The $100 Challenge

Have you taken the $100 challenge with your faith?  Some ambitious secular people do it when they determine they will pursue success at all costs.  Maybe it’s something we should consider doing to pursue a life in Christ.

Some years ago a fledgling,and highly ambitious, stock market trader by the name of Minervini challenged a friend as they rode together in a car.  Minervini was so motivated to succeed at his chosen profession that he declared $100 was nothing if he really intended to make it big. Clutching onto $100 was petty; it was scarcity thinking.  To think big and really go after all he desired in life meant that he had to let go of everything that kept him from the financial greatness he knew could be his. He had to believe in himself so much that a lousy $100 meant nothing.

Minervini proved to his friend that he was dead serious.  He actually had $400 in his pocket. Four hundred dollars or $100, it didn’t matter.  He took out all those bills and let them fly out the window. The scarcity mindset that had kept him constrained was a thing of the past.  He applied himself to his work and became wildly successful and immensely rich. Author Jack Schwager chronicled Minervini and his $100 challenge in a 2001 book titled Stock Market Wizards.  His friend didn’t take Minervini up on his challenge that day.  He couldn’t see past the $100 to a life of abundance, so he never came anywhere close to achieving what Minervini did.

When I read about this, it struck me that far too many Christians have this scarcity mentality.  Not about money, but about the abundance found in Christ alone. In America and other first world countries, we have a pretty good life.  Even the poorest among us have far more than the majority of people living in third world nations, where making $30-60 per month is the norm.  As Christians, we have the luxury of going to a nice church building every week and worshiping without any concerns about persecution. We put in the offering plate what’s comfortable to us, not usually stretching our finances.  Even the least of us likely has one car and air conditioning.

These and other aspects of life and faith have led us to a place where Jesus is simply one more piece of the puzzle of life.  He’s a part of what we do, but usually at the periphery. The sad thing is that many of us resemble the rich young ruler in many respects.  We check off the boxes, saying, “Yep, I’ve got that covered. Oh, that one, too.” And, “ I think I’m good to go with my faith.”

But, if pressed like that wealthy young man, how would we respond?  If Jesus came up to any of us on the street and said to follow Him, but, by the way, we have to live like the homeless, would we do it?

In the poor backwater nations that have so little, it’s not as much of a stretch for people there to give up possessions, since they don’t have any to speak of.  Their challenge in one respect is more difficult because it’s more personal. When a Muslim or a Hindu, or someone of almost any other faith, chooses to trust in Jesus, a lot more is at stake than nice clothing or a substantial bank account.  In those countries, their religion is part of their identity. To turn one’s back on Islam or Hinduism or even the worship of one’s ancestors is to insult their family and bring shame on them. Most of these are shame-based cultures, as opposed to our western, guilt-based culture.  The shame of one in the family extends to all. Thus, to turn one’s back on Muhammad, for instance, and to follow Jesus Christ is to bring immense shame to the entire family.

For being the cause of this shame, the person who brought it must have correction.  Often it’s severe pressure, such as being locked in a room for months. With many former Muslim Background Believers (MBB), it means they become the object of extreme verbal abuse or phyiscal torture.  In many instances it can mean a death sentence. This is often true regardless of the religion outside of Christianity.

Making the choice for Christ is a life-changing event in these areas of the world.  It’s so difficult and produces such angst that it sometimes takes months or years for people to step over the line and publicly declare their new faith.  In other words, it’s very costly to become a true Christian. MBBs and others coming to Christ realize the cost. Yet, they count it and declare it all joy.

People in this situation have taken the $100 challenge.  They realize the scarcity of their former way of life in the faith they practiced.  To follow Christ, they symbolically empty their wallets and let fly $100 or whatever amount they have.  They’ve decided to go “all in.”

How much are we willing to commit to truly live in Christ the way He has commanded us?  Are we holding tightly to this world and the things we have?  If so, we’re no different than that poor little rich boy. Jesus said in Matthew 19:23-24 to his disciples:

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Maybe it really is harder to give up our riches and our lifestyle than it is to face persecution.  Are we holding loosely to this life with our eyes on Christ and yearning for His soon return? Of course, we have a strong will to live, but as aliens in a strange land, are we just as happy whether we live to work for Jesus here or to go home to be with Him?

It makes a difference, because it defines whether we’re in this world or simply of the world.

Charles Spurgeon, in commenting on Philippians 4:12, where Paul says, I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound, wrote:

There are many who know “how to be abased,” but they have never learned “how to abound.”  When they reach the pinnacle of success they become dizzy and are ready to fall off. Christians disgrace their Lord far more in prosperity than in adversity.  It is dangerous to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is not as severe a trial as the gold pot of prosperity….When we are full and forget God, we become satisfied with earth and forget heaven. 

Perhaps, if we choose to take the $100 challenge of faith and truly trust Jesus completely, we would actually experience life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10), just like Minervini in his secular pursuit when he tossed his money to the wind.  Except, we’d have the real thing.

A Chance Encounter With a Sister in Christ

Away from our normal environs, my wife and I were walking on a Florida beach late in the afternoon when I spotted a younger asian lady sitting alone, reading what could only be a Bible.  I resolved on our way back that I would stop and talk with her.

When we returned some twenty minutes later, as my wife continued her quest to find pennies (and more) in the wave-washed sand, I approached the young lady, saying I noticed that she was reading the Bible.  We both confirmed we were believers, then she asked what church I attended. She wasn’t familiar with the Assemblies of God, which was curious given its worldwide size and scope.

I learned that Kathy [not her real name] was from a southeastern asian country and had been in the U.S. for several decades.  She was raised Roman Catholic in her home country, and that’s where the conversation took off. God brought Kathy out of Catholicism, but early on she became enamored with the Word of Faith movement that her sister was part of in a home church.

During this time, Kathy began reading the Bible and saw discrepancies with what the leaders in her little church proclaimed and that which the Word of God said.  Eventually, she left that church despite her sister continuing to believe its tenets.

During our discussion, we talked about the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) into which she (I believe rightly) lumped her Word of Faith church.  She was quite familiar with the declarations of its leaders that they are apostles and prophets, in contradiction to how Scripture portrays church leadership with pastors, elders, and deacons going forward into this Church age.  Likewise, Kathy commented on the NAR beliefs that they will Christianize the world so as to make the way for Jesus to return, and their thinking that they can literally direct God to heal at their command. The absurdity of these ideas is that not a single passage can be found that supports them, yet hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people follow NAR teachings around the world.

