The Day of the Lord is coming . . . but it won’t be October 21 or any other date Harold Camping pulls out of his hat

I am saddened by kooks who take things that are biblical and make them into something worth ridiculing. The best recent example is Harold Camping, the “evangelist” who claimed that the rapture would take place on May 21, 2011. I don’t know much about him. I haven’t really researched him or his theories. I honestly have no desire to do so. But maybe I’m being too harsh when I say that the man has done far more harm than good to the way the world looks at Christianity.

There are many churches in the world that take the truth of Scripture and turn it into something dull and dry and boring, and I find that sad too. Because the Bible isn’t a dull, dry, boring book; it’s alive and its more relevant to our culture now than ever before. But what Harold Camping accomplished with all of his rapture talk was to make himself and his faith a fool. And the amazing part of it is, he obviously doesn’t know the Bible he claims to believe . . . but the world doesn’t know that. Harold Camping says he’s a Christian who follows the Bible and the Lord is returning on May 21, so he needs financial support.

Mr. Camping probably meant well. Mr. Camping really probably intended only to help people. But Mr. Camping took a concept out of Scripture and turned it into a farce. The rapture — the second coming of Christ — the start of the Tribulation — whatever you want to call it, no one will take it seriously anymore. All because this one man interjected his opinons into truth that God provided for the world to know.

Now just about everyone has heard of the rapture. And now, they think it’s an imaginary construct of a crazy Christian radio preacher.

But the thing about truth that has been diluded by people is that the original truth is still true. Truth is true no matter where you find it. And there is coming a day when everyone is going to realize that the rapture isn’t a laughing matter and it isn’t anything like what Harold Camping was talking about.

I like to think of myself as a rational person, and as a rational person I would be the first to agree that the rapture sounds unlikely. All the Christians will be taken to heaven? The world will be left with no Christians in it at all as the Lord begins His final judgment on Earth? (Personally, I believe the rapture will happen before the Tribulation starts, but I’m not going to split hairs with people who believe it happens in the middle or at the end of the Tribulation.) But I believe that the rapture will happen. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen because the Bible says that it will.

The Bible is very clear about the rapture and makes reference to it in practically every book of the Bible, whether it’s the New Testament or the Old Testament. Jesus talked about it. The prophets talked about it. The apostles talked about it.

The rapture is going to happen.

But between Harold Camping and the Left Behind series, no one takes it seriously anymore.

The best verses for discussing the rapture are mainly in 2 Thessalonians, I think. And the rapture is going to be a big deal. All the Christians who have died will rise and be taken to heaven; all the Christians who are alive still will follow. And the world will be left in chaos. There are many people who feel like the world will be better off if all the Christians would just disappear; trust me, the day is coming when you’ll get your wish . . . and then you’ll realize what the world will be like without the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Today’s verse is Zechariah 14:9 and the whole chapter is actually talking about the state of the world after the rapture, and I encourage you to read the full chapter at BibleGateway. But I think verse 9 pretty much sums up what will happen after the rapture.

9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

After the rapture, after the Tribulation, after the end of everything when all things are new again, God will remain and so will the people who follow Him. But not the people who say they do. There’s a big difference between following God and just talking about following God. Just like Mr. Camping. He claims to believe the Bible but most of his claims include prophecies or information that isn’t biblical, the most notable of which is assigning a date to the rapture.

No one knows when the rapture will happen.

Period. The one thing you can be sure of is that the day someone says it will happen it won’t. Because no man will know the hour or the day when God will come back for His followers. Not even Christ knows.

The rapture is real. It’s going to happen soon. The only thing that God is waiting for is for the whole world to have the opportunity to believe and as of yet, that hasn’t happened. And the best advice I can offer to anyone who has questions about the rapture is to go to the Bible. Don’t go to some cook on television or on the radio. Read the Bible. Get a good modern translation you understand and read.

The Bible is where the rapture is first mentioned, although that’s not what it’s called. The word rapture is a Christian word our culture has applied to the day Christ returns for us; it’s not ever used in Scripture. So if you have questions, go the source.

