Sunday, May 24, 2020

Why Liberty Still Matters!

Martin Luther King Jr marching in the streets, arm in arm, standing for liberty.

King Leonidas of Sparta, standing arm in arm with Spartans,and Greeks, standing for liberty

The alliance of nations at Waterloo standing with muskets, against Napoleon, the dictator, for liberty

Socrates standing before the leaders, condemned for speaking the truth, standing up for liberty

Martin Luther, a single lowly priest, standing before the bishops, in defense of Christ alone, for liberty

Spartacus, leading the slave rebellion in ancient Rome, standing before the might of the Roman army, for liberty

Mahatma Gandhi, stoic in protest, unmovable before the vast power of the British empire, standing for liberty.

Nelson Mandela in South Africa, resisting and standing against the evil of apartheid, for liberty

George Washington and his army, sickly, half starved, at the brink of defeat, crossing the Delaware river, last ditch effort, for liberty.

Jesus Christ, standing before the pharisees, declaring the truth boldly, declaring the hypocrisy, breaking the chains of man-made rules, for liberty.

Something within the human heart craves liberty, to be free, to make our own choices. And yet something within us also craves to be mastered, to be controlled, to be taken care of.

“It was for liberty you were created, but not use your liberty as an opportunity to indulge the flesh.”

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.”

1 Peter 2:16 “Live in freedom, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

Think about that… you were made for liberty. For choice, to freely make choices, whether good or bad. Think back to Adam and Eve in the garden. God made them good. Perfect, righteous and full of love.

Yet he issues this command, eat from any tree in the garden, meaning, live here with me, in joy, in relationship, but, don’t eat from just one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Very interesting. There was no razor wire around this forbidden tree. There were no armed guards. There was liberty to choose all this good, any of hundreds of tree, but an option, given free will, to choose evil.

Free will. Choice. Liberty, and freedom, to choose our own destiny. And yes the freedom to choose evil, and disobedience. They were not forced to choose the right, they were given the option to do either. That’s God given liberty.

Fundamental to your design as humans is to be free. To make your own free choices.

In the world today, the fallen world, like the original garden, the situation is reversed. Now we are surrounded by a forest of sin. It seems like almost every tree leads to evil. We’re constantly tempted by the trees of sin, the tree of pornography, the tree of dope, the tree of selfishness, the tree of lies, the tree of gluttony. Yet we still have the free choice. To choose what tree we will choose. And like in the original garden there was just one tree that led to sin, now there is only one tree that leads to life.

That is the tree of Calvary the tree of the cross of Jesus Christ, where Jesus our savior our God was nailed to the cross, to remove our sins, to give us liberty, and bring us back to paradise.

That’s your personal liberty, the liberty to choose. But what about group liberty, the liberty of a society? Let’s consider two revolutions, the American revolution and the French revolution. They both occurred in a time in history when king and queens ruled over nations. Personal liberty didn’t really exist. Religious liberty didn’t really exist. If the king was catholic, you were catholic, and guys with swords would come take you to jail if you disagreed. If the king was protestant, guys with swords would come take you to jail if you disagreed.

The American revolution took place, a rebellion against the authoritarian reign of great Britain, forcing their American colonies to pay high taxes, without representation. They would send their criminals to the USA, to get rid of them. They passed laws that forced the colonies to let British soldiers stay in the houses of colonial families for free. So they rebelled. They fought the British. And declared the rights of humanity, under God in the declaration of independence. They formed a nation based on laws, and “In God we trust.” That our rights come from God, and government only exists to guarantee those rights that already exist in natural law.

Consider the French revolution, it took place shortly after the American revolution. It was a revolt against the royal monarchy. But it happened in a very different way, it became a secular revolution, a fight against God, to throw God out of society, and to reform society around man being supreme. The government became the God, and in the end it became the revolution of the guillotine, with heads being chopped off left and right, and in the chaos rose Napoleon, a dictator who would attempt to conquer the world.

George Washington, the man who could’ve been the dictator of the 13 colonies, when the war had been won, ceded his power back to the people, as his military commanders encouraged him to take power for himself, he gave it back to the people, and so a new nation of liberty was born.

Today it seems to me that we don’t really appreciate liberty as we should. We’ve become spoiled I think, in the west, thinking freedom is the normal for civilization. It is not. It’s the exception in history. We’re increasingly obsessed with another competing virtue called equality. We want everything to be exactly equal, in society, in government, even in the economy, and personal finances. But we must remember, without liberty, there is no equality. Only tyranny. Equality alone can quickly become here is your portion, no more, no less. And soon you are a prisoner to what society says you deserve.

In our society, liberty sometimes seems like it’s slipping away. We give many people and groups authority over us. Authority in our society largely goes to the people we give it to. Obviously authority is ceded to our government. But also to certain people and groups we regard highly.