Yes, Jesus will return, soon, but not because of the works that NAR’s apostles and prophets, and all their followers, do.  It will be in God’s timing for the redemption of Israel, and because the world has reached the point of no return from its sin and depravity.  Likewise, if the NAR movement is so in line with God’s will, why don’t all these amazing men and women of God empty out the hospitals? If it’s God’s will for all of us to be healed, and these apostles and prophets are on the cutting edge of that, surely God would immensely bless their efforts to eradicate doctors, wouldn’t He?

We spoke briefly about Catholicism and the problems with its Jesus AND theology.  To be saved, you need Jesus and participation in so many masses.  You need Jesus and purgatory to cleanse you of all your sins.  Jesus dying on the cross didn’t finish the work of restoring us to God.  Grace through faith alone in Christ alone simply isn’t sufficient to reach heaven in the Catholic church.  Reading the Bible showed all this clearly to Kathy. In addition, we sadly agreed that the Catholic church is the most likely candidate for the dubious honor of the harlot who rides the beast in Revelation 17.

The other fun little aspect of my discussion with Kathy was that she’s a pre-Trib believer, because that’s what the Bible says!  We did a high-five on that and had a good laugh.

How often do you go somewhere and see a person reading God’s Word?  Not often these days. Can you blame me for my curiosity? And from that we had a discussion that encouraged both of us.  That’s worthy in itself with so much darkness closing in around us.

Finding someone reading the Bible may be a thousand (million?) to one shot.  There are certainly better odds coming across an unbeliever, but that a different story, and certainly a conversation poles apart from this one.  However, if that unique person reading the Bible does cross your path, I recommend that you engage them. Take that step. You might have a pleasant conversation with a brother or sister in Christ, and walk away with a sense of joy and peace.

Scoffers & Mockers Then & Now

Back in Ezekiel’s day, he faced much scoffing and mocking when he brought forth the Word of the Lord.  Despite being so faithful to God and being a conduit for many messages to the Israelites, their constant scorn of God’s prophetic Word had to weigh on Ezekiel.  To reassure him, God spoke extensively about those who chose to ignore Him and make light of the Word His prophet brought forth.  In Ezekiel 12:21-28, here is God’s declaration and warning:

And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’? Tell them therefore, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.’ But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision. For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. For I am the Lord; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord God.”

 And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.”

In these verses we hear God’s tone.  He’s angry at the people who don’t believe.  They’ve said that whatever God might have declared isn’t for today; that the prophecies might happen sometime in the future – maybe.  And God makes it clear: Enough!  He will perform His Word, and it will happen soon.

In reading this, it struck me how similar the situation was when Peter wrote his second epistle.  Compare the above with 2 Peter 3:1-7 where he says:

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

It’s said that history repeats itself, which seems relatively true.  In addition, events in the Bible often have near-term and long-term fulfillment, often described as a telescoping effect.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was for then.  Peter’s prophetic word was for then.  But both seem quite applicable to the situation we’re experiencing today.

Those of us who believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture continue to speak and warn: “Come to the Lord.  He is merciful and just.  Choose life through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We’re in the final days of the latter times.  Jesus’ Words in Matthew 24 and in Luke 17 and 21 are coming to pass.  The convergence of signs foretold makes the situation urgent.  Repent, and call on the Name of the Lord!”

But people ignore our pleas.  They scoff that all this was supposed to happen in the 70s, 80s, or 90s.  Since nothing occurred then, nothing will happen now.  It’s all a myth.

In promoting a book on Facebook of my collected essays and devotionals that I regularly post on my blog, many of which have appeared on Rapture Ready, I received less than complementary comments from a couple of individuals—just for the fact of having such a book.  One, who seemed to be an atheist, I had to ban from my page for esthetic reasons.  His Facebook page included many derogatory Christian references.  The other fellow, by the name of David, espoused some beliefs that capture well the attitude of mocking and scoffing in these last days.  David’s Facebook page says that he graduated with a religious education.

I had a little back and forth with David until it grew tiresome.  Below, I’m including his various comments—unedited—so you can see the aberrant so-called Christian thinking in the world that is full of mocking and scoffing.  So as not to make this essay too long, I’m not including my comments to him.  Suffice it to say that I tried unsuccessfully to point him to actual Bible truth.

David’s comments:

  • “the end times”. OMG indeed, God spare us from these cranky beliefs.
  • When the scribes accused Jesus for saying that he was the Son of God, he quoted Isaiah, where it is stated, “I have said, Ye are Gods, all of you.” His point was that OT Scripture itself records that all men and women are gods, or potential gods, meaning Sons and Daughters of God, a part of the One God just as he was and is.You are seeking an easy-peasy way out of life – just to “accept Jesus” and then you are supposedly “saved” by such an easy feat. And this is false theology.We are in fact all potential and will-be fully Sons and Daughters of God, Jesus having been a mortal man just as we are who grew by self-effort into the full Son he was. The true spiritual Path is that every individual has to, by full self-effort, become closer and closer to God in Wisdom, Love, and Unity until we are all that Jesus was.

    These are not “end times”, silly man. Do plan on a long and full life for yourself. And also plan on humanity existing for untold thousands of years to come. Which is why we need to indeed plan for future centuries and look after our planet today. Because we’re going to be here on it for a long time.

  • I choose the actual and real God, the ONE GOD Who actually lives in YOUR heart and gives you life, and is your real Identity, as that GOD is the real inner nature of each person. But you have not yet grown in spiritual discernment out of the old-fashioned, illogical and irrational theology which in fact Jesus never taught. Your spiritual future and progress depends upon you, yourself – not the “vicarious atonement” via a saviour. Jesus expects you to do it all, in every thought, word, and deed, and to achieve and accomplish your own deep and genuine spirituality. It is achieved step by step, bit by bit, by oneself, as every saint has proven.
  • Well, I hope and trust that you have a good and healthy life…. and when you get to about eighty, as people have had to do for almost untold centuries, you might finally realise that your theology of a “saviour” appearing in the clouds in a second coming is not going to happen. “For behold, the kingdom of God is within you”. It will always have been there, inside yourself, waiting for you to birth it and expand it.

According to David, we are gods and simply have to seek this self-realization.  There’s nothing special about Jesus, and He’s certainly not returning for His people in the Rapture.  For all of us who believe that, dream on!

Not only do we have so many who disbelieve God’s Word, but a large group who twist it to their own purposes.  Ezekiel experienced this, and in Ezekiel 13:3,6,8 God didn’t mince any words:

Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!

 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.

 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God.

