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Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

On behalf of The Joshua Fund team, I want to thank you so much for your kindness, and brief you on the impact you’ve made.

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm

tjfdonorreport-2012smallWhen it comes to loving and blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, it’s not either/or — it’s both/and. The God of the Bible loves the Jews and the Arabs. And He commands followers of Christ to do the same.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink….Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” — the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:35,40)

“He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” — King Solomon (Proverbs 22:9)

“For [the believers in] Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” — the Apostle Paul (Romans 15:26-27)

On behalf of the board and staff of The Joshua Fund — here in the U.S. and in Israel — I just want to end 2012 by saying thank you so very, very much for your kind and faithful prayers & generous financial support this year. We as a team are deeply moved and humbled by the way you have invested your heart and your resources in this ministry. And not just this year, but since the summer of 2006 when we first started. Thousands of poor and needy Israeli Jews and Arabs — as well as needy Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi Arabs and Kurds — have been personally touched by God’s love and mercy and His Word because of your kindness and generosity. You have helped us provide food and other relief suppies to those in need in the epicenter. You’ve also helped us teach the Word of God and encourage and train national pastors and ministry leaders in the region. And in doing so, you’ve helped us bring hope by showing the great love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ who “loved us and gave Himself for us.”

For those of you who may have missed it during your Christmas vacation with family and friends, I’d like to bring to your attention The Joshua Fund’s 2012 Donor Report. We have posted it on TJF’s homepage (www.joshuafund.net). It includes a letter from me, and an update on many of the projects we’ve been investing in this year. I hope you’ll be able to take a few minutes to read it and see how we’ve been touching lives in the epicenter together. Please also feel free to share this report with others.

Thanks again from the bottom of our hearts! We praise our Lord Jesus for His grace, and your partnership!

>> If you would like to make a year-end tax deductible donation to The Joshua Fund, please click here.

Implosion update: #Fiscalcliff deadline looms & $1 trillion tax hike starts Jan. 1

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2012 at 6:49 pm

40daysWhat does the future of our country hold? The national debt has passed $16 trillion. We’ve had four straight years of $1 trillion-plus federal deficits. We’re facing more $50 trillion in unfunded government promises coming due.  Washington seems paralyzed to stop the massive overspending and get our fiscal house in order. No wonder so many Americans are asking whether the U.S. is headed for implosion.

For these and many other reasons, we need to be praying for our leaders to be making wise decisions, as well as beseeching the Lord to give our country a Third Great Awakening.

“A frantic round of late-night negotiations on Sunday between Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, moved the Senate close to a deal to stave off hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts that would begin to kick in on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the talks,” reports the New York Times. “But officials cautioned that optimism had risen in past days only to burst hours later. An objection by just one senator could derail a deal until the next Congress convenes on Thursday.”

  • “It looks awful,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat. “I’m sure the American people are saying, with so much at stake why are they waiting so late to get this done?” (NYT)
  • Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who had said early Sunday that he thought a deal was within reach, said later on his Twitter feed, “I think we’re going over the cliff.” (NYT)
  • The Washington Post reports that “regardless of whether an agreement is reached to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff,’ many Americans are all but certain to face a broad hike in taxes starting Tuesday because of the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which was enacted in 2011 as a temporary measure to boost economic growth.”
  • Americans for Tax Reform report that “on January 1, regardless of the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations, Americans  will be hit with a $1 trillion Obamacare tax hike.”
  • The Heritage Foundation reports “a list of the top 10 facts on federal spending in 2012.”

To see the “Implosion” forum that was broadcast earlier this year on C-SPAN, please click here.

Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?

Netanyahu releases video wishes Christians Merry Christmas & invites believers to visit Israel

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2012 at 1:07 am

bibi-ChristmasmessageIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released this video wishing Christians in Israel and around the world a Merry Christmas. He noted that while followers of Jesus are in danger throughout the epicenter, this is not true in Israel. He said the Christian community in Israel is welcome, and respected and growing, and that acts of violence against Christians will not be tolerated. He also invited Christians around the world to visit Israel — and Jerusalem, “Israel’s eternal capital” — in 2013.

I agree with him — please come to the Holy Land tOn behalf of The Joshua Fund’s board and staff, it is my honor to invite you to join us for our “2013 Prayer & Vision Trip to Israel.”

