Friday, December 8, 2017

THE 3:16 VERSES OF THE BIBLE, PART 22: "A REFUGE IN ARMAGEDDON"

AERIAL VIEW OF SITE OF FUTURE
BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON (SEE CREDIT BELOW)
The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But the Lord is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel...(Joel 3:16)
The old country gospel goes like this “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through, my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue…” (This World is Not My Home,   ). The words to this classic are absolutely true and each day brings The Day closer, when this promise will be sight.

It is the hope of every Christian, guaranteed in Scripture, to be with the Creator Jesus Christ for all eternity. Even those who do not wish to commit to Christ as Lord, but call themselves Christians claim the hope of Heaven. Of all the gems we have studied in the Amazing 3:16 Verses in the Old Testament (so far), Joel is absolutely thrilling in the prophetic statement from the soon-coming King of Heaven – Jesus!

When the Old Testament prophets are time-lined with the Taking Up (what some called the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17); the man of sin (AntiChrist) of 2 Thessalonians 2 and then the events of the Book of Revelation are added in, we see a swift end to the current scheme of things.  The only thing holding back the End of the Church Age. Syncing with the Rapture, is the spread of the Gospel to ALL the Ends of the Earth. God loves this world and cares for lost and hurting people so much that His Grace extends to the remaining 25% of the known world, that has not heard the Good News of Salvation through Jesus.

READ JOEL CHAPTER 3 HERE
In rapid succession, here are some scary warnings of coming actions by Almighty God against rebels, as He Himself states in Joel Chapter 3:
“I will restore….Jerusalem. (Verse 1)
“I will bring together the armies of the world ….at Armageddon! (Verse 2a)
“I will judge them for hurting My people….” (Verse 2b)
“I will strike very suddenly and pay you back (for attacking my people)….” (Verse 4b)
“I will pay you back for everything you have done…”(Verse 7a) and then the Lord goes on to tell of the fate of the children of perdition.

The entire world acts like there are no consequences to their pervasive actions against unborn children, the people of God and the people of the Bible. They act in willful ignorance, unaware their actions will bring a reaction from Above which none of them will expect or can handle when the Fury of Heaven is unleashed on them.

This chapter prophesies in clear detail, the coming Battle of Armageddon (or the valley of Jehoshaphat).  Today, in the nuclear weapon-equipped 21st century, we have world-wide armies with some scary military power. While China may have the largest army of human beings in the world (47.5 million active and reserve),  the United States still has the most powerful Army, Navy and Air Force in the world. Nobody can compare to the Navy Seals or the United States Marine Corps. Still, by time of the Armageddon showdown, the world will be under the rule of the anti-Christ.

So the Lord starts almost mocking the pagan armies of the world (from Joel 3). Then He invites them to the Final Battle of all History - Armageddon. Read the Bible. It is not going to be pretty. But at the end of it, better days are coming. While all these bad things are in store for those who hate God and refuse Christ, there are two promises for those who trust Christ and are called by His Name (born-again Christians).

PROMISE #1 - It is right there in Joel 3:16! In essence, ALL Heaven is going to break loose in an extremely terrible way, but for the people of God: 
- When the Judgment of the Lord falls on an evil and rebellious world, the Lord will be a "refuge" - a hiding place...and safe place, where no one can grasp the Christian out of the Mighty all-powerful Hands of the Lord. There is no place more secure than under the Protection of the Lord. Scripture tells us in Psalm 91 that "he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide (live, camp forever, rest) in the Shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my REFUGE and my Fortress, in Him shall i trust" (Psalm 91:1-2)
- The mention of the word "Stronghold" to the people of Israel could be a reference to the place to which the newly saved Jews, at the Second Coming, could "run to" and hide until the Battle is over. There is consensus that this "stronghold" is Petra - the safe city surrounded by natural walls of mountainous stone. Petra is currently in Jordan, but when the Lord returns, that will cease as He will control all of the Land. The original language for "stronghold" has a meaning of a safe place, a strong tower or a high place.

PROMISE #2 - God Himself gave this promise in the rest of Joel 3, after He has both come greet-self serving great beans and defeated the forces of the Common Good. Immediately after the Battle of Armageddon, with the Lord Jesus Christ living in Person in Jerusalem, here is what Almighty God the Father promises:
18 And in that day
The mountains will drip with sweet wine,
And the hills will flow with milk,
And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water;
And a spring will go out from the house of the Lord
To water the valley of Shittim.
19 Egypt will become a waste, 
And Edom will become a desolate wilderness,
Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah,
In whose land they have shed innocent blood.
20 But Judah will be inhabited forever
And Jerusalem for all generations.
21 And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, 
For the Lord dwells in Zion. (Joel 3:18-21)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

THE 3:16 VERSES OF THE BIBLE, PART 21: "NO COMPROMISE"

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter". (Daniel 3:16)
In August 2006,  two Fox News Channel reporters – Steve Centanni and his cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped in the Gaza (Palestine territories) and held for ransom. They were covering a story for Fox News. After a while, their captors said to the two men, that they would be released if they renounced Christianity and converted to Islam. Both men did precisely that and were promptly released.  To those who of us who follow the Lord closely, this is the defining moment.  Everyone knows what happens when you convert to another religion – you have rejected Christ. Even if they were to say decades later they only did it to be released, they have rejected Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our Faith called Christianity as well as the Author of Salvation. The men in orange who were marched to the sea by black-hooded demons, from that same middle eastern religion, did not do what Centanni and Wiig did. The twenty men shed blood and lost their lives for the Cause of Christ. In a sense they made the Case for Christ.

