What place do the powers of good and evil have on current events that affect you and me today? Is there a God who cares? Do the emergencies on this earth affect God? Answers are available from the Bible to answer our deepest need. The presentations on our website are edited versions of a series of lectures delivered by our senior pastor, Dr. Dwight K. Nelson, to over 5,000 downlink sites around the world via satellite technology. Author of eight books, Dr. Nelson hosts a weekly radio and television program, "New Perceptions." RUSearching is underwritten and operated by members of the Pioneer Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
- Did God Dial 9-11?
- Titanic: Are We Next?
- Good News/Bad News
- Starwars: The Cosmic Battle for Your Destiny
- The Truth of theThe Spotted Leopard
- What Left Behind Left Behind
The horrendous events of September 11th have changed the world.Everyone is asking, was this from God? Did God look down and see our condition, a world of general disdain and apathy for Him and His Laws, and then shoot a lightning bolt of judgment into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?The Bible prophet Isaiah wrote, "When Your (God's) judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:8,9) Does this suggest that the hijackers' plans were designed by God?To be sure, the world seemed to suddenly discover God after the events of 9-11, but did those events originate from God?No! Jesus said, "An enemy has done this." (Matthew 13:28)God gives every being He creates the gift of a "free" will. Love can't exist without it. Love can't be forced. It must be given freely, from the heart of one to another.Americans join freedom loving people around the world in celebrating freedom. A champion of freedom for over two hundred years, America calls itself the land of the free.But America did not invent freedom.God did!God knew that if we were to love Him as He loves us, we must be free to choose. We must have the freedom to say Yes" to God, and a freedom to say "No". Sin, the free choice to say no to God, is the source of all evil and all destruction. Yet God has not destroyed all sinners, or none of us would still exist. No, in the spirit of love He continues to let us choose how we respond to Him–a choice ultimately between life and death. Through many means He invites us, and provides us with opportunities, to say "Yes." But He honors our freedom to say "No."
On September 11, 2001, at least 19 hijackers said "No." They were deceived by the enemy of God, Satan, the first sinner, and the father of death, destruction and all evil. God never forces His will on us. He lets the choice of sin live itself out on its chosen path. Only then can He prove that He is to be trusted for His Love, and not for His Power. He tries to warn us, though. He sent Moses with the 10 Commandments. He sent the Prophets with cries of warning. He sent His Only Son to atone for our sins–the greatest act of love in history. And He is a genius at using the evil of the Enemy to thwart the desires of the enemy. The Bible says, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness," and "all things work together for good to those who love God. . . ." (1 Corinthians 3:19; Romans 8:28) Which means that for everyone of us who calls upon Him and trusts Him (i.e., says "Yes" to Him), God takes the evil, the dysfunction, the hurt and the pain and uses it to His, and our, own advantage!
9-11 was just such an event. It was the work of the great enemy of God and all humanity. And yet through all the pain and suffering we can hear the echoing call of One who Himself endured torture and death for us: "Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.!" (Isaiah 45:22) The evil and destruction that Satan inflicted on innocent people September 11, 2001, and continues to inflict on people daily in an attempt to turn them away from God, will be used by God to turn many toward Him. God didn't create evil, but He is able to use it for our good! Like in the story of the tsunami in China, God is able to use such disasters to save us from an even greater catastrophe. Isn't that amazing? The enemy is always trying to cause disaster in our lives. They challenge us to think more seriously about our priorities. Perhaps you sense God appealing to you right now. Would you like to say "Yes" to God?
What's happening to our world? By some indicators, times have never seemed better. Yet news headlines of natural disasters, school shootings, ethnic cleansing, children starving, and ecological crises make one wonder, Will humanity survive? Writers such as Abraham Heschel, Eugene Linden and Jacques Cousteau predict events that could bring an end to life on this earth. Like the famous story of the Titanic, could we be partying while headed for destruction?