The tour will be held June 25 through July 7, 2013, and will include the 2013 Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem. We would be so blessed to have you and your family and friends — perhaps your entire home fellowship group or small group Bible study – with us for an unforgettable journey through the Holy Land, learning its history, discovering what the Lord is doing there now, hearing testimonies of God’s faithfulness, studying Bible prophecy, and participating in an actual humanitarian relief project to care for the poor and needy.

Week by week, more people are signing up. There is limited space so please don’t wait to pray, read through the details of the trip and watch the video, and make your decision.

If you have never been to the Holy Land, it is hard to describe what a profound spiritual effect such a journey can have on you and your family. You may have heard others say God’s Word seemed to “come alive” in a new way when they walked where Jesus walked, from the shores of Galilee to the Mount of Olives and into the streets of Jerusalem. Well, it’s true, and I believe our 2013 Israel trip will allow you to experience this for yourself and intensify your desire to walk more closely with Jesus Christ, especially as you come to better understand the challenges of living and working in this unique part of the world.

If you have been to Israel before, this trip will be a great opportunity to deepen your understanding of how powerfully the Lord is moving there. And this tour is like no other. Lord willing, you will visit The Joshua Fund’s warehouse, You will meet our American and Israeli staff and several of our Board members. You will participate in a practical ministry project to bless the poor and needy. You will have the opportunity to meet with and pray for local pastors and ministry leaders on the frontlines of the faith. You will participate in a special conference to study God’s Word and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I will also teach at key locations and answer your questions about the future of the epicenter.

It’s going to be a remarkable trip at a critical time in Israeli history. Our presence will send an important message to Israelis and Palestinians that we love them and will never forget or abandon them. Please prayerfully consider joining us. I would love to see you there!

Touching lives together: Here’s a year-end update from #TheJoshuaFund on the projects we’ve been investing in.

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm

The Joshua Fund’s 2012 Donor Report has been posted on TJF’s homepage (www.joshuafund.net). It includes a letter from me, and an update on many of the projects we’ve been investing in this year. I hope you’ll be able to take a few minutes to read it and see how we’ve been touching lives in the epicenter together, and that you’ll be willing to share this report with others.

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and generous financial support this year. We praise our Lord Jesus for His grace, and your partnership!

Many people have asked me this year, “What is the Rapture”? Here’s what I tell them.

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm

The Bible describes a remarkable event that will take place during the last days. This biblical event is the sudden “catching away” of the followers of Jesus Christ, something Bible scholars call the Rapture. It is this amazing event that captured the imagination of millions around the world when Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote their biblically based Left Behind series of novels, selling more than 65 million copies in the process. The novels tried to depict what it would feel like if those in the world who follow Jesus suddenly disappeared “in the twinkling of an eye.” But Christians’ understanding of the Rapture predates the writings of LaHaye and Jenkins by nearly two thousand years. This is, therefore, a scenario worthy of closer consideration.

While the Bible does not indicate precisely when the Rapture will happen, it does teach that all true followers of Jesus Christ will be removed from the earth prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Because God has not chosen believers to suffer the wrath of the Tribulation, people who have received Christ as their Savior and Lord prior to the Rapture will thus be rescued from the worst of the persecution, wars, natural disasters, and judgments that the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel, and other Scriptures explain will occur during the seven years leading up to the Day of the Lord. People who are not born-again believers in Christ at the moment of the Rapture will remain on the earth. If a person honestly and genuinely repents of his or her sins and receives Christ as his or her personal Savior and Lord at any point during the Tribulation, that person will without a doubt be forgiven of all sin, be regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God, and be saved from ultimate judgment. This is God’s grace and mercy, and it will be available even after the Rapture, though the Bible indicates that such new believers will still have to endure the terrors that will occur on the earth during that time. Many will face martyrdom. Only those who are believers before the Rapture will be saved both spiritually and physically from the wrath to come.

While we cannot preclude the possibility that the U.S. could implode before the Rapture happens, the Bible tells believers to comfort one another with the certain knowledge that as bad as events get on earth, people who trust Christ before the Rapture will be spared from the worst that the prophecies tell us is coming. In this chapter, we will look specifically at the implications for America if the Rapture were to happen in the near future.

First, however, we need to define our terms.

What Does the Word Rapture Mean?

