Daily Commitment is Important

dusty_bibleIt’s November! For most people it means getting out the Christmas decorations, planning road trips, and stuffing turkeys. For me it means I have to write. A LOT!

November is the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy challenge to write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel in 30 days. Crazy, I know.

Last year when I reflected back on the challenge and how I beat it I realized that one of the most important things was to just commit to write daily. Each and every day I did something to work on my novel. Some days I only wrote 100 words, some days I wrote 10,000 words. Most days were in between.

Focusing on the project daily is extremely important to completing this challenge because taking a break, even for a single day, makes it really easy to turn that into a two day break. Then three days.

And before you know it months have gone by without writing. Getting into this daily habit also made the writing itself easier.

This year is no different than last. It’s the daily commitment that gets me through the challenge. Writer’s block, being tired, all of those excuses get put aside because I have to get my word count in! I don’t have time for excuses.

In the past couple of weeks since I started preparing for this crazy writing challenge I started to let things slip. I haven’t had time to get any articles out on ETM, for one. But also, I quit reading my Bible consistently.

When taking on a huge challenge, whether it’s writing a novel, organizing an event, practicing for an upcoming competition, or just daily life with a full schedule, setting aside the Bible gets way too easy. We fall into the trap of thinking the Bible is just another motivational book, so it seems easy to let it fade into the background of life.

But reading the Bible is a big deal. It’s the weapon we use in this battle taking place between our spirit and our flesh.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 ESV

One of my favorite quotes is from Ravi Zacharias says:

The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God. Keep it or every other battle will get bigger.

Keeping ourselves focused on God and drawing close to him is a daily battle against our sinful nature. The more we read the Bible the closer we draw to God and the easier it is to walk by the spirit and not the flesh.

I once read a book on fasting suggesting that weekly, or at least regular, fasting was important because it helped prepare the heart to hear from God. It wasn’t the act itself, because it isn’t the food we eat that gets in the way of listening to God. But the sacrifice of giving up food, something your body craves, to make God a priority, to focus that time on Him; that is what makes the difference.

In the same way, sacrificing some time out of your busy day to focus on God does something to us. It isn’t simply the act of reading something, but it’s making a concerted effort to make God an important part of our day, and it helps prepare our heart to follow the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Thankfully I have a godly wife that was there to help remind me of the importance of not sacrificing that time I should be spending with God. Walking in the flesh because we haven’t fed ourselves spiritually opens us up to a lot of temptation, hurt, and sin. It isn’t worth it. Especially for a husband who is trying to lead a house spiritually. It doesn’t take long for the enemy to come in and strike when we set down our weapon. A single decision made when we are following the flesh can have devastating consequences for a family.

We are in a spiritual battle, and a single day of not being prepared can be lethal.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  – Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

I urge you, take a few minutes each day to read the Bible. It’s important. Very important. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just reading one chapter, or even finding a single verse to meditate on throughout the day. Anything to feed your spirit and help you to win those battles against the flesh.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Not Good Enough to Talk to God

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t pray or help someone out spiritually because you’re not living as spiritually as you think you should?

I recently overheard a conversation where one person confessed that he doesn’t pray anymore because He isn’t as close to God as he used to be. He feels that God isn’t going to listen to him because he is not doing what he knows he should be doing.

You might think this is silly, but I can completely relate.

There are times in my life when I feel like I’m being a strong Christian. I’m reading my Bible daily, praying constantly, and fasting regularly. I’m doing everything a “good Christian” should do and avoiding any obvious sins. It’s in these times when things are going well that I feel closest to God. I feel like God and I are best buds. I talk to Him and He listens, because I’m being such a good little Christian.

But those times only seem to last a few months. Before long I end up going down the same road as before. I stop reading my Bible, stop praying, and fasting is way out. I start fighting temptations more often and I get argumentative with my wife for no reason or start spending money selfishly putting us further in debt.

During those times in my life I know I can’t help others spiritually. Why would anyone listen to a failure who can’t even follow God for more than a few months at a time without sliding back into a worldly routine? Praying will be pointless because there is no reason God should listen to me. People want help from those who have been in their situation and overcame it and God only listens to those who are following Him in everything. Right?

In those seasons where I feel spiritually strong I know God will, of course, listen to me. Need prayer? Come to me! I’ll help, because I’m close to God so He listens to me. Need spiritual advice? Come to me! Because I’m reading the Bible daily so I have special insights and can tell you exactly what to do.

Because I am awesome enough that I can draw close to God. It’s all about Me.

I’m a puny spotted sheep in a flock of other puny spotted sheep thinking that I have an inside relationship with the Shepard because for once in my life, I’m actually doing what I’m told.

How arrogant can I be?

In 2010, I was going through one of those spiritual valleys. During this time I felt overwhelmingly called to write for ETM again and to resurrect this ministry.

Immediately my response was to say “NO!” How could I possibly tell others they should follow God when I wasn’t even doing it?

That’s like someone telling me – an un-athletic, overweight, couch potato – to go play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche! I would quickly be found out to be a fraud and would do nothing but humiliate myself and the team.

In the same way, I can’t possibly represent God or help others when I’m in my spiritual couch-potato mode. If I wanted to play on the team then first I need to start an intensive training regimen.

Only after getting back into spiritual shape by reading my Bible daily and doing all of the things I know I should do, would I even be able to consider trying to help others or be used by God. Only then will I be strong enough to… to go help God? Because the creator of the Universe who has infinite power and wisdom, He, really needs me and my spiritual beefiness.

God didn’t call me to start a spiritual weight training routine, He called me to write. Not later, but right then.

When we are spiritually strong we tend to get prideful. Pretending it is our own ability that makes us close to God. We feel like we can lead others to follow God closer because “look at me, I did it!” We tell others how we are following God and encourage them to do the same things we do.

But this attitude is an offense to God. We have to realize that all of us are horrible sinners before God. None of us are good (Romans 3:10), all of our best works are nothing but filthy rags.

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭64‬:‭6‬ NKJV)

Casting Crowns gave some good imagery for this verse in their new song “All You’ve Ever Wanted” they sing:

But all my deeds and my good name
Are just dirty rags that tear and strain
To cover all my guilty stains
That You already washed away

All of our good deeds are dirty before God. During those times when I’m feeling strong I’m really just dressing myself up in filthy, oily, blood soaked rags and acting like I’m wearing a tux. And then I approach God to show Him how amazing I look in my rags.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭4-5‬ NLT)

The only reason I can ever be spiritually strong is because God gives me the ability to be. It isn’t about me taking spiritual steroids and weight lifting to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s about me, being a quadriplegic and being strong only because God is my Iron Man suit. It’s all about Him. I am nothing.

God wanted me to write for ETM, not because I was good and in a position to lead others, but because He wanted to use me. I was to write because He had things to teach me. I was to write because He wanted to speak to others through me.

It’s all about God. Our works don’t make us a better Christian, only God does that.

When you are in a spiritual slump, don’t stop yourself from praying. That’s when you need to pray the most and when you are the most honest with God. A prideful and arrogant heart that thinks it deserves God’s respect is in fact disgusting to God, while a humble heart that recognizes it’s need for God brings Him honor.

A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭29‬:‭23‬ NKJV)

It’s never about us and our ability to follow. It’s all about God.

Have you ever used the excuse that you are not spiritually strong enough to avoid doing what God is leading you to do?

Is Christianity a blind faith?

Many non-Christians love to point out how Christianity is nothing but a “blind faith”. They say that because God cannot be seen, heard, or touched, we cannot ever know for sure that He exists. Since there is a lack of physical evidence of God, then any rational minded person would never believe in God and, therefore, we just blindly believe what we were told.

Websters defines blind faith as:

belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination

A common way that it is defined is to say that someone believes in something without any evidence. You believe because you are told, and that’s it.

