Sunday, May 30, 2021

King Josiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, & the Fall of Judah

“Surrender to Babylon! Save yourselves!” Cried out the young prophet Jeremiah in the streets of Jerusalem, the holy city of God. The walls around the whole city were completely surrounded by hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Babylon, firing boulders and arrows by the hundreds into the city defenses. King Zedekiah, only about 30 years old, younger than me, sat in the throne room hoping after hope that Egypt’s army might come to save them, but it was not to be. Not only had Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel been destroyed, and taken into captivity, but now even the last holdout of Judah, was now crumbling before the attacks of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

What happened? What went wrong? How could a new enemy be at the gates once again? We know how King Hezekiah had done great things, and had been a godly king, and so God had delivered Judah from Assyria. But now Manasseh ruled in Judah.

Manasseh was an evil king, the son of Hezekiah, and he went his own way, and did great evil. His sins and mistakes led to his being taken captive by Assyria, the nation that had destroyed Samaria. Interestingly enough, while Manasseh was in captivity he changed his ways, and God had mercy on him. It’s an important reminder to us today that even the worst sinner who does the worst evil imaginable is not beyond the grace of God.

In any case, after Manasseh came a great king, named King Josiah. I love the events of Josiah’s life. This is a truly courageous king, much like Hezekiah. But Manasseh had done so much damage during his reign, it would be a steep climb to draw close to the Lord once again.

How often do we do the same thing? For a season we’re close with God, but then we start to drift away, then we draw close again, then we drift away, why is it like that? I wish I knew. It’s a struggle in my own life. In any case, in 2nd Kings 22 it says, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left.”

He was only eight when he became king. Nevertheless, he did the right things. He followed God.

The nation had so lost touch with God that they didn’t even know where the book of the law was. They’d lost it. The temple was in ruins. It was a mess.

But Josiah sent for the high priest, to discover what had been going on. During Manasseh’s reign, a sculpture of Baal had been put on the altar in God’s temple. Now that’s creepy.

It says in 2nd Kings 22:8-13 8 The high priest Hilkiah told the court secretary Shaphan, “I have found the book of the law in the Lord’s temple,” and he gave the book to Shaphan, who read it.

9 Then the court secretary Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your servants have emptied out the silver that was found in the temple and have given it to those doing the work—those who oversee the Lord’s temple.” 10 Then the court secretary Shaphan told the king, “The priest Hilkiah has given me a book,” and Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.

11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. 12 Then he commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, the court secretary Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah, 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah about the words in this book that has been found. For great is the Lord’s wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us.”

So after hearing the book of the law read to him, that would include the Torah, the first five books, the ten commandments and so on, he’s so upset he rips his clothes apart. He’s shocked. And he can sense God’s wrath against them because Judah has fallen so far from God. So he sends word to the prophet of this time to discover what God is going to say in response so all this chaos.

So they go to a female prophet named Huldah and God says this through her: “I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made,[a] my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse[b] and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”

So really at this point Josiah finds out that it’s too late for Judah. Judah is going to be destroyed. But God is going to delay the destruction until after Josiah, because Josiah is faithful to God.

So then we learn in 2nd Kings 23 that Josiah gathered the people to observe the Passover festival, this festival where they would celebrate each year how God had delivered them from Egypt to the promised land. But they hadn’t even been celebrating it for years.

It says in 2nd King 23 21 The king commanded all the people, “Observe the Passover of the Lord your God as written in the book of the covenant.” 22 No such Passover had ever been observed from the time of the judges who judged Israel through the entire time of the kings of Israel and Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the Lord’s Passover was observed in Jerusalem.”

So it’s a big success, a Passover like no other Passover before it. The people hear the word of the Lord, they obey, they celebrate the Passover and its just a great moment of unity and hope for the nation.

Then it talks all about everything Josiah did, getting rid of the baal statues, the Asherah poles, the high places and so on. It says in 2nd King 23: 24 In addition, Josiah eradicated the mediums, the spiritists, household idols, images, and all the abhorrent things that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem. He did this in order to carry out the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah found in the Lord’s temple. 25 Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.

26 In spite of all that, the Lord did not turn from the fury of his intense burning anger, which burned against Judah because of all the affronts with which Manasseh had angered him. 27 For the Lord had said, “I will also remove Judah from my presence just as I have removed Israel. I will reject this city Jerusalem, that I have chosen, and the temple about which I said, ‘My name will be there.’”

Josiah is a great king. He later dies in battle with Egypt after being hit by arrows during the battle. After Josiah, we see a series of increasingly bad kings, and there are several attacks by a powerful nation that existed in the area of present day Iraq, called Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judah several times, carrying away people and supplies, and defeating several kings after Josiah. Eventually King Zedekiah became king of Judah.

During the reign of King Zedekiah, the prophet of the Lord is Jeremiah. History often refers to Jeremiah as the “weeping prophet.” Jeremiah’s job is very challenging. He cries out to the people to repent, but they really don’t repent. And Zedekiah kinda listens to him, but mostly doesn’t listen to him, and Jeremiah is persecuted, by the leaders and by false prophets who are telling Zedekiah everything he wants to hear.

Jeremiah tells Zedekiah he needs to surrender to Babylon. It’s really too late. He needs to surrender. But Zedekiah refuses. And brands Jeremiah a traitor.

But Jeremiah was right, and the other prophets were liars. It says in

2nd Kings 25: In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army. They laid siege to the city and built a siege wall against it all around. 2 The city was under siege until King Zedekiah’s eleventh year.

3 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that the common people had no food. 4 Then the city was broken into, and all the warriors fled at night by way of the city gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, even though the Chaldeans surrounded the city. As the king made his way along the route to the Arabah, 5 the Chaldean army pursued him and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. Zedekiah’s entire army left him and scattered. 6 The Chaldeans seized the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes. Finally, the king of Babylon blinded Zedekiah, bound him in bronze chains, and took him to Babylon.”

Zedekiah refused to listen to Jeremiah, who told him to surrender to Babylon. But he didn’t listen. So his end is, he watches his own sons killed before his eyes, then his eyes are gouged out and he is taken as a slave to Babylon. How terrible! What a horrific end! And it’s an important reminder to us today. If we disobey God, if we persevere in sin, if we continue to reject god and turn against his ways, eventually, we can and will suffer the same fate of Zedekiah. A lot of people think oh no, God wouldn’t do that to me. He loves me too much.

God does love us very, very deeply. But god is a just judge. And he must punish sin. He does not show favoritism. He’s not gonna let it slide because he likes us. Though he certainly does like us, and love us deeply. But if we persevere in sin, and continue to reject God, and live in active sin as Christians, we can and will face damnation, and eternal hell fire. And I’m sure many people thought, this could never happen to me, and then it did. So I’m just warning you, be careful here, and realize we’ve gotta live right before our God who loves us.

