September 13, 2020 CATEGORIES OF GRACE – JUSTIFYING (2) Romans 3:23-24 Last week I shared with you about what we as Methodists believe when it comes to grace and John Wesley’s three different types of grace: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. We looked at prevenient grace last week, which is grace working in our lives, preventing, and protecting us in many ways until we are confronted with the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:19 these words, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” And in his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul wrote: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” These verses demonstrate the justifying or saving grace of God. They point to reconciliation, pardon, and restoration. Through the work of God in Christ our sins are forgiven, and our relationship with God is restored. According to John Wesley the image of God – which has been distorted by sin – is renewed within us through Christ’s death. Again, this dimension of God’s grace is a gift. God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith. John Wesley had a simple definition of justification when he said this: “The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins.” Justification is what happens when we abandon all those vain attempts to justify ourselves before God, to be seen as “just” in God’s eyes through religious and moral practices. It is a time when God’s “justifying grace” is experienced and accepted, a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace and joy and love. Indeed, we are justified by God’s grace through faith. Justification is a time of repentance – a time when we realize that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the prostitute, the preacher, the elder, the deacon, the choir director or member, the Sunday School teacher, the members of church boards and committees, understand this – no one is exempt. Every one of us has already experienced this fall. Each of us has fallen short. We sinned and were in danger of losing our souls. You see, when we repent, we do not just feel sorry for our sin, but we do a complete turn-around. We turn from the direction we were walking, which was “our own way” and do a 180 degree turn and go “God’s way” towards Jesus Christ and the cross. Repentance is important because it demonstrates our humility. The Bible says, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5). If you truly humble yourself before God and repent, that proves you are no longer trying to justify yourself. You see, self-justification is odious to God. It makes Him sick when we try to justify ourselves and our actions. Too often in our hearts we come to God and say, “God, aren’t you proud of me? I did this for You, or I did that for You!” The Bible tells us in Isaiah 64:6, “All of our righteousness is like filthy rags to God.” Would you offer a gift of filthy rags to your spouse or children for Christmas or their birthday? Of course not! None of us would do such a thing. Nevertheless, we come to God offering our own works of righteousness, not realizing we are offering something that is filthy, putrid, and disgusting in His sight. Many years ago, I realized that I had fallen short of His Glory and I needed His gift of eternal life. I knew that I had to confess my sins and as a nine-year old in a Sunday School class I gave my life to Jesus. John 16:6b says, “. . . No one comes to the Father except through Me.” All of our lives God has been pursuing us. We probably did not realize it at the time, but God was working through all our circumstances. He was working to bring us to a crisis point in our life so we would accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Father was longing to have a relationship with us. Jesus was reaching out to us with those out-stretched arms that were nailed on the cross, wanting to embrace us and show us the kind of love we had been looking for all our lives. The Father’s long reaching love is there for each one of us. He loves us with an unconditional, everlasting love. He wants to show us how much he cares for us! We have all fallen in our lives. We have fallen in our walk with Jesus; we have disobeyed God’s commands for our lives and we get prideful and fall away from Him! We have fallen so many times, so many times, but God is always there to give us a hand and in His love for us, He forgives us time and time again! However, there is one fall, if we reject His Son Jesus, that He cannot help us with. That final fall is where we are burning forever and ever in that horrible and terrible place God never intended for any human being to be. The Bible says in Matthew 25:41, “God created hell for the devil and his angels.” Remember when we confess our sins, we are admitting to God we are sinners and we have done wrong. We place all those sins at the feet of Jesus, and we lay it all out by saying: “God, I have blown it! Please forgive me and make me your child!” If you pray this prayer your life will forever change, and you will never be the same! When you pray a prayer of forgiveness, God’s justifying grace is extended to you because “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Then God will look at you “just as if you had never sinned.” Max Lucado writes in his book, “Grace” these words, “Confession is not telling God what he doesn’t already know. Impossible. Confession is not complaining. If I merely recite my problems and rehash my woes, I’m whining. Confession is not blaming. Pointing fingers at others without pointing any at me feels good, but it doesn’t promote healing. Confession is so much more. Confession is a radical reliance on grace. A proclamation of our trust in God’s goodness…If our understanding of grace is small, our confession will be small: reluctant, hesitant, hedged with excuses and qualifications, full of fear of punishment. But great grace creates an honest confession.” (p. 83) Our sins are not just automatically taken away because of Christ’s death on the cross as some would have you believe. Through His death He made a way for us to come to Him. Christ provided the sacrifice for our sins as 1 John 2:2 tells us, “He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Perhaps you are at a point in your life where you are tired of the life you are living, one without hope, joy, and peace. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:2b, “…I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” We have to make the choice accept His justifying (saving) grace or to reject it. No one can choose for you it has to be your decision. We are free moral agents and if you choose not to choose, you have already made a choice! My hope and prayer are that you will choose justifying grace!
September 6, 2020 CATEGORIES OF GRACE – PREVENIENT (1) Ezekiel 34:11 & 16 I would like to start off this morning by giving you a definition for the word “grace” so here we go: Rev. Matt Slick describes grace this way, “Biblically, grace is unmerited favor. It is God’s free action for the benefit of His people. It is different from justice and mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve, and mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve; but because of God’s love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.” (https://carm.org/dictionary-grace) AW Tozer defines grace in his book The Knowledge of the Holy in this manner, “Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving. The apostle Paul, who beyond all others is the exponent of grace in redemption, never disassociates God’s grace from God’s crucified Son, always in his teachings the two are found together, organically one and inseparable” (101-2). The gospel of John identifies Christ as the medium with which grace reaches mankind. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John Wesley’s focus with the early Methodists was a process where believers lived out the life of grace. Wesley defined three categories of grace: prevenient, justifying and sanctifying. Today we are going to look at prevenient grace. Let us look at how prevenient grace is defined: Dr. H. Orton Wiley, a Wesleyan-Arminian theologian tells us “when we speak of ‘prevenient grace’ we think of the grace which ‘goes before,’ preparing the soul for its entrance into the initial state of salvation. It is the preparatory grace of the Holy Spirit exercised toward man helpless in sin” (Introduction to Christian Theology, p. 261). John Wesley believed that God’s prevenient grace was intended to be for all people. He said, “the grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation is free in all, and free for all.” Steve Witzki tells us that “prevenient grace enables the sinner to either accept or reject the gift of salvation provided through Christ.” We sing Amazing Grace from time to time on Sundays, but what is this amazing grace this song is proclaiming and how does prevenient grace fit in? Listen to this illustration: Infant in the womb Doesn’t know it even has a mother Mom is supplying baby with oxygen and nutrition Mom is taking vitamins and eating healthful foods Mom is exercising Mom is getting a sufficient amount of rest (or at least as much as possible) Mom is planning for the delivery. Did the baby have any clue as to what Mom was doing or why? No – not aware of any of this but the baby is being drawn to birth. By comparison, in the life of the person who has not yet turned to Christ for salvation, grace or should I say prevenient grace is at work. They may not even know it, but it is at work and God is drawing them toward Him for redemption. There is a longing for God and communion with Him that is placed in the hearts of all people. John 12:32 Jesus Himself says, “’And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.’ He said this to indicate how He was going to die.” This is prevenient or preceding grace that is placed within the heart of all people to draw everyone to Him and making the truth known to them within their very spirits. And, just as the unborn infants are not aware of their mothers, the unborn Christian may not even recognize or realize that God is drawing them to salvation through faith in Christ. This prevenient grace brings the lost to a place of decision. Are you a wretch like it says in Amazing Grace? It brings to the forefront of awareness, yes, there is a heaven and yes, there is a hell but what can I do? Once the prevenient grace has brought the person to that point of decision it is time for birth. The song Amazing Grace says it like this: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear” – prevenient grace bringing the reality of eternal lostness to the unbeliever. “And grace my fears relieved” – the birth – saving or justifying grace. Listen to this story: Max Lucado, in No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, tells the story of Maria and her daughter Christina. Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent living at home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she ran away, breaking her mother’s heart. Her mother knew what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, so Maria quickly packed to go find her daughter. On her way to the bus stop, she went to a drugstore to get one last thing—pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the money she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she got on the next bus to Rio de Janeiro. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. At each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, or fastened to a corner phone booth. On the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before Maria’s money and pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The tired mother cried as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. A few weeks later, Christina was coming down the stairs in a seedy hotel. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times she had longed to trade all those countless beds for her secure pallet. And yet the little village seemed too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back Maria had written this: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And Christina went home. God is the same way. He wants us to come home. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It doesn’t matter what we’ve become. We can always come home to Him. It is like Maria, reaching out for her daughter even when her daughter didn’t realize it. It is the same with God, reaching out to us while we are living a life of sin and lost. Yet, Christ is there, reaching, longing, and desiring to bring us home. It is prevenient grace that has kept us, as Newton writes, “safe thus far.” Prevenient grace or that grace that “goes before” still works today. For many of you here today it was this grace that brought you to a saving knowledge of Christ and this grace is still working to bring others who are lost to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! John 6:44a says, “’No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . .’” Let me close with this: There are “religious groups” around us today that will ensnare your soul with half-truths. They will tell you that there is an easier way, but I am here to tell you the only way we will see God is through His Son, Jesus and His shed blood. We must come to Him with a heart willing to confess our sins and to ask for His forgiveness. Remember Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” He just doesn’t save us from our sins, we must first ask for forgiveness and when we ask, He will forgive! It is His prevenient grace that prepares our hearts for His justifying or saving grace. August 30, 2020 SIGNS OF THE TIMES: THE BEGINNING OF THE END (3) 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Last week I shared with you about the Signs of Society. It is a time in which we, as the church, needs to put on the whole armor of God. We need to be charging ahead and making the powers of darkness back up! We need to be the soldiers of the Cross. Today, I want to share with you some spiritual signs. Now most of you probably think this is geared more for pastors, especially if you read the first two verses of chapter 4. Understand this, we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. Some of us have been specifically called by God to be pastors, but we are all called to deliver the Gospel. Any type of communication in reference to our Lord and Savior would be considered preaching to me!! Paul sees and points out in verses 3 & 4 there is a growing tendency of many who will reject the rigors of the Christian way! He was noticing this back in his day and look around us today and can’t we see the same thing happening? In the first part of v. 3 Paul writes, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…” The meaning of sound doctrine is literally “healthful doctrine”, which means doctrine that “contributes to the health of the soul or to salvation.” I asked myself how can we determine what is sound or unsound? Here are some thoughts: Sound doctrine originates with God or divine origin and false doctrine is marked by its worldly origin. Paul warned the church in Colosse to avoid doctrine that is “according to human precepts and teachings”. It is simple as this…sound teaching originates from God and false teaching originates with men or demons. When it comes to doctrine, if man made it, then we should not hold on to it. God is the Father of truth and Satan is the father of lies. (John 8:44). Sound doctrine will never go against God’s Word…it will always be grounded within the Bible. False doctrine grounds it authority outside the Bible. Sound doctrine originates in the mind of God and is recorded in his authoritative self-revelation, the Bible. You might be asking this question…two preachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. How can we know whose interpretation is correct? Sound doctrine is consistent with all of Scripture. False doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture. In Scripture we see the sameness and familiarity of true doctrine, but there is a strangeness and unfamiliarity to false doctrine. In theological circles we use this principle called, the analogy of faith, which is often explained that Scripture interprets Scripture. If the Bible originates in the infallible mind of God, it must be consistent throughout the Bible. There can be no contradiction in the mind of God because there is no contradiction in the revelation of God. What the Bible teaches in one place it cannot refute in another! Doctrine must never be treated in isolation. It must be looked at in the context of the passage and in light of a correct understanding of the entire Bible. Too many false teachers isolate verses or ideas that cannot withstand the scrutiny of the Bible. That points us to the fact that Paul has already warned Timothy that people will give in to deceiving spirits in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” as well as what I read in the first part of v. 3. Paul, also, told Timothy that people will be lovers of self and pleasure in 2 Timothy 3:1-2, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.” In the last part of v. 3 Paul writes, “…Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Here is what the Message says, “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.” What is Paul saying here? He is saying that people want to know the easy way to Heaven