Parents, Make Christianity Big—EPIC

I don’t have a teenager, but here is the greatest advice in shepherding them to love and follow Jesus for life. Don’t worry the advice didn’t originate with me, but when I read it a few years ago my jaw dropped to the ground. I actually saw there was hope that a rebellious teen son or daughter could be rescued. There was a strategy that could help my young daughters stay on the right path through High School. And this famous advice was not even in a parenting book, actually the author was talking about a totally different subject.

The advice happened to come from my favorite author, Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

In the book, he told of his friend sharing how that the friend’s teenage daughter was headed down the wrong road. She was starting to date the wrong kind of boy. She was getting in trouble. She was being a pain at home. She was on the wrong path. The father lamented about his daughter who had gotten involved in a Gothic lifestyle and was dating a guy who was bad news. As a frustrated dad, his technique for dealing with the situation was to yell at her and make her go to church. When he came to Don for advice, Don told him, “I think what your daughter is doing is choosing a better story.”

The father thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so, his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence.

Donald continued, “We’re all designed to live inside a story. Your daughter was designed to play a role in a story. In the story she has chosen, there is risk, adventure, and pleasure. She is wanted and she is desired. In your story, she’s yelled at, she feels guilty, and she feels unwanted. She’s just choosing a story that is better than the one you’re providing. Plus, in the midst of placing her in an awful story, you make her go to church. So, you’re associating a bad, boring story with God, who has a great story. Don’t do that anymore. You have to tell a better story.”

The dad became inspired and within a week he had made contact with a small village in Mexico that needed an orphanage. The orphanage was going to cost about $20,000, so he proposed to the family that they raise the money. He painted the picture for them: “Here’s the deal, you guys. I found this village in Mexico that needs an orphanage. Awful things may happen to these kids if they don’t have a place to go, so I think we need to build this orphanage as a family. It’s going to cost over $20,000, and I know we don’t have any money, but we need to do it within two years.”

He brought out a whiteboard and asked his family—who all thought he had lost his mind—for ideas. His daughter piped up and said, “I have a MySpace page and lots of friends; maybe we can use that.” His son added, “We’re going to have to go to Mexico because if we’re going to do this, we need to see the village. And we’ll need passports.”

The father changed the game. He gave his daughter a better story. He gave his family a better story. He also made Christianity bigger than just going to church. The family got caught up in the real story with risk and adventure. Within three weeks, the girl had broken up with her boyfriend. She wasn’t asked to do it, she did it on her own. She found a better story, one in which she gets to play the heroine. She gets to sacrifice and give of herself to accomplish something that’s great, and she’s wanted and needed in this story. Her father made Christianity big.

I completely believe this approach works. If you can make Christianity big and real for your children and your teenagers then they will buy in. Maybe not as quick as the daughter in the story, but they will.

When ISIS began to roll through the Middle East, they successfully were able to recruit young girls from western nations to come and be wives of the soldiers. It’s crazy that some American girls even did it. They did it because they were given a big story. Someone is going to give your kids a big story—the world will for sure. Why not make Christianity big to them? Why not make it EPIC?

 
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Parents, Teaching Your Child Bible Isn’t Hard

You care and want to teach your child the Bible. You want them to know the truth, but coming through is not so easy.  And it can be intimidating, but teaching your child Bible isn’t hard as we make it. 

In college and seminary, while training for ministry, I initially thought I might be called to family ministry. I took every family, marriage, and children’s ministry class I could. I’m reminded of this anytime my wife and I get in a disagreement. I hear, “Jake, is that what you learned in ALL those marriage classes?”

Along with learning great marriage practices, I don’t always put into practice, I also made lofty plans of all I would do to raise my children up in the Lord. We were going to have family devotionals in the morning and family worship services at night—every night. My children were going to be lil John Pipers. They were going to be able recount the Westminster Catechism, have all the Bible memorized, and be able to explain the Trinity.

Eventually, I had my first born. And it was time to start on the endeavor I had planned several years earlier. It was also time for me to hit—reality. It was not so easy. Not easy to fit in all that Bible teaching to my daughter. And life was busy. Also, newborns aren’t too interested in reading through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I had spurts where I tried, but I was not consistent—my wife was consistent though. Each night she made sure one of us read our sweet Andrea three books, one of which always being the Bible. She would stack two books and a children’s Bible by the rocker. Then she would tell Andrea that not all these books were the same. She would say, “Although the two ‘random’ picture books, might tell a story that could be true, they were mostly just stories that had been made up. But the Bible was a special book. Everything it said was true. God guided people to write it.”

Every night. Three books, maybe a fourth. Always that children’s Bible. Always a comment about the specialness of the Bible. Always reassurance of the Bible pertaining truth. Always a reminder the Bible came from God.

I wish I knew exactly how many times we have been through that one hundred story children’s Bible. It’s close to twenty times. In future posts, I want to share the benefits I have found through this system with children receiving a foundation of the Old Testament. A foundation of the Bible stories themselves. And especially hearing them in chronological order.