Then we come to the final conclusion of the conflict it says, 2nd Kings 25:8-12 8 On the seventh day of the fifth month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, a servant of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. 9 He burned the Lord’s temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses. 10 The whole Chaldean army with the captain of the guards tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guards, deported the rest of the people who remained in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population. 12 But the captain of the guards left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers.”

This is the final despairing moment of it all, the Lord’s temple is burned to the ground, the kings palace is burned to the ground, and the houses of the city are all burned to the ground. It’s over.

So first Samaria, the northern kingdom was destroyed and taken into captivity by Assyria, and now Judah has been invaded and taken into captivity by Babylon. Basically the entire nation of Israel has so completely failed God that they are gone, collapsed… completely destroyed.

Have you ever experienced something like this in your life? You might call it a rock bottom experience. Everything has been lost. Your marriage falls apart, your addiction ruins your life, you end up in jail, or physically disabled, or mentally crushed. And off you go, into exile. You’ve lost everything. It’s a dark moment for any person to face. But many of us have faced it. Yet God still offers hope in the darkness.

I remember when I was 15, 16, 17 years old I had a poster in my room of The Smashing Pumpkins one of my favorite bands, and it was a promo shot from their music video Tonight, Tonight. And my family was falling apart, parents were getting divorced, I was about to be expelled from high school. And as I listened to that song, Tonight tonight, and looked at the poster, I felt like the Lord was telling me. You’re about to enter a dark path in your life. And it’s going to get very bad. You’re going to hit rock bottom, and lose everything in your life. But eventually, despite the chaos, I’ll bring you home to myself.

So, even in exile God continues to minister to the Israelites. Jeremiah continues to advise the poor remnants who continue to live in Judah, basically the poor farmers and beggars who are left by Nebuchanezzar. Meanwhile in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel continues to minister to the many Israelites who were taken to Babylon in captivity.

Ezekiel challenges the Israelites for their failures. But he also offers hope, that one day, they will return to Israel and be brought close to God once again. Ezekiel even speaks of a valley of dry bones coming to life, In Ezekiel 37 it says, “37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Greatest King of Israel you've never Heard Of: King Hezekiah

Archers fire volleys of arrows on the incoming hoards of Assyrian troops besieging the city of Samaria. The cries of dying soldiers on both sides is heard in the hot morning air. Assyria is a powerful kingdom invading Israel from the north. King Hoshea of Israel was an evil leader, and so Israel was defeated by Assyria, and forced to pay heavy tributes to Assyria. But King Hoshea secretly plots against Assyria with Egypt, and soon Assyria’s king Shalmaneser hears about his treachery.

So Assyria has come and besieged Samaria, for three long years. Thousands of people must’ve starved to death. Many must’ve died in the fighting. But finally, the Assyrian troops broke through the walls, and the entire kingdom of Israel is taken captive, and taken to Assyria.

The northern kingdom has fallen. If you recall, all 20 kings that reigned over the northern kingdom did evil in the eyes of God. And finally all that evil and demon worship and idolatry and corruption has led the northern kingdom into complete collapse. They are destroyed by Assyria, and the survivors are dragged back to Assyria.

And we actually have archaeological evidence that this did take place. There are several ancient carvings that were discovered that depict how Assyria took captive Israel and brought them back to Assyria, you’ll see two examples here.

But why? Why did this happen? This is God’s chosen nation, the people he planned to raise up to be a blessing to the whole world. First it split into north and south, now the north falls.

And it explains in 2nd Kings 17 why this happened: 7-11 “7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10 They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger.”

So the northern kingdom is gone. Boom, gone. No longer there. They are taken to Assyria. And Assyria sends it’s own people into Israel to live there.

Now we turn the page to 2nd Kings 18, and we focus in on all that remains of God’s people, the kingdom of Judah. In Judah, the new king is king Hezekiah. He is only 25 years old when he becomes king.

And at this moment in history Judah is very worried. They see the entire kingdom of Israel fall, and now Assyria is on their doorstep.

For many years Assyria doesn’t bother Judah. But 14 years later, when Hezekiah is 39 years old, Assyria begins their invasion. Hezekiah tries to buy them off, sending them tribute, but it doesn’t work, their army comes right to Jerusalem the holy city.

So you’ve got this guy Sennacherib, he’s sort of the Assyria king’s personal representative. And he comes to the walls of Jerusalem and he’s meeting with some of King Hezekiah’s senior guys.

You’ll see on the slide here a photograph of the remnants of the broad wall, that was built during the reign of king Hezekiah, to hold off the Assyrian army. This is all history folks, it’s real stuff, go to Jerusalem, you can see this place for yourself. Someday I hope to visit Israel, after five years good service officers can go on a special guided tour of Israel so I’m very excited to do that.

So Sennacherib says this, ““On what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 25 Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’”

So Sennacherib is at the wall of Jerusalem shouting out all this garbage to Judah. And Hezekiah’s representatives reply and say hey, speak to us in Aramaic. Because he’s saying all this in Hebrew, and they don’t want it to make the archers on the walls nervous.

But Sennacherib wants everyone to hear this. He’s trying to scare Judah’s troops. His chief of staff replies“ 7 “Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.”

28 Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. 30 Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

“Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ 33 Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? 34 What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? 35 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

What a crazy moment right? You’ve got all that’s left of God’s people. They’re outnumbered and in danger. And you’ve got these arrogant Assyrians telling them that it’s hopeless! Just give up! Theres no way you can win!

This is often what the enemy of our souls tries to do to us. We have an enemy, he is called in Hebrew The Satan, which means, the adversary. And this enemy has an entire network of operatives that is trying to deceive us into thinking that we can’t possibly make a difference in our generation, just like Sennacherib tries to terrify the Israelites at the wall. Our enemy wants us to think it’s hopeless to try to change the world for the better.

But it’s not hopeless. And the truth is even in the last two years we’ve made a huge mark on Shiawassee county. We’ve impacted thousands of lives, planted thousands of seeds, spoken the gospel to hundreds, and given great encouragement to hundreds more. Remember that we can change the whole world all it takes is a small minority of people set on fire to bring God glory and spread the gospel, to change the whole county, the whole state, the whole country.

Our adversary wants us to think we can’t make a difference. We can make a huge difference. I’m telling you the truth, one person can impact millions of people in a positive way. We just have to start out by believing it’s possible, believing that we can do anything in Christ. Do you believe that today? Because it’s true. You can do anything. Believe.