So I have given this subject a lot of thought because it’s important. If God is real, and He interacts with us like the Bible says (i.e. Jesus, the cross), then there should be evidence somewhere that He exists. Or do I believe everything that I believe simply out of blind faith?

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there are a few things I believe in blindly.

Heaven, for one, is something I have a blind faith in. I have absolutely no proof that heaven exists. It doesn’t affect my life, I can’t reach down and touch the streets of gold and I don’t know anybody who has been there and come back to tell me about it. But I believe in heaven because the Bible says it is true. I do realize the weakness of that argument, so I must continue my search. Is everything I believe about Christianity just blind faith?

Then I thought about angels. There are stories all throughout the Bible about angels. Angels that fight behind the scenes, and even ones that appear to man. But I have never seen an angel, nor have I ever interacted with one. And as they are not part of the natural world you really can’t test for them. So I realized I also blindly believe that angels exist.

But the single most important factor of Christianity to consider is God. Everything hinges around Him. If He doesn’t exist, then my faith is completely worthless and I’m wasting my life on this Earth.

So the question: Do I blindly believe in God?

I have never seen him, never felt Him physically. I have never heard his voice or seen His hand write on my wall. So at first I would say that I do believe in him blindly.

But then I thought about my wife. Do I only believe my wife exists because I see and hear her? Or is there something deeper?

I can’t see God like I can see my wife, but even if I were blind and could never see her I would know she is there. It’s the same with any of the physical senses. I don’t need to hear or feel her to know that she is in my life. I can see the impact that her presence has on me, both in how it changes me and how it changes my environment.

And it’s the same with God.

How, exactly, has God affected my life in such a way that I know He exists? The biggest reason is how God has changed me to be more like Him, which is completely contradictory to my own nature.

There have been times in my life where I have been hurt and betrayed in terrible ways. I was hurt so badly that I swore I would never forgive them. I would even get pleasure from thinking of harm being done to them. This, is me. This is my heart. You hurt me and I couldn’t care less what happens to you.

But that isn’t the heart of God. And as I follow God, He changes me.

If you are not a Christian it is almost impossible for you to understand or believe the change that I’m talking about. I’m not talking about religious change that comes from me trying to follow a book. I didn’t read in the Bible that we need to completely and utterly forgive people and then try my best to forgive these people that harmed me. I wasn’t trying to be a “good” Christian because I read some laws and did my best to follow them.

No, as I seek God and draw closer to Him, He changes me. A change that is very real, and can be explained by nothing other than supernatural power. A change so complete that I’m brought to my knees instantly knowing that I did wrong, and not just knowing what I had to try to do to forgive these people, but instantly I had the ability to forgive them. My heart was changed and it could only happen because of God.

But it goes beyond just a changed heart. I managed to get through high school without falling into any major temptation that is common among teenagers. Not just that, I managed to get through high school without falling into any temptation that I wanted to fall into.

I can promise that I didn’t avoid drinking, drugs, and being intimate with a girl because I had a wanted to be a good little kid. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to be a good kid, but those desires quickly get overruled when you face peer pressure or when a cute girl starts making obvious passes at you.

As I have grown older I have seen how much pain is caused by giving in to such temptations, and I’m so thankful that God gave me the strength to withstand those temptations. Because I know my heart and I know that in my own power, I’m not strong enough to resist temptation.

Pornography is such a problem in our culture today that over 70% of men and 30% of women confess to viewing pornography. Over 43% of all Internet use is for pornography, with related subjects being the most searched for terms on Google and other browsers. [1] [2]

These issues plague not only our culture but our core humanity, and we give in. Because it’s so easy, it’s pleasurable, and because we are increasingly being told that there is nothing wrong with it. In some places that I have worked pornography is talked about openly and it is fully accepted that “everyone does it”. To not partake makes you the weird one.

Yet, by God’s power alone, I have been able to escape these traps or avoid them altogether. Not by human power because someone gave me a list of rules to follow.

I have prayed to God for guidance and seen Him answer prayers. I have seen how God had healed my sister, who had burns all over her body to the point where the doctor cancelled the skin graft operation, after our pastor prayed over her. I have seen friends obsessed with sex in high school turn their lives over to God and their heart became completely transformed. I have seen 2 Corinthians 5:17 in action.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭17‬ NKJV)

And there is even more real evidence of God in my life. I have felt God’s love. I have had my heart broken for things that God’s heart breaks over. I have felt the presence of God when going through tough times. Feelings that are not of me, that don’t exist in my own heart apart from God.

These things are real, not just the attempts of a mere man trying to follow religion and do all of the right things. I know my heart, I know what I’m capable of. And I praise God that He doesn’t just write me off as a lost cause but that He, the maker of the universe, cares about me and helps me. He changes me.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NLT)

So no, there is no way you could ever convince me that God is not real. My faith in Him is not blind.  Because God changes lives.

But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you… (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭27‬ NLT)

Do you have a story to share about how you KNOW that God is real? I want to hear about it.

Lust, a Looney Tunes Worthy Trap

The first on-screen appearance of Bugs Bunny, ...
The first on-screen appearance of Bugs Bunny, from an unrestored version of the cartoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who remembers watching the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where the bad guy would always fall down the really obvious trap door? I got to thinking – that’s kinda what Solomon was talking about in Proverbs 5 & 7. Lust is an awful lot like a really obvious trap door. God puts warning signs in our lives to steer us away from lust and temptation. The only problem is that sometimes we are so consumed and blinded by our lusts that we either can’t see or we ignore the warning signs. It’s like walking up to that really obvious trap door and falling down the hole. Only, unlike in the cartoons, we willingly trigger the trap.

As someone once said, “It’s not the fall that will kill you; it’s the sudden stop.” When we’re in the middle of indulging in our lists (falling) we can’t see (or don’t care about) the affect our sin has on us. Yet once we hit the floor and we feel the guilt and shame of our sin, the damage has been done. Unlike the cartoons, though, we don’t come back in the next scene like nothing happened. Not only does our sin hurt us but it hurts those around us, especially the ones we love the most. Not only do we come out all banged up, but so do others.

We often forget that God tells us not to do certain things for a reason – because He knows what those things do to us, how unholy they are, and lust’s destructive power. We take a look at that which we lust for (whether it be sex, power, control, appearing spiritual to others, money, fame, fortune, love, acceptance; the list could go on) and we covet. It’s like that child whose parents tell him or her “no” so the child either throws a tantrum or does/goes for it anyway.

Then again when we refuse to give in to that temptation and lust, even if we’re standing with one foot on the trap, God prevents the trap from springing. When we trust God and that He says no for a reason we find that we draw closer to Him. And, heaven forbid, we have fallen and damage has been done, God can still repair the damage that’s been done.

There is Freedom from Porn Addiction!!!

Machew is a guest writer for ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

My Testimony:

I used to be a porn addict from my high school years to my third year of college, 1 year into being a Christian. I found that the more I looked at it, the more it attracted the demonic around me, and the more power it had over me because of my agreement with the enemy for it as an acceptable form of coping with my loneliness and inner pain. I didn’t know that this was why I ran to porn at the time, but later found out as God showed me the huge hole in my heart. When I became a Christian and found out that it was not an acceptable way to cope with this, I found out how much power it had over me. I found myself not being able to stop no matter what I did. I went through 8 months of day and night prayer, non-stop, “God help me! I don’t wan’t to do this anymore!.” I felt ashamed of myself, and like I was the filth of his kingdom. I felt like I was a failure as a Christian many nights and that I should just give up. But I didn’t want to give up without a fight. As time went on it just seemed more and more hopeless that I would ever be free from its lure and control. After 8 months of crying out to God, when I just about had it and felt like I just wanted to give up, God showed up in my room in power, and I fell to the floor sobbing in a fetal position all night long, as God told me:

“Matthew you are my precious son, I have never been disappointed in you, and you have brought my heart so much joy”

I thought to myself: “Is He talking about the same Matthew here?”

