Sunday, July 31, 2022

Names of God: El Shaddai, The God who gives from His Own Abundance

"Roger Simms, hitchhiking his way home, would never forget the date--May 7. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sign to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?" "Sure am," Roger responded. "Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago." "Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?" "I have a business there. My name is Hanover." After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fifty-ish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, "Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important." He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger's astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."

Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. "You knew my husband?" Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me when that was?" "It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army." "Anything special about that day?" Roger hesitated. Should he mention giving his witness? Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge. "Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day." Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him." "And," said Roger, "Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?" "He's dead," she wept, struggling with words. "He was in a a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see--I thought God had not kept His promise." Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, "I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!" -J.Kirk Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 39-41.

Do you believe that God is faithful? Do you believe that he will work all things out? Because he certainly will. He is our provider. And from his bounty, we are fed.

But many times in life we try to feed ourselves from our own bounty, as we wait on God’s promises to come true.

This is what happened with Abraham. Thought Abraham and his wife were very advanced in years, they had no children. This was a big deal in ancient times. For a couple not to have a child, was embarrassing. More so, they had no one to carry their family line on.

This was tragic for Abraham. Yet God made a promise to him. It says in Genesis 17:1-2,“When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. 2 I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Abraham waited and waited for God to fulfill his promise. But the years passed, year by year they went. And nothing happened. God had made a promise. But the results weren’t appearing.

How often does this happen for us? We have hopes, dreams, and plans, and we wait for God to make them a reality. And we know God will answer. But time passes. More time passes. Years pass by. And we start to lose hope. Our faith starts to dwindle.

And then we get a bad idea, and we say to ourselves, I know, I’ll figure out a way to help God make it happen.

That’s what happened with Abraham and Sarah. Since God’s bounty hadn’t appeared yet, they decided to make their own way. Sarah invited Abraham to sleep with their servant Hagar, and Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to Ishmael.

They went out of God’s way and made their own way. And it didn’t work out too well. It caused conflict between Sarah and Abraham. And Hagar was mistreated by Sarah. Abraham asked God to make Ishmael his heir, and that was not God’s plan. In the end, Hagar was sent away with Ishmael. And only later, was God’s plan fulfilled, when Isaac was born after Sarah became pregnant.

The name of our God is El Shaddai, the God who is our bountiful provider, the Almighty One who can make anything happen, anything he wants. He takes the impossible, and suddenly it happens.

He is El Shaddai. El Shaddai is often translated in the Bible, as “God Almighty.” This points us to the fact of God’s ability to do miraculous things. He is able to break the laws of nature which he created to do miraculous things in the universe he made.

So it is physically impossible for Sarah to have a baby when she is elderly. But God breaks the physical laws of the human body and brings about the birth of a baby.

He is God almighty, able to do anything he desires, by breaking the rules of his own systems. That is what a miracle really means, when someone is miraculously healed, or when God suddenly provides something that seemed impossible, that is a miraculous event, God breaking the rules of his system to heal and help someone.

Yet there is also a deeper meaning to El Shaddai as the name of God. El Shaddai also means that God brings forth bounty and riches out of Himself to us.

Abraham and Sarah learned this, that what they desired could never come form their own efforts, it had to be a gift from God. It had to come from his bounty, from his storehouse, from his wealth, not from themselves.

That is who God is to us, he does not call us to create what we need, he calls us to wait on Him, and then God will provide from his bounty.

This points us forward to the new testament, when Jesus Christ would come, and would provide our salvation for us as a free gift, not something from our own efforts, but a gift we receive from God.

Our God is El Shaddai, God almighty, who perfectly forms the systems of the universe and is able to change the rules to create miracles in our lives. And he is God who provides from his own bounty, not from our efforts or plans, but from Himself, as we wait patiently on Him to provide. We receive it as a free gift. That is how it works. Praise the Lord.

“So we see that the name Almighty God speaks to us of the inexhaustible stores of His bounty, of the riches and fulness of His grace in self-sacrificing love pouring itself out for others. It tells us that from God comes every good and perfect gift,, that He never wearies of pouring His mercies and blessings upon His people. But we must not forget that His strength is made perfect in our weakness; His sufficiency is most manifest in our insufficiency; His fullness in our emptiness, that being filled, from us may flow rivers of living water to a thirsty and needy humanity.” -Nathan Stone, Names of God, p. 42

The Battle of Thermopylae and the Body of Christ Today: The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

“The east was on a collision course with the west in 480 BC. The world watched in awe as the largest army in history poured into Europe. Heading this colossal war machine was Xerxes, the king of Persia. His army numbered almost two million foot soldiers, eighty thousand horsemen, twenty thousand chariots, camel-riding Arabs, and war elephants from India. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that when this beast from the east marched, the ground shook. When it stopped to drink, pools were dried up and rivers reduced to a trickle.

You may remember Xerxes as the husband of the biblical heroine Esther. This self-proclaimed “king of kings” spent four years amassing his titanic force to crush tiny Greece. It was the mismatch of the ages. Greece was a collection of city-states warring against each other. Athens was mired in social stagnation, and Sparta was in economic shambles. Never was a nation so vulnerable. Yet five Greek cities managed to scrape together about five thousand soldiers. They were outnumbered 430 to 1. But at their core were three hundred Spartans. These three hundred had been trained since childhood to stand or die in battle. Every Spartan mother sent her sons off to war with this warning: “Come home with your shield, or on it.”

The Greeks took their stand in a narrow pass, fifty feet wide, with the sea on one side and towering cliffs on the other, at a place called Thermopylae. This battleground has become hallowed in military history. It is to the Greeks what the Alamo is to Texans. In that narrow pass a heroic handful held back the Persian hordes for two days. When Xerxes finally unleashed his crack storm troopers, the Greeks annihilated them. But on the third night, a traitor showed the Persians a secret trail through the cliffs into Thermopylae. Sure death was coming with the breaking dawn. Dismissing the rest of the Greeks, General Leonidas led his three hundred Spartans, along with some loyal Thespians, to a mound where they made their final stand.

This small band of Spartans died without knowing they were changing history. They bought enough time for the Greek cities to raise a great army. Their heroism triggered a surge of national pride that led to decisive victories at Salamis and Plataea. The power of Persia was broken. The future of civilization shifted from Asia to Europe. Athens became the world’s most influential city. Greek culture and democracy would give birth to the modern world. Maybe you are facing overwhelming odds. Perhaps you have suffered a crushing defeat. Take heart from the story of three hundred Spartans. Surely it teaches us a valuable lesson:

There are some defeats whose triumphs rival victories.” -Robert Petterson, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories

"Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm." -Psalm 20:7-8

As the body of Christ today, sometimes we feel like the 300 at Thermopylae don’t we? It often seems like the darkness is closing in on all sides, particularly in the west. New forms of evil on every side seem to grow and spread like locusts. Mass systems of public education and universities and colleges grind like gears of secularism mass producing anti-religious worldviews, and growing hatred and mistrust toward Christians and people of faith. We feel surrounded on every side by a growing darkness in these difficult days.

We see strange new technologies being developed, even microchips that can be implanted in people’s brains. We see scientists experimenting, by colliding particles at rapid speeds. We see scientists experimenting with chimeras and gain of function research to viruses, and new weaponry, and we see culture sexualizing children at younger and younger ages. We see violent extremism, we see Marxism, and critical theory, and other ideologies that threaten to disrupt society. We see massive debt in the government in the trillions upon trillions, we see rampant inflation, and economic uncertainty.

