Are You Ready For Jesus To Return?

When I was a young child I remember being at school and having to occasionally deal with a fire drill. Right in the middle of class, when no one was expecting it, the fire alarm would sound very loudly and nobody knew if it was a drill or a real fire, but we all knew what it meant. We had to get up and go outside and wait until it was over. Thankfully, each time that alarm rang, it was always a drill and never a real fire. As much as the drill was an inconvenience however, it taught us what to do if there ever was a real fire in the school. It meant, grab your stuff and  walk out the door towards the outside. Don’t run, don’t panic, don’t scream, don’t knock other people down, just walk quickly and make your way to the nearest exit. Practice of course is never the same as the real deal, but, it does make us have some idea of what to do and sometimes, perhaps even more important, what not to do.

The other night as I was lying in my bed trying to go to sleep, I had this little vision that I want to share with you because it felt very much like a fire drill to me. I saw in my mind’s eye an angel come to my side and tap me on the shoulder and tell me it was time to go. Go where you might ask? Up! I told you, it was like a fire drill, except I knew instantly that it was just a drill, it was not the rapture. What was revealed to me through this little vision however, was even more important. I realized in that split second that I saw the angel and knew that he was calling to me, that I wasn’t ready to go yet. Why not? If you had asked me if I was ready for the rapture, I would have told you that I’ve been ready for decades. Theoretically, I have been. As long as it was a thought, a promise, a hope, something that would happen one day in the future, I was looking forward to it. But when the reality of it came, to my own dismay, I was not ready. I had things I was not yet ready to give up. People I didn’t want to leave were on my mind. What about my unsaved kids? Who would feed my cat? These are important things! I was not yet ready to give up this earthly life and as I pondered on this very chilling thought, I realized that we have in fact been warned about this exact thing in scripture. 

There’s a story in Genesis 19 that tells us about a man named Lot and his wife and family. Lot lived in the city of Sodom and he was Abraham’s nephew. Unbeknownst to Lot, the Lord had told Abraham He was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham had interceded on his and his family’s behalf. We are told that two angels came into the city to assess the situation and see if things were really as wicked as they appeared. If you have ever read the story, you will most certainly know that things were so bad, that the men of that city wanted to rape the two angels, who they thought were just visitors. The two angels told Lot he had to leave because destruction was coming.

Lot and his small family reluctantly left and headed to safety, but even as they escaped, fire and brimstone came down from heaven and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. What happened next is almost as tragic as the destruction of these cities. Lot’s wife heard the destruction and looked back, even though the angels had warned them not to.“And as they (the angels) brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” (Genesis 19:17) What happened to her? She became a pillar of salt. (Verse 26)

Lot’s wife has always gotten a lot of judgement, no pun intended. We always look at her and wonder why she didn’t listen. You know the old expression, “curiosity killed the cat”. But was she really just being curious, or was there more to what she did? Remember I mentioned earlier that she had family left behind in that city? Yeah. I use the term “left behind” for a reason. We are not told for certain if her two daughters were her only children, but we do know that their betrothed husbands did not join them. Genesis 19:14 tells us, “So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” Notice the word “Up”!

His future sons in law thought he was joking. I’m sure we all have people in our lives who think we are kidding when we tell them that Jesus is coming back soon and to get ready. What do we do when those people are family and friends that we love? You see, that is where my dilemma lies because there is a fire coming on this earth and it is called God’s wrath. Revelation tells us in chapter 6:16-17 that the people who are left on this earth during the tribulation period will cry out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” When I think of those who will be left behind because they chose not to listen to my warnings, I have to remind myself of this one thing that is perhaps the most important fact of this story about Lot and his wife: Looking back did not save anyone; Looking back just killed his wife.

