Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Salvation Army hasn't gone woke, but it faces that Danger

These views do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

It seems like every church movement within the United States is facing internal struggles between biblical Christianity and worldly ideologies.  Some denominational battle grounds have included movements like Roman Catholicism, Methodism, the SBC, the Gospel Coalition, the UCC, the UMC, the ELCA, the church of the Nazarene, and of course The Salvation Army, to name a few. Many of the most biblically solid, evangelical movements have faced severe internal battles on the most basic Christian doctrines. 

Today we focus in on The Salvation Army, the movement of which I am a part. Recently the Salvation Army faced an onslaught by conservative media in regard to wokeness, exposed in The Salvation Army's controversial guide "Let's talk about Racism."  In the midst of the most important time of year, Christmas, during kettle season, the fundraising time of The Salvation Army, news stories by the dozens dropped from publications like The Daily Wire, The Washington Times, the Wallstreet Journal, and Fox News. 

The Salvation Army national commander issued several statements denying the allegation of wokeness having influence in The Salvation Army. And indicated The Salvation Army is and always has been politically neutral. That is of course how it should be. 

But I've seen the reality, and it's a bit more complicated. Has The Salvation Army "gone woke" as they say? The answer to that question is no. The doctrines of The Salvation Army are quite biblical. The position statements are generally valid. The vast majority of local officers and leaders hold biblical beliefs. But, have the seeds of "wokeness" been laid in The Salvation Army? The answer is yes. And if good men and women don't stand up against these ideologies, they will gain influence and eventually begin to dominate the church. 

That's how it goes with bad theology and bad ideas. They begin to make in roads, slowly but surely, and leaders in key positions, not wanting to risk their career advancements, refuse to confront these issues directly.  Those in roads become highways over time, materials begin being decimated, like the "Let's talk about Racism" guide in The Salvation Army, targeted internally to officers and soldiers, and soon more and more embrace those beliefs. Eventually, those beliefs become common place, they are written into the key doctrines and position statements of the organization, and the next generation coming up applies them to daily practice. 

So slowly, but surely over time an organization morphs from a biblical Christian movement, to a secular social justice movement, politically motivated, ideological radical, and completely departed from it's base beliefs.  We've seen those sort of transformations in their advanced stages in movements like the UMC, which is splitting fifty-fifty between woke LGBTQ churches and biblical churches. We see the UCC well down that road, the same with the ELCA. And now even the most conservative fundamentalist denominations like the SBC or the church of the Nazarene display increasingly weak knees and distortions in doctrine. 

So has The Salvation Army gone woke? No. But, we see many of the signs and seeds of such transformation taking place. We see equity and inclusion positions. We see special councils. We see "recommended reading lists" replete with ideological content. We see the language of critical race theory appearing more and more. We see conferences and events with activist teachers and professors. We see social justice departments and facilities and groups promoting increasingly politically left-leaning causes. We see voices of dissent quietly silenced. We see Facebook mobs attacking those who might disagree. And it is a dangerous situation. 

Is racism a legitimate concern that we face as the church? Of course. Should we fight against racism? Absolutely, on an individual basis as it appears. But the ideology of wokeness, of critical race theory makes many errors in regard to fighting racism. Briefly, it views the west, the USA as fundamentally racist, and in need of being torn down, because it's structures are built on racism itself. It regards all white people as inherently racist, and views any other cultural/ethnic group as incapable of racism, because racism is viewed as tied to power. It views ones skin color as the most fundamental definer of who you are. None of these viewpoints are particularly biblical, or necessarily factual based on statistics of our society. Indeed, viewing CRT, one's conclusion is that this ideology would almost certainly lead to greater divisions and more racism, not less. There's much more, but we don't have time here to get into it here. Dr. Neil Shenvi has done a great deal of research on CRT, I would recommend his works, as well as Voddie Baucham, and Prof Frank Turek. Here is a playlist to view to get started, click here.  

What we really need though, as a movement, in The Salvation Army, is a biblical alternative to CRT to fight racism in a biblical way. It won't do to simply sweep out CRT and replace it with nothing. We need a biblical Christian model to make use of and implement. 

But in conclusion today, The Salvation Army would be wise to deal directly with these ideological threats, and make sure that the promise to remain apolitical and without ideology be upheld firmly. It's encouraging that the "Let's talk about Racism" created by the ISJC was pulled for review. It's encouraging that we've stated firmly from national that we don't view all whites as racist. And let's be real, conservative media did run exceedingly misleading headlines, that TSA was demanding it's "white donors apologize for being racist." Simply false, and sad, that conservative media would distort and lie in a similar manner to left-leaning news. The hope of new media was to speak the truth, not distort. But we shouldn't lose sight of the reality that wokeness, CRT, and these ideologies do pose a legitimate threat. 

We had a chance early on to repent and turn from this path. But few were listening or paying attention.  Unfortunately it took a firestorm in the midst of kettle season from news media to get our attention. We'd best take careful notice, and decisive action to right our course before we become the architects of our own demise. 

Opinion: The Church Failed in a Time of Crisis

I've had a rotten feeling in my gut since the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis. But I've been afraid to say it out loud. I've been afraid of criticism and hostility. But I'm just going to say it. I'm going to tell you what I really think. We let the government shut down our churches, based on projections. And meanwhile department stores, Wal Marts, liquor stores, abortion mills, and so many other businesses remained open. In a time of crisis, instead of standing firm, we cowered behind the skirt of government, putting our faith not in God, but in the cult of 'the experts.' We trusted in experts, numbers, and government, and now only after do we realize that the numbers were terribly inflated. 
Two million projected deaths, became seventy thousand. A supposed 5% death rate became a reality of 0.2%.   

