Monday, June 30, 2014

Dreams as a Mission Strategy: Let’s Ask Questions

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to watch the world cup: soccer and sanctification

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Think Ye Of Heaven?

If I could go back and correct anything attitude-wise about my walk with the Lord for nearly four decades, it would be that early on I would like to have had more of an eternal perspective. I didn’t exactly buy the lie that “to be too heavenly minded is to be no earthly good,” but in some ways my thoughts and actions reflected that idea. I’m much older now, which has certainly increased the amount of time I spend thinking about Heaven. I’m sure that happens to all of us seniors who know and love the Lord. Wanting to be with Him for eternity is an exciting desire soon to be realized by us, unless—better yet—the Lord hastens the event by His imminent return for His saints.
What then of those born-again young people starting out on life’s journey, looking ahead to college, careers, marriage, raising a family, and all the rest of the wonderful opportunities life can provide? For many, Heaven is a distant destination and a remote hope. Yes, it’s a nice idea, but that’s “way down the line of life,” according to the thinking of many. Some might even complain that spending one’s life occupied with thoughts of Heaven is a dreamer’s folly or indicates an escapist mentality that shies away from dealing with the truly important issues of life and might be considered impractical to the point of negligence.
People can and do make up their own ideas about Heaven, but all of us are better served by going to the One who created Heaven and who has revealed to us the truth about it and its purpose. That, of course, would be God and His Word. It behooves us to survey the Scriptures for the truth about Heaven—which God alone can and has provided.
First of all, Heaven is an actual place. It’s not some sort of wishful location where it will be “kinda nice to reside” after our life on earth is over. It’s not some sort of Pleasure Island, nor is it our Native American’s happy hunting ground, nor the Viking’s Valhalla, nor the eternal lakeside cottage we’ve always desired. Nothing to inspire self-gratification will be found there—nothing to fulfill the lust of the flesh—as that would greatly diminish the glorious wonders that God has prepared for the believer!
Heaven is a joyous mystery: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians:2:9). It will be an environment of bliss that has no earthly comparison, and we are blessed to read of some earthly experiences that won’t be found there: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation:21:4).
Heaven is presented throughout Scripture as a place where those who are saved will receive rewards for their fruitful works on earth: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews:6:9-10). One’s eternal treasure is generated by good works: “Charge them...that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to [share]; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy:6:17-19). Continually we are told “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew:6:19), but rather produce “a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth” (Luke:12:33). The comparison is between earthly goods that are temporal and heavenly treasure that is eternal. Jesus told the rich young man whose wealth had captured his heart, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew:19:21).
We don’t know what “treasure in Heaven” exactly means, but we do know that its value far and away exceeds anything our earthly life has or could produce. Beginning perhaps with the gracious words of Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” it will include rewards and crowns, as well as opportunities to rule and reign with our Savior and King during the Millennium (Revelation:20:6). Again, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Furthermore, whatever God has prepared, as supremely wonderful as it will be, it will nevertheless pale by comparison with our being in the presence of Jesus, whom we love and who loves us more than we can comprehend. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John:17:3). “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John:14:2-3). No matter what Jesus has prepared, nothing could be better for believers than to be where He is. Paul was totally aware of that joyful expectation when he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot [know] not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better ” (Philippians 1:21-23). It’s far better because our “life is hid with Christ in God” and when “Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians:3:3-4). Being with Jesus forever is both the purpose and pinnacle of life. It is the believer’s raison d’être , his or her reason for living.
What then is the criterion for entrance into Heaven? When the religious leaders asked Jesus what they must do to work the works of God, He replied, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John:6:28-29). That is the only condition that must be met. The Philippian jailer was instructed: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved” (Acts:16:31). Peter, as well, declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts:4:12). Believing the gospel—the good news that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, paid the full penalty for one’s sins—reconciles one to God and makes him fit for eternal life with Christ. The psalmist writes, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath [Jesus] removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm:103:12), which Paul underscores in Romans:6:22: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” Sin is still a factor in the temporal life of a believer, but its infinite penalty has been completely paid for and its power will cease at Heaven’s door. Again, one’s entrance into Heaven, a place where sin cannot appear, is only possible because of Jesus, “who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus:2:14).
The Bible does not present Heaven as a place for believers to move on to after they have done their best to shape up the world into the Kingdom of God. That’s not going to happen. The Kingdom of God will not be manifested on earth until the King himself returns, and He will return with those whose residence has been in Heaven while the earth and its inhabitants will have been subjected to worldwide destruction through God’s righteous judgment. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew:24:21). The prophet Jeremiah refers to it as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” out of which a remnant of Israel will be saved (Jeremiah:30:7).
What does all the above say about one’s activities here on earth? For the most part, what the Scriptures teach has been marginalized if not outright rejected even by those who claim to be Christians. Mankind has attempted to set up its own utopian kingdom from the time of Babel to the Holy Roman Empire to Calvin’s “kingdom” in Geneva to Hitler’s Third Reich to the Kingdom Now and Take Dominion enthusiasts to the Christian Reconstructionists and Coalition on Revival proponents to many of today’s cults. Also of that biblically erroneous mentality are those Christians whose emphasis is on solving the world’s problems such as disease, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, immorality, and social injustice. Although some such organizations include sharing the gospel in their “good works” endeavors, the majority have drifted away from what Christ commanded: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you [always], even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew:28:19-20). Since sin is at the heart of all the world’s problems, then even good works that avoid the salvation that only Christ provides, no matter how sincere, are antichrist endeavors.
Not only is the great commission being undermined by various forms of “works salvation” but a very significant emphasis of Scripture is being rejected: namely, that believers in Christ are to recognize that this planet is not our home but simply a starting point, intended for our temporal existence, which has, as the objective, to be with Jesus for all eternity. We are sojourners here, pilgrims, Heaven-bound to be with our Savior. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John:12:26; 17:24). We must not forget that Scripture tells us that this present universe is headed for termination following the thousand-year reign of Jesus: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter:3:10).
Those who take a dim view of Christians who are highly motivated by the hope of Heaven have not read the Scriptures, or, if they have, they must not believe them. Chapter 11 of Hebrews characterizes the heroes of the faith as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who desired “a better country, that is, an heavenly [one],” and adds that the world was not worthy of them (Hebrews:11:13,16,38). The complaint is that a focus on Heaven results in a “do nothing” time here on earth. Again, such complainers aren’t taking the Word of God at its word. Over and over we find verses exhorting us to holiness and fruitfulness as we look forward to Heaven: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians:5:23); “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to [give], willing to [share], laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy:6:18-19); “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Peter:1:17). “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [conduct] and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter:3:11-14)
Jesus gave a number of parables that instruct us about how we, as believers, should regard Heaven. Therefore, we need to heed His words in order to keep from being sidetracked in our sojourning through this temporal life. “And the disciples came and said to him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew:13:10-11). Those who would reject Christ would also reject Heaven. How important, therefore, should Heaven be in the lives of those who believe? Nothing here should supersede it. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew:13:44-46).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians:3:1-2). “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke:12:34). “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look  for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Amen and amen.   TBC