From 2nd Kings 19:1-4, “When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the Lord. 2 And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. 4 But perhaps the Lord your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff,[a] sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!””

Have you ever had a day like this? Where there is so much to do, but you’re just so discouraged that it seems like nothing can be done. You’re worn out, you’re run down, the energy drink has worn off, the coffee is buzzing to your head, you’re sleep deprived, overweight and eating poorly. It feels like a mother who has to deliver a baby but has no strength to do so. Those days are dark. Like a gray, overcast winter day. Miserable! But then we find some encouragement. Someone gives us a good word. We crack open the Bible and find a powerful word from the Lord. We get down on our knees and pray and the heavens seem to open to us.

Hezekiah sent word to the prophet, at this time it’s Isaiah, famous prophet, we’ll get there soon, but first we see Isaiah’s response.

“‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. 7 Listen! I myself will move against him,[b] and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”” -2nd Kings 19:6-7

So then we come to the moment of decision. Hezekiah has heard from the enemy, and now he’s heard a good word of encouragement from the Lord. Which report is he going to believe? And for you in your own life, which report are you going to believe? Will you believe that God is telling the truth, or will you believe that the adversary is telling the truth?

That is the great battle of our lives, isn’t it? Will we believe God or will we believe the world? We have this book, the Bible that tells us all the promises of God for our lives. But we’ve also got this world around us telling us the exact opposite. We’ve got the world telling us that it’s hopeless, you’re just evolved monkeys anyway, nothing matters, do whatever you want, get yours, you give meaning to your own life, there is no outside meaning, in fact maybe we’ll all ascend to be gods ourselves, through the power of science, technology and the human mind. Those are the lies of the world.

And all those thousands of lies, go all the way back to Genesis, when Adam and Eve decided to listen to the lies of the serpent instead of clinging onto God’s truth. The serpent said, “Did Got really say that? Is that really true? God’s just trying to hide something great from you. His promises aren’t true!” And so the world tells us the same things. “Oh the Bible just a book of fairy tales.” “Oh science has disproved the bible” “Jesus never even really existed” Blah blah blah.

But the battle in your life, is much like the battle Hezekiah and Judah faces at this moment. Will they believe God is going to do the miraculous and somehow defeat this overwhelming Assyrian empire, or will they believe that its hopeless, gods not going to do anything, and we’re going to be overrun and destroyed, just like the northern kingdom was.

How often do we face that same struggle in life! Constantly! Maybe you’re out there waiting to meet your wife, and it seems impossible. You’ve waited years. Maybe you’ve been sick for years, and it seems hopeless. Maybe you’ve been looking for an apartment or a house and it just doesn’t ever quite come together. In the face of years of that it’s hard to hold firm to God’s promises isn’t it? It’s hard to hang on when all we’ve seen is disappointment. But I want to encourage you today: Keep believing in the Lord. Keep holding on to hope in the struggle. Don’t give up. Keep praying, keep seeking the Lord, and it may be that he has a different path for you than you expect. But then again, maybe the time is coming when God will provide for the prayers you’ve so long prayed. God makes us wait, long, long times, to build our character. And that’s a good thing. So patient. And hold onto the promises of God in a world full of lies.

So Hezekiah has heard from the Lord. He’s probably feeling very encouraged. But then another message comes in from the enemy, Sennacherib says this: ““This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all! 13 What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?””

Often times we decide to cling to God’s word and hold true to the Lord, and then the enemy sends more lies our way. The enemy reminds us of all that’s happened before. The enemy says, “The Lord isn’t going to help you. He’s left you all these years. Remember even 5 years ago you were praying for what you hope and it’s still not here 5 years later!” Or the enemy shows up in the news or media and says oh the Bible has been disproven haven you read the da vinci code, haven’t you studied Darwinian evolution, it’s all been refuted by this and that and whatever. Of course it’s just a pack of lies and distortions from people who have a vested interest in finding any science they can that somehow might show that the universe doesn’t need a God. You’d be surprised just how biased these men and women of science can be, especially when you bring up God, God is the last thing they want to hear. They were very upset when Einstein discovered the red shift of stellar bodies, which proved that the universe had a definite beginning. They couldn’t hide behind the eternal universe model anymore, a definite beginning pointed inexorably toward a creator, and a moment of creation. They’d scaled the highest cliffs of science, scaled the valleys, come to the great mountain top of knowledge and wisdom, and found a group of theologians and Christians who were already there, and had been for centuries. In any case, I digress, how often do we get our hopes up only to find the enemy kick us again.

So what does Hezekiah do? He prays. It says he goes to the temple of God, lays out the letter from Assyria and he prays. He prays a long prayer asking God for help. And then somewhere Isaiah the prophet is walking along and suddenly he hears the word of the Lord. And he tells Hezekiah that God is going to defeat Assyria. And God says this, ““Here is the proof that what I say is true: “This year you will eat only what grows up by itself, and next year you will eat what springs up from that.
But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them; you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit.30 And you who are left in Judah, who have escaped the ravages of the siege, will put roots down in your own soil and will grow up and flourish.
31 For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies[d]
will make this happen!”

So first the problem, the enemy spreads lies, then God speaks, then the enemy speaks again, then we take it to God in prayer, and God answers our prayer and encourages us to stand firm, because he’s going to help us.

2nd Kings 19 35-37 says ,”35 That night the angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians[e] woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. 36 Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.37 One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords.”

So Hezekiah wakes up the next morning, goes and looks over the walls, and the entire Assyrian army has been destroyed. Wiped out, by the Lord. God has answered. It seemed impossible. But they’re all gone. They’re wiped out. God delivers on his promise. God always delivers on all his promises, same with us today. If God has said it, then it will happen. You can take that to the bank. It’s true. The enemy king is later killed by his own sons, while worshipping his false gods, and Hezekiah has achieved complete victory through his trust and devotion to the Lord.

The Bible says that there was never a king like Hezekiah before or after him. He was really a special and wonderful leader of Judah.

After this Hezekiah became very sick. Deathly ill in fact, and Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him the Lord says your going to die soon, so get your affairs in order. But as Isaiah walked away, Hezekiah turned over on his bed facing the walls and wept in tears pleading with God to heal him and make him better. HE said remember Lord how I’ve been faithful and always tried to follow your ways.” And as Isaiah is leaving God says go back and say something new to Hezekiah.

So Isaiah goes back and tells Hezekiah that the Lord has added 15 years to his life. And he’s going to get well.

Sometimes all it takes is a meaningful prayer to God, where we really cry out to God and weep, and express our misery, for God to respond and say alright, I’m gonna change things because you prayed. God works through people and God will listen to our prayers and even make adjustments and changes to things for the sake of what we pray to Him. Now it may have always been his plan for us to pray and for him to change something, but he inspires us to cry out to Him. God works through people.

