Rapture

Almost everyone has heard at some time or another something pertaining to or about the Rapture. Some believe it, others do not. Some understand it, and surely others do not.  Whether you choose to believe or not, that’s entirely up to you. With that said, lets try to shed some light on the subject.

Some fifteen years ago Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins authored a wonderful fictional account of the rapture, followed by their interpretation of the seven year tribulation and Christ’s second coming. I believe the twelve book series, though sophomoric, is a great read, and faithful to the scriptures.

The word rapture comes from the root word for “caught up”. The root word for “caught up” in the Greek language is harpazo, which means “to snatch away” or to take away suddenly. In the Latin Vulgate Bible, the words “caught up” are translated as rapturo. Christians have since chosen to describe this soon-coming event of the Lord suddenly snatching away His true followers from the earth as the rapture. The rapture according to the bible in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says… Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord”.

This is when Christ Himself will descend from heaven with the shout (also known as a trumpet blast) of the Arch Angel, to take all those who believe in Him. (Also known as the church or the body of Christ). Those believers who have died are raised from the grave first. Those who are alive, are then caught up to meet Christ in the air. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality“. (See the NLT translation)

What this verse means is that we will not all die or taste death. Some of us will be changed as we yet are alive. In the twinkling of an eye… approximately 1/100 of a second! Our bodies must be changed into glorified bodies and therefore incorruptible. We will be given perfect bodies; no blemishes, no scars, no imperfections, no overweight and sorry, no tattooed or pierced bodies, We will be clothed in fine white linen and be made ready for The Bridegroom.

This is not the time of Christ’s second coming on a white horse with an army of angels that we find in Revelation chapter 19 and forward. That second coming is seven years after the event of 1 Thes. 4:17. The rapture will occur with no warning – no stars falling, no red moon (Rev. 6:12). In what is called the “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, our Lord Jesus informed His disciples of what was to come, regarding His return.

He warned them of wars, of natural disasters, of false prophets and teachers, and that the nations would be at each other’s throats. He warned them of persecution, hatred and betrayal. Now we might say “now is such a time!” But we find that the spiritual writers and speakers of every generation as far back as we have documentation, each felt their generation was surely facing the days of the rapture. As sinful and godless as we may perceive this time, so too did our predecessors in the faith. And yet the Rapture has not come. . .why?

I think Peter addressed that in his second epistle; “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, BUT EVERYONE TO COME TO REPENTANCE.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 emphasis added) In this case God is the Master Procrastinator. . .waiting – desiring that more and more of His creation would come to Him before the hammer falls.

I think there are a couple of most important issues we must tattoo onto our mind and heart. First and foremost – it (the Rapture) could happen now – RIGHT NOW! The Bible tells us there will be no warning of when Christ will come to “gather His elect” (Matt. 24:30-31) Jesus originated the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”. What about your life would you change if you knew He was coming tonight????

And secondly, there is what you must do to be prepared. . .

It is assumed that as a Christian you have surrendered yourself to God, confessed you sin before man, and repented of all wickedness. That being a given, we further assume you are abiding by the commandment Christ Jesus delivered to the Pharisees as told in Matthew 22:37-39, and that you are counted among the sheep as depicted in Matthew 25:34-40.

We never get it perfect my friends – hard as we may try. But God knows those who love Him and are sorrowful of their failures to meet His standards. It is only as we are sure of His mercy and forgiveness that we can boldly come to His throne and eagerly anticipate the Rapture.

As for your author. . .I say “BRING IT ON!”


Enjoying God

As Judy and I sat in our Florida room this morning she asked what I enjoyed most about retirement. I had already spent an hour or so with the Lord, reading several devotionals and some of the scriptures associated therein. Judy is contemplating her own retreat from the corporate world and wonders, I think, what she’ll do with her time.

My answer was, “What I’m doing right now”, which was having time with her and reading the daily paper with a hot cup of coffee. I spent over 30 years in the commercial construction trade where I was required to be on site, ready to work at 5AM – often even earlier, so I do relish that uninterrupted quiet time with God each morning. It is often just time spent in prayer and meditation – waiting for His lead on momentary travails – or in thanksgiving for the abundance of His blessings.

When was the last time you sat watching a sunrise, or simply sat back in your easy chair reflecting on God’s love for you? No theological revelation from scripture, no revisiting Calvary, no new perspective from the pulpit – just the heartfelt warmth, the comfort of knowing, really knowing that God loves you, even in your sin. Your author stumbles here; searching for words to describe the sensation. There is no more complete comfort, no higher exhilaration, no more absolute peace than the knowledge of your secure place in His kingdom.