A 3500 year old Book predicted the conditions of our world today. It warns, "When they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them," and appeals, "Prepare to meet your God." 1 Thessalonians 5:3,4; Amos 4:12 It also offers a survival strategy for every inhabitant of this planet. Whether you believe in God or not, as a thinking human being in the 21st century you owe it to yourself to at least examine this communique–the Bible.
The Bible's last book, Revelation, portrays an angel streaking through the heavens with a last message for our world, urgently appealing for us to have a personal relationship with God, and to give Him glory. Revelation 14:6,7 When you understand what God is like–- He's not Someone to be afraid of, but Someone to be a friend of–- it's an appeal that's hard to resist.
God comes to each of us with the offer of a forever friendship with Him! "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
The search for lasting personal peace often leads down many dead end roads. This quest has led some of us to a spiritual solution that we're excited about sharing--not a simplistic spirituality that attempts to convert everything into God and visa versa, making us all a law unto ourselves, but one that has seriously addressed our inner conflicts, showed us how to develop and protect healthy relationships, and connected us to an unconditional love that has established our personal worth and assured us a secure, rewarding future. We found all this, believe it or not, in an old and profound story told straightforwardly and dramatically in the Bible. If you like good news/bad news stories, this one is the ultimate!
BAD NEWS: Everyone who sins will die. Ezekiel 18:20 When life is good nobody wants to die. Even elderly people long to be young again, free from pain and distress. The evolutionist's solution that we're merely recycled stardust destined for continuous recycling doesn't satisfy the deep longing of the human spirit for life and relationships that will never end. God instilled this desire in us when He created us. The Bible puts its finger on this deepest of all human nerves--the passion for life against the inevitability of death. But it also identifies the cause of death--sin.
When you see that word "sin," you may be tempted to write off this whole study as a bunch of religious jargon, old stuff you've heard before and intellectually rejected a long time ago. We understand the feeling. But one thing's for sure, something's messed us up, something's screwed up our relationships, something's made us insecure and afraid of the future. And when it's all said and done, no matter how much wealth we've accumulated, or insurance we have, or education we gained, or titles we've been given, or positions we've held, or even how much good we've done, we're going to die. Maybe we shouldn't write this "sin" thing off before really listening to the whole story. Perhaps listening again for the first time.
GOOD NEWS: If you don't sin you won't die. Romans 6:23 Not that any of us have seen any examples of this assertion, but it's the logical corollary of the Bible's revelation that death results from sin. If the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), then it makes sense that if you never sinned you'd never die.
BAD NEWS: Everyone has sinned. Romans 3:23 This explains the absence of a single example of a person who never sinned and thus never died. Death isn't inevitable because it's inevitable, it's inevitable because we've all sinned and sin causes death. That's why sin is so serious. A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon unwittingly illustrates the point.
GOOD NEWS: God doesn't give up on us because we've sinned. Genesis 3:6-9 The first example of this occurred in Eden. And it's been true ever since. When we really think about it, this is something we can all find evidence of in our own lives. God has not given up on us. As depicted in a David Seamand's story of an old farmer, God keeps on doing business with us. That is the nature of grace.
BAD NEWS: We flee from the God who pursues us. Genesis 3:8-10 Again, the first example occurred in Eden. And it's been true ever since. Something again, when we really think about it, that we can find evidence of in our own lives. We're running from God, from our best Friend. That is the nature of sin.
GOOD NEWS: God acted dramatically in Jesus Christ to draw us back into a relationship with Himself that can restore everything that has been lost through sin. Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-6 At this point the baddest news ever meets the goodest news ever. It's not without reason that it's been called the greatest story ever told. Human sin presented God with a great dilemma. It was resolved in a promise God made in Eden and brought to its ultimate fulfillment in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes the bold, shocking claim that through the life and atoning death of Jesus of Nazareth, God Himself suffered for us. 2 Corinthians 5:19 In the greatest demonstration of love ever, Jesus suffered the eternal consequences of our sin that we might experience the eternal rewards His life deserved. He was treated as we deserve that we might be treated as He deserves.