It was the same thing with Rachel joy Scott when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up Columbine High School in 1999 in Littleton, Colorado.  This young teenage girl was not ashamed say she was a Christian, and she lost her life. Her testimony became a best-selling (in Faith circles) movie almost two decades later.

The evidence of martyrs of the one true Faith – Christianity – is becoming hard to ignore.  More and more of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted around the world and increasingly, the persecution in becoming evident in North America.  While Christians homes, churches and lives are literally being destroyed in Asia, the Middle East and most of Africa, in the Northern part of the Western Hemisphere, it is more subtle. It may not be as violent, but there is still persecution, nonetheless.

Whether it is some made-up outrage over a Cross memorial to World War 1-era American soldiers, which now judges are removing, dishonoring both the dead veterans and the Cross of Christ.....
Whether it is some town telling a Christian farmer he cannot sell his produce at the local farmer’s market because he will not allow a certain type of marriage union at his private farm.....
Whether it is a small town being told by atheists and people with dark souls full of hatred against God that they cannot put up a privately funded Nativity Scene (they can constitutionally.....whatever is the case, the hostility towards the people of “The Book” is increasing in both intensity and hatred. This is only America. In Canada, it is even worse. Preachers north of the 49th parallel cannot preach out of certain passages of the bible without getting into legal trouble.

All of this is nothing new to the people of God. In this 3:16 verse from the historical and prophetic book of Daniel, is not just an amazing account of “NO COMPROMISE” by the people of Yahweh God, but a literally instructive of how to answer these persecutors. Before he was humbled by God and truly believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man in the known world. He ruled the Middle East with a rod of iron. He was very rich. His city of Babylon was a fortress and extremely wealthy. He even had one of the Great Seven Wonders of the World – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

At this point in the Babylonian Exile of the Jews, King Nebuchadnezzar was in his glory. He had built this massive golden statue some false god  and set up a great dedication ceremony with fanfare. Then, with all the high officials of Babylon around, the king commanded everyone before him, to bow down and worship this golden pagan image. Everyone bowed the knee to the false god, including the exiled Jews who knew better from the Second Commandment. Everyone, that is, except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo – friends of the great Prophet Daniel. Daniel was not in the mob of people, at the time, who were commanded to bow before the image. He was in the palace as a government official…and authentic man of God, himself.

When these three great men refused to acknowledge the King as god, they stood out immediately. For that, they were hauled in front of the furious king, by the latter’s henchmen who promptly ordered them to bow down again when the pagan “worship music” began. 

Shadrach. Meschach and Abednigo basically cut him off and told him the following straight up, in no uncertain terms (paraphrased) “we know you’re the King and all that, but we ain’t bowing down to no made-up pagan piece of garbage. We can tell you right now, there is no debate. We are not going to debate you. You can through us into a pit full of hot coals or even blazing fire. We don’t care.  We worship ONLY the Great God of Heaven. He. Who parted the Red Sea and delivered my people is strong enough to save us from your fires, but even if He doesn’t. He is STILL our God. So, Mr. King, we are not bowing down, selling out, converting or switching sides to worship NOTHING made by human hands. With all due respect, you’re the King, but our God – He IS GOD….so do with that as you will!”

Can you see some latte-sipping, shorts-wearing, no bible in hand thirty five year old couple with two kids, in the local church with the lively worship band being bold enough in suburbia USA or Australia or even Austria saying that these days?.
Where are the men like Shadrach, Meschach and Abednigo? 
Where are the men like Athanathius who was told that the world was against him, for standing up for the Truth of the Gospel, said “well, it is Athanasius Contra Mondum (Athanasius against the world)”! 
Where the women like Perpetua or Felicitas, who lived on earth not too long after the last Apostle of Jesus had gone on to heaven, and refused to bow to prevailing paganism and were killed by evil and brutal men?
Where are those who stand on Romans 1:16 and say to the corrupt and mocking world “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the Power of God unto Salvation”?
Where are these thousands and thousands of documented martyrs and the millions more, whose names are only known by God?

The answer is they are still around. While they may not have the resources and comfort we have in the west, they still refuse to compromise. These three simple friends of the Prophet Daniel - Shadrach, Meschach and Abednigo - were thrown in the fire, where  Jesus showed up in the flames to protect them (read Daniel Chapter 3 again). From the words of the Scriptures here, God gave us a couple illustrations which can be useful in building our faith, as well as how we respond when challenged like these three men.

Daniel 3:17-18
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

From these two verses, we see these Truths: 
- God is MORE than able to deliver the persecuted from the Hands of evil persecutors, fiery trials and destruction. He is Sovereign over all.