The most famous passage describing what theologians refer to as the Rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The apostle Paul writes:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

While the word rapture does not appear in modern English translations of the Bible, the concept is rooted in Scripture. The word itself comes from the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 in the Vulgate, the Greek word harpazō is translated rapturo or raeptius, which means “to seize, carry off by force; to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly; or to snatch out or away.”[i] Most English translations of the Bible—including the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version—have, therefore, translated the word harpazō as “caught up.” But English-speaking Bible scholars who studied the Latin Vulgate decided the word rapture was a useful and suitable term to express the scriptural concept of believers being suddenly removed from the world.

If “you happened to pick up a copy of the Latin Vulgate at a garage sale, produced by Jerome in the early 400s, you would indeed find the word Rapture,” Bible scholars Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice have noted. “The Vulgate was the main Bible of the medieval Western church until the Reformation. It continues to this day as the primary Latin translation of the Roman Catholic church. . . . It should not be surprising to anyone that an English word in regular use today was developed from the Latin. That word, of course, is rapture.”[ii]

How Does the Bible Describe the Rapture?

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 we find significant and important clues about the Rapture. Among them:

  • God does not want believers to be ignorant or “uninformed” about the last days or the Rapture like people who “have no hope” (v. 13).
  • Rather, the Lord wants believers to be aware, ready, and expectant for “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (born-again believers who have physically died) to be resurrected in the last days—indeed, “the dead in Christ will rise first” (vv. 14, 16).
  • The Lord also wants believers who are still alive in the last days to be aware, ready, and expectant for the fact that we will be united with the Lord Jesus Christ and with resurrected believers during the Rapture (vv. 15-16).
  • During the Rapture, the Lord Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel of God and the sound of the trumpet of God (v. 16).
  • During the Rapture, as the Lord descends from heaven, believers will be caught up or snatched up from earth to meet the Lord in the air (v. 17).
  • Unlike the Second Coming, Christ does not come all the way down to earth during the Rapture. He only comes down partway to meet us and take us to heaven, where we will remain with him until we join him at the Second Coming. The key, the Scriptures tell us, is that “we shall always be with the Lord.” Christ will never leave nor forsake us. To the contrary, we will always be at his side and worshiping him for who he is and what he has done for us (v. 17).
  • The Rapture should be a comfort to believers because it will be a supreme act of God’s grace (unmerited favor) and his love and mercy as he rescues them out of the traumas of the age from the even-more-horrific traumas to come during the Tribulation (v. 18).

We learn more important details about the Rapture in the apostle Paul’s next chapter to the church in Thessalonica. Consider these verses from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Notably, in this passage we learn that:

  • The Lord isn’t going to tell us the specific time when the Rapture will occur (v. 1). The day of the Lord’s coming for us (different in this context from the final Day of the Lord, his judgment after seven years of wars and traumas) will be “just like a thief in the night”—that is, it will come at a time when unbelievers will be surprised because they are not paying attention (v. 2).
  • When unbelievers are saying, “Peace and safety!” then the Rapture will occur, and destruction will follow—and all this will come upon the world “suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (v. 3).
  • In describing these “labor pains,” the apostle Paul echoes the words of the Lord Jesus when he explained in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that the world will be experiencing “birth pangs” in the last days (v. 3).
  • Thus, while we don’t know exactly when or how the Rapture will occur, it seems to come not specifically during a time of intense “contraction” (major wars, terrorist attacks, etc.), but during a time of “release,” a time when things seem to the non-Christian world to be relatively more peaceful and safe than they had previously been (v. 3).
  • This means the Rapture cannot take place during the Tribulation, because no one in their right mind could possibly describe any moment during that seven-year period of apocalyptic wars and natural disasters and persecution and divine judgment as a time of “peace and safety” (v. 3).
  • Believers are not supposed to be caught off guard by the Rapture but are to remain “alert and sober” (vv. 4-8).
  • The truth of the Rapture is meant to encourage believers. The apostle Paul, after all, tells us that because we know the Rapture will occur and the true church will be rescued and removed from the world before the Tribulation begins and the Antichrist emerges and conquers the world, we are to “encourage one another and build up one another” (v. 11).

Do Other Scriptures Shed Light on the Rapture?

Do other New Testament passages shed more light on the Rapture? Yes, they do. The apostle John gives us additional details in his Gospel account, and the apostle Paul provides more information in his first letter to the church in Corinth as well as in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. We also see evidence of the Rapture in the book of Revelation.

