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The more I think about and read about Harold Camping’s prediction of the end of the world, the more I realize how much harm it has done. Not only for those who followed him wholeheartedly, and spent every cent they had before the expected end, but most especially for those who now mock the Christian faith. Rest assured, Judgement Day will come; we just don’t know when.

In Deuteronomy 4:1-2 Moses instructs the Israelites to obey the Word of God, but to not add anything to it or subtract anything from it. This is a commandment that is repeated in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18-19, and it is exactly what Harold Camping did. He manipulated facts about dates such that he came up with a convoluted mathematical proof that the rapture would occur at a specific time on a specific day. Not only was this adding to the scripture, it was also contradicting the scriptures that say that no one knows the day or the hour. (Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:50, Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7) If we add to scripture, we are putting ourselves in the place of God, thinking that we know more than God has made known to us.

God provided us with His word to teach us and to bless us, so that we could know and worship the one true God. Deuteronomy 6:1-3 says that by keeping His commandments and teaching them to our children and grandchildren, we would receive blessing and prolong our days. Matthew 4:4 tells us that we need God's Word to live on, that living by bread is not enough. We can, like Jesus, use it to guard our hearts against the devil’s schemes. The Psalms indicate that the word of God is like a light to our path (Psalm 119:105) and useful for maintaining a pure life. (Psalm 119:9, March 9, 2011) Mark 4:20 promises that those who follow the Word will bear much fruit.

Nowhere does the Bible indicate that there are secret codes to figure out so that we can learn what the Bible says is not for us to know. The human race was warned from the very beginning not to try to become equal to God by knowing everything that He knows. In the Garden of Eden, even though God commanded against it, the serpent told Eve that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would open her eyes so that she would be like the divine beings—she would know what God knows. (Genesis 3:4-5) Secret things belong to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 29:29) He has, however, given us plenty of other information to think about, study and put into practice. We need to take the things that He did reveal to us, and use them to obey His statutes and give glory to Him.

Have you heard? Harold Camping has predicted that tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is judgement day, and that at 6:00 p.m. God will destroy the world. Aside from the fact that there is no Biblical support for the fact that the world will be destroyed at the moment of Jesus’ second coming, let’s focus on whether or not it will happen at all rather than how. The Bible tells us that only the Heavenly Father, not Jesus, not the angels, no one but the Heavenly Father, knows the appointed time. (Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:42, Matthew 24:50, Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:32, Acts 1:7)

Further, 1 Thessalonians 5:1 tells us that we don’t need to know. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 5:1-11), he recognizes what they already know and then goes on to tell them, and us, what we need to focus on instead. He states that he doesn’t need to write about the ‘when’, because they are already aware of the fact that it will be unexpected, like a thief in the night. Paul says that it will come upon them when everyone is talking about peace and security, so the mere fact that Camping is predicting it, makes it very unlikely that it will happen tomorrow.

Paul instructs us to act as children of the light—to encourage each other, build each other up, and to act as though Jesus might return at any moment, because of course He might. We need to protect our hearts by putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and protect our minds by putting on the helmet of hope. Our hope for salvation is not a matter of wishful thinking, but a matter of confident expectation if we have accepted the gift of Christ’s sacrifice for us and have made Him Lord of our lives.

I think what bothers me more than anything about Camping’s prediction is that he says, “There is hope for anyone who humbly cries, who begs, and beseeches God that maybe they, too, might become saved.” This is close to the truth, but it has some flaws, and that is just what Satan does. He’s a master of deception. II Corinthians 11:14-15 tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Whether Camping is intentionally misleading people, or whether he is just deceived himself is not for me to judge, but the truth is that the gift of salvation is available to anyone who asks. (John 1:12, John 3:17-18, John 20:31, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43) Camping quotes Romans 6:23, but only the first part, that the wages of sin is death. He neglects the second part that assures us that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ died so that we could live forever. If we have accepted that, we have no need to fear.

I have said many times in my blog posts that God has a plan for our lives. Many verses in the Bible confirm this. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us; they are to give us a future and a hope. John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us abundant life. Ephesians 3:20 promises more than we could ask or imagine. Philippians 4:19 tells us that our needs will be supplied according to His glorious riches. So, God’s plan for us is a good plan, but that doesn’t mean that it will be one that we understand.