Yet we also see that the body of Christ stands firm even now. The Christian movement across the face of the world is growing, not declining. Even in the United States, evangelical Christianity is holding firm, as mainline protestant Christianity is tumbling in memberships, as they compromise with the world on key issues like marriage and life and gender and such worldly ideologies. The body of Christ continues to plant new churches, the body of Christ continues to advocate for life, for marriage, for children, for charity, and for the hurting and the lost. The body of Christ continues to serve at soup kitchens and homeless shelters and evangelism outreaches and coffee shops and women's shelters and human trafficking outreaches and pregnancy resource centers and political action organizations. The body of Christ shares the gospel in unique ways through television, radio, books, movies, the internet, tracts, relationships, groups, street evangelism and much more. The body of Christ continues to pull people from the clutches of sin and addiction and into the kingdom of God by the thousands every day. The body of Christ continues to stand boldly against the darkness, shining ever brighter, and victoriously against sin, death, hell, and apostasy.

I think we few in the remnant Church of the body of Christ in the USA and Europe, are like the 300 right now. Satan has positioned so much of his demonic forces to pervert and destroy the western world. But with so much of Satan’s forces focused on the west, the gospel can spread more rapidly through other parts of the world, like southern Africa, India, the middle east, China, and various other segments of unreached people groups. We have to hold the line against millions of demons, with only a scant few scattered forces in the west that still hold firmly to the radical teachings of Christ. That is our call, to stand in that gap, to hold the line against the night, even as all the enemy’s attention is focused here. Maybe our sacrifice here, will help spread the gospel to other nations around the world.

Often times, just like the Spartans at Thermopylae, we win by losing, we win by giving up everything for our cause, and from the blood of our losses and defeats, spring forth the victory of times in the future.

The Spartans at Thermopylae were able to hold their position so long because they found a choke point and lined up shoulder to shoulder forming a phalanx, that was impenetrable. They would lock shields, shields in front and shields above their heads, and they would form a powerful line that couldn’t be broken.

Unfortunately it’s not always like that in the body of Christ. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so tough being a Christian. Often times our deepest hurts and pains come not from attacks by the world or secular culture, but they come from attacks from fellow Christians.

Sometimes this can be attributed to Christians who make a mistake, or are young in their faith walk, and hurt us without realizing what they are doing due to inexperience, however, it can also be for another reason, because they are like the weeds sowed amongst the wheat of the crops, in our parable today.

Our parable today is the parable of the wheat and the tares, from the book of Matthew 13, the same chapter from the last week when we looked at the parable of drawing in the nets. This parable really goes into greater depth than our parable from last week, and we get an explanation from Jesus about what it means. Let’s dive in.

From Matthew 13:24-30, “He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he told them.

“‘So, do you want us to go and pull them up?’ the servants asked him.

29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you pull up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but collect the wheat in my barn.’”

The NIV renders the bad seed as weeds, but the KJV renders them as “tares.” And I think tares is most likely what Jesus meant when he shared this parable. A tare when it first grows looks almost exactly like wheat. Today we call it darnel, or poison darnel or cockle. And it’s called poison darnel for a very good reason, it’s poisonous to eat.

Wheat on the other hand is wonderful isn’t it? It’s just perfect. Wheat is just… I love wheat. Don’t we all just love wheat so much? Oh heavenly wheat, a gift from God himself. I could go on and on. Wheat is so wonderful. Why? Because from wheat we make flour, and from flour we make bread. Oh, delicious bread. Mother and I love to go to Tim Hortons, and we get their soup, and along with each soup they give you a half cut of their wondrous artisan bread. Grandma made bread growing up too, and it was so delicious. French bread, sour dough, flat bread, bread is just wonderful.

Our gift from God is wheat. And similarly, we as the body of Christ, come in one of two forms, wheat or weeds. But if we’re wheat, we’re pretty special, honestly, think of all the things you can make wheat into, when it’s ground into flour, bread, biscuits, cookies, crepes, donuts, pasta, scones, naan, cake, biscotti, shortbread, muffins, and on and on the list goes.

Similarly, in the body of Christ we find all sorts of wonderful giftings, we find servants, drivers, evangelists, literature experts, painters, missionaries, writers, architects, builders, leaders, administrators, cooks, healers, gardeners, prophets, dreamers, pastors, teachers, inventors, scientists, CEOs, revivalists, prayer warriors, planners, bloggers, designers, visionaries, tongue-speakers, musicians, and on and on the list goes.

So in this parable we have the kingdom of God, and a farmer planting seed, and wheat growing up, and weeds sowed in the fields by the enemy, and the servants ask if they should pull the weeds, the master says no, instead at the harvest they will split up the two and deal with it then. What does this all mean?

Like I said earlier, we get the interpretation from Jesus directly later when he talks with his disciples.

From Matthew 13:36-43, “36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

So Jesus helps us understand the meaning plainly. Just like last week, we see that we can’t expect to uproot the bad apples right now. We can’t pull out the tares. They look very similar to the wheat, we would end up throwing out wheat as well as weeds.

But at the time of the harvest it will become very clear. Because did you know, that when wheat blooms, it bows down and offers up it’s white seed, it’s fruit. But the darnel, the cockle does not bow, and it offers up black seeds, that are poisonous to humans. What a perfect metaphor for us today, will we be stiff necked and prideful and refuse to bow before Jesus and serve his people, or will we be like the wheat, producing good fruit, and bowing down humbly to give it up to the master?

We see two destinations indicated by the Lord, those who do evil and sin, they will be thrown into the blazing furnace, for permanent weeping and grinding of teeth. And the righteous ones, will shine brightly, in the kingdom of the Lord, permanently as well.

Whoever has ears to hear this message, let them hear it and put it into practice.

This helps us to understand why we feel so isolated sometimes, and why we feel like other Christians don’t live up to the calling, and don’t really know Jesus deeply, because the wheat and the tares are growing together. So if you’ve been hurt deeply by someone in the church, just realize, they may have been a tare, and don’t let them turn you away from Jesus. Then again, maybe they were just an immature Christian who made a mistake as well. We just don’t know. So honestly, I try to regard anyone who claims the name of Christ as a Christian, but, I also watch for their fruit, and this helps me to see what they truly are. Yet even if I don’t see fruit, I may not see it, and it’s not my place to try to uproot and remove weeds. Of course we do have a system of church discipline in accordance with Matthew 18 to deal with people who are causing problems in the body. So we have to balance these various things together.

In any case, how can we put these things into practice today?

