Mysteries of God

MysteriesIn recent weeks I’ve read a lot of offers to inform me of God’s mysterious will for 2015 – for a fee – from people young and old, male and female, some of whom I’d heard of before, others not.

Most of these folks are self-proclaimed prophets, some with unknown track records, some with quite questionable track records.

A few of these offers come with glowing testimonials that all their previous prophecies have come true. We’re supposed to take their word for that, of course.

I’m not taking any of these folks up on their offers.

Now, I do believe there are legitimate prophets in the world today. However, none of them are offering to sell me their revelations about 2015. If they believe God is asking them to tell the world a specific message, perhaps a warning, perhaps an urgent request to intercede, they just go ahead and do it, free of charge. Those I actually pay attention to.

And I do read articles by authors I trust who teach and expound on end-time scriptures. They are giving their interpretation of scriptures and never claim to be prophets with esoteric knowledge.

If you know me, you know I love spy novels, dramas and murder mysteries.* Science fiction, historical adventures, crime novels or contemporary espionage – as long as the plot is complex enough so that you can’t figure it out too soon, it appeals to me. A touch of humor never hurts, either.

Apparently God loves mysteries too. Secret things. Hidden treasures. And he is quite willing to reveal his mysteries to those he loves and who love him. “He revealeth the deep and secret things;” “There is a God in heaven who revealeth secrets.” Daniel 2:22, 28

Jesus carefully planted clues to the best mystery of all time, the whole reason he took on human flesh – to enable us to have a direct connection to God, by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Want to know one of God’s secrets for 2015 (or today, or next week)? You don’t need to go out a buy a prophecy. Just ask him.

Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, God will reveal his mysteries to any believer who wants to know, not just to a hand-picked few (as he had to do before that). See John chapters 14-16, especially 16:13: “He will show you things to come.”

He doesn’t want us to remain ignorant about those things. The reason he walked the roads and towns, talking to curious listeners, collecting followers as he went, has been explained by the Holy Spirit and recorded in the scriptures.

Revealing why he took the time to teach and train them, why he chose twelve of them to be apostles, Jesus told the disciples what was really going on. God’s mysteries were going to be unveiled to those who not only listened, not only followed, but believed what he was telling them.

Sometimes Jesus taught the principles of God’s kingdom in parables to the crowd, then explained the meaning privately to the disciples. They asked him one day why he was doing that. “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.” Matt. 13:11

“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Matt. 13:34-35  (Quoting Ps. 78:2.)

“And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Luke 8:10

Jesus wanted the disciples to understand God’s plan. But if the Pharisees understood what he was really saying, they would have tried to stop that plan much earlier than the Lord wanted. “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”  I Cor. 2:8

Jesus had a timetable to keep. He didn’t want any monkey-wrenches thrown by the enemy.  And so he carefully crafted clues to God’s mysteries, knowing that once the Holy Spirit came, the disciples would get it. And that is exactly what happened.

The Apostle Paul explained it in his letter to the Colossians, and described the various aspects of God’s mysteries in several other epistles:

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:25-27

“Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” I Cor. 4:1

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” I Cor. 13:2

“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” I Cor. 14:2

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Rom. 11:25

“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:” Rom. 16:25-26

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 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. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” I Cor. 2:7-10

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” Eph. 1:9-10

“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:” Eph. 3:3-6

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” Eph. 3:9-10

“And (pray) for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” Eph. 6:19

Paul prayed for believers he had not yet met, which certainly includes those living today: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col 2:2-3

That’s my prayer for myself, my family and friends, and for the entire church these days.

* Originally titled, Why I Love Murder Mysteries: http://scfamilymemories.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/mimi-my-ordinary-grandmother-part-ii/

What then?

A friend came up to me after church one Sunday morning and said, “You know, Jesus could come back any day now, isn’t that exciting?”

I said, “Yes, and what then? What do you think will happen next?”

She said, “Well, we’ll….” and paused. She couldn’t think exactly what would happen next. I reminded her that there will be a thousand years of Jesus reigning on the earth after that. But just before he returns, there will be the battle of Armageddon.

