Posted in End Times/Revelation

Living With Death

Phil Congdon, NBBC, November 1, 2017

Hardly a day goes by, it seems, but that another senseless killing is in the news. The mass shooting in Las Vegas is seared in our memories because of hundreds of videos, and the number of casualties, but I keep wondering if this is ever going to end. It’s the same all over the world – worse in many places than here. Trucks driving into crowds, bombs going off in churches or mosques or police stations or restaurants, knife attacks on city streets, shootings in nightclubs or on college campuses. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, reflecting on news of another murder, said “Death is always with us.” But on this scale?!

Since the turn of the century, we’ve been engaged in military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the years of those conflicts, almost seven thousand American soldiers were killed. Although no one knows for sure, the number of civilian deaths in those two countries is estimated at well over 200,000. That number continues to rise, with internal fighting and terrorism still rife throughout the region.

I’m old enough to remember the Viet Nam War; I vaguely remember reports of American casualties in those dark days. Over 58,000 U.S. military personnel gave their lives in a war that, in the end, resulted in more killing – the communist Viet Cong murdered tens of thousands of South Vietnamese citizens after we pulled out.

When we factor in genocides (Nazi, Japan, Rwanda, Sudan, etc.) and mass murders of citizens by their own governments (Soviet Union, China, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, and North Korea today), the number of human beings senselessly put to death staggers the mind – tens of millions.

Now consider this: In America, since the Supreme Court legalized abortion, over 50 million babies have been killed. According to the World Health Organization, there are about 125,000 abortions worldwide every day – that’s 40-50 million killed every year. These casualties don’t make the evening news; no videos record the carnage. They may be ‘out of sight and out of mind’ – but they’re happening. We’re surrounded by death.

These paragraphs have been hard for me to write. They aren’t easy to read. Frankly, we’d rather not be forced to look at death. In particular, we cringe when death is the result of evil – at the hands of megalomaniacal tyrants or deranged sadists or greedy abortionists – something inside us screams for it all to end. Those who believe in God cry out for justice; those who don’t believe in God blame Him for doing nothing (figure that out!). But is there a value in us coming face-to-face with the reality of death?

As World War II was just beginning to ravage countries around the globe, C.S. Lewis preached a sermon in Oxford that he entitled “Learning in Wartime.” The writing was on the wall, so-to-speak; war was coming, and with it, the specter of many deaths. In that setting, Lewis said this:

War does something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why cancer at 60 or the paralysis at 75 does not bother us is that we forget them. War makes death real to us: And that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right. All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it.

 Now the stupidest of us knows. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.

I don’t know if war is on the horizon. I hope not, but if it did erupt, would it really shock any of us? Violent Islamic regimes are spreading their influence, especially in Africa. North Korea is led by an unpredictable (some would say unhinged) dictator who has been a god to his enslaved subjects since he was born. Middle eastern countries have their weapons trained on Israel. If war comes, it will force us to face death. Whether or not it does, death is always with us.

But there is a ‘silver lining’ to this ‘dark cloud’ of death – a ‘value’ in recognizing the sea of evil in which we live (1 John 5.19). It is the reminder that This world is not my home, I’m just a-pass’in through… The Apostle Paul said much the same thing this way:

But you, brethren, are not in darkness…for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness. (1 Thess. 5.4-5)

We are not as those who have no hope – not because we ignore death or pretend it doesn’t matter, but because we know we have been given victory over it. Again, Paul writes (1 Cor. 15.55-57):

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep your eyes on the Light of the World, and reflect the light of His life to those who are still walking in darkness.

Posted in End Times/Revelation, Social

Are these the ‘Last Days’ – and if so, what can we do about it?

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, May 14, 2016

Some sections of Scripture reveal more about our world today – the ‘end times’ – than others. While many of the Old Testament prophetic books contain apocalyptic glimpses, sections of Daniel (especially chapters 7-12), Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and, of course, the Book of Revelation provide a more compelling view of things to come.

Are we living in the ‘last days’? I can answer that. Jesus said,

“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 142b-3)

After His ascension, the angels affirmed that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” This signaled the beginning of the end. Paul wrote the Corinthian Christian in the first century A.D. that they were living in “the ends of the ages.” But Scripture also contains clues as to when the ‘end of the ends of the ages’ will be upon us. I believe it is.

Living Last DaysAt the end of his amazing prophetic book, Daniel was instructed to “keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when m
any will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase” (Dan. 12.4). That is, in the last days, people will investigate biblical prophecies, and knowledge will increase. We see this today – indeed, we see many of the signs of the end apparently occurring before our eyes!

Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 24 provide us with further clues. In this chapter, Jesus says there will be false religious leaders (5, 11), wars and rumors of wars (6), famines and earthquakes (7), and widespread persecution of Christians (9-10). I submit to you that this couldn’t be a more precise description of our day.

Skeptics will scoff, “There have always been false religious leaders, wars, earthquakes, and Christians have been persecuted since the first century!” They want us to forget about the end times. Ironically, in the first century, Peter revealed that the presence of such skeptics was itself a sign of the last days!

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3.3-4)

But something else Jesus said in Matthew 24 tells me that we are living in the ‘last days’: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (v12). The Greek word translated “lawlessness” (anomia) is the opposite of righteousness. It refers to all that is sinful and opposed to God. Jesus did not say lawlessness would appear for the first time in the last days, but that it would be increased.

We are living in a day of unprecedented increase in willful opposition to God. With breathtaking rapidity, we have watched as godless politicians, judges, and other ‘social elites’ have first allowed, then endorsed, and now enforced open rebellion to God. We are watching as our world invites the wrath of God (see Romans 1.18-32 for a step-by-step outline of how we have done this!). Scripture is blunt: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap (Galatians 6.7).

How will you respond to this picture of impending judgment? That all depends on whether you let Scripture guide you. There are two things every growing Christian will do. First, you will stand strong and true for the clear, undiluted gospel of grace. The Church began on Pentecost (Shavuot) – the last of the Jewish ‘spring feasts’ – and it signaled the time of harvest. This is our ‘time of harvest’! Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest” (John 4.35). Tell someone about Jesus while you can!

Second, the growing Christian will confidently ‘look up’ – expectantly waiting for the return of Christ. This is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2.13). Our enemy (Satan) would like nothing more than for us to lose hope, joy, and expectancy. He knows his end; he hates God and His highest creation, mankind, and wants to take as many as he can to his doom (Matthew 25.41; Revelation 20.7-15). What better way to prevent people coming to Christ than to cause believers to lose their hope?

So…in these last days, tell others about Jesus, and look confidently to the future: Proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2.9)!

Posted in Church, End Times/Revelation, Resurrection, Social

Super Tuesday’s Past…Super Sunday’s Coming!

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, March 4, 2016

Tuesday, March 1st.  ‘Super Tuesday’!  Millions of dollars were spent leading up to it, with candidates touting their qualities, and trying to outdo each other with promises on how they would fix all our problems, and give us everything we want for free!  Honestly, it reminded me of the scene in Napoleon Dynamite scene where Pedro, running for class president, says, “Vote for me and all of your wildest dreams will come true.” Super Sun 1

What is amazing is the number of Americans who swallow this tripe!  Millions of  Americans went to the polls, cast their ballots, and – well, settle in for another eight months of this!  Which leads me to say two things: First, while political ads can drive you to the brink of insanity, we should be thankful that we have the right to vote, and a number of other rights and freedoms that most people in the world do not enjoy.  Second, while I’m not a pessimist, I can assure you that no matter who wins, we’ll be subjected to this quadrennial drum-beat in four years, unless…unless the Lord returns first!

How do I know?  What is the basis for this wondrous thought?  The last Sunday in March, this year.  They call the first Tuesday ‘Super Tuesday’ because of the number of delegates up for grabs in the presidential primaries on that day, but I’d sooner call the last Sunday ‘Super Sunday,’ because on that day – ‘Resurrection Day’ – God declared victory over sin and death once and for all through the resurrection of His Son…and His kingdom rule will commence when He returns from heaven.  He’s not making promises, angling for your vote, raising money to fund His campaign: It’s done, He is King of kings and Lord of lords!

Many world leaders have basked in the praise of followers who viewed them with almost messianic qualities, but all have proved to have feet of clay.  Only One can lay claim to the throne of the Kingdom of God, and He is not up for election.  Instead of trying to garner support in order to acquire a throne, He shed His own blood to enable others to share in that reign.  God’s plan to include us in this coming kingdom required the sacrifice of His Son.  I love how the author of Hebrews captures this:

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Heb. 2.9-10, NAS)

Having paid-in-full the price for our sins, God raise His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead.  The empty tomb is the promise of a coming throne!  Again, Scripture is clear (Philippians 2.9-11, NKJV):Risen

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If you’re looking for something to really shout about this election season, look beyond the hype and promises of the candidates, and look to Christ.  On March 12th, 19th, and 25th, we’ll celebrate His life, death, and resurrection in the His Story drama, and on ‘Super Sunday,’ March 27th, we’ll celebrate the empty tomb.  Here’s a leader you really can believe in!