God: “Matthew, I have so enjoyed watching you these past few hours, you are the source of so much of my joy. You need to know that there is nothing you can do that can separate you from my Love for you and who you are.”

I realized something that day. The reason I felt so trapped in it was because I believed that my sin still separated me from God, and made me feel like God was turning His face away from me. This was shame that the enemy put on me to convince me that I couldn’t approach God. I found out through an encounter with God that this was not true. I kept hearing, “my blood was enough for you.” But I also kept hearing that voice of guilt trying to get me focused back on everything that was wrong with me. Then I heard God say “Don’t let yourself focus on what the accuser is saying to you, you are my son. The only thing you need to do is to be my son! That is who you are and nobody will take you away from me!”

How the enemy kept me trapped:

The sadistic strategic trap of introspection

I found out that I had to take personal responsibility over what I allowed myself to focus on, and that the enemy only had power over me when I made an agreement with him. The way he kept me trapped was to tempt me, then put this fear on me of sinning so that I would feel powerless to do anything about it, then fall into sin, then he would accuse me of doing it over and over again to make the problem seem so big in my head. Later the enemy would continue to plant fear in me of doing it again. The enemy does this to give you the belief that you are trapped and can’t do anything to get out of it.

A good definition of fear is: faith in a lie. The enemy keeps us trapped in sin by having us fear the sin we feel trapped in, then accusing us of doing it until shame is all over us and the problem is so big in our head that we fear it more. This was the endless cycle that I felt trapped in. God showed me all of this and what the enemy was doing in me and freed me from my addiction. To this day(about 6 years) I have been free from this addiction and live in the victory of Jesus in this area of my life.

The common theme in all of this is: The enemy wants to get you to focus on yourself and everything that is wrong with you(introspection) instead of focusing on God’s acceptance and Love for you, and who you are in Christ. If the enemy can get you to see all the problems you have as really big (using tools like: fear, shame, guilt, thoughts that seem like yours but are really lies planted in your head by the enemy) they soon become bigger in your head than the God that can free you, and he empties you of any faith you have that you can be free. The enemy will always try to manipulate you into a place where you believe you are hopelessly left to deal with your problems by yourself (living under the law, which Paul warns against).

I posted this in the hopes that it would help people on here that are struggling with this. There is victory in Christ over porn addictions, and the enemy is a liar. It is the enemy that tempts us, and our choice to give into it. If the enemy can convince you that you are powerless against his temptation, then you will fall into temptation. But if you realize that the enemy is just trying to intimidate you and is trying to convince you that you can’t resist him, then you can realize there is nothing to fear and lift your sword and give the enemy a good wap on the head, “Get behind me satan!” The enemy knows that you are the one with all of the power over yourself (Self-Control, Galatians 5:22-23), so he works overtime to convince you that you don’t have this power over yourself and that he has power over you. Don’t let him talk you out of your self-control any longer! It is for freedom’s sake that Jesus has set you free (Galatians 5:1).

Believing satan’s Lies Opens the Door the Lies of Undermined Self-Worth:

When you come to a place of hopelessness, the enemy then works to undermine your view of yourself and your self-worth with further attacks of lies about yourself. The enemy will often plant in your head thoughts of how worthless you are and how God must see you as a rebellious and worthless son/daughter. Don’t believe this for a second, they are lies from the pit of hell. God was willing to come to earth and humble Himself in making Himself vulnerable to human weakness by coming as a human (Jesus), and be beaten and tortured brutally, then be nailed to a cross in a brutal death, while everyone was in rebellion and sin against God. While people were mocking Him, spitting in His face, and shoving a crown of thorns down his head, he prayed for the Father to forgive us and died on that cross receiving the full wrath of God for your sin (past, present, and future: Hebrews 10:10). You were worth it to Jesus, for Him to endure all of that punishment and even death! Think of how much worth Jesus must have for you to be willing to go through all of this. Jesus did this all for you, so that nothing could separate you from His Love (Romans 8:38). He did everything that was needed on your behalf for the Father to fully approve, accept, and Love you. The Father now sees you as His perfect, beloved son/daughter.

If you struggle with the lies of little self-worth and/or that you can’t control yourself, repeat these declarations over yourself:

1. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fix myself before approaching God

2. I no longer believe the lie that I cannot control myself

3. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear the enemy’s temptation to guard myself from sin

4. I renounce all power that the enemy has over me in Jesus Name and no longer believe the lie that he has any power over me

5. I no longer believe the lie that I need to fear sin

6. I break all ties with the spirit of fear, shame, and guilt and say that I no longer give you permission to influence me.

7. I no longer believe the lie that sin has a hold over me.

8. I believe the truth, that Jesus freed me from the slavery of sin through His death on the cross and resurrection. (Galatians 2:20-21, Meditate on Romans 8 carefully)

9. I believe the truth that if I repented and meant it, then I have fully repented for my sin regardless of my past addiction

10. I believe the truth, that because I have repented of my sin, my Father in heaven loves me and accepts me right where I am because of the blood of Jesus over my life.

11. I believe the truth, that because of Jesus’ death on the cross I can approach the throne room of God with boldness to ask for help. (Hebrews 4:16)

12. I believe the truth, that God is very eager and happy to help me anytime when I feel lacking and weak.

13. I believe the truth, that I can freely have the fruit of the Spirit of self-control at anytime and that I do have complete control over myself.

14. I believe the truth that in my self-control, I control me, and I don’t have to allow anyone or anything else to control me.

15. I believe the truth, that I am a son/daughter of God, and that I start out and live everyday seen by the Father as the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:7, Titus 3:7)

The easiest way to give into the enemy’s temptations is to forget who you are as a son and daughter of God. When you don’t remember who you are, and the authority that you carry as co-heirs with Christ, then you will believe the enemy’s lies. You are all sons and daughters of the most High God!

 

Lastly pray this prayer:

Father thank you that you Love me, and you are delighted to help me out of my addiction. I come to you with boldness as your son/daughter and lean into your embrace and power to free me from addiction to porn. I ask you for help in showing me what causes me to run to this porn, and ask you to deliver me from everything that causes this to even have any appeal in my life. I surrender my life to you Jesus and Your power working in me, and invite You to be my main help for me to have the freedom that you paid for on the cross.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen!

Much Love & Blessings,

Machew

Are you being controlled by the subtlety of sin?

“Then let it see the Crystal Shard and destroy it,” Entreri remarked, and he felt a twinge then as Crenshinibon (the Crystal Shard) cried out.

“Why?” Jarlaxle asked suddenly, and Entreri recognized that his ever-opportunistic friend had heard that silent call.

“Why?” the assassin (Entreri) echoed, turning to regard Jarlaxle fully.

“Perhaps we are being premature in our planning,” Jarlaxle explained. “We know how to destroy the Crystal Shard now – likely that will be enough for us to use against the artifact to bend it continually to our will.”

Entreri started to laugh.

“There is truth in what I say, and a gain to be had in following my reasoning,” Jarlaxle insisted. “Crenshinibon began to manipulate me, no doubt, but now that we have determined that you, and not the artifact, are truly the master of your relationship, why must we rush ahead to destroy it? Why not determine first if you might control the item enough for our own gain?”

“Because if you know, beyond doubt, that you can destroy it, and the Crystal Shard knows that, as well, there may be no need to destroy it,” Entreri played along.

“Exactly!” said the now-excited dark elf.

“Because if you know you can destroy the crystalline tower, then there is no possible way that you will wind up with two crystalline towers,” Entreri replied sarcastically, and the eager grin disappeared from Jarlaxle’s black-skinned face in the blink of an astonished eye.

“It did it again.,” the drow remarked dryly.

“Same bait on the hook, and the Jarlaxle fish chomps even harder,” Entreri replied.

