Second Chances

Second chances. I’m a big fan of the mulligan in golf, the “do over” in front yard football, and the “undo” button on my word processor. I’ve mulliganalways liked having a second chance. There are some things in life where second chances are not an option. For example, once a first impression is made, there are no do overs. Once you hit send on an e-mail, you do not have a second chance at expressing your heart about a matter in that e-mail. God, however, is the God of the second chance. Grace by definition allows do overs and mulligans in life. God’s grace does not excuse sin or make rebellion insignificant, and it doesn’t remove the consequences of our sin. It does offer us a chance to start fresh through forgiveness giving us the opportunity for a different outcome.

While God offers second chances, it does require repentance in our lives. The word “repent” means “to turn around.” When we repent of our sin, we are not only sorry for doing something wrong, but we also turn and go in a different direction. King David expressed repentance in his prayer he penned in Psalm 51. I encourage you to read the whole Psalm, but consider the first three verses: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” While this passage does not mention his specific sin, he obviously had something on his mind and knew that God was fully aware of his transgression. He prayed the prayer indicating that grace was an option and compassion was offered. He knew that cleansing was a possibility even though his sin was hideous and shameful. Even though David knew that he had blown it, he also knew that God was compassionate and gracious. He knew God offered second chances, and David was imploring God for such an opportunity.

I think it’s best David doesn’t mention his specific sin, even though scholars believe it was his sin with Bathsheba. The reason it’s best is because we can fill in the blank with our own transgressions. All of our sin is shameful leading to the sacrifice of our Savior on the cross.

As we move toward our 4th of July celebration, I am mindful of the condition in our country and believe strongly that we are weaker nationally today because the Church is weaker spiritually. It is time for believers to pull out Psalm 51 and cry out to the Lord for forgiveness. God is merciful and compassionate. I have experienced God’s grace so many times in my life that I cannot count it. Second chances are God’s specialty.

Are Tornadoes A Sign of the End Times?

tornadoapproach660_20140617_070012Two deadly tornadoes demolished a town yesterday in northeast Nebraska killing a five-year-old and injuring nineteen others. Half of the town was destroyed. The twisters were about one mile apart wreaking havoc through a small town north of Omaha. One eye-witness said, “It was like God dragged two fingernails across the land.”

Has this type of destruction been normal throughout history or has it been on the increase in recent years? As I think back in my life, I do not remember experiencing natural disasters in such frequency as we have in recent years. It is possible that I was just not aware of it as a young adult or as a child, but I am very aware it now. My family and I were at home late one night in 2011 when a tornado hit our home, so I know that experience has heightened my awareness of tornadoes. Studies regarding the increase of tornadoes are inconclusive due to changes in the method of record keeping. However, it still seems to me that there are more deadly storms than ever in the past. My question is, “Does this have any bearing on whether or not we are living in the last days?”

Matthew 24:7-8 says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” Jesus predicted that not only wars would increase as time was drawing to an end, but also there would be great natural disasters: famines and earthquakes. The word “earthquake” comes from the Greek word seismos. We get our English word seismology (the study of earthquakes) from this word. It is interesting to note that the same Greek word that is translated earthquake in Matthew 24 is used in Matthew 8:24 where the New American Standard Version of the New Testament translates it as “a great storm.” While the word can certainly be translated as earthquake, I think there is a broader concept that can be applied that involves a meteorological disturbance. I believe Jesus was pointing to changes in the weather and an increase in all types of storms. These disturbances will be a sign, and Jesus said it is the beginning of birth pains. This means that they will grow in intensity as Christ’s return draws ever closer. The Tribulation Period will be filled with horrific events, but I believe that even before the Great Tribulation starts, the birth pains will continue to grow ever more pronounced. What does this mean for us? We can anticipate disasters to be on the rise and tornadoes and earthquakes to be commonplace. Jesus is giving us warnings, and He is calling us to be on the alert. This means we should be actively sharing our faith, following His Word, and living by faith. Not only must we face such disasters with faith and not fear, but we must comfort one another with the reality that Jesus is coming again.

What are your thoughts? Do you think tornadoes have been on the increase? Reply below and share this blog with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Cashless Society – A Sign of the Times

a-cashless-societyI am a fan of Wendy’s and consider one of the corners of the restaurant near my church to be my office annex. Recently, Wendy’s began a program offering cashless purchases, and it made me think about what seems to be a concerted move in our country toward a cashless society. The New York Times recently reported that banks and retailers are trying to develop new payment systems using cell phones, and they’re working on ways to protect customers’ personal information. Wendy’s is just one of many merchants seeking new payment systems. What does this mean for us? While the convenience of a cashless society would seem to be desirable, there are several things that one needs to consider.