And I can pretty much assure you that October 22 of this year will come, even though Mr. Camping says that the world will end on October 21.

God will work out His plans for us; we just have to hang on

Today’s verse is Psalm 138:8.

8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
      for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
      Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

It’s good to remember that God has plans for our lives. I forget that sometimes and feel like my life is a crazy, screwed up mess. It’s hard to remember that God has a plan when I can hardly get organized enough to keep a schedule together.

I love the Psalms. They just sound like my life. You start the day praising God and then something goes nuts and you end up depressed but then you remember that God is awesome and that He loves you and you end the day joyful again, remembering that God knows what He’s doing. The Psalms are a roller coaster of emotion. God’s always with me. God, why have you abandoned me? God, you make me strong. God, I feel so weak. God, you keep me safe. God, my enemies are attacking me and I am vulnerable. If everyone’s life wasn’t like that, you’d think David was bipolar or something.

But everyone has experienced what David went through. Everybody’s life has turned upside down at one point or another. Everyone has been abandoned and betrayed by friends. Everyone has sometimes wondered where God went (everyone has, so don’t act holy and say you’ve never felt that way). And I know we all wonder just what the heck God is doing. He makes no sense at all most of the time . . . but then I remember that if I could understand God, He wouldn’t be God.

If God revealed all His plans to me, I really believe my head would explode. He’s got a lot in store for me. I can tell you that because He’s given me a lot. He’s given me a wonderful family. He’s given me the best church in America and the most amazing Pastor in the world (who stopped in to see my grandma in the hospital yesterday in spite of having the busiest schedule known to man; I can’t say enough good about my pastor). He’s given me a job. He’s given me a brain that I use most of the time. He’s given me a lot of different skills and talents. And He’s placed me in a country that allows me (at least at this point) to speak my mind about the way I feel about things.

God has given me a lot. So I know that He’s going to ask me for a lot. I grew up with the verse, Luke 12:48. “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

God has plans for my life. And He’s got plans for your life too, even though it may not feel like it now. What I struggle with the most is feeling like nothing is happening, feeling like all I’m doing is waiting, like the only thing I accomplish in a day is converting oxygen into CO2. But here’s where today’s verse comes in: Do we actually think we’re the ones who accomplish anything?

Today’s verse says God will work out his plans for my life. Not Amy will work them out. God will.

So when it comes right down to it, all I have to do is wait and listen and be ready to move. When God tells me to do something, I need to do it no matter how crazy it might sound because when He asks me to do something it’s going to be a part of His plan for my life. And when I’m moving in tandem with God’s plan, that’s when He can start to accomplish HUGE things that I would never have been able to do on my own.

All I have to do is take it a day at a time. So what is my job today? I’m going to work at my corporate American job. And even if everything falls apart (I’m actually expecting it to because I’ve got a Spanish web site that’s supposed to go live today and I don’t think it’s going to happen), my job is to stay focused on God and living the way He’s called me to live.  And if He opens the door to tell other people about Him, I will walk through it. And if He allows me to help people today, I will. And if I make it home tonight without having accomplishing any of my goals for the day, it will be all right. Becuase in the end, it’s God’s goal that’s the most important and it’s God’s plan that’s going to help people the most. I’m just along for the ride. . . . and, man, what a crazy ride it is!

What’s taking so long?

Do you ever wonder why God is taking so long to keep His last promise to us? It’s frustrating too because that last promise of His (the one where He says He’ll come back for us) is the one that makes us all sound like we’re one fry short of a Happy Meal. But it’s in the Bible. So I believe it. And I don’t subscribe to the crazies who have the day picked out (I think it’s October 21 now) because no one but God knows when He’s returning. Not even Jesus knows . . . and He is God . . . He’s just not God the Father (just try to wrap your brain around that one) . . . . so if Jesus doesn’t know, I guarantee nobody on Earth has a clue.

But do you ever wonder why God is taking His sweet time?