I have often tried to figure out God’s plan for my life, and then tried to make it happen. Although I think it is a wise thing to obey God’s Word, and to try to live a life that is pleasing to Him, trying to figure out His plans can be an exercise in frustration. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that His plans are not like our plans, and His deeds are not like our deeds. Just as the sky is higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than ours. They are beyond our comprehension because He is God, and we are not.

What we need to do is to give ourselves over to Him. Ask Him to lead us in the path that He wants for us, and trust Him to keep His promises. Earlier in Isaiah 55, we are invited to come to God to receive His blessing without cost. This is referring to salvation and the promise of eternal blessings, but by giving our lives over to Him we can also depend on all of the other promises of an abundant life now. He really does have a better plan for our lives than we could make for ourselves. It won’t necessarily be easier, but it will be better, and it will be for eternity.

Do you ever feel like God has forgotten you? Do your trials just seem to go on and on, forever without end? I feel like that sometimes, and I know a lot of people who are in worse situations than I am. The good news is that God has not forgotten us, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from His love.

In Romans 8:35-39, Paul thinks about all the things that might separate us from the love of God. He comes up with a long list, two of them in fact, (Romans 8:35, Romans 8:38-39) that range from troubles on earth to powers in the heavenly realms, but after consideration, and adding the words “anything else in all creation” to cover whatever he may have missed, he declares that none of them could. If they could, it would have happened long before now.

The Bible, and history, tell us that Christians will face trouble. (John 16:33, II Corinthians 4:11) Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 to remind his readers that facing trials is not a new thing, but he goes on to say that even still, nothing can separate us from God’s love. That love is not dependent on our strength, our wisdom or anything that we have done. Because Christ was willing to give up His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins (Philippians 2:5-8, John 3:16-17, Romans 8:32), we are forgiven of anything that might otherwise separate us from God.

Did you notice in Romans 8:38, Paul includes the present and the future in his list but not the past? Our past and all the mistakes we have made have no relevance in determining how much God loves us. Christ paid the penalty for all of those things on the cross, and they have been removed from us, as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:10-14) The cross is the basis for our victory. (Romans 8:37) The New International Version says that we are more than conquerors. We not only have victory over our trials in that we can survive through them, but we will benefit from them. We learn to depend more on God, we become more like Him (Romans 8:29), and we are able to be a comfort to others when they go through similar things. (II Corinthians 1:3-4) By doing so we bring glory to God. (Romans 15:5-7)

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan for our lives, a good plan, and Romans 8:28 says that God works all things together for good to those who are called according to His purpose. That doesn’t mean that only good things will happen to us, but that God can turn anything that happens to us into good. We can rely on God’s promises. God loves us more than we could possibly imagine, and He has not forgotten us.

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I find these verses so reassuring that I recommend memorizing them, so that no matter what situation you are in, whether you have your Bible with you or not, you can be reminded how much God loves you. For tips on memorization, read my post from March 9,2011.

It’s Friday the 13th. Do you believe that that means you will have bad luck today? Do you avoid going out in public or trying anything new because of the date? Now, I don’t want to criticize you if you just joke about things like that, but there are people who seriously believe that Friday the 13th means bad luck, just as it is bad luck to let a black cat cross your path, or to walk under a ladder. To be honest, it is probably good advice not to walk under a ladder, but not because it will bring bad luck, just because it is safer that way.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, (I Timothy 4:1-7) he warns Timothy to be aware of false teaching, and instructs him to focus on the truth. These days truth is seen as a relative thing—what is the truth for me might not be the truth for you—but this is not the way God sees it. Paul encouraged Timothy to focus on God’s truth, and to reject anything that did not agree with it, including “myths fit only for the godless and the gullible”. (I Timothy 4:7) In the New International Version, this verse reads, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly."

When Paul wrote to Timothy he discussed the issues of marriage and of restricting oneself from eating certain foods because those were the issues that were current and relevant to the people that Timothy was teaching. But Paul’s words apply to everything. All things created by God are good (Genesis 1), and we are to receive them all with thankfulness. God created the days by separating light from darkness, (Genesis 1:4-5) and in that way today is just like any other--neither good nor bad in and of itself.