Although, I have not even scratched the surface in accomplishing my lofty goals, I made for my future family while in seminary, the Scriptural foundation my daughter has is beyond my wildest dreams. It’s not hard. One brief page a night. One story a night. Consecutively. Chronological. Consistent. Powerful.

If you have young kids start this today. Seriously, 5-10 minutes a night. Make it part of the “night routine”. It’s easy. It’s far easier than we parents make it—just do it.

If you have older kids, then it is more difficult, but once you bridge a way to start, again one passage a night. Then watch God work because–parents, teaching your children the Bible is not as hard as we make it.

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Parents, Get Caught

Now there are things we try to keep from our kids catching us doing—
 
you know like hiding Christmas presents or yawning when they are reading to us. What were you thinking?

But, I want to tell you an act your kids need to catch you doing—your Quiet Time. You getting caught doing your Quiet Time (devotional time, Bible Study, prayer time—whatever you want to call it) and continuing to get caught is the BEST thing you can do for your kids, regardless of their age. Even if your children are grown they need to know you have an active prayer life. I have the times I “caught” my Mom or Dad, praying and/or reading the Bible, burned in my brain. Seeing them do that on their own time beyond just church expressed to me their faith was real. Therefore, it was likely God was real.

Scripture does tell us to go into our “prayer closet” to pray. Our time alone with the Lord is just that, time alone with the Lord. We aren’t to do it for show, but even Jesus got caught getting alone with the Father. If a devotional time is habitual for us, then others are going to pick up on it at some point.

In my time as a youth pastor, one of the testimonies that impacted me the most were two sisters who shared how every morning they woke up and went to the fridge, passing their mother at the table reading her Bible. As they grew older they followed in those footsteps. Reading the Bible each morning wasn’t an awkward thing, but just was part of life for their family. My wife and I decided when we had kids we hoped to create that same dynamic.

Four years ago, my wife and I committed that our Quiet Times would be become the most important things in our lives. The most important item on my pastoral to-do list was to spend time with God. At the time, my wife was a stay-at-home mom, and she decided if the only thing she got done that day was to have her quiet time, it was okay for that mattered most. She also decided that if she had to do it with our kids climbing on her head and running circles around her, she would. And she did!

Our kids now know the first thing we do in the morning is our quiet time. I’m going to be in my home office with headphones on my head, armed with my prayer journal, Bible, and a devotional book. My wife is going to be in the living room or on the deck with her prayer journal, Bible, and devotional book. Most mornings they don’t get up in time to catch us, but there are those when they do. My oldest may pull up a chair next to me and borrow one of my ear buds as I write out my morning prayer. My youngest may crawl in the lap of my wife as she reads Streams in the Desert. They also hear us “report” on what we learn or “hear” in our quiet times. They know our filled prayer journals are sacred, holding guidance God has given our family.

They have caught us over and over again. I’m so glad we were doing it because we got caught. They know we have an active prayer life. They see it just as part of life.

So, much so, my oldest asked for a “prayer journal” for Christmas and has started her own morning quiet time.

Parents, would you please let your children catch you having a quiet time.
 
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We’ll Know More Monday – Part 2

What If . . .  
 
 
Biopsy. Surgery. Those words lingered in my thoughts as we waited for the results.
 
We prayed. Our church, friends, and families all prayed.
 
While we waited for the follow-up appointment ­– set for Monday, one week after my colonoscopy screen ­– I buried myself in routine activities to avoid “what if” mind games.
 
What if the biopsy reveals cancer? What if the cancer isn’t contained? What if I waited too late for my screens and cost myself precious time? What if all the praying in the world doesn’t change the feared outcome? What if . . .  What if . . . What if . . .
 
The enemy loves to prey on our fears, doesn’t he? Waiting for important answers can leave us vulnerable to fear, doubt, and other attacks on our faith in God.
 
“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.” (Mark 11:24-25, NASB)
 
While not promoting “name it and claim it” gospel, belief – trust – is essential. We must believe, place our trust in God, and hold on no matter how He answers our prayers.
 
 Just keep praying, believe and trust.
 
What if I chose to focus on the “right” what ifs? What if I trust Him with my fears and allow Him to comfort and strengthen me? What if my heart prays continually while my hands stay busy? What if I simply hold on and allow God to walk me through each step?
 
We’ll know more on Monday. Keep praying.
 
I fully expected to wait the whole week before learning the results of my biopsy, but God didn’t make me wait. Saturday, five days after the colonoscopy, my phone buzzed, the screen lit and flashed my brother’s number.
 
“Hey,” I said.
 
“Hey, there is someone here who wants to talk to you,” he said.
What? Who would be with my brother and want to talk to me? Out-of-town relative in for a visit? A former classmate?
“Mrs. Thomas . . .” I recognized the voice of the doctor, “. . . the biopsy results came back. It was benign – at least what I took in the office. We can’t be 100 percent sure until the pathology report is back after surgery, but so far everything looks good . . . I didn’t want you to have to wait until Monday to hear the good news.”
 
Yes! Praise the Lord!
           
Hope, relief, and awe washed over me. I received three gifts in that one phone call.