In the past, we as a society ceded authority over our lives, influence over us to people like priests, and ministers, and religious leaders. We saw this group as a source of wisdom, authority, and guidance.

Today more so we cede authority to a new priestly class, Those we call experts, Phds, scientists, and scientific studies, and news media outlets. But it seems that we’ve learned in recent months that this priestly class is not infallible, they can make mistakes too, and often do. And that big word “science” doesn’t actually always mean “the truth” but is increasingly open to interpretation. And the biases of those who use the word to push an agenda.

Which ultimately leaves us with a choice: How will we live? In freedom, in self determination? In courageousness, and faith in God? Or will we live in fear? In total submission to experts and scientific studies? Will we live in tyranny?

We’re designed though, for liberty, not for tyranny. Which is why great men and women like Gandhi, Martin Luther, and Washington, all stood up against tyranny throughout history.

We’re designed for liberty brothers and sisters. But here is the important caveat. “But don’t use your liberty as an excuse to indulge your flesh.”

The price of our Christian personal liberty is what? Eternal vigilance. Which means keeping a close watch on ourselves. We hold ourselves accountable. That is the basic truth of liberty in Christ, we are free as long as we keep a close watch on ourselves, and live pure lives.

The ironic thing is, if we hold ourselves accountable to God’s commands in the Bible, then no tyrannical government is necessary. It’s like the little boy who steals a toy from his sister, and he feels so guilty about it, that he returns the toy, apologizes to his sister, and vows in his heart to never steal again. He is a law unto himself. He holds himself accountable, and no punishment from mom or dad could hurt more than what his conscience has already held him to: A holy, pure standard.

Yet, if we use our liberty for sin, selfishness, to take from others, well, even the most tight gripped government can’t force to live rightly, or stop us from causing trouble.

Think about a nasty little boy, who steals a toy from his sister, even if he is caught by his parents, put in time out, and forced to apologize to his sister, what can be done, if the boy says in his heart, next time I’ll have to be more careful not to get caught.

You can always game the system somehow to get past a law, or a rule, to get what you want.

The price of our liberty, is to hold ourselves to a very high standard. I remember growing up being in my early teens, and we would leave our door unlocked. We would bike around town by ourselves, and we were in no danger. Why? The larger society had a certain code, not because of any law, but because of internal self governance. I will act this way, because that is the ethic of our society. Today those shared values no longer exist.

So why talk about all this today? Well, tomorrow is memorial day. Memorial day, brings to mind the word memory. Do we remember the past? Do we remember the sacrifices of those who served the cause of liberty in the past?

A great writer once wrote, “Once every generation the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood patriots and tyrants.”

Do you remember those who fought and died in the American revolution for your freedom? Do you remember those who bled and died in the civil war to end slavery in the USA? Do you remember those who died to protect the entire world from Hitler and the Nazis? Do you remember those who bled and died in korea and Vietnam to stop the spread of communism around the world? Don’t forget them. Don’t forget liberty, and freedom. We’re used to them. We have them. Don’t lose them. Don’t take them for granted. Fight for them.

Here are the two points that I’m trying to make here:

One, you are made to live in personal liberty, to make your own choices. So hold yourself accountable to a higher standard. Because God asks us to live holy, yet he also gives us the right to refuse.

Two, stand up for liberty in your society. Too many today are eager to throw it away, and hand it over to others. Stand up for liberty. Like MLK Jr, like George Washington. Like Gandhi. Like Martin Luther.

Many think it’s too late for the United States. There’s too much sin, too much tyranny growing. Too many evils multiplying, too many sex trafficking rings, too many millions of aborted babies, too many lies, too many people who just don’t care and stare at the television all day.

And I say this: That is up to you. Will you stand up? Will you speak out? Will you pray? Will you do something?

This is it guys. We’re the small remnant of the church, weak as we are, our God is not. Don’t be discouraged, don’t live in defeat. Stand up! Be brave. Do something special. That’s my challenge to you today.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The River Leading to the Tree of Life

The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience think this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concluded Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators." -Resource, July/August, 1990.

Sometimes I feel like we are a generation endlessly staring at the screen, watching movies and tv shows, and series, applauding at the entertainment. And the preacher is the one calling out to us like the manager of the movie house, “Run, the house is on fire!” But everyone thinks its part of the show.

How distracted we are, how often we can’t seem to focus clearly on what is actually real. So we entertain ourselves instead.

But the truth is judgment is coming, and this city is destined for destruction. We have to wake up and realize that God will return, and all will be changed. And if we simply live in the ways of the world, we will be destroyed too. We will never live in paradise, if we don’t turn to Jesus. Time is running out.

Jesus said, “7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”

We’ve been studying the saga of the return of Jesus at the end of the book of Revelation. Today we consider the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, revelation 22.