But false prophets didn’t just plague the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day.  They’ve been with us ever since.  Look at Matthew 7:15-23 where Jesus said:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

God is against such devious men and women who claim to speak His Word.  Their fabricated utterings earn them a dark and terrifying end where God says that He never knew them, despite their supposedly speaking for Him.

The group today that most resembles this situation is the apostles and prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  They declare new revelation from God; they ensnare people who come to depend on them for a fresh word from Him.  In their schools, conferences, and massive rallies, they more than likely open demonic pathways with their teachings that, when examined, closely align with those of the occult.  When we look at how the NAR apostles and prophets operate, it’s through pride.  They seek power, control, and money.  Is it any wonder that Jesus wants nothing to do with them?

We live in an astonishing period right now where God’s Word is being fulfilled at a rapid pace.  The prophecies of God are happening right now before our very eyes.  More and more people are scoffing and mocking.  It’s the enemy’s way of trying to discourage God’s people so that they’ll back down.  Instead, we need to act more boldly.

Hebrews 12:12 encourages us to:

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

Now isn’t the time for retreat.  Let us occupy and be about the Lord’s work.  He is coming soon!

How Preterism Leads to NAR Thinking

Preterism is an eschatological position that believes all or most Bible prophecy was fulfilled by the end of the first century.  A couple of years ago some friends from our church spent a week at Bethel Church in Redding, CA, bought a book on partial-preterism from the Bethel bookstore, and recommended I read it since I’m into Bible prophecy and end-times events.  From the very first, I took copious notes in my reading and pretty much disagreed with everything the author conveyed.  I gave the book back to my friends, saying it wasn’t something I could swallow.

I haven’t done a whole lot with preterism since then, other than to generally link the preterist position with NAR, since Bethel is one of the leading proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation.  If Bethel is carrying a book on preterism, there’s a good likelihood they favor that position.

In my daily exercise time, I often watch teachings on YouTube.  One came up that I thought I’d try, as I had listened to something else this pastor preached on, and it was quite instructive.  This particular message was instructive as well, but in a much different way.

The pastor prefaced his church sermon with a message to the video audience.  One thing he mentioned was that he hoped people would go to a good reformed church.  Well, that raised my spiritual antennae.

Lately I’ve seen that there is often an affinity between reformed theology and the embracing of Calvinist thought that says everything is predestined and caused by God.  In this thinking, there is no free will.  Thus, all things that happen are the result of God’s sovereign will and declaration.  When this idea is examined and taken to its logical conclusion, this means that God has even caused evil in the world.  It completely discounts and negates free will.  Those who are saved are the elect and are able to be that way only through the sovereign hand of God.  Likewise, since there is no choice in Calvinism, people who aren’t saved are predetermined by God that they will go to hell.  Sorry, can’t swallow that one either.

So, my feelers were out in listening to this message.  Sure enough, as this pastor preached on Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse, he placed all events back in the time of Jesus.  It was in his speaking on verses 38-44 that his reasoning flummoxed me:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Now I guess there may be disagreement among pre-Tribulation believers as to whether the event, where men and women taken from the field or grinding, represents the Rapture or the final harvest by the angels at the end of the age (Matthew 13:39).  I tend to believe it’s the Rapture, since Jesus is comparing the incident to the time of Noah.  It’s sudden.  No one knows when it will occur.  That’s more representative of the Rapture to me than the final harvest, since that time will be generally known given everything else that’s happening in the Tribulation timeline.

But here’s the thing that got me in this pastor’s explanation.  First, he equates Jesus’ description of these taken away with the destruction that occurs during Noah’s time in the flood and with Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah.  So far, so good.  However, in this pastor’s view, the people killed are those snatched away.  In Noah’s instance, those destroyed by the flood were the ones taken.  According to this man’s thinking, Noah wasn’t delivered out of judgment in the ark, which pre-Tribbers would normally associate with the Rapture.

Similarly, with Lot we see in Luke 17:28-30:

Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

According to this pastor, Lot’s deliverance wasn’t a result of him being saved by the angels and delivered from annihilation.  His rationale was that the unbelievers in those cities were overcome with destruction, and thus snatched away.  What pre-Trib adherents see as Lot being kept from harm by a symbolic Rapture, is completely turned on its head.

In these examples, the ones saved were left behind to continue God’s work on the earth.  Now, that’s true as far as it goes; the problem is exactly that however, i.e. where it goes.  I believe it’s this thinking that leads to NAR anti-eschatological beliefs.

NAR is Dominionist, Kingdom Now thinking.  In this theology, there can be no imminent Rapture because Christians have much work to do on the earth.  We are to completely take back the culture by ascending to the top of its Seven Mountains:

1) Education
2) Religion
3) Family
4) Business
5) Government/Military
6) Arts/Entertainment
7) Media

Christians are to take back these seven sectors of society in order to transform and take dominion over the earth.  The kingdom of God will be realized now and only through the efforts of those following this belief.  Ultimately, the intent is to deliver a world to Jesus that wholly follows Him when He returns; in fact, He can’t return until we have accomplished this task.

(As an aside, this concept is similar to the Islamic eschatological position with the Twelfth Imam.  Shia Muslims believe they must create the chaotic conditions in the world in order for this salvific figure to emerge onto the world scene.  With the Christian Dominionist thinking, the opposite occurs.  The world must be won to peace for Jesus before He can return.  This mirror image contrast is intriguing.)

There cannot be a Rapture in this Christian NAR approach.  As a result, the earth is our home.  We are not strangers in this alien land, but residents who should want to remain in order to do the good work God has ordained for us.  Being left behind is good; it’s what we should aspire to since those snatched away are the evildoers.

(Here’s another aside: Consider the position outlined above by this pastor who doesn’t believe in the Rapture, who thinks that those snatched away are evil.  Once the Rapture occurs, what will be the prevailing explanation?  A prominent theory is that those left behind, i.e. the good guys, will declare that aliens took them for the benefit of the earth because of the harmonious distortions they caused.  Those pesky Rapture-believing Christians!  The virtuous aliens helped Mother Gaia in order to bring stability back to the planet.  Isn’t it amazing how all these aberrant ideas come together in the final days?)

There are a lot of connections in this story, even in my parenthetical rabbit-trails.  This was a comment left on YouTube attached to this particular teaching I watched:

“The whole story of the pre-tribulation rapture is a direct contradiction of the doctrines of grace!!!!!! It is an Arminian narrative!!!!”

The commenter obviously comes from a Calvinist viewpoint.  He’s agreeing with the teaching that comes from a reformed pastor.  Preterism is on display; clearly it is anti-pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching.  Now I don’t know that this equation always holds, but in this instance here it is: Reformed theology = Calvinism = Preterism.  In some cases, we also may add “= NAR.”  I guess you can do with this what you wish.