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Rapture And Glorious Appearing Of Jesus Christ

By Dr. Ed Hindson

The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus Christ will "come again" (John 14:3) and "appear the second time" (Hebrews 9:38). At least nine biblical terms are used in the New Testament to describe the return of Christ.[1]

1. Ho erchomenos. "The coming one," as in Hebrews 10:37, "For yet a little while,
and he that shall come will come."

2. Erchomai. The act of coming. Used often of Christ's return. Cf. Matthew
24:30; John 14:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Jude 14; Revelation 1:7; 22:20.

3. Katabaino. To "come down" or descend, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the
Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout."

4. Heko. Result of one's coming, to have "arrived," as in Revelation 3:3, "I will
come as a thief."

5. Parousia. Denotes arrival and presence (of a ruler), as in 1 Thessalonians 2:19,
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

6. Apokalupsis. Meaning to "unveil" or "uncover." Rendered "appearing"
(1 Peter 1:7) or "coming" (1 Corinthians 1:7) or "revelation" (Revelation 1:1). Involves the unveiling of His divine glory.

7. Phaneroo. To "appear" (John 21:1) or be "manifest" (1 John 3:5). As in
1 John 3:2, "It is not yet made manifest what we shall be. but we know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is."

8. Epiphaino. To "appear" in full light or visibility. Denotes the "brightness" of
His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8) and the glory of "that day... unto all them that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).

9. Horao. To "see with the eyes," or to "appear" visibly, as in Hebrews 9:28, "and
unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time."

The Bible predicts the literal personal return of Jesus Christ to rapture His church, to judge the world and to establish His Kingdom on earth. At times this is described as one grand event. At other times it is clearly divided into separate phases.

1. Personal. The intensive pronoun "himself" means the Lord and no other, as in
1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven."

2. Literal. He will return as He ascended literally. Acts 1:11 promises: "This same
Jesus, who is taken up from you, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven." Revelation 1:7 promises that "every eye shall see him."

3. Glorious. He will return in the glory of His deity. Matthew 16:27, "in the glory
of his Father." Matthew 25:31, "in his glory." Matthew 24:30, "...great glory."

4. Powerful. Jesus will return in the "glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
He will employ angels of power (1:7) to establish His Kingdom on earth as He comes with His angelic heavenly escort (Matthew 25:31).

Most evangelicals agree as to the nature of Christ's return, but there is substantial disagreement on the time of His coming. Notice these key aspects of the time of our Lord's return:

1. Future. The entire emphasis of the New Testament points to a future return of
Christ. He promised "I will come again" (John 14:3). The angels promised He would return (Acts 1:11). The apostles taught the certainty of His future return (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:3-8; 1 John 3:2-3).

2. Progressive. The present tense of "cometh" in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 indicates that
He is in the process of coming again, marking the steady, uninterrupted movement of time toward that certain day. Hebrews 10:37, "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry."

3. Imminent. The return of Christ is always described as potentially imminent or
"at hand" (Revelation 1:3; 22:10). Every generation of believers is warned to be ready for His coming. Luke 12:40, "be... ready also: for the Son of Man comes at an hour you think not." Believers are constantly urged to look for the coming of the Lord (see Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:28; Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6).

4. Distant. From God's perspective, Jesus is coming at any moment. But from the
human perspective it has already been nearly 2,000 years. Jesus hinted at this in the Olivet Discourse in the illustration of the man who traveled into a "far country" (heaven) and was gone "a long time" (Matthew 25:19). Peter also implies this in his prediction that men will begin to scoff at the second coming after a long period of time (2 Peter 3:8-9).

5. Undated. While the Rapture is the next major event on the prophetic calendar,
it is undated as is the glorious appearing of Christ. Jesus said: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels of heaven" (Matthew 24:36). Later he added: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons" (Acts 1:7).

6. Unexpected. The mass of humanity will not be looking for Christ when He
returns (Matthew 24:50; Luke 21:35). They will be saying, "peace and safety," when caught unprepared by His return. So unexpected will be His return that, "as a snare shall it come upon them that dwell on the whole face of the earth" (Luke 21:35).

7. Sudden. The Bible warns that Jesus will come "as a thief in the night (and) then
sudden destruction" will come upon the unbelieving world (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). His return for the Bride will occur in a flash: "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye... for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead (believers) shall be raised incorruptible, and we (living believers) shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52).

The Second Coming of Christ is a series of events fulfilling all end-time prophecies. These include predictions of Christ's coming for His Church and with His Church. Pretribulationalists generally divide the Second Coming into two main phases: the Rapture of the Church and the Glorious Appearing of Christ.

The Rapture (or translation) of the Church is often paralleled to the "raptures" of Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:12) or the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:9), all of whom were "taken up" into heaven. The Bible clearly states: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up (Greek, harpazo) with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, italics added).

The hope of the Church is the Rapture. She awaits the Savior who is coming for His bride. The Church does not await the destruction of the world as unbelievers do, she awaits a Person. Peter explains that the present world is "reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7, italics added). While the Church is warned to prepare for suffering and persecution throughout the Church Age, she is not as the object of God's final wrath.

