The Church Next Door to Satan


I have been writing about Jesus’ messages to the seven churches of Revelation. Today, we’ll continue with a look at the church at Pergamos.

Pergamos, as stated last week, vied with Ephesus and Smyrna for the title, “First City of Asia”. Pergamos was briefly the capital of the Roman province of Asia, before the capital was transferred to Ephesus.

Pergamos was granted the title of metropolis and as a result of this an ambitious building program was carried out: massive temples, a stadium, a theatre, a huge forum and an amphitheatre were constructed. In addition, at the city limits the shrine to Asclepius (the god of healing) was expanded into a lavish spa. This sanctuary grew in fame and was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world. Galen, after Hippocrates the most famous physician of antiquity, was born at Pergamos and received his early training at the Asclepeion.

Asclepius was a hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are Hygieia (“Hygiene”, the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness), Aceso (the goddess of the healing process), Aglæa (the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy). He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis and the Egyptian Imhotep. He was one of Apollo‘s sons, sharing with Apollo the epithet Paean (“the Healer”). The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today.

Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the Therapeutae of Asclepius.  

Pergamos reached the height of its greatness under Roman Imperial rule and was home to about 200,000 inhabitants. The city was an early seat of Christianity and was granted a bishopric by the second century.

Now, on to the message to the church at Pergamos.

Jesus starts out this message as He does each message to the churches by saying “I know your works”. We have discussed what Jesus means when He says this. He is saying, “I know how you live – on what you spend your energy”.

Then, Jesus says an amazing thing. He says:

I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.

So, Jesus is saying that He recognizes Pergamos as the place where Satan has his earthly throne.

Take a look at this drawing of Pergamos.

We’ve already detailed that, at the city limits stood the Asclepeion, the hall of medicine inspired by the god of healing. Pergamos was also the center of Imperial cult worship, the worship of the emperor of the Roman world. After the death of the Roman emperor Trajan, he was deified by the Roman senate and a temple to worship him was built in Pergamos. The city also contained temples for the worship of Dionysus, god of wine and madness, Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, and Zeus, god of thunder and the sky and leader of the Greek pantheon of gods.

The church in Pergamos was commended by Jesus for holding fast to His name and not denying their faith in such a pagan atmosphere.

Could Jesus say the same about us in the pagan atmosphere we live in?

Jesus commended the church for holding fast to the faith in the difficult days of Antipas’ martyrdom.

According to Christian tradition, John the Apostle ordained Antipas as bishop of Pergamos during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. The traditional account goes on to say Antipas was martyred in ca. 92 AD by burning in a brazen bull-shaped altar for casting out demons worshiped by the local population. A bull was one of the signs of Zeus.

In spite of their trying circumstances, Jesus also had some things that needed correction in the church of Pergamos.

First, Jesus said that the doctrine of Balaam was being taught in Pergamos.

Balaam, a prophet from Mesopotamia, was willing to use his God-given talents for illicit purposes. Even though he knew Balak was God’s enemy, he tried to sell his prophetic gifts to help him. When that didn’t work, Balaam counseled Balak on the most effective way to weaken Israel. This was through seduction, using Moabite and Midianite women to tempt the Israelites into sexual relationships and into pagan rituals. The Israelites who participated brought God’s judgment upon themselves (Numbers 25:1–9).

According to 2 Peter 2:15, Balaam’s “way” is a choice to promote falsehood for financial reasons. According to Jude 1:11, Balaam’s “error” was his willingness to accommodate pagan beliefs out of greed. Jude 1:4 also refers to the sin of those “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” One trait of false teachers in the church is that they attempt to turn Christian liberty into a “freedom” to be promiscuous (see Romans 14:1–5).

The teaching that the body could not do the works of the spirit was rampant in this period. It was a corruption springing from Greek thought. Many believed that, if the spirit was saved, the works of the flesh didn’t matter because “flesh was flesh”. This was based in the teaching that Jesus could not have lived in flesh but only “appeared” to, so the body was not redeemed.

We find the doctrine of the Nicolaitans operating in Pergamos as well. This was mentioned as operating in the city of Ephesus, which was close to Pergamos.

Early church fathers mentioned this as originating from the deacon, Nicolas, who taught false liberty like the sharing of wives and involvement in idolatrous practices.

Jesus said that the church must repent or He will come quickly and fight against them with the sword of His mouth.

Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. Revelation 19:15

This sword is reserved for the enemies of God. We must not allow corruption of the word of God to deceive us concerning our status as His children!