Posted in Church, End Times/Revelation, Social

Avoiding the ‘Shemita’ Commotion

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, August 27, 2015

ShemitahOne ‘constant’ in church history is the appearance of religious leaders who pronounce the imminent end of the world.  Some sects, like the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and Seventh-Day Adventists, boldly predicted the return of Christ, then explained why nothing happened – and survive to this day.  Others within mainstream Christianity have predicted Jesus’ return was just around the corner: Ed Whisenant sold 4.5 million copies of his 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988…and who can forget the “Y2K” scare?

Earlier this year, San Antonio television pastor John Hagee published a book and produced a movie declaring that four blood moons signaled an imminent catastrophic change in the world – the hint being that this could be the rapture.  Now Johnathan Cahn, a Messianic Rabbi from New Jersey, has become famous for his books The Harbinger, and more recently The Mystery of the Shemitah.  Why are so many Christians taken in by this?  How should we respond to the seemingly endless line of ‘Christian’ leaders announcing impending doom and the return of Christ?

First, while I wish Christians would be more careful about believing what prophetic preachers say, I’m glad so many are anxiously looking forward to the return of Christ!  Almost 2000 years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote that we should be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2.13), and at the end of the Book of Revelation, Jesus announces, “I am coming quickly,” to which John replies, “Even so come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22.20).  In Matthew 24, Jesus gives signs that will signal the end of the age, and His return to reign.  We should be looking forward to that day!

But we should be careful.  If history teaches us anything, it’s that Christians are gullible.  Religious hucksters have been marketing their ‘snake oil’ for centuries, and too many of us are buying it!  Why?  Simply because, as Jesus Himself said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt.24.36).  It’s a mystery…and we all love unraveling mysteries!  But while we can look for signs, our motivation should not be to win an argument, or create a following of people who agree with our prediction, but to be ready – that is, to be living our lives for Christ, using our time, our talents, and our treasure to bring as many people to faith in Christ as possible.  So if you enjoy reading prophetic writings, go ahead, but don’t try to start a movement!  Instead, tell someone about Jesus, who died for their sin, rose from the dead, and is coming again!

How should we respond to things like the ‘four blood moons’ and ‘Shemita’ theories?  With healthy skepticism!  Too often, these are a distraction that actually serves the purposes of our enemy, instead of promoting a greater joy and appreciation for the grace of God.  Since the ‘mystery of the Shemita’ is the most recent entry into this prophetic arena, here’s my assessment: It’s a mixture of some Old Testament verses with a lot of unfounded speculation about how some Bible prophecy points to something going on today.

When Rabbi Cahn applies Old Testament laws to us today – as if we are going to be judged because we fail to obey them – he ignores that we are no longer under the law.  Like so many ‘Messianic Rabbis’ today, he wants to impose some of the law on us, but not all (none of them are calling for us to bring sacrifices!).  Worse, when he calls America “the Israel of the new world,” he betrays a lack of faithfulness to God’s original prophetic revelation of God.  You cannot replace “Israel” with “America,” and then ‘plug in’ prophecies that fit with the latest world events.  God’s prophecies to Israel and for Israel will be fulfilled by Israel, in God’s time.

More than anything, most of this prophetic ‘scare-mongering’ just grieves me…because it distracts us from ‘pursuing holiness’ (Heb 12.14), ‘walking by the Spirit’ (Gal 5.16), ‘looking forward to our our blessed hope’ (Titus 2.13), and being ‘ambassadors for Christ’ (2 Cor 5.20).  Instead of viewing ourselves as ‘more than conquerors through Him who loved us’ (Rom. 8.37), we are alarmed by sensational predictions of judgment, socio-political solutions, and personal survival.

Frankly, I don’t need any theories about the Shemita – or blood moons, or Islamic imams, or even the 70 weeks of Daniel – to know our nation is coming under the sovereign wrath of God.  God makes it clear in Scripture, both for Israel (2 Chron 7.13-14) and other nations (eg. Nineveh, Jonah 3), that sin leads to an outpouring of God’s wrath (Rom 1.18ff).

The ONLY answer to the problem of sin in our age is the gospel of Jesus Christ; every believer receives the Holy Spirit, and the enablement to live a victorious life in the midst of a world that is under Satan’s power (1 Jn 5.19).  Keep telling people about Jesus!