Jesus said, “12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

The king of kings is returning soon. And he will reign on the Earth. Last week we talked about the New Heavens and the New Earth, and the New City of Peace. Today we reflect on the tree of life and the river that flows from the throne of God. The river flows through the city of the New Jerusalem. Many cities are built around rivers, rivers are sources of travel, and of electricity and commerce. It seems fitting that the eternal city has a river running through it. It says in Revelation 22:1-6:

“Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Absolutely astonishing. The tree of life, the fountain of youth you might call it, is there, at the center of the city. The same tree of life that Adam and Eve ate from in the garden of Eden. Wow. Eternal life, to live forever, is the dream of every person who lives isn’t it? As we grow older we wish we could escape death. And there is only one way to have that, Jesus Christ. This river flows from the throne of God, and through the city. The river is the water of life. Who gave us the water of life? Jesus Christ. Jesus is the water of life, that makes us pure.

So apparently we’ll eat from this giant tree of life, each month, twelve different crops of fruit it produced each month. I’m assuming eating from it is what sustains eternal life in our bodies then. Once a month pill, fruit from the tree of life, once a month, to live forever.

And the leaves of the tree of life were used as medicine to heal the nations. I wonder what that means? The New Jerusalem is a picture of a jewish city in a way, a new Jerusalem, perhaps across the New Earth other cities will be developed, of gentiles. I’m not certain. Leaves to heal the nations. Medicine to heal. Fascinating.

In contrast, right now, we are under several difficult realities in the world. The law of death is at work, all people grow old, and die. We suffer from various forms of illness and brokenness in our bodies, back pain, arthritis, organ failure. Those realities will no longer exist in this perfect reality.

It continues saying, “No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”

You know there were moments throughout history where men and women saw God, they saw his throne room, they saw his glory, they saw amazing things. Do you know what the result was each time? They were terrified, shocked, amazed, and horrified by their own sinfulness, as they saw something of a holy God. They cried out, “woe is me, I’m undone.”

But in this new city of God, we will see God face to face, and we won’t cry out in horror or terror because of our sinfulness. We’ll cry out in joy and worship and glory and true love for our maker, because we’re holy there, as he is holy. This city of God is for those who have been washed in the blood of Jesus, and have turned away from sin. And when we’re there, we will be holy as he is holy. There will be no more shame, no more regret, no more horror at our own sinfulness. Instead we’ll rejoice and live in euphoria, in the presence of our infinite creator. When you see something amazing… I mean really amazing. Like your wife giving birth. Like a super moon on a clear night. Like the moment you first met your husband, first met your wife, when you realized your mom and dad loved you for the first time. When you saw a shooting star. When you kissed your wife, or husband for the first time. When you held your child for the first time. When you realized your calling in life for the first time. When you cried with joy at the love of God and His mercy on you. That is what it feels like to be in God’s presence. And so much more. Imagine what God will show us, imagine what time space and glory he will show. Imagine what his infinite form will look like. Imagine how his love will make us feel there. It’s beyond all we could imagine. True peace. True love. True joy. True infinity. True mysteriousness. A serene moment.. a perfect sunset, holding your lovers hand, hugging your best friend, moments before a storm, a balmy summer day, a mysterious winter night… God’s glory.

Verse six says, “ Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets,[b] has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.[c]”

This will happen. This is real. The New Universe, The New Planet, the New City, the Tree of Life, and the river of life that leads to it. It’s all real. It will happen. Why do you doubt? God made the world. It’s so obvious to me that God made the world. That Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible is amazing beyond description. His words are incredible. His parables, what he did, no man could’ve come up with these truths. They are timeless.

Yet how often do we stare blankly at the television, at the smart phone screen, as we see the signs of the times, and the world beginning to crumble, and we simply applaud the entertainment we view. And I’m guilty of this too. I don’t focus on God like I should. Too often I’m glued to computer screens and televisions. And it’s not an evil thing to enjoy entertainment, God made us to enjoy the arts, the arts are a gift from God, music, movies, tv series, but we spend too much time on them. Stop and pray. Stop and read your Bible. Stop and seek God.

What are you really living for? The theatre is on fire, and we must make our escape to Jesus, to a new life, to living in holiness, to following God with our whole hearts, not just some of the time, but all the time. We must make our escape to the tree of life, to the eternal city, and inevitably, to God himself. Which is why we study his word, and why we study the book of Revelation. His word brings life. Jesus said the words I speak to you are life. They bring God’s lifegiving spirit when we read them.

Verses 10-16 say this: 10 Then he instructed me, “Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who is doing evil continue to do evil; let the one who is vile continue to be vile; let the one who is righteous continue to live righteously; let the one who is holy continue to be holy.”