1. 300 can beat 250,000 in the kingdom of God, don’t ever give up, no matter how outmatched you are, God can do anything

2. As you see wickedness growing in the world be determined to shine even brighter for Christ

3. If a Christian hurts you, this was expected as the wheat & tares grow together

4. You have a gift, just like the wheat, a unique gift to offer for Jesus, use it

5. Be patient in affliction, knowing that God will work it out on judgment day

6. Serve Christ whole-heartedly and bow down and offer your fruit (good deeds) to God daily

7. Stay humble, and don’t let your love grow cold, keep loving even in the growing darkness of this world

If you’re feeling like the Spartans at Thermopylae, surrounding and under heavy attack by the world, don’t lose heart, even when another Christian hurts you. Understand that the wheat and tares are growing together. Continue to fight and stand firm. Because just as the Spartans offered up their lives for freedom and victory over the enemy, so we Christians must offer up ourselves, all that we have to Christ, just as the wheat grows slowly, month by month, and at the appropriate time comes to full bloom, bows it’s head, and offers up it’s fruit to the farmer, to be gathered. So we too must offer up ourselves and our fruit to the Lord of all, King Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Names of God: Adonai

"Servant" in our English New Testament usually represents the Greek doulos (bondslave). Sometimes it means diakonos (deacon or minister); this is strictly accurate, for doulos and diakonos are synonyms. Both words denote a man who is not at his own disposal, but is his master's purchased property. Bought to serve his master's needs, to be at his beck and call every moment, the slave's sole business is to do as he is told. Christian service therefore means, first and foremost, living out a slave relationship to one's Savior (1 Corinthians. 6:19-20).

What work does Christ set his servants to do? The way that they serve him, he tells them, is by becoming the slaves of their fellow-servants and being willing to do literally anything, however costly, irksome, or undignified, in order to help them. This is what love means, as he himself showed at the Last supper when he played the slave's part and washed the disciples' feet.”
-James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

Today we consider God’s name, the name Adonai. The first time this name for God is used, is in Genesis 15, let’s look at verses 1-6:

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Adonai-Jehovah, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

The name Adonai occurs about 300 times in the Old Testament. Every time it’s used it’s written as a possessive plural form. So it could actually be read as “my Lords” which reminds us that God is a trinity, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But Adonai what it really means is, master or owner. It’s a Hebrew word that can also refer to a person who owns property or a person who owns slaves or other ways of describing ownership or being ones master.

What this really reminds us is that, “…God is the owner of each member of the human family, and that he consequently claims the unrestricted obedience of all.”

Abraham acknowledges this when he calls God his “master” his “Adonai.” God has every right to have authority over our lives. We all have lived in rebellion to our Adonai, fleeing from him and chasing after sin. But we can return to our master and say to Him, Adonai, you are our owner, and our master, and we submit to your authority, because you made us, and we belong to you.

We can say it. But it then has to be proved out in our actions. Every decision you make in life either says, Adonai to God, or says I refuse you God. Every decision you make, from the words you say, to the content you view on tv or internet or your cell phone, to how you treat people, and what things you eat, and if you’re orienting your life to tangibly serve others.

In all those decisions you’re either saying Adonai God you are my master, or you’re saying God I reject you and I’m getting what I want.

Another man who called God Adonai, was Moses, in the book of Exodus. In exodus 4, when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush,

From Exodus 4:10-15 “10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, (Adonai) Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord (Adonai) Please send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.”

Both times as Moses speaks to God, he refers to him as Adonai, as master or owner, but even that Moses doesn’t want to obey his master. And God becomes angry with him, but also makes a way for him to do His will.

Gideon when speaking to God refers to the Lord as Adonai. In the book of Ezekiel it occurs 200 times. But we also see Adonai appear in the New Testament.

“We are said to be not our own, we have been bought with a price. We belong to God who is our Lord and master. We are therefore bidden to glorify God in body and spirit, which are His (1 Cor 6:19, 20). Many scriptures set forth this relationship to God as His servants. We are exhorted to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God holy and acceptable, and this as our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). We are to understand what the will of our Lord Adonai is (Eph 5:17). And Peter calls us children of obedience to he who called us (1 Peter 1:14-15) and He is the master who has bought us (2 Peter 2:1).” -Nathan Stone, Names of God

Yet it is in the life of Jesus Christ that we find the perfect example being a servant. Jesus was the perfect servant, modeling how we should live in this world. Jesus lived in perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father.

So if God is indeed Adonai, the God who is our master and owner, how should we live in response to that fact? We should live like Jesus lived. He was the servant of all people. He did God’s will in everything. He didn’t sin. He loved people genuinely and deeply. He wept and faced many difficulties and was persecuted and harassed and people argued with him. He spoke the truth boldly and never sugar coated what he said. He taught the truth faithfully, healed the sick, met needs, and loved his disciples.

Do you fully understand the fact that God has total authority over you? Do you get that? God is your Lord, and your master. He made you. He made the universe. He owns you. You are his servant. Live that way.

Much of our world is setup in rebellion against God, because people do not want to serve God, they want to serve themselves. So they pretend like God isn’t there. Yet deep inside they know that there’s something special about the world. Deep inside they know there is right and wrong, and right and wrong have a source, in God. But they hide from God, and live their own life, their own way, and reject God as their Adonai.

But I encourage you to live your life understanding in every moment that God is your master and you are his servant. Then you will live right, and you will live a life pleasing to God.

Taking the Red Pill to escape Satan's Matrix: Coming to the End of Yourself

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

The Matrix. Do you want to know what it is?

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” -Excerpts from the Matrix (1999)

Are you ready for the truth? Growing up in this world there was always a splinter in my mind. I was taught a particular way of life. I didn’t see anything beyond it. Life was a happy accident. Get rich. Have a family. Pay your taxes. Watch your television. Live a normal life. Focus on the physical. Watch the news. Live for yourself. Do what you want. And just be happy.

I embraced that life, and lived it. Yet deep down inside, there was a splinter in my mind, driving me mad. It was very quiet at first, easily ignored. Over the years it grew louder and louder, until I realized something was missing. I was seeing through a web of lies built around me my whole life. And I began to see the truth. A terrible truth, far beyond anything you could imagine. That there was something terribly wrong with the world. Most people can see that one. But deeper and further in, I realized, there is something terribly and fundamentally wrong with me. I do bad things. And I need something more. Nothing in this world satisfies me. And I was empty inside. I was broken. As much as I pretended I just needed more self esteem and more happy pills and more personal peace and affluence, I soon realized, I was the problem, and I needed to be fundamentally changed within. I realized I was sin.

That is the horrible thing, none of us want to admit, none of us want to realize, most don’t go beyond, I see something wrong in the world, but some few will go further and realize, I see something wrong in me. I need something new. I need something outside myself, to make me right. That is where God comes in. We realize, we’re departed and disconnected from the infinite creator of the universe. And that is something we fight our whole lives. We’d almost rather die than face it. We run, we rebel, we flee, but then a lucky few one day realize, I can’t run anymore. I will return to God. And everything changes.

It reminds me a man 2000 years ago named Simon. He was a fisherman. Probably many a day and night sailing the sea, wondering at the skyline and the rain and the sun overhead, wondering if there was something more. And he began to fail at his trade. He couldn’t seem to make ends meet. And one day he had fished all night and had caught nothing. He’s at the end of his rope. He’s hopeless. He’s miserable. And he’s realizing, I just can’t make life work anymore. And at that moment, God intersected his story. And said to him, cast out, one more time, and Simon said, alright, I will. So he did. And he caught so many fish the nets couldn’t barely hold the catch. Simon would later become a new man. He became Peter. A leader of the body of Christ.

Often times, we have to come to the end of ourselves, and hit a rock bottom, to be ready for what’s ahead. We come to the end of our efforts, just like Peter did, fishing all night, and caught nothing. And at that moment when we realize, I’m not enough, I can’t do it, I’m lost, I’m miserable, I’m the problem, God comes to us, at the moment when we are teachable, and he reveals himself to us.

