antichrist

The Anti-Christ Culture

2 Thessolonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed , the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already wor : only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

Daniel 11:37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

I have never been a big prophecy guy. Sure I think it’s interesting, but I’ve always held to the “just live right, go to Heaven and everything else will take care of itself” philosophy. So while others discussed tribulations and red heifers, I devoted my time to the investigation of culture. However, recently I have come to see an interesting intersection between these two philosophies. A symbiotic relationship between end time prophecy and cultural studies has become glaringly obvious, and at the focal point of this juncture exists a man, who at this point, is only known by the title of the “antichrist”.

To many young adults, the antichrist shares mental shelf space with the boogie man and Bigfoot. He is an apparition used by preachers to scare us into good behavior, but we have trouble fixing him in the reality of our day-to-day lives. However, in the book of 2 Thessalonians, Paul gives a concise description of the antichrist and the context of his appearing. He starts off by saying that before the antichrist makes his appearing, there will be a great falling away. It is safe to say that this falling away is the precise reason why ministries like Hyphen were created in the first place. This falling away is happening right now, and we are doing everything possible to stem the tide.

Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that the “mystery of iniquity is already working.” In other words, he is saying that there is a hidden force of sin that is moving in our world. The agenda of sin has always been to lead people to hell, but what if sin also has a veiled purpose – to bring about the time for the antichrist to appear? What if the changes we are seeing in culture aren’t just byproducts of carnality, but instead are targeted issues meant to create an atmosphere in which the “son of perdition” could be elevated to power? If this is true, then we should see specific spirits being advanced in our culture that would fall in line with the antichrist’s characteristics.

This is where Daniel 11:37 comes in to play. Daniel gives three qualities of the antichrist. He says that:

  1. He will abandon the God of his fathers.
  2. He will not desire women
  3. He will not regard any God, and will magnify himself above all

Many theologians agree that Daniel is saying that the antichrist will be a homosexual, apostate Jew with a healthy ego. So what does this mean for our culture? It means that for the antichrist to be accepted we must live in a world that will celebrate secularism, homosexuality and narcissism, and this is exactly what we are seeing in our world right now.

Secularism

The abandonment of God has been the central fixation of the church for quite some time now. Since the early days of the postmodernist movement, the idea that a divine metanarrative can explain the universe has been under attack. Being an atheist is no longer a marginal view point, in fact it is celebrated in many circles. A recent Barna group study found that less than 0.5% of millennials have a biblical worldview.  Secularism isn’t a new movement, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has never been celebrated the way it is today.

Homosexuality

If you are unaware of the heightened acceptance of homosexuality in our world in recent years, then you have been living under a rock! What once was seen by the majority of Americans, even those who weren’t overtly religious, as a perversion, has now become a normal part of society.  At least part of the rapid increase in approval has been credited to the positive portrayal of homosexuality in the media. It is no longer just a punch line, it is now front in center on all forms of media. Recently, college football player and NFL hopeful, Michael Sam revealed to the world that he is gay. Potentially he could be the first gay, professional football player. Many expressed disbelief that an NFL locker room would be receptive to a gay teammate, but an ESPN survey found that 86% of players would be OK with a gay teammate. It’s safe to say that if a football locker room would accept a homosexual player, then this is a spirit that has been firmly entrenched in our world.

Narcissism

Lucifer may have been the originator of pride, but social media has elevated this sin to an art form. Sites like Facebook have allowed us to create pages that we fill with all the details of our lives. In order for social media to work behaviors that would have been considered narcissistic 30 years ago, are now practiced daily. To post anything on social media you have to believe that people are sincerely interested in the details of your life, and that what you have to say carries merit to others. In effect, we have created online shrines to ourselves, and we get disappointed when others don’t visit our temples. In fact, narcissism has been elevated to the point that sociologists have labeled it an epidemic. This spirit is wreaking havoc in arenas that stretch from the church pew to the workplace.

So what does all this mean? It means that the time is right for an atheistic, homosexual politician to arrive on the scene and garner millions of followers on twitter. Even if you aren’t a prophecy person, this should arrest your attention. The rapture isn’t some mythological event in the far off future, it is real and it is soon approaching. As we instruct our young adults about Christian living, we need to remind them that God is coming, and that eternity is real. We are living in the last days, and it isn’t something we should just gloss over. You can teach that we should be more than a fan, and encourage them to experience crazy love, but don’t allow Heaven and Hell to become outdated concepts.

Paul called the work of these spirits a “mystery”. This word means something that is hidden that only God can reveal. We need to pray that God would reveal the true work of these spirits to us and our churches. It is only through the renewing of our minds that we will be able stand in these last days.

- Joel Gray, Director of Resources & Training

IG Dates

Have You Been Stamped?

The Hyphen Tour is a boutique event that allows for relationship building, purposeful interactions, powerful worship, and focused preaching and teaching. It is a life-changing experience!

This year we are asking Hyphens everywhere a simple question: “Have you been stamped?”

What does it mean to be stamped?