The Church is promised that the "coming of the Lord" will result in her being "gathered together" (Greek, episunagoges) into him" (2 Thessalonians 2: 1).[2] It is this promise of the Rapture, not the Wrath, that is in view in Revelation 3:10, "I will keep you from (Greek, ek "out of") the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world." Notice that the Church is to be kept from not through, the hour of tribulation. We are to wait for Jesus to come from heaven to "deliver us form the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The Rapture will take up those who have died in Christ over the centuries and those believers who are alive when He returns. This will occur in the future. Jesus said: "A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out" (John 5:28). Believers are pictured as being raised to life (first resurrection) to reign with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-5).

There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches a Rapture ("caught up," or "gathering together") of the Church. Amillennialists and Post-millennialists miss this point altogether. There will be a Rapture, or 1 and 2 Thessalonians need to be removed from the New Testament! The only real question is when will it occur?

By combining John 14:13, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, Tim LaHaye suggests the following sequence of events:[3]

1. Jesus Christ descends from heaven (John 14:1-3; I Thess. 4:16).

2. He comes to receive us (church) unto Himself (John 14:13).

3. He comes in the "twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52) with a shout and the
trumpet call of God (1 Thess. 4:16).

4. He resurrects those believers who have "fallen asleep" in death (1 Thess. 4:14- 15).

5. Those who are alive at that time will be "caught up" (Rapture) with the resurrected Church in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51-53).

The Rapture will be followed by:

1. Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:20; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10) and

2. Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).

These two events precede the return of Christ in power and glory at Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21).



1. Christ comes for His own (John 1. Christ comes with His own
14:3;IThess. 14:17;2Thess.2:1). (1 Thess. 3:13; Jude 14; Rev. 19:14).

2. He comes in the air (1 Thess. 4:17) 2. He comes to the earth
Zech. 14:4; Acts1:11).

3. He claims His bride 3. He comes with His bride
(Rev. 19:6-14).

4. Removal of believers (1 Thess 4:17). 4. Manifestation of Christ (Mal. 4:2).

5. Only His own see Him 5. Every eye shall see Him
(1 Thess. 4:13-18) (Rev. 1:7).

6. Tribulation begins. 6. Millennial Kingdom begins.

7. Saved are delivered from wrath 7. Unsaved experience the wrath of God
(1 Thess. 1:10; 5-9) (Rev. 6:12-17).

8. No signs precede Rapture 8. Signs precede glorious appearing
(1 Thess. 5:1-3). (Luke 21:11, 15).

9. Focus: Lord and Church 9. Focus: Israel and Kingdom
(1 Thess. 4:13-18). (Matthew 24:14).

10. World is deceived. 10. Satan is bound
(2 Thess. 2:3-12) (Rev. 20:1-2).

1. Christ promised to keep the Church from the Tribulation. In Revelation 3:10, the risen
Christ said the Church would be kept from (Literally, "preserved" or "protected out of")
the hour of trial, or divine retribution, that is coming on the whole world.

2. Tribulation judgments are the "wrath of the Lamb." Revelation 6:16 depicts the
cataclysmic judgments of the end times as the wrath of Christ. Whereas, Revelation 19:7-9 depicts the Church as the bride of the Lamb. She is not the object of His wrath which is poured out on an unbelieving world.

3. Jesus told his disciples to pray they would escape the Tribulation. In Luke 21:36 He
said: "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen. Remember, even Lot was given a chance to escape Sodom before divine judgment fell.

4. His coming in the clouds means the Church's deliverance has come. Jesus told His
disciples: "Lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28). The hope of the Church is not in surviving the judgment of Tribulation, but escaping it.

5. God will call His ambassadors home before declaring war on the world. In 2 Corinthians
5:20, believers are called "Christ's Ambassadors" who appeal to the world to be reconciled to God before it is too late.

6. Moral restraint will disappear when the Church is taken home. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11
warns that after the "coming of the Lord" and "our being gathered to Him," the "man of lawlessness" (Antichrist) will emerge on the world scene. The Church's restraining ministry of "salt" and "light" will no longer hold back the tide of evil.

7. The Rapture will happen in the "twinkling of an eye." 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 promises
that "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye... the dead shall be raised imperishable and we (living at the Rapture) will be changed." This instantaneous disappearance will terminate the Church's earthly ministry.