Time and again in my Christian life, these realizations and teachable moments return. We come to the end of ourselves as Christians a great deal don’t we? Time and again in our walk with Christ, we hit the worst case scenario, and we can’t go on, and can’t continue, and then Christ comes to us, at that teachable moments, and changes us within.

There are many hard truths in the Christian faith. That’s why I used as the opening, the revelation of the matrix to Neo. When Neo finds out what the truth really is, it’s horrible beyond words. He finds out the human race is enslaved in a hopelessly desperate situation.

Waking up to know Jesus Christ, and the reality of sin and the fall, we find ourselves in a similarly desperate scenario. It’s rather scary actually. If anyone human dies without Jesus as their savior, they are sent to hell, forever. No second chances. No way of escape. Fires consume them forever. It’s a dangerous situation. And we find ourselves sinners, in the hands of a God who will judge with righteous judgment.

Which brings us to our parable today, the parable of drawing in the nets. Last week we talked about signs of the end times, this week, our parable is about the judgment at the end of the world. The judgment seat of Christ.

Our reflection question for today is, “Am I prepared for the final judgment day of Christ? Would I be found faithful on that day?”

But first lets take a look at our context. We’re in Matthew 13, which contains several different parables. Closely related to our parable today is the parable at the beginning of Matthew 13, which is about the wheat and the tares. But then later on in the chapter, we see this context, two parables we’ve already discussed.

From Matthew 13:44-46: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” –Matthew 13:44-46

If you remember these parables tell us about the commitment we should make it response to finding the gospel of Jesus Christ, our response should be completely radical, giving up everything in our lives to follow Jesus instead. It’s like treasure in a field, or fine pearls, and we give up everything to embrace a new way, the way of Christ.

Then we see our parable today, which says this, from Matthew 13:47-52:

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The kingdom of God, is gathering all sorts of people from everywhere, every tribe, every nation, every age, class, and group, and gathering them to Christ the savior. Yet there are two kinds of people inside God’s kingdom, there are the true disciples and the false followers. There are the sheep, who follow obediently, and the goats who resist and go their own ways. These look very similar to each other.

And our instinct as Christians is to want to try to sort out the good fish and the bad fish. Here Lord, let me help you sort them out. We’ll figure out which ones are the bad fish now, today, and we’re get rid of them. But Jesus tells us in other parables not to do that, in the parable at the beginning of Matthew 13, the servants tell the master that an enemy has sown weeds in the fields of wheat. And his servants ask the master, should we try to uproot the weeds? And the master says no because you’ll accidentally uproot some of the good wheat as well.

Similarly, in the parable of the drawing in of the nets, we’re told that the nets of God’s kingdom are gathering all sorts of people, obedient Christians and disobedient Christians. True converts and false converts. Holy followers of Jesus and worldly half in half out followers. And we shouldn’t try to remove the bad fish now.

Instead, we should wait until the coming of Jesus Christ. Wait until the judgment day. And Jesus will sort them out on that day. And we’re told what will happen to the disobedient ones, the bad fish, they will be cast in a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Immediately after sharing this parable, Jesus turns to them and says, “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” –Matthew 13:47-52

What does Jesus our savior mean by this? He could be summing up all the parables he just told. He’s saying, anyone who has been a faithful jew, will get credit in the kingdom of heaven not only for what they do after receiving the gospel, but also what they did before receiving the gospel. Very interesting. What does that have to do with the parable he just told though? You’ll have to research that on your own. I’m not certain.

After telling these parables, then at the end of Matthew 13, Jesus went to his home town. Take a look, just to understand the context.

It says, “When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” –Matthew 13:53-57’

I don’t know that this event is inexorably connected with the parables he just told. But it does remind us that unbelief is a danger to our relationship with Christ. In his hometown they had seen Jesus grow up. So they doubted him. And they took offense at him. Let’s make sure we don’t take offense at Jesus. Just because of the difficult situation we find ourselves in as Christians in a fallen world, don’t take offense at Christ, for what we and our ancestors did through sin and destruction.

In conclusion today, this parable reminds us of the kingdom of God, and how it works, it removes the cover from our eyes, and we see the truth, that God will separate within the kingdom of God, the righteous and the wicked. And heaven and hell stand before us.

How can we put these teachings into practice today? Seven 
  1. See the world around you as it truly is: A fallen planet awaiting judgment from God
  2. See the dangers of sin, lust, selfishness, and worldliness and live soberly, giving careful thought to your ways
  3. See the incredible hope, mercy, and grace found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, realize your sins are forgiven and rejoice
  4. Recognize the insane level of danger lost people are in and pray fervently for them and share the gospel with people around you
  5.  Have the courage to see the difficult truths in life. Have the attitude of simply wanting to know the naked truth of all things
  6.  Live righteously, rejecting sin of every kind
  7.  When you come to the end of yourself, realize that’s where God brings us to allow us to reach new levels of maturity in Christ
Be courageous brothers and sisters. We live in difficult times. Yet we also live in infinite joy and hope, because our sins have been washed away by Jesus blood. He’s taken us from being the problem, to being heralds of the solution. He’s taken us from being broken, miserable, defeated filthy sinners, to glorious born again cleansed renewed majestic carriers of the living word of God, the gospel, heirs, and saints of the new kingdom of God, citizens of the New Jerusalem, princes and princesses, royalty, awaiting reward and victory in paradise in the next life, beyond the veil of tears and death in this life. Realize your identity in Christ, and rejoice, because you have found the solution, just like how Morpheus freed Neo from the matrix of lies, of the fallen world of Satan, so we’ve been freed from kingdom of Satan, the slavery to consumerism and selfishness and pride and sin, and we’ve been woken up in Christ to the difficult truth that we need a savior. And now we have a savior. And our challenging mission now is to help lost broken sinful humanity receive Christ as their savior before it’s too late, before the nets are pulled in and the wicked and the righteous are separated at the judgment seat of Christ. Live that out brothers and sisters. Live differently. Amen.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Names of God: Jehovah, The God Who is Infinite, Just, & Judge

Today we talk about the name of God found most often in the Old Testament, that is the name Jehovah.

There is a lot of rich meaning within the name of God Jehovah. The Hebrew word for Jehovah derives from the Hebrew word for “being” or “to be.” It’s also virtually identical to the Hebrew word for “life” or “to live.”

God is fundamentally self-existent, that’s the first thing we learn from this name of God. Everything in the universe, from you, to plants to animals, to products, buildings, everything has a parent, or a builder, or something that it came from. This goes all the way back to the first cat, the first pine tree, the first human. I was born from my parents. My cat came from two other cats. The tree in my front yard came from an acorn that fell in the ground or was placed there 50 years ago.

But it’s logical to think that if we go back in time, to the beginning of the universe, the beginning of all things, there has to be one supreme being who made all things, out of nothing.

There has to be an uncaused first cause. That is who we believe our God is, an infinite being, a self-existent being, infinite, with no start, no end, outside time, outside space, beyond everything tangible. The self-existent one who says, I am who I am.