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.

We know what the manna is: food given from heaven for the children of God. Jesus said that He was the bread that came down from heaven that if one eats, he will never die. But, this is called hidden manna. Why is it called hidden?

Remember, Jesus would use the characteristics of the area in which the churches were located to display a spiritual truth.

Pergamos was full of temples. Many Jews longed for the Ark of the Covenant which had disappeared upon the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The next time we see the Ark mentioned is in Revelation 11:19:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

To him who overcomes, even in the face of death as did Antipas – that one will see the Ark again in the Temple of God in heaven!

As for the white stone with a new name written:

This is difficult to understand but:

A suggestion is that the reference is to the stone or pebble of friendship, called tessera hospitalis, graven with some legend or device; and which gave to its possessor a claim of hospitality from him who gave it. Some such tickets admitted those invited into the heathen temples on festival days, when the meat which had been offered as a sacrifice formed part of the feast. The stone is called white; but the word does not imply that it is a stone of white colour, but that it is shining, glistering white. On the stone is graven a new name. The giving of new names is not uncommon in the Bible: for example, Abraham, Israel, Boanerges, Peter. The new name expressed the step which had been taken into a higher, truer life, and the change of heart and the elevation of character consequent upon it.

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Goodbye First Love!


Last week, we began a look at the messages sent to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. Last week’s blog served to help us understand what the apostle John was seeing during the impartation of the messages to the churches.

We learned that John saw seven golden lamp stands in his vision; each lamp stand representing a church. When I visited the Temple Institute in Jerusalem I saw the recreated lamp stand for the Third Temple.

Now, let’s dive into the first message given by Jesus Christ to John. This message is for the church at Ephesus.

The church in Ephesus is the church of the seven that we are most familiar with. Not counting the reference here in Revelation and the epistle that was written to the church; the city is mentioned twelve times in the New Testament. Here are some excerpts:

Paul sent Tychicus and Timothy to Ephesus – Timothy being sent to command certain people to stop teaching false doctrines in the church.

Paul preached in Ephesus for two years in the hall of Tyrannus because a great door of ministry had been opened for him in the presence of many adversaries.

Paul became aware of the ministry of Apollos in Ephesus.

As a result of Apollos’ ministry, Paul found believers who were not baptized in the Holy Spirit in Ephesus and laid hands of them for the infilling.

The seven sons of Sceva encountered the demoniac who said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about – but who are you?” in Ephesus.

Magic books were burned in Ephesus during the awakening.

Paul fought wild beasts in Ephesus.

Paul told the Ephesian elders before his trip to Jerusalem that he would see them no more.

These are just a few of the events we know happened in Ephesus. Christian tradition tells us that the apostle John was released from the island of Patmos and spent his last days in the city of Ephesus.

Ephesus was a major city in Asia Minor or Anatolia as it was also known as in those days. People came to Ephesus to shop in the bazaars, dip in the hot baths, visit the prostitutes, and worship the goddess Artemis. Ephesus was the center of worship of Artemis also known by her Roman name, Diana.

In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress tree were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithya in aiding childbirth.

Outside of the city limits was a large grove named Ortygia which was revered as the birthplace of Artemis.

Into this environment, a thriving church was born.

Now, let’s look at Jesus’ message to this church.

On the surface, it appeared that the church in Ephesus had it all together. Jesus commended their works (how they actually lived), their labor (ministry), and their patience. He also commended their ability to identify false apostles.

In those days just as it is today, teachers were going around seeking a following and money through their claim to be apostles. The Ephesian church did not tolerate or give a place to these liars.  We also have the first mention of a group called the Nicolaitans in Ephesus. While it is not exactly clear who these people were and what they believed, Jesus said he hated their deeds. Several early church fathers said that these people were followers of the deacon, Nicolas mentioned in Acts 6:5. They record that he began to teach corrupted doctrine including such things as the sharing of wives and involvement in idolatrous ceremonies. Clement said that they were “abandoned to pleasure like goats.” Jesus commended the Ephesian church for their rejection of this doctrine.

This church was a strong church; strong in character; strong in biblical knowledge; strong in patient prayer.

Yet, Jesus said that He had this against them:

You have left your first love.

This is a scary insight to me:

How do you maintain strong prayer, a strong biblical foundation, strong discernment, and great ministry and do that without loving Jesus more than anything else?

If they were not operating from a motivation of love for Jesus, what motivation were they operating from?