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. 15 Outside the city,(in hell, another eternal place) are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

Which camp are you in? There is no middle ground. Are in the camp of those living righteously in Christ, and those living holy? Or are you in the camp of those living vile, filthy lives? Are you part of those who do evil and harm to others? There is no middle ground. Make your choice. You can choose Jesus right now today. Give your life to him, out loud, right now, wherever you are. Give yourself to Christ, and follow Him with your whole life. It’s not enough to do it once and be done, you’ve got to live it out all your days! Trust in Christ, He will remove your sin and make you a whole new person, with new desires in you heart, and put you to work for his kingdom.

In conclusion today, Verse 17-21: 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. 18 And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! 21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The New Universe, The New Planet, and the New City

"Then I saw a great white throne and the one who is seated on it. Before his face both earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Another scroll was opened too; this is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged on the basis of what was written in the scrolls about what they had done. 14 Then Death and the Grave were thrown into the fiery lake. This, the fiery lake, is the second death. 15 Then anyone whose name wasn’t found written in the scroll of life was thrown into the fiery lake.  -Revelation 20:11-12, 14-15

We’ve been looking at the conclusion of history, and we’ve talked about many elements involved in that journey that is ahead of us. We’ve looked at the marriage supper of the lamb, and the millennial reign of Christ, and now we come to the conclusion of Earth history.  

The old Earth, the old universe, has passed away.  And everyone is alive, and standing before God. 

You’ve got everyone, billions and billions of people, and they all stand before God.  You’ve got average everyday people, farmers, waitresses, cooks, construction workers, and you’ve also got the wealthy, the elite, the powerful, people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, the Rockefellers, past presidents, and Wallstreet stock brokers.  You’ve got people from all across history, all over the world, people from Europe, from China, from India, from Pakistan, peoples from South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia. You’ve got the millions who died during the black death, and the millions who died during the world wars, you’ve got ancient peoples who saw Jesus with their own eyes, you’ve got people who saw Abraham and Moses.  You’ve got modern teenagers, you’ve got post-modern philosophers, you’ve got everybody.  Every single person who ever existed, standing before God’s throne.  This throne room is the place where God resides.  I imagine it’s quite amazing.  

And it says books were opened. Heaven keeps records of all that’s done on the Earth. True story.  Everything is written down. And it says each person was judged based on what was written in the books, which is based on what decisions each person made. 
What decisions did you make?  What did you do?  Did you serve yourself, or did you serve God?  All this will come to light on the last day. And what’s most important is, is your name written in the book of life.  That book belongs to who? The Lamb, that’s Jesus.  Did they have Jesus as savior?  If the answer is no, that person will be sent to the lake of fire, permanently.  Scary stuff, right?  

So I’m not sure how long this process will take.  To individually judge billions of people?  Well, I suppose God could take every case at the same time, because God is infinite.  And can be everywhere all at once. So I suppose it won’t take too long.  Maybe a few hours?  

But at this moment, it says that death and the grave are abolished forever.  No more dying, more putting people to rest in graves.  That stuff is over, it’s said it’s thrown into the lake of fire as well.  Very interesting. 

So you’ve got the great division between what Jesus called the sheep and the goats.  The sheep obeyed Jesus and listened to his voice, the goats did not obey Jesus and rejected Him.  Then we see the three new creations come. 

It says, Revelation 20:1-2: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

Three new things.  You’ve got a new universe.  What does this mean?  Stars, planets, galaxies?  I don’t really know.  But no doubt it will be incredibly beautiful. Our current universe is very dark and barren, what would a holy universe look like?  Would all space be traversable?  Could you breath in space?  Faster than light travel? Gold colored?  Space creatures?  Maybe the entire universe would be filled with a liquid substance resembling grape jelly.  I don’t know.  But it’s a new, perfect universe.  A universe made right.

Second, a new Earth.  Again, I wonder what a new earth will look like?  Probably in many ways just like our current Earth.  Beautiful skies, trees, plants, animals, and various creatures.  But consider it without danger, without sin, without evil.  Animals wouldn’t run from us, as they do now, they would run to us.  No angry people in traffic driving too fast, or too slow.  No pollution, no violence, no wars, no lies and distortions.  

And 3rd, a new city.  A new Jerusalem.  Which Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” I would love to live in a city of peace. There is so much strife, division and pain on Earth.  I would love to live in this city of peace.  And I know that one day soon I will live in this city. 
Verses 3 and 4 say this: “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Rev 21;15-27, "The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring rod with which to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 Now the city was laid out as a square. Its length was the same as its width. He measured the city with the rod, and it was fifteen hundred miles.[a] Its length and width and height were equal. 17 He also measured the thickness of its wall. It was two hundred sixteen feet[b] thick, as a person—or rather, an angel—measures things. 18 The wall was built of jasper, and the city was pure gold, like pure glass. 19 The city wall’s foundations were decorated with every kind of jewel. The first foundation was jasper, the second was sapphire, the third was chalcedony, and the fourth was emerald. 20 The fifth was sardonyx, the sixth was carnelian, the seventh was chrysolite, and the eighth was beryl. The ninth was topaz, the tenth was chrysoprase, the eleventh was jacinth, and the twelfth was amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made from a single pearl. And the city’s main street was pure gold, as transparent as glass.