Exodus 3:13-15 says, “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’

14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’

15 God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” ‘This is my name for ever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

He’s in total control. That’s very comforting. It’s also scary for me. When I was writing this message I found myself afraid. God is real. He controls everything. He has total power. If he wants to toss me into hell, there’s not a single thing I can do about it. If he wants to guide me into heaven, I can’t stop him from bringing me there when I die. God has total infinite power.

This brings us to our second concept of what the name Jehovah means. God is the righteous moral judge of us. He is always observing, every choice we make, every thought we think, and every word we speak. And he will judge us righteously, either through the perfect righteousness of Christ, or based on your own deeds and your own sins.

Psalm 89:13-15 You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face

The name Jehovah tells us that God loves us, but it also reminds us God’s love is conditioned on his moral nature. God is the judge of the universe. And we are accountable to Him for how we live our lives.

If we steal something, that breaks God’s moral order. If we lie, or hurt someone, we break God’s moral order. If we sin, we find ourselves justly exposed to the wrath of God. Which is hell. And hell is permanent.

One famous preacher said it like this in his sermon title, We’re sinners in the hands of an angry God. It’s a very dangerous situation. Because sin has to be removed from everything. God is going to make everything good again. He’s going to fix Earth.

And we can either join in on that, or we can get thrown out with the rest of the sin of the world. If you want to remain in your sin, there is a place for you, it’s called hell. It’s the only place where sin can exist. Under God’s eternal wrath.

Jehovah is the God of the moral order. He is the God who is the righteous judge. And if we one day stand before in sin, after we die, when he judges us guilty, we will declare in response, in complete agreement, “amen.”

That’s why we should fear the Lord. We should fear Jehovah. We should respect Jehovah. We should remember Jehovah will judge us, and live innocent in Christ Jesus our savior, all our days on the Earth. God made everything. God made us. He owns us. And he can do with us as we he desires. But God is perfectly holy and right, his judgments will be right. And if we’re found guilty, and sent to hell, we’ll know in our hearts that his judgment was right.

That’s why it’s so important to repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus. Are you practicing sin in your life? Are you stealing? Are you living sexually immoral? Are you watching porn? Are you manipulating friends and family? Are you thinking wicked thoughts? Are you hating others? Are you refusing to forgive people who have hurt you? Repent now. Repent means to change. To turn away from something. Turn away from those sins now. Ask God for forgiveness in christ and begin to live differently. Pray right now, he will forgive you and then tell him I repent, He then forgives us, and we start living differently.

Jehovah is the righteous judge of all people. Moses said, “Just and right is he” and “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” said Abraham to the Lord.

And it says in Leviticus 19:2 “You shall be holy; for I Jehovah your Elohim, am holy.”

The angels and living creatures always cry out before God: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come!”

Nathan Stone, author of Names of God says it this way, “It is this righteousness of Jehovah against which man sins. And a righteous Jehovah whose holiness is thus violated and outraged must condemn unrighteousness and punish it. It is Jehovah who sends man forth from the garden, for Jehovah is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab 1:13). Jehovah “created man to enjoy and to exhibit His righteousness.” So He demands righteousness and justice and holiness from the creatures made in His image. It is as Jehovah that He looks upon a wicked and corrupt earth and says, “I will destroy.” It is as Jehovah that He rains fire and brimstone upon an iniquitous Sodom and Gomorrah. It is as Jehovah that He is angered so often again a sinning, wicked Israel. It is Jehovah who says to Moses: “Whoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book (Exodus 32:33).

But as Jehovah he is also love. His love makes Him grieve and suffer for the sins and sorrows of His creatures. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” says Jeremiah of Jehovah (31:3). In the Book of Judges, we forsook Jehovah and served the elohim of the peoples about them, Jehovah’s anger brought grievous punishment upon them, Jehovah’s anger brought grievous punishment upon them; but of the same Jehovah it is said: “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:16). “in all their afflictions he was afflicted” says Isaiah 63:9 in a context full of the love and pity of Jehovah… But while as Jehovah His holiness must condemn, He is also Love, and His love redeems; and He seeks to bring man back into fellowship with Himself. So, as one writer says, “Wherever the name ‘Jehovah’ appears, after man has fallen from original righteousness, what see we-but that God is ever seeking the restoration of man.”

Jehovah though he is a God of perfect righteousness, self-existent and terrifying, He is also God who finds a way to remove our sins. We stand guilty, and so God comes himself to pay off our debt, as Jesus Christ, God with us, lived perfectly in a sinful world, and suffered and died on the cross to pay our penalty, and give us new life.

So repent of your sins, and put your faith hope and allegiance in Christ. Serve Him all your days. And you can be free from sin, and you’ll be righteous in Christ, and then you’ll be ready for paradise, the new life. The new eternal life. That’s Jehovah, he makes a way for us. Most people still reject that way, they choose hell by rejecting Christ. Don’t let that be you. Choose eternal life with Christ. Then you’ll be free forever, from sin and death. No hell for you, instead, eternal life.

Jehovah is eternal, all powerful, a just judge, and a merciful God, who offers us a way to get back to paradise. Choose Jehovah today, and live. Or, reject Jehovah, and choose death. It’s before you. Make your choice.

Signs of the End Times: The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree

It was AD 70, 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the walls of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel were surrounded by Roman soldiers numbering over 60,000. The walls were crumbling, the Romans were advancing, thousands had already died when various cities in the north and eastern regions had been destroyed by the Romans.

Four years early several different Jewish sects had led radical rebellions against the occupying romans, and scored several victories, overthrowing the Romans and restoring Jewish control over the nation of Israel. But as soon as the news had reached the ears of Nero the emperor of Rome, he dispatched a Roman army to retake the hotly disputed territory.

The Roman force defeated an army of 10,000 Jewish troops which fled in the face of their overwhelming numbers. Now the Roman army had surrounded Jerusalem itself, the holy city, defended by three layers of walls. The Jews made the Romans pay dearly, attacking their soldiers building the siege works. And they made them pay dearly for every inch of ground. When the Roman army attacked through the second level of defenses, the Jews built a tunnel under their siege ramps and set them on fire, bringing them tumbling down.

But finally the Romans had breached all 3 walls, and attacked the last fortress of Jerusalem, the Antonia fortress, built by Herod to protect and control the temple. They breached the Antonia, and they surrounded the Jew’s sacred temple. At this moment Jews, not just soldiers, but men, women, and child, took anything they could use as weapons, and defended the temple, the most sacred symbol of Judaism. But the Romans could not be stopped. They slaughtered the mobs, and burned the temple to the ground, smashing it to pieces.

And ever since then the Jews had lived as exiles among the nations.

All of this chaos and destruction, Jesus knew about long before, 40 years earlier, in a conversation from Luke 21, 5 and 6 which says, “5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’”

Jesus the son of God, knew 40 years ahead of time, that the nation of Israel would reject Him as their messiah. He knew what they really wanted, when he came, they wanted a political leader to help them overthrow the roman empire. But that wasn’t the reason that Jesus came. Jesus came to save us not from political powers, but from our own sins, and the penalty for them. The Jews did not recognize the coming of their messiah. Which is why Jesus when he saw Jerusalem, he wept for the city, because they did not recognize his coming.

All of this today, connects with our parable today, from the book of Luke, chapter 21, the parable of the budding fig tree.

It’s a very brief parable, only 3 verses. Yet it’s important enough to be included in Mark, Matthew, and Luke’s gospel. But before we get into it, let’s take a look at the context of the parable, from Luke 21.