 The first gift came in the initial report – while I still faced surgery, the benign biopsy elevated my hope. Second, the shortened wait relieved the part of me still vulnerable to stress and worry. Third, I am in complete awe that a “chance” encounter with my brother on a weekend led to a personal call two days prior to my follow-up appointment. The details of that chance encounter – incredible as they are – reduce to this:  I received a personal call – not from my primary physician, but a specialist – on a Saturday from my brother’s phone. How does that happen except by the love of God through a caring doctor?

 
Wow.
 
           
We learned more during our Monday appointment. The doctor shared the size, location, and type of polyp as he pointed at images taken during the procedure. My husband and I listened as he shared and answered our questions, translating clinical terms for our benefit.
 
After a time, he paused. Looking over the rim of his glasses with gentle-but-serious eyes, he said, “Young lady, if you had put this off any longer, we would be having a totally different conversation. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when, this mass becomes cancerous. Based on my experience, this type tends to be the second most aggressive kind.”
 
Yikes.
 
Though optimistic, he reminded me of the needed post-surgery pathology report to know for sure.
 
Hope – I still have hope.
 
I had postponed the colonoscopy two years. With no obvious symptoms, ignoring the nagging within me came easy. While I needed the procedure, I dreaded the preparation required. One morning, as I showered and dressed for work, an emphatic message struck me, “Make an appointment with the doctor TODAY.” When I arrived at work, I called. That appointment led here.
 
What if I had chosen to ignore the nagging urge, again? What if my primary physician opted to start my health check with different tests?
 
The what ifs never stop, do they?
 
Before we left the doctor’s office, we secured a consultation appointment with the surgeon we selected. In another week, we’d know even more – confident in holding on, taking one step at a time.
 
On the drive home, I allowed myself to wonder: What if we hadn’t prayed?
             
 
 
(Editor’s note:  This is Part II of a three-part series – a personal account of recent experiences regarding a routine colonoscopy screen. You may read Part I at https://www.standfirmministries.com/well-know-more-monday-part-1/. I hope you’ll follow this series to its final installment, never postpone health screens, and find the courage to Hold­­_On no matter what you may be facing.)
 

 

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  
 
 

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We’ll Know More Monday – Part 1

Part I – The Routine Screen
 
“We’ve set an appointment for you to come back next Monday to review the results of your biopsy. In the meantime, we need to set an appointment with a surgeon.”
 
A whole week? A surgeon?
 
The doctor continued to share the specifics with my husband. Attempting to shake the fog of the anesthesia, I tried forcing my focus on the conversation between them. Though I managed to fumble my glasses into place, the doctor’s face remained fuzzy. I sensed the doctor’s concern only by the serious tone of his voice.
 
It was supposed to be just a routine screen.
 
“The polyp is too large to remove here and is attached near the appendix. Either way, surgery will be required, and will include removing part of the colon. We won’t know the results of the biopsy until next week.”
 
“But if it’s cancerous, perhaps we’ve caught it in time?” I asked, searching for anything positive.
 
“Let’s hope so.” His soft reply offered little in the way of comfort. I can only assume the doctor didn’t wish to give me false hope.
 
Don’t be afraid. Just breathe.
 
I had two choices – be afraid, fret and worry, or rebuke fear.
 
In the car, I broke the silence. “Well, it is what it is. Or it isn’t what it isn’t. Either way, worry changes nothing. We’ll just wait and assume the best.”
 
If my husband said anything at all, I didn’t hear a word, but I sensed his relief. He knew my head was in a good place and that meant everything in the moment.
 
Besides, it’s only seven days. We’ll know more on Monday.
 
I only needed to trust God, hold on, and face Monday on Monday.
 
I know from the core of my faith, nothing catches God by surprise. Why worry or stress over what is or isn’t?
 
“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:27, NASB
 
Worry changes nothing for positive, but God can change anything. What will be, will be. My life is in God’s hands – always, not just in this moment.
 
Maybe you’ve received recent news, feeling sucker-punched in the gut and struggling to wrap your head around it. Maybe you are still waiting for test results – a wait torturing your thoughts with fear. Maybe you are fighting for your life, growing wearier every day.
 
Whether you are just beginning to slip into the shadows of worry or feeling completely engulfed in the darkness of despair, leaning into the light of your faith can change your perspective of everything.
 
 
 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12, NASB
 
As a child, I feared the dark, or rather, I feared the unknown lurking in the dark. At night, I always managed to find more courage with a single night light strategically placed in the dark hallway to light the path from my room to the bathroom. The soft glow of one small light changed my perspective of what was, or rather, wasn’t lurking in that dark, creepy hallway.
 
As an adult, in some child-like way, I equate that to the Light of Jesus keeping my path lit by the words of my Lord, my relationship with Him, and my belief and faith in Him. He changes my perspective of everything.
 
Jesus clearly states He is the Light of the world. For me, the idea of facing anything in this life without Jesus strikes more fear in me than the situation itself. While weak humanity allows the strength of my faith some vulnerable exposure, I praise the Lord for sustaining me, strengthening me, and chasing away the shadows and darkness of this world.
 
My answers were a week away. Whenever a shadow of fear began to descend, I sought the Light to chase it away and reminded myself, “We’ll know more on Monday.”
 