There are days when I get so tired of waiting on Him to come back. I am so weary of this world, of dealing with fake Christians, of struggling with this dark nature inside me that makes me want to do things I know are wrong. I want to go home where none of that will exist and where I’ll be able to hang with Jesus face to face every day, where we’ll be able to approach God and thank Him for all He’s done for us — no longer separated by this wall of fallen humanity I’m stuck in. And it’ll never be night. And time won’t matter. And we’ll be able to do the things we love to do every day without having to worry about paying bills or having something to eat or making people angry.

Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? =)

So what’s taking Him so long? People have been talking about God’s returning for us for thousands of years. There are days when I feel like Noah building the ark, and all my neighbors pass by laughing at me. If you haven’t ever listened to the Bill Cosby routines about Noah and the Neighbor, click on the video below.

But on those days when I start getting frustrated, I think about today’s verse, 2 Peter 3:9.

9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

We humans are always moving so fast. We never like to slow down, and it’s hard for us to remember that God is patient. He loves this world so much that He doesn’t want to just snatch everyone up and forget the rest. No! That would contradict everything God is.

And while most prophecy has been fulfilled, there is still one outstanding. And that is that every nation will have the opportunity to come to know Christ. And that hasn’t happened yet. There are still nations of people who haven’t heard the truth yet. Like that tribe of folks they just discovered in the Amazon.

Everyone in the world needs to have the chance to make a choice. That’s why World Missions are so important. Bringing the Gospel to peoples who’ve never heard it before is something we’re commanded to do. But on that same note, I’d like to hope that He’s being patient for the U.S. too. Because while the rest of the world seems to be coming to Christ by the truckload, the U.S. is stuck in a rut. But can a country that was founded with a Christian heritage (it was; do your research and go read all the monuments in DC and you’ll see) who has fallen away from their roots ever go back to them again? Everyone in the U.S. has heard the truth, and the vast majority of people have chosen to ignore it, opting either to follow their own hearts or to follow some man’s teaching.

I’m glad God is patient. Because if He can be patient with all the people who are left in the world who don’t know His name, that means He can be patient with me when I forget who He is. And while I don’t think His patience will ever end, there is a day when He will have to move. And while I selfishly look forward to the day I can go home, I hope when that day comes that everyone I know is ready.


What does God need?

Well, the verse of the day today is one I think I’ve covered before. Matthew 16:25, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” And while that is an awesome verse and one that is definitely worth meditating on, the Lord brought a different scripture to mind when I sat down at my computer this morning.

In the sermon over the weekend, my pastor referenced Psalm 50:15 as evidence that we can use prayer as a weapon in spiritual warfare, and I wanted to know what the rest of the chapter said. You should read the whole thing sometime. It’s really an awesome chapter, but for now I’m just going to focus on versus 7 through 15.

Psalm 50:7-15

 7 “O my people, listen as I speak.
      Here are my charges against you, O Israel:
      I am God, your God!
 8 I have no complaint about your sacrifices
      or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
 9 But I do not need the bulls from your barns
      or the goats from your pens.
 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine,
      and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
 11 I know every bird on the mountains,
      and all the animals of the field are mine.
 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
      for all the world is mine and everything in it.
 13 Do I eat the meat of bulls?
      Do I drink the blood of goats?
 14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
      and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble,
      and I will rescue you,
      and you will give me glory.”

As I read this, I got to thinking this morning. What does God need?

Well, nothing. He doesn’t need anything from us or from the universe or from anywhere. He is God. He is self-sustaining, perfect and eternal.

He doesn’t need our sacrifices. In the Old Testament, He didn’t need people to kill animals on alters. And even today, God doesn’t need us to give our tithes to the church. God doesn’t need us to volunteer our time in ministry and in serving others. He doesn’t need our friendship. He doesn’t need our presence period. He is God. There is nothing we can give Him that He didn’t already make.

So why does He ask us to tithe? Why does He ask us to serve? If He doesn’t need it, why does He ask?