Jesus tells us in Luke 14:26 the following: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I’ve always found this verse, if truth be told, a little offensive. He tells us to love each other, why would Jesus tell us to hate our own family? Actually, He’s not telling us to hate them. He is telling us to love Him more than them, and in comparison it will appear as hate to us. He’s telling us that when it gets down to the wire, if we have to choose between Him and them, we must choose Him.  Abraham is our terrible, awful, gut wrenching example of this when he was told to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. Was God trying to kill Isaac, the promised child? Absolutely not. He was simply trying to kill the idol called Isaac in Abraham’s heart. So too, I must kill everything in my heart that comes between me and my God just like Abraham did. Do I hate my prodigal children? Absolutely not!! I love them and adore them and weep over them. But, when that angel comes again and calls my name and tells me to come, next time I will be ready. Next time I will have already made the decision in advance.  I will choose to trust those that I love with Him who is Love. And I will go up. It sounds like hate, doesn’t it? But it’s not. 

What on earth is going on?

During one of the private moments that the disciples had with Jesus, as they sat on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, they asked the Lord in Matthew 24:3 what would be the sign  of His coming and the end of the age. Before He gives them any signs, He starts with a warning to them and to all of us: “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” Astray in this sentence means to deceive or lead away from the truth. He repeats Himself in verse 11 and tells them, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray”. The thing about deception is that it is, well, deceptive. In other words, it’s not obvious, it’s not easily discernible, and it will not be clear, unless you really look at it. I would suggest that even looking at it is not enough. You cannot stop from being deceived without help and there is only One who can help us to not be deceived: the Word! Yes, I called Jesus the Word, because that is what John called Him in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”. 

Why do I say that only the Word can protect us from deception and not the Holy Spirit? Because Jesus tells us to build our house on the Rock, which is Jesus, which is the Word. (Mathew 7:24-25) Deuteronomy 32:4 tells us that “He is the Rock”! He never tells us to build our house on the Spirit. He tells us that we must be born of the Spirit, but we must build our house on the Rock! It is only the Word of God that will keep us from being led astray. So I ask another question: why does this distinction matter so much? Am I suggesting that we don’t need the Spirit of God? Absolutely not!! The Holy Spirit is our Helper, and yes, He will help us to understand the Word. However, many people in this day and age do not know the Word. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the Scriptures and therefore they do not know when they are being led astray by shepherds and prophets who twist the Scriptures to their own advantage. In the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:14  he admonishes us “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. Yes, there are men and women who will trick you. They will deceive you and they will lead you astray. And no, it will not be obvious. Not at first. 

It only becomes obvious if you know the Word. Many of these false teachers and prophets will do signs and wonders to try and prove to you that God is with them. Signs and wonders however, do not prove anything. Jesus makes this very clear to us in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” I want you to really look at what Jesus said here. He never knew them! Yet, they prophesied in His Name! Yet, they cast out demons in His Name! Yet, they did many wonders in His Name! But He called them people who practiced lawlessness. I find this very interesting because it tells me that even though signs and wonders follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-18) they also follow those who deceive (Mark 13:22, Matthew 24:24).

In Jeremiah 23 the Lord speaks about these false prophets. How do I know He’s talking about this generation? Because he actually tells us: “In the latter days you will understand it clearly.”(vs. 20) Let me show you some of the things that God says about these false prophets: “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds”. There are many prophets out there right now, proclaiming “thus saith God”. Have they told you to repent? Have they told you to turn from your evil deeds? 

It goes on. “How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another.” (Jeremiah 23:26-31) I have heard some of these prophets. They do not speak His word faithfully. They speak lies and promise us things that are so absurd that a child could tell it is deception. A child of God, that is. 

In verse 16 and 17 God says the following: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you”.

Right now there is a fire upon this earth. It is happening in every nation, with every tribe and tongue. That fire is not one thing, it is many things. We see the signs that Jesus said would come at the end, wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, plagues, false prophets, the list goes on and on. Just turn on the news, you will see every one of them. All these signs lead to one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ is wrapping things upHe is getting ready to rapture the church, thereby ending the “age of the gentiles” which He talked about in Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. How do we know this age of the Gentiles is ending? The beginning of it started on May 14, 1948 when Israel once again became a nation. Since then God has been calling the Jews back to their homeland from all the nations that He scattered them to in 70 A.D. when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem. 

