The Bible speaks about many things that are yet to come, things such as:

But after all is said and done, there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. But why? What’s wrong with this earth?

We get a glimpse of the need for this in Romans 8:19-22:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

This planet has become polluted by evil over thousands of years now. And after the Great Tribulation, it will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is today. And God has promised to re-create this planet and its whole atmosphere in the future.

We see the most detailed description of this in Revelation 21:1-8:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Here are some observations:

  1. The earth and its atmosphere, as part of this solar system, will come to an end.
  2. There will be a re-created heaven and earth.
  3. There will be 71% more land mass, since there will no longer be a sea.
  4. There will be a new Jerusalem that will be three-dimensional.
  5. God Himself will dwell among mankind.
  6. There will be no pain or sorrow by those living in this eternal state, and no death.
  7. This new heaven and earth will only be inhabited by believers.

This will truly be a “heaven on earth” experience. Heaven is where God dwells, and He will dwell on this new creation with us, in our midst, without any wants or needs, no crying or pain and no death, eternally!

Prophecy: Judgments & Resurrections

The Judgments

There is often much confusion about different judgments and resurrections in the Bible. This will help simplify and spell out these two areas of prophecy.

The Judgments

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Judgment of the work of the church saints. The picture is painted of church saints who will have their works weighed, whether they were done in faith or not. This judgment is a rewards judgment that will result in church saints being rewarded for their deeds done in faith. I believe this will happen when the church is raptured prior to the Great Tribulation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Judgments of those still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation. Jesus tells us there will be a judgment for those who survive the Great Tribulation. This is often referred to as the judgment of the sheep and goats. Those who are believers will live and go into the Millennium, and those who are unbelievers will die and wait for another judgment (Matthew 25:31-33).

3. Judgment of the nations. At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will bring the nations of the world before Him and they will be judged. This will be the same as the judgment of the sheep and goats, but it often refers specifically to the nations, which are made up of both sheep and goats, believers and unbelievers (Matthew 25:31-46; Joel 3:2).

4. Judgment of Israel. At the end of the Great Tribulation there will be a judgment of Israel that will weed the unbelievers from the believers. This too is part of the judgment of the sheep and goats (Ezekiel 20:37-38).

5. First judgment of Satan. When Jesus returns and defeats the antichrist and all the nation’s armies in the battle of Armageddon, He will also lock up Satan for the period of the Millennium, until the very end (Revelation 20:2-3).

After the Millennium

6. Judgment of Satan and the fallen angels. There will come a time after the Millennium when Satan will be loosed one last time to lead a rebellion against Jesus, the God-King. When Satan is defeated, Jesus will cast him and his demonic angels into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-10; Jude 6; 1 Corinthians 6:3).

7. The Great White Throne Judgment. The last of all the judgments will be for all unbelievers for all time. John refers to this as taking place before a great white throne upon which God sits as judge. The result of this judgment is that all unbelievers for all time will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity – where Satan and the demons live also (Revelation 20:11-15).

 

The Resurrections

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Resurrection of the church saints. Prior to the Great Tribulation, church saints will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. This will include those who are living and those who are dead. These dead church saints will be resurrected for this rapture of all church saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Resurrection of Old Testament and dead Tribulation saints. At the end of the Great Tribulation, all Old Testament saints and all dead Tribulation saints will be raised from the dead so they can enter into the Millennium along with living saints who survived the Great Tribulation. This is also called the first resurrection, referring to the first general resurrection, and it is believers only (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-6).

After the Millennium

3. Resurrection of all unbelievers. All unbelievers for all time will be raised from the dead to stand before God on His Great White Throne and His judgment. They will face their judgment and be cast eternally into the lake of fire. This is also called the second resurrection, being the second general resurrection, and it will be unbelievers only (Revelation 20:11-15).

Prophecy: The Millennium

Print

The word millennium is a way of delineating the thousand-year period mentioned specifically in Revelation 20:2-7. However, over the last century, there has been a growing debate over the purpose, nature and even the reality of this period mentioned in the Bible. Personally, I take the Bible at face value.

When it refers to this period of time specifically as “a thousand years” or “the thousand years” six times in those six verses, I take that to mean there is going to be a specific thousand-year period, not a long, indefinite period of time, where the world gets better and better. Why would John call it a, or the, thousand years, six verses in a row, if he meant something less specific?

So what do we know about the Millennium from the Scriptures?

Psalm 2:1-12 forecasts that God the Father will establish His Son as King over all the nations of the world.