This causes me to tremble because it lets me know that, if we are not listening to Jesus and following His lordship, we can look like a great church but actually be in danger of having Jesus shut down the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us!

Apparently, this church had lost its sensitivity to the Spirit in the midst of what looked like spiritual success. They were not aware of their condition and were probably celebrating their successes. As they looked around, I wonder if they considered themselves to be preeminent among the churches. Jesus said that they had actually fallen from a high position and needed to repent for their motivations.

Wow!!!!

Jesus reminded the Ephesian church that He held the destiny of the messengers of these churches and the actual churches themselves in His hand.

What is Jesus saying to Capstone in this message? Will He find an ear to hear among us?

Remember the grove dedicated to the worship of Artemis that was located in Ephesus? People came from all over the world to gain her favor. Jesus used His knowledge of what was happening in Ephesus to say these words:

To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.

To him who rejects this deception, I will give to eat from the tree of life found in the midst of the Paradise of God! The tree of life is found in two places: the Garden of Eden and in the New Jerusalem. We know that the way to the Garden of Eden is banned from man on earth. But, Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

The word “paradise” is an old Persian word that means “an enclosed garden”.

Want a return to a Garden of Eden like life? Then, keep Jesus as your first love and do not allow anything else to take the place in your heart that only He should occupy! 

Lord, may our church love you more than anything else!

 

 

The Churches of Revelation


Over the next several weeks, I’d like to write about the Apostle John’s letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. Each week, we will look at the message given to a specific church with the desire to get an understanding of Jesus’ view of the conditions of today’s local church. We will start by taking a look at the vision that produced these messages to the seven churches.

The book of Revelation is a prophetic book. Like a lot of prophetic writings, Revelation contains a lot of simile and figurative language to describe what is being seen by the Apostle John. Imagine that you are a first century man trying to describe what you are seeing, not only in heaven, but in centuries far beyond your own! It is a difficult task. John had to compare what he was seeing to things that he knew in an attempt to describe them. We see this imagery used in the part of the vision that produced the letters to the churches.

Let’s start this teaching with where John received the vision.

The Apostle John was on an island named Patmos when Revelation was revealed to him. Patmos is a small Greek island off the coast of Asia Minor. It was a part of a group of islands to which Roman political prisoners were exiled. The Bible tells us that John was exiled there because of the Word of God and his witness of Jesus Christ. He was sent to Patmos during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. Domitian had some history with the Jews. His father, Titus led the Roman legions in the war against Israel that saw the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Domitian saw himself as an enlightened Augustus destined to lead Rome back to its glory days. He declared himself perpetual censor, which meant he exercised control over private and public morals. It was during his reign, that a terrible persecution was unleashed against Christians. Christian tradition states that John was dropped in a vat of boiling oil before he was exiled to Patmos. This is what John received on Patmos:

John states that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and he heard a loud voice like a trumpet behind him instructing him to write in a book what he was about to see and to send it to seven churches:

Ephesus – Smyrna – Pergamum – Thyatira – Sardis – Philadelphia – Laodicea

These were actual cities with active churches during the time of John. There are some who believe that these churches themselves are “representative” of different periods of church history. I often wonder if we try to complicate scriptural interpretation when there is no need for it, but whether these letters are to the literal churches or representations is not my focus. My focus is the message sent to the churches.

When John turned to see who was speaking to him, he saw seven golden lamp stands. The golden lamp stand has a rich biblical history. God instructed Moses to make a golden lamp stand with seven lights to light the Tabernacle of Meeting. Hebrews 8:4-5 tells us that the earthly tabernacle was a type and shadow of that in heaven. In Revelation 4:5, John saw the heavenly throne room. Before the throne sat the heavenly lamp stand which was the sevenfold Spirit of God. Zechariah, an earlier prophet described a similar vision this way:

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” He answered, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I replied. So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:1-6

It is most likely that that seven lamp stands that John saw were exactly like those described above. Verse 20 of Revelation 1 tells us what the lamp stand represents: the church.

Many numbers, colors, and some materials and objects are used over and over in the Bible. Through this repetitive use, we have come to understand that they are representative. The number seven was used in the Bible to represent perfection. Gold is used to represent deity, worth, and purity. The church of Jesus Christ has two sides. It has the divine side and a human side. The human side of the church is growing in sanctification, but the divine side of the church is perfect. We find our perfection as a people in Him. The gold of the lamp stand represents the churches authority, worth, and purity. A lamp stand is used to represent the church because we are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14) and because the Holy Spirit is the agent of ministry dwelling among us (refer to Zechariah 4:1-6).