- If we have a strong relationship with God, have studied His Word and His Ways, we will know He is a good Father Who loves and protects His people. God chose to be with these three men in the fire. We read: “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:24b-25)

- But sometimes, God will let "bad things happen to good people" to accomplish His greater Will and vision. Because we live in a fallen world, the natural divine order of all created things has to follow its pattern, until the appointed time of restoration. So God has to allow to certain tragedies to befall sectors of mankind. That way, others can step up and fill the gaps where help and ministry are needed. He is Sovereign over all.

- A great or Biblically sound worldview of God will allow the believer to comprehend that sometimes it is over. Each one of us lives on borrowed time and one day, the doctor's report is going to be bad. He or she is going to tell us that it is over, for this life and to put our things in order. The three men in Nebuchadnezzar's massive furnace knew that about God. They also knew Him and their eternal future was secure. So to live is Christ. To die is gain. This is the promise for the Christian. God is Sovereign over all.

- Finally, no matter what the temptation to compromise, do not do it. Almost half of Evangelical Christians today, who go to church weekly and raise their hands in the ear and even go to the altar and pray etc....almost half of these so-called conservative Christians believe there is another way to Heaven besides Jesus. They believe all other religions lead to the same place, even those that deny Jesus even existed or have corrupted the words of the Bible. Even those eastern religions with 300 million different gods, many of them animals and crawling things are equated with the One True God in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. This is the type of thinking which led the Fox News employees to renounce Christianity and believe everyone is good enough. This is the type of thinking which will lead billions into eternal separation from God, for eternity.

The three heroes of our Bible account here in Daniel - Shadrach, Meschach and Abednigo - knew one thing. They knew that there is One God in Heaven and He is the God of the Scriptures. They also knew He cannot be formed into some filthy image by sinful man. Today, we have the fulfillment of these Old Testament examples of Great Faith. May we be found worthy by Him, as we stand boldly as they did and loudly proclaim, when the rubber finally meets the road "I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL AND JESUS CHRIST IS MY LORD AND SAVIOR". AMEN

Monday, November 27, 2017

THE 3:16 VERSES OF THE BIBLE, PART 20: "A DIRE WARNING"

15 Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib, and I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them.16 At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. (Ezekiel 3:16)

BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW

A survey by the American Culture and Faith institute (as well as Barna and a host of others) are devastating for the church, its leadership and its people. This wide ranging survey (here) found that 27% of Christians (and by that we mean those who profess to be born-again, conservative believers - the only Biblically sound definition) believe it is NOT their responsibility to share their faith with non-believers! This is on top of incredible numbers where all the major research organizations - from George Barna to the Pew Research Foundation for Religion, have found that only 9% of adult Christians even have a Biblical worldview.

In a country of roughly 330 million people, 9% represents a really small amount of people, given the adult population. The 2013 US Census says we have just over 242 million adults in the USA, with the total now close to 250 million over the age of 18. When calculated and filtered right down, by 2017-18 figures, less than 23 million adults actually have true Bible-based faith, which is what a Biblical Worldview means. 

This Worldview contains the following elements:
The inerrancy and accuracy of the Bible as God's Infallible Word. The proof is the document itself: 66 books written by over 40 authors, over 1500 years. These books were written by men, most of whom lived at different time periods and never knew each other. Yet, they tell the same story - the story of God's Redemption plan through the Messiah - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Absolute Truth. A biblical worldview believes there is such a things a moral clarity. There are no shades of grey when it comes to the Law of God. He has laid out in the Ten Commandments what is NOT acceptable. They stand today, even in courts of law worldwide.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. God cannot do only one thing - He cannot sin. A biblical worldview believes this fact because only Someone sinless can pay for the sins of an entire human race.
Because God sent God the Son to redeem the world, He remains in charge and completely involved in the affairs of humankind, as the All-powerful, All-knowing, and omni-present Creator of the Universe.
A Biblical worldview knows that Satan is real and is the prince and the power of the air, in this current age.  Satan has succeeded in lying to most of humanity, that he does not exist, so they can live as they wish, with no consequences. This is not a worldview from God.
A Biblical worldview means the acceptance of the literal word of God as pure and divinely inspired in all its teachings.
A Biblical worldview means that there is only ONE way to Heaven and it is through the Lord Jesus Christ, as Savior and Master of all. The world's view is that there are many ways, Christianity is only one of the ways, and we are intolerant if we believe otherwise. Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that "no one....(meaning NO ONE) comes to the Father (goes to Heaven) except through Him" (from John 14:6). Christians have the advantage which the majority does not and this advantage confirms the validity of John 14:6. This confirmation is the Holy Spirit. Only born-again believers, who have a Biblical worldview, have been forgiven by God and have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior actually possess the Holy Spirit embedded in our souls, as our confirmed reservation in Heaven - for lack of a clearer description.
- Finally, a Biblical Worldview means that is the responsibility of each Christian to share our faith, in thought, word and deed.

Never mind the violation of all of the above, but this last one is the biggest shortcoming of the modern church, church leadership and the Body of Christ. We are not talking about the 91% of adults who accept the modern "new spirituality" as their "belief" system. They have taken a cafeteria approach to "faith" and mixed in eastern mysticism, buddhism and a little of this or that and a dash of "feel-goodism" and come up with a pseudo-Balaamism. What all modern trends, from actual scientific research by George Barna to evidence on the ground, in front of our eyes, show us is that most Christians think it is the pastor's job to reach people for Christ!