Out of all this comes another very interesting point.  In my listening to this pastor, I have no doubt that he loves the Lord and believes with all his heart that he is completely faithful to the Biblical text.  I’d like to think of myself as having that same love for God and His Word.  Yet, look at how what we believe is 180 degrees out of phase with each other.  I believe in free will (basically, the Arminian position) and a pre-Tribulation, pre-Millennial eschatology.  It points to the fact that anyone of us, despite our love of God, can interpret certain Scriptures differently and incorrectly.  I happen to believe it’s this pastor on YouTube in this instance who is wrong, but here’s the thing: Not a one of us living on the earth can possibly get all of God’s Word correct.  There are mysteries.  It’s why He is God, and we are not.  Although any of us may be absolutely convinced that we’ve been Bereans, searched the Scriptures, and thus interpreted the Word correctly, in one aspect or another, we’re going to misinterpret what God has conveyed.

It’s one more reason for us to look forward to being with Him very soon.  At that time, we’ll no longer see through a glass darkly.

Calvinism & Free Will in the Deuteronomy 32 Worldview

It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t have strong feelings about Calvinism.  Being a believer that the Bible clearly teaches we have free will, I thought Calvinism was off-base, but it was one of those subjects where I said, “Whatever…”  That has changed.

One person who recently contacted me regarding one of my essays also blogs and has similarly written a few articles on the same subjects.  It turns out that Heather had a full-blown run-in with Calvinism.  It happened when a new pastor came to her church and began subtly espousing Calvinist views, until he eventually came out as an ardent proponent.  During that time, Heather began searching the Scriptures and deeply studying the tenets of Calvinism, and from that began her blog called the Anti-Calvinist Rant (https://anticalvinistrant.blogspot.com/).  The partial end of the story is that Heather and her family, who had been at that church for twenty years, felt they had no other option except to leave because of the Calvinist doctrine she had come to see as completely un-Scriptural.

If you read her numerous blog entries on this subject, you’ll see that Heather is the expert, and I’m not.  Regardless, I think I have something to contribute to this issue.

The argument against Calvinist thinking can be summed up in the idea that Calvinism believes that all actions are caused by God and that no one can do anything unless God makes it happen.  It’s encapsulated in the free will versus predestination controversy.  Do we as human beings have the means to make the choice of salvation or is our destiny completely predetermined by God?  Are there the “elect” who will be saved and the “non-elect” whom God has destined for destruction?

The problem is that if Calvinism is true, why does the Bible state that God desires all to come to repentance?

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

1 Timothy 2:4

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Does the Lord mean all when he says all, or does this have a hidden implication that really means only the elect?  To me and many others, this is a fatal flaw in Calvinist thinking as it certainly appears to contradict what the Lord has plainly stated.

In this Calvinist viewpoint, God ultimately has made and caused not only good, but also evil.  If none have free will, then they cannot be responsible for their actions; thus God caused them to sin in rebellion against Him and live in disobedience.  Man, therefore, is not a free-willed entity but simply a puppet of God who will eventually do what He has ordained, whether for good or evil.  Apparently, to paraphrase what the Calvinists’ say, “Like it or lump it.”  You can accept it, be angry about it, or simply ignore this basic truth.  How about we reject it as un-Biblical?

What got me thinking about this was one of my frequent reflections on what is known as the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.  In brief, this concept brings together a number of mostly overlooked Scriptures, that when put together and placed in context help us to better understand the world around us through a Biblical lens.

In summary: Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden (Genesis 3).  Depravity was heaped upon mankind when the sons of God came to earth and procreated with human woman causing great anguish to God and the resulting flood from His judgment (Genesis 6).  Mankind rebelled against God on the plains of Shinar in the Tower of Babel incident (Genesis 11).  God got so fed up with mankind’s rebellion that He temporarily divorced them.  He set His divine sons over the nations of the earth after He had scattered the disobedient humans throughout the world and confused their language.  It was at this time that God also chose Israel as His inheritance.  (Deuteronomy 32:8-9).  In fact, in the very next chapter after Babel, God calls Abraham (Genesis 12).  God’s divine sons make their assignment all about themselves.  Rather than point man to God as they were instructed to do, they became the gods of these nations over which they’d been placed.  That royally ticks off God.  He judges them so severely that these spiritual beings will have an unheard-of fate: they will die like mere men (Psalm 82).

Jesus is the answer to all these problems.  His coming ultimately eliminates sin because of His death on the cross.  His resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit deals with man’s depravity.  As we are saved, the Holy Spirit lives within us, and we have God helping us to live and reject depraved—reprobate—thinking and actions.  As Bible prophecy plays out, believers will be Raptured, unbelieving mankind will be judged, Israel will turn to the true Messiah, and ultimately Jesus will reclaim the nations from the usurpers.  It’s a great story and a wonderful truth.

So, where does Calvinism fit into all this?

If you believe that God causes every action and that man really doesn’t have free will, what do you do with the sons of God?  He created them before the beginning of this world.  We know that from Job 38:4-7 where God said to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

    Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

    Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

    or who laid its cornerstone,

when the morning stars sang together

    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

These divine sons were around at the very beginning in the Garden.  What was the serpent, Satan, if not one of God’s spiritual creations?

Did God cause the serpent to entice Adam and Eve to sin?  If you believe in Calvinism, that’s the only logical conclusion.

Subsequently, when God placed His sons over the nations as His stewards and they rebelled, was their disobedience pre-ordained by Him?  In other words, did God’s spiritual creation, His sons in the heavenlies, have free will or not?  If they did and mankind didn’t, why would God do that?  Why make part of His creation able to choose and thus to rebel, and another part be predestined to one result or another, i.e. to be saved and become a child of God, or be unable to be saved and destined from the beginning by God’s choice to suffer His wrath?

If the Calvinist answer, “That’s what God did and you have to accept it” makes sense to you in this scenario, well…all I can say is that it surely seems inconsistent to me and out of the character of God.  More than that, this approach certainly appears to contradict Scripture.

And isn’t that what this is all about?  What does the Bible actually say?  What does God want?  If He loves us, which is clear throughout the Bible, then why in the world would He create a portion of mankind and, from the inception, decree they would be relegated to the Lake of Fire despite declaring otherwise?  What kind of sense does that make?  What kind of God does that make Him?  If we know anything about God, it’s that He is not senseless and wanton in His love and desire for man to be part of His family.

