In the Blink of an Eye

Rapture 4  Many people wonder about the rapture. Is it real? When will it happen? Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible, so why does it get talked about? Or maybe your pastor hasn’t talked about the rapture at all, and you’re wondering what I am on about here. Well, the rapture of the church is a big deal and it’s probably closer than we think so it seems worth exploring a bit. So the goal of this blog is a cursory discussion on the topic.

In a nutshell, the rapture is when Jesus comes for his church. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52) No one knows the exact date or hour this will happen, but it will happen suddenly, in a moment, and it will happen quickly, in the blink of an eye. First the Christians who have died are raised, then we Christians still living are transformed.

As I mentioned, we do not know exactly when this happens, but we are correct to surmise that it occurs just before the seven year tribulation period. We can confidently come to this conclusion when we analyze the Biblical text as a whole and, in so doing, we see a promise that believers will be protected from the “time of testing” as in Revelation 3:10: “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Further, verses such as John 14:3 and Thessalonians 4:16-18 clearly do not include judgement as is found in other verses (ie: Matthew 13:34-50 and Revelation 19:11-21) about Christ’s second coming. From this we conclude the rapture is “pre-tribulation”.

But is the word “rapture” even in the Bible? Well, the word “Bible” isn’t even in the Bible, so maybe this question is more of a distraction than a legitimate inquiry. Still, the word we find in Scripture is “harpazō” which is a Greek word meaning “to snatch or catch away”. According to Vine’s expository dictionary this word conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised. It is used in several places, including Acts 8:39 in reference to Philip being “snatched away” by the Spirit of the Lord and in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 in reference to Paul being “caught up” to the third heaven. So we can dispel the argument that “rapture” is not in the Bible, for it is simply our modern word for harpazō.

The Bible tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) so because the rapture is clearly mentioned in the Bible we know it is real. Philip was raptured to God in Acts 8:39; the Apostle Paul was raptured to the third heaven, and Christians fortunate enough to be living at the right time will one day be raptured to God without ever experiencing death. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, should find this very exciting! Paul wrote to those on Thessalonica: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

So we should find the coming rapture very encouraging and we can encourage one another by discussing and acknowledging the coming rapture as our blessed hope. Space does not allow me to discuss in great depth the reasons we have to believe the rapture is closer than ever, perhaps even likely in our lifetimes (depending on how old you are now), but one “super sign” happened when Israel became a nation again in 1948. As Jesus shared in Matthew 24:32-34: “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.”

Mark 13:32 tells us “…no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” So we do not set dates or make specific predictions, but when we do see the signs we have every reason to be hopeful, and if you watch closely, you will see the signs!

For further reading on the subject, I’m happy to recommend these resources:

Don Stewart: Educating Our World

Behold Israel

Olive Tree Ministries

Dr. Mark Hitchcock

Let us now eagerly await our blessed hope: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

With Fear & Trembling

Fear & Trembling 3 Have you ever wondered to yourself, “Am I really a Christian”? Perhaps you recognize you have fallen for that same old sin once again or you’re just not sure there has been that much change in your life. Or maybe you feel you’ve been a Christian all your life but you are now beginning to question your salvation. Whatever may be the reason you have engaged in such self-reflection, I want to assure you it is a good thing!

Paul instructed Christians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. (Philippians 2:12 NIV) This direction refers to sanctification, which is the process of bringing to fulfillment that which started with our salvation. So, becoming a Christian begins with justification, which happens when we first accept Christ as our Savior, and continues with our growth in holiness, or sanctification. Once a person is saved, changes begin to occur. For some these changes may come more slowly than for others, but they always come.

When Paul refers to “fear and trembling” he is referring to the attitude with which the Christian is to pursue his or her sanctification. It involves a healthy fear of being offensive to God and a conscientious awe and respect for Him. Peter likewise tells us to “work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen” (2 Peter 1:10) and that “the more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

So, asking yourself the question “am I really a Christian” can be part of the process of sanctification in your life and is, therefore, a good thing. Though you may also wonder: “isn’t being a Christian just a matter of asking Jesus into your life and then you are saved?” And we should address that first. Yes, once we repent of our sins and believe in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we are saved and thus we are saved by faith alone and not by works. However, the issue lies in that little word “repent”.