8. The Rapture will take place in the air. Unlike the glorious appearing when Christ
descends to earth, splits the Mount of Olives, overthrows Antichrist and binds Satan, the Rapture will occur when we are "caught up together... to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17).

9. Woman who suffers persecution during the Tribulation symbolizes Israel. This is a very
important point. The woman who delivers the male child (Christ) represents the nation of Israel. Israel, not the Church, brought forth Christ, and He in turn, brought forth the Church. He is the founder of the Church, not its descendant. Therefore, the persecuted "saints" of the Tribulation are Jewish - the remnant of the woman's seed (Revelation 12:1-2, 5-6, 17).

10. Marriage of Christ (Lamb) and His Bride (Church) takes place before the Battle of
Armageddon. The Bible describes the fall of "Babylon" (Kingdom of Antichrist) in Revelation 17-18. But before it tells of Christ's return to conquer the Antichrist, it tells us "the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7-8). This clearly indicates the Bride has been taken to heaven earlier and that she returns with Christ and the host of the "armies of heaven... dressed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev. 19:8, 14).

[1] 1. See Herman A. Hoyt, The End Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), pp. 63-65.

[2] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931
reprint), Vol. IV, p. 47. He notes that episcunagoges is a late word found only in 2 Maccabees 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 10:25. It means "assembly" or "collection." Robertson notes that it refers to the rapture in 2 Thess. 2:1.

[3] Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992), pp. 28-31.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bitter Pills: 4 Unpleasantries that Make for Healthy Churches

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Christ-Centered Ministry vs. Problem-Centered Counseling