Hyphens need God’s stamp of approval and anointing on their dreams, ministry, career, education, image, pain, finances and relationships. These are all big topics young adults are tackling while in their twenties. Hyphen wants to empower them with the realization that their whole life is a mission field, and they need to enter that field stamped.

Why is that important?

When a young adult allows God to stamp their ordinary, everyday life with His seal of approval, they are moving from simply existing to being activated for a mission. In one God-moment, they can be changed from being an ordinary young adult, to being a Hyphen, one who serves as a connector between two parts: God and their world. You see, a banker is just a banker, but a banker who has been stamped is a Hyphen. A student is just a student, but a student who has been stamped is a Hyphen. The act of God stamping their life for a mission turns them into a Hyphen because it prepares them through the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the call He has for their life.

What’s the biblical case for it?

Ephesians 1:13 (Amplified) says, “In Him you also who have heard the Word of Truth, the glad tidings (Gospel) of your salvation, and have believed in and adhered to and relied on Him, were stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit.”

Every experience, success and failure, when stamped by the Holy Spirit can be powerful witness of God’s grace and power.  We are not our own, we have been bought with a high price for a specific purpose. We exist in our world to reach our world! So, we ask, “Have you been stamped?”

Postmodern Me

Postmodern Leavers

One of the books that I am currently reading is Generation Ex-Christian, Why young adults are leaving the faith…and how to bring them back, by Drew Dyck. I highly recommend this book to all pastors and young adult leaders.

In one passage, the author discusses some lessons he’s learned in talking to postmodern leavers. These are young adults that have grown up Christian, but have left the faith, instead choosing to adopt a post-modern mindset. These are lessons that he says that he learned through trial and error.

1. Tell your story

In the postmodern culture there is distrust for meta-narratives. A meta-narrative is and overarching story that everyone is expected to fit into. Christianity is an example of this. We believe that the gospel applies to everyone, but postmodernists do not. While they are skeptical meta-narratives, postmodernists hold the personal experience sacred. This gives us an opportunity to share Jesus through our testimony. The common trap is to use our testimonies as a sermon. Postmodern leavers are familiar with church, and can smell a canned testimony coming a mile away. We have to be willing to be honest about our struggles and our triumphs in order to create an atmosphere of honesty. Tell them what Jesus did for you, and the process He brought you through, but include defeat as well as victories

2. Re-enchant the gospel

Postmodern leavers often have a very stale grasp on the word of God. They have reduced it to a handful of threadbare arguments. It is up to us to present the gospel as a beautiful and vibrant story of love. In order to do this, we need to know more about the scriptures than they do! The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ parables, and the accounts of Jesus’ relationships with believers and non-believers all give us plenty of opportunities to share the love of God while at the same time presenting the word in a fresh way. Remember that these are former church kids, and they are familiar with the process of salvation. They need to be reminded of the love of Jesus, which, hopefully will lead to a renewal of salvation. We must be passionate about our relationship, before they will take notice.

3. Build trust

Trust or the lack thereof, is a crucial issue in the minds of many leavers. Many have been hurt through experiences that have happened in church. The C.S. Lewis quote that I blogged before this article, is used by the author to make his point. The image that many postmodernists hold of Christians is one of ambivalence. In short, they think that we don’t care about them as people that we just want to convert them so that we can fulfill some type of cosmic quota. The old saying that my grandfather used many times was, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This statement has never been more applicable. We have to be willing to reach out in compassion and build a bond of trust with postmodernists. They know how to argue against every one of our tenets, but they can’t argue against love. Examine the teachings of Jesus and you will find a consistent principle of love. This love is the simple thing that has been chosen to confound the wise.

4. Invite them to serve

Postmoderns prefer to discover truth through experience rather than reason. Most also have a strong social conscience and a willingness to serve the poor and oppressed. This gives us a perfect opportunity to use their strengths and at the same time help them to rediscover Jesus. Traditional evangelism has placed belief before belonging, but when it comes to serving the world this order doesn’t have to be set in stone. We understand that it is important to protect and honor the doctrines set  forth by the bible, but Jesus made the statement “Follow me”. He took 12 men, who knew nothing of Him or His doctrine, and asked them to follow Him until the truth was revealed to them. Postmodernists are perfectly suited to be plugged into the service ministries of your church. If your church doesn’t have service ministries, start some. Help them re-discover the love of Jesus, by being the love of Jesus to others. Not only will they be doing a great ministry, but they will also feel more connected to your congregation and therefore more open to instruction

Jesus did all of these. He told beautiful parables, and communicated the truth in vibrant and passionate ways. He invited people to follow Him, and learn from experience. He built relationships and forged bonds of trust with his followers. Culture may have changed, but the relevance of our Savior never will. Post-moderns don’t have to be written off as unsalvageable. We don’t have to just resort to praying for them in secret, hoping that they have an epiphany about God’s love. These strategies are also good for helping to ensure that our young adults stay in church! We can be proactive in our quest to regain the lost.´

— Joel Gray, Director of Resources & Training

zeitgist

Zeitgeist

Here’s a little tip. The next time you’re at a party, and the conversation starts to lull, bust out this little philosophical gem, “Does a fish know that it’s in water?” On second thought, unless your party is severely on the nerdy side, you may want to keep that question to yourself. However, it does bring up a good point. Does a fish realize that its natural environment is water? I believe that the appropriate answer to this query is: not until it’s gone. Fish aren’t that smart, but I have to assume that when a fish is flopping on the shore, it is acutely aware that something is different.