Walking among the lamp stands was someone John described as “like a son of man”. The term “son of man” literally means that it was a man that John saw. We know Jesus used this term to describe Himself. But, the rest of the description of this man reveals that He is no ordinary man.

The man among the lamp stands speaks to John identifying Himself as Jesus Christ through a series of phrases:

First and last, the living One, I was dead and I am alive, I have the keys to death and Hades. His appearance is amazing: gold sash around his robe representing royalty; hair white as wool representing wisdom and Ancient of Days; eyes like a flame of fire representing passion; feet like burnished bronze representing beauty of mission; and His voice was like the sound of a thousand waterfalls. In His hand, He held seven stars; out of His mouth came a two-edged sword; and His face – like the sun shining on the brightest day.

Jesus walks among the churches. Jesus walks in your church. As for the seven stars in His right hand:

The right hand is the hand of favor and blessing. The word “stars” is the Greek word “angelos”. Most often, this word is used to describe supernatural messengers such as angels, but it can refer to human messengers as well (see Matt. 11:10). In this case, I believe it means the human messengers of the churches, maybe the teaching elder. Why? For two reasons:

When addressing the messengers of the churches, Jesus says, “I know your….”  In other words, Jesus was specifically including the messengers in the description of the condition of the church. Another reason I believe this is: how could John write letters to angels? Who would deliver the messages? How would he address them?

Jesus, who walks among us has a message for us! Beginning next time, we will find out what it is!

Its What Happened After Easter


A view of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the eyes of a non believer. When a non believer looks at what happened on that day, what do they see?

The death of a good man? – a rebel? – a maniac? What else is seen? An empty tomb – the product of zealous followers? – grave robbers?

Is the story a fairy tale? A myth? A misinterpretation of facts?

The truth be told – people all through history have followed the trail of this story to find out what happened after the resurrection and, despite all of our technology and despite all of those seeking to either prove or disprove the resurrection of Jesus, no one has been able to locate evidence that proves a different story other than the one found within these pages.  

We know He was there and now, He is not.

But, factual evidence doesn’t stop there.

Soldiers commanded to guard the tomb against this exact scenario reporting a vision of an angelic being and a missing body.

A plot conceived to cover the failed attempt to keep His body in the tomb.

A group of women stating they had seen Jesus alive.

A gathering of 500 people witnessed His appearance to them within 40 days of His death.

A group of twelve men known as His disciples willing to die to stand by their story that they had personally seen Him alive.

After Jesus’ resurrection, there were 120 believers. 2000 years after this event, 2.2 billion people say that they believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.

That number represents those alive today. It does not take into account the great number of those who believed in His resurrection down through history who have already died.

What causes such a tidal wave of faith? How did this story cause such a “fire” that it has affected such a large number of people?

It’s what happens after the resurrection that answers the question.

Before His death, Jesus told His disciples this:

But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. John 16:5-7

Jesus said that it was to our advantage that He go away. Like most of us, I believe the disciples could not believe that they would have an advantage through Jesus’ absence.

Jesus stated that the advantage for the believers would come in the arrival of the Helper. In verse 13, Jesus called this Helper the Spirit.

After His death, even His most ardent followers were scattered abroad for fear. After His resurrection, something happened that changed everything.

And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, He said, you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5

Then Jesus elaborated on what would happen to the believers that would make them change and change everything:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

It is one thing to know who Jesus is. It is another to have seen Him do things. It is another to have memories of Him from the past. But, what Jesus is revealing after His resurrection takes things to a whole different level.

You may know what happened after this conversation: Jesus ascends to heaven; leaving His disciples behind. But, then:

They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4

In other words, the disciples caught fire! And, it was the fire that made all the difference in the world!

This was the day that changed everything! True, it wasn’t possible until the resurrection of Jesus, but after this event – Jesus went viral!

Its after Easter. Have you experienced the “fire”?

 

Lessons from a Boat Ride


Luke chapter five, verses one through eleven take us into a day in the life of Jesus.

This day in the life of Jesus actually begins with an ending.

Jesus arrives at the Lake of Gennesaret known by most of us as the Sea of Galilee. When He arrives, the fishing boats are docked and the fishermen are washing their nets. Fishermen washed their nets at the end of a day of fishing or in this case, a night of fishing. Since there were two boats at the scene, it could have been possible that the fishermen had attached the net to the two boats and sailed along with the effect of a dragnet.

