Big Game Players

In athletics, the “big game player” is celebrated and cheered. He is the one who always seems to do his best when the lights are brighter and the stakes are higher. People in the stands all admire that athlete and all wish they too could be a “big game player” too.

However in life, the greatest people are not always the ones who give their all in “big games.” See “big games” are few in life. We do have our share of big events or situations, but for the most part, life is a continuing cycle of repetitive, and many times mundane events.

In the game of life, if you only show up for the “big games”, you will not be very successful. Yeah you may give 100% when the spotlight is on you, but what about when no one is looking, will you have the character to maintain your integrity? What about when you no longer feel the desire to work on your marriage or go to a job you do not like, will you have the strength to keep going?

The real test of a great person is not the big games but all the little ones along the way. If you can develop faithfulness in those small games, then don’t worry, you will be able to perform when the big ones come along.

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The End is Not Near Notes

Due to the responses from listeners, below are my notes for the miniseries “The End is Not Near” so you can research this more for yourself and use it to help you as you talk with other people.

Part 1

Greetings to everyone and thank you for tuning in today for this anticipated mini series called “The End is not Near”.  This has been by far the most talked about series since this program has been on the air.  I am very excited about what I have to share today and I pray that God opens your heart to receive what he has for you today.

I want to begin by asking you a question.  Do you believe that it is somewhat likely that Jesus will return to earth in the coming year?  As you ponder that, this same question was posed to Evangelical Christians in a 2006 Ipsos poll and 46% of them answered yes.  They believed that it was likely that Jesus would be returning within the year and signaling the end of this age.

2006 came and went and Jesus never returned.  Then 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and almost all of 2011 have passed and still no return of Christ.  So not only were nearly half of Christians wrong that it would not happen in a year, it has not even happened in the five years after that as well.  Then end was clearly not as near as they all expected it was in 2006.

This however has been a common theme in Christianity ever since the time that Jesus ascended back to heaven.  Every generation following that has believed they were in the end times and that Christ would soon return to earth and take them back to heaven.  And every one of those generations from years past has been wrong.  Not only was Jesus return not imminent like they so passionately believed, it did not happen in their lifetimes or even their great-great grandchildren’s lifetimes.  A whole lot of people have been very wrong about predicting the end of time.  This goes all the way back to the 1st century and has continued in every age after that.  Here’s just a brief recap of some of the people and groups who have been so sure that the end was near but were all completely wrong.

Christians during the first two centuries were looking forward continually to the immediate advent of their Master, and the destruction of the empire in which they dwelt

Paul in Hebrews 1:1-2: “1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”

Paul in Hebrews 10:36-37: 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”

Most convincing is in 1 Thessalonians 4 when he tries comforting those who have lost loved ones

14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Paul told the people not to worry because Jesus would be coming soon and rapture them and their dead loved ones up to heaven

Revelation 1, 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

1 John 2: 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

Even the authors of the New Testament believed that Christ’s return was imminent.  They were not alone in this thought as we see throughout history.

Irenaeus from the second century and 4th-century Christian writer Lactantius calculated that Jesus would return around the year 520 AD.

Gregory the Great, who was pope until 604, was convinced that the tribulations of his day had to have been the beginnings of the apocalypse 

Eventually, the conviction became widespread in Christendom that the world would end in the year 1000. In the 10th century, numerous charters began by stating: “As the world is now drawing to its close”.  And as the great day approached, panic spread throughout Europe.  “On the first night of the second millennium, millions kept the wake, fully persuaded that at the stroke of midnight a great light would suddenly illuminate the sky, and Christ would appear”

When that didn’t happen, people persisted in believing the end was near.  The Christian Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries thought they were living in the end times. They viewed their military slaughters as the beginning of the battles that would ultimately result in the smiting of Antichrist and Satan

In the 13th century, the belief in an approaching end was held by those involved in the mass flagellant movements in Europe. Some like Joachim of Fiore thought 1260 would be the apocalyptic year when a new age would begin.

The 14th century brought the great bubonic plague – the Black Death – which killed about a third of Europe’s population. Many were certain this catastrophe signaled the coming end of the world.

In the 15th century, the Taborite movement preached that the world’s culmination was about to occur. They thought the final struggle against Antichrist and his hosts was beginning.

As Protestantism came on the scene in the 16th century, they too believed the end was near. Martin Luther, who began the Protestant Reformation, thought the pope was the Antichrist. And he said: “I believe that we are the last trump that sounds before Christ is coming.”

Also in the 16th century, some Anabaptists claimed that Christ’s reign on earth would begin in 1533, which they thought was exactly 1,500 years after his death. And in 1552, the Catholic Bishop Latimer pointed to eclipses, rings about the sun, and similar phenomena as signs of the approaching end.

In the 17th century, Archbishop Ussher predicted Christ would return in 1644, and even gave an exact day and hour. The Quakers and Puritans in the 1650s thought the apocalypse would occur within their lifetime.

In the new world in New England in 1680, the Puritan minister Increase Mather cited the book of Revelation to argue that judgment day was approaching.