Christ-centered ministry encourages spiritual growth and depends on the Lord to do the work in each individual through His Word and Spirit. Therefore, one can confidently assure believers that this ministry is more effective, long lasting, and spiritually rewarding than problem-centered counseling for those who are willing to go this way. For those who follow this Christ-centered ministry there will be spiritual growth, even if certain problems at hand are not resolved.
Because Christ-centered ministry utilizes all that should already be available in every Bible-believing church where Christians are growing in the Lord, it avoids what we call the “onerous ones” that typify problem-centered counseling. We briefly touched on these onerous ones earlier. However, we will expand on them here to clarify some major differences between Christ-centered ministry and problem-centered counseling for the purpose of encouraging believers to take courage in exercising their gifts, talents, and responsibilities for ministering to one another without fear or intimidation from the counseling world.
One to One
Problem-centered counseling is typically a one-to-one relationship. Sometimes couples and families are involved, but the relationship is generally artificial and restrictive. The counseling relationship itself usually does not extend outside the counseling room. The relationship lasts as long as counseling is being provided and normally does not extend to other involvement, even in most biblical counseling centers. Problem-centered counselors commonly do not involve themselves with counselees outside the counseling room. That is why both psychological and biblical counselors sometimes use intake forms requesting a great deal of personal information. Because this relationship is generally isolated, the counselor and counselee can be selective as to what they want to reveal about themselves. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, research shows that counselees often lie to their counselors and protect themselves by concealing important information.
The great advantage of Christ-centered ministry is that it is not limited to an artificial one-to-one relationship where one has the problem and the other supposedly has the solution. In the Body of Christ all are growing together. There are many opportunities to know one another and to interact in genuine relationships. When a believer is experiencing problems, more than one person may be involved in ministering to that individual. One may be teaching. One may be reminding. Another may simply be extending support and fellowship. Another may be helping in practical ways. Another may be exhorting. Another may be admonishing. And, in a few cases, some may be exercising the responsibility of disciplining a fellow believer for the sake of restoration. But, all can be praying and encouraging the individual in the direction of the Lord. And, through all this, all are growing together and the relationships may deepen with one another as well as with the Lord.
One Day a Week
Problem-centered counseling is generally one-to-one, one-day-a-week, but rarely outside the office. Someone pointed out the paradox of the counseling relationship by saying that while the relationship is extremely intimate at times, the counselor has no interest in seeing the counselee outside the office. Many problem-centered counselors, including biblical counselors, avoid other contacts with their counselees, who cannot see the counselor outside the prescribed one-day-a-week, unless additional appointments are made.
In Christ-centered ministry the possibilities of seeing one another and communicating by phone are only limited by the number of individuals available. As mentioned earlier, Christians can choose when and how often to meet together for personal ministry. In the body of Christ this can be done freely without the one-day-a-week time constraints of problem-centered counseling.
One Hour
In addition to the one-to-one and one-day-a-week errors in most problem-centered counseling, there is generally the fifty-minute hour limitation. Why a fifty-minute hour or similar restriction? The time restriction is a device to meet the needs of problem-centered counselors to regulate the flow of counselees for convenience and sometimes for income. This relationship governed by the clock benefits the counselor, not the counselee. And, if the counselee is late, the already reduced hour is further reduced; if the counselee is desperate and needs more time, it is already taken by other counselees.
Christ-centered ministry is governed by love rather than the clock. Giving time to a fellow believer is a way of saying, “I care about you.” And because the ministry is shared among believers, it supersedes what is available or affordable in problem-centered counseling. A local church is not bound by the one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour relationships of problem-centered counseling.
One Week after Another
One-to-one, one-day-a-week and one-hour shortcomings of problem-centered counseling are amplified by one-week-after-another….Today many problem-centered counselors continue to retain counselees over numerous weeks, months, and even years in spite of research that shows no advantage of long-term counseling….People in problem-centered counseling often become dependent on their counselors rather than on the Lord.
In contrast, Christ-centered ministry emphasizes dependency on the Lord Himself, and in a church where the ministries are functioning and the gifts are operating, the mutual care and encouragement of fellow believers are there to assist all believers in their ongoing walk with the Lord. Rather than a long-term artificial counseling relationship there is a relationship of mutual care in which believers are available to encourage one another as they are growing together in Christ.
One Fixed Price
