The Littlest Fan

Just three years old. And she knows all their names!

I saw a cute story recently about a little girl with a remarkable talent. Just three years old, she can name every player—and his position—on her family’s favorite professional football team, the 2014 Superbowl-winning Seattle Seahawks.

The little girl is adorable, and it’s really quite stunning to see her reel off the names of not only the stars of the team, but also those of lesser-known players in less glamorous positions.

So how can a three year old possibly know the names of the players on a professional football team? That’s where we can learn something.

Her Deputy-Sheriff Dad—a devoted football fan—began a nightly ritual with her when she was (even) younger. At bedtime—just before Daddy would go off to work—he began teaching the little princess the names of the Seahawks’ players. And as nights passed he began to quiz her on the names of the players, and their positions. It was so much fun for them both that today there’s a three year old girl with a remarkably grown-up knowledge of the names of Seattle’s pro football players.

Clearly, the mind is a marvelous thing. And even the mind of a little girl barely able to clearly articulate is capable of storing large amounts of information. Knowing the names of football players on a family’s favorite team is probably little more than cute, but imagine taking that time to teach a child the names of Bible characters. Or, better yet, Bible verses or passages.

The Bible urges us to hide God’s word in our heart (Ps 119:11). God urges parents to teach His word “to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Dt 11:19). And David said God’s law was his “meditation all the day.” (Ps 119:97).

The mind can absorb remarkable amounts of information—useless, and useful. If a three year old girl can learn the names of the players in a football team—and there are fifty three players in an NFL squad—imagine how much Bible knowledge can be absorbed by a child. Or by an adult!

What are you putting into your mind? It has been said that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The best thing you can do for your mind is to fill it with God’s word. When you do, you’ll be blessed more than you can imagine.

Thankful!

It struck me as strange, really. This past Thanksgiving, the news was full of stories about heartless business owners who were opening on Thanksgiving—Thanksgiving!—and therefore forcing their staff to go to work—to work!—on part of Thanksgiving day. This, of course, prevented them from spending time at home with their families. Because that’s what everyone should do on Thanksgiving day, it was reasoned. They should spend time with their families.

And I thought that was strange.

Not the sentiment. That people should be able to be with their families is a lovely thought. But the outcry seemed altogether disproportionate to the actual event. Businesses were opening on part of Thanksgiving, a Thursday, so they could get a jump on the Black Friday shopping madness. And in some quarters, there were calls for legislation that would prevent businesses from opening on Thanksgiving, for the reason that Thanksgiving is sacrosanct, and nobody should be forced to work on Thanksgiving. Some media commentators felt Thanksgiving should be protected.

I understand. But I think some people were pushing it waaaay too far. And I have Biblical reasons for my concern, reasons rooted in Bible prophecy, and connected to the coming great trouble of Earth’s final days.

But first, from another perspective… People being forced to work on Thanksgiving? While it would undoubtedly be an inconvenience for some, I would imagine some people would be happy to get the extra work and therefore the extra income, right at the start of what for many is one of the costliest seasons of the year. And then there are those who don’t have family, or would be at a loose end at Thanksgiving. For some people Thanksgiving would be just another day, and some would be happy to be able to go to work.

One prominent news story involved a pizza restaurant manager who became a bit of a hero after he was fired for refusing to open on Thanksgiving. He felt his staff should be free to have the day off work. (He later got his job back.) Other businesses were lionized for their “not-open-on-Thanksgiving” stance. Oddly, one notable example actually did open on Thanksgiving a few years back, but quit the practice after they found it to be not-so-profitable. But now they don’t open on Thanksgiving and it’s all very noble of them.

I’ve worked on many of the important holidays. While working in the radio industry—where I spent my first career after college—I worked many a Christmas day and other “family” days. I recall one year when as a teenager I worked a Christmas day at a food processing plant. I had a holiday job at the plant, the food needed to be processed, and so there I was working on Christmas day, sorting peas and corn. A scandal? Hardly. A bummer? Yes it was, but a job is a job and sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

I get it. I understand the ruffled feathers. This is *Thanksgiving* people are talking about. Many people love staying home to overeat and watch football on Thanksgiving. And many others spend precious time with family. Or both. But is the idea of some businesses opening on what was actually only a part of Thanksgiving so horrendous that it’s necessary to call for legislation? Here’s where I get concerned from a Biblical point of view.

It seems to me that if I own a business and I want to open it on Thanksgiving and there’s no law against it and I have staff who are willing to work, then I should be allowed to do so. It’s hardly an outrage if a person wants to do business in the capitalism capital of the world, surely. But some would legislate against that.

