JAN

2013

Three Things Every Christian Should Agree On Did Isaiah Predict 9/1 1 ?
Recap on The Harbinger

Angst Births Hope, Again

RE- EVALUATING THE B UCKET LIST
A publication of On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.

GENUINE MOTIVATION Young Christian Man Dec/Jan 2013, Vol. 3 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher Rob Beames, Editor Chandler Hunter with Donna Lee Schillinger, Page Design Kimberly M. Schluterman Editorial Support Contributors Jimmy Larkin, Will Dole, Thom Mollohan, Donna Lee Schillinger, Julie Ann, Rob Beames Except where noted, content is copyright 2012 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Genuine Motivation and www.OnMyOwnNow.com. On My Own Now Ministries, Inc. is a nonprofit organization with a 501 (c) (3) determination. Your donations aid in our mission to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults during their transition to living on their own. We welcome submissions of original or repurposed articles that are contributed without expectation of compensation. May God repay you. Visit us at www.OnMyOwnNow.com.

in this issue...
FOREMOST
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Three Things on Which Every Christian Can Agree

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PRESS ON
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J I M M Y L ARKI N

Angst Birthed Hope

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CAN YOU RELATE
And Topping My Bucket List Is…
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WI LL D OLE

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THE RECAP
BY

TH OM M OLLOH AN

Did Isaiah Predict America’s Future?

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FAITH
BY

D ON N A L EE S CH I LLI N GER

Charities at Christmas: Desperately Seeking Donations
J U LI E AN N

AND

FINANCE

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CORNERED
BY

Christmas: What’s the Point?
ROB B EAM ES

BY

GRACE

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THREE THINGS ON WHICH EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN AGREE
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By Jimmy Larkin

FEATURE

ARTICLE

omedian Emo Philips used to tell this story*: In conversation with a person I had recently met, I asked, "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" My new acquaintance replied, "Protestant." He answered, "Baptist." I said, "Me too! What franchise?" "Me too!" I said. "Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" "Northern Baptist," he replied.

"Me too!" I shouted.

We continued to go back and forth. Finally I asked, "Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1879 or Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912?" He replied, "Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!"

(Baker), from the editors of Leadership

*New Republic. Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching

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Everybody likes to be around people we agree with. And in 1 Cor. 1:10­18 the Apostle Paul urges, exhorts, or makes an appeal, to the Corinthians to agree with one another. Jesus and the Cross, the message of the resurrection! Beyond that, I would like to examine three reasons why the Corinthians and, so often, we lose sight of the main thing.

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

In John 17:11, 20­23, Jesus elaborated on the plan in a prayer shortly before His arrest. He prayed that those who would believe the message of His disciples would be brought to complete unity so that the world 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to would know that God sent Jesus and know about those who are perishing, but to us who are being God’s love for them. saved it is the power of God. Later, when the disciples were replacing Judas Apparently there were some quarrels and fighting taking place among the Corinthians. If we examine why they didn’t agree with one another, we see it’s the same reason why sometimes we don’t agree with one another. We need to overcome these reasons and to be obedient to Paul’s exhortation to agree with one another. Simply put, the reason we don’t agree with one another is that we’ve lost sight of the main thing. What is that main thing? It’s Jesus! (Acts 1:21­22), they said, “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Jesus, the cross and the resurrection is the message of the disciples, and it is the only message that builds Jesus’ church. No other message can bring people into

First, we lose sight of the plan. This is evident from the very fact that Paul urges us to agree with one another. What is the plan? In Matthew 16 Jesus asked His disciples a question, “Who do men say that I am?” They gave Him a number of answers, from John the Baptist to Elijah to a prophet. Then He asked, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “You are the Christ or the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus tells Peter he is blessed because God, not man, had revealed that to him. Jesus goes on to say, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” And that is where the plan begins. You see, Jesus’ plan is to build His church. He’s building a church right now, is He not?