and will want to hear things that will go along with their thoughts. They will bring in men and women who will justify their sinful behaviors rather than rebuke them for it. Adam Clarke says, “Endless curiosity, an insatiable desire of variety, and they get their ears tickled with the language and accent of the person, abandoning the good and faithful preacher for the fine speaker…” There will be and there are today, plenty of teachers and preachers willing to accommodate them. People will find the teachers that will please them! Let me share this with you. This comes from Christian Headlines.com. The writer is Michael Foust (August 20, 2020) and this is his headline – Megachurch Pastor: Abortion ‘Is Consistent with’ Christianity and ‘I Will Fight’ to Keep it Legal. Sorry to say this folks but this is not the only instance of men and women, who call themselves, ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ coming out this way! Then in v. 4 Paul writes, “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” People will turn their ears away from the truth because the truth of God will not interest them. They will have no time to hear what the truth has to say. Their focus will be on what is politically correct, and the Biblical truths will be nothing but fables and myths. Adam Clarke says they will “believe any kind of stuff and nonsense; as one has justly observed, ‘Those who reject the truth are abandoned by the just judgment of god to credit the most degrading nonsense.’” GK Chesterton writes, “He who does not believe in God will believe in anything.” Let me close with this as we consider the signs of Scripture this morning: People will reject the Word of God, but believe in witchcraft, UFO’s, channeling, Ouija boards, etc. People will reject the Gospel of Christ but accept “religious traditions of men.” People will reject “sound doctrine” but accept “unhealthy teaching” that endangers the body and soul. People will want to be entertained, to justify fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. People will not listen to those who share the gospel but will listen to those who will tell them what they want to hear! Look around and see the signs that are coming straight from God’s Word about the end times…Jesus is coming and we need to be prepared!
August 23, 2020 SIGNS OF THE TIMES: THE BEGINNING OF THE END (2) 2 Timothy 3:1-5 Last week I shared with you about the Signs of Nature as it relates to the coming of Christ. As we begin to see more of nature revealing itself to us, we can see a pattern that points back to God’s Word and to prophetic events! This morning I want to share with you the Signs of Society. Let’s begin by looking at 2 Timothy 3:1-5. As we read through this passage, we see something incredibly special with the way Paul writes to Timothy. Paul has been mentoring Timothy and almost sees him as a son and there is a bond between them. Paul sees potential in Timothy, and he begins by teaching him the signs of the time of the second coming of Christ. We can see the parallel between what Paul was teaching Timothy and what is happening around our country and world today! Paul tells Timothy in the first verse to “mark this” and what he is telling him is write this in your notes, put this in your heart, you need to remember these things I am writing to you! Paul goes on to write that there will be perilous times ahead. At the absolute best, the last days will be hard and difficult. Not only will it be hard, but there will be hard people that will be mean and cruel. Godlessness will become the norm. Let me be clear with you this morning…I am not here to frighten you and tell you to bury your head in the sand! If we are not careful, we will take the warnings of the end times and use them to live guarded, fearful, and self-preserving lives. We can misread the instructions that Paul writes to Timothy to mean that we should be living on the defense, just hoping that somehow we can hold out till Jesus comes…and that is exactly what Satan wants you to believe. That is why we must take the Scriptures and rightly divide them, and the Bible does not tell us as the church to just sulk around, walking on eggshells hoping and praying we don’t make anyone mad!! The reality is that Jesus told us all these things, and Paul told us these things by the Holy Spirit, to prepare for this hour…not to escape this hour. I want you to know this morning that I believe that Jesus is coming back…soon! And yes, I want Him to come back, but we need to be prepared for the battle and not just looking for the exit! The early church lived in the hope of His imminent return, but they also believed it was their job to evangelize the world, and that Jesus would not return until they had finished the job. That created in them a passion and a drive to preach, teach, cast our demons, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and raise the dead. The point I am trying to make here is they were not hiding out, praying for Jesus to come and get them out of the evil world. They were convinced that they were to penetrate their culture with the message of the gospel and bring the Kingdom of God into direct confrontation with the kingdom of darkness. The early church embraced their mission and their commission. We as the church in the 21st Century need to be doing the same…we cannot just sit on our hands and just wait for His return! Matthew 24:14 Jesus says, “’And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’” The early church knew they were living in enemy territory, but they believed that they were equipped with superior weapons. They believed that the blood of Jesus, the Name of Jesus, and the Power of the Holy Spirit made them more of a match for the evil of the day. They earnestly believed that Jesus’ return would be hastened