This best-news-ever ending to every life story is not inevitable. It takes a personal choice to activate it. God does not force Himself on anyone. He pursues us. He warns us about the inevitable consequences of sin. He offers us reconciliation with Himself and a life of personal peace and a secure hope for the future. Now we must accept His offer in order to experience His peace.
The galactic battle between the forces of good and evil portrayed in George Lucas's Star Wars trilogy captivated the world's attention. Perhaps because we've all felt the rip-tide of such forces at war within our own soul, creating intense internal struggles, raising haunting questions about suffering, meaning and God.
In a single succinct and potent phrase, "war broke out in heaven" (Revelation 12:7), the Bible alludes to a primeval cosmic battle that holds the key that unlocks the mystery of why there is so much pain and suffering, and how there could possibly be a loving God in the midst of it.
In the primordial past the eternal God chose to create beings who were truly free in order that they might experience the joy of genuine love. One of those beings, a perfect angel named Lucifer, abused his freedom, indulging in the sin of pride and self-worship, converting himself into Satan. He aspired to usurp God's position, even if it meant destroying God to do so. Satan could not win a direct battle with God. So in the "war in heaven" Satan didn't attack God with Luke-Skywalker-and-Darth-Vadar-style laser weapons, but with ideas and words, as he sought to discredit God through lies, deception and delusion. "Satan" literally means "accuser". But God overcame him and Satan was "cast to the earth". Revelation 12:8,9
Why didn't God destroy Satan on the spot and save us this terrible ordeal of human suffering?
- If God had obliterated Satan at the beginning of the rebellion, it would have given apparent credibility to Satan's lies and charges against God. The universe would have then related to God out of suspicion and fear, rather than in love. God chose to allow Satan to play out his hand in the affairs of this earth, to demonstrate what Satan would do with ultimate power if he had it. God allowed sin to hoist its true and deadly colors. Our first parents bought into Satan's lies about God, plunging every child ever born to their lineage into the crossfire of the ultimate star wars. That's why this subject transcends a mere academic interest for us–We suffer... We want to know why... We want to know if there is any meaning to our suffering... We want to know if there is any hope.
- Instead of killing Satan outright, God chose to come to earth Himself, to be afflicted with our afflictions and woo us back to Him. That's the true story of the babe of Christmas. He was "God with us." He who allowed Satan to inflict the enormous suffering experienced in our world refused to isolate Himself from our sufferings. He suffered with us. But God did not come to earth simply to share in our sufferings, He came to forever put an end to human suffering. Like the story of Maximilian, the prisoner priest at Auschwitz, in a stunning portrayal of love, God Himself came down to suffer and die at Calvary, and then to rise again, to secure the ultimate redemption of those who will respond to His love. That's the story of Good Friday and Easter–the story of hope that springs eternal.
Many people are blaming God for their suffering, using their suffering as an argument against God's very existence, running from God who alone can save them. It is Satan, not God who inflicts suffering. As testified to in cell number 1632 at Auschwitz, God is right there beside you so that no one need suffer alone and without hope.
Is there something in your life that you've wanted to change but haven't been able to? Mark Twain used to say, "It's not hard to quit smoking...I've done it a hundred times." He also confessed, "I can resist everything except temptation." Perhaps you've felt the same way about some important area of your life that you've wanted to improve. If so, we hope you can experience the liberation and empowerment we've found in the truth of the spotted leopard.
Sometimes outward changes are the easy part, as the story of the bum turned "fashion star" illustrates. Like mascara that washes off after the party, outward behavior changes sometimes mask the real us beneath. We've changed, but we're not really different. Which is precisely the Bible's point in its truth of the spotted leopard–We can no longer change our fundamental nature than a leopard can change its spots. Jeremiah 13:23
The truth of the spotted leopard applies to even simple lifestyle changes we know would be good for us but we haven't been
able to make. It applies even more certainly for the addictions we may struggle with. But it's an absolutely inviolable law when it comes to the profound spiritual changes the Bible says are essential in order for us to fulfill our purpose here on earth and to gain eternal life. This kind of deep, fundamental change and inner transformation is only possible, according to Jesus, through a spiritual rebirth–being born again. John 3:3-8
We cannot accomplish our own spiritual rebirth. It is an act of God's grace. Ephesians 2:8,9 But the Bible clearly identifies four steps that we must take to enable God to accomplish this deep spiritual transformation within us. Each of the four steps represents opening ourselves to God at deeper levels, inviting Him to set us free to live the transformed life that is characterized by meaning, purpose, love and the assurance of eternal life. Living this transformed life is what it means to "be saved."