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FEATURE
the church. That’s why you’ll find throughout the book of Acts (2:32, 36; 3:15; 4:10, 20, 33; 5:30­ 32, 42; 8:35; 9:20; 10:36­43) the disciples declaring this message, thereby building Christ’s church. That was the plan, and it’s still the plan today. It’s what Paul says in v. 17: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” But the Corinthians had lost sight of the plan, and too often, I believe, so do we.

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too deep and hard to understand, and he always makes them feel bad when they listen to him.

And what we fail to see is that the message that each of those preaches is the same message. It’s Jesus, the Cross, the Resurrection. But we get bogged down on those other things. That’s what the Corinthians were doing.

The word “agree” in 1 Cor. 1:10 means “to say or speak the same thing.” Paul is literally saying to them, “I want you all in the church to speak or say the same thing.” Now, what do you think this “same thing” is that he wants them to say? Would it not be the message of the apostles? It’s the message of the gospel…Jesus, the Cross, His Resurrection! Yet somehow the Corinthian The Corinthians were dividing up into groups believers were dividing themselves behind behind human preachers, Paul, Peter and different preachers. Some liked Paul, others liked Apollos, others liked Peter, and the most pious Apollos. claimed Christ himself. So, Paul turns their attention to the purpose Don’t we do the same today to a certain extent? that is the person, Jesus Christ! In v. 13 Paul asks three rhetorical questions that would surely get Some say, “I’m a fan of John MacArthur. He’s deep and I can really learn from him. When he their attention. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul preaches, I learn new insights that I don’t learn crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” When you think about those anywhere else.” Others will say, “I like Rick Warren. He’s America’s pastor, you know. That questions it kind of becomes ridiculous what they were doing, doesn’t it? It makes no sense. Purpose Driven Life book really changed my life.” Still others will say, “I prefer Billy Graham. But he is saying to them in essence, “Don’t forget about the purpose behind which you gather His evangelistic messages are so plain and together in the first place. Don’t lose sight of the powerful. That man has done more for the reason why you are there. Jesus is that reason. kingdom than anyone else.” And each of these Why are you talking about following these followings will try to convince the rest why we should like one over the other. Before long those human preachers? They are in the place of who like MacArthur will say that they don’t like preaching and authority simply because of Rick Warren because he’s all about world peace Christ.” and is seemingly propagating a social gospel. And the people that like Rick Warren won’t like Billy Graham because all he did was the evangelistic crusades and he didn’t do much to make a difference for the physical needs in this world. And the people that like Graham and Warren both won’t like MacArthur because he’s How often do we lose sight of our purpose? It’s easy to do, isn’t it? We just get comfortable in our little church, in our little gatherings, in the group of people that we’ve put around us that agrees with us about the same things. And before long we’re focused on ourselves and those things and we forget the whole reason why we’re here in

They lost sight of the plan. But they also lost sight of the purpose. If we read the preceding verses 1­9 in I Corinthians, we would notice something repetitive in those first 10 verses, and it’s the purpose behind Paul’s exhortations to agree and be unified. The purpose is the person; Paul mentions the name of Jesus Christ 10 times! Do you think he wanted to get a message across to these Corinthians?

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the first place. It happens in churches all the time all around the world. cross help rangers locate the original site from which the star spangled banner flew, but it answered the mystery of how such a large flag One of my favorite hymns is Turn Your Eyes could fly in stormy weather without snapping the Upon Jesus. The words of the chorus say it all. pole. This unseen wooden device provided a firm “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow foundation for the symbol of our national strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” freedom. Our purpose comes from Jesus and our eyes must always be on Him if we are to accomplish His plan.