The one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another errors of problem-centered counseling lead to one fixed price that is charged (or a donation that is expected). Some biblical counselors charge fees or request donations for their services for some of the same reasons as psychological counselors. The establishing, billing and collecting of fees (or encouraging of donations) are a significant aspect of most problem-centered counseling. Because of salaries to be paid, the one fixed price (or donation) becomes a necessity that limits the relationship. If one cannot pay his bill (or contribute) the relationship is usually over. The money paid (or donated) must match the mark in the appointment book and the hand on the clock. After all, a problem-centered counselor who charges a fee must fill enough appointments to make a desirable income.
One Right after Another
One right after another fits right into the one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another and one-fixed price onerosities. In problem-centered counseling there is usually a progression of one person right after another. Counselees know others have preceded them and others will follow. No one has set a limit on how many counselees per day one counselor can effectively manage. Counseling eight hours a day, five days a week, with large numbers of people always has and always will lead to superficial relationships lacking genuine compassion, even in the biblical counseling office. There is no biblical example for one-right-after-another, problem-centered counseling. No, not even the example of Moses, since he was judging disputes between people, rather than getting into the pattern of problem-centered counseling as practiced today.
In Christ-centered ministry, the personal ministry load can be spread among many believers. There is no need for one-right-after-another or the other onerous ones. There is often a temptation for the pastor or a paid staff member to carry the load of personal ministry. When this happens, one right after another can weaken the overall ministry, overburden the pastoral staff, and be affected by the onerous ones. Believers need to learn to minister to one another and to receive ministry from each other rather than depending on the pastor or a staff counselor for such help.
One Up/One Down
The one-to-one, one-day-a-week, one-hour, one-week-after-another, one-fixed price, one-right-after-another are eclipsed in problem-centered counseling by the tragic onerosity of the one-up/one-down relationship, with the counselor considered as the expert with the gnosis to perform the cure….Rather than an expert being responsible to fix the problem, Christ-centered ministry draws both the seeker and the helper to the Lord for wisdom and transformation. When the Lord calls one believer to minister to another believer, both are seeking the Lord in meekness and humility. Believers may be especially gifted to minister to one another in the faith, but all (even those in leadership) stand on an equal plain at the foot of the cross. Indeed, it is the Lord who truly accomplishes the restoration and sanctification of the believer.
Our Goal
Our goal is to remind believers of their call and empowerment to serve in the Body of Christ. Obviously not all the necessary information regarding Christ-centered ministry is in this short book, but the Lord will bring forth what is missing through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the Body of Christ as you seek to serve Him. He will give you opportunities to grow spiritually and serve according to His will, through His Word, and by grace through faith.
We seek to encourage ministry and to discourage the use of problem-centered counseling. We seek to encourage the dependence on the Lord and His Word to minister to one another in the Body of Christ, without intimidation by or dependence on biblical counseling manuals, workshops, seminars, degrees, or certificates. We hope to see ministry shared among believers in their local fellowships with their focus on Jesus Christ and the Word of God. The Lord will enable them to serve as they are constant in prayer, diligent in Bible study, and marked with the humility of a servant’s heart and as they are ready to serve without having to be in a superior position or to have a title of superiority.
Ministry among believers should be constant and ongoing, which will result in souls beset with problems seeking the Lord through His Spirit, Word, and Body rather than turning to counselors trained in psychological or biblical counseling….What a privilege to be included in the mighty, miraculous work of God in one another’s lives. All believers have opportunities to minister to fellow believers to encourage them along the way.
If you are one who is experiencing problems of living and looking for assistance, find someone in your local church who can minister to you. Find someone who is mature in the faith and is walking with God the way you desire to walk. Ask that person to come alongside, minister the Life of Christ, speak forth the truth of God, encourage you in your walk with the Lord, and earnestly pray.
If you are a Christian, know essential biblical doctrines, are walking according to your new life in Christ and growing in the Lord, you already have what it takes to minister the Life of Christ to a fellow believer. You have a living God, the source of all life and healing. You have His living, enduring, abiding Word (1 Peter:1:23-25), which ministers truth to the mind, direction and encouragement to the will, and grace for the emotions. Christ-centered ministry is not a position of expertise (one-upmanship) but one of side-by-side seeking the Lord. It does not lead believers into the downward spiral of problems, but rather upward to the Life of Christ and the Word of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Can you think of anything more worthwhile than to serve God in your own family, in the Body of Christ, and in the world? Every person in whom the Holy Spirit lives is enabled to serve and can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13)? Take courage! God will indeed work His own good pleasure in and through His children.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, June 20, 2014