 

(Editor’s note:  This is Part I of a three-part series – a personal account of recent experiences regarding a routine colonoscopy screen. I hope you’ll follow this series to its final installment – and never postpone health screens.)
 

 

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

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Be Careful Studying the Bible, You Could Be Deceived

Ok, ok, I admit I’m about to contradict myself and I say that to head-off the negative comments, the subject elicits enough of its own. In my last post, I argued that the reason end-time prophecy has been made complicated is because almost everyone comes to the biblical text with an end-time view before they have actually read the end-time prophecies themselves. Therefore, rather than our end-time view coming from Scripture, we read a view into Scripture. These ideas we bring to the Sacred Text are called presuppositions. And I spent close to a thousand words (which was way more than you wanted to read) in that post urging you to put yourself in theological neutral when you come to the Bible, throwing off all your preconceived views and read the Bible and let it shape your view.

But now in the first post of my follow-up series, The Endtime Views Series, I’m going to argue that there is a presupposition we all MUST take to the text. I realize the contradiction—throw off presuppositions last week and a presupposition is necessary this week.

But this presupposition that you must have guards against other presuppositions that are dangerous.

And what is this must have presupposition?

The presupposition of deception.

When we come to read, interpret, and understand the Bible we MUST know that the Bible warns that we haven an enemy whose number one tool is deception and that we are susceptive to that deception (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10, John 8:44, Eph. 6:11-12, 2 Cor. 2:11). Not only are we warned that our enemy deceives, but we are warned that we will gravitate to teachings that allows us to carry out our own evil desires (2 Tim. 4:3-4). We’re also warned that our hearts can be fickle (Jer. 17:9), and that we struggle to give ourselves trustworthy self-assessments (James 1:23). And on top of all that every New Testament book, but Philemon warns of false teachers (1 Tim 4:1-4).

So, let’s think through this.

The last book in the New Testament was finished no more than sixty years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. The majority of the Epistles which tell the recipients that they have already been bewitched or led astray were only thirty years removed from Jesus’ return to the Father. Those first Christians only thirty to forty years away from the start of this Movement were warned they had been and could be deceived, they would gravitate to false teaching, and there would be false teachers.

Therefore, now nearly two-thousand years later, we’re in a mess. Satan and demonic

If you agree with Jake that Bible prophecy should lead to action. Then get his latest book, Spiritual Prepper.

vermin have had six-hundred times the amount of time they had to bewitch the believers of Galatia and Thyatira. We’ve had two-thousand years to bend and mold Scripture to fit our own desires. And in two-thousand years the false teaching profession has masterfully grown. We’re drowning in deception and each day new schemes are created. And if I make it sound bleak—it’s because it is. And it’s with the weight of this bleakness in which we should come to the Text. We should know that we’re a boat on the sea that can be easily tossed by the waves and pulled by the undertows. We need to know that EVERY pastor, scholar, teacher, professor, commentary writer, author, and advice-giving friend is also susceptible of being deceived.

When we see our enemy is scheming, doctrinal booby traps have been set, and we need Holy Spirit-provided armor then we are set to more accurately read and interpret the Bible. It is in the sweating that we may understand the Bible wrong that we can begin to accurately divide the Word. It is at this point that we have developed the presupposition of deception and we know to be careful studying the Bible—you could be deceived.

 

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Bonus: Helpful Hints to Utilize the Presupposition of Deception

So…now what? For one, don’t be too afraid to read and study the Bible, but we must respect that we are at war in finding the truth. But we can know the truth. We have been given the Holy Spirit to illuminate and guide us. We’ve also been given solid hermeneutical practices. I want to share a few things that I utilize to try to work through the deception.

 

  1. Read the Bible – Yes, it’s that simple, read what the Bible says. Meditate on what it says. Go beyond just isolated verses and read the context and the whole council. Don’t just take someone’s word for it, read it for yourself and again read in context.

 

  1. Seek God Holistically and Balanced – I know this sounds crazy but believe it or not many try to read and study the Bible without seeking any other spiritual growth or by the same token they do spiritual practices without reading the Word. In Ephesians 6, the Apostle Paul tells us to fight Satan’s attacks by putting on the full armor of God. He doesn’t just tell us to read the Bible or just share the Gospel. We’re to equally cover our life in all aspects of following Christ.

 

  1. Walk in the Spirit – This goes with the previous point, but make sure you have a regular time with God. A quiet time, devotional, or whatever you wanna call it. Regularly seek Him.

 

  1. Interpret Scripture with Scripture – This is a hermeneutical principle and there are other like principles I could list, but I don’t share this as a principle but as a reminder that you have to not just read the parts of the Bible you want to read. If we’re to interpret Scripture with Scripture then we have to read the whole council of God’s Word. For example, it was not until I immersed myself in the Old Testament that end-time prophecy came alive. And the whole council of Scripture also points us to understanding the reasoning and purpose of certain aspects like Samuel Whitefield has written about in his new book, It Must Be Finished.