22 I didn’t see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. 23 The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day, and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is vile and deceitful, but only those who are registered in the Lamb’s scroll of life."

Saturday, May 9, 2020

10 Movies with Christian Allegorical Themes

Warning: Some of these movies are not appropriate for family viewing, some of these movies are rated R and should not be viewed unless prayerfully by the guidance of God.

Warning: This blog contains spoilers for all movies mentioned.

10. Greater (2016) - This movie is currently available on Netflix.  It's obviously a Christian themed film, following the true story of Brandon Burlsworth, the walk on who made it to the NFL.  Featured in the film is the theological struggle of "If God why evil?" If God exists why do bad things happen to good people? This struggle is played out between Brandon's brother Marty, and a mysterious figure carving a figurine of him out of wood.  Quite fascinating, the figure represents Satan I think, attempting to shape Marty's perception of the death of Brandon. Marty struggles throughout the film with the question "Why did Brandon die?" It's a great looking over the shoulder of how we make sense of evil, and death.  

9. The Fountain (2006) - The tragic struggle of a man to prevent the death of his wife, but deeper in the struggle is the idea of achieving victory over death. This story is played out in three worlds: the real world modern day, the spiritual world in space, and the 16th century during the Spanish inquisition. 

This film explores how we all struggle with death, and how there is a deep desire in us to find an escape, to find new life. The conclusion from my perspective is that Tom realizes that "death is the road to awe."  Essentially, he had been trying to find eternal life, without dying, but to find eternal life you must first die.  Everyone dies, but death is the road to awe, to the supernatural, to the spiritual.  The film seems to depict the search for the tree of life, the one which was lost by humanity in the garden so long ago. 

8. Legend (1985) - It's hard to not notice the obvious depictions of biblical theology weaved into the storyline of Legend.  We have the devil figure, seeking to corrupt the world. We have the Adam and Eve figures, innocent in the garden.  We have the beautiful forest, a nod to Eden.  And we have the Eve figure committing a forbidden act, by touching the unicorns. The unicorn is killed, and the world falls into a winter state.  Jack the main character is approached by Gump a god-like creature who offers him a road to redemption. Viewing this film is at times haunting for me as the theological outworkings tend to overwhelm my emotions. Such is the visual awe of films directed by Riddluy Scott. 

7. Into the Wild (2007) - The movie based on the true story of Christopher McCandless truly does display McCandless as the Christ-like figure.  He is depicted helping others, questioning the base line ideologies of society, crossing borders, sharing inspiring tidbits of wisdom, and also refusing to take advantage of women. He dreams of a better world, just like most of us do, but he had the courage to put it into action.  Unfortunately, that same extreme nature led to his death later on.  The story is a reminder to me and I think to all Christians that sometimes we do need to separate ourselves, in a sort of monastic way, much like Jesus did, who often retreating to lonely places to pray. It also reminds me that the way of Christ is one that challenges the baseline assumptions of society. McCandless yearns for a better world, which is something all Christians can relate to. The soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is fantastic as well. 

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship (2001) - Where do I start? This one goes deep. One can explore the dangers of the human fallen nature, in a character like Boromir who wrestles between good and evil. We want to do right, but we so often do wrong.  The Aragorn figure, the Christ-like leader, the returning King, who embraces Boromir, and forgives him at the end.  The suffering servant figure of Frodo reminds us of the burden Christ bore for us, and also the burden we carry, as the ring of power, of selfishness, of lust, of greed attempts to slowly take hold of us. The sacrificial love of Samwise reminds us of what it means to die for our friend, which is the greatest expression of love according to Christ. The Gandalf figure, and his death at the bridge, and his battle with the demonic Balrog creature reminds us of all Christ did for us, to defeat Satan at the cross, declaring "This far, and no further." Or as Gandalf says "You shall not pass." Jesus sets us free.  There is so much here, but I'll stop there.

5. Star Wars A New Hope (1977) - Obi-Wan Kenobi knows he must face down Vader one last time.  But his strategy is strange.  He allows himself to be struck down by Vader, declaring to him that if Vader cut him down he would become more powerful than he could possibly imagine.  The same was true with Jesus Christ on the cross, Satan thought he had defeated God, but instead the cross was the tool by which Christ would redeem the world, and remove sin from us.  Similarly Obi-Wan returns from the dead as a force ghost and continue to guide Luke, just as Jesus guides us after we become Christians.  Sometimes in life it seems so hopeless. It seems like the whole world is overcome by sin and suffering and demonic influence.  But we're reminded throughout the Bible that one person, totally given over to God can change the world.  And I think we all felt that when 12 X-wings and 24 Y-Wing fighters attempted to take on a space station the size of a moon.  Sometimes it seems so hopeless. But Jesus is with us, just as Obi-Wan spoke to Luke throughout the battle, and guided him. And we're also reminded how one friend, Han Solo, can surprise you, and protect you when you're at your weakest.  