Daniel 2:44 prophesies that this Messiah King will bring an end to all earthly kingdom and usher in His own perfect and just kingdom.

Isaiah 7:6-7 declares that He will be in the lineage of King David, and as the Prince of Peace, will usher in “world peace” for the first time in human history.

Jeremiah 23:5-8 further promises that this King, in the lineage of David, will usher in a world of peace and justice, but will bring the Jewish people from all over the world to dwell in a restored land of Israel.

Isaiah 2:2-4 tells us that in this future kingdom, Jerusalem will be the focal point of the world, and the coming King will reign here over all the nations of the world.

Isaiah 11:4-9 makes it clear this period will not only be a time of peace but also of absolute justice for all on the earth.

Isaiah 35:1-7 paints a picture of healing on the earth during this period of time, healing of both the land and all the people who enter in there.

Isaiah 49:14-26 promises the future King will deal with all of Israel’s enemies justly and restore the nation of Israel to their promised land.

Joel 2:26-27 adds to this the promise that the nation of Israel will never again be put to shame in the world.

Ezekiel 40-43 portrays the new, future Temple in Jerusalem in great detail. It will be the most magnificent Temple ever and will be indwelt by the God King-Priest Himself.

Daniel 7:18, among other Old Testament passages, seems to indicate that part of the population of the Millennium will be Old Testament saints, especially believing descendants of Abraham. That means they would be raised from the dead to enjoy the kingdom promised them.

Revelation 20:4 clearly spells out that martyred saints from the Tribulation will be raised from the dead and enter into the Millennium as well.

Revelation 3:21 is a record of Jesus promising church saints that they will rule and reign with Him in the Millennium.

Revelation 20:2-3, 7-8 prophesies that Satan will be confined and have no influence during this thousand years until the very end when he will be released to lead any who want to revolt against the God-King. The Millennium will begin with only believers and saints, but over time they will have children, who will each have to choose whether they are willing to put their trust in Jesus. Some will not, and will follow after Satan at the end of the Millennium.

Revelation 20:7-10 tells us that at the very end of the Millennium Jesus will defeat and banish Satan forever.

These are but a sampling of the hundreds of passages that speak to this aspect of prophecy.

To put the Millennium in perspective, it is promised to be a thousand-year period that will follow the Great Tribulation. This will be a time marked by Christ being the Priest-King, ruling in a new Jerusalem from a new Temple, and will rule with love and justice over a world kingdom, over all the nations.

Prophecy: Jesus

Prophecy

We see prophetic glimpses of Jesus all the way back in Genesis 3:15, where God promised a singular man in the future who would deal a deathblow to Satan once and for all. Throughout the prophets of the Old Testament period we see pictures of a Messiah, the Promised One, of whom Isaiah makes these predictions:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6–7 (NASB)

Just over 2000 years ago, that child was born (Luke 2:11). This Messiah, the man Jesus, is a wise counselor and teacher, a King of an endless kingdom, the very God and eternal Father Himself.

The prophecies of Jesus do not stop there. More promises concerning Jesus are clear in the Scriptures. Mainly, He is coming again. But when and how will He come? What will He do?

Jesus made a promise to His disciples with these words:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. – John 14:1–3 (NASB)

As we study the rest of the New Testament, we see two “comings” of Jesus. One is when church saints, believers, go up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1). This is referred to as the rapture (“caught up”) of the church. Jesus is going to come and take His church to be with Him one day, both living and those who have died before this rapture.

But there is another “coming” of Jesus. He is coming to the earth and will establish Himself as that Prince of Peace who will build a kingdom here. We see this beginning and developing in Revelation 19:11-20:6.  As seen in this passage, Satan and his demons will be removed from the earth until the very end of the 1000 years. This will be a time to fulfill promises of a kingdom to Israel, including dead Old Testament saints who will rise to enjoy this kingdom under the perfect rule of Jesus, just as Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 9:3-7.

After this 1000-year period is complete, there is yet more that is predicted about Jesus. See these words of John as he describes the new heaven and earth that will be refashioned, indwelt only by those who had trusted in God and His promises, and particularly in the new Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (that’s Jesus) are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb (Jesus again). The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. – Revelation 21:22–24 (NASB, parentheses added by author)

Jesus has come, and is presently the Lord of His church, as predicted.

But He is coming again to rapture His church, to establish and reign over an earthly kingdom for a thousand years, and to be the Light of the World.

Lord, come quickly!

