Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God

I don’t believe that God caused the virus, but I believe God can use it to draw our our attention to Him

A friend of mine, my closest friend in college a dear brother in Christ, shared with me something a friend of his shared with him.  His friend claimed it to be a prophecy from God. I give it you as it was given to me. He said:

“In the wake of the panic-demic, a great national re-set will settle into the culture. We will witness clarifying ‘adjustments’ to what we value or hold dear. Healthy ones. Already this has served as a great sifting….. [W]e (collectively) have not lost much, though we have faced the specter close on the horizon. When the dust settles, we may be surprised to find ourselves in a much better place. Immunized perhaps by just a taste.”

Many people don’t believe that God gives people prophecies today as He did in Scriptural times. Indeed, if God does still do that, we should be careful to accept them. As Paul said then, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Were all of the prophecies Paul was talking about then written down?

No. We have letters from Paul and other close associates of Jesus, but we don’t have the prophecies Paul was talking about to the Thessalonians. Those prophecies, I believe, were for them. They weren’t to be despised [ignored, treated as nothing and lacking value][i], but they were to be tested.

Testing prophecies means taking them seriously. The word for “test”[ii] here implies that the prophecies are to be put to the test, examined and proven by testing. This is not a skeptical exercise, as a 21st Century believer (or unbeliever) might suppose. The idea was to prove what is good.

Perhaps, our reluctance to think that prophecy is a way God still communicates to us today is based in our lack of understanding of what is meant by prophecy. We think of predictions of things to come. Indeed, the Old Testament is full of such prophecies. Jesus also predicted things.

Prediction and foreshadowing of future events is partially what prophecy can mean, that isn’t all that prophecy means. The Greek word translated “prophecy”[iii] can mean simply speaking the mind of God. Hopefully, your pastor does that when he preaches!

Prophecy does tend to have predictive elements to it, but that isn’t all that it is, and prophecy doesn’t have to be predictive. It can simply be admonishment, encouragement, provide comfort or otherwise speak the mind of God in a particular moment or circumstance. When we seek to comfort or speak a timely word to a friend, praying to God for wisdom, we are attempting to use the gift of prophecy.

Sometimes we fail. We kind of know it when we do. What we say falls flat. But sometimes, we feel the Holy Spirit in the words that are spoken that confirms we have hit the mark. This is prophecy.

Prophecy is a timely word, a fitting word, a word that resonates with Scripture in the moment. It’s a word that carries some weight in the moment such that it encourages, comforts, rebukes, corrects or has whatever affect the Holy Spirit gives it. If you are blessed to have a good preacher in your church, your preacher may speak the mind of God (prophesy) most Sundays.

Prophecy isn’t to be confused with the gift of teaching. Teaching is the gift of being able to pull the meaning out of a text and communicate it clearly. The gift of prophesy is the ability to make Scripture poignant and apply it in the moment providing direction for the future. A preacher with the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy is a rare gift.

So, back to my friend’s friend.

I am not going to hang on what he said like Scripture. I don’t think that is the purpose of prophecy, and especially not since the time of Christ. Still, I take it seriously. It rings true to me.

Continue reading “Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God”

The Great Divide

Grand Canyon

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance[i].” (2 Peter 3:9)

People began talking about the second coming of Christ since soon after Jesus died. Jesus talked about it when he was alive. We still talk about it today.

I am not going to speculate or to suggest when the second coming will be. Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24:36), so I take him at his word.

I do believe that a God who could raise Jesus from the dead can cause Him to come again. It will happen. We will also all die as surely as we live. These things I take to the bank.

We do not like to talk about judgment or hell, but we cannot accept the Bible as true with any integrity without conceding those principles. Whether Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven or more of heaven than hell is beside the point; Jesus clearly and pointedly spoke of judgment[ii] and of hell[iii].

Jesus said that some people would end up in heaven with Him, and some would end up in hell without Him. We might call this the great divide.

The “slowness” referenced in 2 Peter 3:9 is God’s slowness in fulfilling the promise of the second coming of Christ… and of the Day of Judgment. (2 Pet. 3:3-8) the second coming and the judgment go together. That is when Jesus will separate the proverbial sheep from the goats.

In this context, Peter famously reminds us that one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day for God. (2 Pet. 3:8). Because God exists outside of time and space (always is, always was and always will be), time is not such a big deal for God as it is for us (limited, as we are, in the confines of space/time and finite).

The fact that “the Day” has not yet come speaks to God’s patience and His desire that none would perish. (See also John 3:16). God’s desire is that everyone would be “saved”. (1 Tim. 2:4) That God desires none would perish and all would be saved suggests that hell is a reality, and it is a reality that God doesn’t choose for us.

Some say that hell means primarily separation from God, but others make a good case that it means something else. (See for example Hell is Not Separation from God (eternal condemnation vs. eternal fellowship with God) or The Rich Man and Lazarus (death vs. eternal life)).

Regardless of what it might mean, hell is no place or condition God desires for us, and it’s not a place or condition we might desire for ourselves, all things being equal. Right?

God does warn of the dualism between heaven and hell. Primarily, however, He presents us with the choice between God and His way or other things and other ways; ultimately, it boils down to God’s way or “my way”. In that sense, the Frank Sinatra song, I Did It My Way, might be a good anthem for those who reject God.

God’s patience allows time for people to repent, to turn from their own ways, and to accept what God desires for us. God doesn’t make that choice for us. He won’t violate the free will He gave us a beings created in His very image.

We also do not dictate to God. God is who He is, and He does not change. The universe was created by Him and for His purpose, including us. The choice is ours to accept what God finds acceptable and to align with Him or reject Him and to seek what we want and align against Him.

For almost two thousand years since God became man, God has been patient, allowing time for repentance (“declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” Acts 17:31 & 20:21). Thus, the writer of Hebrews implores:

“Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts….” (Heb. 3:7-8; quoting Ps. 95:7-8)

Continue reading “The Great Divide”

Were They Greater Sinners?

Depositphotos ID: 79363772 Copyright: mikdam [editorial use only]

“[D]o you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were greater sinners[i] than all the men who live in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4)

Before you read ahead and I give the answer, consider that this statement was made in the middle of very seemingly harsh statements by Jesus. Continue reading “Were They Greater Sinners?”