Conspiracy theory: a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators. -Merriam-Webster
Lately we have been witnessing a vast number of conspiracy theories on social media and on the news. I have not run a formal poll, but it seems like right now there are more conspiracy theories floating around than normal. I have little doubt that this is due to the fact that Covid-19 has changed the way we live everyday life.
Within the time-frame of one week, I received two messages from friends talking about what is going on right now in our world and thinking that it might be leading to the mark of the beast and the end times.
A couple of years ago I preached through the entire book of Revelation. I had people like David Jeremiah calling me and asking me my opinion regarding the end times and biblical prophecy. (Before you share that information with someone you might want to fact check it.) I believe that the book of Revelation does speak of things happening now and that will also take place in the future. So let’s be clear, I believe in the Anti-Christ, a time of Great Tribulation, the mark of the beast and the Second Coming Of Jesus.
I believe in these things with all of my heart, but we must be wise how we interpret the “signs” we see in our world today.
So, here are a few of my thoughts as we seek to live wisely in our day and time…
Research big time before you post it
If you hear about a theory that has to do with Bill Gates, the mark of the beast, or Covid-19, then research it thoroughly before you post it online. I believe that all too often people are doing little to no investigation on their own (“hey everyone, this looks interesting”) before they share something with the general public. Do some research. HERE is a link that gives some guidelines when it comes to being able to know if your source is reliable or not. Yes, it is work, but isn’t that better than passing along false information? If your theory is related to the end times, spend time on your own searching the Scriptures.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11
If you have done the hard work/research and have prayed about it, feel free to share it
We live in a country where we cherish our freedom of speech. If you have done the hard work of looking into it, and you have come to the point where you believe it is necessary to share it, then go for it. My point is NOT that we can’t talk about our beliefs regarding the end times and the mark of the beast. My point is that we must be wise regarding how we do it.
Don’t make the tragic mistake of substituting your online post for the Great Commission
This is really my main concern in all of this! I am worried that Christians are posting things online (taking a stand) and then feeling like they have done what God has called them to do. Jesus lived in a time when world leaders were thoroughly evil and working with all their power against the kingdom of God (Matthew 2:16-18).
So in light of this we might wonder, how did Jesus spend his time? What did Jesus focus on? We want to take our cues from Jesus, right? We know the answer. Jesus built relationships and made disciples who made disciples. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the main calling of the church and the Christian.
The online post is easy. It’s safe. It’s within our comfort zone. We can do it in our pajamas while sitting on our couch. We don’t have to listen, show empathy, or really engage with people on a deep level. As someone else has said, making disciples is God’s Plan A for changing the world, and there is no Plan B.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” -Matthew 4:19
Feel free to speak up, but let’s remember that we most closely walk in the ways of Jesus when we commit to making disciples.
I just participated in an online meeting where JD Greear and Andy Crouch were talking about “Ministry During and After a Crisis.” The meeting led me to this thought, it would be a catastrophe for Christians to fail to embrace the truth that God is at work during this pandemic. I say that because I am concerned that we are tempted to coast through this pandemic by binging on TV, wine, and food. More than coasting or even worse, numbing or escaping from the realities of life, certainly God desires to transform his people and prepare them for a new season of ministry.
As we think about the book of Acts (and church history in general) we find that God uses persecution to light a fire in his church and for the spread of the gospel. Is it possible that God wants to use Covid-19 to do a new work in our lives, churches, country, and world? I will be bold enough to say that the answer is yes! With that said, I would like to give us 8 things that we should be doing now and that that will empower us to come out of this pandemic ready to make a positive difference in this world.
- Spend time in God’s Word. Here at New Life Church I am excited to say that we are going to begin a church-wide campaign that encourages people to be reading and studying God’s Word. We can’t expect to grow spiritually, or to be ready to see how God wants to be at work in us, if we are not digging into God’s Word. Are you immersing your heart and mind in the Word?
- Spend time in prayer. Are you using this time to ask God light a fire in your life? Are you asking God to use this time to create a spiritual hunger in the lives of people in your everyday life? This Sunday, May 3rd, we are working with a number of other local churches to have a community time of prayer online. Pray, pray and pray some more. We simply can not expect to see the Spirit work if we are not faithful in prayer.
- Ask and answer the question, what work does God want to do in your life? Are there some strongholds or idols in your life that God wants to surgically remove? Are there any life long habits that have caused you more pain than anything else? Addictions, anger, bitterness, apathy, legalism, materialism, lust? God has given you this unique time in order to shape you into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.
- Don’t give into fear and anger. During this pandemic we have acted as if people are the enemy. I don’t know if this behavior is really new, perhaps it is just heightened during the past few weeks. We have been acting like the enemy is people who disagree with our opinions regarding Covid-19. The bible can not be more clear that people ARE THE MISSION, not the enemy! Even now during the pandemic, let’s use words that heal. Consider the possibility that your “well-researched” conspiracy theory is really just nonsense. Speak and live in such a way that draws people closer to Jesus. Don’t burn relational bridges during this pandemic.
- Be praying specifically for “Who’s Your One?” Here at New Life Church we have asked people to identify one person in their everyday life that needs to know Jesus personally. So let me ask you, who’s your one? Keep praying. Reach out to them via cell phone or Zoom. We don’t need to go off mission because of the trials we are going through.
- Maybe the best thing you can do is truly unplug, get away from distractions, and find rest in Christ. There have been times when I have thought, why in the world (pastors might be the worst at this) are we trying so hard to keep ourselves busy? Maybe it’s God who is working overtime to get us to slow down so that we will focus more on him. A.W. Tozer writes this, “Unquestionably, part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by aloneness, by inactivity. I mean getting alone with God and waiting in silence and quietness until we are charged with God’s Spirit.”