Finally, the Corinthians had lost sight of their power. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:17­18). The only message we have that contains any power is the message of the cross. Christ has a plan, a plan to build His church. That plan involves a message. And there is great power in that message. And it’s only in that message that a person can have true hope. It’s a message so powerful—have you thought about this—a message so powerful that it can change someone’s eternal destiny. Author Greg Asimakoupoulos wrote,

But what have we done in the church? Instead of being completely unified behind Christ’s plan, Visitors to the Smithsonian Museum of His purpose and His power, we create divisions American History can see the flag that flew over in the church by focusing on our own messages, Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote things that are seemingly important to us. "The Star Spangled Banner" in 1814. The original There is a whole movement that was built on flag measured 42 by 30 feet. It was the immense the doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit, or size of the flag that allowed Key to see it from his speaking in tongues. This is in no way to put position 10 miles out to sea, following a night of down the charismatic movement, but I spoke gunfire. with a gentleman who was a part of a charismatic The means by which a flag that large could fly church for years, during which he sincerely on a pole 189 feet in the air is on display at Fort prayed that God would give him the gift of McHenry on Baltimore's inner harbor. There, in tongues in order to manifest the baptism of the one of the barracks, are two oak timbers, 8 foot Spirit; he longed for it, but it never happened. by 8 foot, joined as a cross. National Park Service And he was looked down upon because he never personnel discovered this cross­shaped support displayed the gift even though he truly believed near the entrance to Fort McHenry in 1958, in Jesus. buried nine feet below ground. Not only did the

Similarly, the cross of Christ provides the foundation by which our faith is rooted and supported. It is the message of the Cross that supports and sustains and grows the church. The message that Jesus Christ came to this earth; God became man, born of a virgin; lived a sinless life; arrested, tortured and crucified. He died on that cross. His blood was shed willingly because it was shed for a purpose. He was the sacrifice for my sin and your sin and the sin of the world. After he died he didn’t stay that way. No, three days later he rose from the dead and conquered sin and death. And when a person is willing to believe all of that about Jesus and they are willing to accept His sacrifice on the cross on their behalf and they repent and turn from their sin and to Christ they can be assured that they will spend eternity in heaven with God. And that is a powerful message!

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FEATURE

ARTICLE

A particular Church of Christ in Wyoming would be our unity that would testify to the taught that they are the only true church and if world that God sent Him and loves them. He the sign doesn’t say “Church of Christ,” you’re wants us to be unified and I’m here to tell you not part of the true church. A man came into my today that the way we do that is by focusing on office and told me he was ready to give up on Christ and His message: Jesus, the Cross, and God and religion because of things his pastor was the Resurrection. saying from the pulpit, such as Charles Spurgeon The Corinthians had lost sight of the plan. They was in hell because he wasn’t Church of Christ. lost sight of the purpose, the very person, Jesus Different denominations have different Christ. And they lost sight of their power, the emphases. Now, I ask you, are any of those the message of the cross. message that the apostles preached? Are any of I don’t know where you are or where your those messages that the apostles would church is, if there are divisions among you, but if emphasize today? No! The sad thing is that each Christians can agree to say the same thing, to of the churches I have mentioned teach the make Jesus Christ the main purpose, the reason message of the cross, they have just chosen to why we gather, His message the very thing that place emphasis on lesser things. And we do it drives what we do, then we can have those too, don’t we, but just a little differently? We may disagreements on all those other issues because argue Calvinism versus Arminianism. Or worse Jesus’ plan is to build His church and He builds yet, four­point Calvanists versus five­point His church when we focus on Him and when we Calvinists versus Hyper­Calvinists! Or we’ll declare Him and His message to people. That’s divide over Dispensational Pre­millennialism why we’re here. As long as we continue to be versus Covenant Theology. Or we’ll divide over divided and to follow behind human preachers, the timing of the rapture. Or we’re dividing over we aren’t going to accomplish Christ’s plan. We pre, post, or amillennialism… election and weren’t going to be about His purpose. predestination… lordship salvation… and on and So, my challenge to you is this. Don’t lose sight on. of the plan. Realize that you’re here because you But here’s the deal. Paul’s plea to the have a specific purpose in Jesus’ plan to build Corinthians and to us was to agree with one His church. He has saved you and He is another that the message of Christ and the cross sanctifying you because He is going to use you to ought to be the main thing in our churches. build His church. And if you remember that, you That’s the only way the church grows. That’s the won’t lose sight of the purpose, the very person plan of Jesus Christ today: that His message will Jesus. And remember the only way you can be a go out to the nations. part of executing His plan is if you proclaim His I’ve never heard of anyone getting saved at a message—the only message in this life that has debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. I’ve real power to change destiny, to influence people never heard of anyone getting saved because of for eternity. If you keep Jesus, the Cross, and the division in a church. I’ve never heard of anyone Resurrection at the forefront, you can walk getting saved because Christians all rallied together and disagree on so much else. together and voted the right politicians into office, politicians with Christian values, Jimmy Larkin is currently a full time seminary politicians who would begin a revival with student residing in Kansas City with his wife Christian policies. That’s not how Christ’s plan and five children. He enjoys spending his free works. He’s building His church and He said it time hunting and fishing.