4. The Postman (1997) - One of my favorite movies, it's more properly a reflection on the classic political struggle between liberty and tyranny; but I think we also get some theological allegory as well.  You've got a post-apocalyptic world where the scattered tribes of humanity are persecuted by a sort of totalitarian nietzschian army. There's the outsider, the vagabond, entering his heroes journey. He goes through a terrible trial. He becomes the reluctant hero. He starts to share hope in the broken villages, and this inspires a movement of young people who rise up against the establishment.  It's a political saga, but you also see glints of Christ in the hope-giving, and the transformation of character that exists in the main character "Shakespeare." Once we get Christ within, we start to live out the hero within ourselves. We become new, and that new person becomes the hero, if we're doing it right.  And then we can challenge the sort of totalitarianism that exists in our world today, the censorship, the corruption, the media manipulation, the enforced naturalism, the indoctrination to ideology at college campuses, and stand up to it with the light of Christ. 

3. Donnie Darko (2001) - This is one of those really crazy movies that has layers upon layers, and spiritually it's a bit of a mixed bag. I'll cut you into the underlying philosophy: God guided time travel. And there's a book that describes the elements involved, called "The Philosophy of Time Travel."  It actually describes the symbols and underpinnings of the film. And it makes an appearance in the film. Essentially, you have a primary universe, and an artifact is created, by God, in this case a jet engine that falls from the sky.  It's arrival upsets history and creates a "tangent universe." The tangent universe is unstable, and will destroy itself in 28 days. Donnie is the agent who now has 28 days to save the world. The film seems to cover Donnie's search for God. And explores themes like destiny, predestination, faith, time travel, and sacrifice. I say it's a mixed bag because Donnie is guided by this dark figure in a bunny suit, which almost makes it feel demonic. Yet we see other factors at work. Its interesting how the world around Donnie splits between those who help him and those who appose him.  It certainly feels like a Christ-like scenario. But Donnie is actually being manipulated into a scenario where he will use his supernatural powers to return the jet engine to the primary universe which will restore the primary universe. The catch is that he has to sacrifice his life, another Christ-like nod.  In any case, it's demented and dark at times, yet also holds this strain of hope, self-sacrifice, searching for God, and finding the courage to die for something you believe in. 

2. After Earth (2013) - Humanity is at war with terrible monsters on many worlds. But one hero arises, named Cypher. In the relationship between Cypher and his son Kitai, we see the struggle between father and son. Cypher is the perfect hero. He's the Christ figure.  Then you got Kitai who is you and me, the new confused Christian who is afraid and not making the best decisions. After their starship crashes on the Earth, this fallen Earth that every animal and plant is dangerous, you see a picture of the fall.

Cypher is at the ship, guiding Kitai through the dangerous world, to be able to get somewhere high enough to get a signal out.  So this reminds me of how Jesus is in heaven, guiding us on Earth.  He helps us, but we have to make the decisions, sometimes we make right ones, then sometimes we make wrong ones.  Kitai gets all flustered, he's super afraid, and he falls short time and again. How often is that true of us?  And what does Cypher do to calm him down?  "Take a knee Kitai."  Just like when we're lost, crazy, demented, afraid, we go to our knees and cry out to God.  

So you've also got this creature called the Ursa stalking Kitai.  And Kitai's ultimate victory is when he finally learns from Cypher, to take a stand, and overcome the creature. But more-so he overcomes himself. Just as the Proverb says "Greater is he who conquers himself, than he who conquers a city."  In the same way we as Christians learn from Christ, live like Christ, follow Christ, and eventually we learn to overcome the world, to overcome sin, to overcome fear, and live by faith, and live in holiness.  

1. Pandorum (2009) - This is a rated R horror film with a great deal of gore. But it's interesting when you consider the deeper themes within the film. The premise is of a giant spaceship leaving an Earth that is falling apart and can't sustain human life. We follow the journey of Corporal Bower as he wakes up in a sleeping tube to the ship broken down and bizarre creatures hunting people on the ship.  