Whatever the method, nets were washed at the end of the day. Nets catch fish but they also catch a lot of other things. Since these nets were most likely made of rope, they needed to be cleaned to ensure longevity and effectiveness.

Net fishing is a lot of work. It is much more labor intensive than casting a line into the water. At the end of the day, the fishermen would be tired; ready to end their day.

It is into this scenario that Jesus walks – showing up at the end to bring a new beginning.

Do you believe you are at an ending? Then, you might want to listen to this.

The fishermen are tired and ready to leave but Jesus jumps into the boat owned by Simon and asks him to put out a little from the land. Jesus was looking for a good place to teach the crowd. Sound carried well across the water and everyone could see Him from that vantage point.

So, Jesus teaches the multitude.

But, something happens next that I want to focus on today.

Jesus tells Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Suddenly, the word goes from being directed to the “multitude” to being directed to an individual. The word becomes personal: a directive that requires faith and action.

Someone here today is at an ending. Jesus may have been a “part” of your experience but now, He is moving into personal territory – asking for something, directing a step that needs to be taken. He is no longer speaking to multitudes – He is speaking to you!

Jesus’ directive to Simon didn’t make sense. They were at an ending. Activities that are required at the end of something are being done. Jesus tells them to move into deep water and let down the nets. Why would He ask such a thing?

I can almost hear Peter’s thoughts:

“He knows nothing about what I’ve been doing. My experience tells me that this is not going to work. We are tired – ready to quit and now, He is saying go into deep water and let down the nets. We’ve been out all night without any success. What makes Him think that this time will be any different?”

Someone here is being challenged to move beyond what you have always known; to make a move that doesn’t make sense in the natural; to put aside your pride, what you know and to risk it all on a word from Jesus.

Simon’s response?

“This isn’t going to work:

Yet at Your Word I will let down the net!”

Focus on this statement: “At Your Word!”
This is where your struggle is. I understand that you may not want to have to clean up another mess; I understand that you may be tired of failing; that you may be struggling with the sense of it all – but the real struggle is “At His Word!”

Are you willing to take the risk to find something different? Are you willing to admit your efforts have failed? Are you willing to release control that you never truly had to Jesus? Are you willing to take the risk that Jesus may be different than your experience tells you He is?

Simon didn’t rely on any other experience available to him. He made the move into the deep based upon a Word from Jesus!

After the nets are released, such a great number of fish were caught that the nets began to break!

From empty nets to full nets; breaking with fullness!

Simon’s willingness to act at Jesus’ Word opened a door for a flood of revelation! 

And, it brought Peter to this thought:

“Jesus, your power and authority over my world have made me realize how small and pitiful my efforts to control things have been!!! Depart from me – you can’t possibly have real interest in someone like me!”

Then, the most unlikely, compassionate, and crazy “Jesus” thing happened.

Simon’s revelation of Jesus’ power and authority turned into a revelation of his own destiny!

Say this out loud to yourself: “Don’t be afraid!”

From now on, you will catch men.

From now on, everything will be different.

But, it all begins “At Jesus’ Word!”

God is calling someone into “deep water” today. You are being called to act contrary to the familiar and to take a step of faith in Jesus. If you respond like the disciples; if you forsake your “comfort zone” and follow Him, a flood of revelation will open for you and empty nets turn into full ones!

 

Dallas Shootings


It has been a week or so since the shooting  of the police officers in Dallas. I don’t have to tell you what happened, because that has been reported by nearly every news agency in America, both local and national.

You also know why these shootings occurred. Witnesses at the scene who spoke to the gunman have told us that they were in response to police involved deaths of minority citizens across the country.

As I sat and thought about these things, while asking the Lord to examine my own heart, I was reminded of these words found in the letter of 1 John.

We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 4:19-21

I have heard a lot of talk about love conquering hate and I believe it does. But, I also know that love for those to whom we have little affinity for is activated in its purest form through submission to the Lord.

Look at the first sentence of this scripture:

We love BECAUSE He first loved us.

 

It is impossible to give someone something that you do not first possess. You must have money to give money. You must have shelter to share a roof for the night. You must have food to share it with those who are in lack. Love is no different – you must first possess it to give it away. Love in the form that is needed for the hour is received from God by being in a submitted relationship with Him. Many use His Name to further their agendas but fail to further His love. Without love being the motivation for our interactions with one another, we will fall short in every effort – including the effort to see justice for the wronged.