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PRESS ON

ANGST BIRTHED HOPE
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Son of God to appear. s we approach Christmas, most of us anticipate the joy of celebration saying There’s a sense that we mourn while in things with great excitement like, “A baby came, miserable exile here and long for God to appear! a Savior, Christ the Lord!” This is a good thing. Often times we feel angst. Many of us can Focusing on such truths as the Incarnation, the identify with the question a leader of King belief that Jesus came down to earth from His David’s choir once asked, “Will the Lord reject heavenly throne as Emmanuel, or God with us, is forever? Will he never show his favor again?” worthy of much celebration. All that Jesus did (Psalm 77:7). We sometimes wonder if He will for us, everything from living a perfect life to ever reveal Himself to us again? dying an atoning death and conquering death by In the midst of these feelings, we need to keep His resurrection, is possible only because He first the history of God’s people in perspective. Israel was born to Mary in a barn in Bethlehem. began when God called a man named Abram to There’s a reason angels were there to announce leave his dwelling (Genesis 12). Essentially, the it. It was big deal. rest of the Old Testament is about how God Although the birth of Jesus was an amazing revealed Himself to and through His chosen expression of God’s love and favor shown to His people, who later took the name Israel after people, it came after a long­endured ache of a Abram’s grandson. Despite the fact that God people in suppression. The birth of Jesus finally chose these people as His own and lavished ended the deafening silence where no word from incredible love and blessings on them in very God was heard for over 400 years. The absence visible ways, even though He gave them great of the long expected Savior must have been military success and royal renown, they rebelled unbearable. Many of us are familiar with at least against Him. They took credit for their success the first verse of the old hymn which begs and chased earthly pleasures while worshiping Emmanuel to come and ransom a captive nation, foreign gods. In Ezekiel 16, God compares His Israel, which mourned in exile waiting for the rebellious people to an adulterous wife, one who