In John 14:1-6, the Lord Jesus, in a conversation with his disciples, said:

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Here, Christ promised to leave earth to prepare heaven for our arrival. Then he promised to come back from heaven to get us and take us to heaven. Therefore, we are not to worry or let our hearts be troubled, because he will eventually come and rescue his church from the troubles of this world.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, the apostle Paul writes, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

When Paul says “we will not all sleep,” he means not all believers will physically die. We will “all be changed”—that is, all believers will be spiritually transformed. Some will die physically but will be resurrected from the dead and given new, immortal bodies. Others will not die physically but will be “changed” during the Rapture and given new, immortal bodies.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, the apostle Paul explains that believers will be rescued from the coming wrath of the Tribulation, explaining that we serve “a living and true God” and that we currently “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”

The book of Revelation gives us interesting clues about the Rapture as well. In Revelation 3:10, the Lord Jesus reinforces his promise to remove those who are faithful to him from the wrath of the Tribulation when he says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

Notably, the word church or churches is mentioned eighteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation. The apostle John is being told by the Lord to give his messages to a range of different types of church congregations, some who are walking very faithfully with the Lord, but most of whom (five out of seven) are being told to repent or face judgment. Then a striking turning point occurs.

Suddenly, as chapter 4 begins, the apostle John is no longer focused on the churches. Rather, he is caught up to heaven and sees events unfolding from the perspective of heaven. “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.’ Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne” (4:1-2).

The word wrath is mentioned eleven times in the book of Revelation to describe the events during the Tribulation. One of the main reasons for the Rapture, the apostle Paul tells us, is to remove the church from the wrath to come during the Tribulation. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Remarkably, beginning in Revelation chapter 4, neither the word church nor churches is used during any of the descriptions of Tribulation events in the next eighteen chapters. Only in the final chapter of the book of Revelation, when all the events of the End Times have been described, does the Lord turn his attention back to the existing churches on earth and say, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches” (Revelation 22:16). The fact that churches are referred to so frequently at the beginning of the book and then not again until the last chapter is because the church—the institution as we have known her for the past twenty centuries—is not a factor during the events of the Tribulation. People are still coming to faith in Christ, but they are not operating as the church during that time. Rather, the church has been removed, snatched away, caught up, or raptured prior to the Tribulation.

Examples in the Bible of People Who Were Raptured

One of the things that has intrigued me in the study of the Bible and prophecy—specifically the concept of the Rapture—is that the Lord has given us two examples of people who were raptured in the Old Testament. In a sense, they are examples or “prophetic pictures” of what is coming for all believers at a certain moment in the not-too-distant future.

In the book of Genesis, we learn about a righteous servant of the Lord named Enoch. The Bible tells us that “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). In other words, Enoch obeyed the word of the Lord while living his physical life on earth, and then the Lord decided that rather than requiring Enoch to die physically before going to heaven, he would simply snatch Enoch away while he was still physically alive. The book of Hebrews confirms this interpretation. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5). Think about that for a moment. The Lord was so pleased with Enoch that he made him the first example of a person raptured from the earth. Enoch, however, was not the last.

In the book of 2 Kings, we read about the Hebrew prophet Elijah. The Lord was so pleased with Elijah that he sent a chariot of fire to whisk the prophet away to heaven while he was still alive and walking alongside his young protégé, Elisha. “As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan” (2 Kings 2:11-13). The text goes on to tell us that fifty Israelites then proceeded to search for the living Elijah—or at least his dead body—for three full days, but they were unable to find him. Why? Because Elijah had not simply been moved to another location by the Lord. Elijah had not physically died. He had become the second person in the Bible to be raptured.

The Lord Jesus himself gives us the picture of another type of rapture. While the circumstances are not precisely the same as what the apostle Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians, they do shed some light on what the Rapture will be like. Christ, of course, was crucified, killed, and buried. Then he was raised from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures. After that, he spent time with the believers on earth. During that time, he had a real body, but it was a body that had been dramatically changed. For example, the Lord Jesus spoke, walked, ate, cooked, and traveled with those he loved. He had real flesh and blood, as he demonstrated to Doubting Thomas in John chapter 20. But he also appeared, disappeared, and walked through walls.

In Acts 1, Christ beautifully and amazingly demonstrated this type of rapture:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:9-11

Can you imagine that? One moment Jesus was talking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. The next moment he was floating up to heaven through the clouds. Someday soon, believers will experience something very similar.