The most obvious concern in our privacy driven society is the danger of your privacy being threatened. We’ve already seen the potential of this with the Target debacle, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hackers will forever be finding new ways to tap into secure systems in an effort to steal identity and finances, but hackers are not my only concern. Our government seems to be working harder to gain access to our personal lives, and we cannot help but wonder where all of this infringement upon our privacy could land. We learned not long ago that the NSA is more involved in snooping upon U.S. citizens than we once realized, and those who have less trust of our government fear this breach of privacy has no end.

I believe that in the last days, government will not always be our friend. The Bible does point to persecution of believers in the last days, and we are finding that government officials are gaining greater access to our personal lives than ever before. If a particular government became rogue or even not friendly toward Christians, our current technological advances will make it easier for the activities of Christians to be traced bringing about greater opportunity for persecution. I realize these words might make me sound like an alarmist. The Bible does point to greater persecution, and for that to happen in the U.S., it seems to me that it will need government sanction.

Another thought about a cashless society is that it will make it that much easier for the mark of the beast to be administered to unsuspecting citizens. The Bible says in Revelation 13:16-17 that a mark on people’s foreheads or the back of the hands will be required for the purchase of basic goods: “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” I think it is clear to see how this mark will be a natural by-product of a cashless society.

Jesus told us to be on guard for the signs indicating we are in the last days. Stay alert. Things are happening that will ultimately lead to the return of Christ. Are you ready?

Lawlessness Points to the Return of Christ

Evil_EyesSomething is terribly wrong! I recently read of an unbelievable crime that took place last week in Waukesha, Wisconsin. This crime did not happen downtown in a large city like Atlanta or Chicago. Waukesha is a small town with a population of less than 9,000 people. This was not gang related or even connected to drugs. The crime involved an attempted murder on a twelve-year-old girl by two of her friends. The victim was stabbed nineteen times by her friends as the perpetrators sought to impress a fictional, ghoulish character on the internet who appears in horror stories. Both suspects had a fascination with stories about death and horror and planned this assault on their friend in an attempt to act out their fantasy.

The Bible teaches that the last days will be a time of incredible lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says that this lawlessness must happen before the return of Christ: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” While this passage is speaking specifically of a time called the Great Tribulation Period, we know that the days leading up to the beginning of this seven-year period will be times of great spiritual darkness. The “man of lawlessness” will be a chosen leader during the Tribulation Period, but I believe it also means that he will be alive and well before the Tribulation starts and before the Rapture of the Church takes place. I also believe that Satan is working to create an environment where the “man of lawlessness” will be accepted. This is happening now. The story of this attempted murder in Wisconsin sends chills down my back as it seems to be nothing less than demonic. Satan is working to lead people, and even children, to do the unthinkable. The darkness around us is growing as the stage is being set for a spiritual conflict unlike any conflict ever experienced in history.

I have no doubt that the last days are upon us. Jesus told us to be alert and to be on watch. He is coming again. Let’s be diligent and faithful as we await His return.

The Midnight Hour

Have you heard the story of the Missouri principal who angered atheists with his comments about God in a graduation speech? You can view a news report online or read an article about the incident. The principal reminded people at the graduation ceremony that even though the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” is on U.S. currency and “God is reflected in the very fabric” of the nation, it is inappropriate to mention God at a secular ceremony. Being that prayer is not politically correct, he gave the crowd an opportunity for a moment of silence. After the silence, he told the people that “in case you’re interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers and for this community.”

 As you can imagine, there has been a backlash from atheists and the P.C. police, who feel called to make snuffing out religion and its free exercise their mission in life. I can’t help but feel that our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves. George Washington would have been banned from the podium with this comment, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” If John Adams were still alive, I suppose he would never be asked to speak at a graduation ceremony if he included this quote from a letter he wrote to his wife: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.” Patrick Henry is remembered most for his “give me liberty or give me death” quote, but here’s another one that would stir up the p.c. police: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Last_Days_ClockI could go on with so many quotes from founding fathers pointing to our religious heritage, but my purpose is to emphasize that we have drifted far away from the original moorings of our nation. You could look at this from a number of angles, but consider the fact that a moral and religious decline is prophesied in the Scripture. The Bible says that this kind of deterioration will happen before the return of Christ. Is it possible that the hands of God’s clock are ticking ever closer to the midnight hour? Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:9-12: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Paul was led by God’s Spirit to write these words in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.”

 I think by reading these words, you can see that we must move into a time where Christianity becomes a small voice in society. Should we be surprised that principals are being threatened if they use God’s name in a graduation address? This is just a small step to lead to a Matthew 24 or 2 Timothy 3 kind of world. Jesus is coming again. I believe we are in the last days. The Church must stand strong and be obedient to God’s call.