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has less dignity than a prostitute. But which had continued for so long. As they cried nonetheless, they are His people and in many out for Him to deliver on His promises, He places throughout the Old Testament we read appeared to be nowhere to be found. For those about the hope of Savior who is to come. Perhaps who did believe that the God of their ancestors the best known of these passages reads: existed, there must have still been some overwhelming doubt that He would ever show For to us a child is born, to us a son His face again. is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be Who knows exactly what we would have felt as called Wonderful Counselor, first century Jews. However, we face a similar Mighty God, Everlasting Father, crossroad every year at Christmas time. Do we Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of approach this season with more sorrow, anger or his government and peace there confusion than we do joy? Do we wonder if God will be no end. He will reign on is ever going to show? Sometimes it’s difficult, David’s throne and over his but there is hope. kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and There is hope because Jesus did come once and righteousness from that time on He said He would come again. There is perhaps a and forever. The zeal of the Lord greater hope offered to those who doubt than to Almighty will accomplish this. those who pretend to have unshakeable faith. (Isaiah 9:6­7) The world we live in is extremely broken, and it’s There is this deep expectation that even though natural to wonder if God still has a plan to save Israel had walked away from God time and time His people. It is only from that lowly position of again, He would send someone to break the back confused waiting that we can start to grasp the of their oppressors and to sit on the throne of immense glory and beauty of God stepping down David forever as promised in 2 Samuel 7. But into humanity to save His people. God did not sit when Jesus finally did come, Romans ruled the back from afar and send someone else in to do world and Judea was ruled by Herod, a puppet the work. He came in the person of Jesus Christ. king and ruthless man. Before the Romans, the Jesus left His place at the right hand of God the Greeks had ruled over the Jews until the Father and became one of us. He was born to an Maccabean revolt gained the Jewish people unmarried mother in a barn. His birth is first temporary autonomy. Even before they were announced to shepherds, the lowest people in unwillingly subdued by these powerful society. God’s great King, the hope of humanity governments, they were exiles in Assyria and came not to a palace but to a place where hurt Babylon. By the time Jesus is actually born, and pain was the most real. He came to the most Isaiah’s prophecy is over 700 years old. broken of the broken. If we had gone through all of that, as the No, the hope we have at Christmas isn’t told as Israelites did, what would we have felt at the some squeaky clean story. It is about God, who time of the Savior’s advent? After having grown promised to save His people, coming into a up being taught the accounts of how God saved messed up and wrecked world and personally His people from slavery in Egypt, brought them doing what He promised. He had to start by first into the promised land and established them as a becoming one of us. nation, it must have been difficult for any Israelite to believe God would do it again as they We can rejoice for our Emmanuel has come to us, the new Israel! looked around at their hopeless oppression,

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And Topping My Bucket List Is…
B Y TH OM M OLLOH AN

CAN YOU RELATE

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to hear. It echoes what our urges compel us to do ive for Now!” shouts a roadside billboard and it conveniently cloaks responsibility for the with pictures of a top­contending soda. Every time I see it I feel a pang of astonishment repercussions of living for the now. Why is it and I immediately begin reflecting on the overall likely to be successful? Because, the world says spirit of our age. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m there may be no tomorrow. not finding fault with that company in particular. Ever since the movie, the expression “bucket Their marketing people have simply done what list” is in wide use. It is especially interesting that marketing people get paid to do; namely, finding most things that end up on a bucket list are self­ a slogan that will so resonate with the gratifying endeavors. People want to perform a advertising’s viewers that moves them to buy. A particular stunt, try a particular kind of food or smart advertiser will come up with a motto visit a particular place. The general idea seems to which fully captures the deep­seated feelings, be that we’d better hurry up and do all the things ambitions and drives within us. we’ve ever thought we wanted to do in this life What saddens me, however, is not the fact that this company used this slogan—I wonder why someone didn’t use it sooner—but how very successful it is likely to be. It says what we want because the now is all we have. Fill it up with all the fun, pleasurable and self­centered ambitions we’ve stored up for ourselves because there is nothing after the now to look forward.

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There’s certainly nothing wrong with being adventurous, doing exciting things and rejoicing in God’s goodness. These things are, after all, what motivated me to explore a jackal den when visiting a desert in the Middle East. But how many of us have things on our bucket lists that will make an impact in the hereafter?