Not every Christian has studied these Scriptures about the Rapture, or understands them, or believes them. Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that every single person who has received the free gift of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ—and who is physically alive when the Lord decides the moment has come—will be caught up from the earth to meet Jesus in the air. What a glorious thing that will be. I hope it happens in my lifetime. I am really looking forward to it, as are my wife and children. We are eager to see the Lord Jesus face-to-face. We are excited about his return and amazed by these promises he has made us.

If the Lord had called the church to go through the Tribulation, then we would endure it willingly and for his glory. We would do so knowing that the Holy Spirit would give each of us the strength, the courage, the boldness, and the words to witness for Jesus Christ in the darkest hours of human history. After all, the Lord Jesus tells us what he told the apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). At the end of Matthew 28, Christ said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Then He commanded us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” And he promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (vv. 18-20). So we may be assured of his grace, mercy, love, and presence through all circumstances.

But the Lord didn’t call believers to endure the Tribulation. Instead, he promised to remove the church before the wrath comes. For this we are grateful, and we want more believers to know and understand and be encouraged by these powerful promises.

Are You Ready?

The question is not whether the Rapture will occur. The question is whether you will be spiritually ready to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face when it happens and be caught up in the air with him and all believers, or whether you will not be ready and have to remain on earth to face the wrath of the Tribulation.

If you’re not 100 percent certain at this point in your life that your sins are forgiven, that your soul is saved, and that you will go to heaven whether you face natural death or the Rapture, then may I encourage you to read the following verses and receive Jesus Christ right now as your personal Savior and Lord?

  • In John 3:3, the Lord Jesus told a religious leader who came to him seeking spiritual guidance, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” One’s physical birth into a religious family, Jesus was saying, is not enough. Nor is being a very religious person. Nor even a religious leader. Something else has to happen on the inside. Thus, as you read the New Testament, it becomes clear that born again is a biblical term referring to a person who 1) is fully convinced that faith in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead is the only way to be forgiven of his sins and adopted into God’s family; and 2) has consciously, willfully, and purposefully asked God through prayer to wash his sins away and save him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • In John 1:12, we learn that “as many as received Him [Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God.”
  • Jesus said in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • In Romans 10:9-10, the apostle Paul explains how to be born again: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
  • Then, in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, Paul tells us the result of being born again: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
  • In Revelation 3:20, Christ encourages you to make this decision immediately and not to refuse him or shut him out of your life any longer. “Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

Would you like to make that decision? You can receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord right now. Here is a suggested prayer that has been helpful to many people all over the world—including my father and me—in becoming followers of Christ and in sharing the gospel with others. The key is not so much the precise words as the attitude of your heart.

Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me. Thank you for having a wonderful plan and purpose for my life. I need you today—I need you to forgive me for all of my sins. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Thank you for rising again from the dead and proving that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to get to heaven. I open the door of my heart and my life right now. I receive you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please change my life. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Please take control of my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be so I can serve you and please you forever. Thank you so much. I love you, and I want to follow you. Amen.

If you just prayed with sincere faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, then congratulations! You’ve just been adopted into God’s family. Welcome! Let me give you a quick snapshot of seven wonderful things that have just happened.

1. You have a new spiritual life. The apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

2. You have made everyone in heaven happy. According to the words of Jesus in Luke 15:10, there is great rejoicing in heaven because you have become a follower of the living God. “I tell you,” Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

3. You are going to heaven when you die or when the Rapture happens. According to the words of Jesus in John 3:16, you now have eternal life. You will not go to hell and perish eternally when you die physically. Rather, you will go to heaven and live forever with God and with all those who have been adopted into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, the New Testament was written precisely to show people how to find eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. As we read in 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” God wants you to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are now forever safe in his family. Take confidence in his promises.

4. You have the Holy Spirit living within you. According to the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:13-14, your salvation has been sealed and secured forever by God’s Holy Spirit, who now lives within you. “In Him [Jesus Christ], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

5. You have access to a supernatural source of peace. According to Philippians 4:7, you now have access to a supernatural peace with God and internal peace of mind, regardless of whatever external circumstances come your way. “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

6. You have access to a supernatural source of hope. According to the words of Hebrews 6:18-19, all followers of Jesus Christ are encouraged to “take hold of the hope set before us” and to view “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.”