In Defense of the Faith: Where Does Prophecy Fit In—And Why?

Question: I have heard it said that the prophecies in the Bible are worded in such a way that their alleged “fulfillment” could fit almost anything. Is this true? And if not, what is the purpose of prophecy? It seems to me that for the Bible even to be involved in prophecy puts it in the realm of speculation and detracts from its credibility and reliability and its excellent teaching on morals.
Response: The Bible is about 30 percent prophecy, and for this reason alone it is absolutely unique.
There are no prophecies in the Qur’an, in the Hindu Vedas or the Bhagavad-Gita, in the sayings of Buddha and Confucius, in the Book of Mormon, or anywhere except in the Bible. Nor are there any prophecies concerning the coming of Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Confucius, or the founder or leader of any other of the world’s religions. The Jewish Messiah is absolutely unique in this respect. His coming was foretold in dozens of specific prophecies that were fulfilled in minutest detail in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There are a number of reasons for biblical prophecy: to prove God’s existence by telling us what will happen in advance; to identify the Messiah by specifying numerous details concerning His coming, including even when and where; and to warn the faithful of conditions and dangers in the last days. (We deal with these elements of prophecy in other books.) As for being “worded in such a way that its alleged ‘fulfillment’ could fit almost anything,” that simply is not true, as any examination of biblical prophecy proves.
An Impeccable Prophetic Record
Inasmuch as fulfilled prophecy proves conclusively both the existence of God and that the Bible is His Word, the Bible’s prophecies have been critically examined in many strenuous attempts to disprove them. For example, so many factual details are given in the book of Daniel concerning the Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires that the skeptics tried hard to prove that these prophecies had actually been written after the events had occurred. Otherwise, they would have to admit that the Bible had indeed foretold the future. The date of Daniel was therefore attacked from every imaginable angle over the past two centuries. Every assault failed, however, and the book of Daniel stands impregnable today.
It was, of course, a complete waste of time to attempt to prove that Daniel had been written after the rise and fall of the four world empires of which it foretold. Even the most critical skeptics had to admit that this book had been part of the canon of the Old Testament at least before the coming of Christ and that events subsequent to Christ’s birth were presented accurately. The book of Daniel, for example (as we shall see later), foretold the very day (April 6, 32 AD) that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (as Zechariah:9:9 had prophesied) and be hailed as the Messiah—the day that is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. Daniel foretold the splitting of the Roman Empire into two parts (East and West) centuries before it occurred. Politically and militarily, that split between East and West came in AD 330, when Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople. Religiously it came in AD 1054, when Pope Leo IX excommunicated Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
We will go into specific prophecies later. Before moving on, however, let us consider one brief quote concerning prophecy from the fascinating book  A Lawyer Examines the Bible:
The prophecies about the Jews—as about the coming Messiah…[are] specific (in contrast with the Delphic and other Pagan oracles who…hedge[d] against mistake[s])…[and are] so numerous as to make accidental fulfillment almost infinitely improbable…[and] of such nature that the events predicted seemed beforehand mutually destructive and were and are unparalleled in human history….
[Consider] the fact that the Jewish Passover has been celebrated continuously…[for] 3,500 years (although the sacred fires of Persia and those tended by the Vestal Virgins of Rome which were to be kept burning forever have been out for centuries)…in the light of the words we find in this same old Book:
And…ye shall keep it [the passover] a feast to the Lord throughout your generations…forever. (Exodus:12:14)
—  An excerpt   from  In Defense of the Faith (pp. 79-81)  by  Dave Hunt