We let the news media influence us more than God's word. We let them stir us into an all out panic. And it turns out the risk was actually no greater than a severe flu season. 

We failed, as the church. I failed. And I can only hope and pray that God will have mercy on us, as the ministers of our time, for so easily being led to shut our doors, and run about with hands raised in terror, over a largely manufactured crisis. If this was a test of our leadership, as pastors, oh, how we terribly failed.

We put our faith in experts, in scientism, in the projections of secular organizations. These are the same experts who tell us every five to ten years that the world is going to end because of global warming, global cooling, and/or climate change. These are the same experts that tell us unborn babies aren't really people. These are the same experts that extol the virtues of socialism. These are the same experts who tell us marriage must be redefined. These are the same experts who always have some new scenario as to why we need them.

It's not wrong to look for wisdom and guidance from those who have expertise in areas like medicine, technology, science, and psychology. But when we allow them to take over, and set policy outside their areas of expertise, we invite problems. We must look for wisdom and knowledge from those of the world. And in many cases they have great knowledge to share, and excellent ideas to set across. Of course we always test their ideas against the scriptures, our Christian worldview.

I could be wrong. I really do hope I'm wrong about this. But I sense that we've failed a great test. We've scrambled, and shut down, and embraced the experts and their ideas, when we should've been the church in a time of a crisis, standing firm, taking precautions, but standing firm. And I hope God can forgive me, for letting this happen in such a time as this.

In the wake of COVID-19 we see that church attendance has dropped something like 30%-50% in the country. Some of this could be related to people's fears of COVID exposure, however, we don't see grocery stores or restaurants empty anymore. No, just churches. If this isn't evidence that we failed, I don't know what is. 

We've failed our people. We've shown ourselves to be cowards, scrambling in fear, slamming the doors with a bang at the first sign of a problem. We've allowed the world to so completely influence us that we lost sight of our God, our Word, and our courage. How very sad. We ought all to search our hearts, and search for God in this failure, and repent before Him in ashes and tears.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Window of Witness: Simeon & Anna, Do you wait well?

Have you ever been a witness to something you knew was important? Have you seen something maybe you weren't supposed to see? Something bad? Uh oh, I better call the police. Or, have you witnessed something beautiful? A "God moment" you might say? Yes, God is in this. 

But better yet, have you been a participant? Did you witness it because you were part of it? Now that's something special. Or something terrible, depending on the situation. 

We know there were several witnesses to the birth of Jesus. So we know a fair amount about it. 

We know a lot about his birth, and the shepherds, the wise men, and so on and so forth. But today we’re talking about a week after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple. Essentially Mary and Joseph were going about a tradition Jewish practice of presenting their first born son to the Lord. They arrive there with the baby Jesus, and they encounter two people who would be forever changed and encouraged by Jesus. 

There were two people that saw the baby Jesus in the temple, on the day he was set apart for service to God. Their names were Simeon and Anna. It says the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and the spirit brought him to the temple that day for the purpose of encountering Jesus. You ever go somewhere and know within that it’s a divine appointment? I’ve had that a lot in the past few years. I felt the Spirit drawing me to Chicago, to the training college. But I had to wait patiently on God.

It says in Luke chapter 2, “25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout, waiting for God to comfort Israel, and the holy spirit was upon him. 26 He had been told by the holy spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Led by the spirit, he came into the Temple. As Jesus’ parents brought him in, to do for him what the law’s regulations required, 28 he took the baby in his arms”

Simeon had waited his entire life. It says he lived a righteous and devout life. Is that easy? No it’s not. Now he was an old man. But the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that before he died, he would see the savior. And when Simeon saw Jesus, he took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Glory for Israel, and a light to the whole Earth. Simeon waited for hope, waited for change, and now he finally saw it.

Jesus would be the savior of Israel, yes, but he would also be the savior for the whole world. Even us, today.

Have you been waiting for a long time? Many of us are waiting. And one day the waiting ends, and we receive what we’d hoped for. The same happened for Simeon. Who knows how long he’d been waiting? But one day, the day came, at the temple, at church, when the day came when he saw his salvation come. The answer is out there. Wait patiently.

Next, there is a woman who is described as very old, her name is Anna. It says that she got married at the traditional time, which would’ve been between the ages of 12 and 16 in Jewish culture, and that seven years later her husband died, and she had been a widow since then, to now the age of 84. It says she constantly fasted and prayed. She was a godly woman. She wasn’t waiting in sin, she was waiting in godliness, praying and fasting regularly. It says “she never left the temple, but worshiped God night and day.” Amazing. She had lost her husband at a very young age. She had waited all her life. But she didn’t wait in bitterness or regret. She waited in daily worship.

It says, “Luke 2: 36 There was also a prophetess called Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having been widowed after a seven-year marriage, and was now eighty-four. She never left the Temple, but worshipped with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She came up at that moment and gave thanks to God, and spoke about Jesus to everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

If you are waiting today, in what form are you waiting? Bitterness and resentment? Or in praying and fasting, and praising God, and living a godly life? This is tough, I know, it’s tough to not get discouraged.