He has a plan and a purpose.  Throughout the Bible, He uses family language.  We are His children.  We are heirs.  We are His sons and daughters.  Exactly like the language used for His divine family (e.g. sons of God).  Eventually we will be joined to continue the work of God.  He wants all of us to be a part of that.  He wants none to perish.  Calvinism’s foolishness is on display when we see God’s true intent.

We are family.  God would never cause any of us harm in any way.  All who choose to do so can be part of the elect and part of His glorious plans.

America’s Fate: A Mashup of Ideas – Part 4 of 4

The final essay of this 4-part series attempts to bring together the ideas presented in the first three parts.  The elements in the mashup about America’s fate come from the books The Fourth Turning, The Unseen Realm, and This Present Darkness.  They derive from secular, Biblical non-fiction, and Christian fiction concepts.  Is it any wonder I call this a mashup?  Hopefully, from all this, however, we can bring a sense of cohesion and, if nothing else, an interesting hypothetical view of the fate of America in these latter days.

Under the speculative assumption that the majority of the notions presented in these three sources are generally true, what do we have?

Through the cyclical fates of history that demonstrate a repetitive pattern, America has entered a period characterized by great disruption.  Unrest and chaos are affecting our nation in unprecedented ways.  It’s not simply from one spot that this trouble arises, but from every conceivable aspect of our society.  These woes are gathering momentum.  From multiple perspectives we think we’ve reached a new low, but the bottom seems capable of dropping further.  Eventually the butterfly will flap its wings in some remote corner of the world.  This will trigger a critical reaction that impacts every single one of these cultural ingredients.  The ultimate crisis climax will be unprecedented.

God has ordained a ruling hierarchy throughout the earth.  His original intention was for His divine sons that He placed over the nations to point Gentiles, i.e. non-Jews, to Him.  That didn’t work out so well.  Even though He knew the outcome, maybe He still held out hope that some of these rebellious entities would come to their senses.  No, probably not.  It seems that once any beings, whether spiritual or human, in their free will choose to turn from the Source of Truth, a downward spiral causes them to grow more hardened against God and resistant to His love.

In the case of the sons of God, they seemingly all drank Satan’s Kool-Aid and ruled unjustly.  God has already judged them; however, He hasn’t yet implemented their punishment.  They remain in their positions of power over the nations thinking that in their cumulative, delusional might they can successfully defeat God.

The divine son over America is the one in question.  Where does he stand?  He certainly was faithful in the beginning.  Our nation’s history reflects this fact in the way that we generally acted as a people and how the blessings of God were showered upon us.  But that’s changed.  The major shift appears to have occurred in the 1960s.  Why?  Interestingly, when we refer back to The Fourth Turning concepts, that era was the Second Turning, and one characterized by an awakening of consciousness, a period of questioning authority, anti-institutionalism, and increasing turbulence.  It’s almost as if the rebellious minions go through their own cycles; this was theirs when they woke up.  And maybe that’s not so far from the truth.  If we look at the cycles in the Book of Judges, we get something like the four turnings of history.  Again, from that secular view, those turnings are: High – Awakening – Unraveling – Crisis.  In Judges we see: God’s deliverance resulting in: Reverence and adoration toward Him (High) – Peace in the Land, where conditions are so good that God is forgotten and other gods become known (Awakening) – Israel does evil as they pursue other gods (Unraveling) – God punishes Israel (Crisis).  In the Biblical narrative, God raises up a savior who delivers Israel and the cycle begins again.  It’s not necessarily a perfect match, but it’s close.

Why in Israel did the people turn away?  Why in America have people turned away?  What causes the hot and cold conditions of peoples’ hearts?  How is that related to the gods, other than God, that people follow?

It may be that a willing heart, obedience, and prayer are keys.  When the people of God increase and, as true disciples of Jesus Christ do as the Lord commands, He rains down His favor in blessings, whether material or spiritual.  Since God inevitably has a remnant in place, it may be that as it rises up in prayer and more people come to the Lord, the powers and authorities in high places are impacted.  Maybe the son of God over America has always been loyal to Him, but based on how the human population under his guidance reacts, it determines his strength.  It could be that the ebb and flow, the highs and lows of faith in this nation and loyalty to God are intertwined with the divine son spiritually in place over America.  There may be a symbiotic relationship of sorts between the people of God and this ruling entity who reports to his Father.

If we envision how the dark forces in the fictional town of Ashton were able to increase in might, it was because so few of the townspeople truly served God.  Only as the prayerful remnant woke up were the heavenly host able to rise in numbers and grow in their ability to fight the darkness.  The parallel to Judges and to our nation past and future may indicate that something like this has regularly occurred.

In the Judges paradigm in our parallels with Israel, and in considering that we’re in the heart of the Fourth Turning, this means that America is on the cusp of major judgment from God.  His divine ruling son over America has either weakened significantly or has turned away from God.  The praying people in our nation have dwindled as the church has fallen into apostasy and is seeking other gods, while God haters are increasing exponentially.  The dark cloud over us is growing in intensity every day.  Something has to happen, and it will.

God has it planned out.  He’s got the big picture in view.  Fortunately, followers of Jesus Christ who know the Word of God also know the end of the story.  At this juncture with all this mashup of ideas coalescing, a BIG event is on the horizon.  Many of us believe it’ll be the Rapture.  That’ll be the triggering event, the butterfly flapping its wings.  As a result, all the cultural and societal ingredients that are currently held in stasis by God’s gracious hand will collapse.

We who believe in Jesus will be removed, and God’s wrath will be poured out in the last great crisis of the Fourth Turning through the inevitable, final spiritual battle, as God’s rebellious sons make their last gasp effort to remain relevant.  Neither they nor the dragon, Satan himself, will succeed.  As America is dragged under by this conflagration of epic proportions in the Tribulation, God will have His way.  His plans and purposes will come to fruition.

The rebellious divine sons will receive their judgment, as will their ringleader.  All of humanity that has chosen to follow the ways of self and that worships these other gods will likewise suffer an unimaginable fate.  America, if it emerges in some form after the Tribulation, will look a lot different than it does today.  In the Millennium it’ll be a nation comprised of those who love the Lord, as will all countries on earth at that immediate time.

Even better, we as Raptured believers will have glorified bodies and will join with Christ to rule with Him over the nations.  What a world that will be!