He also said that God loves those who live in I’m sure there are many factors that make our this world and expressed it perfectly through the generations so receptive to the “Live for Now” gift of His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay for our slogan. Many people have bought into the lie that sin. By believing in Him we are given eternal life. “now” is all there is. Others are still worried We believe in Him by staking our hope and about the off­the­wall interpretation of the confidence so utterly upon Him that we forsake Mayan calendar—which would mean the world all our false hopes or idols as well as our living­ should already be gone by now and you wouldn’t for­now habits and selfish pursuits. be reading this. Or perhaps the movie “2012” set “For God so loved the world, that He gave His off too many morbid imaginings. Whatever the only Son, that whoever believes in Him should case, many people do indeed believe that the only not perish but have eternal life… For the wages of worthwhile pursuit in this life is to grab what we sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life can, while we can, before we lose the chance. in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (John 3:16, Romans But there is more to this life than the now. I 6:23 ESV) believe the Bible’s claim that God will wrap up Hopefully, you also see the short­sightedness of things in His way and in His time—He “live for now,” and are willing to settle for specifically said that no one else knows when that nothing less than “living for… ever” with God in would be. I also believe that there is an eternity Christ Jesus our Lord. Maybe we should make a awaiting us and that this life has been given to us bucket list with “live forever” at the top. What so that we can prepare for that next life. I even else should we put on that list? Maybe joining a believe the Bible when it says that Jesus Christ is fellowship of Christians. Maybe hosting a Bible the only way to enter into that life. study in your home. Maybe a mission trip or a For the disciple of Jesus, the motto cannot be to live for now, because doing so, focuses our window of eternal opportunity upon a moment that vanishes like smoke. For the disciple of Jesus, the only genuine motto is to “live for… ever”. Why? Because while the here and now is a fleeting moment, forever is… well, a really, really long time. Just ask anybody. tutoring program. Maybe helping the sick neighbor across the street. Maybe reconciling with a loved one. And maybe, just maybe, skydiving… at least once.

is an endless abiding with God who is so incomparably vast and infinitely wonderful that awaiting us are pleasures and adventures and experiences so numerous that they cannot be counted and so beyond our imaginations that we could not possibly begin to describe them.

Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 17 years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables and Jesus discussed everlasting life on multiple Crimson Harvest. He is the pastor of Pathway occasions. He was an eyewitness to the wonders Community Church and may be reached for of heaven because He had originally come from comments or questions by email at there. He said that eternal life is, “that they know pastorthom@pathwaygallipolis.com. You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Eternal life then

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DID ISAIAH PREDICT AMERICA'S FUTURE?
B Y D ON N A L EE S CH I LLI N GER
f the Mayan calendar has piqued your interest time in our own United States of America. as of late, might I recommend a mystery along Written as a soft science­fiction mystery along those same lines, but a bit meatier? Conspiracy the lines of National Treasure (with less action), theorists, doomsdayers and prophecy Cahn’s writing style is so repetitive that I aficionados will be able to sink their teeth into wondered several times if my cat was playing a The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds dirty trick on me and moving my bookmark back the Secret to America’s Future. Author Jonathan a few pages. I concluded that Cahn must live with Cahn is a messianic Jew, which for some hard­ a senile grandparent for whom he has to repeat to­articulate reason seems to add credibility to things often. Either that or the publisher gave his fictitious expository of the non­fictitious him an ultimatum, “Add 50 more pages by premise that an ancient prophecy in the book of tomorrow!” The book could have easily been half Isaiah is being fulfilled for a second time, this its size with all plot points intact.

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The book is based on a series of concurrences between the prophecy in Isaiah 9:10 and the events of 9/11 and aftermath. (See one already, 9:10, 9/11? Also, Cahn recently confirmed that in the One­Year Bible, from 1985 through 2001, Isa. 9:10 was in the reading for September 11.) Cahn reveals the concurrences as nine harbingers, each in a symbolic seal, which the main character has to figure out with the help of an unnamed angel in a trench coat. But get bogged down in plot—Cahn only wrote it that way because he rightly knew more people would read a story than a straight analysis. I read eagerly awaited the tipping point where Cahn’s argument would give me goose bumps. Half­way through the book, I was still thinking this sounded more like that time when a family member tried to convince me we were related to England’s Prince John. The acrobatics and contrivances… just… too… much!

in the annals of history. After all, 230 years isn’t much of a track record in the big picture. Look at the Mayan and Aztec empires, both of which lasted at least twice as long as we have – nobody’s pegging them for a role in Biblical prophecy. Too geographically small, you say? What about the Mongol Empire which stretched from present­day Vietnam to Hungary? They had it going on, but now, with a few hundred years of perspective, who gives them much thought? Even if we get “great civilization” status some day, that doesn’t mean God has a special role for our country in His plan. We need to take into account the underlying assumptions of self­ importance in Cahn’s premise, without discounting it altogether on that basis. Sadly, end times prophecy attracts a lot of kooks, and this book has been touted by them all! But don’t let that dissuade you from giving it a contemplative look.