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she replied. For a moment I think she had imagined as soon as Jesus returned some heavenly resort would cover the earth and there would be nothing for us to do for a thousand years except party. Praise and worship and party.

How many Christians wishing Jesus would return today have the same idea, that during the millennium there will be nothing but peace, parties and prosperity everywhere?

Actually many end-time experts don’t believe Jesus could come back today. In Matthew 24:14 he told the disciples, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to the nations (‘ethne,’ people groups) and then the end will come.”

There are still thousands of people groups who haven’t heard the gospel, so Jesus can’t come back yet, according to those experts.

But it occurs to me that the usual idea of that verse being fulfilled is a group of people in their home country somewhere listening to a missionary preaching the gospel.

It doesn’t take that scenario, however; if one or two members of a people group travel outside their normal area and hear the gospel, that verse is fulfilled for them. Or if they hear if by way of radio, television or internet.

The verse doesn’t say the group must become believers, either. It doesn’t say a church must be established there. Whether they accept it or not, hearing the gospel preached fulfills the verse. There may well be fewer people groups who haven’t heard the gospel than the experts think. Jesus’ return may be very soon.

What then?

The verses preceding and following Matthew 24:14 as well as Luke chapter 21 describe vicious wars and destruction, earthquakes, signs in the heavens (word actually means anything in the air and sky from the ground up to outer space), such as volcanoes or even solar flares – see image below –  as well as persecution of Christians, false prophets, and believers abandoning the faith.

What will the planet earth look like when Jesus returns?

Certainly not a resort. Think about the news videos after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, or after the earthquakes / tsunamis in Indonesia or Japan. Looked pretty grim to me.

Who will be here when Jesus arrives back with the glorified believers from heaven following him?

Let’s see. The believers remaining on earth will be here. They will be changed at that time so all Christians will have a glorified (enhanced) body like that of the resurrected Jesus (see I Corinthians 15:52). They are going to need it, I think.

And the unbelievers who were not killed in those final days of destruction will be here. We know they will not all be killed because Revelations 20:7-9 mentions nations on the earth during that thousand years.

Some people no doubt will become believers, but the ones that don’t will be deceived by the devil who is released from his jail at the end of the thousand years, and another war will take place.

During that thousand years the glorified Christians will be ruling and reigning with Jesus over somebody. Who? Over each other, and over the unglorified humans who are still here on earth, whether they become believers or not during the millennium.

A government structure with Jesus at the top will take care of all the needed repairs, reconstruction, resupply and order.

What will need to be done?

After any war there is a lot of clean-up needed. Rebuilding. Infrastructure will have to be re-built, communication re-established, medical care, food, clothing, housing, and employment provided. There will be plenty of work to do and none of us will be taking extended vacations.

Instead of complacently anticipating a glorious eternity of rest and recreation when Jesus returns, I think the church should be preparing, training and planning now for those days that will come next.

Otherwise the first thing Jesus will have to build is a kindergarten for his church.

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Coronal Mass Ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.

This not-squarely Earth-directed CME is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.

Sheepfold

Some of us are snoopy. Curious. We poke into things, eavesdrop, not from any perverse motives, we just want to know. The apostles were a bit like that too.

“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)

Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you… you will hear of wars and rumors of wars… nation will rise against nation… there will be famines, and earthquakes… many will turn away from the faith… many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…” (24:4-11)

“There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be equaled again.” (24:21)

The apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts. 1:6)

That wasn’t any of their business, Jesus said – more tactfully, of course. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (1:7)

The other day I was re-reading these verses, meditating about how things look in the world today. A lot of the front-page news sounds a lot like those verses in Matthew. I asked the Lord a question that I didn’t really expect an answer to, “When is all this going to happen, really?”

I knew Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Okay, I have no way of knowing when the gospel has been preached in the whole world. Nobody does. I was just being my normal snoopy self, asking a question I expected the Holy Spirit to ignore.