The question is, how can a pastor or preacher who runs the church, reach the co-worker or neighbor or the cashier at your favorite diner etc...when you and I are the only ones who see them regularly and can approach them with ease? The answer lies in the fact that it is NOT the pastor's job to love our co-workers and neighbors to Jesus, but ours. His job is to equip and show the congregation HOW to reach the lost and then we execute that plan over the next six days. We know that this is not how it turns out, because, even in the best of churches, most attendees are barely tuned in and leave with just enough to get them through the next week. It is difficult for someone like this too share Faith. It is not impossible at all, just difficult.

How this relates to the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel is important not just because of Ezekiel 3:16 is setting up, but what God Himself actually says in the next few verses:
Verse 17: God has appointed His servant as a watchman....not in the military sense but in the Spiritual sense of the word. Ezekiel's job was to warn wayward Israel. Our job as watchmen today (Jesus said to be on the alert and watch), is to read the sign of the times. Our job is to find the lost and reach out to them. Our job is to warn them of the Wrath that is to come and how to prepare for it.

Verses 18 and 19:  This is scary for the believer. There are warning signs everywhere that the end is coming closer. Yet, Christians. the church and most western believers are joining the party, caught up in trivial pursuits and living in the fast lane with no thought to eternity - just like the lost. They have absolutely no concern for the Lost or even believe like them that "everything will turn out good in the end". A former member of a very popular megachurch once told me that an associate pastor there told him that the majority of the thousands who go there each and every Sunday are not there for the things "you and I think about" (evangelism, outreach, discipleship or repentance)...."they are here to get something for themselves to either get them through the week, knowing they've been to church....or just that - to be at church and meet their friends and drink fancy coffee"!

That is NOT what God expects of those whom He said by His Blood on the Cross. Check this - suppose your neighbor's roof suddenly looked like there was some smoke, then you notice a thin orange flame. You know he works second shift at the plant and is sleeping at 8 am this Saturday morning after his shift. Suddenly the thin flame kicks up with the wind and the roof over the bedrooms is on fire. Your neighbor is sound asleep from a tough night shift. Do you just keep him and his family in your "thoughts and prayers" and HOPE the fire department gets there soon? Do you actually call the First Responders and wait? OR do you do go bang on your neighbors bedroom window to alert him and his family to get out quickly?


The last one is what God expects us to do FIRST, while calling for help, believe it or not.  We obviously had time to see the warning signs of a fire. What is stopping us from running and banging on the neighbor's window to wake him up and get him out of there? This is exactly what God told Ezekiel to do to even the enemies of God - warn them about the coming judgment.  If Ezekiel warns them and the wicked refuse to repent and turn to God, then Ezekiel is in the clear. He did his job.


If we were continue to tell people about God or even invite them to a Christian event (or church) where they could hear the Gospel and be on the road to salvation, and they do respond, our work will be rewarded on great and terrible Day of the Lord.


However, if the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, directs us to speak to someone or give them a free lunch or a gospel tract or even tell them a great God bless you in the long line at the Grocery Store, and we refuse because "this is NOT our job, but the preacher". Then this person will suffer huge loss on Judgment Day. The Apostle Paul says this person will be saved only, with no reward. In fact, God has said that (in Verse 18 above) He will hold us accountable. 

Do we really wish to take this chance and only slide into Home Plate? Don't we want to head up standing up with all arms high in the air, in a sign of victory and praise?  This can be easily remedied - simply go against the prevailing lazy Christian mindset and do as Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers once said. Spurgeon once said, "gentlemen, do something....DO SOMETHING"! That something is to have a Biblical Worldview - and do what that means.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

GRATITUDE IS ALTITUDE - FAITH AND THANKSGIVING


Luke 17:11-19 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. 

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

There is a very serious account of an incident, recorded in the Book of Luke, where Jesus responded to ten lepers calling out loudly to Him for mercy, pity and compassion. They were far enough from the general population, as required by Law, since leprosy was a deadly contagious disease.

Jesus responds in a unique way as only He can. He tells them to do the following (Verse 14):
- Go (from the Galilee area) to show themselves to the priests in one of the nearby synagogues (according to Jewish Law....in the Old Testament).
- As they were walking away, He healed them and cleansed them of Leprosy.

Then the following occurred (Luke 17:15):
- One of ten lepers, stopped and came back to Jesus.
- He was a Samaritan and could not enter the Jewish Synagogue, as he was considered a "foreigner".
- He was the only one to thank the Lord Jesus for healing him. But he was not only grateful. He recognized his position in life, not just as a leper outside the fold, but as a stranger/outcast/foreigner etc. who deserved nothing but got everything.
- He - the Samaritan former leper - gave praise to God for healing him (Verse 18)

JESUS SAVES THE OUTSIDER:
Jesus' Reply to this act of open gratitude and praise was the following (written in the first person...from Luke 17:17)
- Were not 10 lepers healed? How come only 1 out of 10 returned to properly say thank you?
- I came to give the message of Salvation to the Jews first, but only this outsider responded to it.
- Therefore, I will save whom I will save. When Jesus said to the Samaritan who came back to thank Him for healing, that his faith has made you well, the word Jesus used for "made you well" is stunning. The word is "SOZO" - the word for Salvation. Jesus said to this outsider "your faith in Me has saved you!!"
- Jesus saved this one man. The others were healed in the natural. This Samaritan was healed in the soul as well.