The Greek word from which we get our verb “repent” is metanoeō and signifies a changing of one’s mind or purpose for the better and includes remorse for sin. So when we “repent” we change our minds about the way we are living and we accept that God’s way is true and correct. King David displayed true repentance in Psalm 51 concerning his sin with Bathsheba: “For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”

Wondering if we are truly saved, then, can start with reflecting on our repentance. Did we truly repent?  Are we truly remorseful? Are we truly seeking to live God’s way now? If you cannot point to a specific time and place where the answer to these questions became “YES” then perhaps you are not truly a Christian yet. You may still be at the justification stage, and I encourage you to really work through this. But if you can point to a specific time and place where you repented, you are likely in the sanctification process and reflecting on your spiritual growth is healthy and productive.

When we repent and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit that works in us during the process of sanctification, helping us to change the way we think. In Romans 12:2 we read: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” When Paul says “let God” in this verse he implies a willingness, on our part, to let God act in our lives. We certainly can, at times, have less such willingness than at others. But, if we are truly Christian, the Holy Spirit nudges our conscience and we eventually grow in the direction of God’s Word and we come to know that “the old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To the Galatians Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:24-25) When we repented, we agreed with God that the way we were living is wrong (and thus we nailed our passions and sinful desires to the cross of Christ), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we immediately overcame the sin in our lives. That process, the process of sanctification (following the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives), takes a lifetime and we are never 100% free of sin until we are in heaven with Jesus.

But Paul did provide a list of the results of our sinful nature (we’ll call this the “bad things” list). According the Galatians 5:19-21, the bad things are – “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.”

And he also provided a “good things” list, in Galatians 5:22-23, the good things (fruits of the Spirit) are – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

These lists may be a bit of a theological oversimplification in our context here, but if you can point to that specific time and place of your true repentance and you can honestly say you are desiring and realizing more from the “good things” list in your life and less and less of the “bad things,” then it is likely you can honestly answer that you truly are a Christian. A true Christian also recognizes that the Bible, God’s Word, is the final authority for all things right and wrong. For it is written that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

I hope this provides you some insight into “working out your salvation with fear and trembling”. If you desire more information, we recommend the following resources:

KnowGod.org

Grow Your Faith

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

The Reason for the Season

christmas-tree2 Christmas is here once again, and many of us are busy making those last minute shopping trips to find just the right gift for that special friend or family member. And whether you live in an area with a snowy white Christmas or a warmer tropical setting or somewhere in between, the stress of holiday shopping and the budgetary strain seems to affect us all. Between fighting the crowds at our local mall or paging through the websites of our favorite on-line retailers, the commercial aspect of Christmas can be challenging. It is amidst all this stress that I’d like to encourage you to take time to reflect on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ.

In this regards, it is very fortunate for us that Luke took the time to thoroughly research the facts surrounding the birth of Jesus while those facts were still contemporary and that he composed those facts into a written record that is still available to us today in his Gospel. But can we really trust the record Luke left? Well, the evidence supporting the historical accuracy of Luke’s narrative is myriad, but let’s look at one specific piece of evidence right now. First, we’ll start with an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 2:1-21 – At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

This part of the Christmas story starts with a census being taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is known to have governed Syria during 6-9 A.D. Josephus records that a census taken in 6 A.D. sparked a violent Jewish revolt, this is also mentioned by Luke in Act 5:37. Quirinius oversaw this census and played a major role in putting down the rebellion. But this cannot be the census Luke is referring to here in the Christmas story because it occurred much too late to fit Luke’s chronology. Luke was far too meticulous in his recounting of events to be accused of such a chronological error.