We can work for justice and do so without love. We can talk about change and do so without love. We can write new laws and do so without love. We can call for unity in the Name of Jesus and do so without love.

The apostle John stated that if anyone says, “I love God” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.What we do is important to God, so the causes we stand for are important to Him.

But, the motive and reason for why we are making those stands are just as important to Him. To understand our motives requires inspection by the Holy Spirit and the desire to be right with God above all things.

Where are you in this process?

There are many things that have been done and will be done in the Name of Jesus that have nothing to do with Him!

If you don’t love your brother, then your relationship with God is already askew.

I understand the need for change yet I also know that if we don’t build from the right foundation, what we build will not be fair and loving to all. I’ve been troubled with hearing things like, “Well, I know what happened is not right, but….”

If it is not right, it is not right – period. You can’t sanitize it or justify it. We are often like little children on the playground, caught by the teacher hitting one another and responding, “He hit me first!” We justify our lack of integrity and moral courage by saying that other people control our emotions and destiny.

With this type of thinking, we are nothing more than slaves. Guess what?

Slaves don’t have the power to change their destiny. To want something is not enough, you must also possess the means to make it happen. Right now, we are wanting to make things different without the involvement of Jesus. They are messed up because of resistance to the involvement of Jesus. When are we going to learn?

Remember this: love cannot be faked or counterfeited. It is either real or a flawed and weak representation. We need the real thing in this hour.

The apostle John basically said, “If you are not right with your brother, you are not right with God. If you are not right with God, you cannot be right with your brother.”

I don’t think there is anything else that needs to be said.

Jesus, we repent for the loveless nature of our own hearts and the heart of our nation.

 

 

 

The Pursuit of Happiness


Have you ever found yourself on a slippery slope or stepped onto a rock below the water that was covered with moss?

The resulting fall was not very pleasant!

I believe that we are on a slippery slope as a nation that can culminate in a very bad fall.

There are two items being pushed in our society that, when they are mixed together can create a pathway that will take us places that we don’t really want to go.

The first item is the pursuit of happiness.

Yes, I know that our Declaration of Independence mentions this as being an inalienable right. But, remember that there are two other rights mentioned along with that one:

Life and liberty.

I fear that we don’t know where true life comes from. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” If you believe these words – if they carry any gravity at all, then we must understand that life is much more than eating, drinking, and doing whatever we like to do. If life is found in a Person, then we must look to that Person to teach us how to live life. We must draw life from that Person or our attempts to live will be misguided. If we don’t know the Source of true life, then the pursuit of happiness is an act of futility.

What about liberty?

Is liberty the ability to do whatever I want? Is liberty the exaltation of self? To most people, the answer to these questions is “yes” in action if “no” in response.

So, is liberty the right to exalt my desires over those of another? Or is liberty found in something much deeper – something that causes us to care for and meet the needs of others as well as ourselves?

It seems to me that we are deifying the pursuit of happiness in our culture. We believe that we have a right to be happy. Our goal is not to be a person of honor or a person of character but to be happy. Most scientific opinion polls would bear this out.

When you deify your personal happiness, you deify your self. If personal happiness is to be our goal in society, then everything – any type of activity no matter how perverse, uncivilized, or unhealthy is on the table.

 

If liberty is the ability to do whatever I want, how can a community of people live together or work together? Our concept of what is going to make us happy varies and stem from recesses deep within us. Pain can cause desire. Confusion can cause desire. Delusion can cause desire. Rebellion can cause desire. Anger can cause desire. To some, what will make them happy is to take something that legally belongs to someone else. Or to have sex with a child. Or to kill someone.

At what point are we going to say that some forms of liberty are not conducive to the common good?

I said that there are two items of concern growing in society.

The second is the exaltation of the rights of the individual.

While I firmly believe in individual rights, I believe in those under a law that promotes health, respect, and a love for community.

Who gets to decide what promotes health, respect, and a love for community?

Think of some current debates.

I want to be able to go to the bathroom as either a male or female. I have the right to identify myself as any sex I want no matter what has scientifically been assigned to me.

What about the rights of the others who are using the same bathroom? Did their rights disappear because of one person’s desire?

Gender identification and same sex marriage are not stand alone decisions. There are other issues behind these waiting for their turn to express themselves.It’s the proverbial Pandora’s box: you allow one thing access and others clamor for their day in the sun.

What’s next?

Someone will want to marry their dog. Since we have changed the definition of unions, why is this off limits? What about someone wanting to marry a child?