America’s Fate: A Mashup of Ideas – Part 3 of 4

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series of essays titled America’s Fate: A Mashup of Ideas, we started bringing together some very disparate sources and ideas to try to understand how our country has gotten to the place in history that it currently stands.  We briefly discussed the secular book by Strauss and Howe called The Fourth Turning, which examines the various cyclical eras in history, and we came back to a favorite concept of mine explored by Dr. Michael Heiser in The Unseen Realm.  This book brings us a supernatural Biblical worldview and explains how the nations of the earth turned away from the One true God, how Israel became His Chosen People, and what the implications for this dynamic are as we move forward to the end of the age.  As an aside, The Unseen Realm also coherently shows how Jesus fixes everything!

In this article, Part 3 of our series, we want to add one more element into the mix by considering the fictional representation of the battles that occur in the spiritual realm based on Frank Peretti’s novel This Present Darkness.  This story presents spiritual warfare in a way that had not been done previously.  C.S. Lewis gave us a taste of this in The Screwtape Letters, but the dramatic element that Peretti brings fuels the imagination to a greater extent.

This Present Darkness personalizes the dark forces arrayed against humanity and gives us a visual representation of what could be occurring in the spiritual realm as they gather, scheme, and fight.  The book also illustrates what could be happening on the side of angels—literally.  What is it that God has set in motion and that He requires of His human family as His enemies attempt to thwart all that He has planned?  What are the means by which we as God’s people push back against the darkness and bring about the blessings of God?  When mankind neglects God and turns its own way, what is the inevitable result?  Yet, how is it that God always has a way mapped through the darkness that light may shine?

The simple answer is that God desires a people who revere Him, who seek Him, who are a praying people that want to be obedient to Him.  When man goes his own way, desires to glorify himself, and/or pursues other gods, the One true God of the Bible patiently puts up with that for a while, but eventually tires of it.  He essentially says, “Fine, you don’t want to love, worship, and obey Me?  Have it your way.”  Just as we see throughout the Old Testament with His Chosen People Israel, God let them self-destruct until He couldn’t stand it anymore, then He came to the rescue.  Because He loves us so much, the same generally holds true for us in the church in our nation.

In the midst of this there is always a remnant who are faithful to God through His Son Jesus Christ.  Sometimes it’s the prayers of one person that move Him.  Regardless how many are part of this faithful few, God eventually responds.  No doubt, just like in This Present Darkness, He’s got the warriors of His heavenly host poised for battle.  At the right moment, they can attack bringing light to the darkness.

The question is: How does that right moment occur?  Frank Peretti suggests that it results from the prayers of the saints.  Assuming that God has not decided to allow a complete overthrow of a nation, or even a city like Ashton in Peretti’s book, then there may be a triggering element that causes God’s divine army to act.  Maybe the prayers of the saints take a while to build.  Maybe more people need to focus their prayers in spiritual warfare as they wake up to the danger around them.

In the case of America as a parallel to this idea, perhaps as we have slipped further from God, He has withdrawn the protective shield of His angels, maybe even of the divine son ruling over our nation.  Seeing this, the enemy takes advantage and moves in.  Without prayer, there is no defensive force against the ramparts built up against those in God’s figurative city.  Is that what has happened in our nation?  The good angels are still here but this territory has been seized?  Given how God often operates, perhaps the only remedy to take back what the enemy has taken is prayer.  Failing that, the forces of darkness can’t and won’t yield.  This would also assume we haven’t fallen to the point of no return from God’s perspective, which is entirely possible now or very soon.

God obviously has the entire situation in complete view.  He sees the end from the beginning and how it all plays out, i.e. which He allows.  The war has already been won.  We know that Jesus Christ is victorious, and those who follow Him are on the winning side.  However, many battles getting to that point are still to be fought.

Using the concepts presented in this series of essays, how do they all coalesce in our speculations about America and these end times?  In Part 4, we’ll conclude this mashup of ideas and attempt to bring them all together so as to put the final brush strokes on the canvas in this connect the dots picture.  Hopefully, we’ll come up with a reasonable painting worthy of framing that presents where America stands in these dark times.

America’s Fate: A Mashup of Ideas – Part 2 of 4

In Part 1 of these essays, we considered the book The Fourth Turning, a secular work that examines the cyclical periods of history, thus providing a framework for projecting the next era that America faces.  From every indication, based on this worldview, we have entered that period known as the Fourth Turning, one characterized by great chaos and confusion that leads to an unexpected climax of volcanic proportions.

Here in Part 2 of this mashup of ideas in which we examine America’s future, I want to bring The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael S. Heiser into the picture.  In previous articles on this website, I’ve referenced this book, loving it because it introduced me to a completely different understanding of God’s supernatural work in the world and what He intends for us (His family!) beyond what we currently know and experience in this world.

The Unseen Realm in large measure discusses the implications of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Psalm 82.  The passage in Deuteronomy outlines how God placed His divine sons over the nations of the earth after He scattered humanity in the Tower of Babel incident (Genesis 11).  Resulting from that, He chose Israel as His special people—His inheritance.

Unfortunately, a sin nature is not confined to humans.  God gave free will to His heavenly host, the multitude of divine beings that are considered the sons of God.  We know about Satan, one of God’s sons, and his rebellion that first shows up in the garden with Adam and Eve.  What we typically don’t consider is Satan’s cohort, his divine brothers, i.e. those who likewise rebelled against the sovereign rule of God.

Psalm 82 provides a picture of the disobedience of those who served in God’s divine council and decided to go their own way.  These divine sons were the ones we see in Deuteronomy placed over the nations to rule according to the way of God.  Instead, they became gods in their own eyes and ruled unjustly far from how the One true God intended.  The psalm condemns them for their wickedness and decrees their eternal fate: they will die like mere men.

As a reminder, we see this dynamic in action when the angel Gabriel came to Daniel in response to his prayers, but was delayed for twenty-one days by the Prince of Persia.  Michael, the Prince of Israel, had to help him break through whatever barriers this powerful, rebellious prince had erected.  Gabriel also noted that the Prince of Greece would likewise fight against them alongside the Persian prince. (Daniel 10)

From this I have an observation and a question.  It appears from these Old Testament chronicles that most of God’s divine sons placed over the nations of the earth, except for Michael in Israel, became rebellious.  It’s not a stretch to assume that this situation repeated itself through the years as more nations emerged and the known world became larger.  Maybe God placed each of these sons territorially around the world in preparation for future nations.  All we have to do is look at the nations comprising the earth to see the negative influence of these anti-God beings.  From this I ask: What’s up with the United States?

