God is Amazing!

As a single guy, I only know this because it was pointed out to me by a woman, but you can’t wear red and orange together. They clash.

I was thinking about this the other day while driving around town and looking at the trees. Have you ever noticed that a bright orange tree and deep red tree look just fine together. In fact, you could have purple flowers, blue ones, bright green foliage, and a ruby throated hummingbird all jammed together in a very small garden and the colors would all look beautiful together.

It’s just an observation, but it’s really heart changing when you think about it: None of God’s colors clash!

The problem with red and orange is not fundamental to the colors but to our ability to make copies of what God did. If I were given a pallette and primary colors of paint to start mixing with, how many colors could I mix before I found one color that clashed with another? Maybe half a dozen? My niece is an artist, so she could maybe mix 15 or 20.

But there are millions of colors in creation and all of them look great together.

I’ve seen sunrises that would take your breath away. I stood on the beach and watched the purplish dark slowly give way to oranges and reds and then he yellow sun would pop out of the blue-green water. The sky filled with all shades and hues of these colors in close proximity and they all look great together.

What kind of a genius is our God that he can create a whole world of color and not one single clash among them?

It’s one thing to look at a giraffe, which has the highest blood pressure of any mammal to drive the blood all the way up their neck to their brain. I mean, survival of the fittest makes a little bit of sense when you see how the ones with the longer necks survived better and reproduced.

But did you know that their blood pressure is so high that if they bent over to drink water and their brain went below their hear that the blood pressure would blow apart the blood vessels in their head and they’d die instantly? It turns out that giraffes have a pressure valve at the base of their skull that returns the blood to their heart.

What kind of a sane person can look at creation and say, “Yeah! That all happened by accident?” And scientists think we’re crazy for believing in something we can’t see.

How can you not?

How to Lose your Salvation

One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.” Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.” “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.” That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!” He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50

I heard a story about a week ago that has caused me to lose a couple of nights sleep. It reminded me of a woman I met about a dozen years ago who had come to an encounter with the Lord after decades of hard partying. The woman was extremely critical and judgmental against anyone with the smallest weakness in her life.

Jesus taught us in this passage, though, that anyone who is forgiven much, will love much. Yet, neither of these people showed the least grace or mercy towards Christians with weaknesses in their lives, or towards unbelievers.

All of us have, in our walk with the Lord, encountered the Pharisee Christian. These are the ones who probably grew up in a Christian home and who never sinned very much. They toe a harsh line and demand that same harsh line out of everyone they encounter. Their self-righteousness causes them to judge others with little grace or mercy.

These Pharisee Christians meet the rule Jesus spoke here to another Pharisee. These have been forgiven little and so love little. Because of the small amounts of grace and mercy needed to redeem them, they have not come to an understanding of the depth of God’s grace and mercy. They fulfill the rule.

Then what of these people we encounter, rare though they be, that have been forgiven truckloads of sins, and yet they are harsh taskmasters when it comes to forgiving others? It has cost me many hours of sleep, but I have finally come to a shocking conclusion:

RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT!!!!!

Jesus gives to us the acid test of identifying a believer: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)” Paul identifies for us what these nine fruit of the Spirit are:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Did you notice that righteousness is not on the list? In our culture, much importance is placed on living a “good life” and being a “good person” and yet, there’s nothing about that in this list, or, rather, this list defines what a “good person” is.

Jesus never said that you would recognize his servants by their morals or their ethics or by their ability to obey the ten commandments. You would know his servants by these nine fruit.

So where does that leave us with these people who appear to have cleaned up their lives and yet judge others so harshly?

If those who have been forgiven much, love much and these people love little, then the only remaining conclusion is that they haven’t been forgiven at all. They may have come to the Lord and ask for help and the Lord may indeed have cleaned up their lives, but the forgiveness is gone. How is this possible?

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt. “The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’ “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid.

When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Matthew 18:21-35

The servant in this story had already been forgiven his debt. Yet, because he was unwilling to walk in grace and mercy, the grace and mercy he’d been given had been retracted. There was no more forgiveness for his sins.

This, then, is the unpardonable sin. You blaspheme the Holy Ghost, the one who forgives, by not showing grace and mercy on other sinners.

Learn to walk in grace and mercy and forgiveness. The soul you save will, in fact, be your own.

The Bad Levite

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead.

“Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill – I’ll pay you on my way back.’”

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37

We’ve heard many people preach on this story about the Samaritan and how, despite the fact that he was a member of a group hated by the Jews, he stopped and helped a Jewish man. What is frequently missed is the role of the Levite and the priest.

Remember that Jesus told this story to one of the leaders of the Pharisee sect. It contains a warning as to one of the excesses that religion can lead us all into.