So Jesus tells his disciples that the temple will be destroyed, so don’t be too impressed by it’s beauty. Then it says, “ ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?

8 He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’”

Here we see Jesus beginning to teach about events that will take place after he is crucified and the early church will face persecution and false teachers. This is also a teaching about the last days of Christians. Then Jesus addresses what will take place for the disciples…

Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Notice he says, “before this” they will persecute you. Notice that all of these things being described by Jesus are things that happened to people like Peter and Paul in the book of Acts, which documents the activities of the early church.

And he reminds them, I will protect you, to the point that not a hair on your head will perish, yet, God will also make it clear when it’s your time, and some of you will be put to death. Are those two statements in contradiction?

No, I don’t think so. He’s saying that not a hair on your head will perish. Yet he also says some will be put to death. That is how it works in the kingdom of God. Not a single hair on my head can be touched until it’s the appropriate time for me to go. Only until then. Not before. Only when God says.

Next we see Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, when he says, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

Stop at verse 24, and that is speaking about the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Then, the times of the gentiles would begin, that us. From AD 70 until now, the gospel has spread through the gentile nations.

Then in verses 25-28 Jesus talks about the last days, which are times still ahead of us. He says, ‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

So Jesus tells us there will be all these things happening in the last days, in a time we call the great tribulation during the end times. There will be hurricanes, people will be full of terror. The heavenly bodies will be shaken, so stays in the sky, constellations will change and shift and people will be terrified. During those times, then Jesus will come with power and glory.

Then, Jesus tells our parable today, fitting it into the context of observing the seasons and times that we’re in carefully, and he says, “He told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig-tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”

It’s a very simple, and brief parable. What does it look like on the trees after winter? They are completely bare. They look very empty. You just see cold, wet branches. Every year it shocks me and I think, look at how barren those trees look. They could never sprout green leaves again, look at them, they’re dead. And then to our surprise every year they produce leaves, and grow thick and green and weighed down again. And we know then that spring has come. And we’re excited.

In the same way, we should observe the times we’re in and watch carefully for the signs of the times. Just like back when Jesus told this parable, they could remember the words of Jesus, and say oh yes, Jesus said Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies. And we should try to escape.

Pretty simple, know the times your in. Have discernment in regard to things going on in the world. I can watch for certain indications that Christ is returning soon. I’ll give you a few examples.

1. Knowledge has increased, in the book of Daniel we’re told that knowledge would increase across the planet before the end times. Today we have the internet and knowledge is available at our fingertips 24/7

2. Stirrings of one world government. According to Revelation the anti-Christ will have power over the entire world, so it’s wise to watch for stirrings of one world government. We see certain alliances, like European Union, the United Nations, and other alliances. We’re not there yet though

3. We’re told in Revelation that in the tribulation people will be forced to take a ‘mark’ to show their submission to the anti-Christ. We see increasing ways for people to be marked, whether by a tattoo or a microchip implant

4. Israel became a nation again after WWII, the Bible prophesied that this would happen and in the 1950s it did.

These are just some examples of things to watch for in the world, to discern the times and seasons we’re in.

Jesus then tells his disciples, “‘Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

And all the things he mentions there, that he says will happen, did happen. The temple was destroyed, Israel was taken prisoner and spread to the nations, historians call that the diaspora. That’s why the Nazi’s were so easily able to target and exterminate Jews. They were spread throughout Germany, Poland, Austria, France, Belgium, and all the European nations, and were also viewed with distrust, because though they lived in foreign nations they always held onto their Jewish identity.

Many get confused and say “Jesus said all these things will take place before this generation passes.” Doesn’t that mean he should’ve returned? But Jesus was talking about the things he said would happen in their time, he also talked about the future there, about after the times of the gentiles were over. So no, he was only referring to those things he said would happen presently, not the things mentioned for the distant future.

Then we get one final warning from Jesus here, he says, “34 ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’”

This was probably mainly a warning for the Jews living at this time, that they should be prepared for very difficult times after he left them.

But I think it’s also an important warning for us as well.

Be careful, each of us here, be careful that we don’t become complacent, lazy, weighed down with “carousing” that sexually acting out, or drunkenness, where we’re always eating and getting drunk, and not focused or sober, and of course the anxieties of life can weigh us down, and then we get focused on worldly things instead of focused on Jesus.

Make sure you’re ready and on watch.

Because he says in verse 35 difficult times will come to all residents of the Earth, not just us, not just the Jews, but to everyone, difficult times come. Make sure you’re on watch, and praying.

Make sure you’re ready for Christ’s return. It will happen sooner than you think. It could be in your life time.

And I’m worried that many in the body of Christ don’t really fear God. They don’t really reverence him. And they won’t be ready. They won’t be ready to stand before Jesus without shame. Because they’re doing shameful things in the shadows and thinking well I have plenty of time to repent later. And then Jesus may just come, and they’ll be ashamed on that day, because Christ will find them in sin, and assign them a place with the unbelievers, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We think well that couldn’t happen to me. Well, we better be wise and cautious and sober, and praying, fearing and loving God, so we’re ready and able to stand without shame before Christ on the last day. Because he may come sooner than we think.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Elohim: The God of DNA, Galaxies, Nature, & the Higgs-Boson Particle

Throughout the scriptures God invites us to inquire of Him and learn about Him. That is really the main goal of God on Earth, is that we would turn to Him, and be curious about Him, and seek to know Him, and then understand how to know Him, then to enter into His presence, and receive a new identity in the Christ he provided to make us ready for heaven. And He invites us to enter into that covenant marriage with Him, and become one with Him, and begin to live differently, proceed down a road of trials and triumphs, challenges and victories, dark nights of the soul and high mountain top experiences, as he prepares us for heaven. The end goal being, after we physically die, we are resurrected, with new bodies, as new people, to dwell with God for all eternity on a new perfect Earth, to always delight in Him and follow Him wherever he leads us, into a future so bright we can’t possibly imagine.

We grow into maturity, as we seek God more and more deeply. That is the goal with this new series, is that you would wonder at who God is. The goal is that you would come to know the unimaginably powerful God of all the universe intimately. That you would have a deep, rich daily intimacy with God, and that you would live as a set apart, special chosen possession of God, in a fallen world, where you will shine ever more brightly in the increasing darkness of these difficult last days.

There are twelve names of God we will address over this series. Today we address the name of God most commonly used in the first two chapters of Genesis, Elohim. This is the name God gives to himself throughout his creative works in Genesis 1 and into Genesis 2. The name Elohim is used 35 times in those opening chapters of the Bible.

In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of Elohim was hovering over the waters.

3 And Elohim said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 Elohim saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 Elohim called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

Elohim tells us God is infinitely creative. In our Elohim, we find an infinitely complex creative genius mind. He is infinitely creative. We can see this from the planet Earth. And the our solar system. The sun. The asteroid belt. The sun shining through the trees. Waters rushing along a river bed. Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and all the great lakes.

Elohim implies God’s glorious creative majesty. Nathan Stone, author of “Names of God” says it this way: “It is most appropriate that by this name God should reveal Himself- bringing cosmos out of chaos, light out of darkness, habitation out of desolation, and life in His image.”