When we go to the Bible and we look in the book of Revelation, we see laws being passed that in this case have to do with worship. Revelation 13:16 says, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads.” The “he”, a “beast”, is a kingdom or nation (see that prophetic symbol explained in Daniel 7:17, 23). A nation “causes”—or forces, coerces—“all” to receive the mark of the beast. And how does a nation force people into certain behavior? By passing laws.

Laws will be passed enforcing a certain type or form of worship. Certainly many people will welcome this mark and find nothing in it to be objectionable. The mark of the beast will be offered to the world as the answer to problems, as a panacea for all that pains an ailing planet. “Here—this is good for you!” But what of those who disagree with the mark of the beast, who do not wish to accept it? What about those who from a Biblical perspective object to what it stands for? What about them?

Revelation 13:9, 10 says, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” It won’t be pretty for the dissenter, who in this case is actually the one who stands faithfully for Christ. And why will he or she find himself/herself in a bind? Because someone else decided for them that they should have this mark, that they’ll be better off with it, and that society would benefit from it.

Worship—how can that be bad, right? Except that when worship is enforced, and not from the heart, it is never right. And when it is enforced on people who reject it based on Scriptural grounds, it is not right, but very wrong.

Someone wants to open their business on Thanksgiving, and some in the media call for legislation to stop the practice. “We’ll prevent you from doing that, because it is in society’s best interests for you not to.”

An ominous attitude, in light of what prophecy says about the future. There are forces in the world that are more than willing to tell you how to live, how to act, and even how to worship, when in God’s eyes we are free moral agents in religious matters. God in His wisdom and kindness has given us freedom of choice, to exercise as we see fit under the guidance of His Spirit.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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A Popular Pope

It was a moving, gripping photo. Pope Francis tenderly embracing a man suffering from a disfiguring illness. The picture oozed compassion, and spoke much of the obvious compassion of the Pope himself. The world saw the photo and responded very positively. This Pope was different!

In stark contrast to his predecessor—and perhaps to many of his predecessors—Pope Francis has broken with papal convention. He has shunned certain expensive aspects of the papacy. He has at times stressed his security detail as he connects with people in the vast crowds of well-wishers. He has demonstrated himself to be a man of the people, and the revelation that he was once a nightclub bouncer reinforced the idea that this pope is ‘one of us.’ The pope he replaced, Pope Benedict XVI, was an older man who seemed far less accessible and immersed in weighty theology. In contrast, Pope Francis has gone so far as to ask who he is to condemn people for being homosexual. Not what one expects from a Pope! For hundreds of years popes condemned people—often to death—for much less! The New York Times reported that a columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper said, “Even atheists should be praying for Pope Francis.”

There has certainly been a global warming towards this man of the cloth, and towards the church he shepherds. He was declared Time magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ for 2013. But I found the following journalistic offering to be truly enlightening.

Pope Francis recently said, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” One journalist commented on this remark by saying, “I think the new Pope is trying to get me back in the pew every Sunday.”

Think about this. Embracing an unfortunate homeless man; commenting on social issues; being a man of the people; shunning excess; showing yourself to be approachable and accessible… All of them laudable, commendable things. And they have understandably resulted already in heightened appreciation for the church of the pope.

But what do any of these things have to do with real faith in God? A certain amount, to be certain. Love, gentleness, goodness and meekness are fruit of the Spirit. Love and concern for others are Christian virtues, and few would suggest we see too much of it from religious leaders, or religious people in general.

But what do they reveal about the true nature of the papacy? The obvious answer is, very little. That Pope Francis is a really nice man with a kind heart says nothing at all about what the Roman Catholic Church actually stands for, actually believes. These actions tell the world nothing about the Catholic Church’s positions on the Word of God, and how it relates to Scripture. In short, even if Pope Francis were the nicest man alive, what’s really important is what he teaches from the Bible, how he represents the Word of God. If you want to judge the Roman Catholic Church, doing so based on the gracious demeanor of Pope Francis is an alarmingly shallow way to do it. A more accurate picture regarding the personality of this church can be gained by reading the church’s official Catechism.

If Pope Francis gets people back in the pew every Sunday by commenting on social issues, that would be a sad commentary on society. Shouldn’t church attendance have something to do with a church’s stand on the Bible? Based on what we’re witnessing with the rise of Pope Francis’ popularity, not everybody thinks so.

And that’s alarming.

What Does God Want for Christmas?

It’s Christmas time… And while you were busy buying gifts for others, did you stop to think about what God wanted for Christmas? The answer is found in Proverbs 23:26, where God says, “My son, give me your heart.” How much of your heart? Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 – quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.”

What keeps us from doing so? You could perhaps answer this in several ways depending on either your perspective or your theological bias, but it could be answered with one three-letter word. Sin. Sin keeps us from loving God as we should, and even perhaps as we want (see Romans 7:15,17).