I have known people who were healed from different diseases, including cancer, who were just like the other 9 of the 10 lepers - completely ignore God and go about their lives as if nothing happened. The miracle of beating cancer, for instance, well, "I was owed that".

LESSONS FROM TEN LEPER STORY:
What an incredible teaching from the Lord here in this passage. We learn:
- We are all diseased by sin. But there is a Savior Who can cleanse us from all unrighteousness. His Name is Jesus.
- When we call out to Him, He usually answers.
- There is one qualifier. That is, we MUST recognize Who He is. He is God.
- Faith has legs. Jesus did not tell the ten men they were healed. He said "GO SHOW YOURSELVES" to the priests. Under Jewish Law, only the priests could certify that a Jew was healthy and eligible to go back into the general population with a clean bill of health. They IMMEDIATELY recognized that fact of the Law and headed towards the temple in Galilee (where Peter and the other Galilee fishermen must have grown up). They all did have a certain measure of Faith to do that in the first place.
- But there is a huge difference and here is where the new paradigm emerges.

The Law said "only the priest can declare" the person physically well. But GRACE says only Jesus can make both body and soul well. The nine who ran to the temple to get the priests blessings completely missed it. In missing it, they blew past the forest for the trees just as most people today are missing life, because their noses are in their smartphones. They blow past it because their "Faith" is more new age-type "spirituality" where they think they can mix eastern mysticism, yoga and secular humanism and still call themselves Christian, because of the country of their birth or actual Christian ancestry.

But the Gratitude of the outcast Samaritan, who was not even allowed to be with the others is instructive to us, in a season of Thanksgiving: 
- The outcast Samaritan was just like all the others in that he was healed with the ten as he started walking with them to the temple, until he realized he would not be welcome there. 
- The realization of what was done for him, completely floored him to such an extent that he turn around (a picture of repentance) and ran to the Jesus Who called him by name for Healing!
- He humbled himself by falling at the Feet of God. This is something too many Christians have trouble with these days. Humility is in rare supply, especially where so many people have a spiritual entitlement to the effect that "God owes them something".
- He praised God. He recognized the Amazing Grace the saved a wretch like him.  For that alone, he was so very full of gratitude.

THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE:
The lesson here for us is clear, given what was just written. We among most, have reason to be as humble, forgiven and worship- oriented. We have the Gospels and every variety of bible teaching ever known to man. This man had no such thing.

All it takes is remembering what God has done for us. That He gave His son on the Cross for us that by this one act, we will be saved if we believe, humble ourselves to the point of Godly sorrow leading to repentance....which should lead us to worship. This is the essence of gratitude. In the Spirit of thanksgiving and for the Spirit of God to live in us, we must possess this and completely own it. A life of gratitude will help us keep everything in perspective.

My life verse is Psalm 27:4, but after I got radically born again in 1988, the Lord gave me Psalm 118 as my life Passage. I only found out in 2017, that it was also one of the Bible Chapters which  the Lord used to save the great Reformer Martin Luther! There is so much gratitude in Psalm 118 and others, that we should camp there daily and never move away from it.

As we think about the gratitude of the former Samaritan leper and the kind of reaction us Christians should have, it is beneficial to see, and grasp, what Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor, Author and host of GRACE TO YOU has to say here"A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer's trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer's heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord".

William Arthur Ward said this about gratitude: "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” 

The great Christian author G.K. Chesterton aptly concludes this for us: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” 

Today (and each day), are we living our lives daily with such a bent? We most definitely should. Our "SOZO" (Salvation) requires it for the fullness of the Lord to work in and through us. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

LET THERE BE LIGHT....(NOT YOUR TYPICAL MOVIE REVIEW)

This is a review of a paying customer to a local AMC Theater. It is totally unsolicited, just like all reviews posted on this site. Thank you.
As mainstream Hollywood flounders under the weight of itself, the increasing abundance of some amazing Christian films is just astounding. Let There Be Light (LTBL) is one such film. While Pure Flix has become the "Warner Brothers" of Faith and Family big time movies and streaming services, LTBL is in independent movie produced by none other than the top U.S. Cable News Host - Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel.

The official Let There Be Light website describes the movie thus, in part:
"....But even with all the fame and success, Sol is empty and distraught on the inside and his increasing reliance on alcohol to numb the pain is only making things worse. His New York party lifestyle has isolated him from his ex wife Katy and their two remaining sons.  Their unrelenting faith in God is something that Sol has actually grown to resent and he tells Katy that he just got sick and tired of her praying for his soul. Sol’s self-destructive habits eventually catch up to him and a serious car crash leaves him clinically dead for four minutes before he is finally resuscitated by some heroic first responders.  It’s a miracle that he’s still alive, but what really changes Sol’s outlook on life is what happens during those four minutes.  It’s a four word message that refuses to let him go despite his best efforts to deny it"...and those words are "LET THERE BE LIGHT".