The 18th century brought the “Great Awakening,” a religious revival that occurred in America from the 1720s through the 1740s. A leading Puritan preacher at the time was Jonathan Edwards, who taught that Jesus would return “soon.”

During the 19th century, William Miller caused the “Great Disappointment” by successively predicting four wrong dates – two in 1843 and two in 1844 – for the end of the world. After those came and went, other religious groups incorrectly predicted the world would end in 1864, 1874, 1878, 1881, and 1897.

The 20th century produced many end-time expectations. Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted Armageddon would occur in 1914. They revised the date to 1975, and continue to consider the end as impending.  C. T. Russell, founder of the Watchtower organization, declared that the Second Coming would occur in 1914.

In the 1940s, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel preached as its dominant theme “the Lord is coming soon.” In the 1950s, Billy Graham thought Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming were imminent. The Davidian Seventh-day Adventists said the end would occur on Easter Day 1959.

Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert W. Armstrong indicated the end would come in the early 1970s.  Evangelist William Braham assured his followers the Rapture would occur no later than 1977

In the 1980s, the World Bible Society distributed about 4 million copies of a $2 pamphlet titled “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Begin in 1988.” Hal Lindsey, author, argued that the “signs” of Matthew twenty-four indicate that Jesus will return to earth by about 1988.

Then many of you were alive at Y2K when many groups were expecting the end to occur in. Today, Pat Robertson and many other fundamentalists view current events as fulfilling biblical end-time prophecies.

Recently Harold Camping said the end would come on May 21, 2011 then again on October 21, 2011.

Guess what?  We are all still here.  The end has not come yet despite every generation for 2,000 years thinking it was close at hand.  The bottom line is that you simply cannot trust the talking heads out there who claim to be religious experts and claim to have the inside knowledge from God himself about when his second coming will be.

The fact is that no one knows if it will be soon or not.  The bible even talks about this in Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour knows no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only.” Jesus clearly states that not the angels or even himself will know when the rapture will occur.  Now if the son of God does not even know when it will happen, how could these modern “prophets” have any idea when he is returning?  They can’t. 

So let me save you a lot of disappointment by telling you that if someone tells you that they know when Jesus is coming back that they are a false prophet and you should completely dismiss their claims.  For they do not know and they will soon join the list of the other religious zealots I read out who incorrectly said that they knew that the end was near.  They will be on the list of futility that has been growing for the last 2,000 years with misinformed people who think they have heard from God.  These people often have other motives for telling you that the end is near.  Things like it sells lots of books and helps grow their career in ministry.  I’m going to talk more about the motivations of people like this next week so let me move on.

Now you may be wondering, Ryan, if you just said that no one knows when the end will be, how can you possibly say that the end is not near.  If people cannot say with any certainty that the end is near, then how can you say that the end is not near?  How would you know that?

In Matthew 16:2-3, Jesus said, when evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Jesus says in the word that while a specific date can never be determined by men, we can look at the signs of the times we are in to give us clues as to when Jesus will be returning.  For that reason, people have been studying the prophecies and signs very closely because they want to have some kind of advanced notice about Jesus return.

There is nothing wrong with this approach and it is actually encouraged in the bible.  However what is dismaying to me is that far too many people think they are “experts” in prophecy and that they believe that all signs point to Jesus returning very soon.

However the vast majority of these people are not objectively looking at the prophecies of the bible.  They pick out a passage here or a passage there and then point to those verses signaling the imminent return of Christ.  Or they try and correlate events happening in the current culture with events talked about in the bible as signs of the end of the age.  They draw comparisons between things that are in no ways related.  They are trying to force a square peg into a round hole and it just does not work. 

Still others selectively choose prophecies of Christ’s return and point to them either being fulfilled or close to being fulfilled in the current age and use that as the basis of their argument that the end must be near.  The only problem is that they are not presenting a complete picture of the prophecies.  Sure a few of the prophecies that signal the end of times may seem to be coming to pass, but they neglect to tell you that there are still others that are not even remotely close to happening.  And without those prophecies coming to pass, Christ cannot return.  They are absolutely essential.

There is a lot of misinformation about the end times out there.  People are buying their books and flocking to convention centers where they can hear some expert them tell them why the end is so near.  This is very unfortunate because the majority of Christians just take these fanatics word for it without even looking at prophecy in scripture for themselves.  So for the next few minutes, I’m going to take you through some prophecies and show you that they do not suggest the end is near.  On the contrary, much more has to take place before those prophecies can be fulfilled.

Here are some prophecies that must happen but are not close

1) Jewish Temple being rebuilt

In Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about signs of the end of the age.  He says many things to them, but references the temple in Jerusalem.  He says, “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (verse 2). And later “when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (15-16).

These are clear references that the temple of God will be in play during the end times.  First, there will be the abomination that causes desolation standing in the temple then second, the temple will be destroyed and torn down.