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spiritual Fallout

Monday, June 09, 2014

by John MacArthur
The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor power plant released four hundred times the amount of radioactive material released in the bombing of Hiroshima. Experts estimate that as much as 60 percent of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster landed in the neighboring nation of Belarus.
I’ve had the privilege to minister alongside faithful pastors and church leaders from Belarus, and they can attest to the dramatic, tragic effects of the disaster. The plume of smoke and debris deposited radioactive material across much of the country. The toxic pollution permeated the soil and the water supply, effectively poisoning the entire country, and extending the impact of the disaster to future generations.
Just as environmental pollution can wreak long-lasting devastation across a wide region, the same is true ofspiritual poison. False teaching can create years—even generations—of spiritual confusion, corruption, and collapse. But unlike a rogue cloud of radioactive material, false teaching can and must be defended against.
There is a particular stripe of false teaching that has caused a great deal of destruction in the church for several decades—a spiritual scourge that has sown confusion and corruption into congregations around the world. See if you can spot it in the statements below.

  • Repentance is just a synonym for faith. Turning from sin is not required for salvation.
  • Saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel. It is not a personal commitment to Christ.
  • Faith might not last. It is a gift of God, but it can collapse, be overthrown or subverted, and can even turn into unbelief.
  • Christians can lapse into a state of permanent spiritual barrenness and lifelong carnality. Born again people can continuously live like the unsaved.
  • Disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt one’s salvation. Spiritual fruit is not a given in the Christian life.
  • Nothing guarantees that a Christian will love God.
  • All who claim Christ by faith as Savior, regardless of their lifestyle, should be assured they belong to God. It is dangerous and destructive to question the salvation of professing Christians.
  • The New Testament writers never questioned the reality of their readers’ faith.
Those shocking statements do not resemble the gospel of Jesus Christ and His apostles. They are in fact satanic lies meant to give men and women false assurance of their salvation and cripple the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
And yet those lies have a pervasive impact in the church today. Like poisonous fallout, that false teaching permeates the very soil of evangelicalism, and the tainted fruit of this spiritual catastrophe is deadly.
But there is an antidote to this spiritual toxin. It’s found in 1 John, a book which presents the people of God with several tests to determine the true nature of their faith. In particular, 1 John 3:4-10 gets to the heart of how believers are to think and act as new creatures in Christ:
Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
Over the next several days, we’re going to consider the unmistakable truth spelled out in those verses: that the believer’s life is completely incompatible with a lifestyle of sin.