Three times in the Bible the question is asked outright, "What must I do to be saved?" And the straightforward answers it gives reveal the four steps we must take that enable God to accomplish that transformation within us. The four steps are:
- Believe in Jesus Christ. Acts 16:30,31
- Repent. Acts 2:37-39
- Be baptized. Acts 2:37-39
- Obey God. Matthew 19:16,17
Associated with each of the four steps is the promise that God will help us take them. Philippians 2:12,13 And in the process, God works within us to accomplish the spiritual rebirth necessary to live the transformed life. No one who comes to God through these four steps, desiring to be saved–to live the transformed life of meaning, purpose, love and the assurance of eternal life–will fail to find Him. And finding Him, we find life. 1 John 5:11,12
Consider this: On a "midnight special" flight home you're rudely startled awake by stewardesses screaming that passengers have mysteriously disappeared. You notice your seat mate, who pestered you earlier that evening with her incessant talk about Jesus, is gone. You feel an adrenaline rush as you remember discussions about some "rapture" thing that would whisk Christians from the earth, leaving others behind to face some kind of global crisis. No! It couldn't be! Could it?
Left Behind–a 1995 best-selling fiction novel with an overtly religious message tells the story of Rayford Steele, a 747 pilot who's "left behind" when millions of Christians, including his own wife and son, were suddenly "raptured" from the earth by Jesus Christ. Now he and the billions of people left behind with him face a seven-year period prophesied in the Bible as a time of great "tribulation" under the reign of an evil antichrist. Will they now avail themselves of this "second chance" to become "born-again" Christians and be saved before the end of the "seven-year tribulation" when Christ will return again to judge the world?
Barnes and Noble ranks Left Behind as one of the ten best sellers of the 20th century. With eight sequels in print to date, and others on the way, it's already being celebrated as the most widely sold book series in history! While its story line is admittedly fictitious, Left Behind throws a spotlight on one of the most dominant teachings of the Bible–the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, by superimposing the rapture theory over this great biblical teaching as it has, Left Behind has itself left behind–
- The most urgent truth of all
- The most compelling prophecy of all
- The most clarifying truth of all
But not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Millions of Left Behind's readers and viewers have had their attention riveted on the shining truth that Left Behind didn't leave behind–Jesus Christ is indeed returning soon! The second coming of Jesus is referred to over 1500 times in the Bible, and in an average of one verse in every 21 in the New Testament alone. Jesus' promised reunion with His people at His second coming is the great climax toward which the entire Bible story moves. John 14:1-3
Jesus' promise to return for all who have genuinely believed in Him and followed Him has inspired millions to lives of faith and unselfish benevolence to relieve suffering and inspire hope. Titus 2:11-14 Jesus' followers through the centuries have courageously endured great suffering, even martyrdom, with the vibrant assurance burning in their hearts that He will one day return for them. 2 Corinthians 4 And a grand reunion it will be, one faintly represented by an award-wining photograph seen in Life Magazine which captured an unexpected drama at the return of an American POW from Vietnam.
Jesus's last recorded words in the Bible are, "'Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work....Surely, I am coming quickly.'" The closing words of the Bible respond: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!'"Revelation 22:12,20
So, is the soon return of Jesus good news or bad?Depends entirely on your perspective, doesn't it? Is the apprehension of a criminal good news or bad? Depends on whether or not you're the criminal! If you aren't ready for Jesus to come, then His return will be the most unwelcomed experience imaginable. But if you're forming a forever friendship with Him now, it'll be the fulfillment of your greatest dream.