One pretty big problem for those saying we are in the end times…the temple has not existed since 70 AD when it was torn down by the Romans.  Now in its place stands the Dome of the Rock, one of the most sacred places in the Islamic religion.  And in case you do not pay attention to current events, the Muslims and Jews do not like each other.  There is no way the Muslims would let the Jews reconstruct their temple on the site that contains their holy building.  There would be an all out war if Israel ever tried rebuilding the temple.

Despite this, you will hear stories about groups that plan on rebuilding the temple which give hope to those seeking evidence of the end of the world.  However those groups are merely just constructing articles that they hope can be used within the temple one day when it is rebuilt.  But make no mistake about it, with the current political climate, there is absolutely no way that the Jewish temple will be reconstructed there anytime soon.  It would destabilize the middle east and thrust the rest of the world into war.

That being said, without the temple being rebuilt, it the abomination that causes desolation cannot be standing within it nor can it ultimately be destroyed.  The temple is essential for the return of Christ and not only is it not even constructed, but it is a near impossibility that it will be anytime soon.

2) Reference to a 200 million man army

Revelation 9:16 refers to one of the final battles and talks about an extremely large army

“The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.”

The passage in Revelation references that one country would have an army of 200,000,000 people fighting in the final battle.  That is a staggering force that the world has never seen.  To get an idea of just how large of a force it would take to pull that off, currently the largest 42 military forces in the world have combined 16 million active and 25 million reserves or 41 million total.  There are not even 50 million active and reserve troops in every country in the world.  Now we are to expect that there is a force of 200 million?  This is nowhere near close to happening.

Often people talk about China as being able to field an army like that and maybe one day it would be possible.  But that day is a long ways away because currently, they only have about 3.1 million people in military service and experts agree that it will take years if not decades for them to develop the resources to be able to train and equip an army of that size.  So again, this prophecy – another essential one in the end of the world – is a long ways off.

3) Unfulfilled global conditions discussed in Matthew 24

When I read this passage, many of you will recognize it because it is one frequently quoted by those who maintain that it shows just how close the end really is.  However as they try drawing parallels with the passage and our current time, they completely fail in presenting accurate information.  Instead of backing up their claims with actual research, they try playing off the majority of people’s opinion that the world is getting worse and worse with each subsequent generation.  However if you dig a little deeper, you will find that this simply is not the case, which proves that we are not in the correct global time period for the return of Christ.

Matthew 24

6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

These are all global signs that must be true for Christ to return to earth.  The general theme is that the world will be getting worse and worse and reach a tipping point where Christ will have to return.  The planet will be at its historically low point and only a redeeming Savior could save humanity.  However if you research this out, you will find that the world is actually in a much better place now than it was in the time of Jesus and quite possibly, we are living in the most save and prosperous era of humanity ever.

Let me break it down for you by looking at the individual prophecies in Matthew 24:

7Earthquakes in various places.

Fear mongers point to the recent earthquake in Japan as proof that earthquakes are increasing however scientific data from the United States Geological Society tells us that over the last 100 years, there has not been any significant increase in the number of earthquakes.  In fact, they tell us that they are actually decreasing in more recent years.  They simply are not occurring more frequently and in weird places.

7There will be famines

Anyone can turn on the TV and watch a stirring story about famines in Africa and think this sign has come to pass.  And while I agree that global nutrition is still a problem, in comparison with where it has been in the past, it is actually far better today.  Rates of malnourished children have fallen significantly.  The percentage of people with clean drinking water has risen sharply.  Organizations have dedicated trillions of dollars toward this problem and have made a very large dent in it.  The world is actually a much more healthier place than it was a generation ago.

6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, 7Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has studied wars and conflicts throughout civilization and found that the number of people killed in battle – calculated per 100,000 population – has dropped significantly.  Hundreds of years ago, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.

Also, the average annual battle death toll has dropped from nearly 10,000 per conflict in the 1950s to less than 1,000 in the 21st century. And the number of deadliest wars — those that kill at least 1,000 people a year — has fallen by 78 percent since 1988.

In addition to battles, the world is becoming much less violent.  Murder in European countries has steadily fallen from near 100 per 100,000 people in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1 per 100,000 people now.

Contrary to what end time preachers are trying to tell you, the world is much safer and less violent today than it was in the time of Jesus and even safer than it was 50 years ago.  The trend is not that things are getting worse, but better.

All these global signs I just pointed to show that when you actually study the facts, the world is just not in the state Jesus said it had to be in Matthew 24 for the end to come.  There is not enough conflict, plagues or earthquakes to signal that these are the last days.

I just showed you three prophecies that biblically have to happen to signal that our time on earth is short and Christ’s return is imminent.  1) Jewish Temple being rebuilt, 2) a 200 million man army and 3) the world has to be at its worst point in history.  Without these prophecies being fulfilled, the end cannot be near.  And guess what?  Today I showed you that these prophecies are not even close to coming to pass.  Some of them look like they will take decades before they could even reasonably happen.