America has been a special country since our inception, and there’s little doubt that God has blessed us immensely.  We’ve had many people who loved and served God.  We’ve generally blessed Israel and not cursed her—that’s huge!  He in turn has been gracious to us.  Looking at this through the spiritual lens of Deuteronomy 32, we must have had a divine son of God placed over us who was faithful to Him.  This son would have shepherded us in such a way that we predominantly followed God and didn’t turn from Him in the way of other nations errantly guided by disobedient sons.  God’s hand was upon this country.  His grace and favor have been greater to us than with any other nation of the earth besides Israel.  Yet…

We’ve had our ups and downs, our spiritual fervor and lack of it, times of outright blessing and difficult, challenging periods when people doubtless wondered if God was still with us.  In this context of spiritual overseers directing the course of every nation on the earth, how does all this fit?  Why have some times in America’s history been better than others?  What is it that influences the favor of God shining upon us versus some of the dark periods we’ve experienced?

The one thing that’s been a hallmark of this nation is our overall economic prosperity and our resiliency when threatened.  Part of that has been our melting pot characteristic where all who came to our shores wanted to participate in the American Dream.  That is perhaps the greatest change in our cultural makeup.  Immigrants come here for the dream, but too many of them now want to tear it down, right alongside those who have always been here but have been taught disillusionment by those who hate.  What do they hate?  Themselves, others, this nation, God.

This has led us to a place where it may very well be that God has removed His hand of blessing from us.  We have followed in the footsteps of Israel with idolatry and apostasy.  Scripture shows us definitively what happens when a nation goes too far down that path.  We’re there.  We’re on the brink of utter destruction even as Israel experienced it because of our wholesale turning from God.

Whereas before, we could call ourselves a Christian nation, I don’t think we can do that anymore.  When followers of Wicca outnumber Presbyterians, admittedly a mainstream church that has strayed far from Biblical doctrine; when the number of Nones, i.e. those who profess to follow no religion, is rising exponentially; and when occult / New Age is completely infiltrating the church, then you can bet God is going to bring His judgment down upon us, just like with his unfaithful wife, Israel.  His patience with this kind of nonsense isn’t unlimited.

The question goes back to how this works from the Deuteronomy 32 paradigm.  Is the “god” that God originally placed over our nation now lukewarm, which means that we as a people are that way?  Has this ruling son been compromised in his ruling court by rebellious insiders?  This would be akin to the Deep State infiltration into the Trump Administration.  Has this ruling son turned completely in the way of his brothers with only the prayers of the remnant church keeping complete lawlessness at bay?  Or is it some combination of all these ideas, and God is simply staying the coming destruction to the frustration of those rebellious beings that want us to turn fully from Him?

Questioning the goings-on in the supernatural realm is, admittedly, an exercise similar to looking in a mirror and thinking that we can see through it to discern what’s happening in another part of the world.  However, the unseen realm is real.  God put it into play when He placed His sons as rulers over the nations.  There is an immense spiritual battle.

In Part 3 of this exercise, we’ll see if we can dive a little deeper by examining this spiritual situation from the perspective of Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.

America’s Fate: A Mashup of Ideas – Part 1 of 4

It’s an interesting exercise to connect dots.  Those dots may come from completely different places.  They may come from secular sources as well as from religious origins.  In fact, some may come from a non-fictional wellspring while others, surprisingly, may be birthed in the realm of fiction.  All this to say that the shape we see forming may arise from a mashup of concepts and ideas taken from anywhere, yet work to form something cohesive in the greater scheme of things.  (God works in the midst of all things to accomplish His purposes.). As you’ve probably deduced by now, that’s how this series of essays is going to look.  And you’ll have to decide if the crazy thoughts put forth here make the kind of sense that I think they may.

In 1997 William Strauss and Neil Howe, secular writers in the political, economic, and historical marketplaces, wrote The Fourth Turning – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Rendezvous with Destiny.  In the book, the authors describe their research that shows the historical cycles our nation has gone through for centuries.  They make the case that each cycle typically has four aspects to it and reflects back to the ancient Roman understanding which calls each four-period era a saeculum.  The saeculum arose from the concept of “a long human life” or “a natural century” because the four seasons combined would generally total about one hundred years.

As you might imagine from the book’s title, each of these seasons comprising the saeculum is known as a Turning.  Through history, each turning has certain characteristics that similarly repeat on the next go-around.  The thought reminds me of the only thing I remember from attending Sunday school as a child.  The teacher told us that history repeats itself.  Now what that had to do with Jesus and Christianity leaves me wondering, but the idea nonetheless stayed with me as the single thought I retained from those Sunday mornings.

Space and time don’t allow me to dive too deeply into this, but as the book describes, each turning had a specific characteristic that repeated every eighty to one hundred years.  “The First Turning is a High…The Second Turning is an Awakening…The Third Turning is an Unraveling…The Fourth Turning is a Crisis.”  Again, from the book’s title, you’ll likely deduce that the Fourth Turning is of greatest interest right now, because it reflects where America is historically in this worldview.  The authors have much to say about this.  In a nutshell, the Crisis, Fourth Turning is a season of great disruption with social, economic, political, and every other kind of chaos one could use to describe an era as unsettling as this one is.  As an aside, within each turning different generational characteristic also arise so that the people populating each season have an archetypal role to play.

After describing the turnings in much detail and bringing us to the conclusion that—when the book was written in 1997—America was on the cusp of entering the Fourth Turning, the authors included a chapter called A Fourth Turning Prophecy.  In this section they describe what they saw could occur in this nation during this time.  Of course, the Bible is our ultimate and inerrant guide to prophecy.  Even so, I think God may give even secular people certain insights into future events.

Every turning has a defining moment that propels it into the next one.  Straus and Howe projected that this next turning would occur early in the 2000s, that a “Crisis catalyst” would push us there.  One of their crisis scenarios was: “A global terrorist group blows up an aircraft and announces it possesses nuclear weapons.  The United States and its allies launch a preemptive strike.”  To my thinking, that’s correlates to an extent with the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center and its aftermath.  In reality, didn’t this crisis change everything?  It’s my contention that within the context of Fourth Turning thinking, America entered this chaotic period at that very moment.

Events during this Fourth Turning period take time to form and swell into the unexpected.  Every aspect of society moves toward a climax situation that could take twenty-five years to develop.  How it shakes out is completely unknown.  Reaching this climax, however, may very well include many of the following ingredients:

Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)

 Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by communities

 Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship

 Technological distress, with cryptoanarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenic chaos

 Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases

 Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders

 Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction  [p. 376]

… The very survival of society will feel at stake…

 … Decisive events will occur—events so vast, powerful, and unique that they lie beyond today’s wildest hypotheses.