Notice that the first two that passed by the wounded man were religious leaders: the first a priest, the second a Levite, one of the keepers of the temple in Jerusalem. These men were enthusiastic about serving God in the way that they best understood.

The key here is that he was left half-dead. To passers-by he would’ve looked like a corpse, or nearly so. By Jewish law the dead were unclean and anyone that touched a dead body would be unclean.

The Levite and the priest were on their way to conduct service for the Lord. If they had stopped to assist this man and he died, they would be unclean and, by law, would be forbidden from entering the temple until the following evening.

“I’m on my way to do what’s really important and serve the Lord in his temple,” they must’ve thought. “Anyone can stop and help this man. I’m sure someone will be along any minute.”

These men were so caught up in what they thought was doing God’s work, that they missed an opportunity to do the real thing.

For Christians, serving the Lord is not something that goes on when we go to church, it’s what we do during the week. Going to church is important for us to recharge our batteries for the week ahead. It’s during the week that we pour out what we’ve received by being servants to the people around us.

When the widow woman came to Elisha in I Kings 4 and asked for help to pay her bills, Elisha said, “What do you have in your house?”

She told him, “A little oil.” Oil is a symbol of the anointing. The churches are filled with people hungry for the anointing of the Lord. We all want more. How do we get more?

Elisha told her to gather together the vessels of her friends and neighbors and fill them up with oil and as long as she was pouring into them, she would never run out.

What do you have in your house?

When the disciples came to Jesus in Mark and asked him how they were going to feed the multitude, Jesus said, “You feed them.” They then protested that it would cost all this money to feed them. Jesus simply replied, “How many loaves do you have?”

The ministry we do as Christians starts in our own neighborhood. If you can’t take your block for Jesus, how are you going to take a nation?

Evangelists and missionaries start in their grocery store, in the restaurant you have dinner with your family, at your local bar. These are the ones that need to know who Jesus is.

And you don’t have to preach for them. Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love.” After you’ve spent months or even a couple of years sowing into the lives of those around you, you can tell them anything you want about Jesus and they will lap it up like a sponge because for the first time in their lives, they’ve seen real fruit about what being a servant of the Lord really means.

Your home is a beacon of light in your neighborhood. Your neighbors see lots of their friends go to church and that means nothing to them. Be salt and light to them and your world will begin to change.

After you’ve taken your neighborhood, then you’re ready to start taking the nations for Jesus.

“The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’ “He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’”

Luke 19:16-17

Rock Music

You always know when God is speaking to you about something. This week, the Lord has been speaking to me about rocks of all things. This morning, the Lord sent me to a church called Quest Community Church here in Lexington and guess what they were talking about? Rocks.

When the Babylonians built the tower of Babel, they used bricks made by man. When God built his temple, he built it out of stone.

It’s a real problem building stuff out of stone. Bricks are neat and easy to work with because they’re all the same size and shape. It’s easy to figure out how to put them all together because they fit like building blocks.

Stones, on the other hand, are messy. If you were to take 1,000 rocks out of a creek, each would be a different size and shape. Their chemical makeup will even be a little different from rock to rock, each one completely unique.

No wonder the Babylonians used bricks. What a mess building a house out of these messy shapes that are difficult to fit together. It’s more like putting together a jigsaw puzzle than it is constructing a neat building.

And yet, we are the living stones that God has chosen to build his house with. Not only that, but we don’t even start out as stones.

Peter was first called Simon, which means “Wishy-washy.” Then the Lord called him Petros, which means, despite our thinking, a stone easily detached and disposed of—a pebble. But Peter was called Simon Peter throughout the scriptures, meaning, literally, “wishy-washy rock.” It’s not until Acts that the Simon is dropped and he becomes Peter. Then later in Paul’s writings he is referred to as Cephas, meaning, “the head.”

So, a rock is something we become, and we can’t do that until we are placed by the Lord. We don’t always like the place God puts us, and it probably won’t be comfortable, but through faith, we understand that that place is according to God’s plan and he alone knows what the house is going to look like.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, when Solomon constructed the temple, he built it out of stone. He then covered the stone entirely in wood. Wood is the nature of man. The stone is our perfected state in the body, but it’s always covered with our imperfections.

God, for whatever reason, insists on using us. He could use angels to send his message, but he, instead, sends us, with all our imperfections, to be his representation in the earth.

I’m sitting here looking at the rock that was given to me this morning. It is worn smooth from years of being in rough water. I understand what that feels like. It is also jagged on one side where it has been broken. All of us, in our imperfect state have been broken. As I hold this rock, I rub across the jagged edge knowing that if I keep this up long enough, the jaggedness will disappear and it will be smooth like the rest.