And if these three things do not happen, the world will not end.  They are essential.  All the other prophecies that people tell you about that may have already happened or are in the brink of happening really do not matter because all prophecies will need to be fulfilled in order to signal the true end of days – not 10 or 20 or even 100.  It does not matter how many have come true if there still are several on the table that have not happened yet.

To me, this is the biggest deception of the end time preachers.  They focus on a handful of scriptures and current events that make it seem like the end is near, but completely ignore other ones that are essential ingredients in the return of Christ.  They are saying ingredient 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all there but ingredients 5 and 6 are not and try to make you think that only 4 of 6 ingredients is enough.  Sadly, they are wrong.  You cannot make a cake with 4 of 6 ingredients.  Instead of a cake, you would get a disgusting mess.  And likewise, you cannot legitimately say that we are in the end times when there are still unfulfilled prophecies out there that are required ingredients for the return of Christ.

The signs of our times do not point to it being the end.  Just like the signs of the times did not point to it over the last 2,000 years but that has not stopped people going all the way back to the time of the Apostle Paul to think that they were the ones in the end times.  But after 2,000 years of waiting, there still has not been a rapture or tribulation.  The end has not come and what I hope you see after today is that the end will not come anytime soon.

So it’s okay, you can make plans for the rest of your life.  Plan for retirement.  Plan on growing old.  Plan on living out your days to the end.  Commit now that you will serve Christ and dedicate yourself to him for your entire lifetime.  And if the world dramatically changes and Christ does return, then you will be ready.  But if you look at the realistic signs of the day and odds are that he does not come back during your life, you will have made every provision to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life.

That is my goal of this teaching.  I don’t want you going to your pastor and telling him how wrong he has been.  Nor do I want you to be dispirited and lose faith when you realize that you have been told something incorrectly over and over again.  I don’t want you to think that this means you will never see Jesus face to face because you will one day at the end of your life.  Heaven still awaits the faithful servants of Christ.

But what I want to get across to you is that you need to change your whole mindset and stop thinking that the end is near and start thinking that you have a lot of life ahead of you and that you need to start making the most of it today.  You need to start planning and growing and advancing because you have a lot of life in front of you and it is up to you whether you will enjoy everything that your life has to offer. 

I really hope you are inspired by this message to make your life a masterpiece each and every day because more than likely, you will have to live it out to the end.  No one will come and rescue you from a life you are not happy with.  No it is up to you to turn your life into what you want it to be.

The end is not near but tomorrow is.  And instead of worrying about who the antichrist will be start paying attention to what God has put in front of you right here and right now.  For it is in maximizing what you have that you will find true contentment and fulfillment in your life.

Next week, I will be finishing up this series by digging deeper into the psyche of Christians and identify why the end times doctrine has become so popular, discuss how it has harmed many Christians in their development and continue this theme on how the true message of the bible is to faithfully live out the calling God has put upon your heart every day.  I hope that today has helped you and believe that next week will really help bring it all together and help change your perspective on the future.  God bless you all.

Part 2

Hello everyone and thank you for tuning in to this second teaching in the provocative two part miniseries called “The End is Not Near”.  For those who missed the first one, make sure you visit iTunes and search “The Pulse with Ryan Downing” where you can get it for free.  Then also, later this week, I will have the message notes from both teachings on so you can read it over, research the facts I presented and make your own informed decision. 

I have very strong convictions on what I am teaching on this topic.  I believe it with all my heart and feel like God impressed it on my heart to share with his people.  I have been a Christian and grew up in the church all my life and feel like the teaching on the end times have been very one sided.  All the messages I have heard on the subject have been under the assumption that the end is happening very soon.  For years I believed this just because if everyone was telling me something then I thought it must be true.  But recently, God opened my eyes to things that no one was talking about and I felt like it was my mandate to share those so that everyone out there can look at the facts and make a balanced and informed decision as to how you believe.  So I encourage you to make this series only a starting point in your quest to find answers to the most important questions relating to your life on earth and the life that is to come in heaven.

This is something that you will be hearing all kinds of questions and various opinions on today.  Discussion on the end times and prophecy is still hot in the world.  Christians are speculating on when the rapture will take place.  Non Christians are looking at things like the Mayan calendar and predictions of Nostradamus to see if it gives any clues as to when the world as we know it will end.  Society today is fascinated with the idea that the end of all things is quickly approaching.

I would like to say this is unique to our current generation however it is not.  For centuries, humans have been looking for whatever signs they can find that would signal them being in the last days of civilization as we know it.

Last week, I highlighted the Christian groups dating back all the way to the Apostle Paul who felt like they were living in the end times and as you saw, every generation from the time of Christ’s ascension into heaven felt like they were living in the last days and that they soon would be raptured out of this world.  And all of those generations who unapologetically taught this doctrine to whoever would listen were wrong for Christ did not return in their lifetime.  They claimed to be prophets from God with special insight into the humanity’s final moments however when everything they taught did not come to pass, they were exposed as being false prophets who just told people what they wanted to hear rather than the real truth of God.