So after Hezekiah was king, the next king is Manasseh. He’s one of Hezekiah’s sons. And you’d think that since Hezekiah was such a great godly king that his children would follow in his foosteps. But that’s not always the case. Many of you with children I’m sure realize that. Your children have free will. And they may choose to follow the Lord or they may choose to rebel against the Lord. And with Manasseh, he completely rebels against God. And brings in all sorts of perverse things, constructing altars to Baal, Asherah poles again, pagan altars, sorcery, divination, mediums, and pyschics. It says the streets were filled with the blood of innocent people. It says Manasseh even sacrificed his own son on the altar throwing the baby into the flames. Such incredible evil! Wow!

And it was during this time, between kings Hezekiah and Manasseh that Isaiah was serving as prophet. We know he served as prophet under Hezekiah, he may have served under Manasseh as well, but it also may have been Jeremiah who was prophet during Manasseh’s reign. But in any case, during this era of Judah, Isaiah wrote the book of Isaiah, and the book of Isaiah is a very long book of the Bible filled with prophecies. And it’s in the book of Isaiah where we see most of the old testament prophecies about the coming of the messiah who would save Israel from their sins.

It says in Isaiah 35:5-6. "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

And again in Isaiah 61 verse 1, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

Despite all that has happened with Israel, how they’ve struggled and failed God, despite Hezekiah and Manasseh, there will come in the future a messiah, who would be God come to the Earth, to save people from their sins.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Elijah the Mighty Man of God

If you want to talk about one of the greatest heroes to ever walk the earth. If you want to talk about someone who God really did incredible miracles through, if you want to talk about someone who walked hand in hand with the living God, if you want to talk about someone who changed the world forever, then you’ve gotta talk about one man, his name was Elijah.

And Elijah would one day be followed up his apprentice, a man named Elisha.

So we recall from last week, after the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was split between Jeroboam in the north and Rehoboam in the south. This takes us through one of the darkest times for Israel, the time of 1st and 2nd kings. These books of the Bible walk us through all these various kings that ruled in the north and the south. And for the most part, they simply went from bad to worse. Today we focus in on the northern kingdom, also called Samaria. This is where Jeroboam reigned. But now there is a new king, and his name is Ahab. And his queen is a wicked woman named Jezebel. Two really bad people.

It’s at this point, that Elijah, the prophet of God, came on the scene. Elijah is serving as prophet, to speak the word of the Lord to King Ahab. God is going to deal with Ahab’s evil. So God tells Elijah, there is going to be a long drought in the land.

This is a big deal. Without rain, you don’t have any crops. People start to starve to death. So Elijah goes to Ahab and speaks to him.

From 1st Kings 17:1-7 “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” 2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.”

The drought goes on for many years. But God cares for Elijah during the drought. He tell Elijah to go live by a stream in Cherith. You know growing up we used to go out to Aniwa, where my grandparents owned land. And on that land there was a little brook. We used to stand on the bridge over the brook and just enjoy the beautiful waters and the sound of the water passing by. I loved it as a kid. So Elijah lives by this brook, and he’s fed by the Lord. But eventually the brook itself dries up because of the drought.

We have to understand that if we are true servants of God. I mean really all in for the Lord, not nominally Christian, but 100% real Christian, God is going to care for us through every difficulty we face.

You see people out there who were storing up toilet paper during covid, or food during covid, now people are storing up gasoline, me, as a Christian, I don’t have to worry. I don’t need to store up food. I know God will provide for my needs. The same is true for you. Trust God. He’ll make sure you have what you need.

1st Kings 18:1-2 “After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.”

Elijah proposes to Ahab to gather all the people together. Ahab and Jezebel have promoted the worship of Baal in the land. And it’s destroyed everything. It’s the reason the drought is happening. They’ve turned far from the Lord. But Elijah is here to make a stand for God. He says lets gather everyone together and we’re gonna decide once and for all, who is really God, Baal or the Lord.

1st Kings 18:20-46 ”So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”

This is the great moment of victory for the Lord. And God does it through Elijah. It’s been revealed once and for all, Baal is false, and God is real. And that moment will often come in our own lives.

We’ll face down false prophets, and people will attack us and mock us and rebel. And people will be led astray. But then God will reveal himself, and show the truth plainly to all. God reveals to all he is the true God. God has the final word, not our enemies, not the lies. Lies will always break to the truth. You can’t stop the truth from coming out.

After this great moment, finally rain returns to the land. The drought is over. God is revealed to be true, and Baal is revealed to be false.

So Ahab goes back and tells Jezebel what happened.

From 1st Kings 19:1-8 “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

So what’s happening here? Elijah has dealt with worse things than threats from Jezebel. Yet he runs for his life.

Sometimes when we’ve gone through a bunch of stuff, some hard times, it just takes one more thing to hit us, and it completely knocks us over. You expended all your energy in the hard time, and then Satan hits you with something small, but it’s the last straw, and you run. The enemy loves to hit us after we’ve done a great thing. He knows our energies are expended. And we’re weak. Watch out for sneak attacks after great victories.

So Elijah is on the run.

It says, “4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

God met Elijah as he ran. Elijah is so upset. He’s at rock bottom. He’s saying take my life Lord. This is it. I can’t take anymore. I’ve had moments like that in my life. Where I’ve just thought… I can’t take anymore. I’ve had enough. Have you ever felt that way?

God has Elijah eat. He encourages him. Gives him rest. And slowly Elijah heals. Elijah continued onward, on this journey, and came to a cave.

1st Kings 19:9-11, “There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.””

So now we get this mysterious moment, where God reveals himself to Elijah, we have all these elements, first it gets super windy, then theres an earthquake, then theres fire, and after the fire.. .a gentle blowing. And he saw God’s presence at that moment. And it changed him forever ,in that moment, something divine happened. He felt God, sensed God, saw God’s glory.

God reminds Elijah, that though it seems like everyone is against the Lord, that the Lord has kept 7,000 in Israel set apart for him. And then God sends Elijah back, to anoint a new king, Jehu. And to commission a new prophet, Elisha.

1st Kings 19:19 “Elijah left and found Elisha plowing with a team of oxen; there were eleven teams ahead of him, and he was plowing with the last one. Elijah took off his cloak and put it on Elisha.”

Meanwhile Syria begins attacking Israel. And during the war King Ahab is killed. But not before Ahab did more evil deeds, like having a man named Naboth killed so he could steal his vineyard.

For a while Elijah mentors Elisha, and then one day, Elijah is set to leave.