But it’s part of our training as Christians, and it’s like the Israelites, as they walked with Moses in the wilderness. They grumbled and complained and rebelled against God in their waiting. What will we do in our waiting? One day the waiting will end. That’s if we remain faithful. But if we rebel against God and go our own way, then that day may never come.

But for Anna, like Simeon, Finally, the day came, and it says Anna came up to Joseph and Mary, and she gave thanks to God. And it says she started speaking to everyone around who was waiting for the redemption of Israel. She was a prophet after all, anyone know a lady like that? I’ve met a few. And they gotta tell everybody!

So God had come into human history. Even at only one week old, Simeon and Anna were blessed to recognize that Jesus was the promised savior. They waited faithfully, and God showed himself to them.

God hadn’t come as most might’ve expected at the time. He came humbly, quietly, as if he were a secret agent, smuggled into his own kingdom. There were attempts on his life, even as a baby. He was nearly murdered by the purge ordered by Herod. Yet God’s plan could not be thwarted by the will of men.

No massive armies of thousands marched with Jesus, but instead a Holy Spirit was upon Jesus, conquering quietly through his words and deeds. Jesus through the word of God began a conquest of human hearts and souls that would spread itself across the whole world, today proclaimed in every nation on the Earth, in thousands of different languages, and it all began with God coming into human history, born as a baby, to young parents, in the deserts of the middle east. God always tends to surprise us with how he does things.

So in conclusion, Jesus came as a baby two thousand years ago. He did his work, and completed it. Then he ascended to heaven. Today we know that Jesus Christ is coming back one day soon, to set up his kingdom on Earth. And many of us may be expecting for our savior to come again as a meek and mild servant, but the book of Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ will come in great glory, and every eye will see Him. And he will judge all the nations, and smash them to pieces like pottery, as he sets up his new kingdom. This is why we must be ready, waiting patiently, day in and day out, year by year, faithfully serving God, forgiving others, and loving our neighbors. We are in this for the long haul, all the way to death and eternal life.

Just like Simeon and Anna waited for the birth of their savior Jesus, we also wait patiently for the return of Jesus to Earth. Is that just a pipe dream? No. It’s not. It’s real. It’s true. Jesus Christ is alive, and He will return. It says in Revelation chapter 19: 11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

Jesus came as a baby.

Jesus lived a perfect, holy life.

Jesus was crucified as a substitution, as payment for our own sins.

Jesus resurrected from the dead after three days.

Jesus showed himself to be alive to many witnesses.

Jesus ascended to heaven promising to return.

And Jesus will return in power and glory, to reign over the whole Earth, and judge the nations.

Therefore, let us be ready. Let us wait patiently, just as Simeon and Anna did, their whole lives. We will see God face to face one day, just as they did in the temple. Bet your life on it.

Let it be said of us, that we ran the race, and finished it. Let it be said to each of us one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Satan's Rebellion or Obeying God's Design: Joseph obeyed God, What is your Choice?

Today we gaze through the window of obedience. And we see the historical Christmas saga in how it plays out for an average everyday human named Joseph. Joseph is a bit of a mystery to us. We get a few mentions of him in scripture. We know he’s a carpenter. We know he lived in Nazareth. We know he was engaged to be wed to Mary. We know he planned to divorce her. And we know that he fell asleep and had a vision of an angel who told him he should marry her, because the child within her was from God.

Does all this seem wild and strange to you? I know it does for me. It’s just odd, the entire historical account. But I know I believe every word of it. It’s interesting, I can’t quite explain it. But I do understand why it’s difficult for some people to comprehend.

I understand why it's hard to believe in Jesus. It's actually outside our common thinking processes as humans. At least it appears that way at first. It's mystical, esoteric, and it "feels" foreign to our thinking. That's by design actually, if you were taught in the public schools, a very secular mindset is programmed into you, developed by people like John Dewey. If religiously based philosophical ideas seem foreign to your mindset, yes, it's by design.

But then again, there's something else at work in religious thought.

This may seem very odd to you, but stay with me, within Christianity, God has placed a catch to displace the arrogant, the self-righteous, and those enamored by their own genius. The Bible calls it a stumbling block. Check this out: It's actually designed to appear fantastical.

I kid you not. It's intentionally playing out in strange and mysterious ways to trip up people who are arrogant and prone to sneer.

Why exactly is this stumbling block set up? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps to prevent false converts? I can only speculate.

But it's written out like this, in 1st Corinthians, and it helps us to understand why the Christmas saga seems so strange.

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." -1st Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT

That makes it difficult. And it's apparently supposed to be difficult. One could call it a miracle even. And that’s indeed what happened that night two thousand years ago in the middle-east, in a small city called Bethlehem. A miraculous event took place, something that broke the laws of nature temporarily.

I often wonder to myself, why do so many refuse to follow Jesus? Why are so many so determined to live in hell?

But this question, the source of it, it goes to the nature of reality, the universe, and everything.

We are all always answering a question, and making a choice every single day, to either align ourselves with God's master design or to rebel. And to rebel is insanity. There is no escape from God. There is no victory over his power. There is nowhere to go. It's madness. The other choice is of course to obey God. To change, and live by God’s ways. It’s our topic today, it’s called “obedience.” No one likes that word, do they? No, they don’t.