or hindered upon their activity. So, they went forth in divine zeal and purpose to cover the earth with the gospel of the Kingdom of God. They were not looking for a soft comfortable pew to sit on and hold on to and hang out till Jesus returned. They started by pushing back the forces of darkness. They were preaching and prophesying, healing the sick, and casting out demons. And all the while they were magnifying the name of Jesus every place they went. Here we are today, actually living in the last days, and somehow we have lost sight of our mission, we have forfeited the power to carry it out and we have become simply…church attenders, waiting for Jesus to come. When we look at the Biblical picture of the New Testament Christian, it is of a soldier, fully equipped in full armor, consumed by the fire of God. Walking and living in the power of the Holy Spirit, destroying the works of darkness, and setting captives free. What has happened around us today has caused so many of us Christians to live a life of fear instead of boldness. What has replaced the New Testament Church in the 21st Century is a lazy, lukewarm, self-serving, self-preserving, complacent, comfort seeking saint that doesn’t even resemble a New Testament believer, whose only ambition is to be comfortable till Jesus comes. What Paul wrote to Timothy is happening around us! We need to take off our blinders and see it for real! We are living in perilous and treacherous times. But we have hope and the writer of Hebrews 6:19 tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” We do not have to live in fear as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” As we look around us today, it seems as if life is coming apart at the seams! People’s lives and livelihoods are being destroyed and it just doesn’t seem to be getting better but getting worse. The great thing that I can tell you is that no matter what is happening around us…God is still in control. You and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, are in the palm of His Hands. We are safe because we know that through all that is going on He still knows where we are, what we are doing and He is telling us today to be still and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10). We have this hope…hope that doesn’t give up when things go wrong, hope that says I will continue to move forward, hope that will get us through the most difficult times in our lives, hope that goes beyond human understanding, hope that reaches out to others and says to them…Hope in Jesus! We are not a number to God because we are His children. His desire for us in these last days is to keep our faith, keep moving up, keep telling others, keep trusting and hoping in Him. His desire is for us to be with Him for all of eternity. And though the world may seem to be in control, remember that Paul told us in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The enemy of our souls has a plan and it is a plan for every Christian to be destroyed. He wants each of us to miss Heaven so that we can spend eternity in Hell with him. We have a hell fire and a holy fire raging at the same time. We have angels and demons warring over this nation today. They are warring for your children and your grandchildren. The hope that we have only comes from Christ and He is the purveyor of it. When we see what is happening in our country, we must come to grips with the fact that Jesus is coming, and we must be ready! Let me be honest with you this morning…we cannot play church and expect to win in this life! We have to be the church…because these are the last days! How can we be the church in the last days? First of all, we need to make sure our priorities are in place. Make sure that God is first in your life…don’t play games and be honest with yourself. Second, stand on the Word. The Bible tells us that the end times will be an age of deception. Be sure to test everything by God’s Word. 1 John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Third, believe in the power of God. Malachi 3:6a says, “I the LORD do not change…” and Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” There is no way we can cope with the evil of end time society in our own strength. Our only hope is to turn to a God who is alive and well, still sitting on the throne, who hears and answers prayer, who still performs miracles and is all powerful! Fourth, persist in prayer. One of the greatest blessings God has given believers is supernatural communication. James 5:16 says, “…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (KJV) Last of all, practice tough faith. Faith is easy when everything is going well but the test of faith is when life turns sour. When life gets tough, we need the kind of faith that hangs in there because of our confident belief that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28)
August 16, 2020 SIGNS OF THE TIMES: THE BEGINNING OF THE END (1) Matthew 24:6b-8 I am sure most of us remember back in the day there were signs everywhere. Some of us, I am sure remember Burma shave signs which were kind of cool reading as you drove down the road! We literally live in a nation of signs. Some are helpful and some are not. We have signs that tell where we can eat, buy gas, sleep overnight, finds lawyers, buy insurance, etc. So many signs and now companies are putting up digital signs! Let me see if I can jog some of your memories with a song from a long time ago! “Signs, signs everywhere are signs, blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that can’t you read the signs?” Let me share some actual signs seen around our great country. From a small town in California – “Fishing for children Only/Limit 3” From Maui, Hawaii – “Bottomless Pit/65 feet deep From Austin, Texas, a sign on a balcony read – “Please be aware that the