2nd Kings 2:9-12 There, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what you want me to do for you before I am taken away.”

“Let me receive a double portion of your anointing, that will make me your successor,”[a] Elisha answered.

10 “That is a difficult request to grant,” Elijah replied. “But you will receive it if you see me as I am being taken away from you; if you don't see me, you won't receive it.”

11 They kept talking as they walked on; then suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire came between them, and Elijah was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out to Elijah, “My father, my father! Mighty defender of Israel! You are gone!” And he never saw Elijah again.”

That’s pretty amazing. That doesn’t happen for just anyone! Most biblical figures die and are buried, but not Elijah, he was so special, so loved by God, that he is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.

So if you recall Elijah anointed Jehu to be the new king of Israel. And Jehu is set to deal with Jezebel.

So it says in 2nd Kings 9:30-37, “Jehu arrived in Jezreel. Jezebel, having heard what had happened, put on eye shadow, arranged her hair, and stood looking down at the street from a window in the palace. 31 As Jehu came through the gate, she called out, “You Zimri! You assassin! Why are you here?”

32 Jehu looked up and shouted, “Who is on my side?” Two or three palace officials looked down at him from a window, 33 and Jehu said to them, “Throw her down!” They threw her down, and her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses. Jehu drove his horses and chariot over her body, 34 entered the palace, and had a meal. Only then did he say, “Take that cursed woman and bury her; after all, she is a king's daughter.” 35 But the men who went out to bury her found nothing except her skull and the bones of her hands and feet. 36 When they reported this to Jehu, he said, “This is what the Lord said would happen, when he spoke through his servant Elijah: ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel's body in the territory of Jezreel. 37 Her remains will be scattered there like dung, so that no one will be able to identify them.’”

So the new king Jehu dealt with Jezebel, and Ahab was killed in war in Syria. Elijah was taken to heaven by a chariot, and Elisha was the new prophet of the northern kingdom. Eventually things do work out. Those who practice evil are destroyed, and those who serve the Lord are honored and blessed. Sometimes it takes a long time for that to happen. And we wonder why evil people get away with their schemes. Never-the-less in the end we know that God’s people will receive salvation, and our enemies will receive eternal damnation.

But despite these bright moments, we’ll see next week that God will have to deal with the northern kingdom.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Could God actually be Real?

Hubble Revisits the Veil Nebula
I was raised in a Catholic household, and growing up I considered the possibility of a God. But once into school, studying science and so on, I rejected the God hypothesis as a backward remnant of a bygone era. Perhaps your experience was similar to mine? Perhaps you also jettisoned the concept of God, as one which ought to be rejected along with the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy?

If so, I'm glad you are here. We are all communicated information in various forms, by our parents, in school, and by the culture and media of our world. What often emerges in our mindsets are prevailing narratives about what reality is and isn't. These narratives in my upbringing included ideas like post-modernism, the idea that nothing is objectively true, the idea of science's conquest over religion, the rejection of all religion as myth, and so on and so forth.

This was my worldview. This was the direction of my life, and I lived out the entailments of such ideologies through promiscuity, wayward living, addiction, and endless pondering. But in the pondering and in the emptiness I began a journey of exploration. I began to explore the concept of spirituality. I began to explore the idea of God.

Jump forward to today, and I look back and realize that the various cultural narratives I had believed, that science was burying God, that Jesus maybe never even existed, that Christianity was the same as the tooth fairy, had all been bills of goods I'd been sold very carefully, through catch-phrases and one-liners. And as I explored the real evidence, the narratives that had been hidden, I began to realize the truth. As you embark on a similar journey, I would encourage you: Ruthlessly seek out the truth. Allow no bias. And you may just find that the bill of goods sold to you, was indeed, not all that it claimed to be.

“The Bible encourages people to put their faith in God. Unfortunately, many people equate faith with a blind leap in the dark or wishful thinking. But the faith that the Bible requires is intelligent faith. It is neither blind nor irrational. Biblical faith is a committing trust with an object (God) who is worthy of our faith. No one is asked to sacrifice his intellect when he puts his faith in the God of the Bible.” –Don Stewart, The Ten Wonders of the Bible, 1990, p. 13.

“The Christian faith does not call for us to put our minds on the shelf, to fly in the face of common sense and history, or to make a leap of faith into the dark. The rational person, fully apprised of the evidence, can confidently believe.” –William Lane Craig

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” -Herbert Spencer

Christianity: The Facts

A: Does God exist? The existence of God is not 100% provable. But one does not necessarily need absolute evidence. In a court of law, evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is acceptable when considering a verdict. In the same way, when considering a first cause one may view all the evidence and make a reasonable conclusion that God does indeed exist. There are many compelling arguments, such as the cosmological argumentmoral argumentontological argument, and teleological argument lays out in clear terms: Anything that has a beginning has a cause. That's certainly true. Second, the universe began to exist. Given the evidence, the red shift observed by Hubble in the early 1900s, that seems quite likely. Since the universe needs a cause, that cause must be immaterial, beyond space and time, and infinitely powerful. In other words, God. Can one prove evolution 100%? Absolutely not. Naturalism is a presupposition, or a worldview based on an interpretation of the available evidence. So is Christianity. Though evolution and Christianity are not necessarily at odds. Dr. Francis Collins a noted scientist has done lectures and wrote a book called "
The Language of God" which lays out excellent arguments along those lines. In addition, Dr. Stephen Meyer has written several books on "Intelligent Design Theory" the view that an architect of the universe is supported by perceived design in cellular biology. Check out his books as well, most notably: "Signature in the Cell" and "Darwin's Doubt."

B: Did Jesus really exist historically? The evidence indicates that yes, Jesus Christ of Nazareth did exist. He was a real person in the history of the middle east. History is gleaned by manuscript evidence, historical account by witnesses cross referenced with official documents of governments and empires. The manuscript evidence for the historical existence of a man named Jesus Christ of Nazareth is better than for most historical persons.

But was Jesus Christ really God come to Earth? Now that is the point of real questioning. There have been several notable books on this topic, most notably "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. And if Jesus Christ was really who he claimed to be, did he really rise? The point of contention is: Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead? The evidence of the powerful witness of the apostles, the early church, and the willingness of all the early disciples save one being willing to die for their faith indicates that yes it is likely Jesus is risen from the grave. Watch the presentation below by Gary Habermas to learn more about this line of inquiry.

“Do you believe in the existence of Socrates? Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? If historicity is established by written records in multiple copies that date originally from near contemporaneous sources, there is far more proof for Christ’s existence than for any of theirs.” –Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, p. 296.