A friend of mine got married on a Friday the 13th several years ago. Many of her friends and acquaintances asked her why she would want to get married on that date; wouldn’t it be better to get married on a date that wouldn’t bring bad luck? My friend decided that it was even more important to get married on that date (besides that the timing was good for her and her husband-to-be) because it was a chance to tell people about her beliefs. She believes in a God who is in control of the universe, and although there might be bad things that happen in the world, it is not because of luck, but because we live in a world where good battles evil. Don’t give in to the evil; focus on God’s truth. Enjoy this day and all the blessings that God has for you in it.

Do you read the tabloid headlines while you’re standing in the check-out line? They entice us to buy their publications by telling us about all the ways in which celebrities have messed up. Sometimes it’s as minor a thing as going out in public without make-up, but that’s generally only on a slow news day. More often it’s about more foolish things that they have done, or perhaps even a crime that they’ve committed. Many of us have probably done similar things; they just don’t make the papers. How can we keep from stumbling and instead do the right thing?

In Jude’s letter to Christians, Jude recalls how Enoch prophesied judgement against the ungodly. (Jude 1:14-16) Then, Jude 1:17 starts with a “but”, indicating an opposite alternative, and goes on to tell us (Jude 1:17-23) that God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, is the one who is able to keep us from stumbling. Jude’s final blessing (Jude 1:24-25) attributes all the glory, majesty, power and authority to God and indicates that He is the one who will enable us to stand and rejoice, and to be an acceptable offering to Him. In Old Testament times, only animals that were without blemish were an acceptable sacrifice. In order for us to be an acceptable gift to God, we, too, must be without blemish.

So what do we need to do to have this privilege, this good standing? First, we need to realize that it is a gift from God—He is the one who is able to make it happen (Jude 1:24); so we need to put our trust in Him. Second, we need to do our part, which is to stay strong in our faith. Jude says to recall what the apostles said. (Jude 1:17) At the time of Jude, what the apostles said, and the letters they had written were as close as they had to a New Testament. Now, of course, we have the benefit of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, which includes the words of the apostles, all neatly bound in one book or on our computer screen. It is so much more accessible to us than it has been to any generation before. It is the Word of God; one of the best things we can do is to read it and study it. Third, we need to pray. Jude says to pray in the Holy Spirit. It is because of the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us that we can come to God in prayer. Fourth, we need to be merciful to those who are seeking the truth, but resist the evil of those who reject God and are controlled by their own selfish desires.

By staying in close communication with God, by reading His Word, and trusting Him, we will be able to avoid stumbling. We will be able to defend our faith and help others. (Jude 1:17-23) In the end, because of God’s mercy, we will be able to stand before Him, an acceptable offering, rejoicing in His presence. May He alone be praised. (Jude 1:24-25)

When I finished my post on Friday, (May 6, 2011) I had intended to share it with the Chretien family on their Facebook page (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) with the hope that it might bring them some comfort. They had been waiting a long time without answers, and even the notes of encouragement were becoming few and far between. But when I went to their page, I saw that Rita had been found! Alive! What joy I felt, I do not have adequate words to express.

Today’s post is in honour of Rita Chretien, her strength and her faith. My regular readers will know that I’ve been following the story of Al and Rita Chretien since they failed to return home as scheduled from a business trip to Las Vegas. From the evening of the day that they left their home in British Columbia, Canada, March 19, 2011, until the afternoon of May 6, 2011, Rita was stranded on a remote logging road in Northeastern Nevada. For the first three days, until he left on foot to get help, her husband Albert was there with her. Forty-nine days stranded in the wilderness, 46 without any human interaction. There is no cell phone service for miles, and no one used the road. There was no access to food, save what little bit of snack food they had in the van, and little access to water.