Right off the bat, as the movie swings open, a big debate is going on between a polished, apparently mainstream evangelical Christian TV show guy and the celebrity atheist and superstar author Dr. Sol Harkins, played by "Hercules" - Kevin Sorbo. The debate happens in front of a huge lecture crowd which is actually representative of a lot of professing "Christians" these days. While the evangelical debates from familiar talking points, the accomplished celebrity author is able to not just passionately proseltyze as a pagan to the weak minds out there, but then go Elmer Gantry on them, with raw emotion. You see, even atheists know there is a God. Just ask Richard Dawkins, who once remarked "Oh my God...." when he forgot the full title of the book "Origins of the Species" by Darwin!

I have read other reviews of LTBL, by Biblical solid christian websites and blogs I always rely on for good discernment, and I could not disagree with them more. One of them is Patheos. This is NOT a cheesy Christian film. On the contrary, as anyone can see from the articles on this blog, I only promote the Bible and what it says - as far as life is concerned. I see the heresy out there and leave it to great people like Challies and Patheos or Dr. Al Mohler to talk about those things. My calling is to alert those who are open to it and what that scene, where the great Kevin Sorbo and his character shows is just how gullible and easily led into oblivion, the majority of people are. It was almost infuriating to watch our God being blasphemed by "Dr. Sol Harkins" (Sorbo) and people sit there and applaud him for doing so. These are some of the same people who will show up in a megachurch, the very next weekend and singalong with the latest Hillsong worship song, while sipping a caramel macchiato from the coffee shop in the church lobby. This is my first takeaway.

The movie DOES takes several turns from here on out as Sorbo's character embarks on a search for the meaning of those four words - LET THERE BE LIGHT. I see nothing hoaky or cheesy about it, just some good screenplay writing and as an evangelist and author myself - Gospel preaching. What some of our own evangelical critics of this movie may have forgotten is that the prime focus of a Christian and Faith-based movie is the Gospel. Using a former Italian 'wise guy' who spent 10 years in the joint and got saved when someone gives him a Gideon New Testament - his only companion for "three years in the hole" is genius. After all, the movie background is New York City and some of the best churches in NYC are in Brooklyn - the biggest being the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which covers every single nationality in the world. (Never mind the movie was filmed in Birmingham, Alabama! Lol).
Two hundred Gideon New Testaments 

like the one in the movie, handed out
at Inner City Trunk or Treat, 90 
minutes, to people who have never
had their bibles  - IN AMERICA

What Pastor "Vinny" does in his simple, funny and "goomba" - speak is to explain the Gospel of Salvation to an atheist better than some real preachers on TV and whom I know personally, who spent four years in seminary! He does that while having us laughing out loud.

I have been a Gideon Bible Society man for going on 23 years and have handed out 1000's and 1000's of Bibles to so many people as well as tens of thousands of tracts. I have had one man come looking for me at a Christian men's conference years ago, who said I gave him a gospel tract in front of a bar, during a parade once, and he didn't want to take it, but his wife did. These things have eternal consequences. As one who is hands on involved in evangelism no matter the neighborhood (from college campus to the inner city), there is something happening when the Word of God changes hands from me to a recipient. I just finished handing out 200 Orange New Testaments (student) to child and adult alike at an inner city "Trunk or Treat" Halloween replacement party for almost 400 people in a disadvantaged neighborhood. The hugs and love were icing on the cake. This was the second takeaway from LTBL - Pastor Vinny's Gideon bible from jail.


Kevin Sorbo and wife Samantha with real life son.
They all had a part in Let There Be Light.
My final takeaway, which actually had me teary-eyed, was Dr. Harkins' wife Katy (who is actually Kevin Sorbo's real-life wife, Samantha) and her explanation to her two (also real-life) sons as to why God chooses to answer prayers the way He does. Her two surviving sons were praying for her healing from a terminal disease and worried God was not listening to them. THIS is the sort of thing which each one of us as Christians and believers will ultimately face in life, as sure as we live and breathe. If we cannot explain it to someone else, or understand it ourselves, then there will be bitterness, doubt and even unbelief.

For me, this last portion of the Hannity-Sorbo creation was worth the entire endeavor - first, the risk of these great men taking a chance to make a movie like this and secondly, to have solid Bible based doctrine to apply to real life, and then write it into a screenplay like this. I think the misunderstanding of what a Christian movie, whether it is Let There Be Light or God's Not Dead (1 or 2) and some others is expectation.  Sure we want to be entertained and have high standards due to the production quality of mainstream Hollywood.  But a Christian movie is more than just watching Star Wars in IMAX and going "wow" for about 5-10 minutes afterwards. 