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.” –Nelson Glueck

The Bible when compared with recorded history is 99.7% accurate. Archaeology and historical records support the events of the Bible as described in books of the Old and New Testament. This is an important beginning in establishing the credibility of the historical Jesus and the manuscripts of the Christian Bible.

C: The Philosophy and truth within Christianity can withstand the most powerful intellectual probing. I would recom
mend "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis which walks the reader step by step through the issues of the idea of belief in God. I would also highly recommend "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton a man who converted to Christianity after reading all the arguments for the atheist worldview and being thoroughly unimpressed, began to search out belief in a higher power, arriving eventually at the cross of Christ Jesus. If you're a highly analytical individual, William Lane Craig has done some excellent writing and speaking on the reason for God. Check out "Reasonable Faith" by William Lane Craig. Two more books I would recommend are "Beyond Opinion" and "I don't have enough faith to be an Atheist." Others of notable mention are Frank Turek, Norm Geisler, Hugh Ross, Lee Strobel and Tim Keller.

Expert Testimony
We the people of western civilization tend to prefer to get our information from the experts. We look to authoritative individuals and groups to help us understand life and existence. Many of the greatest minds of human history have been dedicated Christians. The following links lead to quotations from great thinkers surrounding the topic of Christianity, science, math, worldview, and many others.
  1. Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil
  2. Expert Testimony: The Anthropic Principle, Anthropology
  3. Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology 
  4. Expert Testimony: the Demise of Evolution, Complex in DNA

Websites for further Study of the Christian Worldview
  1. Cross Examined
  2. Reasonable Faith
  3. Evolution News
  4. Stand to Reason
  5. Answers in Genesis
  6. The Poached Egg
  7. The Veritas Forum
  8. Socrates in the City
  9. Always Be Ready

Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Message for the End Times Remnant: The Last Great Awakening

Return of Jesus, cc 2.0

Welcome to the wilderness. Temptations on one side, false teachers on the other. The true message is Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels, repent and believe! Join our ranks, the ranks of the holy remnant in a post-Christian world.

The United States, Europe, the western world has slipped into moral chaos: Relativism, atheism, post-modernism, the sexual revolution, and today, the curtailing of free speech. The two towers of propaganda and censorship rise above the cities of the Earth. Christianity is under assault. Yet the message continues to go out everyday. Keep spreading it far and wide!

All must repent and believe in Jesus Christ before it's too late! The return of Christ is so near! Heaven and hell stand before us in the valley of decision! Who will answer? Who will decide?

This may not be the message you wanted. But it is the truth. This is your message, the vital message, and if you won't carry it, who will?

We will carry it. We the few, the remnant, the believing church of Philadelphia in the time of the lukewarm church of Laodicea. We must repent of double-mindedness now, so when the last great awakening comes, we are able to take the message to all for the billion soul harvest! Will you be ready? Are you becoming rapidly who you were always meant to be?

This is what we must be: The Holy church in the wilderness. The undefiled remnant. We're the new counter-culture revolutionaries. We're the ones willing to live the true Christian message. And we're going to live it boldly.

Just like John the Baptist in the wilderness making the way for the coming messiah...

Just like the Acts church missionaries blazing inroads and trails into the depths of the ancient Roman empire.

Just like the Apostle Paul who endured whips, floggings, shipwrecks, and constantly threats for the name of Christ.

Just like the disciples of Jesus who each gave their life for the savior, and John who saw the end in the Revelation of Christ.

Today our world is a wilderness of sin, and we're on the outskirts, fighting for the true message, teaching the radical gospel by the words of the Bible.

On one side stands the sinful society who casts the God of the Bible aside, and on the other side the self righteous lukewarm sin-filled churches of the world. We are the remnant gathered in the wilderness to call out the true message, the vital cross of Jesus Christ received by grace through faith, and lived out through tireless love, holiness, discipleship, and evangelism.

Escape the matrix of this world! Join the resistance!

If you're reading this message: You are the resistance.

You are the evangelist, the prophet, the teacher; you are the messenger! No one else will do it for you Christian. You must be the soldier of Christ, wherever and whenever you go. Time is running short. Christ's return is imminent. The souls of countless billions hang in the balances. You can do this. You will do this. For all things can be done in the power of Christ for his glory. Believe it can be done. Believe it will be done. Believe it is already accomplished. Pray hard, work hard, and remember: What you do today, will echo forever in eternity.

The Planet Earth cc 2.0 via Flickr

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Night Train

I was walking one night, down a dark dark road. 

Imagining what my life might be like if I lived in a dream,

I came upon a crossroads, stopped in my tracks,

Down the road more murky I traveled

But soon the path had grown tiresome to me,

So I disappeared down on a misty ravine

Through the night, rushing water,

Humming in the brush,

Something beckons me forward,

A glowing mist caught my eye,

Came into the clearing, transfixed,

Can this be real? My mind accepted it,

A train stood tall and mighty, 

It called me onto it,

Lured me with it's mystery,

So I climbed aboard, and the train took off,

I climbed to the  top, and sat upon the roof

The winds whipped through my hair,

Where are you taking me, I wondered

A place far away

Anywhere but here,

Was the train in my mind

Was the train an illusion?

It was a steady thing,

Breaking through the twilight

I delight in it,

It played music for me,

Some sort of mystery,

It explained itself to me,

Little by little revealing,

Stars over my head,

Moon lush and stolen glory,

Wonder takes me away,

I'm captured, stolen from the past days,

Where are you taking me?

The beauty, the intrigue,

These are things I'd never seen,

This urge controls me,

I never want to leave,

The night ride, a window,

To a sublime new reality,

Night train, never take me home,

You've stolen me away,

From all I thought I knew,

You reveal something new,

A reality I never had perceived,

I'm addicted to your railways,

I'm hooked to your wandering paths,

Never let me go,

Take me where you would will me to go,

So you bring me at dawn,

To a lush valley,

Light trickles in from the sky,

Dare you show me the mysterious,

You welcome me into a mysterious valley,

I climb down, depart the train,

Break through the foliage,

The valley beckons me,

The valley is bright, the night breaks

It threatens to awake me,

But I'm still dreaming,

A corridor appears, a hallway into the mountain side

Down, down, down through the rocks

They cut me, tear at me,

Will I ever make it back?

Something here wants to destroy me,

Will I survive this path?

Yet a presence beckons me,

Calls me home deeper, deeper still

Into the depths below, downward, downward,

Into the watery depths below,

The rocky cavern breaks,

To a wide opening,

A giant room opens before me,

What is this place? 