Prophecy: The Antichrist

Prophecy-The_Antichrist

Ever since Satan declared, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14, NASB), he has been about the business of accomplishing that goal. One of the ways he plans to attempt to supplant God and make himself greater is to trick the world into believing that he is “like God.” (See this described in a dramatic form in Revelation 12.)

In yet to be fulfilled prophecy, one of those planned deceptions is to raise up a counterfeit Christ. We see quite a bit about this antichrist in Scripture. For instance, we are told in Daniel what happens after the true Messiah is cut off and killed:

…the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple). And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he (this substitute prince who is to come) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (7 years), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (this antichrist is destroyed). – Daniel 9:26-27 (NASB, parentheses added)

Most of the Jewish people who are part of the nation of Israel today are looking for the Messiah to come as a political, military figure who will rescue them from those who would destroy them. There are about 6-7 million Jews in Israel today surrounded by more than 50 million Muslims, many of whom want to see Israel destroyed. Satan will one day provide a substitute messiah who will come as a political, military leader, offer peace and sign a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel. Many will undoubtedly embrace him as their promised messiah.

But after 3½ years this fake messiah will turn on the nation of Israel, and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, until his own predicted demise at the hands of the true Messiah, who is coming again.

This antichrist will be a leader from the western part of the world, related to but not the same as the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 mention the 4 (plus 1) kingdoms that are to come. They are described in unmistakable detail: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and another kingdom that is related to Rome but weaker and not under one ruler – yet. This last kingdom is detailed even further in Revelation 17-18.

And it is in The Revelation to John the Apostle that we see even more details of this antichrist. For instance, we get a glimpse of him in Revelation 6:2 where he is described as having a crown (a national leader). He will go out from his own nation to conquer others, and he will be successful.

In Revelation 13 we see this antichrist dramatically described as a beast that came out of the sea (or from across the sea?). He will be able to move fast militarily and will be overwhelmingly powerful. Satan will give this beast, the antichrist, his own power, a throne to rule from and great authority. He will be Satan’s puppet king on the earth.

This antichrist is described as being one who spoke and was listened to as he will make great promises, and will speak against God for the last 3½ years of the Great Tribulation. He will become a whole world ruler (Revelation 13:7) and he will work to bring about the demise of all who call on the name of the one true God. And many in the world will worship him instead of God.

We also see in Revelation 13 and elsewhere that this antichrist will have a high priest accomplice. And when the antichrist receives a death blow (Revelation 17:8), this false prophet will raise him from the dead. Remember, Satan is trying to make himself like the Most High, and God raised His Son from the dead.

This false prophet, along with the antichrist, will establish not only a worldwide empire, but also a one-world religion (Revelation 17:1-6, 15). The antichrist will be the god figure of this worldwide religion (Revelation 13:15) that will be gaudy, elaborate, brazen and ornate (Revelation 17:4). It will be a religious system that is bloodthirsty for all who profess faith in Christ (Revelation 17:5-6).

The antichrist will move from this short-lived seventh kingdom of the west. The first 7 great empires described are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, followed by this yet future seventh that will be this coalition of 10 (plus 1) nations who are either part of or related to the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2:40-43 speaks of the establishment of this eighth empire, a worldwide kingdom that will be headquartered back where it all began: Babylon in south central Iraq (Revelation 17:9-13).

In Genesis 11:1-9 we see all the peoples of the earth, repopulated after the flood, gathered in this same area, where they built a tower into the heavens. This was a ziggurat built much like a pyramid, only with clay bricks. The very top of this ziggurat was a throne room that was uninhabited. Remember, Satan said:

“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isaiah 14:13-14 (NASB)

This ziggurat was the Tower of Babel, where the eventual city of Babylon would be built, and it still exists today. Most likely, the people of the earth were gathering to build a throne room for Satan into the heavens, and that is why God confounded their languages, as a means to separate them into diverse nations so they couldn’t fulfill Satan’s desires. This same place will be rebuilt into grand fashion by the antichrist and will serve as the capital of his worldwide kingdom and religion. Satan is and will be working to bring the entire world of nations together once again, to follow and worship him.

The antichrist will be a bigger than life personality that will promise peace to Israel and the world, but instead he will use his power to turn the world over to Satan.

Eventually, God will thwart Satan’s and the antichrist’s plot, and in an unimaginable battle, defeat the antichrist, the false prophet, the gathered armies of the world and Satan at the battle fought in the Valley of Megiddo (Revelation 17:15-19:21). In the end, God wins!