balcony is not on ground level” In Mitchell, South Dakota is a sign that read – “Safe Haven Small Animal Hospital/ Hunters Welcome” From Los Angeles – “Caution: Blind Drivers Backing Out” Also, from Los Angeles – “Antique tables made daily” A sign in Racine, Wisconsin read, “Happy Easter! We Rent Handguns” These are signs that we can see quite readily as we travel even in town we see signs, but there are signs that sometimes aren’t as obvious and these are the signs which reveal to us what happens after the Rapture of the Church! What I am referring to is the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ. I would like to break down the signs of the times into 6 categories: The Signs of Nature The Signs of Society The Spiritual Signs The Signs of World Politics The Signs of Technology The Signs of Israel Over the next six weeks I want to give you information that comes from the last couple of years, but especially the year of 2020. The signs are there, and it doesn’t take a doctorate degree to see them. We, as the church need to be watching and waiting, as the day of His appearing comes! If you miss the Rapture of the Church, you will need to know what is awaiting you through the 7-year Tribulation period. Let’s start this morning with the first sign – the Signs of Nature. In Matthew 24:7b Jesus says, “’There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.’” In Luke 21:11, “’There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places…’” and in v. 25, “’There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars…’” The Signs of Nature give us a foreshadowing of things to come. Let me give you some statistics I found on the USGS.gov webpage from January 1 – August 14, 2020. There have been 92 significant earthquakes with 37 of them 6.0 or larger. Of that 37, 7 of them are 7.0 with a high of 7.8 in Alaska and a 7.7 in Jamaica. Since 2000 there have been 10 earthquakes of 7.5 or larger with a 9.0 and 9.1 that have caused catastrophic damage of billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost! (www.apnews.com) In 10 of 12 years (2006 – 2018) was the largest insurance disasters in history. (www.infoplease.com) Since 2012 the number of catastrophes has risen from 26 in 2012 to 61 in 2019 and we have had 20 of the costliest hurricanes hit our coasts since 2000. (www.theguardian.com) We are familiar with tornadoes…in 2019 a swarm of tornadoes hit the US with over 500+ observed tornadoes on the ground. This has only happened in 2003, ’04, ’08, and 11. Never happened before 2003 and it has happened 4 more times since then. (www.washingtonpost.com) We have had record numbers of heat waves, massive fires, floods, tsunamis, etc. but this is just the beginning. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:8, “’All these are the beginning of birth pains.’” Even Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, “…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman…” I would say most of us husbands have been there when our wives were giving birth to our children. The labor pains begin slowly and are manageable but as the labor increases the pain increases exponentially. We are seeing this happen not only on our earth but in the skies above us as well. Remember Jesus tells us in v. 25 of Luke 21, “’There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.’” We have seen amazing things in the heavens since the early 2010’s+! We have seen the blood moons, eclipses, comets as they race past the earth. We have seen planets that aren’t normally seen, we have seen the sun belch out some horribly large amounts of fire into space. One pastor has said that we should look for weird things in outer space. Did you know since 2007 researchers have been receiving ultra-strong, ultrabright radio signals from deep space? Scientists have discovered mini-black holes, dark matter, neutrinos, quasars, etc. Remember the Venus, Jupiter, and Mars sighting in the sky and how scientists tried to explain that this might have been the Bible’s star of Bethlehem in 2016. The Blood Moon happened in 2016 as well just before the alignment of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. These are just a few things that have happened, and more are happening around us here in 2020. You might be asking this question…why is it important for me to know these things? The reason we need to know and recognize these signs is to help us to be prepared for the Rapture of the Church. We, also, need to know so that we can tell others that He is coming! We do not need to be scientists or theologians to understand what nature and creation are trying to tell us! He is coming back and if we miss the rapture, we will go through 7 years of the Tribulation. Let me close with this thought: The earth is groaning as in the pains of birth. Paul writes in Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Vernon McGee says this, “Some have called our attention to the fact that nature sings in a minor key. The wind blowing through the pine trees on a mountainside and the breaking of the surf on some lonely shore – both emit the same sob. The music of trees has been recorded, and it is doleful. The startled cry of some frightened animal or bird pierces the night air and chills the blood. Surely nature bears audible testimony to the accuracy of Scripture.” (JV McGee. Thru the Bible. Nelson Publishing. Vol. IV, p. 703). We do not know in how many ways the creation groans, but scripture says that it waits for each believing person until God brings a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1-5). This passage looks forward to the end of time when all the saints of God will be revealed. In a sense the creation waits for a new birth too! It waits for the new creation as we do and we shout out, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!”