It’s just so much to even fathom. There was nothing there 6000 years ago when God made the universe. There was nothing. There was no human race. There were no planets, no stars, no galaxies. Nothing existed. Nothing aside from God, in a heavenly reality he created, along with his creations, this creatures called angels who serve Him and worship Him. Then Elohim declared, and His power being infinite, piece by piece the universe came into being, all calculated perfectly mathematically, every equation setup just right, endless streams of data, and information, universal constants, and equations like gravity, mass, and particles like the higgs boson that hold the universe together. Higgs boson fields exist all around us. They are tiny particles that appear and disappear, and they literally hold reality together. And if they didn’t exist, all reality would disintegrate and we would no longer exist. They were nicknamed the God particle, because they hold reality together.

He calculated it all out in his infinite mind, using the coding system of DNA to program and establish all the animals, plants, and creatures across the planet. Did you know all living creatures from animals to plants are programmed with the same DNA code? One might think that implies that God used a unique code, DNA, to program all life by one system.

It's kind of like how humans created binary code for computers. Binary code is simply a 0 or a 1. Everything in a computer as far as coding can all be broken down to ones and zeros.

In the DNA coding system, Each gene's code uses four nucleotide bases of DNA: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). And they are arranged in DNA into 3 letter codons, which are arranged into 64 different codons to write human, animal, and plant DNA. It’s a complex coding system. But much, much more complex than binary.

The most sophisticated system we could come up with for coding was binary. But inside our bodies is a system infinitely more complex.

I parked by the river yesterday morning eating my breakfast that I got from the fast food drive through and looked at the beautiful trees, the sun shining into the river, the ducks and Canadian geese by the water, the food, the roads, the music playing, and it is just astonishing all that God has made on planet Earth. He is truly Elohim, God the creator.

Even in my mind at those moments I knew he was putting the thoughts in my mind, or at least inspiring those thoughts and emotions, so that I would later write them down and share them with you. This happens frequently as a pastor. Life becomes a living parable through which he has me share things with others. It’s fascinating and also sometimes terrifying.

Our respond to God’s creative genius is important. That’s one thing I want to emphasize in this series. Let’s take it always like this: Here is God’s name, here is what it means first, then second, how do we respond? The point is that we respond. That is God’s desire that we should reach out for Him, as we learn about Him. If not, why even bother studying it?

Our response should be awe, wonder, and amazement. We should let the amazement fill us up inside. We should see nature with different eyes. We should see animals with different eyes. We should see ourselves with different eyes. We should see these things as special, as made by God, as gifts from God, as something that overwhelms us with joy, excitement, wonder, and amazement. And our response should be worship, to say wow God, look at this, you made it and it’s wonderful, this must mean you are wonderful God.

So our respond is to declare God you are amazing. Say it with me: God you are amazing! That is worship. So when you enjoy nature, when you enjoy fellowship with friends, when you enjoy time with your pets or you see a wild animal, take a moment to be amazed. And to thank God.

Yet though we see how beautiful nature is, we also see reality is fundamentally fallen. It’s dangerous. Wild animals can be dangerous. Storms and tornadoes and hurricanes can destroy and harm people and their property. Humans spread trash around the city, landfills form, human bodies become old and frail, we see the carcass of a dead animal on the side of the road and we’re horrified.

What God has made is so beautiful, sublime, pristine, yet it’s also horribly mangled.

It says in Romans 8, “19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

All the Earth, and the universe was cursed when Adam and Eve sinned against God. They were deceived and turned away from God, and hid from him. And as a result of this, all reality became cursed with sin. Sin is so destructive isn’t it? It destroys everything. Sin spreads through people, sin spreads everywhere. So we see a fallen natural world. We see how animals feed on each other, we see storms and earthquakes, and diseases, and cold winters, and swarms of mosquitos, and we see our planet is fallen. We see loved ones grow old and die. In fact we see every person ever born will one day die.

Our response to this should be fearful reverence for God. To be tremble before a holy God. And to receive Jesus Christ as our savior, so that we do not remain cursed like the rest of the world is. We want to make sure we believe in Jesus, everyday, and we repent of our sins, and live the most pure and set apart life in the power of the Holy Spirit who helps us.

Then we will be fit and ready, pure, holy, spotless, and blameless on the day that Jesus Christ returns to establish his millennial reign upon the Earth. We will become part of the New Earth, in a new universe, in which all the stains of the curse are removed, and every calculation of the universe is set right.

There will be no more decay or death in human DNA, or animal or plants. There will be no more destructive variances in the equations that govern gravity, time, space, matter, energy, the atmospheric systems of Earth, and so on. There will be no more limits on systems of food, water, wealth, and shelter. God will rewrite all these systems to conform to a new perfect system of reality, a paradigm shift he calls the New Heavens and New Earth, and in particular a city called the New Jerusalem where the redeemed and cleaned humanity will dwell with or king Jesus Christ, and our Lord God Elohim forever and ever.

That’s my goal on this fallen, yet beautiful Earth. To love, honor, and fear the Lord Elohim, and to respond to His creative genius with shouting joy, reverence, praise, amazement, and worship. Make that your goal as well. See reality through new eyes, see it as the glorious design of an infinite God, who loves you, yet also calls you to holiness in Christ. Amen.

Are you using your time, talents, and treasure toward God's Kingdom? The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

"Charles Francis Adams, 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: "Went fishing with my son today--a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father--the most wonderful day of my life!" The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is to know one's ultimate purpose in life and to judge accordingly." -Silas Shotwell, Homemade, September, 1987.

How do you invest your time? How do you invest your money? What is of value to you? What do you consider pointless? What is your goal? What is the mission statement of your life?

In our illustration today Charles Francis Adams, son to John Quincy Adams, and grandson to John Adams spends a day with his son fishing. And he regarded it as a waste.

But his son Brook Adams considered it the greatest day of his life.

Charles was a famous diplomat, a historian, he served in the military, he wrote important works. Yet for his son, the most important day of his life was when dad went fishing with him.

Sometimes we can get so focused on big concepts, big ideas, big missions, that we may miss the details. We may miss the moments that individual people will never forget, because we spent time with them.

Or we can so focused on details, on fun trips, on quality time, on cards, and gifts, and fun things, that we lose focus on kingdom matters, big things, the gospel, discipleship, salvation and spiritual growth.

Growing up I was surrounded by people living out modernism, living the American good life. Working long hours, working on the car, attending public school, watching television, attending concerts, going on family trips, the latest toys, reading the newspaper, buying a nice house, marriage and children, picnics and cookouts, sports games, and videogames, family outings, and music recitals, and Disneyworld and doctors appointments, vitamins and proper exercise, politics and finance, business building, winning friends and influencing people, fine cooking, lavish meals, shopping trips, wine tasting, touring old buildings, visiting museums, and in all that, there was little room for God. But we even went to Catholic mass on Sundays, almost always, and we even attended Wednesday CCD classes. But during the week we didn’t practically make it part of our lives. We weren’t at work for the things of God, our money, our time, and our talents went to worldly pursuits. And in so doing, we were destroying ourselves with smiles on our faces.

Keep this in mind today: “Am I using my wealth, time & talents toward Kingdom pursuits?” Or are you living the American good life?

Which brings us to our parable today, the Parable of the Unjust Steward, or also commonly referred to as the Parable of the Shrewd Manager.