This is a scene from a fantasy book “Servant of the Shard” by R. A. Salvatore.  (Hang on with me, I promise I am going somewhere redeeming with this!)

There is a magical item, called Crenshinibon, or the Crystal Shard.  This is an evil item of great magical power, and a mind of its own.  Whoever possesses the item can use its power, but the Crystal Shard uses the promises of power and fame or whatever other weakness the wielder has to manipulate that person and bring him or her under its own control.

Earlier in the book it tried to work through Jarlaxle, making him do things he normally would not do because of the influence of the Crystal Shard.  Eventually he ends up making a crystalline tower, a powerful tower the Crystal Shard needs to make it stronger.

Jarlaxle, determined to be ruled by anything finally regains control, and goes to destroy the tower.  And he starts to succeed.  As the tower starts to fall he feels victorious over the object and then starts to think things.  “Now that I am in control I can destroy the tower whenever I want, so really there is no need to destroy it right this second.  In fact, two towers would be nice.”  Suddenly a second tower appears.

How temptation deceives us

These two events in the book, where Jarlaxle is wanting to destroy the tower and ends up with two towers, and then later on the way to destroy the Crystal Shard decides that you don’t really need to destroy it if you know you can destroy it, both remind me of temptations that we face.

How often have you been trapped in a sin, yet you believe that you have control of it?  You get to the point where you convince yourself that you can quit at any time, and of course since you are in control of when you can quit you decide not to quit.  Who is really in control there?

Just this once

Often times this appearance of control comes in the form of “just this once.”  You will compromise and commit this sin, just this one time.  How often has just this once turned into just one more time?

Anytime it comes to sin and temptation there is no room for compromise, no room for control at all.  The more you think you have control over your sin the more it really controls you.  You say you have control while it has you in chains preventing you from exercising that apparent control.

Joseph gives us the best example of how to deal with such temptation.  Flee.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside – Genesis 39:11-12

Sin has no place in the life of a Christian, no matter how small it may seem.  Finding ways to get away with sin, small or large, will end with sin sinking its hooks deeper into you.

Sure you quit looking at pornography for a day, so you can quit at any time, you convince yourself as you bring up more pictures on your computer.

Or one that has hit close to me, reading your Bible every day.

It is amazing the thoughts that go through my mind regarding the time I know I should spend in the Bible and praying.  I do great reading the Bible every day and then one day I miss it.  The next day I think to myself that I can start reading again at any time, but today is busy, so I will do it tomorrow instead.

The next thing I know a month has gone bye and my Bible has done nothing but collect dust.

You will come up with any excuse to not read your Bible and convince yourself that it is okay because you can start again at any time, yet you don’t.  Your mind will work over time to come up with excuses why it is okay to keep sinning, to keep speeding, look at pictures of pornography, curse, watch a movie you know you shouldn’t – just this once.  Yet if you were really in control of the situation you would have done the right thing in the first place.

Imagine a roller coaster, you are sitting in the car going along the track, with a steering wheel attached. You turn left just as the track turns left and the car goes left, so you think you are in control.  It is not until you try to turn right when the track turns left that you realize you have no control.

The BIble tells us that we cannot have two masters (Matthew 6:24), so we must choose.  Choose now to follow God and to repent of your sin. Do not play games to tempt yourself.  Flee all temptation, God will always give you a way out.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. – James 1:13-15

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

The next time you are debating not reading the Bible, thinking it is because you are choosing not to but can start again after lunch or tomorrow, think about how subtlety the sin will try to control you.

The next time you are thinking of continuing in that sin, whatever it may be, remember that you are not in control of it, but you can flee it.

The Seduction of Sin

Judges 16:4-21

Judges 16:4 “After this it came about that he [Samson] loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.”

-Samson over and over again pursued not the godly Jewish women, but he had a weakness for the “bad girls” (the Palestinian women). We see here that he was walking in the valley of Sorek, which was a Palestinian settlement, so he knew he would encounter things he should have stayed away from.

-Although he knew that God commanded His people to steer clear of cohorting with “pagans”, here we see Samson willingly PUTTING himself in a situation where he would be able to watch and meet Palestinian women (thus disobeying God’s command).

-It’s interesting to note that Delilah is a name derived from the Hebrew word “dalal” which literally means to bring low, to be emptied. As we will see, Delilah certainly DID cause Samson to be “brought low” and she emptied him.

-There’s a big lesson to be learned here…if you know you have a weakness for something that God forbids, don’t even put yourself in a situation where you can fall….don’t even go there. The best way to resist temptation is to flee from it…to steer clear of those situations, places, environments, and people who will cause us to fall into temptation. If you have a propensity toward alcoholism, stay away from bars or parties where people are drinking. If you have a tendency to fall into sexual sin, stay clear of movies, TV shows, and internet sites which have scenes that would incite that lust within you; stay clear of even those who talk about sex and joke about it. If you have a habit of using bad language, stop filling your senses with things where people are using that kind of language. Bottom line, if you know your weakness, don’t place yourself in a place where you can fall. If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

-Samson was called to be a Nazirite, which meant that he was dedicated to and belonged to the Lord. But Samson was more devoted to fulfilling his own pleasures than he was in serving and trying to please the Lord. He seems to think that the rules that apply to all others don’t apply to him.

Judges 16:5-6 “The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.”

-Delilah doesn’t hide her intentions, she got right to the point in telling Samson that she wanted him to be subdued so she could destroy him. But Samson probably didn’t take her seriously and considered this some sort of sexual playing around.

-We read this and think, “Come on Samson, don’t be an idiot. Get out of there!” But how often we do the same thing. We see moral danger coming our way…we know we’re going to fall and be destroyed by it, but we do it anyway because there’s something within us that always seems to want to dance with danger.

-Take note, the devil does not want to bless you or bring you anything good. He uses temptation to destroy us and tear us down. It is our destruction he ultimately wants to see, no matter how enticing he makes giving into temptation seem or how magnanimous he makes himself out to be.

Judges 16:7-9 “Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.”
8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them.
9 Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.”

-Looking deeper into this verse, we see that Samson had to have been asleep when she bound the cords to him because she called out to him after she was done. If he had been awake the whole time, she would not have had to call out his name.

-It’s no secret how he ended up asleep in her presence either. She gave him what he wanted, and in his exhaustion afterwards he fell to sleep. So we see here that Samson was allowing himself to be ensnared by her through his sexual sins. He knew God’s commands and he knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he insisted on doing it anyway.

Judges 16:10-14 “Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound.”
11 He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.
13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web and fasten it with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other man.”
14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

-In verse 14, the web was undoubtedly the cloth which Delilah was weaving in a loom. The pin was the object with which the braided locks were fastened to the web. She probably wove his hair into the cloth. No doubt he would have been in a pretty deep sleep in order to do this. Possibly he was even intoxicated, which was a direct violation of his Nazirite vow since those who took this vow were forbidden from drinking any wine or anything alcoholic. This just comes to show that one sin will ALWAYS lead to another…sometimes in a completely unrelated area of your life.

-Notice also the the more he fudges about the “secret” to his strength, the closer and closer he gets to telling the truth of it. We see him willingly walking down his own path of destruction as he continues to refuse to leave Delilah and the Palestinian regions and, thus, flee from the causes of his sin.

-If there was any doubt in his mind that Delilah was not serious, there certainly is none now. She has proven over and over again that she is being used by the other Palestinians to destroy him. He’s been attacked now everytime she actually does to him what he says would bring him down. But he continues to play with fire and dance with danger. Possibly it was his pride? Maybe he had put so much faith in his strength that he had now forgotten, or even was not taking God seriously enough when the Lord had told him not to cut his hair or else the power the Lord gave him would leave. This just comes to show that pride is truly the root of all sin.