 

  1. Keep Assessing Yourself – No matter how spiritual we may think we are, we still will always gravitate to teachings that allow us to live out our desires or take the path of least resistance. We must constantly be peering into our own hearts and asking if our interpretation is self-serving or the truth. And self-serving can also extend to preserving our status in our own churches and denominations.

 

  1. Go Back to the Beginning and the Restarts – Yes, we need to read and work through Scripture ourselves, but we will have to turn for help. We must “check” our work with trusted sources. There are tons of sources to turn to—commentaries, books, sermons, and preachers both past and present. I always check my work with the beginning of Christianity by returning to the Church Fathers especially the earliest ones. Does this mean they are right on everything—NO! But I believe they have the greatest opportunity to have a less tarnished interpretation. Next, I go to the various restarts, reforms, and revivals in Christian history to see what was sought to be corrected. Of course, the largest volume of these would be the Reformers. Again, they weren’t right on everything. But not just the reformers, there have been many times throughout history when there has been an attempt to hit reset on a doctrine or practice. A recent example is over the last ten to fifteen years, as Joel Richardson has brought to the forefront the understanding that the final empire of Daniel 2 could be the Islamic Caliphate rather than the Roman Empire. Richardson’s view is new, but it calls us back to reexamine the text. When a practice or doctrine is reviewed by returning us to the Bible that is a restart we should consider.
 
 
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Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  

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Declaration Series IV: Bible Prophecy Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated, Read It

So, I have this tagline for my Bible prophecy teaching ministry and it’s not very helpful.

I advertise I want to be the boring prophecy guy. I know I need some marketing tips—you know anyone? And I learned really quick, prophecy-intrigued audiences don’t want the boring prophecy guy, they want the great-code-breaker or the wild conspiracist. But I have kept the tagline because there is not an end-time code to break (even if there are thirty books in Amazon’s prophecy Top 100 with that in the title). Now there are some mysteries, but not as many as we make it out to be. I’m convinced Bible prophecy doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. 

I want to be the boring prophecy guy because the Bible is clear on many aspects of the end-times, and those things are what we should focus on and they’re enough to understand what we need to understand. Bible prophecy is not complicated rather we are the ones who have muddied the prophecy interpretation waters, God’s Word has not failed. Bible scholars before us have created systems or views of prophecy interpretation and we now adopt one of those views before we read. We then read with those presuppositions which often creates great complications. That is why we’re so confused.

It wasn’t until I placed my heart and mind in theological-neutral and actually read the words of the prophets and Revelation that the chaos vanished, and truth rose to the surface. It was a painstaking journey through the Old Testament that brought the end of the age to focus. And this journey was after college and seminary. So, I acknowledge, such study is work, but, frankly, I found I hadn’t read and truly worked through the texts myself. And this arrival at actually just reading the texts and trying to push my presupposition aside was only a few years ago. I want to share my journey of end-time understanding to draw attention to the fact that we are setting our minds on an end-time view before even reading Scripture.

Long before I even read the “main” end-time verses, my mind was set on how they should be interpreted. Long before I read about the end-times, I had read and watched the Left Behind series. I had watched A Thief in the Night. I listened to DC Talk. The only sense of the end-time scenario I had was a pending, quick as lightning, neatly-folded-clothes rapture.

I went into Bible College with this view while the only verse in Revelation I had really read was Revelation 3:15-16 (which again was prompted by DC Talk). In the summer, after my freshman year,  before I had any teaching on the end of the age, I picked up a book on Revelation from my local Christian book store. I actually knew nothing of the author nor his view, but as a passionate youth pastor, I spent the summer teaching through that book. A book , that I now know, only contained proof texts.

Finally, in my sophomore year I had Eschatology and was taught premillennial dispensationalism was the one and only way in which The Book of Revelation could be interpreted. Therefore, I chose my stance I was a Clarence-Larkin-chart-memorizing Dispensational Premillennialist, hard and firm, that the rapture would be before the tribulation. I read nothing from opposing views, rather swore them off as evil.

Fast forward to seminary, my first semester Systematic Theology class further persuaded me to be a staunch dispensationalist. But as I progressed in my studies and began to take on the air of a scholar—I came to believe that premillies were hoaky  and uneducated, and for one to truly be a scholar than he or she must be an amillennialist. Reluctant, to take the amillennial title, I just quit teaching and talking about end-times stuff—rather I became just focused on the Gospel. I took on a more-worthy cause because (I hope you read this with the sarcastic tone I’m typing in) the end-times is only peripheral to the Gospel, Missions, and Church planting.

Then came fourth-year summer term course on The Book of Revelation. That professor was a real scholar (again that tone), he taught that The Book of Revelation was just a spiritual metaphor to the completion of suffering. I now had my ammo to take on the banner of an amillie. And to sound even cooler, I was an amillennialist who viewed The Book of Revelation through an eclectic interpretation. Some literal. Most spiritual and metaphorical. It depended on which commentator sounded the best.

Let’s fast forward a few more years, I was pastoring and had realized (following my Hebrew grades) I was not a scholar. And my tree-stand readings had been from David Jeremiah, so again I came over to the premill camp, but I wasn’t sure about dispensationalism. As you can see I’ve had quite the end-time view journey, but this latest chapter of the journey has brought me to a point of stability. 