Bower is guided by another man who wakes up, Lt. Payton, who turns out to basically be the devil, the guy who caused this whole nightmare.  Bower unites several survivors to try to restart the engine of the ship. He fights his way there, and back again, to discover Lt. Payton was the architect of the disaster. Payton who is actually Gallo, went crazy, and decided to turn the ship into a "survival of the fittest" experiment, turning the passengers into monsters. It's similar to our faith in that we're born into the world system, not realizing as we grow up and learn that we're under the authority of Satan.  We're raised up into the viewpoints of the world, the philosophy of the world, and just general materialism and selfishness. And we don't know even know.  We're surrounded by death, and danger, and we're trying to find the answers.  

Gallo, just a lowly corporal of the original crew reminds me of Satan, who had once simply been an angel, a servant being, who decided to try to supplant God and create a world where everything would be redefined to deify humanity. 

Now the ending is where it all really comes together.  The ship was actually crashed on Tanis, this new planet, and Earth had been destroyed, which is what drove the original crew crazy.  They manage to escape the ship in a life pod, and come to the surface of Tanis, along with about one thousand others who were still in their pods.  This is similar to being born again, you go through the waters, you're washed clean, and you wake up in a new world, and ultimately, after we die, we wake up in a new world.  Paradise.  That's the whole goal.  

There are all sorts of biblical references in the film: "I'm offering you the kingdom!" "This is truly Noah's ark."  "Were you thinking of the Eden mission?" The Eden mission sees the genesis of "pandorum" this madness that comes over people during long space travel.  This is similar to the fallen nature that we have as humans on Earth.  It drives us crazy, drives us to live selfishly.  The ship carried DNA for all the animals and plants on Earth, similar to Noah's Ark, which carried all the kinds of animals. 

I've had a very challenging life, no doubt due to my own poor decisions. But a lot of trauma, addiction, suicide attempts, rehabs, and isolation.  For that reason I really appreciate the great struggle that the character Bower goes through. It makes me feel some peace that it all had a purpose, and it reminds me of just how bad the fall can be.  It's bad.  

The ending is love, hope, and paradise.  But you have to go through hell to get there. And that's the story of life as a Christian.  You've got paradise ahead of you, but you've got a hell-struggle for this life.  (If you watch this film keep your hand on the remote to fast forward past the gore, God is good, amen.)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Millennial Reign of Christ

A famous preacher of the past was near death. And he spoke about how he felt when he heard the news. He said, "I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, 'You have an illness from which you won't recover.' I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God's own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ' I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!' "-W. B. Hinson.

The great fact of the Christian life is that death is not the end, and we have a glorious future ahead of us. Look at the mountains, the fields, the roads, the businesses, even the moon, the sun and the stars, and realize you will exist long after they are gone. There is so much fear in our world. So much fear of the future, the past, and the present. So much fear of the virus, and fear of the economic downturn. Yet for us as followers of Jesus, we have no reason to fear this life, a virus, a downturn, or even death, because we know death is not the end.

Over the past month we’ve gone through a series of messages following Jesus from the moment he entered the city of Jerusalem, to his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension, and the wedding supper of Christ with the church.

Today we consider amazing, mysterious, and astonishing events depicted in the book of Revelation. Today we consider the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Remember that the book of Revelation is a book about the apocalypse, the end of the world and the birth of a new world. We’re dealing with complex concepts in Revelation, so put on your thinking caps.

We looked at how the end times will come, and there will be a time called the great tribulation, and we looked at how the church will be taken to heaven, and will enjoy a feast called the marriage supper of Jesus Christ. In this event we are made one with Christ, as we are one with Him today. He lives in us, and we live in Him. We have this love relationship with God. And I was just praying last night, and not talking as much as listening for God, and just reaching out with my emotions to feel His love for me. And it’s so beautiful how much God loves us. He cares about us so much. And we can feel His love when we pray to Him.

After this ceremony, at the conclusion of the great tribulation on the Earth, Jesus Christ will return. And it says that Jesus is coming with all his holy ones. That’s us. We’re returning with Christ on that day.

It says in Revelation 19:11-16 “11 Then I saw heaven open, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True; it is with justice that he judges and fights his battles. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and he wore many crowns on his head. He had a name written on him, but no one except himself knows what it is. 13 The robe he wore was covered with blood. His name is “The Word of God.” 14 The armies of heaven followed him, riding on white horses and dressed in clean white linen. 15 Out of his mouth came a sharp sword, with which he will defeat the nations. He will rule over them with a rod of iron, and he will trample out the wine in the wine press of the furious anger of the Almighty God. 16 On his robe and on his thigh was written the name: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

So Jesus returns, and every eye sees Him. He returns with an army of his holy ones, in clean white linen, that’s representative of us, wearing the righteousness of Christ that has been transferred to us, in the great exchange, in which Jesus took our sin on the cross, and in exchange he gave us His righteousness. Isn’t that amazing? What an amazing trade off!

So what happens next? The anti-Christ gathers the nations to fight against Jesus and this holy army. And Christ defeats them, and they are sent to hell, forever.