Sadly, nothing is new in today’s society.  Every week, a new book is released pointing to the signs that Christ’s return is imminent.  Or a new talking head gets some time on television or the radio and pontificates on his unique understanding of prophecy and how he knows that these are the last days.  It disgust me that the Christian public still listens to these people especially because they have already heard many predictions that have not come true.  Yet despite this, they keep coming back for more.

I remember growing up hearing that the end would come no later than 1988.  Then when that did not happen, it was 1993.  When that too came and went, the next hot thing was the bible code where alleged scientists found hidden codes in scriptures and those said the world would end in 1996.  Oops.  Wrong again.  Then the next event that nearly everyone said had to signal the end was Y2K.  Still nothing.  So it was 2003, 2007, 2011 and I’m sure that as each of these dates passes in disappointment, another Christian preacher wanting to make a name for himself will step forward with a new date. 

And as has been the pattern throughout history, Christians from far and wide will be enthralled with the latest voice in the end times discussion, buy their books, go to their conferences, get their materials and be all ready for the coming of Christ.  But if history has shown us anything over the last 2,000 years, those would be prophets’ claims will be completely false and life will go on as we know it.  The sun will rise in the morning, the world will continue to move ahead and Christians will find themselves living out another day.

So why after each successive year of unfulfilled claims by the teachers of the day to people continue to listen to those saying they have insight about the end of days?  This question is the crux of my message today.  I’m not here to place all the blame at the feet of the self-proclaimed “prophets” who tell their version of the truth and trying to package it as being from God.  I do believe those people have been judged and will be judged by God one day.  They are by no means innocent, but I do not believe that they are the real problem.  In fact, they are just trying to be savvy businessmen.  They are giving the public exactly what they want to hear because they know it will sell.  They can make a name for themselves or line their pockets at the expense of the masses who are buying everything they are selling. 

They are responding to people just like was discussed in Isaiah 30:9-10.  As you will see here, people in biblical times were no different than people today with their desire for prophets who would tell them just the things that they wanted to hear.  It says: “For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.’”

It is the people who are dictating what the prophets are teaching on.  They want to hear messages like the end is near and that they will soon be raptured into a better place and because the desire is there for teaching like that, there is a whole line of ministers who step up to fill that need for they know if they can fill that need that they will be able to profit off of it.

Again, I am by no means condoning their behavior, however I am not going to spend much of my time today talking about what terrible people they are.  Instead, I am going to explore why there is a market for what they are teaching in the first place.  Why have people ever since the first century wanted the end to be near?  What is causing this and then the next part will be why it is so destructive in the lives of believers.

To the first part, why is there such a market for people claiming they know that the end is near?  Why does it seem like most Christians want the rapture to happen soon?  In studying this, I think I found a word that best describes it and something that most everyone can relate to in this Recession Era.  The word is bailout.  This word symbolizes the tumultuous economic times the world has been in.  Starting in 2008, the government in the US sent hundreds of billions of bailout dollars to rescue banks, mortgage companies and the auto industry.  Then more recently as the economy in the European Union started teetering because of nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, there have been talks of massive bailouts offered to entire countries as well.

As governments from across the globe began cutting these bailout checks, people wondered why they were happening in the first place.  The outcry became great as individuals who were struggling to get by were told their only options were bankruptcy or foreclosure but corporations who for years mismanaged their assets were given a golden parachute and allowed to continue operating.  Why should a powerful organization like the US government be responsible for bailing out companies for their own failures?  They should have to face the consequences for their mistakes just like regular people do.

Still today, if you were to poll Americans on what they think of the billions spent on corporate bailouts, you would find that the majority of people think it was wasted money because the recipients did not use it like it was intended and they really did not change their practices that got them in that mess much at all either.

That still remains the primary argument against bailouts – they are a short-term fix to a problem that requires a long-term solution to adequately fix.  Sure throwing a billion dollars at a bank will allow them to continue to make their payroll and operate, but does it really teach them anything?  Will they change the practices that took them into the mess they were in or just continue on the same path and need a bailout again sometime in the future?

There is growing sentiment that corporations need to be accountable for the state of their companies and not be given a bailout which washes away all their self inflicted problems.

I believe this concept of bailouts also applies to Christians and really helps explain why end times prophecy is so popular.  Let me explain.  A Christian is going through some turmoil in his life.  He was just laid off his job which has caused a lot of stress in his home and strained his marriage.  He is constantly worrying about his future which makes him unable to really worship or get much out of the services at church.  His life is not picture perfect anymore and it is difficult for him to see an end in sight.

This man’s prayer time is affected as well.  When things were good, his prayers consisted of him saying, “God, help me make the most out of this day.  Guide me to people who I need to meet, deals I need to close, hurting people I can help.  Let today be another blessed day.”  Notice his focus is on how he can make the most out of his Christian experience on earth.  Since things have been going so well for him, he already anticipates that the next day will just be a continuation of the ones before that and filled with abundant blessing and personal fulfillment.  So his entire mindset is that of a person wanting to live his life to the fullest.