Something has brought me here,

An image appears on the cavern walls

It lights up for me to see,

I am devoured by the image,

Of a shining glorious mystery,

It has come into me,

It has taken over me,

The mystery has discovered me,

The train serves the master,

The conductor of the train, appears before me,

And I am awe-struck,

The terror fills me,

The horror overwhelms me,

The realization cripples me,

I am broken, crushed, devastated,

But at the moment of complete collapse,

I realize, a candle has been lit in me,

It shines within me, 

The conductor points down ahead,

Toward an opening in the rock face,

The cleft is dark, and cold,

I can't see my way,

Still the conductor beckons me,

'Go between the rocks, go all the way'

So I follow the light, 

It's lit within me,

It burns ever so softly,

I began my blind journey,

Clinging to the walls,

Climbing my way out anxiously,

The rocks break

The sunlit valley before me,

I'm not who I used to be,

The day before me awakens,

Disappointed at first,

But fire within keeps burning,

So my journey begins,

An exile in a lost land,

The train and the conductor,

Have changed everything,

The journey begins today,

A new wondrous adventure,

In the depths of the valleys. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

How Do I Become a Christian?

Used under CC 3.0 license. Star Forming in region S106, from the Hubble Telescope. Attribution: NASA & ESA

So you've looked at the arguments for God, the Bible, and Jesus. You've decided there is enough evidence to take a reasonable leap of faith. Or you just know in your heart there is a God, something bigger than you. What's next?

What does it mean to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ? Can one simply say a prayer, and be saved? It's hard to say. I'm sure for some, that is their experience with stepping into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

For me, it happened in a series of spiritual awakenings. Over a period of time, years actually, I slowly came to realization after realization about the world around me. I pursued that journey. I thought and studied, and learned, and talked about it with people. I journaled about the things I was learning.

I really began at a place of little concern for spiritual matters. Eventually I had an awakening in 2011, that God does exist. From there I adopted a sort of pantheistic view. I had opened myself up to all religious views. In 2012 I called out in particular to Jesus Christ, and the reality came to me that Christ was the exclusive way to God. From there it's like my worldview began an extended, slow and steady transformation from materialistic/spiritual views, to theologically deep and philosophically coherent views about the world around me. My depth of gratitude toward Christ went from little, to deeper and deeper.

The journey goes from far before meeting Christ, to long after, in my experience. In any case, I will try to explain the basics, and describe a possible prayer that might be a helpful starting point. But as a reminder, simply be open to pursuing the journey, and pursuing the knowledge of the Holy, and be open to having a series of awakenings regarding Christ and the truth of the Bible. Engage in the journey and relationship.

Christianity is about a personal relationship with God. It's about a reconciliation between one person, you, and God, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It's like a romance, or a close friendship, or a father-son/father-daughter relationship. It's not about ritual or superstition. It's about turning from sin, and the lies we've believed about reality, and turning to Jesus Christ in faith.

Repentance is key to salvation in Jesus Christ. The word of God the Bible says to "Repent and believe the good news!" -Mark 1:15. What does it mean to repent? The concept of repenting is that we turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. To repent, means to "put to death" the works of our fleshly desires. A few of the sins that I had to put aside included: Drugs (I was a drug addict), alcohol (I drank constantly), cigarettes (destructive to the body), masturbation, having sex outside of marriage, pornography, lying, stealing (even pirated movies and music), sexual fantasizing, movies/tv series full of gore and sex, and many other sinful practices. Trust in the Holy Spirit, who will lead you to areas in your life that need to change. Be focused and concentrate on this process of repentance, because Christ expects us to be holy as He is holy.

Christianity is also about serving God. We renounce our plans for life and we embrace what God's will is for our lives. Like for me, I wanted to be a journalist or a novelist. But when I became a Christian, I realized through prayer, fasting, and Bible reading that God was calling me to be a minister. He doesn't call everyone to be ministers, often he calls us to a certain job or vocation. Once again, the Holy Spirit will lead you if you're yielded to His influence.

The three most important parts of our relationship with God are prayer, fellowship, and Bible reading. As a Christian I try to pray twice a day. Sometimes I'll say the "Our Father" but most often I'll just get on my knees and talk to God. It's about communication and love. And remember, if we love someone we'll spend real time with them. Not just ten or twenty minutes a day. But real time. So in your prayer life, don't just spent a few minutes praying, build it more and more until you're praying for an hour or hours a day. Prayer is how we talk to God, but how does God talk back? That's where Bible reading comes in. As I read the various books of the Bible, God will communicate through them to me. Isn't that cool? Of course being a Christian is not simply communicating with God, it's also fellowship and brotherhood between fellow believers.

Joining a church is an absolute necessity. We can't do it alone. We will die with nothing if we try to do it alone. A gazelle wandering away from the herd will be picked off and eaten by lions. There are no solo Christians. We must join a weekly fellowship and a must is also a weekly Bible study/small group. I repeat, this is not optional!
I would encourage you to find a Bible, a good understandable translation like the New International Version, the English Standard Version, New Living Translation, or even something very contemporary like The Message Translation. Read through the Gospel of John. That is my favorite Gospel. Luke, Mark, and Matthew are great too though! The Psalms are great to read through, they are poetry about out wonderful God. If you have trouble understanding exactly what's being talked about, consider purchasing a quality Study Bible. A Study Bible will include commentary and notes on the scriptures in front of you, to provide for better understanding of the Bible.

If you prefer to read on the computer, check out Bible Gateway. You can go through the Bible in any translation you like. There are even Bible commentaries, studies, and Audio Bibles. Bible hub is a good study website as well. For topical listings of Bible verses check out Open Bible. There are Bible apps as well, like YouVersion for all phones. Check out the Bible Project on YouTube, it's a great way to learn the big story of scripture.

Once you've read through the Bible, ask yourself, do I understand that I need a Savior to remove my sins? Do I realize I've fallen short of the perfect requirement of God, just like the rest of humanity? Do I understand that God is sovereign over my life, and I want him to be my personal God?

Then it's time to cry out to Jesus Christ. Call out to the name of Jesus Christ, with belief in your heart that Jesus can help you. Cry out with all your might. Scream out to Jesus for hope, for forgiveness, for freedom, and for salvation. I remember when I cried out to Jesus. I cried out in horror and misery, and it was like that cry echoed up into the heavens above, level by level reaching the very throne of God, and on that day the way was opened to salvation. Praise the Lord!

I could recommend many books for understanding the basics of Christian faith. The Pilgrim's Progress is a vital read for any Christian, available free online (updated language) PDF. Also available on Librivox as an audiobook. Peace with God by Billy Graham is excellent. Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray is available free in audio book format online at Librivox. "Know What You Believe" and "Know Why You Believe" by Paul Little are both very good books to read. They are fun reads too, which is nice. Additionally, "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer and "The Cross of Jesus Christ" by John R.W. Stott is amazing as well.