We expect something more life-enhancing, rich, solid and sound when we watch a Faith Based movie, whether is by Sorbo or David A.R. White or the Christiano Brothers. The good thing is - these men never disappoint and I for one, will continue to support these movies in the theaters. I have already started word of mouth among my own circle of friends of LBTL. Let's continue to do pass the word along, this holiday season!
Roll Tide

THE 3:16 VERSES OF THE BIBLE, PART 19: "THE GOD OF THIS CITY"

He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. (Lamentations 3:16)
Several years ago, I met Aaron Boyd, the lead singer of the Irish pop band BLUETREE as they were doing an American tour. They had the best version of their original song "GOD OF THIS CITY" (sorry, Chris Tomlin) and it launched them all over the world. Bluetree had that mysterious and gentle, yet thumping, Irish sound which you hear in the music of U2 and the great Christian singer from Northern Ireland - Robin Mark (Days of Elijah etc.). In fact, Aaron told me that he was once Robin Mark's drummer. What does this have to do with Lamentations 3:16?

Well, the God of This City in a song, is the God of this and every city, where He wishes the hearts of all men, women and children will be open to letting their hearts be open to the Message our Creator wants to give to them. Some of the lyrics of the Bluetree "GOD OF THIS CITY" (2009) are perfect here:
You're God of this city, You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation, You are
You're the light in this darkness, You're the hope to the hopeless
You're the peace to the restless, You are
For there is no one like our God
There is no one like You God.

The people of Jerusalem, God's own city, did not see that, acknowledge that or seem to believe it in their hearts, even while going to their temple (built by Solomon over 400 years earlier) to perform rituals before Him. They are no different than the people in the current city of Jerusalem or just about any city in the world today.

But the God of the City sees. He sees the evil deeds of man and the dark hearts, souls and eyes of everyone who rather bow before an idol than live the simple life of the Believer. He sees and His patience will one day run out. In the days of Noah, He Himself said He regretted making man (in Genesis Chapter 6 and following). He flooded the earth and wiped everything out. He rebooted the earth and saved only those in Noah's Ark. Here thousands of years later, in 586 BC, He destroyed the spiritually filthy city of Jerusalem and the now corrupt temple and used the most brutal army on earth to do it. Less than 600 years later, in 70 AD, He would use the brutal Roman army again- headed up by General Titus, to completely destroy Jerusalem again. There is one more complete do over coming, but this is the last one, before the New Jerusalem descends from Heaven, completely built to divine blueprints and specs.

This 586 BC destruction of Jerusalem was led by the prideful and power-mad king Nebuchadnezzar (who would later become a big Evangelist for Yahweh in Babylon while he was alive). The prophet Jeremiah who had warned and warned and warned kings and princes and priests and others about the coming Judgment, if they did not change their evil ways, witnessed this destruction in absolute horror. He knew what would happen if the people did not listen. It is one thing to know it, preach it and even suffer persecution for it, as Jeremiah did. It is a whole other thing to see the violent and precise Judgment of God right before one's eyes.

After seeing the brutal Babylonians carry out what God had ordered on the object of His Wrath, the prophet wrote the Book of Lamentations. He wept and pour his heart on in this document, because there is nothing good about evil and just as bad, seeing destruction which follows it. Yet, even in this long song of Lament, Jeremiah saw the hope of the Lord. 

In this valley of despair and rubble, where he felt like the Lord, through the Babylonian army, had only left dirt and dust for the remnant left behind to eat (re: Lamentations 3:16), Jeremiah still saw the goodness of God, the God of This City.

First of all, this poor man, who was chosen by God just barely out of his teens, to be His mouthpiece against the wickedness in the palaces and the Temple, was spared when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and killed all the royalty, except the king and took the elite of the nation into exile for 70 years. In fact, the Babylonians were made aware by God just who Jeremiah was and literally spared and left him behind to look after the poor remnant whom God wanted to stay behind and not go into exile. Jeremiah then wrote the Famous Letter to the Remnant in Jeremiah 29, which contains one of the most famous bible verses of all times - Jeremiah 29:11. It was a letter which gave hope to the people graciously left behind by God, that He had a plan to rebuild their lives, IF they would trust in Him.

The second thing which Jeremiah saw, even in the lament of this book (Lamentations), when he felt that all that was in his mouth was gravel, dirt and bitter herbs, was God's Love. This is a lesson for all of us who now feel like Jeremiah did, as we go through trial, tribulations and worse. It is a lesson we should observe as true, when we also see our communities, counties and country destroyed by the same evil, sin and the sinful like Jeremiah saw when Yahweh destroyed HIS city in 586 BC. 

When we weep for our own cities and towns like the Bible records one great man of God doing in the Book of Lamentations. When we not just weep but look up to the God of this City and Country as our only Hope, we too can fall back on the words found in this same Lamentations 3, and written by Jeremiah himself. These are the Words which should gives us hope in the midst of despair today:
JEREMIAH 3:19-32
19  Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
20  Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
21  This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23  They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26  It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
27  It is good for a man that he should bear
The yoke in his youth.
28  Let him sit alone and be silent
Since He has laid it on him.
29  Let him put his mouth in the dust,
Perhaps there is hope.
30  Let him give his cheek to the smiter,
Let him be filled with reproach.
31  For the Lord will not reject forever,
32  For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion

According to His abundant lovingkindness.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

THE 3:16 VERSES OF THE BIBLE, PART 18: "1000 YEARS IN JERUSALEM"

15 “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. 16 It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:15-17)
The old Gospel song has a great line “Every day with Jesus, is sweeter than the day before”. Every day with Jesus also brings us one day closer to the Return of the King and the Millennial Kingdom or the 1000 years Reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Yes, God Who became man and dwelt among us will be returning to the Creation He gave His life for, but not as the sweet baby born in a manger over 2000 years ago, but as He is. His Eyes will be full of fire and Judgment will be in His Hands. However, more importantly, He will be coming back – just as He promised.