The general attitude towards sin is fascinating. I was reminded of this during a recent tangle with ill-health. It occurred to me that when we fight illness or disease, there’s nothing we won’t do to beat the disease. People submit themselves to chemotherapy – which in some cases can be brutal – and to radiation, which in certain cases can also be very harsh. People will choose amputation in order to beat disease. In 2013, actress Angelina Jolie elected to undergo a preventive double mastectomy. She did not have breast cancer, but had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer due to possessing a certain defective gene. The decision may have saved her life. And it may not. But because there was a chance – statistically, a good chance – that the surgery could save her from a life-threatening disease, she opted to have her breasts removed. A major, absolutely momentous decision.

Some people battling disease will follow stringent diets, will choose strange natural remedies (not that all natural remedies are strange), they’ll fast, travel to the furthest corners of the Earth, spend vast sums of money… all in an attempt to beat disease.

Now think with me of this clear parallel. While people – rightly – put everything they have into the fight against all manner of terrible illnesses, how much energy is put into the fight against sin? Sin is the deadliest disease known to humanity. It won’t only cost you your life in this world, but it will cost you eternal life. Not even a stroke or tuberculosis or diabetes will do that. But where’s the energy, the fervor, in the fight against sin?

Where are the think tanks assembled, the great minds studying how sin is best beaten? Where are the institutes, the research centers? What resources are committed to this? (One could argue that the church is a resource committed to this fight, which would represent a big investment. Others argue it isn’t doing an especially effective job.) Where are the people traveling the world, investing their resources, searching the internet, doing everything they possibly can so that they defeat sin rather than being defeated by it?

Yes, such people exist. But for the most part, sin is taken extraordinarily lightly, even though there is no question it will overtake the vast majority of people in the world, and possibly even in the church. Is there an urgency about this deadly disease? You might remember when AIDS became big news. People were terrified by it. Basketballers refused to take the court with Magic Johnson for fear of contracting this (misunderstood at the time) disease. And the world swept into high gear in a fight against AIDS, which while not having found a cure has resulted in vastly improved treatments.

What would the world and the church be like – what would my heart be like – if we fought sin like we fight disease? Before Jesus returns He’ll have a people waiting for Him who have learned to hate sin, to shun sin, and to embrace Him fully and completely. Be that person this Christmas time, the person whose heart is totally yielded to Christ.

Sin cannot dwell where Christ dwells. If you will surrender to Him now, and allow Him to work “in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13), you’ll see the grace of God consume you and transform you by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2).

Thank God, we already have the answer for the battle with sin, or self, or however you’d like to describe the battle. Jesus is that answer. Give Him your heart – or allow Him to take it – and you’ll soon see that He is able to keep you from falling, and give you power and victory in the place of failure and defeat.

Give God your heart, and He will give you Jesus, grace, salvation, forgiveness.
Everlasting life.

“Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

Costa Rica: Countdown

Prayers Needed: It Is Written Team to Preach in 11 Cities Across Costa Rica Starting Tomorrow!

This year is shaping up to be one of the busiest in It Is Written’s history. On the heels of powerful meetings in Southern Mexico, the ministry team is headed to Costa Rica today to hold 11 series across the country—including the capital city of San Jose.

From Feb. 22 – March 2, It Is Written staff members and a team of dedicated volunteers will preach in cities such as Hatillo, Pavas, San Pedro, Leon XIII, Monte de los Olivos, Los Guido – Desamparados, Jose Maria Zeledon, Dimension Profetica, Cartago, Heredia and San Ramon.

Costa Rica, a country slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia, is located between Nicaragua and Panama, and is home to 4.3 million people. All across this beautiful land, people are searching for the hope that can only be found in Jesus.

This series is being held in coordination with It Is Written’s Spanish ministry, Escrito Esta, and this effort is part of It Is Written’s evangelism push for the year.

“This is a really exciting project. We’re privileged to be partnering with some very committed Christians who are serious about making a huge impact on their country. We’re going to see God do great things!” said It Is Written Speaker/Director John Bradshaw.

The event speakers will include Pastor Bradshaw, Victor Pires, Olan Thomas, Yves Monnier, Royce Williams, Edwin Bravatti, Paul Hawks, Rob Kearbey, John Casillas, Dr. Charles Wilkens, Alan Swope and Wanda Vaz, and translation by Escrito Esta Speaker/Director Robert Costa and others.

Please pray for this team as hearts are opened in this country. The pre-work efforts have been strong, and the team is praying that many people will make a decision for Christ in the coming days!

 

Almost Time

Revelation Today Dayton is just two days away from starting. Please keep this event in your prayers.