If you've come to understand your need for Jesus Christ, go on your knees before God, and say a prayer similar to this:

Father God of the Bible, I realize now that you're real, your Bible is real, and your son Jesus Christ is real. I admit to you Father that I've sinned against you, I confess my sins to you now (confess them one by one). I repent of my sins, please Lord set me free from every sin. And I admit that I need a Savior. You have provided that Savior. I accept him Father, today I accept your son Jesus Christ, and his work on the cross as the necessary payment for all my sins, past, present, and future. I recognize that Jesus resurrected from the dead to give me eternal life. Please Father, cloth me in His righteousness. Father God I acknowledge you as the sovereign Lord of my life, please grant me your Holy Spirit to guide me in my new life as a Christian. Thank you so much Father, it's in Jesus Christ name I pray this prayer, Amen.

Then pursue that new life. Find a good Bible believing church in your area. Join a weekly Bible study. Read books on the Christian life. Pray and pray a lot (15 minutes to 2 hours a day.) Get involved in discipleship (training Christians in deeper practices) and evangelism (telling non-believers about Jesus) as well.

Remember that as Christians we are all waiting for a culminating event at the end of the age: The return of Jesus Christ. Jesus will return, and we should be expectantly waiting for Him. Everyone will either go to heaven because they faithfully followed Jesus, or they will go to hell, if they rejected Christ, or failed to live a pure Christian life.

Learn and grow as a Christian. Establish a network of relationships with Christians in your area. And live it my friend, live it.

It will do us no good at all my friends, if we live as a Christian for many years, but then fall way later. We will be worse off than if we'd never known Jesus at all. Do not fall away! Stay strong and continue with Jesus Christ to the very end. Run your race well! Finish the journey strong, and live forever with your family of believers in the next phase of existence, after this life comes to an end. May God bless you and keep you until then!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Great Mother's from the Bible and Christian History

Moms are the best aren’t they? I have a great mom, she's awesome. She read books with me every night before bed when I was a kid. By 6th grade I had read about 10,000 books. We would often read the same books over and over, and I began to learn the styles and patterns for writing, and later on I would become a writer and blogger. Pretty cool.

So today I’d like to draw your attention to some awesome mother’s from the Bible and Christian history. Think of first of all Mary the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist.

Mary and Elizabeth don’t know it at that time, but God is literally going to change the world through the two children growing in their bellies. Isn’t that an amazing honor that women have, to raise up such great people of faith?

I think of Susanna Wesley the mother of Methodism. She trained up John and Charles, just as a mother, but she was utterly dedicated to her calling to be a great mother. She meticulously raised John and Charles to be men of God. And through her ministry to them, and their ministry to the world, millions of souls came into contact with Jesus Christ.

In the same way Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist. Does anyone here think John the Baptist is awesome? Very early on in my Christian life I thought John the Baptist was really, really cool. He lives in the wilderness, he’s an outcast, eating wild honey, crazy hair, eating bugs, preaching the word, rallying the people, the grassroots, to be prepared to welcome and embrace the coming of Jesus. And then we have Jesus, God come to Earth. He’s the savior, the king, our God, the maker of the universe, and the designer of the human soul. He’s goodness, love, holiness, purity, tenderness, friendship, and mystery before our very eyes. And it all started with Mary, and Elizabeth. Two mothers.

When I think of a great mother I also think of Abraham’s wife Sarah from the old testament. She had to wait a long time before she was able to conceive a child. In fact Sarah was considered barren. Yet she always longed to have a baby. And eventually God fulfilled her dream. And her son Isaac would be a great hero of the Bible.

I think of Naomi from the Bible. Her husband died and she was alone. Then her sons died as well. But her son’s wife Ruth stayed with Naomi. And Naomi guided Ruth as if Ruth were her own daughter. Maybe your own mother wasn’t much of a blessing. Maybe she wasn’t really there for you. But maybe you had another motherly figure in your life, someone who wasn’t your mom, but was more of a mother to you than anyone else in your life. That’s who Naomi was. She was a mother to Ruth, guiding her to make right choices and do God’s will. Here’s a word for you, if you didn’t have a great mother, maybe you can be a great mother to your own children, or be a great mother to someone who else who you care about? Pray about it.

Another motherly hero from the Bible was Samson's mother. We don’t even know her name from the Bible. But she honored God so well, by raising up Samson in the Lord. And even when Samson went astray and made bad choices, she continued to pray for him and hope for him and try to guide him to do the right things. Samson sinned greatly, but in the end he turned back to the Lord and the Lord granted him a great victory before he died.

Many, many of us here are only still breathing because we had a praying mother or a praying grandmother. Otherwise we’d be long dead. Mother, if you have a wayward son or daughter, whose causing trouble, keep praying and keep being that voice of loving accountability in their life! Never give up! Samson’s mom never did, and Samson won the day.

I think of another mother from Christian history, the famous Mother Teresa. This woman was a mother to so many who needed her. She served lost and homeless children on the streets of Calcutta, India. She was a mother to the world. Many mothers out there may not even have children, but they are mothering a whole bunch of people, friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers. It’s a great thing. Maybe God is calling you today to be a mother to a whole community of people. Maybe God is calling you to adopt children and change their stories forever. Pray about it.

I also think of Abigail Adams, a great mother from history. She was wife to the 2nd president of the united states John Adams. While John was often away on business, serving in the political sphere Abigail single-handedly raised their children, was in charge of the farm, and loved her husband dearly as well. In fact one of Abigail’s children John Quincy Adams wrote: "My mother was an angel upon earth. She was a minister of blessing to all human beings within her sphere of action. Her heart was the abode of heavenly purity… She was the real personification of female virtue, of piety, of charity, of ever active and never intermitting benevolence."

Being a mom is hard. It isn’t easy. It’s hard work. But women who raise their children up right, in the Lord, teaching them the Bible, end up being blessed, because their children will often go on to do great things for the Lord.

Our culture often diminishes motherhood as something that’s not of much value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children need great mothers and fathers to prosper. Motherhood is huge for children and our society. If you can be a great mother out their leading your children to worship Jesus, you can change the world. That’s what it’s all about when we consider loving people as Christ loves us.

In conclusion, happy mothers day to all the moms out there, even if you aren’t a biological mother, maybe you’re a mother in a different way, to people you know and friends. Reflect on the great mothers of the Bible and Christian history. Be a heroic mother who raises up her children in the Lord. Raising your children in the Lord may be the single great accomplishment of your life, that in the future means millions will come to know Christ because of them. Amen.