7. You have access to God’s supernatural wisdom. According to James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Now, I strongly encourage you to find some people who also love Jesus and are his faithful followers and tell them what you have just done. Allow them to rejoice with you, and ask them to help you find a good, solid, Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church congregation where you can begin attending. Start asking the Lord for an older, wiser follower of Christ to begin discipling you—that is, to begin teaching you the Scriptures, answering your questions, praying with you, and encouraging you to actually put into practice in your life all that the Lord teaches us in the Bible.

I would also encourage you to choose three people who are not born again and tell them what you’ve just discovered about God’s love and forgiveness and why you chose to receive Christ into your life and become his follower. Answer their questions as best you can. Perhaps give them a copy of this book to help them understand why you’ve made this decision. Better yet, find out if they have a Bible, and if they don’t, offer to go to a bookstore and help them pick one out to begin studying and reading on their own. Now is not the time to keep the miracle that has just happened in your life to yourself—go tell people! And don’t stop at three. Tell as many as will listen. Tell them lovingly and gently. Don’t force it down their throats, of course. But don’t be shy, either. They need to know these truths and make a choice one way or the other, just like you did.

[Note: This article is an excerpt from my book, Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?]


[i] See definition of harpazō in Strong’s Concordance, available online at http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G726&t=KJV.

[ii] Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice, The Truth Behind Left Behind, (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), pp. 22-23.

 

Amidst big tragedies, fears and questions, let us be found faithful in small and quiet things this Christmas season.

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2012 at 4:10 am
"One family. One journey. One child who would change the world forever." -- The Nativity Story

“One family. One journey. One child who would change the world forever.” — The Nativity Story

In recent weeks, our country has been facing many big things — big tragedies, big fears, big questions about the future. Yet in this season when we celebrate the birth of a little baby…in a small town….in a small province….in a great empire, may I encourage you to be found faithful in the small and quiet things. Be found faithful to your spouse and children, to those in your community, to those in need around you.  Be found faithful in time spent alone with the Lord, in time spent together with those you love, in time spent preparing meals together, and giving to those less fortunate, and in doing acts of Christ-like kindness and compassion. Be found faithful, as well, in sharing the Good News of God’s loving and gracious offer to all mankind — His free gift of love, and forgiveness, and eternal life to all who will call upon the name of the Jesus the Messiah in faith.

————————————————–1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”  15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)

Newtown massacre was 18th mass murder event in 2012: What’s going wrong, and is there hope? Notes from my Fox interview.

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm

FoxNews-CTmassacreinterviewUPDATED: You can watch the video of the Fox News interview by clicking here.

I’m grateful to Fox News Channel anchor Shannon Bream for interviewing me on the air this afternoon to talk about the moral and spiritual dimensions of the Newtown massacre. These are not topics that have been discussed much in the media despite wall-to-wall coverage of the tragedy since Friday. We didn’t have time for a full, in-depth conversation, but we got it started. Here are some of the points I made in the interview, as well as some points I would have made had we had more time:

The slaughter of 20 children and numerous teachers and other adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary was horrifying beyond belief — yet what makes it worse is that it isn’t an isolated incident.

Why is all this happening? In large part because we are engaged in moral and spiritual disarmament.

  • Some Americans are actively driving the God of the Bible out of their lives, out of their families.
  • Some Americans are actively trying to drive the God of the Bible out of our schools, our courts, our media, and out of America all together.
  • Many Americans are simply ignoring the Lord — they don’t care to read or follow the Bible, or obey God, or listen to Him.
  • And then there are many Americans who say they are Christians but don’t take their faith seriously, just do what they want.
  • Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
  • People are asking, “What’s the way we can move forward and help prevent more mass murders?” Jesus says, “I am the Way,” but much of the American society doesn’t want to turn to Christ for help in finding our way forward.
  • People are asking, “What is the truth about how we can heal out society from such violence and lawlessness?” Jesus says, “I am the Truth.” Indeed, the Word of God (the Bible) is filled with His truth about how to transform a person, family or nation. But much of the American society doesn’t want to turn to Christ for help in understanding and following the truth.
  • People are asking, “How can we help these troubled young people improve their lives and experience a full and healthy life?” Jesus says, “I am the Life,” but much of the American society doesn’t want to turn to Christ for help in finding healthy lives here on earth, or eternal life in heaven.

Much of the American Church is also weak, and asleep.

  • There are 340,000 church congregations in the U.S. — all are supposed to be shining the light of Jesus Christ into the darkness of the world.
  • Yet in many congregations, the light has dimmed.
  • In many congregations, the light has gone out entirely — they don’t believe Christ is the Savior, they don’t preach it, they don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, and they don’t teach people to obey it.