Hopefully if you’re reading this you are smarter than a striped bass. You understand that surrounding you is an atmosphere composed mostly of Nitrogen and Oxygen, and if you were to try to stay underwater too long bad things would happen. But are you aware of the cultural atmosphere that you’re swimming in? Are you aware that right now there are societal and cultural mores that serve to govern what is acceptable in our world? Don’t believe me? The next time you go to a nice restaurant try eating everything on your plate using just your hands. The dirty looks you receive will be cultural norms at work.

The Germans have a great word for this cultural atmosphere. They call it zeitgeist, and it simply means the spirit of the times. Cultural zeitgeist is at once fixed and fluid. It is constantly changing, but somehow it tends to repeat itself. Paul referenced this concept of zeitgeist in Romans 12:2. He warns us to not be conformed to this world. The Greek word interpreted as world is aion. It is meant to give us the idea of all the temporary expressions of worldly culture that is swirling around us.

Cultural philosophy goes a long way in determining how we see the world around us. One generation may dismiss what another embraces. The radical juxtaposition of cultures between older generations and today’s young adults often leads to chasms of communication. The spirit of the age leads us to see the world through its lens.

Paul addressed the issue of cultural divide in 1 Corinthians 9:22. He said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that infallible biblical truths must be married to a certain style or cultural philosophy. It is important to present the gospel in the way that communicates best to the targeted group. This is what Hyphen seeks to do – communicate timeless truths in a way that resonates with today’s young adults.

Why have we taken up this mission? The answer is quite simple. We are tired of seeing apostolic young adults abandon their walk with God and leave the church. Depending on which study you read somewhere between 60-70% of young adults will completely disengage from their faith in their 20’s. This rate is unacceptable, and depressing! A more hopeful statistic, published by the Lifeway group, tells us that of young adults who stay active in church until the age of 22, 94% will never leave the church. The future of our local assemblies depends on the retention and reclamation of young adults.

Hyphen seeks to connect 18-30 year olds to service, with purpose, through resources for a mission. We want to see a generation that is equipped and empowered to communicate Jesus with their world. A generation that, through the anointing of the Holy Ghost, has risen above the zeitgeist and been transformed by the renewing of their minds. We want to see the Kingdom continued.

— Joel Gray, Hyphen Director of Training & Resources.

IG Stamp

Get Stamped: Tour Theme 2014

At current market value, if you owned 33.4 grams of gold it would be worth approximately $1371. This seems like a lot of money, especially if you’re a college student, but if this same 33.4 grams of gold were stamped with a Saint-Gaudens double eagle, it would be worth closer to 8 million dollars. The right stamp makes all the difference.

We’ve all been stamped in some way. Our decisions, lifestyle, worldview and behaviors all work together to present an image to those we meet.[1] Be it the mark of a hard-working college student, an ambitious new employee or even a slacking twenty-something, your mark reveals who you are. There can be value in our marks, but no matter how desirable, and well defined our personal image is, there is a stamp that is even more valuable. We must bear the stamp of Jesus.

In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul counsels Timothy to “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” At the time of the writing of this epistle, Timothy was around the age of thirty, and serving as the pastor of the church at Ephesus. He was a young adult with a big job, and it was likely that some would take a negative view of his age. Timothy had to rise above any criticism, and the best way to do this was to become an impeachable example of Christian living.

In the above verse, the word example means, “a stamp struck by a die.”[2] It connotes the image of an object being struck repeatedly, so as to leave behind a pattern. It is the same type of process that occurs in the minting of coins. The starting material is struck, and an image is left behind. The finished product is an example of what the original pattern looked like. What Paul is telling Timothy is this: the more you allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to impact you, the more people will see the image of Jesus in your life.

When we spend time interacting with Jesus, His character will become stamped onto our lives. People should be able to see the pattern of Christ through our speech, conduct, love, faith and values. His nature should be imprinted on everything we do and say.

In Ephesians, Paul remarks that we are marked with the seal of the Holy Ghost.[3] The infilling of the Spirit serves not only to give us power to overcome sin, but also to change us, so that we become a light to those around us. It is the imprint of God on our lives that gives us power to be witnesses.[4] When Jesus stamps you, your world becomes a mission field. You go from being just a bank teller, to being a missionary to that bank. You transform from a struggling college student, to a source of light to other college students. You go from just doing life, to leading others to everlasting life.

So be an example. Let others see the image of Jesus in your life. Get stamped.

- Joel Gray, Hyphen Director of Resources & Training


[1] In Mark 12:30, Jesus said that loving God with our hearts, soul, mind and strength is the greatest commandment. These are the ingredients that make up our total person.

[2] I don’t always speak Greek, but when I do I use sites like this: http://biblesuite.com/greek/5179.htm

[3] Ephesians 1:13 to be exact. Try the NIV version, its divine.

[4] Acts 1:8