This parable is located in Luke chapter 16, and just prior to this parable in Luke 15, Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Particularly, the context in the prodigal son is that the son has taken his father’s wealth and squandered it on wild living, but when the son returns the Father welcomes him with open arms.

Then right after the unjust steward parable in Luke 16 we see the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. So we see Jesus outlining several different themes in regard to the kingdom of God that we’ll compare later. First, let’s look at our parable today, from Luke 16:1-13 says, “Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’”

3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

The manager has been dishonest and he’s in trouble. The master is done with him, he’s out of here. So he’s going to hatch a plan to improve his future prospects. He’s already going to be fired. So he’s got a plan. It continues…

5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’”

So we see the dishonest manager is making friends for himself by cutting people’s debts and making them better deals. Then he’ll have some friends later when he’s on the streets and in need of money. This is what troubles many theologians who are confused by what happens next. Let’s take a look:

8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The master in this parable represents God, and the shrewd manager represents you and me. And the master actually commends the dishonest manager. It’s surprising, because the manager basically cheated him out of money he was owed. Some theologians have tried to explain this by indicating that in ancient times, a manager or a tax collector would add on an amount above the cost the master was charging, and that’s how they made money. Like a tax collector would see that you owe $3,000 in taxes and would make it $3,500 so he could keep the extra $500. That’s why tax collectors were almost universally hated. I’m a bit skeptical of this explanation because you can see from the amounts that the manager is cutting off the bills, especially for the first, he cuts the bill from 900 gallons to 450. Some theologians think well, the manager was just removing his own markup on the products so he wasn’t actually stealing from the master. That’s how they resolve it ethically. I’m skeptical of that, are you telling me his mark up was 100%? He’s charging twice what the master wants? Hard to say, I suppose it’s possible. But I don’t think we necessarily need to resolve that aspect of the parable. The parable is really teaching us what comes next in verses 10-13.

It says, 10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

So in the conclusion of the parable, we see that the shrewd manager is commended, because he was wise in planning for his future prospects. And this points us toward an interesting truth: people of the world are very clever in amassing wealth and shrewd in their business deals, and so they win many friends and influence many people, and get their products and services around the world. And the Lord Jesus is telling us through this, that people of the light, he says, aren’t even as shrewd or interesting in using their wealth to build the kingdom of God, as worldly people are in building their own influence.

And isn’t that true even today? We see many billions and millionaires who influence millions with their products and services, but do we see many Christians with that kind of power and influence? Not as many as we’d like I think.

So, several take-aways here.

First, even if you have very little in this life, be trustworthy with it before God. Because if God sees that you’re trustworthy with a little, he’s going to entrust more to you. But if he sees he can’t even trust you with a little bit, well, then why should he give you more responsibility, or more wealth, or more influence?

Second, it’s interesting that Jesus notes here that we can’t serve two masters. We can’t serve both God and money. One will become dominant always. So use your wealth to serve and honor God. Don’t let your devotion to God become secondary to your worldly wealth. It won’t ever work that way.

So think again about our question for today: Am I using my wealth, time & talents toward Kingdom pursuits? Who do you serve?

Are you taking everything in your life, your finances, your abilities, your family, your time, your creative abilities, and applying it all to winning people to Christ? Then when you arrive in paradise, you’ll have many friends surrounding you there.

I always imagine one day when I get there. It’ll be a big celebration, because another saint made it home safely. And I think to myself, maybe all the people who I helped win to Christ will be there. And they’ll come up to me and say hey, thank you for giving me that gospel tract, thank you for posting that sermon online, thank you for talking to me at the store that day, and I’ll realize that all those little things I did actually did make a difference for God’s kingdom. And we’ll give all the glory to God. But I wonder, will they be there, when we arrive in paradise, the people we helped win to Christ? That would be a really special moment.

Imagine if every person here today, was as shrewd as the dishonest manager in winning friends to Christ? Imagine if they worked with the kind of effort that people in the business world do, working day and night 40, 50, 60 hours a week, putting every effort they possibly can into gaining wealth for their company, and setting up good deals, and cornering the market, and developing new products, imagine if we took all that effort and zeal and drive and passion and applied it spreading the word of God.

We could spread the gospel around the world in no time. But too many Christians set their desires before the kingdom of God. They are shrewd in trying to get what they want, trying to get money, trying to get pleasure, trying to get entertainment, trying to get romance, but the goals of God’s kingdom always seem to come in a distant second.

Well it shouldn’t be that way. So let’s make some changes in our lives. Let’s be like the shrewd manager who the master commended because he used his wealth to develop connections.

But this parable is interesting, isn’t it, because it fits right in with several other parables in Luke. First in Luke 15, the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The value of the person to God, God seeking after the lost and rescuing them. Then the parable of the shrewd manager. Be shrewd about God’s kingdom, but don’t love money either. Then the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the people of God often find themselves outcast and in sorrows in this life, and no amount of evidence seems enough to convince certain people, like the wealthy.

A lot of these parables actually connect to money and the love of money. Think of the prodigal son, what led him out and into trouble, getting his inheritance and then spending it. The rich man and Lazarus, contrasting a wealthy person with a poor sickly man. And this parable about a shrewd manager that threw away a lot of money to gain friends for himself. A lot of it deals with money,

And to conclude the parable of the shrewd manager, it says in verses 14-15, “14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”

That explains a lot, the Pharisees, the religious leaders had a high value of money. I think a fair amount of preachers in America today also have a high regard for money, unfortunately. So a lot of this was for the Pharisees, and the people, who were being led astray from the Pharisees. The Pharisees sneared, but Jesus says, hey, you’re the ones who are always trying to show the people that your special and holy and godly, but God knows your heart.

A lot of the things we value in our lives, very highly, God doesn’t value at all. Ever think of that?

Think of the illustration of the day of fishing with dad. To the father it was a waste, to the son it was the most important day of his life.

What in your life is mixed up? What do you value highly? What do you value lowly? That’s a good question isn’t it. I wonder if I checked in your homes, would I find you reading your Bible daily, would I find you spending quiet time with God everyday? What are you valuing? God? Or television? God or money? God or social media? God or work? That is the question. Analyze yourself. Judge yourself. The body of Christ are told to judge themselves in these days, so that we don’t fall under God’s judgment on the day of the Lord. 

“But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.” -1st Cor 11:31

In any case, as we conclude today, how can we put this into practice today?

Let’s take a look.

1. Examine yourself – Am I building God’s kingdom with my life?

2. Write up a mission statement for your life

3. Write down some goals prayerfully, of ways you can help bring Christ to people in unique ways, using your gifts and talents

4. Budget your money carefully and make sure you are setting aside money to tithe, give offerings and to provide for those in need

5. Analyze how you use your free time – What takes priority?

6. Make a plan – new ways to share the gospel in your life

7. Develop intentional friendships and relationships in which you guide people to Jesus Christ and the word of God

In conclusion, this really comes down to your heart. It’s a heart issue. In the depths of your heart, what choices do you make? Are you using your worldly wealth gifts and talents shrewdly for God’s kingdom? Or are you self focused? Selfishness must die in us as Christians, plain and simple. And God does that in the process of sanctification. Can you surrender self seeking and selfishness to him today? Analyze yourself. Who are you really? What is your goal in life? What is your mission statement? Maybe it’s time to reflect on what you’re using your sacred time, talents, and wealth for.