But he didn’t ignore it – he answered it. “When the last sheep is in the fold.” But when he said that, he didn’t show me a mental image of sheep, but a mental image of warriors. Suddenly I knew that God is assembling an invasion force in heaven (see http://www.speakingofheaven.wordpress.com). He knows when the last person on earth who will accept his invitation by his deadline has done so. His deadline is described in Matthew 24:14.

I don’t need to know that date, I just need to be ready by that date.

Where will you be in 500 years?

Sometimes I’m taken aback by the reaction of Christians to the death of another believer.  I don’t mean the normal sense of loss, grief, sadness and sympathy for the family and friends –  those things I understand very, very well.

Those reactions are part of our human nature.  We lose our mother, father, husband, child, friend, and we feel the dreadfully empty hole where they used to be.

No, what I’m talking about is the other regret they sometimes express, that now that person won’t have a chance to see another beautiful sunset, or see their grandchildren all grown up and successful, or experience the grandeur of a vacation in some spectacular place, even spiritual ones in a place like Israel.

As if those things are the very best God ever created and now those opportunities are gone forever.

As if death was the end of our lives.

If we believe God’s word, gorgeous sunsets and spectacular views of the Grand Canyon are nothing compared to what’s available in heaven.

Heaven isn’t imaginary.  It’s a real place with real buildings and grass and trees, and at least one really big city.

There are real things to learn, real work to do, real friends and family to re-connect with, real Father God to praise and worship, real Holy Spirit to be mentored and trained by, and real Jesus to fellowship with and learn from!

To listen to some believers talk, you’d think heaven is sort of fuzzy, foggy, and wispy.  Insubstantial.  Or a second-rate, broken-down, dull and boring place with nothing exciting to see or do. I understand their poor perception of it.  I used to think that way too.

I think heaven is more of a high-tech educational and training facility and an ultra-spectacular worship facility.  Full of excitement, creativity, discovery, a never a dull moment kind of place.  And for now, a temporary one.

Think about it a minute.  In 500 years, where will we be?  If I read the scriptures right, none of us will be in heaven at all.

We’ll all be here on the earth in the midst of the thousand year reign of Christ.  We’ll be carrying out whatever assignment God has for each individual believer.

Some may be repairing environmental damage.  Some may be involved in research, others in administration.  Some may be explorers, traveling in space.  Some may be building new infrastructure and new habitats, and others may be managing those things.

And that’s nothing to be regretful about.

Normal Christian, more thoughts

What is a “Normal Christian?”

Years ago I experienced miracles, instant answers to prayer and faith healing as an integral part of my everyday life. I took them for granted. I was part of a small church where this kind of God-life was taught, expected and experienced from the smallest toddler to the eldest senior. Due to many factors that church disbanded and the members found other church homes across the region, but the life in the Spirit we had experienced didn’t seem to move with us.

Why should we settle for living like the world lives? Curling into ourselves because we’re too busy, too occupied with earning a living, paying the bills, doing the housework, attending committee meetings, hurrying to get to work or church and back home again. We don’t take time to study, meditate, worship, listen, or just bask in God’s presence personally. We let the Sunday School teacher, the praise team and the pastor take care of those spiritual chores, we’re doing good just to get there. And we settle for getting the same colds and flu and heart attacks and car accidents and divorces that the world gets.

We settle for our friends and family getting sick and dying without Christ, because after all, it must have been God’s will for them, right? “I was too busy or too ignorant to help them and nobody else helped them, so it must have been God’s will for them to die and go to hell, right?” I am tired of hearing that excuse.

What’s a normal Christian? One who hears God’s instruction to him and goes out and does it. It sounds simple but the “How to” will take commitment, and work. Here is my outline from a Bible study course l taught last year.

The Normal Christian

Week 1 — Introduction

A. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the father.” (John 14:12 NIV)

He went on to say, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name… You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

Why? “…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13-b)

This is Jesus’ idea of the Normal Christian. Are you a Normal Christian? Most would say no — and this course is designed to help us learn how to get there from here.