Let me add that I am not a skeptic and I believe the entire premise is within the realm of The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that possibility. And yet there was only one holds the Secret to America’s Future by concurrence which, upon reading, caused my eyes to widen, nostrils to flare and eyebrows to Jonathan Cahn. ©2011 272pp. $16.99 (but sells for less on Amazon.com) rise. Turns out that George Washington, after delivering the first presidential address to Congress on April 30, 1789, led the legislators in a foot­procession to a little stone church to consecrate this nation to God. The very spot where that little stone church sat is, today, Ground Zero. (Cue theme from Twilight.) There are others too… many others. (OK, kill the music.) Could some Biblical prophecy pertain to the United States? Certainly; but it seems more likely that applying Biblical prophecy to our country and our times is just another form of rampant nationalism and ethnocentrism. The United States has the makings of a great nation, but the jury is still out on whether we will earn that status

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Christmas
What's the Point?
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e often associate Christmas with many comfortable concepts such as babies in swaddling clothes, pageants of toddling sheep and little angels, tutus twirling with time with nutcracker soldiers, to name a few. It’s a holiday readily embraced by all even those who don’t place their trust in Christ. Who could blame them? It’s evolved into an enjoyable celebration which gets us through some long and sometimes brutal winter months.

presents, eat cake and laugh when someone is born. We offer condolences, eat cold casseroles and weep when someone dies. We like Christmas and only seem to tolerate Easter.

In contrast, Easter is not so embraced by the masses. Who wants to dwell on the brutal and seemingly senseless killing of an extraordinary teacher in His prime, especially one as gentle and So what’s the point of Christmas? Looking up kind as Jesus was, in the way He healed all He at the eye of a storm of wrapping paper and touched. It seems that everyone likes Christmas, flashing Christmas tree ornaments, it may be but only the religiously dedicated are able to difficult to know. Sometimes, the eggnog clouds stomach Easter. It makes sense. We give our vision, but the purpose of Christmas calls out

Someone once said that there would be no Easter without Christmas. While it’s difficult to argue with that logic, it’s also true that Christmas has absolutely no value without Easter. They come as a package deal, so we don’t get to chose, but Christmas undoubtedly reigns as our favorite of the two holidays. It’s much more anticipated and far less infringing on our comfort zone – in America anyway.

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each year to remind us. No, Linus Van Pelt didn’t present you before his glorious presence without necessarily get the whole picture, neither did fault and with great joy—to the only God our Charlie Brown or Dr. Seuss. One person who did Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, seem to get it was the cousin of Jesus and it through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, didn’t take him very long. now and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 1:24, 25). We will leap for joy if we believe what God has After Elizabeth and Mary were each told by angels that they would miraculously bear sons, planned for us through Jesus. First, Jesus had to Mary went to see her relative, who was filled with come into our midst to make our joy possible. By His Spirit, God makes what is possible actually the Holy Spirit as soon as Mary greeted her. happen. We can rejoice now in the presence of Elizabeth was obviously overwhelmed as she God. We don’t even have to wait for Christmas. called out to Mary, “Blessed are you among