Fortunately, Rita was in good health when she started this stationary odyssey. But what would you do, what would you think, how would you feel if you were in this situation? I know that as I prayed for them, not knowing where they were or if they were still alive, I pleaded with God, “How long oh Lord, how long?” as the psalmist David did in Psalm 13 (February, 11, 2011). While I was praying from Psalm 13, Rita was evidently drawing strength from Psalm 86. She could have prayed David’s very words, except that the arrogant men of Psalm 86:14 could have been replaced by the harsh wilderness and the seemingly impossible situation that she was in.

I expect that when she reached Psalm 86:8, Rita too praised God and worshiped Him for His power and majesty. She would have seen evidence of it all around her, and the very fact that she was still alive several weeks into this ordeal was proof of the power and love of God. Rita certainly depended on the promises of God, which according to Ann Thomas, author of the blog, the writing heart, “are realized by those who choose to believe”. The psalms are full of David’s words pleading for help, for protection from his enemies, for deliverance, but they end with David giving praise to God. David always comes back to trusting in God because of who God is, and because he knows that God will be faithful.

Many may ask why, if Rita was such a devoted child of God, why would God allow this to happen to her. I don’t have all the answers, because God is God, and I am not. However, we might gain some clues from two men who endured great suffering in the Bible. Job was a great man of God, who lost everything he owned, including his children and his health, because Satan wanted to prove that Job’s faith was based on his wealth and privilege. God allowed Satan to take everything but his life from him. (Job 2:6) Job had questions, you can be sure, and he in no way pretended that he was happy with his situation, but he never stopped trusting in God. (Job 13:15) The Apostle Paul had plenty of trials of his own (II Corinthians 11:24-27), but from prison he wrote to the people of Philippi that his situation had actually turned out to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12) More and more people were finding out about the saving love of God because of Paul, and I believe the same will be said of Rita.

At the time of this posting, Al Chretien is still missing. Please continue to pray for him and for the people who are searching for him. One more lesson we can learn is to never give up. (Philippians 3:12-14) As Rita’s son Raymond Chretien said at a press conference from his mother’s hospital, “Never give up. Never lose your faith. Miracles happen. Never underestimate that.”
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Update:
On September 29, 2012, Albert Chretien's body was found by elk hunters, 11 kilometres from where the van had been stranded. He had been going in the right direction to find help, but the terrain was steep and wooded, and the snow was up to ten feet deep at the time. His body was found intact with identification still in his pocket.

Have you ever noticed that things don’t always go according to plan? Well, that may be true for our plans anyway. We all suffer or go through trials for one reason or another. It is the nature of our humanity. I Peter 1:7 tells us that there is value in our suffering, more than we could probably imagine. Suffering produces endurance, endurance, character and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-5)

Where is your focus? Do you dwell on the problems of the past, lament your current struggles or look with hope to the future. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul encourages us to press on towards our goal, the prize, which is the heavenly calling of God. Our time of struggle is temporary in light of eternity. The living hope in I Peter 1:3 does not represent wishful thinking but a confident expectation of future blessings. I Peter 1:3-9 outlines them for us.

First of all, we have been redeemed because of Christ’s death on the cross, but we have assurance of everlasting life because of Christ’s resurrection. Because He was raised to life, we know that we can be too. Secondly, we have an inheritance reserved for us, that is protected by God, and we are protected for it; we cannot lose it. Thirdly, we will be purified like gold through our suffering. When gold is put into the fire the impurities are burned away, and the gold can be reshaped in a purer state. All of these blessings are because of God’s great mercy; we have done nothing to deserve them. However, we are called upon to have faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, what we have the confidence to expect, even though we cannot see it. (Hebrews 11:1) Jesus said that those who believed He was raised from the dead without seeing Him would be blessed. (John 20:29) You will be praised and honoured for your faith when Jesus comes again. (I Peter 1:7)

Even though you can’t see Jesus in the flesh, you can know Him, and knowing Him will bring you indescribable joy, no matter how bad the circumstances seem to be that you are in right now. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, just speak to Him—you don’t have to talk out loud; He knows your thoughts—and ask Him to make Himself real to you. Tell Him that you want to know if He really exists, and if He really wants to have a relationship with you. Then be open for the answer.