This line of thinking doesn’t just apply to relationships.

What about money?

If everyone has the right to be happy, shouldn’t we divide what is produced among each of us? If my unhappiness is linked to my income, why not? If my feelings about myself are linked to what I have or don’t have, why not? Others got to get what they wanted based upon their feelings about self?

We declare that we use science as our guide for rational decisions.

What scientific proof do we have that life begins at any other time than conception? What scientific proof do we have that homosexuality or lesbianism is a product of genetics? What scientific proof do we have that I am a woman when my physical makeup and genetics are all male?

When you mix the exaltation of individual rights with the deification of personal happiness, you have a recipe for disaster.

I remember that our Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

Who is going to decide the pathway to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Someone will do the deciding!!!

Will it be a man? A panel of men and women; say judges? Will it be a political body? Or will it be the Creator who endowed these rights in the first place?

I feel for anyone who is confused or suffering. I’ve been there myself and still visit there from time to time. But, you can’t have a society of peace and freedom in an  environment of conflicting rules.

Again, who get’s to decide?

You’ve heard this: “Don’t put your morality upon me!”

I don’t want to do that but someone is going to decide the path. The million dollar question is not:

“What will make me happy?” But:

“Who is going to decide the pathway?”

That’s the question that is causing all the uproar.

 

The Millennial Reign of Christ


Today, I will finish the series of blogs about the end times by taking a look at the final event before the establishment of the new heavens and new earth. This final event, or better yet – final time period is known as the Millennial Reign of Christ.

We ended last time by describing the battle of Armageddon. The Antichrist, the False Prophet and their armies move against Israel to destroy her. It is at this time, that Jesus appears on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem with the armies of heaven. His appearing is accompanied by cataclysmic events such as earthquakes and hailstorms. Jesus destroys the armies arrayed against Him with a word from His mouth. The destruction is to the extent that the blood of the slain flows at the depth of a horse’s bridle for 200 miles! The Antichrist and the False Prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire.

Here’s where we pick up:

There are people who believe that the 1000 year reign of Christ known as the Millennial Reign is simply allegorical, with differences covering everything from disagreement over the length of an actual millennium to disagreement on when this will occur to others saying that they don’t believe in a literal, physical reign of Christ upon the earth. It would take too long to discuss the origin and reason for each of these positions. This is my point in mentioning this:

I don’t see any reason to dispute what the Bible seems to be saying which is that there will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth. There is no reason that I can see not to interpret these scriptures literally. You want to interpret all scripture literally unless there is good reason to interpret them figuratively.

Now, the Bible tells us that when Christ returns to the earth at the time of His Second Coming, He will establish  Himself as king in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David. This period of time will result in the fulfillment of several covenants that God made with the patriarchs.

 

It will fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant promising Israel a land, a posterity and a ruler, which shall be a spiritual blessing to all (Gen. 12:1-3). It will fulfill the Palestinian Covenant promising Israel restoration to the land and occupation of it (Deut. 30:1-10). It will also fulfill the Davidic Covenant which promises Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever—giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Sam. 7:10-13).

Israel will be re-gathered from the nations, converted, and restored to the land. The Bible speaks of the conditions during the millennium as being a perfect environment as earthly possible. Micah 4:2-4 and Isaiah 32:17-18 says it will be a time of peace. Isaiah 61:7,10 states that it will be a time of joy. Isaiah 40:1-2 tells of the comfort of that period. Christ will rule as king. According to Isaiah 32:1 and Matthew 19:28, righteous nobles and governors will rule with Him and Zech. 8:3 states that Jerusalem will be the political center of the world.

Who will be alive and populate the earth during the Millennial Reign?

Most scholars believe that there will be two distinct groups occupying the earth in the millennial kingdom – those with glorified bodies and those with earthly bodies who lived through the tribulation. Most scholars believe that those with glorified bodies consist of the raptured Church who return with Christ and the martyred tribulation saints who are resurrected at the Second Coming.

Matthew 25:31-46 tells of the separation of the sheep and the goats. Many scholars believe this to refer to the righteous and unrighteous Gentiles, the unrighteous or goats who took the mark of the beast cast into the lake of fire while the righteous or sheep will survive on into the millennium. Some believe that Old Testament saints will also be raised during this period (Dan. 12:2).