This moral and spiritual disarmament is steadily having its consequences.

  • The God of the Bible is a gentleman. Jesus Christ loves us, but He won’t force us to follow Him.
  •  If an individual, family or nation continually tells Him to leave and not come back, He will eventually honor that request and let that person, family, and/or nation’s heart become hardened.
  • Many churches aren’t preaching the Gospel, or showing people how to let Christ save them and heal them.
  • As Christ is driven out of a society, evil moves in deeper and metastasizes through that society.
  • When we tell young people that God doesn’t matter, and that Christ isn’t the answer, and that religion is unhealthy, we are morally and spiritually disarming them — some become vulnerable to acts of evil; some aren’t prepared when evil acts occur.

There is hope — repentance and revival.

  • America is in desperate need of a Third Great Awakening. The Bible says, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Please join me in praying and fasting for America.
  • More than ever, America needs pastors to boldly and passionately preach that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message that will save this country. America needs pastors who will call this nation to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways and seek His face, before it’s too late. America cannot be saved unless the Church wakes up from our long and bitter slumber.
  • “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near….’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with  fasting, weeping and mourning; and  rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is  gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and  relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a  blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ’Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not make Your inheritance a  reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:1, 12-17)

Where are you today? Have you received Christ as your Savior and Lord? Are you absolutely certain that if you were to die today that you would spend eternity in heaven with the Lord? Are you leaning on Christ’s everlasting arms for complete forgiveness for your sins, for hope, for peace, for comfort, for wisdom and direction in this life, and in the life to come? If not, let this be the day of salvation for you.

I’ll be on Fox News @ 12:40pm eastern Sunday to discuss the CT school massacre

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 at 3:33 am

What does the massacre — and so many others like this one in recent months and years — say about the moral and spiritual state of the union? Why is America on such a dark road? Can we turn this thing around? Please tune in after you go to church, or record it on your DVR. Please also pray for me that the Lord would give me the right words to say. Thanks.

Implosion update: The demons of violence are on the loose in America. But why? And where do we go from here?

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm
Grieving at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (photo credit: AP)

Grieving at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (photo credit: AP)

“Newtown is a quiet town,” one resident told CBS News. “I’d never expect this to happen here. It’s so scary. Your kids are not safe anywhere.”

“I’ve been here for 11 years,” a teacher at the Sandy Hook Elementary School told the New York Times. “I can’t imagine who would do this to our poor little babies.”

All this is so painful to see, so heart-wrenching. I look at my own children — including my little 8 year old — and then look at all the grieving parents on TV and mourn for them, trying to understand what they are suffering right now. I’m praying for the Lord to comfort and heal all those traumatized by what happened in Newtown. But as I do I can’t help but think about the trendlines and the dark trajectory our nation is on. It’s not just “the economy, stupid.” We are, in many respects, in a moral and spiritual freefall in our country, and we are paying a terrible price.

The demons of violence and lawlessness are the loose all across America — in Newtown, Connecticut….in Aurora, Colorado….in Oak Creek, Wisconsin….just as they were in Littleton, Colorado and at Virginia Tech in years gone by. But why? How is it possible that violent crime in the United States has surged by more than 460 percent since 1960?

The answer is as painful as it is simple: the further we turn away from God in our nation — the further we drive Him out of our society, out of our schools and courts, and out of our media, and out of our homes; or the more we give mere lip service to religion; the more men are “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3:5) — the worse things are getting. Consider just the cultural war against Jesus and Christmas that has been waged just in the last few days:

The Lord God Almighty is a gentleman. He won’t force us to accept His great love and many blessings. If a nation tells Him to leave, He will leave. But what are we reaping as a result of a society that increasingly ignores God and hates or dismisses Jesus Christ? We are witnessing a horrifying explosion of murder. We are witnessing a gruesome crime wave unprecedented in American history. And there appears to be no end in sight. In recent years, we’ve seen brutal mass murders in high schools, on college campuses, and in small towns all across America (a recent FBI report says the murder rate soared 18.3% in small towns in America last year alone).