There’s something else about this rock. It is small. In our culture, we build foundations for a house using concrete. To us, a boulder is not very useful. What we need to pour a concrete foundation is a bunch of these tiny pebbles all ready to be mixed together to be a part of the house God wants to build on the earth.

I do not desire to have a huge church with hundreds or even thousands of people. All I want to be is this “very small” pebble that is useful to be in the foundation of the Lord.

This rock, from now on, will sit on my desk. Whenever I start to think too highly of myself, I will pick it up and rub my fingers across the rough side. All of us need a little smoothing. All of us need to remember that we’re only created to be a small part of the huge house God is building in the earth.

If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Luke 19:40

 

Turning Saul into Paul

A number of years ago, I was sitting at a church service and our friend Gary King was preaching. Gary’s an excellent preacher and this particular day he made two statements that have spoken to me for all these years.

The first was, “It takes a Saul to make a David.”

For many years, I believed that Saul was unelect. Despite all of God’s statements that he had chosen him to be king, I did not believe that Saul was eternally destined to be with the Lord forever because of the way he behaved towards David. It was only recently that I ran across one of those pesky scriptures that changed my mind.

When Saul visits the witch of Endor and has her conjure up the spirit of Samuel, Samuel prophesies the death of Saul and his sons in a very specific way: “The Lord will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines. (I Sam. 28:19)” Clearly, it seems, Saul was elect, too, as Samuel said he’d be joining him in Abraham’s bosom awaiting the resurrection of the Christ.

This didn’t really surprise me too much as I’d seen for years that Saul was a pretty good king. He really desired to rule well in Israel, he just kept screwing up where God and David were concerned.

So here, once again, we see a sterling example of God’s grace. Saul messed up nearly every time he tried to do something for the Lord or to obey his commands. Certainly, his behavior towards David is reprehensible. And yet, Samuel says that Saul and his sons will be spending eternity with him.

In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets – some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage.

II Timothy 2:20

Well, then, like Judas, Saul must’ve been created as a “waste can” in the kingdom—to serve a lower purpose—the purpose of perfecting someone else. If David hadn’t spent years running for his life, hiding in the desert, he would never have been Israel’s greatest king. It was the very power that attempted to destroy him that made him the power he became in God’s kingdom.

The second thing that Gary said that has been ministering to me for years was, “We need to take some of these Sauls and knock them off their horse so they can become Pauls.”

This was the beginning of my understanding that the life of Saul and the early life of Paul the Apostle were parallel. I mean, it makes perfect sense: both were from the tribe of Benjamen; in their own way both stood head and shoulders above the rest of Israel; and both of them persecuted God’s chosen people. They had something else in common too: both of them thought that what they were doing was good and were unable to truly see their own wickedness.

We see a couple of times when David demonstrated mercy to Saul and spared his life that Saul says that he repents, and he probably believed in his heart that he had. Yet, he turns around and begins pursuing David yet again and seeking to take his life. David was never safe the whole time that Saul was alive.

So what makes the difference between these two men? Very simply put, God did.

But I’ll never remove my gracious love from him, as I removed it from Saul, who preceded you and whom I most certainly did remove.

II Samuel 7:15

God here tells David that he removed his mercy from Saul to remove him from the throne and make a way for David.

Just like Saul, I’m certain that Paul was trying with all of his might to serve the Lord. I’m certain he prayed every day and tried to spend time with the Lord. He certainly studied God’s scriptures to try to learn his ways. Yet he persecuted God’s people.

Even when Paul was knocked from his horse and laid blinded on the Damascus road he didn’t repent from his sin. He couldn’t, because he was still unable to see his own wickedness.

So what was accomplished on the Damascus road that day? Saul crashed into a God that told him that everything he was doing wasn’t measuring up to God’s standard. That day, Paul actually humbled himself for the first time.

He was led to Straight Street and sat blind for three days fasting, praying, and humbling himself before God. After three days of this, the Lord sent Ananias to him. Paul was finally humble enough to hear the prophetic words spoken over him and when he did so, the scales fell from his eyes. For the first time, he was truly able to see his own wickedness and see what he had done wrong in front of God. This was the beginning of the Apostle Paul.

I am certain that the similarities between his life and that of King Saul were not lost on a Bible scholar like Paul. I’m sure he saw how mercy had been removed from Saul and he had been destroyed as a result and that that same mercy had been extended to this Saul. As a result of all of this, Saul wrote the most impressive works on God’s grace ever expounded on the earth.