And, indeed, archaeology has upheld Luke’s accuracy. A fragment of a stone tablet discovered near Rome in 1764 contains an inscription in honor of a Roman official who was twice governor of Syria during the reign of Augustus. The name of this official is not found, but details listed among his accomplishments could fit no one other than Quirinius. Thus, we conclude that Quirinius served as governor twice. And other ancient records mention a “first” census being ordered by Augustus in 8 B.C. Evidently, this earlier census was not carried out in the Palestinian region until 2-4 years later, perhaps due to political difficulties between Rome and Herod. But Luke does state in verse 2 that the events he recounts occurred at the time of the “first” census taken while Quirinius was governor (obviously indicating there were more than one). Thus, Luke’s accurate rendering of these historic events is validated by the evidence and can be considered completely trustworthy.

Based on this decisive evidence, we can conclude that Luke’s telling of the Christmas story is reliable and I hope by presenting this evidence here it helps you see that Christmas really is a celebration of true historical events. And, as such, it should inspire us to pursue a relationship with our Creator who loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to be raised again that we might be reconciled to Him. Yes, Jesus truly is the reason for the season!

With this in mind, then, we see that the greatest Christmas present ever is the gift of grace given by God through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Christmas season is a perfect time to accept that gift, if you haven’t already. Just take a few minutes to get by yourself and talk to God. Admit your wrongs to Him and turn your heart and mind toward Jesus (this is called repentance). Then confess Jesus is Lord and promise to follow Him to the best of your ability. As it is written, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

May you have a very Merry Christmas!

If you would like more information about becoming a Christian, we are happy to help. Please drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Vote 2018

Vote 2  With all the political ads running on TV and radio, and all the signs and billboards, one can hardly miss that election season is upon us once again here in the USA. Election day is set for Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 and I hope you already are planning to get involved by casting your vote. The Bible has plenty to say about government; for example, Exodus 18:21 gives us a leadership model: “But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.” Likewise, Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose some well-respected men from each tribe who are known for their wisdom and understanding, and I will appoint them as your leaders.”

Examples of government are woven throughout the Bible, sometimes good, sometimes maybe not so good, but the government is put in place by God to bring order to society. In Romans 13:1,4 & 6 we read: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God….The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong….Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.”

In the USA, we are very fortunate in that we are allowed the privilege of voting and, therefore, we can influence the direction of our government. This is a great right and should never be taken lightly, especially for the Christian as we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). So we should cast our votes to reflect God’s values so we influence the process with the truth of God. Indeed, for the Christian, it is not just a right, but a responsibility!

But how do we know what the candidates stand for? Often, the TV ads tell us more about how the candidates feel about their opponent than where they stand on the actual issues. Despite their claims, we find that all too often the ads we hear and see are full of error, half-truths, and misleading rhetoric. It can be hard to discern which candidates most align with the values we know to reflect the truth found in God’s Word, so how do we decide? Fortunately, there are many resources available to us. I will list a few really good ones here, but there are likely others available in your state:

iVoter Guide – this resources allows you to input your zip code and find responses from the candidates on actual issues of importance. And remember that a candidate’s failure to respond to questions on a specific issue is a response in itself!

Family Research Council – this resource will help you understand important issues of our time and the platforms of the major political parties. It will also help you find where to vote in your area and can even help you to register in some areas.

Christian Voter Guide – offers many resources for researching issues, voting locations, voter guides, etc.

You can also easily research the candidates by typing their name in your favorite search engine to find their campaign websites. So do your research, become an informed citizen, and get out and vote on November 6th, 2018. You can make a difference and your vote does count!

May you be blessed.

Here at Reign Drops, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Do I Really Need A Parachute?

Parachute 1  Imagine the scene. You’re on a commercial airliner flying to the destination of your dream vacation. You’ve saved your money for several years to pay for this trip and your excitement level couldn’t be higher. You’re no stranger to flying, but this trip is definitely special. The flight attendant takes you through the usual flight safety warnings and before you know it the plane is up in the air. Only ten hours of flight time and you’ll be there!