If you are still with me, then please hear my cry. Read the Word of God! Be careful who you follow. Do not allow yourself to be deceived for there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing out their masquerading as shepherds and prophets. Ask the Lord if you are deceived. He will tell you. He will show you and if you are, repent! Build your house on Him, not on lies and deception.

What is the Gospel of Grace?

Did you grow up in the church? I did not. I became a Christian as a teenager and did not start attending church until I was a grown up. To me, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand I didn’t have the baggage of religion but on the other hand, I also had to learn the foundation of Christianity as an adult. The one thing I never had to deal with however, was the question of works versus grace. I was acutely aware of my own sinfulness when I repented at 17 and gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He saved me out of my sin through His atoning work on the cross. It is by grace I was and am saved and I never doubted it through all my years. 

However, after 46 years of walking with God, I began to notice a disturbing trend, a way of thinking, that had slowly crept into my heart and mind. I realized that I was struggling more and more with the bondage of being saved by my own works, and not by His grace. For me personally, I saw this issue through the writing of this blog. I noticed for example, that I was continually feeling pressured to write. I knew that the Lord had called me to write. He was the one that told me to start this blog and not hide what He was teaching me under a basket: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) However, it was becoming a continual struggle filled with guilt and even condemnation, when I did not know what to write about. I have no desire to entertain you, nor do I wish to write in the flesh. Nothing that I know is of any value. The only thing that will bring life to you and me, is His spirit. With that being said, let me show you how He walked me through this cycle of trying to obey Him, while not being caught in the bondage of slavery. 

I remember just a few weeks ago, coming to Him once again and asking Him about this struggle. He answered it for me so succinctly that I couldn’t believe it had ever been an issue. He asked me one simple question: “Do you want to be saved by your own works, or by my grace?” Whoa!! The answer was so obvious it was almost silly. I’m far too lazy to be saved by my works. I’ll take grace, thank you very much. I thought the issue was dealt with, but boy was I wrong. The devil loves to dupe us and trick us because he loves religion. He knows all too well the power of the blood, the power of the cross of Christ, and he knows more than anyone on this earth that my works are nothing more than dirty, filthy rags and will never meet God’s standard of righteousness. The devil knows that only the blood can save me. Only Christ’s righteousness will meet the standard of God! No matter how hard I try, I cannot save myself. If I could, then the cross would have been unnecessary and Jesus did not have to come to earth as a man to die on the cross. 

Ok, so why does the Bible tell us that we need to do good works, then? I think this question is a real conundrum for many people, including myself. I think that the answer is actually just as simple as being saved by grace. Paul tells us in Romans 8:14-15 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” I want to really unpack this scripture. The word slavery that Paul uses here is the word douleia which literally means, bondage, slavery, the condition of a slave. That word has a spirit attached to it. He called it the “spirit of slavery”. In Galatians 4:21 Paul addresses this issue, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law”? He goes on to tell them, that they can choose between the yoke of slavery, which is and was the law, or they can choose the freedom that Christ has given us. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The old covenant that God had given to Abraham was the law. If you break any of the law, you will break all of it. It was a continual attempt at being good enough, of keeping the law, of good works to earn salvation. It didn’t work for them, and it doesn’t work for us. 

So I will ask again, where do good works come in? The answer is surprisingly, also very simple. Paul tells us in the next sentence: “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” If you’re like me, you have read this verse and never thought about what it really means. The difference between a slave and a son (or daughter) is love! Jesus tells us in John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, (doulos, in the Greek, slave or servant) for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” There it is, right out of the mouth of Jesus, we are no longer servants or slaves, we are His friends if we do what He tells us to. If we love Him, if we consider ourselves His sons and daughters, we will do what He tells us to do. We will do good works. The works do not save me or you, but they are born out of love!

So simple. So hard. So difficult to believe. But it makes me really examine my heart. Do I love Him enough to do the work He has called me to do? He’s called me to write. What has He called you to do? And do you love Him enough, to do it?