Now move ahead to when troubles came to his life.  When things he could normally count on were not stable anymore.  His finances, relationship with his spouse and ability to connect with God all were not going so well.  He was struggling and did not know how he could get out of it.  So now when he prays, he says, “God, I pray that your return is soon so I can join you in my heavenly home forever.  However if you would delay in coming back, please help me get out of this mess.”  Notice the change in his prayer.  He went from asking God to help him make the most out of each day to wanting God to rescue him from his troubles.  In essence, he was asking for a bailout.  It seemed like his situation was hopeless and the easiest way he could think he could escape would be for Jesus to return and rapture him up from heaven and therefore remove him from his troubled circumstances.

It is at the point of dissatisfaction at life that most people are susceptible to buying into the teachings of the last days’ prophets.  To them, the rapture is really a circumstantial “bailout”.  Their life is not what they expected it to be or problems have overtaken them and they want out.  They want a way that they can be removed from a world where trouble and heartache are a normal part of life into the heavenly realm where they can peacefully live in a place with no lack or sorrow forever.  What they are looking for is a bailout.

For millions of Christians, the rapture is merely a way to escape a life that they are disillusioned with.  It will let them leave a place where nothing seems to be working out and in turn go to a place where everything is perfect and they will always be happy.  So in reality, the only reason they want to go to heaven is because they want to find a way to get away from this earth.  In reality, their desire to leave their life here exceeds their desire to actually be in heaven.  The real reason they are so enamored with heaven is because they feel it will be an escape from the pathetic life they have now.

This affects many, many people and not just Christians.  So many people are dismayed at the direction of their lives and looking for anything to save them.  People from everywhere are running to shrinks, medication and New Age religions looking for any sense of joy and contentment in life.  In recent studies, it has been determined that half of Americans are not satisfied with their job, 75% are not satisfied in our country’s direction, a third are not satisfied with highway transportation and their commute, millions are not satisfied with rising gas prices and half are not satisfied with their sex lives.  There is a culture of discontent spanning all walks of life.

And a byproduct of this discontent is trying to find anything that can bail them out and let them have the kind of existence they feel like they deserve.  While I do not have any hard data to back this up, based on casual observations I see that the people who are the most into end time prophecies and the rapture are also the ones who are most discontent with their lives on earth.  They are looking for a way out and the rapture seems like the best option.

Now compare this to people who are living a victorious Christian life on earth.  While they have going to heaven one day in the back of their mind, the thought does not consume them.  Rather, they have dedicated their time to making the most out of the life God has given them.

One of the best examples of this is the Apostle Paul, who, in Philippians 1:20-25, discusses this concept of staying on earth or going to heaven.  “20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith”.

Paul was advancing the gospel and living an empowered life.  But when he was thinking about his own mortality, he tried to determine what would be better – to die and go to heaven where he could be with Christ all the time or to live on and change lives for the cause of Christ.  Ultimately, even though he said he would rather be with Christ in heaven, he knew he should not ask for that and instead continue living out his calling on earth.  For he knew that he had a mission from God and that each and every day could be a great and fulfilling adventure of living it out.

Paul had discovered what millions of Christians today fail to recognize – that while heaven will one day be spectacular, it should be looked at as a reward for a successful life and not an escape from a troubled one.  God never intended heaven to be a bailout for his children.  He never intended them to have a miserable existence on earth then get rescued to heaven one day so they do not have to face all the difficulties with being in the world.

Read through the bible and you will see that heaven is intended to be just an extension of the life we should be enjoying today.  It is supposed to be a bigger and better version of what we have now.  Not a completely different experience.  Not leave the terrible and go to the wonderful.  It is leaving the good and going to the better.

Read the scriptures that are everywhere.  God wants your life right here and right now to be incredible as well.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11

8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

John 10:10

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Romans 8:11

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.

Matthew 6:31-33

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I hope you can see through just a small sampling of scriptures that God is very concerned with your life on this earth.  He wants you to enjoy abundant blessings and for your Christian experience to be fulfilling.  That is why he has given you a special and unique calling.  He created you to be someone great on this earth.  And he then gives you many opportunities to live out that calling while still in this world.  His promise is for you to live in his abundance.  It should be a wonderful life where you have peace in your heart that you know God will take care of you and give you everything you need while you are here but then have a plan for you in death where you will transition from a glorious life to a glorious afterlife in heaven where you can be with him forever.

Heaven has been, and will always be, an extension of life here on earth.  It should never be looked at as God is only concerned with the afterlife for he is even more concerned with your life right here and now and he wants you to experience a glimpse of what heaven will be like while you are still on earth.

That is why it saddens me when Christians make the rapture out to be the single greatest event in their lives and they spend each day dreaming about how glorious it will be.  They try and interpret the signs and dissect prophecy because they are so consumed with the rapture and getting to heaven.  But these people are completely missing the point.  The real message of the bible is not about the rapture or the end times, but rather about how you can maximize the one life you have been given here on earth.  God wants your life to be magnificent now and not just when you get to heaven.