But it goes to the issue of freedom, free will. The fundamental issue is free will: What will I choose? What will you choose? Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? The entire construct of our current fallen reality seems set up to pose the question to us over and over. Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? And we make the choice everyday.

Yet we're caught in a state of fallenness, default, as a rebel. And somehow we must turn ourselves to God, and access that power, and experience a rebirth, in which we follow a new way, the way of truth.

And it does end. Our window of opportunity is between birth and death. Most have already made it.

8 billion people, the question before all of us, what choice shall we make?

When we look to the example of Joseph, we see a gentle, impressive, complete obedience. Joseph simply did what God commanded. And that is astonishing. It’s not the normal. It’s the exception to the rule. He married the pregnant woman. He cared for her. He raised Jesus as his own son. And then he disappeared. In the gospels we see mention of Mary, Jesus’ mom throughout the gospels. But no mention of Joseph. Many believe he died somehow during Jesus’ upbringing. Very interesting.

Take a look through the window of obedience. How does your own story compare to the obedience of Joseph? Are you one who is prone to obey God quietly? Or are you more like one who comes kicking and screaming? Or do you quietly disobey God, and hope no one notices? We all make our choice everyday, rebellion or obedience.

What course will you choose? Rebellion? Or obedience? Let’s talk about obeying God, what does it mean?

We’re going to look at 5 ways we can cultivate a mindset of obedience to Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.

1. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – In the big things - do you really check every decision you make with God? That is the first challenge I pose to you today. Whenever you have an important decision to make, pray and ask God, Lord, what should I do? What is the right way?

2. Living by the leading of the Holy Spirit – in the little things – Everyday, ask the Lord, in your mind, throughout the day, Lord, what can I do for you today? What should I do next? Where should I go next? And allow the Holy Spirit to impress on you where to go and what to do. It’s very practical what we’re talking about here.

3. Making the hard choices – Often times in life we are faced with two choices, an easy choice and a hard choice. Often times the hard choice is to resist a temptation, resist an indulgence, and the easy thing to do is give in. Learn to get in the habit of making the hard choices. You find a wallet, you turn it in with the money in it. You hear some gossip, you refuse to repeat it to anyone. You see someone who needs help shoveling, but your tired, but you go anyway, and help them. Make the hard choice.

4. When you make the wrong choice, don’t give up – If you make a wrong decision, you slip into sin, don’t give up. Just run right back to God the Father, ask forgiveness in Christ, repent, and keep going. Don’t quit just because you slipped into sin. Keep going.

5. Seek God’s strength in your weakness – the word of God says God is glorified through our weakness. It points us and others toward God as the only hope. So when you feel weak and miserable and hurting, seek God’s strength. We can’t do it without him. Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. Seek God, He will help you, in your weakness.

In conclusion today, be like Joseph, who was humbly, gently obedient to God’s will in difficult circumstances. He obeyed God. And did as he was told. That was hard, I’m sure it was. Can you obey God? Or will you find yourself destroyed in the rebellion? Will you rebel? Or Can you drop your weapons and quietly obey God? That’s beautiful to the Lord when we do that.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Why It's so Hard to Believe in Jesus

I understand why it's hard to believe in Jesus.  It's actually outside our common thinking processes as humans. At least it appears that way at first. It's mystical, esoteric, and it "feels" foreign to our thinking.  That's by design actually, if you were taught in the public schools, a very secular mindset is programmed into you, developed by people like John Dewey. If religiously based philosophical ideas seem foreign to your mindset, yes, it's by design. 

But then again, there's something else at work in religious thought, particularly we're of course speaking of biblical Christianity.  

This may seem very odd to you, but stay with me, within Christianity, God has placed a catch to displace the arrogant, the self-righteous, and those enamored by their own genius. The Bible calls it a stumbling block. Check this out: It's actually designed to appear fantastical. 

I kid you not. It's intentionally playing out in strange and mysterious ways to trip up people who are arrogant and prone to sneer. 

Why exactly is this stumbling block set up? I'm not entirely sure. Perhaps to prevent false converts? I can only speculate. 

But it's written there.  

"Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." -1st Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT

That makes it difficult. And it's apparently supposed to be difficult. One could call it a miracle even. 

But the source of this goes to the nature of reality, the universe, and everything. 

We are all always answering a question, and making a choice every single day, to either align ourselves with God's master design or to rebel. And to rebel is insanity. There is no escape from God. There is no victory over his power. There is nowhere to go. It's madness. 

The fundamental issue is free will: What will I choose? What will you choose? Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? The entire construct of our current fallen reality seems set up to pose the question to us over and over. Life or death? Obedience or rebellion? And we make the choice everyday. 

Yet we're caught in a state of fallenness, default, as a rebel. And somehow we must turn ourselves to God, and access that power, and experience a rebirth, in which we follow a new way, the way of truth. 

And it does end. Our window of opportunity is between birth and death. Most have already made it. 

8 billion people, the question before all of us, what choice shall we make? 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

All about Angels: What do they look like? What do they see? Impressions from Gabriel's encounter

What do you see out a window? I have big windows at my house that allow me to look out on the neighborhood, the trees, the cars going by, and its wonderful. I can watch the snow falling, I can see the sun when it’s shining. A window is a way for us to see something we couldn’t see otherwise.