If you agree with Jake that Bible prophecy should lead to action. Then get his latest book, Spiritual Prepper.

Three years ago, I taught an Old Testament Survey course at a lay seminary. And it was through that painstaking study through the Old Testament focused on the covenants, that I finally dug in and read Scripture. Now I had read the Bible cover to cover, but never dug in and really focused on books like the Minor Prophets. That grind through the Bible with presuppositions thrown to the side woke me up. It woke me up to the importance of end-times prophecy and how that it was not as complicated as we make it.

A month ago, I celebrated my twentieth year in ministry. And I now realize I spent the first seventeen years treating end-time views like a pizza buffet. I would look at the options—premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism and then pick the one that sounded best. Pretribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath, or post-tribulation—again which ever looked best. Futurism, preterism, or symbolism—again whatever flavor I felt like picking.

We can’t do this! End-time views or theological views of any kind aren’t slices of pizza on a buffet. Rather, they need to be birthed from the text. Scripture itself is to lend us the view we should take. And a straight forward reading of the Bible makes the selecting of views quite easy.

So, how have you come to your end-time view? Was it selected off a buffet or birthed from the text? Was it concluded from reading the Bible or through recommendation of a friend? Have you put in the hard work and actually read the Bible?

The issue is too important to just pick a view especially if you are teaching and leading others.

So, what are the end-time views I have now become convinced to be true? Well, if I told you that would go against the point of this post. Instead of me telling you that, how about you read the Scriptures because Bible prophecy doesn’t have to be complicated.  
 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you prepare for challenges now and in the future. Register here

 

 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  

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Declaration of War II: Churches Are Not Prepared, I Want to Help

I know it’s a strong picture and title for a pastor to use. Especially, when he’s not talking about physically picking up arms, but  rather fighting a war of ideals. I believe the strong language of this blog series and the force of the war imagery is necessary because this battle carries weighty resonating consequences. As I wrote, in the first article of this declaration of war series, many American Christians have left the church and the faith. The number one reason being the result a difficult  trial arising in their lives. When this happens, we’ll rarely step up and hold on, more often than not we’re going to split.

Statistics and experience show we’re not anywhere close to standing firm now in this present time in history, so how will we ever stand if there’s even greater tribulation—and there will be. And by greater tribulation, I’m not even talking about the coming time when the Antichrist and his ghoulish army march through the world chopping heads off those who don’t bow to his image or take his mark. But that too will happen as foretold in Scripture—and we’re not showing much promise that we’ll stand in that scenario.

Rather, I’m talking about national trials that could occur at anytime such as an economic downturn like the Great Depression, heck, just another 2008-like recession. I’m talking about the continual growth in access to immorality that web designers are busy preparing for us right now. I’m talking about restrictions on religious liberty as seen across the world. It doesn’t appear we’re ready for the coming challenges to our faith. Again, we probably weren’t ready for what we faced this morning or last night. We’re not ready for the loss of a loved one, a loss of a job, going broke, a friend stabbing us in the back, a disagreement at church, the seductive glance in the office, and the list goes on. We’ve been lulled asleep with the ideas that Christianity brings financial prosperity and its just all about making a positive difference. 

We’re not prepared.

Believers across this nation are not prepared.

Our churches aren’t preparing us.
 
And we’re not preparing our churches.

I have this strange life where I get to pastor a church and attend a church. I’ve got this dual membership thing going (if that really is a thing). I love the church I attend. It’s a magnificent church. Truth is proclaimed, people are baptized every week, we’re making a huge impact in our city, and a huge impact around the globe. Seriously, its one of the greatest churches in the nation. My pastor even preaches on end-time stuff and about the reality of the world around us. He has his finger on the pulse of the times and the culture.

Even being such a strong church, I sat in the morning worship service a few weeks back and peered around at the three thousand gathered. They were hearing the Word proclaimed, but as I looked a phrase came across my heart Those words were, “They are sheep headed to slaughter.” Although many around me are faithfully attending church, hearing the Word taught accurately and boldly, and going through one of the best discipleship programs in the nation—they’re still not prepared. They’re not ready to have their faith survive coming challenges. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m prepared—and I wrote a book about being prepared for such challenges.

In my book, Spiritual Prepper, I begin with a story of a father facing ISIS soldiers who were asking if he really was a Christian, a follower of the Nazarene. This father knew that if he said yes, then not only would he probably be killed, but his family—his wife and children–could be harmed even killed. And in that opening chapter, I boldly stated the Biblical truth that even if his daughters were sold to be child-sex slaves and his sons were beheaded, the Father would make the right choice by not denying Christ and holding on to his faith. Yes, I said that. And yes, it’s the absolute truth given in Scripture. Our confidence should be in God not in our own clever ways.

So, I wrote that and just the other day, I was stingingly reminded of what I had written. I was throwing myself a pity-party over not being able to provide certain things for my kiddos because at sixteen I made this crazy commitment to vocational ministry. And then I even veered off the less-than-lucrative path of pastoring to launch my own non-profit. This made even worse in that I might just be the world’s worst fundraiser. (Here’s a DONATE BUTTON by-the-way).