Some may protest that a focus on enjoying God might border on Hedonism – that we may glorify Him, we obey Him, fear Him, love Him – but to enjoy Him focuses on self. But God created mankind for His own enjoyment and the whole premise of enjoying someone requires a two-way relationship. I cannot fully enjoy you unless I feel I am equally enjoyed by you. God has had much to say about our enjoying Him and we don’t need to look very far to see the magnificence of all He has surrounded us with – from flora and fauna, to loving friends and family – all for our enjoyment.

In Psalm 104 we read, “May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord”.  (Ps. 104:34) God is pleased that I find enjoyment in Him. We join in Mary’s Song where she sings “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) Jesus desired that His joy would be complete in us. (John 15:11)

Paraphrasing from a Jonathan Edwards sermon, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory . . . both with the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his praise of it and his delight in it”

Equally important should be our endeavors to see that God enjoys our time together. Rick Warren says if you walk out of church saying, “I enjoyed” then you may have the wrong focus. We are not the audience. The question is, “Did God enjoy your worship?” If you do it according to Mark 12:30 or John 4:23-24 He does enjoy it! God does not ‘enjoy’ the worship song, no matter how beautifully rendered, unless we sing the words from our heart.

It is my prayer that you make time each day to enjoy God – it is the reason you were created – a purpose for your being. And – He is waiting to enjoy you!

Well Done

I, uh, hardly recognize myself. I know who I am – I’ve seen that same image stare back at me from the mirror a thousand times. No other image ever took its place – certainly not what I’m seeing now. Oh yes, there was a time I could not stand to lock eyes with the mirror image. Any real appraisal would cause me to look away – to turn head in shame; but God had been at work on me through His Holy Spirit, and thus, over the years, I’d made some peace with that image.

The former image was dark and ugly, with all the shades of lust, and selfishness, and depravity. The more recent one still had dark shadows, and while maybe not as ugly, it had never attained much beauty either. I could still see shades of deceit, and pride, and impatience. I could always see a hint of hypocrisy in those eyes – I was not as loving as the Holy Spirit taught me to be, not as compassionate and tolerant with my neighbors, not as generous with the gifts my Father had provided, and never as humble and contrite as I should have been. I was still too prideful. But more and more often there was light in those eyes – a beautiful light that I knew wasn’t my own, but a light that I cherished, a light I sought after and wanted more of.

But what is this I see now? Where did this new and perfect body come from? Where did I get these beautiful white robes? And Who is this that has my hand in His as I approach the throne of God?

Why am I not afraid to face Him – I should be – I should be terrified, but I’m not. I cannot even remember my former image. The image of me that I see now is the one God first intended – His image – His perfect and Holy Image.

How?

How did I get from that image of shadows to this perfect image of God?

The One who has led me to the throne speaks. “Father, this is my child whom I present now cleansed of all sin and iniquity; cleansed by My blood. He is pure and holy as I am Holy.”

And the Lord God said to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s happiness.”

The Aroma of God

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NIV)

There’s a ‘not so kind’ saying that goes, “Old fishermen never die, they just smell that way.” Well, your author is an old fisherman, and I suppose on successful trips I have smelled that way. Of course, I do try to remedy that condition at the earliest opportunity.

Science tells us that the sense of smell is more acute than any of our other senses. A single whiff of apple pie, fresh mowed grass, orange blossoms, or an apporaching rain shower is immediately recognized, even to the unseeing eye.  Age old memories are brought forth clear and distinct by a momentary breath of an aroma from our past. I still remember the smell of my mother, her passing some 23 years ago.  I don’t have to see my wife to know she is near; her fragrance is sweet, magnetic, and a joy for me to inhale. So it is with genuine Christianity. Those who love the Lord Jesus emit a lovely aroma.

The Greeks in Corinth would have been very aware of the significance of Paul’s reference to ‘fragrances’.  Whenever the Romans won a major military victory they would celebrate with a spectacular parade. Preceding the victorious company of soldiers would be heralds and priests swinging their censers with sweet smelling incense. The commanding general would lead the procession in a magnificent chariot, followed by his soldiers, musicians, and other officials. Then, soldiers would lead the defeated enemies through the city in bondage. All along the parade route you could smell the sweet aroma of the spices people were burning.As a part of the celebration, the Romans would burn fragrances on altars, filling the entire city with a pleasant aroma. Even those who could not witness the triumphal procession could hear the victory music and smell the pleasing incense. Everyone would know that their army had been victorious. The special fragrance came to symbolize victory to anyone who smelled it.To the conquered victims the incense has the stench of death lingering all about them.

Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.” To those who are perishing we are the smell of death. At least we should be. Our righteous walk with the Lord should be evident for all to see and as such bring a sense of guilt and remorsefulness to our unsaved brothers.We wear this smell of death not haughtily or in false piety, but remembering always that we once walked the same path as they. As for the fragrance of life; “We are to God the aroma of Christ…”. We wear that fragrance only by the grace of God; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV)

We who were God’s former enemies (Rom. 5:10) have been conquered by the sovereign saving grace of God (Eph. 2:5), and taken captive by Him, and as His bondslaves are led and displayed by Him before a watching world (v. 7). It is my prayer that as we daily walk with our Lord, His sweet fragrance fills the air of our passing and all those we encounter would breath in the sweetness of Jesus.

May the Lord abundantly bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others.

JOY

The word ‘JOY’, for me, is a term that defies simple definition. Not everyone would describe joy in the same way. I don’t think we all have identical perceptions of joy. I would further declare that joy is too personal to be labeled or characterized as a general term. For that reason I would have a problem concurring with any textbook definition.

I will try to share with you what joy is to me. Much like the word eternal, joy is something greater than my finite mind can define. Happiness? Yes, it is that. Peace? Yes, that too. But it is more like a deeply profound internal contentment. It is warmth that is fulfilling.

You might compare it to a mother suckling her baby – the joy is shared by both the mother and child. For the child it is the warmth and nourishment of the mother’s breast, the contentment of being nurtured, and a perception of being where he belongs. For the mother, the joy is the wonderment of the child and how he came about, and her newfound ability to do more than give birth, but to now nurture, to protect, to provide for, and to cherish.

Joy is such a difficult emotion to put into words. Compare my dilemma to sharing Bach or Handel, or the song of a whippoorwill with someone who is deaf, or trying to portray a field of Texas bluebonnets or an Arizona sunset to someone blind. It is like trying to describe the warmth of your mother’s voice; joy is so very personal, and manifested in you as it is in no one else.

Personally, joy is the complete confidence and assurance of our Father’s love for me, of sins forgiven, and of a reward in heaven. It surges in me, sometimes like an easy, incoming tide, sometimes like the breaking of a mighty wave of surf. It is sometimes overwhelming; sometimes it is latent and quiescent, like the purring of a contented cat.

Joy is my soul smiling like the Cheshire cat, as if I had a glimpse of the magnitude of my Lord’s love for me. It is not simple pleasure, or happiness, or gaiety, or excitement, or cheerfulness. It is not only comfort, and warmth, and peace, and contentment, and wellbeing, and satisfaction. It is all of those things, and more. Joy is part and parcel of my love for and by Christian friends and fellowship with them. It is the love of my children and grandchildren. My joy is being at home in my church and the ability and opportunity to serve my King. My joy is that tearful, overwhelming sense of awe that comes over me as I sing praises to Him. (Some of you might take issue with my calling what I do ‘singing’ – I don’t think He minds.)

When we surrender ourselves to God He gives us salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and He gives us our spiritual gifts. As we begin to understand the enormity and consequence of that gift of salvation our Father gives us Joy. Thank you Father God for blessings undeserved.

Along with the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 14, 15, and 16 in the Gospel of John are the longest continual narration of Jesus’ talking with the apostles. Jesus attempts to explain much to them, some of which they do not seem to completely understand. But twice in this narration Jesus speaks to them about joy. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (15:9-11) and “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (16:20-24)

Now I don’t propose to know the difference between ‘joy” and ‘complete’ joy. I can only assume there are levels or plateaus of joy. Complete joy is referred to several times in both testaments. (Deut. 16:15, John 3:29, Phip. 2:2) In the book of Job we are warned that “the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.” Job 20:5

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis wrote, “In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else…it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

In a sermon delivered in 1914 the Reverend ‘Billy’ Sunday said, “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion.”

John Buchan wrote, “A positive thing: in Joy one does not only feel secure, but something goes out from one’s self to the universe, a warm, possessive effluence of love.” (Pilgrim’s Way)

My joy is something I long to share with you, and I do to the extent that I can. But I have a sense of internal joy that God has placed in me that is mine alone.

A good friend shared something with me that he gleaned from Dr. Jack Graham titled Net Worth. “Add up everything you have that money cannot buy and death cannot take away and that is your true worth. It is the sum total of everything God has given you that will still have value in eternity.” Certainly our “Joy” would be part of our ‘Net Worth’.