Monday, June 28, 1999

Armageddon

He forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18)

Talk about the end of the world has increased gradually over the years, especially as Year 2000 draws ever near. It's a topic I've taken great interest in, and have spent a number of hours reading the various books available on the subject; the book I've studied the most on it has been the bible. From the Old Testament to Revelation, there are a number of references to the end times. I've stopped trying to attach a date, since "No one knows the day or the hour", but I'll never stop looking for signs.

The increasing natural disasters are one clue. The gradual rebirth of Israel and the creation of the European Economic Community are others. But what most greatly concerns me is that the technology now allows for one man to govern the world as predicted in the bible. Over the years, microchips have been developed (currently used in animals) for tracking purposes. Signs are now pointing toward a cashless society whereby humans would have this chip and use it in lieu of credit cards or cash for identification and purchasing. Sounds great - no more running to the ATM for cash and no more worries about having your wallet stolen. But the amount of control this would allow an evil leader is frightening.

When I first read the above passage from Revelation, I laughed at the notion that people would ever allow a number of 666 be branded onto their hands or foreheads. Years later, I've stopped laughing as I now realize how subtle and how cunning Satan is.

Friday, June 18, 1999

Idolatry: The Forgotten Commandment

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

Most of my life, until age 24, I never knew this commandment even existed. Sad thing is I attended church every week and attended religious school for years (even taught it for a year to 5th grade students). I knew all about serving only one God, not taking the Lord's name in vain, honoring the Sabbath, honoring my parents, not murdering, not stealing, not committing adultery, not bearing false witness against my neighbor, not coveting my neighbor's wife, and not coveting my neighbor's goods. But this commandment was never taught to me, and it made me wonder. How could this commandment about idolatry have completely escaped me? Were there any other inconsistencies between my beliefs and the bible?

For months I compared bible passages to the official doctrine of the church I was attending. To my dismay, I found numerous differences between the two, and it greatly concerned me. After praying about it, I knew I had to make a change in churches - no matter how difficult it might be for my family and I. The day I told my family I was switching to a non-denominational church was one of the worst days of my life. But it was a choice I will never regret. It has taken a number of years for my family to begin to accept it, but I pray that one day they will fully understand.

Saturday, June 12, 1999

The Importance of Fellowship

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

This verse emphasizes the importance of fellowship in each of our lives. Living an isolated life is not only depressing, but can stunt our spiritual growth. I cannot stress enough how valuable it is to have someone (or a group of people) that you can meet with regularly.

Off and on for the past few years I've been active in a men's group that has met on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. We conduct bible studies, share our struggles, and pray for one another. The difference in my life when this group has been active and non-active is amazing. When there is someone that is holding you accountable for your actions, it makes it a whole lot harder to turn your back on God's will.

Friday, June 4, 1999

Taking Responsibility for Our Sins

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

This verse challenges each of us to take responsibility for our sins. It is all too easy to commit a sin and then rationalize it by saying "The devil made me do it!" or "God is just testing me." It is far more difficult to say, "I knew full well what I was doing was a sin, and yet I went ahead and did it anyway."

No one likes to condemn themselves by admitting that they are a sinner, but this is precisely what God requires of us. He asks that we each acknowledge our sinfulness and our individual need for a savior. At first this might seem too difficult or humbling, but if we fully consider the price Christ paid for our salvation, we'll come to realize that we could never humble ourselves as low as He did.