But unfortunately, so many Christians just do not get this.  They think their lives today are pathetic and the only way they can find happiness is to be taken out of this world and moved to another.  That is why they spend so much of their time focusing on the end times and when all of this will happen.

And therein lies the great danger in thinking like this.  With their focus solely on heaven they lose the ability to focus on the abundance that is right in front of them on earth.  So their lives continue to be unremarkable because most of their time is spent analyzing who the antichrist will be or what is the mark of the beast.  Their eagerness to experience heaven is robbing them of the incredible experiences God wants them to be having on earth.

In closing, I want to reiterate why I did this series.  Through the years, I have personally noticed that people can get consumed with the desire of going to heaven and since they would like this to happen without having to die, they turn to the promise of Christ’s return and passionately start looking for signs that will signal it will happen soon.

So they listen to self-proclaimed “prophets” who will tell them that they have researched scriptures or they have a special word from God and his return is imminent.  They cannot get enough teaching like this that feeds their desires for heaven so many of these prophets come onto the scene because they know they can become personally successful by selling this end is near doctrine to the masses.

And whenever one of these false prophet’s claims are proven not to be true, there are five others out there ready to offer desperate people hope by making their own claims about how soon Christ will be returning to bail them out of their miserable existence.

I have watched this cycle continue despite there being very little evidence that the end really is near.  Yet despite that, Christians continue to believe it and let it rule their lives.  They so badly want someone to rescue them from their disappointing lives that they feel like turning to the return to Christ is their best option.  Since they want it to be true so badly, they wind up believing false teachings made by incorrect and misstated assumptions on the end times.  They are believing lies just because they are a diversion to them from the true reality of their situation.

They would rather believe in the myth that Christ is coming soon than accept the fact that they are living in the fullness of God and his promises.  See accepting the latter would then require real work and effort on their part.  It would cause them to analyze their lives, accept that they are not doing very well in certain areas and commit to change.

But instead of owning their life and decisions and having to do the difficult things required for success and fulfillment, they would rather just have Jesus swoop down from heaven and rescue them from an inferior existence and take them to a place where they can get everything they want without having to do anything.

This has been, in my opinion, one of the downfalls of Christianity.  Convincing people that they can just tread water here on earth and eagerly seek the rapture and one day soon, God will just make all things right.  This deception has ruined so much potential because Christians are sitting around waiting for an event to happen that will instantly make things better instead of using the gifts and talents God put inside of them to make both their situation and the world around them better right now.

So yes, those of you who have been caught up in end times prophecy, you have been sold a bill of goods for the end is not near.  If you take your desires out of it and objectively look at the times, you will see that there are many prophecies that are not even close to coming to pass that would make it impossible for Christ to come.

I’m not going to take a lot of time with this because I covered it in depth last week, but these three unfulfilled prophecies show that the end is not near at all.  One is that the Jewish Temple has to be rebuilt for the end to happen and it is not even close to happening with the current Israeli and Arab conflicts.  Two is the presence of a 200 million man army, a force which could take decades to come up with if it is even possible at all.  And three is the passage in Matthew 24 that says Christ will return when the world is at its worst point in history and he needs to come to save it from destruction.  But despite what you have heard, the world is actually safer and more healthy today than it has ever been in the history of mankind.

The end is not near so why don’t you devote all that attention you have been putting into end time prophecy into your life as it stands today.  Why not wake up each morning dedicated to making that day a masterpiece.  Instead of seeking God for the date of the rapture, seek him for ways that you can better your life and make a greater impact for him.

I guarantee you that if you get your focus off the end and put it on the here and now, your life will be transformed and you will not even think about needing to get pulled up to heaven to bail you out for your life on earth will be magnificent.

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Be the Blue Sock

Recently I went to the washing machine to collect my whites so I could put them in the dryer. However, to my surprise, I did not see any whites in there. A single blue sock had turned all of my white clothes a light shade of blue. This was unfortunate because I had a shirt in there I really liked that now was blue and not fit to wear out in public.

After I got over the fact I had to wear blue underwear until the next day, I thought of the impact that one sock had on my entire load of laundry. By itself, it changed the entire complexion of my wardrobe. That led me to the parallel of the sock, my life, the laundry and the world.

I thought of Jesus and the impact He made on the world. He could just walk into a place and demons would flee, healings would occur and people would start glorifying God. He was just one man, but when He was thrown into a sinful world, it began to change around Him.

I then evaluated my life and told myself that I wanted to have an impact like that. I want the Spirit of God to be so full inside of me that wherever I go, I bring change. People will know there is something different about me and want to find out about it, so I guess what I really wanted was to be just like the blue sock.

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Not Or but And

No I do not love conjunctions. I have recently realized that God does not want us to live lives of “or”, but He wants us to live lives of “and”. What does this all mean?

Let’s say I have $5 and I walk into a restaurant for lunch. The sandwich costs $5, the slices of pizza costs $5 and the chicken Cesar costs $5. I am limited to “or” for lunch because of my limited resources. I can have the sandwich or the pizza or the salad. Now imagine I just cashed my paycheck and I go in with $20. Now, I am dealing with “and” and not “or.” I can get the sandwich and pizza and salad and even beyond that I can get a piece of cake for dessert. My resources determine whether I will live by “and” or whether I will live by “or”.