 … Thus will Americans reenact the great ancient myth of the ekpyrosis.  Thus will we achieve our next rendezvous with destiny.  [p. 377]

Note: ekpyrosis is defined as follows in www.definitions.net: “Ekpyrosis is a Stoic belief in the periodic destruction of the cosmos every Great Year.  The cosmos is then recreated only to be destroyed again at the end of the new cycle.”

How accurate are the authors in their Fourth Turning prediction from their vantage point in 1997?  What is currently happening now that we’ve turned the corner into this historic era?  Taking a quick look at the above ingredients pointing toward climax, here’s a little of what we see:

Economic distress – I wrote about this in my blog/ Rapture Ready post titled: Prophecy Update: America’s Financial Doom https://www.raptureready.com/2019/11/24/prophecy-update-americas-financial-doom-gary-ritter/.  Debt hovers at unprecedented levels.  Prosperity appears to be the order of the day, but it’s teetering on a very fine edge that God is holding up until the time only He knows.  At that point, financial markets, overwhelmed with debt burdens, will crash with great disruption around the world.

Social distress – Racism is charged at every turn.  To many, simply being white is an indictment against the character of a person.  Many cities have been plagued by violence through gangs such as MS-13 and Antifa.  In Virginia, because of the threat by liberal politicians to take away Second Amendment gun rights, citizens are banding together and some counties are declaring themselves as Sanctuary Counties to protect these rights.

Cultural distress – Not much has to be said about the mainstream media.  Its bias has become legendary against conservatives and Christians.  The #MeToo movement has seemingly come against male patriarchy among Hollywood elites and the political classes.

Technological distress – No one’s online accounts are safe with the prevalence of hackers and identity theft.  We receive regular updates about the dangers of CRISPR genetic engineering that modifies human embryos.  People are willingly turning themselves into cyborgs, i.e. “being[s] with both organic and biomechatronic body parts.” (Wikipedia). Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great promise but significant risk for humanity.

Ecological distress – New diseases are regularly reported.  Many diseases are reappearing that were once eradicated in this country, e.g. typhus in California.  High intensity 6.3 or greater earthquakes have increased exponentially with massive earthquake swarms so common around the world as to almost be ignored.

Political distress – Not much need be said about the political climate in this country.  Partisanship, completely unfounded lies, attempts to thwart the Constitution and political schemes to unseat a duly elected president because some people simply don’t like him are overwhelming many of us.

Military distress – North Korea continues to threaten with its unstable leader Kim Jung Un.  China has made inroads throughout the world to gain prominence, power, and control.  The Ezekiel 38 coalition of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, all quartered in Syria ready to pounce on Israel at the appropriate God-appointed time, holds the attention of the world.

Remembering that all these pieces come from a secular perspective, it nonetheless fascinates me how accurate they are as I view the predictions through a Biblical, prophetic lens.

Having set the stage, in Part 2 of this essay series, we’ll bring in another aspect of the mashup: the spiritual side as represented by Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm.

Abraham, Melchizedek, & Righteousness

We don’t hear a lot about righteousness these days, but it’s one of the keys to our relationship with the Lord.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines righteousness as “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin.”  Our moral law comes from God, so if we act in accordance with that, we experience freedom.  In our fallen state, however, it’s an impossible task for us to live and walk in such a way that we have freedom from guilt or sin in and of ourselves.

Even in the Old Testament we see that righteousness came through someone else.  In Genesis 14 Abram’s (Abraham) nephew Lot was taken by hostile forces.  When Abram learned of this, he took those loyal to him and rescued Lot against overwhelming odds.  Upon his returning victorious with all the goods he’d captured, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, came out to bless Abram.

Through this blessing, Abram in return gave Melchizedek a tithe of ten percent of all that he’d gained.  Why would he do this, i.e. giving so much of the spoils of war to a man he may not even have known?

Melchizedek was both a priest and a king.  Most importantly, he served as priest of God Most High.  Melchizedek was a Canaanite, yet he served the One true God just like Abram.  Because of how Hebrews 7:3 describes Melchizedek, many people believe that he was a divine being, perhaps the incarnate Christ:

He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

In actuality, there’s no Biblical evidence to support this idea besides the language in Hebrews.  This notion arose in the Intertestamental, or Second Temple, period, but Old Testament Scripture doesn’t give any indication of divinity.  More than likely, he was simply a human foreshadowing of Jesus Christ.

Here’s where it gets interesting because of the connecting words and meanings in the Hebrew.  One of the meanings of Melchizedek’s name is “My King is Righteous.”  The king that Melchizedek served was God, i.e. Yahweh.  Another name for God is Jehovah-Tsidkenu.  Tsidkenu derives from the last part of Melchizedek’s name, i.e. tsedek (tsedeq).  Tsedek according to Strong’s #6664 means righteousness.  Jehovah-Tsidkenu means “The Lord our Righteousness.”

Abram knew that God is just and righteous and that Yahweh gave Abram this astounding victory.  As a result, Abram gave the tithe to Melchizedek who served God Most High so as to bless God in return for His blessings on Abram’s endeavors.  Although this event occurred prior to the time when Abram would be tested as to whether he would sacrifice his own son Isaac for the sake of obedience to the Lord, it was one of many times in his life that Abram proved faithful and demonstrated where his heart lay.  It rested with God.  This act of sacrifice—and that’s what it was, i.e. the giving of a portion of the spoils of war—showed Abram’s heart and his faith in God.  Through this Old Testament example, we see Abram believing that the God he served could grant him righteousness.  It wasn’t through his own efforts, but through the One to whom he looked for his salvation.

In these New Testament times, in a way, it’s simpler for us.  When we believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient to remove all of our sins and we become new creations in Christ, it’s His cloak of righteous that we wear.  Just like with Abram who knew he couldn’t be righteous unto himself, neither are we.  But as believers in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, we are righteous even as He is righteous.

When we gain something, be it a paycheck, a financial windfall, or a blessing of some other kind, and from that we give a tithe of what we’ve received, and we do it with a heart of gratitude to the Provider of all things, that act is one that blesses God.  We’re not under an obligation to sacrifice or give, but God certainly smiles upon a willing heart that looks upon the Lord and wants to please Him.

Jehovah-Jireh is truly “The Lord our Provider.”  He is the source of all blessings: all that we have in this life.  When we give back to Him through our tithes and offerings, we’re simply thanking Him in return for His gifts to us.

In these last days, Jesus asked whether He would find faith on the earth when He returns.  I think one way that we can inoculate ourselves against the falseness and lawlessness of this age is to bless God with everything we have—even our very lives.  In doing this, we remain under the protective umbrella of God’s grace and actually strengthen our faith as a result.  His righteousness reigns and draws us nearer to Him.