Judges 16:15-17 “Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.”
16 It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.
17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”

-So now Samson is annoyed. You would think by now that in being annoyed, he would be sick of playing these games with her and would decide to now do the right thing and just leave. But he didn’t. He not only did not leave, but he gave in and told her his secret. He revealed to her what he knew would bring about his destruction.

-Samson had become so steeped in his own sins that he had become numb to their dangers. This is true even for us today. We can get so used to living in sin, that we slowly start to view it as not so wrong anymore, and if we continue, we eventually become so numb to the Spirit’s voice in our conscience telling us to turn away and repent, that we have completely shut Him out. This, my friends, is dangerous, even deadly.

-When we give into temptation, it becomes easier to give into it again and again and again and… until eventually we are so far down that road that we can no longer control ourselves…the sin completely takes over.

Judges 16:18-21 “When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands.
19 She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him.
20 She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.”

-Samson had gone so far from the Lord in his sin, that he wasn’t even aware when the Lord left him. He had fallen so far away from God and His presence, that he had lost all sense and direction in his spiritual life…and didn’t even recognize when God had turned away.

-There comes a point where God will stop pursuing you and calling out to you, and you will be left to your sin. If you do not know the Lord, your fate is then sealed. You are spiraling down the path of destruction to hell and you have hardened your heart toward God and there is no turning back.

-Samson had come to expect the grace of God to help him no matter what he did in his life or no matter how often or how much he insisted on living in sin. But Samson woke up to realize that God’s grace had left him. You see, we do not deserve God’s grace. The whole concept of grace is giving what is undeserved. If we continue to expect His grace, take advantage of it, and continue living in sin without repentance, God’s grace will leave us and we will be left to the destruction of the sin we have allowed to infiltrate our lives and hearts.

-All Samson had to do was get up and get out of there, but he didn’t…he insisted on doing what he wanted to do and ignoring what God desired for him, and the Lord removed His presence from Samson as a result.

-Samson’s life story is really the story of a backslider. Read and learn from his example: you are NOT going to get away with sin. The consequences WILL find you out and you cannot hide it from the Lord or expect that the Lord is always going to be gracious to you. There comes a time when we can push Him away so far that He will leave us to the destruction we’ve brought upon ourselves. Don’t let yourself get to that point. See your sin and the dangers of living in it for what it is, repent and turn back!

-The ONLY way to defeat sin is to give it up to Christ. Rely on Him, surrender your life to Him. Lay hold of the grace of God, leave Sorek, flee from Delilah’s house, and escape your own destruction.

Reflections on 1 John 3

Some verses that stuck out to me during my Bible time.

1 John 3:4-5 (NLT) Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God. 5And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is no sin in him. 6So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either. But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is.

There is a difference between committing a sin and continuing to sin. Even the most faithful believers commit sins at times, but they do not cherish a particular sin and choose to commit it. A believer who commits a sin repents, confesses, and finds forgiveness. A person who continues to sin, by contrast, is not sorry for what he or she is doing. Thus, this person never confesses and never recieves forgiveness. Such a person is in opposition to God, no matter what religious claims he or she makes.

Because Jesus lived a perfect life and sacrificed Himself for our sins, we can be completely forgiven. We can look back to his death for us and know that we need never suffer eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-20).

1 John 3:8-9 But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. 9Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God.

We all have areas where temptation is strong and habits are hard to conquer. These weaknesses give satan a foothold in our lives, so we must deal with our areas of vulnerability. If we are struggling with a particular sin, however, these verses are not directed at us, even if at the time we seem to keep on sinning. John is not talking about people whose victories are still incomplete; he is talking about people who make a practice of sinning and look for ways to justify it. Three things can be used to find vicotry over prevailing sin: 1) seek the power of the Holy Spirit and plug into God’s Word; 2) stay away from tempting situations; 3) seek the help of the body of Christ–be open to their willingness to hold you accountable and to pray for you.

“They can’t keep on sinning” means that true believers do not make a practice of sinning, nor do they become indifferent to God’s moral law. All believers still sin, but they are working to gain victory over sin.

1 John 3:12-13 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

Cain killed his brother, Abel, when God accepted Abel’s offering and not his (Genesis 4:1-16). Abel’s offering showed that Cain was not giving his best to God, and Cain’s jealous anger drove him to murder. People who are morally upright expose and shame those who aren’t. If we live for God, the world will often hate us, because we make them painfully aware of their immoral way of living.

1 John 3:19-20 It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Many people feel guilty because they think they are not doing enough to show proper love for Christ. Their consciences bother them. John has these people in mind in these verses. How can we escape the gnawing accusations of our consciences? Not by ignoring them or rationalizing our behavior but by setting our heart on God’s love for us. When we feel guilty, we should remind ourselves that God knows our motives as well as our actions. His voice of assurance is stronger than the accusing voice of our conscience. If we are in Christ, He will not condemn us (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14-15).