Then the captain makes an announcement that catches you by surprise: “Ladies and gentlemen, the flight attendants will be coming through the cabin shortly with a parachute for each of you. Please take the parachute and strap it on your back.” Now if the announcement ends there, you will probably be wondering why they are handing out parachutes. You’ve flown before and this has never happened so you’re probably wondering all kinds of things; maybe even looking out the window to see if there is smoke or fire or anything out of the ordinary.

But what if the captain’s announcement continued this way, “Folks, the parachutes will make your flight more enjoyable, please strap the parachute on, sit back and enjoy your flight.” Now the flight attendant hands you this thing about the size of a small backpack, you strap it on and sit back in your seat. Except you can’t get comfortable. The parachute makes it impossible to sit normally and soon your back is sore and you start to become angry at the airline. What in the world is going on? After not too much time, you take the parachute off and make it known you will not wear this thing.

The parachute most certainly did not make your flight more enjoyable and you now have  backache causing you to feel contempt for the airline, the captain, and the parachute. You will have nothing to do with any of them after this flight. They are already ruining your dream vacation.

But what if the captain’s announcement went this way instead, “Folks, the flight attendant will soon hand each of you a parachute. Please calmly strap your chute on before helping those around you. The plane has developed a serious malfunction and will soon crash to the earth, but you will be guided to a door where your parachute will help you land safely on the ground.” With this additional information, won’t you gladly strap on your parachute and endure whatever discomfort it might bring for the assurance of safety that comes with it? I should think so!

So you see it is only when you have the complete picture of the situation that wearing the parachute makes any sense at all. Likewise, it is the same with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I were to come to you and say, “Friend, you need to accept Christ,” you would likely wonder to yourself why in the world would you need to do that. My statement simply wouldn’t make sense. And if I said to you, “If you accept Christ it will make your life better,” you might very well give it a try, but eventually something would happen to make you question if your life was truly better, and you might end up turning away from Christ because the promise I gave you was not fulfilled. It is only when we have the complete picture that the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes sense.

So to fully understand the Gospel (which means “good news”) you need to first understand your need for it. Just as understanding that the plane is about to crash made the need for a parachute understandable, knowing that we are sinners helps us understand our need for Jesus. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23) and the reality is, deep down inside, we all know we have made mistakes; we all have done things that have hurt others, we are all guilty. In fact, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have likely felt the weight of that guilt much more often than we care to admit to others. To deny this is to be disingenuous just as the Apostle John wrote, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8)

Perhaps the bigger problem for most of us is that we tend to compare ourselves to others and then, despite our self-knowledge and the guilt we feel, we conclude we’re “not that bad” especially compared to (insert name of notorious sinner). And isn’t that natural? In fact, not only is it human nature, it is the very ploy of the devil to make us think we don’t need God, for Satan is the father of lies just as Jesus says in John 8:44: “He (Satan) has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And the Apostle Peter warns us, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

So don’t believe the devil. Believe the Bible instead! And the Bible says, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12)  I honestly think the reality is that I don’t need to convince you of your guilt. I believe we all instinctively know the truth about ourselves deep down inside. And, therefore, being knowledgeable of our sin, what we really need to comprehend is that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God said about Himself in Exodus 34:6-7: “I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.”

God does not let the guilty go unpunished. Not the guilt of the worst person you can think of, not my guilt, and not yours. The guilty receive punishment, and that punishment is death. But God, in his infinite love and mercy, made a way for us to escape that punishment and to receive eternal life. And that way is Jesus because Jesus paid the penalty for us. So the Gospel is this: “God so loved the world He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And just as the impending plane crash is why you need the parachute, sin is why you need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Availing yourself of the Gospel is almost as easy as strapping on the parachute; just talk to God. Admit to him you have sinned and you need his mercy. Accept the free gift of grace he offers through Jesus Christ; for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And now you know the full story! God bless.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.