The Hebrew prophet Nahum once wrote about the city of Ninevah, the capital of the Assyrian empire, “Woe to the bloody city….many slain, a mass of corpses, and countless dead bodies — they stumble over the dead bodies….your shepherds are sleeping.” (Nahum 3:1, 3, 18) The people of Ninevah had once repented and turned to the living God of the Bible during the days when the prophet Jonah warned them of coming judgment, and God had saved and blessed them. That generation of Ninevites had listened and turned from their sins towards the Lord. But 150 years or so later, a different generation of Ninevites refused to listen to the Word of God. They refused to repent. Their godlessness turned to terrible, wrenching, horrific violence. Their shepherds were sleeping. They weren’t telling people to turn back to the Lord before it was too late. The shepherds didn’t understand, or didn’t care. They didn’t feed the sheep the Word of God. They didn’t lead the sheep to follow the Lord. They didn’t protect the sheep from evil. So the judgment of God came and they were all tragically unprepared. The city of Ninevah was destroyed by God in 612 B.C.

What is the future of America? Is America in a “Jonah” moment, or a “Nahum” moment? Will we hear the word of the Lord that we have strayed far from the teachings of the Bible and allowed our land to become polluted with abortions and pornography and violence and wickedness of all kinds? Will we admit how far we are from God’s plan and purpose for our lives? Will we confess that our hearts are far from Jesus Christ and plead with the Lord for His mercy and grace and forgiveness? Will we fast and pray and earnestly seek God’s face, and implore Christ to give us a Third Great Awakening? Or will we ignore the word of the Lord and continue in our sins and watch our nation continue to decline, or even implode?

There is a point of no return — a point at which God removes His hand of grace and mercy and turns to the judgment of America. If we don’t repent for our sins, we are going to face that judgment…perhaps sooner than we think. As I note in Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time?, “Alarm bells are going off all around us. Lights on the dashboard are flashing, Warning! Warning! Yet America is sleeping through the alarms, blind to the warning lights. And tragically, for the most part, the Church — God’s chosen instrument to bless individuals, families, communities, and nations — is asleep as well. I shudder to imagine where we are heading if we don’t wake up soon, plead for the Lord’s forgiveness, and ask Him to use us to love our neighbors and revitalize our country.” [Listen to a podcast of the "Implosion Radio Special"]

America is in desperate need of a Third Great Awakening. The Bible says, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Please join me in praying and fasting for America.

Also, pastors, would you turn your Sunday services tomorrow into a call to prayer, fasting and repentance along the lines of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Joel chapter 2?

More than ever, America needs pastors to boldly and passionately preach that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message that will save this country. America needs pastors who will call this nation to humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways and seek His face, before it’s too late. America cannot be saved unless the Church wakes up from our long and bitter slumber.

“Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near….’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with  fasting, weeping and mourning; and  rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is  gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and  relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a  blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ’Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not make Your inheritance a  reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:1, 12-17)

Where are you today? Have you received Christ as your Savior and Lord? Are you absolutely certain that if you were to die today that you would spend eternity in heaven with the Lord? Are you leaning on Christ’s everlasting arms for complete forgiveness for your sins, for hope, for peace, for comfort, for wisdom and direction in this life, and in the life to come? If not, let this be the day of salvation for you.

20 children, 6 adults, and shooter dead in Connecticut school massacre

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Americans tonight are facing more tragic evidence of cultural implosion. Please pray. This story is heart-breaking, and still developing. “There’s been a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,” reports CNN. “20 children, six adults and the shooter are dead, police say. Below are the latest updates as they come to us or you can read our story of the Connecticut school shooting….Police did not discharge their weapons at any time when responding at the school, police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. However, he could not confirm whether the suspected shooter — who died at the scene — killed himself, saying that would have to be determined by the medical examiner.”

“Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, were killed Friday when a gunman  clad in black military gear opened fire inside his mother’s kindergarten class  at a Connecticut elementary school,” reports Fox News. “The shooter, who sources identified as  Adam Lanza, 20, gunned down his mother and her entire class at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to sources. Lanza was found dead  inside the school, according to officials. Eighteen of the children and six  more adults were dead at the school and two more children died later, according  to Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance. Vance would not confirm the shooter’s  name, and earlier in the day there were conflicting reports over the gunman’s  identity. Law enforcement sources told FoxNews.com the shooter was  Lanza. His brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, was in custody, but it was not sure if  he faced charges. ‘It is not a simplistic scene,’ Vance told  reporters. An official with knowledge of the  situation said the shooter was armed with a .223-caliber rifle. Four weapons in  total were recovered from the scene. The motive is not yet known.”

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