In the same way, we’re going to consider what it must’ve been like for someone to witness personally, two thousand years ago, the birth of Jesus. Can you really see through someone else’s eyes? Can you really understand how someone else is perceiving something? I think through this Christmas series we’ll begin to understand what it must’ve been like, long ago, to be there, in the moment, when hope came into the world.

Today, we are considering what it was like for the angels, who saw these events take place, and how they might’ve perceived these events and the birth of Jesus.

So let’s talk a little bit about angels. What are angels? Let’s take a look at some scriptures that tell us about angels. But you’ll notice there is no comprehensive guide to angels in the Bible. We’re not supposed to focus our attention on angels. Our attention should be on God. But we do get hints about what angels are in the Bible.

Matthew 18:10 ESV “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Luke 15:10 ESV Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Exodus 23:20 ESV “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.

Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

What do angels look like? Well, it seems like angels can take human form, because there is a scripture that encourages us to entertain strangers because we may entertain angels without knowing it.

But then we see this depiction of seraphim, a class of angels, described like this “Isaiah 6:2 ESV Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Some angels may appear very human, perhaps like statues we see around catholic churches, or like portrayals of angels in media. However, other angels appear to be quite different, with many sets of wings, and eyes covering them, and so on and so forth. Very mysterious.

But we know that angels are servants of God. They have free will. Which is why some angels chose to rebel against God in heaven. Angels have power to do the work of God in the world. Obviously normally we can’t see them with our own eyes, unless they allow themselves to be seen. But let’s turn it around. What do angels see? And what did one angel see, long long ago, when Jesus would soon begin growing in the womb of a teenage mother?

Let’s talk about one specific angel, named Gabriel. What was it like for him? Well, we can only imagine, but perhaps Gabriel was called into God’s throne room, and God gave him a very special task, he was to go to a poor, teenage young woman named Mary, and give her some interesting news about the course of her life.

This is how these events are recorded in Luke 1:26-38, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Gabriel stands before the presence of God, seeing the infinite God. In infinite joy. He receives the message God is sending. With great joy and peace in serving God, perhaps the angel steps through a door, and onto Earth. Or perhaps, Gabriel lifts up his wings and flies through the heavenly realms, through outer space, and into the atmosphere of Earth, and fights off demons, to come down to a little city where Mary lives.

He gives his message… with great, and exaltation for God. A great hope is brought to Mary. But it’s not going to be easy for her. But, through her, will come this little baby. And why does that matter so much? Because this baby is of God. God, born into the world. What a concept! Jesus Christ, a little baby. God, in the form of a child. Truly astonishing, isn’t it?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Book of Revelation: The Dragon, the 7 Bowls, Babylon, the Millennial Reign, and the New Jerusalem

"The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of His Messiah have now come,
because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out:
the one who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives
in the face of death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell in them! Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time.” -Revelation 12:10-12

Revelation 12 seems to me to be the center point of the book of Revelation, the first 11 chapters have really dealt with one main theme, the scroll sealed 7 times being opened seal by seal by Jesus. But in Revelation 12 we see this mysterious depiction of war in heaven, particularly focusing on 3 elements, a woman, a child, and a dragon.

It's very mysterious and to understand it we have to first understand that Revelation 12 seems to be set up in a chiastic format. A sort of mirror effect of main point 1, main point 2, main point 3, then main point 2, and main point 1. A sort of rise and fall.

But basically, the entire chapter seems to center on the theme of Satan being cast out of heaven. We don’t have time to get too much into Revelation 12. But it’s very important, really the center piece of the entire book of Revelation. And this great controversy in the universe centers on one creature, the serpent, the dragon, Satan. And his crazed rebellion.

So next in chapter 13 we see the anti-christ, this mockery that Satan has developed to be an opposite to Jesus. Very strange and mysterious. It says,

Revelation 13:1-4 "And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 The beast I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear’s, and his mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3 One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”

The Mark of the beast is dealt with at the end of Rev 13. It says,

Revelation 13:15-18 “15 He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 And he requires everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of his name."

Buying or selling is restricted by the world government existing at this future date in history. But it seems to be a world-wide religion in which this mysterious "beast" is worshiped by almost all people. But somehow this "mark" gives the beast control of people, where they are no longer eligible for salvation if they take the mark. So it's a choice to do it or not to do it. But they pressure you by eventually saying, you can't even buy or sell anything unless you take it. That's a lot of pressure. No buying? No food. No nothing. 

Then it says in verse 18: "Here is wisdom: The one who has understanding must calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a man. His number is 666.”

I'm not going to speculate on 666. But it's certainly something worth exploring. But it's important to remember. This won't seem like the nightmare that it is.
It’s going to seem great. It’s going to seem like utopia, like a paradise. But it’s all a deception.

Revelation 14:1-3 “Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps. 3 They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”

Immediately in the next chapter, we see the 144,000 before the throne of God. I must assume this means they gave their lives for Jesus in the tribulation, they refused to take the mark, and were eventually martyred for it. In fact Revelation specifically says "beheaded." 

Then we're giving a warning in Revelation 14:10-12, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, 11 and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name. 12 This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”

Then we see the final 7 bowls of God’s judgment on the Earth. It says, Revelation 15:1, "Then I saw another great and awe-inspiring sign in heaven: seven angels with the seven last plagues, for with them, God’s wrath will be completed."

These final plagues bear similarities to the plagues against Egypt done through Moses by God. They are... 