13 Reasons Why The Rapture will be Pre-Tribulation

I. The Blessed Hope
1. The first reason we believe the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation is because it’s called the Blessed Hope in Titus 2:13
“. . . looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”
2. Remember what Paul said in 1 Thess 4:18?
“Therefore comfort one another with these words”
3. If the Rapture doesn’t occur until the middle or end of the Tribulation, where’s the comfort in that?
4. Let’s say you had never heard of the Rapture before and I was teaching it for the very first time.
a. and let’s pretend that I was telling you all about the Last Days
b. and I told you about the horrors of the Tribulation
1) all the death and destruction that will take place
2) I did a review of all the terrible things we find in the Book of Revelation
3) plagues, pestilence, famine, drought, economic and social upheaval on a scale never seen in history
4) a third of the earth’s population is wiped out, then another fourth!
5) the rise of the antichrist and false prophet
6) and finally, the Battle of Armageddon, earth’s worst and bloodiest war
c. and then I say, but comfort one another, cause when it’s all over, we’ll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air
d. you’d think I was nuts! There’s no comfort in knowing you’ve got to pass through all of that to get to the Rapture!
e. the ONLY comfort you could gain was by hoping the Last Days were a long way off in the future and that the return of Jesus was nowhere near.
5. But that isn’t at all what the Bible tells us our attitude ought to be!
a. we ought to be hoping and looking for the Rapture..
b. the comfort of the blessed hope, the Rapture, comes from knowing it comes before the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth.
II. God’s Wrath
1. In Revelation 6:15-17 we learn that the Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth-dwellers.
“15And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
2. Yet 1 Thess 5:9-11 says
“9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
3. We who’ve been born again are not appointed to God’s wrath and that is precisely what the Tribulation is ” the hour of God’s wrath, testing the hearts of the earth-dwellers.
4. God’s wrath against our sin was fully satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
a. when Jesus declared, “It is finished” he meant that the holy demands of God’s justice were completely satisfied
b. Jesus took our place on the Cross as the object of God’s wrath
c. therefore, it would be UNJUST for God to inflict His wrath on us!
5. We can’t be here for the Tribulation because it is the hour of God’s wrath and we’ve been saved from that very thing!
III. Lot
1. In Genesis 18, Lot and his family were delivered from the flaming judgment of God on wicked Sodom.
2. God didn’t protect them IN the judgment, He removed them FROM the very time and place of the judgment and took them up into the hills.
3. In 2 Peter 2:9, Peter speaks of Lot as an example and says
“. . . the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment”
4. What’s interesting is that the word translated “temptations” is the same word used for tribulation.
IV. Enoch
1. In Genesis 5 we read about Enoch.
2. His story is interesting because we read he never died, God simply took him one day!
3. This occurred prior to the Flood, which was God’s judgment on a rebellious world
4. Now, someone might counter and say, but what about Noah?
a. he was a righteous man too but he went through the Flood,
b. being protected by God in the ark
c. isn’t that a better picture of God protecting the Church during the Tribulation?
5. No ” Noah isn’t a picture of the Church ” He’s a picture of God’s sovereign protection of Israel during the Tribulation, a subject that gets much coverage in the Book of Revelation.
6. Noah pictures Israel, while Enoch represents the Church, which is raptured prior to judgment.
V. Daniel
1. Did you ever wonder where Daniel was when Shadrach, Mesheck and Abed-nego were in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3?
2. They were there for refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
3. By the way, Nebuchadnezzar serves as a fitting picture and type of the antichrist who makes an image and demands the world to worship it.
4. Where was Daniel? Did he bow to the image? No way! So why wasn’t he with his three friends?
5. That’s the point! That he’s not even mentioned is a mystery ” foreshadowing the mystery of the Rapture of the Church.
6. Like Noah – Shadrach, Mesheck and Abed-nego represent Israel and how God will preserve them during the fiery trial of the Tribulation.
7. But Daniel’s absence pictures the Church’s absence from the very hour of the trial.
VI. We Are To Pray For Escape!
1. I’m a bit weary of those who mock the Pre-Tribulation position and say it’s escapist.
2. They say that countless believers have faced tribulation, persecution and martyrdom ” why should we hope to escape it?
3. The answer to that is simple ” the trouble previous generations of Christians have faced came from this corrupt and rebellious world system that hated them; it was satan’s wrath they endured.
4. Jesus told us to expect THAT kind of trouble.
5. But the trouble of the Tribulation comes from God’s hand ” it’s His wrath as we’ve already seen, and Jesus already paid that for us.
6. In Luke 21:34-36 Jesus said “
34“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”
a. the “Day” He means here is the Day of the Lord, which begins with the Rapture!
“35For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
b. there’s that phrase ” “earth-dwellers” again
“36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
7. Compare what Jesus says here in Luke 21:36 with what he tells the Philadelphians in Revelation
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
8. The Pre-Trib rapture isn’t escapist ” it’s the very thing Jesus told us to look and pray we’d be ready for.
VII. The Jewish Wedding Ceremony
1. In John 14 Jesus spoke some incredibly comforting words –
1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2In My Father’s house are many dwelling palces; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And 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.”
2. Being Gentiles brought up in the 20th Century, we miss out on how the original disciples would have heard and understood this.
3. You see, Jesus is using the terminology of the Jewish wedding ceremony.
a. once a man and woman were betrothed, he would return to his father’s house and add on a new room.
b. once the room was nearing completion, he would send a friend to go tell the betrothed that the time for the wedding was almost there
c. she would get ready, but rarely knew the precise moment of his arrival; it was part of the suspense and romance of the event that she had to wait without knowing the precise hour of his arrival.
d. but finally the day would come and the groom would go forth to claim his bride
e. his friends would go with him and make noise, blowing trumpets and shouting to let everyone know the time for the wedding had finally come.
f. when he arrived, there was a huge feast ” the wedding supper, after which the man would take his wife into the new room he’d made, and they would stay sequestered there for 7 days!
g. after which they would emerge and he would present her to the community as his beloved, sharing with him from then on in the life of the village.
4. This is how the Rapture will occur.
a. we are now betrothed to Christ and He has gone to prepare our chamber
b. we do not know the day or hour of His return, but we do know the times and seasons because He’s sent His friends, the prophets to describe them
c. when the time is ripe, He will come, with the voice of the archangel, a mighty shout, and the trumpet of God,
d. then He will take us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and we’ll be sequestered with Him in heaven for the 7 years of the Tribulation.
e. then when He comes again, emerging from Heaven in glory, we come with Him to rule and reign for a 1000 years.
VIII. The Outline of Revelation
1. A Pre-tribulation rapture follows the outline for the Book of Revelation given to us in 1:19
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
a. a 3-fold division of Revelation is given here
b. the things John had seen ” meaning the vision of Jesus in ch. 1
c. the things which are ” are found in chs. 2 & 3 in the message to the 7 churches
d. and the things which will take place after this ” are found in chs. 4-22
e. in fact, that very phrase “after this” opens chapter 4
“After these things [meaning chs. 2 & 3] I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
2. What happened to John? After speaking to the churches, He was taken up to heaven ” and it’s from that vantage point that he saw a description of the terrors of the Tribulation!
3. It’s interesting that the word “church” is used 18 times in chs. 1-3, but then isn’t used even once until the very end of Revelation.
4. Chapters 6-19 which describe the Tribulation don’t ever use the word “church!”
a. why?!
b. because the church isn’t on earth ” it’s in heaven!
c. Chs. 4 & 5 describe the church in heaven, worshipping God
5. If the Mid-Tribulation Rapture position is correct, then chs. 4 & 5 would have to be placed after chapter 11, and if the post-Tribulation view is right, chs. 4 & 5 would have to placed after chapter 19.
6. Only the Pre-Tribulation rapture makes sense of the flow of the Book of Revelation and follows the outline Jesus gave John in Revelation 1:19
IX. A Conditional Tribulation
1. In the Letter to the Church at Thyatira in Revelation ch. 2, Jesus rebukes the church for allowing a gross polluter of the Church to remain among them.
2. In v. 22 Jesus says –
“22Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
3. If the Rapture occurred after the Tribulation, this wouldn’t make any sense.
4. This is one more proof that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation and will sort out the genuine believers from those who are mere professors.
5. Genuine believers will repent, and so be delivered from great tribulation.
X. Unknown Time Of Christ’s Return
1. One of the most powerful proofs for the Pre-Trib rapture is that it’s the only one that can account for the repeated reference to the coming of the Lord being at a time not expected.
2. Daniel 9 spells out clearly that there will be 1260 days from the time the Antichrist enters the temple in Jerusalem and declares himself god, till the Return of Jesus Christ.
3. Yet Matthew 24:36 makes it clear that no one knows the day of Jesus’s Return.
4. The only way to reconcile this is to see the Rapture and the Second Coming as two different events ” separated by 7 years.
5. The Jews of Jesus’s day missed His first coming because they had misinterpreted the prophecies of His coming.
a. one set of prophecies foretold a suffering servant
b. while the other set foretold a conquering King
c. they’d come to see the suffering servant prophecies as symbolic but interpreted the conquering king ones as literal.
d. so they looked for the Messiah to come in Majesty and missed His coming in humility.
6. We need to learn this lesson, for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has two phases, just like the OT prophecies of the Messiah’s coming.
a. before Jesus comes to earth in glory as the Conquering King,
b. He will come secretly in the clouds to receive His bride.
7. This coming, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 5, is like a thief in the night, not a King in the mid-day sun.
8. No one knows when Jesus comes in the Rapture, which is very different from His actual Second coming, which will be 1260 days after the Antichrist enters the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
XI. Tribulation Is Unnecessary For The Church
1. In Jer. 30:7, the Tribulation is called Jacob’s trouble.
2. It’s called this because it’s a unique time in which God awakens the Jews to embrace Jesus as their Messiah.
3. In Deut 4, Moses made this remarkable statement “
“29From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice 31(for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.”
4. All of God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled and it’s during the Tribulation that He will move decisively to make Himself known to her.
5. But in order for God to make Israel the focus of His redemptive attention, He will need to switch that focus off the Church.
6. The only way to do that, and not violate His promise to never leave nor forsake us is to take the church out of the earth and transport her to heaven.
XII. Squares With 70 Weeks of Daniel
1. This is a rather complex and involved proof, but one of the most powerful.
2. Let me try to summarize it as quickly as possible.
3. In Daniel 9, God told the prophet that 490 years had been set aside for God to deal with the Jews and Jerusalem in a special way of focus.
4. The first 483 of those years were fulfilled right down to the very day!
5. That leaves one last period of 7 years.
6. If the first 483 years were literal, we have to accept the last 7 as literal as well.
7. Now, God said these 490 years were all set aside for God’s unique focus on Israel.
8. So just as with reason XI, in order for God to turn his attention to the nation of Israel, He must turn His focus away from the Church, and the only way He can do that is if the Church has been raptured and is with Him in heaven.
9. The church wasn’t here for the first 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy; it’s not going to be here for the last 7 either!
10. And by the way ” as Daniel foretells, that last 7 years begins when the Antichrist forges a special agreement with many nations that appears to have something to do with the City of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple
11. In light of all that’s taking place in the Middle East today, and how the nations of the world are lining up trying to figure out what to do to bring peace, this all becomes very interesting to students of the Bible.
XIII. The Rapture Is Imminent!
1. Finally, the apostles and the early Church all believed in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
2. We know that because they believed Jesus could come at any moment ” but they knew they weren’t in the Tribulation!
3. We find the expectation of Jesus’ coming all over the letters of Peter, Paul, and John!
4. The writings of the earliest of the church fathers carry a very strong expectation of the Lord’s coming for the Church.
5. This simply isn’t what we would find if they believed and taught a mid or post-tribulation rapture.
6. They took Jesus’ words literally and seriously when He said, “Watch and be ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man comes.” [Matthew 24:42 25:13]
Conclusion
A. It Matters What You Believe!
1. The timing of the Rapture is not an essential of the faith.
2. And good people do disagree!
3. But we ought not say that it doesn’t matter what a person believes about this issue ” it does matter!
4. You see, it’s inevitable that when one believes the Rapture takes place is going to effect the way they live.
5. If I believe the rapture is before the Tribulation then I am going to live as if it could be any moment ” so I’ll be watching and ready for Him.
6. In 1 John 3:2-3 John writes “
“2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
7. If I hold to a mid or post-trib position, then quite frankly I’m probably not very hopeful of the Lord’s coming!
a. I’d prefer it was stuck way off in the future because I don’t want to have to endure the Tribulation
b. and if it is near, I won’t be looking for Jesus so much as I’ll be looking for the evidences that I’m in the Tribulation.
c. instead of looking for Christ, I’ll be looking for antichrist, knowing I have to see him before I’ll see Jesus.
8. Also, if I have to endure the Tribulation, instead of keeping a light touch with the world, I’m going to be highly motivated to dig in.
9. I’ll develop a survivalist mentality, and start building a shelter and storing food and figuring out how not to take the mark of the beast.
10. So it does matter when you believe the Rapture takes place because what we believe is the basis for how we live.
Taken from Pastor Lance Ralston’s notes from Calvary Chapel of Oxnard