These rules apply to everything in life, not just lunch. I may think that because of my lack of ability that I can only choose between one goal “or” another. And while that may be true when I am living on my own resources and ability, I know that I can tap into someone who has no limits. I can get plugged into God’s economy where lack is not in the dictionary.

Now, all of a sudden, I am living the “and” lifestyle. I do not have to choose between one dream, one blessing or another, I can have them all. My Father has all the resources already and He wants to give them to me freely so I can tap into the “and” lifestyle where I will never lack and never know any limitations.

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Growing Faith

Great faith is not something that can be obtained overnight, it has to be developed. One of the keys to growing our faith is by seeing God’s presence in every situation.

Anyone can see God’s presence when a family member gets healed or a dream we have had for years comes to pass, but how many people can see God through difficult situations when things seem to be spinning out of control? How many can have the faith enough to be like Job, who through the hardships he endured was able to say, “though God slays me, I will trust Him” (Job 13:15). Few people have a faith like that. It is a level we all would like to reach.

If we ever want to have that level of faith, we have to start small. We have to start recognizing God’s move every single day in every situation we are in. The more we do that, the more we realize that He is active in our lives and He is working things out for our best. Once we know that, we begin getting a confidence that no matter what we go through, God will always be there with exactly what we need. That’s when our faith climbs to another level.

Remember though, this process starts small. The best way I have found to recognize God’s moving in all areas is to take some time at the end of each day and write out where you have seen God move during that day. If you are like me, your list will be short at first but the more you do it, the more you will realize that God is working in every situation you face. Knowing that the God who created the universe is actively involved in every aspect of your life is enough to boost anyone’s faith.

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New Series: Faith in Motion

Tune into the Pulse for a new series called “Faith in Motion” as Ryan explores how the most successful Christians are ones who are active and not just sitting back believing for a miracle.
11/3 – Start with What’s in Front of You
11/10 – Overnight
11/17 – True Freedom from Limitations

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Unlocking Faith

When a Christian hears “the faith chapter”, they instantly think of Hebrews 11. While that chapter is great, I think James 2 is just as powerful as it talks about unlocking faith. In James 2:22, it says that our faith and actions work together to make our faith complete. The bottom line here is that our actions help us unlock our faith.

If I had a test coming up in school and I believed I would ace it without studying, would that be enough? No, because while I have faith, I have no works, and my attempt to act super spiritual would end with me failing the test.

In that situation, I can make my faith complete by believing I will do well, praying to God asking Him for help, then preparing for the test. By doing this, I am allowing my faith and actions to work together to produce the desired result, me passing the test.

Now really, that is the key to unlocking great faith, putting it into motion. God can do miraculous things, but He needs us doing our part too. If we can combine God’s limitless power and resources with our willingness to act on the opportunities He gives us, there is literally nothing we cannot do.

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Bad Things and Good People

Have you ever been asked, “why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  It is a tricky subject that many Christians try to avoid.  Listen to the Pulse this Thursday as Ryan takes in on with a second teaching on the topic.  Week one is on his podcast page on iTunes.  Make sure you listen on Thursday at 3:30pm on KXXT 1010AM.

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Faith and the Future

Many people confuse results with faith. They look at someone who has a lot of success and automatically think he has a great deal of faith. However, results are not always directly related to the amount of faith you have.

In Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, it tells the stories of many of the great men and women of the Bible, but it says that “they did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Many of the people we think of as having great faith today had very little success in their lifetime.

1) The fathers of the nation of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were given a promise that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). When Jacob died, they had only 70 descendants in their family (Genesis 46:27).

2) Moses was supposed to take Israel into the land of promise yet he came up short and died on its borders (Deuteronomy 34).

3) David was given the dream to be the first one to ever build God a temple (2 Samuel 7:1-2), and even though he accumulated all the materials for it, he never saw it completed.

4) Most of the Old Testament prophets lived their entire lives preaching righteousness and repentance to the people yet saw few if any converts and were eventually executed or imprisoned for their beliefs.

5) Even Jesus – when He died, had only a handful of followers that stayed true.

All of these people had great faith that we can clearly see today, but when they were living, they had few results. They did not let a lack or results keep them from being faithful to the life God called them to live. They knew that the effects of true faith are not always seen in their lifetime. Many times, true faith is sowing seeds you know you will never see the harvest for because you know it will bring people in generations to come closer to God.

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Take Your Best Shot

Ryan’s new series “Take Your Best Shot” kicked off today with an inspirational message called “Unconquerable Spirit”. Here, Ryan looked at the lives of some of the most successful people in our generation and showed that they all had major life catastrophies but each of them did not quit and kept going forward. If you missed it, check it out on The Pulse’s podcast page. Three more weeks of the series that you will not want to miss. Learn how you can take life’s best shot and keep going ahead for God!

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