Those who are live during the Tribulation in earthly  bodies are the righteous who survived the Tribulation and, the impression is given that it will be the Israelis alive at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. Zechariah 8:1-5 describes Jerusalem this way:

“I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her. I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of Hosts, the Holy Mountain. Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of his great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”

Most scholars believe that, according to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 22:30, those with glorified bodies will not marry or be given in marriage so as to produce children, yet those with earthly bodies could have children.

People will not be robots during this period; they will still be responsible for their own faith. The influence of the devil will be gone, the influence of Christ will be present and the authority of the establishment will be righteous.

But, Revelation 20 tells us a sad and unbelievable tale.

At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will go to the lands farthest away from Jerusalem and will deceive people into rebelling against Christ revealing to us the utter folly of the belief that our nature is basically good. An army will be raised and will march against Jerusalem to destroy the rule of Jesus. Fire will fall from the sky and will destroy the army.

Satan will then be cast into the lake of fire, where he will be tortured forever along with all those who lived all throughout history whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

This is the final even in history before the creation of the new heavens and new earth and in it, the new home of man and God, the New Jerusalem.

Now, hear the pronouncement to those of us who live now:

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

 

The Satanic Leadership Team


For the last three times we have been together, I have been writing about the end times.  If you are new, this is intended to familiarize you with the events that are prophesied to occur at the end of the age. So far, we have:

Discussed the signs that let us know we are in the last days.

Studied the rapture: what it is and when it will occur.

Defined the Tribulation and the signs of its arrival.

This time, we will take a look at some significant people and events of the Tribulation.

The Tribulation will be the most traumatic period in the history of the world. During this period, God will pour out His wrath upon the earth in a series of judgments which are described at length in the book of Revelation.

Satan will be unusually active during the Tribulation and his work will center around two individuals.

  1. Antichrist

The Antichrist is a man who will be given enormous power by Satan. He will use this power to become the dominant leader of the world.

Revelation 13:1-2: “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. Verse 7-8: “And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given to him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The book of Revelation, as well as most prophetic literature is written in figurative language. Each description of the Antichrist details a feature of his nature or dominion. In Revelation, he is called, “the beast.” In Daniel 9:26, he is called, “the prince who is to come.” Whatever the description, this man will be enormously powerful and deceptive. He will not only rule over the world politically but will also use his power to become the object of the world’s worship. Yet, the worship of this man will be more than the worship of a man; it will be overt worship of Satan himself.

Revelation 13:4: “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast.”

The Antichrist will probably initially appear on the scene as a man of peace. He will guarantee peace for Israel and the Middle East by brokering a seven year peace treaty. It appears that this treaty will include the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. After this, he will begin to assert his power. He will initially have power over one nation. He will then conquer three more nations and then, assume authority over a ten nation federation which will lead to his power over the entire world.

His plan for world domination (probably described as “world peace”) will include three tenets:

One world currency

One world government

One world religion

His society will be cashless with every transaction electronically monitored. He will accomplish this by each person receiving a mark on their right hand or on their forehead which will be necessary to buy and sell.

How can a man rise to such authority?

Possibly by emulating the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Revelation 13:3: “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

In response to rebellion, war, or even the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses of God in Jerusalem, the Antichrist will go to Jerusalem and stop all sacrifice to anyone other than himself and will declare himself to be god. He will persecute Israel and those who are Christians. His maniacal reign will only be stopped through divine intervention of the Lord Himself.

  1. False Prophet

The False Prophet will assist the Antichrist by performing miracles which will cause the entire world to worship the Antichrist and Satan. This demonic religious man will even be able to make an image of the beast “come to life” to deceive the people. He will make fire come down from heaven and will be a major part of the deception of promoting the Antichrist as God. It is through the False Prophet, that the plan for one world currency and religion is conceived and enforced.

Revelation 13:11-17: “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire to come from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

At the end of the Tribulation, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will be defeated in war by Jesus in the presence of His followers and they will be locked away in the lake of fire forever.

Next time, I’ll write a little about the Second Coming of Christ.

The Morning Dawns


A morning crisp though darkness reigns;

The Son goes dark, a world in chains.

Those who live destined to die

Love’s Substitute from beyond the sky.

Heaven bled – the earth was stained

A morbid end, now darkness chained.

Hope in the grave three days it lay

Then out it came this time to stay.

The end has now become a door

What birthed in fear now leads to more.

A wicked tree – An empty grave

A way to life – a place to crave.

The day is new, the mirror lies

A destiny’s full heart now cries.

The heart of earth by Heaven won

Death could not hold the rising Son.

The morning crisp, the shadow gone

Is disappeared in Easter’s dawn!