Yeah, so, I was whinning before the Lord, and then came that cut-you-to-the-bone chastisement from Him. “Jake, you wrote and encouraged people to remain faithful even to the point of their own child being beheaded, and now here you are wavering in your faith because your kids may never go to Disney Land.” Ouch. Hashtag ‘Murica by-the-way.

I really doubt I’m prepared. It’s highly likely you are not prepared. It’s more than likely your church is not prepared.

And I know the objections. First, I do know there are those of believers who would rise and remain faithful when things hit the fan, but I believe they could be even better prepared—I know I could be. Second, I imagine you’re thinking that every week we’re preparing our people or getting prepared by the preaching of the Word and from  Bible studies, but with statistics what they are of people leaving the church and faith, we have to admit that might not be doing the trick–we’re not prepared for the wimpy challenges Monday mornings pose.

I admit as a pastor I failed in preparing my congregation, even now I’m wrestling with what to do and how to better ready my people, but I do know this–we have to be intentional. We have to talk about it. We have to have the hard discussions.

Pastor, do it! Sunday School teacher share it! And I’d also love to come and share it as well.

But remaining faithful should be the goal, therefore we need to prepare.
 
And if you’re asking what should we be preparing to face then check out this article
 
 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you hold on and fight this war, too. Register here

 

 
 
 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  
 

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Declaration of War: People are Leaving the Faith, I Want to Help

I’m declaring war against an epidemic in America. No more timidity. No more holding back. There is too much on the line. What is at stake is too important.

If you follow Stand Firm Ministries or anything I’ve been up to the past couple of years, then you have heard my story. And I know, it’s yada, yada, but again–here I go. If you’re familiar with the story, you have my permission to skip the next paragraph, but not permission to exit the screen!

I was serving as pastor at a church I loved, with people I love. Life and ministry was great. We’d been there for 11 years. The church and the community were our life, and life was good! Then I began to follow a long-time prompting of the Holy Spirit to write. In doing so, somehow, I began to write about prophecies in the Bible that we often overlook, prophecies that not only tell about the political and doomsday-type stuff at the end of the age, but rather tell how we will be in terms of our faith and morality. The image Scripture gives us is not good. Matthew 24:10 warns, many of us will turn away. That prophecy opened my eyes to the reality all around us—many had already left the faith in America. An astounding forty-two million by 2015. When faced with challenges in life, many professed Christians are splitting from the church and often the faith. This was alarming, especially since other prophecies tell us those challenges will only grow more difficult.

In response to the leading of the Spirit and the findings mentioned above, I left that pastorate and began Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified. Stand Firm Ministries was established to encourage believers to hold-on to their faith, and Prophecy Simplified to share Scripturally and simplistically the challenges that will come our way in the future.

My number one hope is to encourage local churches across the nation with the message to hold on to their faith and identify the coming challenges to the faith. Due to the stigmatism that accompanies prophecy, I have carefully guarded what I say, not wanting to hinder future opportunities. Let’s be honest, we tend to think prophecy teachers are tin-foil hat wearing crazies. At least I did. So, I have walked on eggshells constantly laying out the prayer-fleece, so I’d not cross the line into crazy-town. But I can’t walk that tight rope anymore. I can’t suppress the truth. Too much is at stake. 

Millions across the nation are departing the church and faith. Europe already has. This very morning, the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting held a meeting on the possibility that the denomination was dying. Yes, part of all this turning away is just the “wheat and tares harvest”, but the causalities do not have to be so high. Church members need to be encouraged to hold the line now, and we need to begin ministries to welcome back those who have walked away.

We need to know what the Bible is clear about in terms of the end. We need to recognize what has been and is being fulfilled before our very eyes. We need to be prepared to remain faithful now and in the future.

There I’ve said it.

I put my foot in my mouth.

I committed myself.

I exposed a calling, I’ve carried out sheepishly.

I hope you hold me to it. The stakes are high. Therefore, I declare war. My gauntlet is thrown down. On this hill I die. I declare war on silence. I declare war on not shouting down warnings from the wall. I declare war on the challenges that are blindsiding Christians and causing them to abandon their faith. I declare war on not being chicken-little announcing the sky is falling because it is.

Please, consider having me share in your church about this message. More than that, declare war yourself, commit to hold on.

The stakes are high—Stand Firm.

 
Also join our newsletter. Twice a month get a load of tools to help you hold on and fight this war, too. Register here

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Jake McCandless is an award-winning author and the executive director for Stand Firm Ministries and Prophecy Simplified . A long-time pastor who is now co-pastor of the innovatve “above-ground underground,” online church, Endtime.Church., Jake has a B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Studies from Central Baptist College, and an Advanced Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book Spiritual Prepper released through WND Books, He also is a regular contributor to WND News with voices such as Joseph Farrah, Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Ben Carson, Chuck Norris, Joel Richardson, Carl Gallups. He also writes for the The Baptist Press along with other publications. He is also a regular guest on national radio and streaming web shows, along with hosting his daily radio program Prophecy Simplified Radio and weekly podcast Hold On.  Jake is married to Amanda and they have two daughters Andrea and Addison. You can follow all Jake’s work at www.jakemccandless.com. 
  