I. The Blessed Hope
1. The first reason we believe the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation is because it’s called the Blessed Hope in Titus 2:13
“. . . looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”
2. Remember what Paul said in 1 Thess 4:18?
“Therefore comfort one another with these words”
3. If the Rapture doesn’t occur until the middle or end of the Tribulation, where’s the comfort in that?
4. Let’s say you had never heard of the Rapture before and I was teaching it for the very first time.
a. and let’s pretend that I was telling you all about the Last Days
b. and I told you about the horrors of the Tribulation
1) all the death and destruction that will take place
2) I did a review of all the terrible things we find in the Book of Revelation
3) plagues, pestilence, famine, drought, economic and social upheaval on a scale never seen in history
4) a third of the earth’s population is wiped out, then another fourth!
5) the rise of the antichrist and false prophet
6) and finally, the Battle of Armageddon, earth’s worst and bloodiest war
c. and then I say, but comfort one another, cause when it’s all over, we’ll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air
d. you’d think I was nuts! There’s no comfort in knowing you’ve got to pass through all of that to get to the Rapture!
e. the ONLY comfort you could gain was by hoping the Last Days were a long way off in the future and that the return of Jesus was nowhere near.
5. But that isn’t at all what the Bible tells us our attitude ought to be!
a. we ought to be hoping and looking for the Rapture..
b. the comfort of the blessed hope, the Rapture, comes from knowing it comes before the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth.
II. God’s Wrath
1. In Revelation 6:15-17 we learn that the Tribulation is a time of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth-dwellers.
“15And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