women, and blessed is the child you will bear! We may not feel like rejoicing because we know But why am I so favored, that the mother of my how far from perfection we are, but when the Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of Spirit of the Lord moves, we can dance because your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my the gift of Christmas was intended to bring us womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:42­44). joy. Yes, it is a gift which is so undeserved but beating ourselves up doesn’t bring Him joy. It John the Baptist got the point of Christmas, before he was even born. But we don’t want to be was His good pleasure to give to us the only too hard on ourselves. It was the Holy Spirit who avenue to joy. It was what He desired. No one tipped off the embryonic prophet and filled him knows why. Our actions in the past, present or with joy. We should pray for that kind of joy this future fail to explain it. Our performance on any given day doesn’t make any sense of it. We don’t year, too. It may be the only way we’ll get it. deserve Christmas. No one ever can, but God No doubt, Christmas can get complicated, decided to bring joy to many through mostly because we make it that way by trying to Christmas—through the baby, not the hoopla. He please significant others, but Christmas is really decided to give joy to those He loves. quite simple. Christmas happened because we So, before we rip off all that pretty paper, needed joy and had no way to gain it. We were maybe we should ask ourselves why joy is so looking for it in the wrong place and working way too hard at trying to achieve it. Yet, true joy important that it’s printed all over our packages eluded us. That’s because it only comes from the at Christmas. Materialism won’t conjure up the joy we crave. Determination will not bring it presence of God. Pure, undiluted, no­strings­ home. Only our faith in the sacrifices made by attached joy only comes when we understand Jesus, both to come as a helpless human, then that God the Almighty wants to be with us. He only wants to be and only can be with those He later to die on our behalf, can bring us such unrestrained joy. That only happens when we deeply loves. That should bring us great joy! believe what He has in store for us in the end. That was the reason Jesus was born among us. His loving presence is with us now because of That is the point of Christmas. God brought joy Christmas, and it will never go away. Now, that’s to miserable sinners and that is what we are. Yet, a cause for joy! He completes His joy by perfecting us through the faultless performance of Jesus, “To him who (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.) is able to keep you from stumbling and to

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send an inner­city is the season for giving! Oh and not just those pretty shiny presents under your twinkling tree. kid to summer camp It’s a key time of the year for charitable giving as well. in the mountains), With the holiday­giving spirit in people’s hearts and and if this fits into year­end tax deductions on their minds, charities and your budget, then non­profits know it’s the best time to seek donations. it’s an easy way to make the decision. But how do you know what charity to support? How On the spiritual side, do you know that the money you are giving actually there’s the question goes to where you think it is going? How much of whether your should you give? What about those tax deductions? charitable giving Did you know that there are about 1.4 million goes above and charities in the United States that you could support? beyond your tithe or is a part of it. There are With that many options, how do you know which arguments for both perspectives, so inform yourself, one(s) you should support? Is your passion making seek advice from your mentors and prayerfully sure kids have school supplies, helping no­kill animal consider this issue before building into your budget shelters, feeding the homeless in your community or the amount you will give. In addition to regular supporting cancer research? Do you want to support charitable giving, consider a “rainy day” amount for your local community, the nation, or the world? Do unexpected donations such as natural disaster relief you want to support a smaller organization with a or to support a cancer walk for a friend’s sudden limited focus or a massive well­known organization? illness. Before giving any support, take some time to reflect While many charitable organizations can certainly and pray. If you are having trouble making a decision, use your money, many can also use the gift of your a good place to start is by reading the charity’s time. Whether it’s serving meals to the homeless or mission statement. doing basic office paperwork, volunteering can be Once you have decided which charity to support, priceless. Getting involved will help you truly see the you should do a little supplemental research to results of your giving. Everyone has time to give even ensure your donation is being used prudently. A good if they don’t always have the cash to give. charity should clearly have statements and reports on Finally, besides the warm­fuzzy feeling of knowing its Web site showing you how much money they you are helping a cause, Uncle Sam will also reward raise, how that money is distributed, and evidence of you with a tax deduction (if you itemize your how their money is bringing results. If you are deductions), provided the charity has been supporting a local charity, arrange a visit to its facility determined to be exempt under IRS code 501(c)(3). or office for a first­hand look at what you will be Be sure to keep paperwork (request receipts) to back supporting. You can also use Web sites such as up your giving report in case of an IRS audit. Also, if www.charitynavigator.org or run a search for reviews you donate clothes or household goods to a charity, for an outside perspective on the charity. you can claim that as giving, so be sure to get The next big question you should ask yourself is paperwork verifying this. how much should I give? On the practical side, many As you give this holiday season, may God bless you organizations will provide the amount needed (i.e. abundantly and may you feel the joy of giving in your $30 per month to feed a child in Africa or $250 to heart all year long.

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