Most of the concepts and mind pictures we have of the Coming Millennial Reign of Christ, come directly from the Old Testament and the major prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others) are the chief proclaimers of the Truth of the Coming King, to a lost a perishing world.  Jeremiah is one of those major prophets and his words from Chapter 3, directly from the Throne Room of God, predicting an event 2600 years ago, which is yet to come!

Most casual Bible readers know a little of the coming 1000 year reign of the Son of God directly from the rebuilt new Jerusalem in the Holy Land, on Mount Zion. Whether they believe it or not, reflects on their level of biblical discernment. What humans believe really has no bearing on The Eternal God’s plans and purposes. What is going to happen, is going to happen. 

Scripture explains Scripture. The Bible is an unbroken thread written by over 40 authors, over a period of 1500 plus years, under the inspiration of God. Most of these men never knew each other, yet the Bible has one theme, one narrative and one account with many sidebars of the same One God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We all know the King was born in a cold dark stable in Bethlehem to a poor couple, lived thirty three years, ministered and taught for three and then gave His life as a ransom for all the world (John 3:16).

After Jesus, the Son of God was crucified, died, Resurrected and seen all around Jerusalem before He ascended into the clouds, the Apostle John wrote of His Second Coming.  Jeremiah 3:16 and its surrounding in-context verses above, do not specifically describe THIS Second Coming which immediately precedes the 1000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem after He has destroyed the kings, leaders and armies of the unsaved world of all the other “religions”. What Jeremiah chapter 3 does give a glimpse of are facts on the ground AFTER Jesus has returned, at the End of the Age. Here is the scene of the actual descent from Heaven and Return of the King:

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in mid-heaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. (Revelation 19:11-19)

This is the actual visual evidence of an event which is coming so fast, you can feel the winds of change blowing. Verse 14 above describes the "armies in Heaven in fine white shiny linen". Expect the following Bible heroes to be riding in the Celestial Cavalry:  King David, Uriah the Hittite, Joshua (God’s General), Benaiah among many other recognizable names!  This is the final battle scene of ALL HISTORY! Let this soak in for a minute, then let us return to our original text: Jeremiah 3:16.

What Jeremiah 3:16 says in point is:
Old things are passed away. We don’t need relics which have long since served its appointed purposes  Just as God says in the verse that Israel did not need the Ark of the Covenant again, there is also no need for communion, church buildings, church staff, Christian TV or this very blog you’re reading! Why? Because Jesus is Lord and is live and alive in person in the same air as we are breathing in our supernatural bodies, and the paradigm has shifted. We are now in the Kingdom we were preaching about during the Church age, and those particular books are closed.

- Jerusalem will be the Capitol of the Kingdom. Jesus’ Throne will be there and there will be no question about it. There will be no temple mount problems….no conflict over which “religion” owns which spot on the Hill where God’s Temple sits. The new golden Jerusalem will not put up with any…and that means absolutely NONE of the garbage you see today. There will be one Faith only – Jesus and Jesus alone. Everything else will have gone up in smoke.

- All nations will be recognize just WHO is sitting on the Throne Jerusalem and all eyes will always be on Israel. Zechariah   tells us that believe it or not, there will be rebels who will refuse to go up and honor Jesus each year at the Feast of the Tabernacles as required. How, you ask, can this still happen? Well, even in the Millennial kingdom, babies will be born in our local hospitals who will not have Faith yet, and grow up to be against God Himself, even though He is right here on earth! They will be dealt with as rain will be withheld which will adversely affect their crops and food supply. At the Final Judgment (Revelation  )Jesus will complete the transition of His people into the Heavenly realm, while all rebels will be cast into a fate they will regret forever – the Lake of Fire.

The facts are this – first of all, Jesus is set to return and each day is one day closer. Secondly, if anyone reading this is on the ground of planet Earth when the eastern sky cuts open and the White Horse leaves Heaven with an army of Bible heroes in white fighting gear, it is going to be too late. 

Thirdly, in light of this and knowing this is going to happen, regardless of what any human believes, don’t you think it is encumbent upon each soul to make 100% sure that they are right with God, and Jesus is the Lord and Master of their lives? There is no mulligan and no middle way. It is Jesus plus Nothing. It is Jesus MINUS nothing. It is all Jesus or you are eternally lost and in huge danger should you be sitting watching Netflix and eating pizza and drinking beer, when the Lord puts a stop EVERYTHING on earth. Do not incorrectly assume "everything will work out in the end". Everything WILL work out in the End, as God planned it in general. For the soul who has lived an unforgiven, rebellious life with these incorrect assumptions - big trouble ahead. DO NOT LEAVE THIS TO CHANCE!.