The plain and simple truth is that we are the ones who need it. We need Him. We need to make sacrifices to Him. We need to tithe because of Him. We need His friendship and His love and His protection and support. And God knows that we need this because He made us.

There’s an old saying that there’s a God-shaped hole in every human being and until we choose to fill that hole up with God, it will always be empty.

God doesn’t need anything we do for Him. But worshipping Him, building a relationship with Him, fills something inside us that can’t be filled otherwise.

And even if you don’t have money to give or animals to sacrifice, you can still offer God your thankfulness. That’s more important anyway. That’s how God judges people, by their hearts, their motivation, their true selves.  Be thankful for all that He’s done for you. God doesn’t need your thanks, but He deserves it.

God never abandons us; we just stop listening to Him.

It’s good to remember that God is faithful to us. I really just don’t know why He loves us the way He does. It’s beyond me. Because He is so great, and we are so much trouble. And way past being trouble, we only care about ourselevs. And even after He gives us everything we need and most everything we want, we still aren’t happy and we still don’t thank Him the way we should. We’re just selfish.

But He is faithful. He’s faithful to us, especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.

It’s a kind of love that I don’t understand. He never gives up on us.

Today’s verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

One thing is certain and that is God is faithful. He says it over and over and over again, and in other verses He promises to lead us and protect us and never leave us. So what does that mean when you feel lost and vulnerable and alone? Does that mean that He’s left you?

No. Because God is faithful. But just becuase He’s faithful doesn’t mean that He always has to talk to us. Sometime we need to learn to be content with the silence. And sometimes silence is an indication that something is wrong.

God remains faithful to us no matter what, but we are cold-hearted, selfish people. And we rarely remain faithful to anyone but ourselves. I think so much of “being faithful” as far as God goes depends on our perspective. I think that’s why people believe that He leaves us or that He abandons us. I think sometimes people get to the point where they only want what they want and  if God tells them that what they want will hurt them, they don’t listen. And they do it any way. And so when they are dealing with the ramifications of their actions, they feel like God has abandoned them. And that’s not true. God never abandons us. We just don’t want to follow Him or do what He tells us to do, so we stop looking for Him.

And that’s the idiocy of humanity: We whine about God forsaking us when we aren’t really looking for Him in the first place.

If we are in that place in our lives — that blind place where we only see the things we want and only do the things we want — even if God materialized right in front of us and ask that we follow Him, I don’t think we would do it. People are just like that. Given a choice, they will usually do the things that are bad for them.

 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

How many of you read that and wondered why it wasn’t true in your life? Obviously, I don’t know your circumstances. I just know my own. And I know that I have struggled with this so many times that it can’t just be me who feels this way.

How many of you feel like God isn’t faithful? How many of you feel like God hasn’t strengthened you or guarded you from evil?

The first thing you need to find out is if you want God to be faithful to you. Because part of God being faithful is protecting you and keeping you from doing things that you shouldn’t be doing, things that will hurt you, things that will destroy your testimony, things that will destroy your life and the lives of the people around you. So how can God strengthen you if you don’t want to be strong? How can God guard you from evil if you keep looking for it?

Granted, God will be faithful to you no matter whether you want it or not, but if you aren’t listening He won’t change you and you’ll keep living your life as you always have.

I want God to be faithful to me. I want Him by my side every day. I want Him to keep me strong and keep me on the right track. I want to listen to Him and learn what He has to tell me about life and about myself and about the future. It’s a desire that I struggle with on a daily basis because the dark part of me doesn’t want it. That dark, evil part of my nature is suffocating sometimes and overpowering at other times, but God has given us all the strength to overcome our old natures. We just have to do it.

What’s amazing to me about God’s faithfulness is that it truly is eternal and uncompromising. He loves us. He always has. He always will. And He is always waiting for us to get our heads on straight and come to Him. And when the day finally comes that we get it through our thick skulls that we can’t live without Him, He rejoices and runs to meet us, like we were the only ones He was looking for. And no matter what we have done or where we have been, He welcomes us with open arms because He loves us. And because He is always faithful, most especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.