B. Where is here? Survey of where we are — how we would describe ourselves and our progress right now today.

C. What stops us from doing what Jesus did?
Ignorance of what and how; Embarrassment of what others would think; Fear of failure and humiliation; Doubt that it’s God’s will for me or anyone; Sin

Week 2 — Definitions from scripture

God — Triune: Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Man — Also Triune — Body, Soul, Spirit
Satan — Devil, tempter, accuser, murderer, thief, liar, doesn’t fight fair
World — Earth, Spirit World, Universe, Heaven; world system
Life and Death — Natural — has a beginning and an end
Eternal Life — Zoe, God’s life, imparted at salvation, has no beginning, no end; God-life
Sin — Missing the mark — errors, mistakes, omissions and comissions, rebellion
Christian — Christ’s ones, “little Christs”; God initiates, we must respond

Week 3 — Who are we really, according to God?

A. In the beginning — God created man in His image, gave authority & instructions
B. Adam (and Eve)’s sin and fall — temptation and rebellion
C. Jesus’ death on the cross — paid penalty for sin for all who accept Him
D. Holy Spirit poured out — on those who accept that Jesus paid the penalty for sin
Indwells at salvation — like taking a drink of life
Baptized with (filled) upon request — like bathing in, breathing in life

Week 4 — #3 continued — Who are we, really, continued; What are we supposed to do?

A. New identity — child of God, joint heir with Christ of the kingdom
B. New line of command, new relationship to God and the body of Christ
Jesus — older brother, intercessor, head of the body of Christ, captain of the Lord’s Army
Holy Spirit — instant communicator, enabler and empowerer to follow instructions
Father God — director of our activities, now and in the future
C. God’s goal for Himself and us — the Normal Christian life: fellowship / friendship with Him; partnership in His work — exercising authority again

Week 5 — Recognizing and overcoming obstacles to getting there

Ignorance — not knowing how to begin or what to do
Doubt — wavering, believing you can one minute, you can’t the next minute
Fear — of what others may think; fear of failure
Sin — errors, mistakes not confessed, repented of, forgiven and erased
Opposition — from Satan, demons, unbelievers or well-meaning believers

Recognize these obstacles in your own life, ask God’s help to overcome them

Week 6 — How to break the pattern of the subnormal life

Clothing, equipment, communication, tools & weapons, training
Baptism / Filling of the Holy Spirit — upon request, not forced or automatic
Bible — studying, meditating, 2-way conversing with God along the way
Prayer — inspired, instigated by God — “Telling God what he tells us to tell him”
Awareness and obedience of God’s direction in daily activities
Fruit of the Spirit — character development
Faith — how to get it / grow it / exercise it

Week 7 — #6, Clothing, equipment, continued

Armor of God — what it is, why is it called that, why do you need it
Fellowship — with other believers, preaching, teaching, discussion, sharing
Praise and worship — public and private
Gifts of the Spirit — different tools for different tasks
Calling / assignment — be in the right place at the right time, do the necessary thing

Week 8 — What lies ahead?

In heaven — If we die before Christ returns, what will we be doing? Constant R&R? I don’t think so…
Worship / fellowship with Christ and others / training / preparing to return with Him
On earth — Certain things must happen before Christ returns — some done by us: spreading the gospel to the whole world, or people group

Week 9 — #8, What lies ahead, continued

End times — Conflict in spirit world and on earth increases, War of Gog and Magog, War of Armageddon eventually
Second Coming of Christ — timetable debated for years. I’m “pan-trib, it will all pan out”
Thousand year reign — Glorified believers ruling under Jesus’ authority; unchanged people still on earth, some believers, some unbelievers; lots of work to do
Final conflict — Eternal Lake of Fire for Satan and all unbelievers
Heaven and earth united — new heaven and earth; New Jerusalem arrives, God’s headquarters here on earth

I haven’t included all the scripture references I used in the class, but they’re pretty easy to find, if you’re really interested in this subject.