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Uncertain About What’s Next

The tassels on each end of the golden honor chord, bright against the black collegiate gown, swayed slightly with each step. She paused, took a deep breath, and waited for what came next. As our daughter’s full name was announced, followed by, “Bachelor of Science, Missions, Magna Cum Laude,” Marinna crossed the stage, shook the hand of the college president and received the degree she worked so hard to earn – with honors.

Mixed emotions flooded my soul. Pride, awe, relief, joy, fear, confidence, peace, and uncertainty for what comes next.

Pride, because from the beginning of her college search, she targeted one place for one reason. She chose a specific private Christian college to equip her to serve the Lord in ministry. To be sure of her convictions and her calling, my husband and I offered options. She held firm to her decision and received the necessary scholarships to resolve any financial obstacles. What Christian parent wouldn’t be pleased with that?

Marinna felt God directed her, and she held on believing He would provide.

He did.

I stand in awe of her spiritual growth, focus, and her Christian convictions. While far from perfect, as a deacon’s kid and a pastor’s kid all her life, Marinna’s consistent exposure to the Word of God set a firm foundation for her. However, a strong-willed, openly opinionated child combined with our parenting faults and failings, created a real opportunity for quite the opposite. More so, I stand in awe of all God placed before her despite our parenting mistakes. I praise Him for giving her the wisdom to make good choices. As her parents, we hold on trusting God to finish the good works He started in her. (Phil 1:6)

As our graduate paused next to the college president, turned, and smiled at the camera, I released a long, slow sigh of relief as if letting go of the spiritual breath I held since her adolescence. The challenging seasons of preteen, teen, and college passed without irrational decisions, irresponsible behavior, or irreparable damage. The chick in the nest remained safe and ready to fly.

With college finished, for now at least, joy fills us for many reasons: her ministry focus; academic accomplishments; finishing college without debt. But what fills me most with joy is witnessing her growth in the Lord – both scholastic and spiritual.

Is she still strong willed, opinionated and stubborn? Yes! Imagine those traits, coupled with quick wit and a fearless nature all focused on the Lord and not the desires of this world. I fear for the opposition she will face, for her sake and theirs. Strong-willed individuals are famous for their relentlessness – a doubled edge sword for sure. Oh, the stories I could tell, but I won’t – not yet, anyway.

Marinna exudes confidence and self-assurance. However, my confidence in her arises not from her own, but from God. I hold on knowing God clasps my daughter in the palm of His hand. Wherever He takes her, whatever He calls her to do, whomever He calls her to be, He will equip her, supply her needs, and finish His great work in her. As long as she remains in the center of His will, peace settles in my heart.

Then, uncertainty disrupts the peace when my mind speaks louder than my heart. The mental conversation seems more like a ping pong match between the two. So many unsettled questions served up in one part of my mind end up answered by another. “What’s next? Will she be close, or far away? Will she immediately find vocational ministry, or remain in a secular job?” Then, “God knows. God’s got this. God’s got her.”  Letting go proves difficult, especially for the parents of an only child.

            Maybe you feel the same. Whether your child is graduating kindergarten, high school, or college, maybe you also wrestle with the uncertainty of the future even as you know, “God’s got this.” Or maybe a heavy heart weighs on you as our cunning enemy lures your child away from God. Are you burdened with guilt, questioning every parenting decision you ever made, wishing things for your child would turn out differently? Maybe even as a model parent, your child chose a path contrary to the Will of God leaving you standing by, stunned, and unsure of anything.

            Maybe you are the graduate and you are fighting the fear of an uncertain future.

            Read these words.

            Hold on.

            Do. Not. Give. Up.

Trust God no matter what. Hang on in faith and pray.

Please understand, I know those words are easier said than lived. God never promised our walk with Him would be easy. Our strength for the required endurance comes from Him.

While we are proud of our daughter, God is the hero of this story – not Marinna, and certainly not our parenting skills. [If only you knew!] Even just one wrong choice opens the door for a very different outcome. Sometimes someone else’s wrong choice impacts us and changes everything.

As parents, we desire the best for our children. We want to protect them.

We know the dangers of this world, potential pitfalls, and the active work of an enemy who wishes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). We see evidence of his destruction and evil every day. We pray – and we should, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

God holds the answers to all things, is everywhere, and can protect my daughter no matter what. Knowing this gives me peace and provides comfort when I am uncertain about what comes next.

I pray you find peace and comfort in that as well.

           “For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB)

 

(Editor’s Note: Thank you, President Terry Kimbrow, and the faculty and staff of Central Baptist College of Conway, AR, for our daughter’s quality Bible education.)

Rita Halter Thomas is a staff writer for Prophecy Simplified, providing HOLD ON Stories to encourage you to hold on to your faith. She is a pastor’s wife and the mother of a college missions major.  She is also an award-winning writer, the founder of The Write Editor, http://thewriteeditor.com, and a former newspaper and magazine publisher with 23 years’ experience in print and digital media. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
 
  

 


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