The First Bowl
– severely painful sores on people

The Second Bowl – the seas turn to blood, all life in the seas dies

The Third Bowl- rivers and springs become blood

The Fourth Bowl- the sun begins to burn people with intense heat

The Fifth Bowl – the anti-christ’s kingdom is plunged into darkness

The Sixth Bowl- the river Euphrates dries up to prepare the way for the anti-christ’s armies, gathering all the nations together as one, to attack God and his people, in a place called Armagedon.

The Seventh Bowl- an unthinkable terrible worldwide earthquake takes place and the “great city” is split into 3 parts, Babylon is judged. Hailstones fall, 100lbs in weight.

After this in Revelation 18 we see the fall of Babylon.

Revelation 18:1-3 “After this I saw another angel with great authority coming down from heaven, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 He cried in a mighty voice:

It has fallen,
Babylon the Great has fallen!
She has become a dwelling for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
and a haunt for every unclean and despicable beast.
3 For all the nations have drunk
the wine of her sexual immorality,
which brings wrath.
The kings of the earth
have committed sexual immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth
have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury.”

What is Babylon? Many have speculated about this. Revelation tells us that Babylon is a city that exists on seven hills.  But this also references seven leaders. Many great cities throughout history have existed on seven hills, such as Washington D.C., Jerusalem, Mecca, Tehran, Athens, Bucharest, Istanbul, Smolensk, and Brisbane, just to name a few. 
Mysterious city in Kazakhstan

Mysterious city in Kazakhstan, image 2

We see that Babylon is described as existing on "many waters." This has led some to speculate the USA, because it's surrounded by oceans. Hard to say for certain. 

Babylon is also described as being an exporter of evil. It says in Revelation that the entire world drank of her passionate adulteries, and had received all sorts of shipping products from it of fine wines and clothes, spices, and such. 

In Revelation 19 you see celebration in heaven about all these things, and at last Jesus leads his saints for his return, to totally defeat the anti-christ at Armageddon.

It says about Jesus in Rev 19, “11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and He judges and makes war in righteousness. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on His head. He had a name written that no one knows except Himself. 13 He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God. 14 The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. 15 A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. 16 And He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh:


Jesus leaders the armies of God, and defeats the anti-christ and his followers.

At the beginning of Revelation 20 we see something theologians call the “millennial reign of Christ.” It says this in Rev 20, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.”

4 Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.

Satanic Rebellion Crushed

7 When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 They came up over the surface of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10 The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

After this, is the great white throne judgment, where all peoples are judged before God. And finally, in Revelation 21 we see the new heavens and the new Earth, and the New City of God, the New Jerusalem, where we will live forever.

And I’m going to read Revelation 21 for you entirely, it’s one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. It says, “21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.

5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. 7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The New Jerusalem

9 Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a very precious stone, like a jasper stone, bright as crystal. 12 The city had a massive high wall, with 12 gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates. 13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 The city wall had 12 foundations, and the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles were on the foundations.

15 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same. He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used. 18 The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass.

19 The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone:

the first foundation jasper,
the second sapphire,
the third chalcedony,
the fourth emerald,
20 the fifth sardonyx,
the sixth carnelian,
the seventh chrysolite,
the eighth beryl,
the ninth topaz,
the tenth chrysoprase,
the eleventh jacinth,
the twelfth amethyst.

21 The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Best Evidence-Based Presentations on the Existence of God

I've been scammed a few times in life. Well, more than a few times. Have you ever received a cryptic invite to a mysterious event, only to discover that you've been hornswoggled into a pyramid scheme? Have you ever seen an appealing offer on television or in a magazine and signed up, only to realize you should've read the fine print? Yes, consumerist society has turned us all into skeptics. If someone comes to me and has suddenly decided they want to be my friend and be the one to initiate interactions, unfortunately, my first thought is, what are they going to try to sell me? Is it tupperware or essential oils?

Given this grim reality, I want facts, evidence, and reason when it comes to the things I believe. The same is true of my spiritual life. When I consider, who is God, what religion is real, and who is Jesus, and so on, I want to see the evidence. Show me the facts and then I can make an informed decision. Show me the fine print.  So, I submit for your inspection seven presentations giving reason, evidence, historical inquiry, and science in regard to God's existence, particularly in reference to Christianity's exposition of who God is. 

1. Prof. William Lane Craig - Why Should I Believe God Exists?

2. Prof. William Lane Craig - The Absurdity of Life without God

3. Prof. John Lennox - Cosmic Chemistry: Do Science and God Mix?

4. Prof. Frank Turek - Why would God make me a Lesbian?

5. Prof. Stephen Meyer - What is Intelligent Design?

6. Dr. Nabeel Qureshi - Jesus in Islam vs. Jesus in Christianity

7. Ken Ham - Science confirms the Bible

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Book of Revelation: The Throne Room, the Four Horsemen, & 7 seals of the Scroll

Today we dig into the book of Revelation, one of my favorite books in the whole Bible, though I think I probably say that about every book in the Bible.

Let me ask you this, have you ever wondered: What would heaven be like? I think all of us have probably wondered that at one time or another. Will it be beautiful? Will there be plants and animals? Will we live in houses? Will I be able to fly? And I love Revelation because it gives us some pretty detailed pictures of heaven, but it also gives us a great deal of detail about the last days of planet Earth during a time called the great tribulation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have John, in his old age, living on this island, Patmos, It’s about 50-60 years after Jesus had been crucified and rose from the dead. So John is probably in his eighties or nineties at this point. And he has this vision from God. And that’s why we call it revelation, it’s a revelation, an unveiling of Jesus Christ, in which we hear about how the world will end, and.. begin again.