This is actually referred to as a “feast” in revelation. You’ve got one dinner, us being united with Jesus, and another dinner, in which the anti-Christ and those who follow him, are receiving the result of their sinfulness, damnation.

How does Jesus defeat this evil army of the anti-christ? The Bible says it's the sword that comes from His mouth. Jesus simply speaks and they are defeated. God is so powerful that all he has to do is speak, and game over.

So then we turn to Revelation 20 and we see that the anti-christ, the false prophet, and now Satan, are removed from the Earth, and put into outer darkness.

Then it says that those who had lost their lives in the great tribulation, Christians who had died speaking up for Jesus in the end times, who refused to take something called the mark of the beast in the right hand or forehead, came back to life, and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years.

So this is our topic today, the Millennial Reign of Christ. Which millennial means 1000. So the 1000 year reign of Christ. Young Earth creationists believe that the world today is about 6,000 years old. And as we know, with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. So some would see a symbolic indication in the 1,000 year reign of Christ. That we’ve toiled and worked and struggled for 6 days, 6000 years, over the history of humanity and Israel, and now this final 1000 years is a sort of sabbath rest period. A 7th day of rest. Very interesting.

So guys this is not the new heavens and new earth yet. We’re going to talk about that next week. This is a sort of end period, where Jesus Christ our king, our friend, our savior, is alive, reigning on Earth, from the city of Jerusalem. And Satan is locked away in hell, for 1,000 years.

I don’t know exactly what this will be like, actually. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about what this will be like, aside from the fact that the tribulation saints, those who died proclaiming Jesus during the tribulation, will reign from Jerusalem with Jesus. I don’t know if that includes us, the church, or if it will just be the martyrs, those who gave their lives. It doesn’t say exactly.

But I’d like to make a few suppositions. These are just suppositions, so take these with a grain of salt, they aren’t strictly part of the biblical record. But I assume that during this time people will continue to marry, and have children. I suppose that lifespans would be greatly extended during this time period. There would be no temptations I assume, because Satan has been locked away, but would we still have a sin nature during this time? Probably not, I think. Then again I don’t really know.

In any case, this reign of Christ lasts for one thousand years. That’s a long time. A long time of rest, and goodness, and blessing on the Earth. And it says Christ rules over the nations with a rod of iron during this time. I don’t know exactly what that means. But it seems to me that it means Christ is completely in charge, no one else. And he apparently reigns over the nations during this time, and it sounds like his reign is total, and enforceable, and all powerful.

Imagine being one of Jesus’ lieutenants during that time, going into his throne room, bowing before him and receiving orders and instructions, go to this country, and visit this person and do this or that. Imagine simply standing there in the throne room watching Jesus talking with people, and giving orders, and organizing the world economy. It’s just really exciting, to be able to see Jesus everyday and talk with Him and serve Him. I would love to be able to participate in the millennial reign of Christ, but I don’t know that I will. We will see.

So we have this beautiful 1000 years of rest for the world, with Christ as king over the earth from Jerusalem. But it’s amazing, and shocking, and kind of scary what happens next. Remember how it says in Revelation 20 that Satan was bound for 1000 years? Well, Satan gets released again, at the end of the 1,000 years. One last time. And this I would suppose, is to see who is really loyal to Christ, and who is just pretending during this time. So it says that Satan is released, and he goes about the nations again, and he manages to turn billions of people against Christ AGAIN! And Satan builds this army, and they surround Jerusalem, the city where Christ has reigned for a thousand years. Isn’t that crazy? Even after seeing Jesus for a thousand years as king of the Earth, people still turn against him and follow Satan.

So it says that they surrounded Jerusalem, with so many people it was like the grains of sand on a beach. That’s a lot of people.

But guess what? Jesus Christ wins. God destroys this whole army, in a matter of seconds. And that is the end of history. God wins. Jesus Christ wins. And it says Satan was then taken, and sent to the lake of fire, forever, to never be released again. God wins, Satan loses. God’s people win, the evil people who reject God lose. That is the conclusion of history as we know it now. But as we’ll talk about next week, a new world is coming. And we’ll see how God then judges all people, at the great white throne judgment, and then how God remakes a new universe, and a new Earth, and a new city. How amazing, how glorious, how beautiful.

In conclusion today, you might be asking yourself why go so in depth right now into Revelation? Well, I think it’s a perfect time for us, during a time of stress, and strain and unrest, and economic turmoil, to look to the future, and to consider the great hope we have. We should never be afraid to crack open the book of Revelation and consider our future hope. It’s a glorious thing. During these tough times, we can turn our focus to God, and eternal life, and see how these temporary struggles are nothing compared to the glory to come. You may not fully understand all we’ve gone over today, and that’s OK. Trust in God. Trust that God will do what is right. Because He will. Jesus Christ is Lord. And He will reign over us all. Come Lord Jesus, be our king forever!