- Leave behind the idea of a being a lone ranger Christian. This pandemic has revealed to us that we need to be in relationship with other people. Community in the church is the green house for discipleship to flourish. Let’s stop with the idea that it’s “just me and Jesus.” When things get loosened up, when it is OK to gather together again, get involved in a Life Group or whatever your church calls it.
- Be determined to come out of this pandemic and leave behind consumer Christianity. If this pandemic is over and you are still sitting at home on Sunday morning looking for the best worship experience then you need to know that you have moved away from following Jesus and into a lifestyle of consumerism. Make a commitment NOW that when the pandemic is over to be more involved than ever in your local church.
Perhaps this can become a theme song for us…
Longing to See the Holy Spirit Work in a New Way
I meet on a weekly basis with my Life Transformation Group. It consists of three other men who are committed to making disciples who make disciples. Just this morning we were talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. One of the questions I asked was, “do you think there is more of the Christian life that you could be experiencing?”
I think this is a good question for all of us to ask. Do we genuinely desire for the Holy Spirit to change us, grow us, and empower us? Or, have we grown rather comfortable spiritually and would have to admit that it has been far too long since we really pleaded with God to reveal more of himself to us?
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
During our Life Transformation Group discussion we talked about the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
John said this in Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is what happens when a person first places their faith in Jesus Christ and repents of their sin. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is immediate upon being saved and it is permanent. It is also not something that can be repeated.
The Filling of the Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 5:18 the apostle Paul writes this, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is different than being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Paul commands us to continually seek after the power and filling of the Holy Spirit in our every day lives.
Making Room for the Holy Spirit
So, what can we do to be filled with the Holy Spirit? I believe there are a number of biblical answers to that question. But one of the more important things we can do to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to ask God to reveal to us what there is in our life that we need to surrender or repent of. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit.” So we know, as frightening as it sounds, that it is possible to diminish or stifle the work the Spirit longs to do in our lives.
This morning, our Life Transformation Group, took time just to quietly pray and ask God to reveal to us anything in our life that we need to change in order for the Holy Spirit to fill us with his power. We only took a few minutes of quiet prayer and each one of us came up with something that we sensed the Spirit telling us that we need to do or surrender.
What about you? Would you be willing, right now, to take some time and ask the Spirit to reveal to you anything in your life that is keeping the Holy Spirit from filling and empowering you?
We do terrible damage to Scripture when we take it out of context. Let me explain what I mean.
Many of you know that there are four words used to describe the story of Scripture:
- Creation: One Hebrew word sums up the picture of Genesis 1 and 2: shalom. Peace. Earth was full of God’s shalom, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God’s intention. The world was made for human flourishing, there we could live in joy in the presence of our Maker, worshiping God by loving Him and one another forever.
• Fall: Adam and Eve rejected God’s rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as “the fall,” and because the represented all of humanity, their action affects us too. We have–through our attitudes and actions– declared ourselves to be God’s enemies. This rebellion results in physical and spiritual death.
• Redemption: Thankfully the loving Creator who rightly shows Himself to be wrathful toward our sin is determined to turn evil and suffering we have caused into good that will be to His ultimate glory. So the next movement shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
• Restoration: The story doesn’t end with redemption. God has promised to renew the whole world, and the Bible gives us a peak into this glorious future. The restoration of all things will take place in two ways. Christ will return to judge sin and evil, and He will usher in righteousness and peace. God will purge this world of evil once and for all. -Taken from “Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope”
So Jonah, like you and I, are living in a story of redemption. Jonah is called by God to preach the Word of the Lord to the Ninevites. Jonah refuses to do so. His hard heart can not deal with the idea that the Ninevites might repent and therefore escape the judgment of God.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
One mistake we might be tempted to make is that we scoff at just how calloused Jonah was to the people of Nineveh. I say ‘mistake’ because the point is for us to realize that we are quite a bit more like Jonah than we would like to admit.
In Matthew 28 we find that Jesus gives all Christians their marching orders. We are to go into all the world and make disciples. Making disciples is part of God’s mission of bringing redemption to this fallen world. The shocking part of all of this is that we, like Jonah, can live our lives yet avoid the mission of God in a million different ways. We get busy. We are tired. We fail to love our next-door neighbor as ourselves. We think that this great mission is the church’s job and we fail to embrace the theological truth that we are the church.
We need to come clean and admit that we are a lot like Jonah. I know I am. The next step is to get out of our comfort zone and join God in what he is doing all around us in everyday life. Let’s be less like Jonah and more like Christ who saw the crowds and instead of retreating he felt compassion.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore spray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
I have resigned as a pastor in New Jersey and I am looking forward to what God has in store for me next. Here is one of the issues that I have begun working through mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I have always allowed the church where I serve to give me my sense of “call”. When I say “call” I mean a sense of purpose, belonging, rootedness, misssional intensity, etc…
Alas, I am thinking that the word “call” is loaded with all kinds of unbiblical baggage. For example:
- We mistakenly believe that some people are called to ministry, others are not.
- Unfortunately, those who don’t feel called fail to center their life, their family, around the imperative of “seeking first the kingdom of God.”
- We tend to regard those who are called as the Navy Seals of the Christian world. One look at the disciples in the New Testament should dispel this myth.
- The lion’s share of kingdom work is placed on the shoulders of those who are called.
- We (unintentionally) postpone meaningful ministry until we receive our call. Life begins to feel like it is in a holding pattern.
- If we conclude that we have not been called we may begin to doubt God, his love for us, our value, gifts, talents, etc…
The point I am making is really quite simple. No matter what arena God places us to work we are all “called” to live out the gospel to our family, neighbors, church family, colleagues. As someone else has once written (paraphrasing), “we are all called into full-time ministry, God just chooses to route our paychecks through different sources.”