The vision begins with John seeing Jesus Christ, glorious and powerful, mighty and fearful, in a white robe, walking among 7 lampstands. It says in Revelation 1, “12 I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.

17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, 18 and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. “

In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we see 7 distinct messages that Jesus shares with John for the 7 churches that exist at this time in history. Each message is different, giving encouragement and correction for the churches at that time in history. We don’t have time today to get into the messages in each of these mini-letters, but they are really powerful messages. And each of them applies to us in the church today. So I would encourage you, when you get home tonight or over the next few days, read Revelation chapters 2 and 3.

But we’re gonna jump forward to chapter 4, where John gets to see God’s own throne room in heaven. It says in Revelation 4:2-6, “2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was set there in heaven. One was seated on the throne, 3 and the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne. 4 Around that throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones sat 24 elders dressed in white clothes, with gold crowns on their heads. 5 Flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder came from the throne. Seven fiery torches were burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. 6 Something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal, was also before the throne. Four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back were in the middle and around the throne.”

So we get to see a picture of what it would be like to be in God’s own throne room. And it’s wild. You’ve got a rainbow ,you’ve got precious stones and elders bowing down, you’ve got angels flying about worshipping god, and four strange creatures covered in eyes worshiping God.

But then this story starts to play out before John, it says in Revelation 5:1-4, “Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. 4 And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.”

John is crying his eyes out because no one is able to open this scroll. It must be very important that the scroll be opened. But no one is worthy or able. And it’s a tragedy. But in verse 5 it says:

“5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Jesus Christ steps forward and he is able to open the scroll. Because he has conquered. He paved the way for us to heaven. But what happens when the scroll’s seals are broken? It ushers in the end times, the final events before the end of this world.

Here is where we see in the first four seals that are broken, the four horsemen of the apocalypse unleashed on the Earth. This is God’s judgement on a sinful world being poured out.

It says in Revelation 6:1-8, “Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there was a white horse. The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a victor to conquer.

The Second Seal
3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him.

The Third Seal
5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and there was a black horse. The horseman on it had a set of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard something like a voice among the four living creatures say, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius—but do not harm the olive oil and the wine.”

The Fourth Seal
7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and there was a pale green horse. The horseman on it was named Death, and Hades was following after him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague, and by the wild animals of the earth.”

The seals are continuously being opened, here is what it says about the 5th and sixth seals, “
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the people slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. 10 They cried out with a loud voice: “Lord, the One who is holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” 11 So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until the number would be completed of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been.

The Sixth Seal
12 Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place.

15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?”

So we pause after the opening of the sixth seal, and we’ve seen some incredible things happening on the Earth. Earthquakes, war, violence, epidemics, the moon turning to blood, and the wealthy hiding in underground facilities to try to escape the wrath of God.

Now, we turn to Israel. It’s interesting about Israel. The entire end times in Revelation seem to be centered around Israel, and around Israel’s people, the Jews, who rejected Jesus when he came, and them finally turning to Jesus, in these last days. Isn’t that amazing? For all these years the Jews have continued to survive, and after world war II they returned to Israel. But they still for the most part reject Jesus, though some of them do now follow Jesus, you hear about groups like Jews for Jesus and the messianic Jews movement, but overall most Jews still reject Jesus.

But here we see in chapter 7 12,000 Jewish people saved from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and they become witnesses during the end times to Israel and the world, that Jesus is really the savior of the world.

Immediately after this you see a vast amount of people gathered in heaven, those who escaped the great tribulation, some think this could be the rapture event, hard to say for sure but it says, Revelation 7:9-12 “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!

11 All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.””

Ok so, if you recall only 6 of the seals have been opened so far, right? So in Revelation chapter 8, the 7th seal is opened. And when it’s opened it says there was silence in heaven for about a half hour. Big moment. And then 7 angels with seven trumpets come out, and in the next chapters one by one these angels blow their trumpets, and each trumpet blast brings in new judgments and destruction on the Earth.

The first trumpet blasts, and one third of the forests and fields and nature of the Earth are destroyed.

At the 2nd trumpet some sort of asteroid hits the ocean, and killed 1/3rd of the fish and sea creatures and destroyed many ships on the oceans.

The 3rd trumpet sounded, and a star fell from heaven and turned the rivers and lakes and streams poisonous, so that many people died because of the poisonous waters.

The 4th trumpet sounded, and it says, “ …a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day was without light, and the night as well.”

At the 5th trumpet blast, a chasm opened in the Earth, and billions of locusts-like creatures came out of the earth, and they had stingers and would sting people and they’d be in terrible pain for months and months. Terrifying creatures as they’re described in Revelation they have human-like faces and stingers and strong horse-like bodies. Truly terrifying.

At the 6th trumpet blast, you have this army of 200 million soldiers, riding on these creatures, like horses, and they go about and kill 1/3 of humanity.

And it says at the end of chapter 9, that despite all of these judgments, people still did not change their ways and honor God.

It says Rev 9:20-21, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.”

So we see John in the next chapter visiting with an angel who gives him a little scroll and he eats it, and he’s told he’s got more to see.