God loves for His people to celebrate. Now, I know there are people who think that God is a big ogre in the sky getting ready to push the “Smite” button the minute we do something we shouldn’t, but that is simply not the case. Don’t get me wrong; God hates sin, but He loves us. He wants us to be filled with joy, and to celebrate together. In Deuteronomy 14:22-29, the people were commanded to take a tenth of their produce each year and use it to have a big party, to share it and be blessed by God in all the work that they did.

In Nehemiah 8:1-10 the people of Israel had recently returned to their own land after seventy years of exile in Babylon. They had rebuilt the temple, and just days before the one described here they had finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. On this day they gathered to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, a day of sabbath rest and holy assembly. In those days, the people didn’t have their own copies of the Word of God at home; they only had access to it at the temple. So on this day of holy assembly, the people asked Ezra to bring out the law of Moses, their Bible, to read to them. The people who were gathered there had come from all the cities of Israel, and they included men, women and children who were old enough to understand. They stood for possibly six hours listening to the priests read and explain the words of God to them, and they were eager to hear it. If you’ve gone to church on a Sunday morning, you’ve probably noticed people sitting in padded seats becoming restless if the service goes one minute longer than expected. That was not the attitude of the Israelites on this occasion. They had been living under the rule of the Babylonians in a foreign land for seventy years, and now they were back home. They wanted to know the law that God had handed down to Moses and their ancestors.

The reading of the Word of God at this assembly was the beginning of a spiritual revival for the Israelites. They took the message that they were hearing so seriously that they began to weep. (Nehemiah 8:9) But Nehemiah reminded them that this was the Feast of Trumpets, a day for celebration. He told them to go and eat choice food, drink sweet drinks and to share with anyone who had nothing. No one was to be left out of this celebration. No one was to grieve. This was a day to focus on God, and to be filled with joy.

What do you really believe about God? How does your belief affect your life? Do you believe that God is truly good? That He has a plan for your life? A purpose for your pain? I know that I have trouble with that when I am in the midst of the pain, but I propose that it is essential to finding joy, and perhaps to surviving the tragedies in our lives.

The Psalmist David was a good example of someone whose faith did not change with his circumstances. Psalm 16:11 is the last verse of Psalm 16, and concludes this prophetic psalm with hope and joy. Throughout it David acknowledges that God is his only source of well-being, the only One he can fully trust. He vows to not give in to the ways of the people around him who are not trusting in the Lord, but will make his decisions based on God's faithfulness and what pleases Him. He knows that God will provide the stability and prosperity he needs, and he will give praises to God for his guidance. Interestingly in Psalm 16:7 David explains that this guidance from God comes through his own reflection and learning. David has the assurance that His trust in the Lord will protect him, will keep him happy and safe. This is his reason for rejoicing. It certainly wasn’t because the circumstances he was in were easy or safe. He was very likely running for his life at this point. Some scholars believe that this type of psalm, a mikhtam, was used in the context of prayer motivated by danger. Certainly David had his fair share of trials in life, enough that we can be sure that his rejoicing was based on his trust in God and not on his circumstances. Psalm 16:10 shows us that David knew that even death could not separate him from God. (Romans 8:38-39) This brings us to the conclusion in Psalm 16:11 that God would for David, as He will for us, lead us in the path of life, so that we too can experience joy in His presence.

We can have the same assurance that David had, and that the Lord Jesus had. There is a parallel between what David says in this psalm and the experience of Christ in His death and resurrection. (Acts 2:31-33) Jesus was the first to travel the path from death to life, but He has promised every believer that because He lives, we too will live. (John 14:19)

So how does this affect your life? Jan Winebrenner, author of “Life in the Midst of Mess” discusses our options: “Will we seek God and take our refuge in Him when our path is littered with broken dreams? Or will we turn elsewhere? We have only these two options when catastrophe strikes. If we choose God, then catastrophe becomes for us a special grace-gift, ushering us into the place where we can experience God in ways we never before imagined. We find ourselves poised on the brink of life’s greatest discovery: that God is the ultimate presence in the universe, and that knowing Him, interacting with Him, by faith, is more satisfying, more exhilarating than anything the human heart ever hoped for or imagined.” Like David we can experience the sheer delight that God provides--always, despite our circumstances.