2. Yet 1 Thess 5:9-11 says
“9For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
3. We who’ve been born again are not appointed to God’s wrath and that is precisely what the Tribulation is ” the hour of God’s wrath, testing the hearts of the earth-dwellers.
4. God’s wrath against our sin was fully satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
a. when Jesus declared, “It is finished” he meant that the holy demands of God’s justice were completely satisfied
b. Jesus took our place on the Cross as the object of God’s wrath
c. therefore, it would be UNJUST for God to inflict His wrath on us!
5. We can’t be here for the Tribulation because it is the hour of God’s wrath and we’ve been saved from that very thing!
III. Lot
1. In Genesis 18, Lot and his family were delivered from the flaming judgment of God on wicked Sodom.
2. God didn’t protect them IN the judgment, He removed them FROM the very time and place of the judgment and took them up into the hills.
3. In 2 Peter 2:9, Peter speaks of Lot as an example and says
“. . . the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment”
4. What’s interesting is that the word translated “temptations” is the same word used for tribulation.
IV. Enoch
1. In Genesis 5 we read about Enoch.
2. His story is interesting because we read he never died, God simply took him one day!
3. This occurred prior to the Flood, which was God’s judgment on a rebellious world
4. Now, someone might counter and say, but what about Noah?
a. he was a righteous man too but he went through the Flood,
b. being protected by God in the ark
c. isn’t that a better picture of God protecting the Church during the Tribulation?
5. No ” Noah isn’t a picture of the Church ” He’s a picture of God’s sovereign protection of Israel during the Tribulation, a subject that gets much coverage in the Book of Revelation.
6. Noah pictures Israel, while Enoch represents the Church, which is raptured prior to judgment.
V. Daniel
1. Did you ever wonder where Daniel was when Shadrach, Mesheck and Abed-nego were in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3?
2. They were there for refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
3. By the way, Nebuchadnezzar serves as a fitting picture and type of the antichrist who makes an image and demands the world to worship it.
4. Where was Daniel? Did he bow to the image? No way! So why wasn’t he with his three friends?
5. That’s the point! That he’s not even mentioned is a mystery ” foreshadowing the mystery of the Rapture of the Church.
6. Like Noah – Shadrach, Mesheck and Abed-nego represent Israel and how God will preserve them during the fiery trial of the Tribulation.
7. But Daniel’s absence pictures the Church’s absence from the very hour of the trial.
VI. We Are To Pray For Escape!
1. I’m a bit weary of those who mock the Pre-Tribulation position and say it’s escapist.
2. They say that countless believers have faced tribulation, persecution and martyrdom ” why should we hope to escape it?
3. The answer to that is simple ” the trouble previous generations of Christians have faced came from this corrupt and rebellious world system that hated them; it was satan’s wrath they endured.
4. Jesus told us to expect THAT kind of trouble.
5. But the trouble of the Tribulation comes from God’s hand ” it’s His wrath as we’ve already seen, and Jesus already paid that for us.
6. In Luke 21:34-36 Jesus said ”
34“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”
a. the “Day” He means here is the Day of the Lord, which begins with the Rapture!
“35For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
b. there’s that phrase ” “earth-dwellers” again
“36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
7. Compare what Jesus says here in Luke 21:36 with what he tells the Philadelphians in Revelation
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
8. The Pre-Trib rapture isn’t escapist ” it’s the very thing Jesus told us to look and pray we’d be ready for.
VII. The Jewish Wedding Ceremony
1. In John 14 Jesus spoke some incredibly comforting words –
1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2In My Father’s house are many dwelling palces; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And 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.”
2. Being Gentiles brought up in the 20th Century, we miss out on how the original disciples would have heard and understood this.
3. You see, Jesus is using the terminology of the Jewish wedding ceremony.
a. once a man and woman were betrothed, he would return to his father’s house and add on a new room.
b. once the room was nearing completion, he would send a friend to go tell the betrothed that the time for the wedding was almost there
c. she would get ready, but rarely knew the precise moment of his arrival; it was part of the suspense and romance of the event that she had to wait without knowing the precise hour of his arrival.
d. but finally the day would come and the groom would go forth to claim his bride
e. his friends would go with him and make noise, blowing trumpets and shouting to let everyone know the time for the wedding had finally come.
f. when he arrived, there was a huge feast ” the wedding supper, after which the man would take his wife into the new room he’d made, and they would stay sequestered there for 7 days!
g. after which they would emerge and he would present her to the community as his beloved, sharing with him from then on in the life of the village.
4. This is how the Rapture will occur.
a. we are now betrothed to Christ and He has gone to prepare our chamber
b. we do not know the day or hour of His return, but we do know the times and seasons because He’s sent His friends, the prophets to describe them
c. when the time is ripe, He will come, with the voice of the archangel, a mighty shout, and the trumpet of God,
d. then He will take us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and we’ll be sequestered with Him in heaven for the 7 years of the Tribulation.
e. then when He comes again, emerging from Heaven in glory, we come with Him to rule and reign for a 1000 years.
VIII. The Outline of Revelation
1. A Pre-tribulation rapture follows the outline for the Book of Revelation given to us in 1:19
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
a. a 3-fold division of Revelation is given here
b. the things John had seen ” meaning the vision of Jesus in ch. 1
c. the things which are ” are found in chs. 2 & 3 in the message to the 7 churches
d. and the things which will take place after this ” are found in chs. 4-22
e. in fact, that very phrase “after this” opens chapter 4
“After these things [meaning chs. 2 & 3] I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
2. What happened to John? After speaking to the churches, He was taken up to heaven ” and it’s from that vantage point that he saw a description of the terrors of the Tribulation!
3. It’s interesting that the word “church” is used 18 times in chs. 1-3, but then isn’t used even once until the very end of Revelation.
4. Chapters 6-19 which describe the Tribulation don’t ever use the word “church!”
a. why?!
b. because the church isn’t on earth ” it’s in heaven!
c. Chs. 4 & 5 describe the church in heaven, worshipping God
5. If the Mid-Tribulation Rapture position is correct, then chs. 4 & 5 would have to be placed after chapter 11, and if the post-Tribulation view is right, chs. 4 & 5 would have to placed after chapter 19.
6. Only the Pre-Tribulation rapture makes sense of the flow of the Book of Revelation and follows the outline Jesus gave John in Revelation 1:19
IX. A Conditional Tribulation
1. In the Letter to the Church at Thyatira in Revelation ch. 2, Jesus rebukes the church for allowing a gross polluter of the Church to remain among them.
2. In v. 22 Jesus says –
“22Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.”
3. If the Rapture occurred after the Tribulation, this wouldn’t make any sense.
4. This is one more proof that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation and will sort out the genuine believers from those who are mere professors.
5. Genuine believers will repent, and so be delivered from great tribulation.
X. Unknown Time Of Christ’s Return
1. One of the most powerful proofs for the Pre-Trib rapture is that it’s the only one that can account for the repeated reference to the coming of the Lord being at a time not expected.
2. Daniel 9 spells out clearly that there will be 1260 days from the time the Antichrist enters the temple in Jerusalem and declares himself god, till the Return of Jesus Christ.
3. Yet Matthew 24:36 makes it clear that no one knows the day of Jesus’s Return.
4. The only way to reconcile this is to see the Rapture and the Second Coming as two different events ” separated by 7 years.
5. The Jews of Jesus’s day missed His first coming because they had misinterpreted the prophecies of His coming.
a. one set of prophecies foretold a suffering servant
b. while the other set foretold a conquering King
c. they’d come to see the suffering servant prophecies as symbolic but interpreted the conquering king ones as literal.
d. so they looked for the Messiah to come in Majesty and missed His coming in humility.
6. We need to learn this lesson, for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has two phases, just like the OT prophecies of the Messiah’s coming.
a. before Jesus comes to earth in glory as the Conquering King,
b. He will come secretly in the clouds to receive His bride.
7. This coming, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 5, is like a thief in the night, not a King in the mid-day sun.
8. No one knows when Jesus comes in the Rapture, which is very different from His actual Second coming, which will be 1260 days after the Antichrist enters the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.
XI. Tribulation Is Unnecessary For The Church
1. In Jer. 30:7, the Tribulation is called Jacob’s trouble.
2. It’s called this because it’s a unique time in which God awakens the Jews to embrace Jesus as their Messiah.
3. In Deut 4, Moses made this remarkable statement ”
“29From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice 31(for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.”
4. All of God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled and it’s during the Tribulation that He will move decisively to make Himself known to her.
5. But in order for God to make Israel the focus of His redemptive attention, He will need to switch that focus off the Church.
6. The only way to do that, and not violate His promise to never leave nor forsake us is to take the church out of the earth and transport her to heaven.
XII. Squares With 70 Weeks of Daniel
1. This is a rather complex and involved proof, but one of the most powerful.
2. Let me try to summarize it as quickly as possible.
3. In Daniel 9, God told the prophet that 490 years had been set aside for God to deal with the Jews and Jerusalem in a special way of focus.
4. The first 483 of those years were fulfilled right down to the very day!
5. That leaves one last period of 7 years.
6. If the first 483 years were literal, we have to accept the last 7 as literal as well.
7. Now, God said these 490 years were all set aside for God’s unique focus on Israel.
8. So just as with reason XI, in order for God to turn his attention to the nation of Israel, He must turn His focus away from the Church, and the only way He can do that is if the Church has been raptured and is with Him in heaven.
9. The church wasn’t here for the first 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy; it’s not going to be here for the last 7 either!
10. And by the way ” as Daniel foretells, that last 7 years begins when the Antichrist forges a special agreement with many nations that appears to have something to do with the City of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple
11. In light of all that’s taking place in the Middle East today, and how the nations of the world are lining up trying to figure out what to do to bring peace, this all becomes very interesting to students of the Bible.
XIII. The Rapture Is Imminent!
1. Finally, the apostles and the early Church all believed in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
2. We know that because they believed Jesus could come at any moment ” but they knew they weren’t in the Tribulation!
3. We find the expectation of Jesus’ coming all over the letters of Peter, Paul, and John!
4. The writings of the earliest of the church fathers carry a very strong expectation of the Lord’s coming for the Church.
5. This simply isn’t what we would find if they believed and taught a mid or post-tribulation rapture.
6. They took Jesus’ words literally and seriously when He said, “Watch and be ready, for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man comes.” [Matthew 24:42 25:13]
Conclusion
A. It Matters What You Believe!
1. The timing of the Rapture is not an essential of the faith.
2. And good people do disagree!
3. But we ought not say that it doesn’t matter what a person believes about this issue ” it does matter!
4. You see, it’s inevitable that when one believes the Rapture takes place is going to effect the way they live.
5. If I believe the rapture is before the Tribulation then I am going to live as if it could be any moment ” so I’ll be watching and ready for Him.
6. In 1 John 3:2-3 John writes ”
“2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
7. If I hold to a mid or post-trib position, then quite frankly I’m probably not very hopeful of the Lord’s coming!
a. I’d prefer it was stuck way off in the future because I don’t want to have to endure the Tribulation
b. and if it is near, I won’t be looking for Jesus so much as I’ll be looking for the evidences that I’m in the Tribulation.
c. instead of looking for Christ, I’ll be looking for antichrist, knowing I have to see him before I’ll see Jesus.
8. Also, if I have to endure the Tribulation, instead of keeping a light touch with the world, I’m going to be highly motivated to dig in.
9. I’ll develop a survivalist mentality, and start building a shelter and storing food and figuring out how not to take the mark of the beast.
10. So it does matter when you believe the Rapture takes place because what we believe is the basis for how we live.

Taken from Pastor Lance Ralston’s notes from Calvary Chapel of Oxnard