In Rev chapter 11 where we’re going to conclude today, John sees the two witnesses of God, preaching God’s message in Jerusalem during these end times to the lost masses in Israel, for 1,260 days. But finally they are killed. And the people celebrate when they are killed, but then they rise to life, and a great Earthquake occurs in Jerusalem that kills 7,000 people.

Then we see the last trumpet blast, the 7th trumpet is blown, and we read these words, “15 The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom
of our Lord and of His Messiah,
and He will reign forever and ever!”

And the elders sing a song of praise to God. And that’s where we’re going to stop today. Revelation chapter 11, about halfway through this book of God’s wrath in the last days.

So we’ve seen Jesus visiting with John, the letters to the 7 churches, the throne room in heaven, the seven seals being opened, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the judgments of God, the witnesses of Jesus rising up in Israel, the 7 trumpet blasts of judgment. And that’s where we’ll pause, but there is much more to see!

How should you respond to this revelation? How do you make sense of all of this? This should be a reminder to us that God will bring history to a close one day. So we should be living as true Christians, waiting for the ends times when we’ll come to be with Jesus is paradise forever. And we should tremble at the fate that awaits those who are sinful and reject Jesus as their savior.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

10 Pieces of Beautiful Christian Artwork

 I'm a huge fan of artwork. In fact, I primarily learn and perceive through viewing. It's ironic then that I'm a writer. But in any case, in Protestantism we shy away from visual representations of God or our faith. Isn't that correct? In the vein of Martin Luther, we dissented from the Catholic practice of many visual representations of Christ and saints and so on. 

Yet I still love the visual. So as I've journeyed through my Christian faith, I've found certain pieces of artwork quite compelling. And I'd like to share them with you today. I don't worship these paintings or venerate them, or even connect them with my conception of Christ in any real way, but I do love them as creative works done by creative beings, created by a creative God. 

1. "Christ on the Cross" by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1870)

2. "The Journey of Life" series by Thomas Cole (1842)

3. "Prince of Peace" by Akiane Kramarik (2003)

4. "Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt van Rijn (1669)

5. "Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" by Thomas Cole (1828)

6. "Adoration of the Child" by Gerard van Honthorst (1620)

7. "Jacob's Ladder" by William Blake (1805)

8. "John the Baptist" by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1905)

9."The Empyrean (highest heaven)", from the illustrations to The Divine Comedy by Gustave Doré (1800s)

10. "Parting the Veil" by Jon Mcnaughton (2000s)

Friday, November 5, 2021

Dead Ends become Open Doors: Paradox is the Rule of Life

There is something resplendent in the dark and cold. 

It's like a cold winter night. The snow muffles all sound, so an incredible silence takes over. It should be dark but it isn't, not really.

There is a pale orange light that shines across the horizon, all night and into the morning. 

There is something bizarrely paradoxical about dead ends. 

There was a dead end behind my house growing up. I would walk back there at night, through the woods, pushing wet branches aside, to the road running behind our house. And I would stop and stare into the darkness, at the dead end. 

The road came to an end, old house to the left, old farm to the right. Mass of trees at the turn around, dead end. But if you walked back into the trees, there was a series of trails beyond the dead end, that led to a frozen pond. 

I remember in front of my house, growing up, there was a big farmers field where my sister and I would fly kites in the summer. At the edge of the field was a great forest. I used to imagine that I would walk into that forest in the depth of night, and discover a vast wonderland between the trunks.  

One thing is common in life, dry, dark, dead ends. Empty places. Moments where everything seems lost. It feels through and through at that moment, that nothing could ever possibly change the situation. 

By all appearances, it's impossible. And time and again, just as consistently as I meet those empty places, fight against them, try every single thing to escape them, they are not what they appear.

Solid, they are not. But they seem unbreakable. So I set up camp, build my tent out of branches, and live there. Yet just as consistently as I meet them, they are not as they appear! 

They are a lie, you might say. Or at least, as permanent and powerful as they seem, there are doors that lead through them. But I don't sense that at the time. 

So I build a house, set up a fortress, prepare my one man grave yard.  I dig the pit, shovel full of mud, one after another, weeping cold tears, preparing my eulogy. I lay down flat in the grave, well prepared, and invite God to throw the dirt upon me.

As I lay dying in the pit, and I've given up all hope, and I've resigned myself to forever sleep, then a shimmering light grows from the darkness. By then I wish it wouldn't. The light is an intrusion to my well prepared sermon. 

Yet it keeps growing, a splinter in my fetter. If I close my eyes, maybe it will go away. But it blazes behind my eyelids, refusing to be ignored. The impossible becomes possible. The unshakable rules of reality are summarily countermanded. I can't explain it. I don't believe it. I think to myself, I must be dreaming. This can't be real. 

Never-the-less a repair team gathers to restore me. Medics gather around me patching up my wounds, a real cutting edge team, go to work. The dead end collapses in a pile of trunks, dirt, and branches, washed away by a mighty flood, and an open path, bright golden green and dry cuts through, and I walk into a new day, bright and radiant as could be this side of heaven. 

This is the rule of reality this side of heaven. Dead ends break forth to open roads. Graves are trap doors to underground monasteries. Death is the road to awe. Paradox is the rule. Trust no dead end. They are not real, a lie, or at least, there is a power beyond us, God, who breaks the rules of reality, and turns dead ends into open doors.