As I’ve grown to understand God’s kingdom and how he desires to reign in us in peace, I recognize how the early Christians would have responded to Saul’s intrusion into their homes. They wouldn’t have fought him with swords and shields, but would have used the weapons of peace. Those who were prophets would have prophesied over him. Ananias wasn’t the first one to prophesy over Saul at all. He was simply the first one that Saul could hear.

I’m sure Saul remembered all those faces that he had drug off to prison. I’m sure he remembered and recognized the truth of those prophetic words as he grew in his relationship with the Lord.

I’m also sure that none of the family members of those who’d been drug to prison understood enough to realize that it was because of their loss that Paul would write the words that have ministered to millions and millions of Christians.

Paul alone realized that he was Saul and David in the same package—that without God’s mercy there wouldn’t have been the humility that made the difference in him between life and death. This is the message Paul shares with us in Romans, his first book—his personal struggle to find the Lord and how God’s grace made it all possible. That his wickedness and the persecution of the saints had led to his deliverance.

When Saul would take these things to the Lord and cry out for the wickedness of his past, God simply said one thing. “My grace is sufficient for you.”

Saint Judas

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 19:24-30 (NIV)

Let me ask you a question: How can eleven apostles sit on twelve thrones? It’s not possible. Yet this scripture clearly shows us Jesus talking to his twelve apostles and saying they would be rewarded for their work by them sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. How is this possible unless Judas was going to be amongst them?

One of the great errors that has entered Christian thinking is the villainization of Judas. And why not? Judas was an easy target. After all, he betrayed the Master, Jesus, to go to his death.

The problem you have with that is this little scripture here in Matthew 19, where Jesus says to the twelve apostles that they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes for all of eternity. Is it possible that Jesus was wrong?

I don’t think so. It’s easier for me to believe that Judas was actually chosen to be a part of twelve apostles, just like the scriptures say. Judas then becomes the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace.

Better If He Wasn’t Born

In one sense the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures – no surprises here. In another sense that man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man – better never to have been born than do this!

Matthew 26:24

Many people will object to this teaching because they have been trained since childhood to believe that Judas would burn in hell for all eternity based on this scripture in Matthew 26. Let me ask you a question, though. What is the worst moment of your entire existence?

Many will answer about a car accident, or perhaps a death of a loved one or a child, but they are not seeing the whole question. The worst moment of your life is not something that happened in your past, but something that will happen to the eternal you.

You see, the Great White Throne Judgment (GWTJ) is not like most people believe, because they haven’t thought it all through. When Jeffrey Dahmer stands before God and beholds his unrighteousness fully, he will say, “You, God, are just in sending me to hell for I’ve earned every bit of it.” He probably won’t even bat an eye.

The ones who will suffer before God’s thrones are those of us that consider ourselves to be his servants. He will wipe every tear from our eyes because, on that day, we will be weeping our guts out because we will, for the first time, see our lives in the light of God’s real righteousness.

We will understand about the boy we went to high school with who we called “faggot” and “fairy” who shot himself on his 21st birthday because his parents found out he was gay. We’ll find out about the kid we made fun of and called stupid who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade for his platoon.

It’s not until we, who have God-given consciences stand before he who reigns forever, the righteous judge, that we will see the full extent of how wicked we really are. It’s at that point when we crumple in a heap before him as he opens the book of our lives and we’re ready to be banished from his presence forever, that we hear Jesus say, “I find no fault with this person, Father.”

Then, knowing there must be some mistake, we look at the book of our lives and see page after page of it blotted out with that rusty-red indelible ink that cost so much. It’s at that moment that we see not only how deep our wickedness goes, but how deep God’s grace goes. That will be the worst moment of our lives—the moment when we have a full, unblinking revelation of what the price was for our salvation. This is the moment that all of us will be, as my niece says, “very small.”

Now imagine that moment if you’re the one who personally betrayed the one who paid that price. Do you really think eternity in hell’s going to stack up to that moment in his life when he realizes that Jesus’ blood covered his sins too?

We must be careful about the judgments that we sling around so casually. If Judas is going to spend eternity judging Israel, who are we to judge anyone? In a sense, Judas is God’s masterpiece, the crowning achievement of Jesus’ life on earth.

We still have a lot to learn about serving the Lord.

The Unity of the Body

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives.

We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

I Corinthians 12:12-18

Recently, I was at Hardee’s talking to a 20-something man working there about church and about the kingdom of God. He invited me, predictably enough, to his church. I told him, “Usually, I get along with churches and their pastors much better when I don’t go to them.”

After we had this conversation, I read I Corinthians 12 and realized something that is a vital revelation for us all. You see, we are all one body—all of us. Everyone whose sins are forgiven by Jesus is a part of the same body. This includes the people we like, the people we hate, the people we just can’t get along with, the people we disagree with, the people we think are anti-Christs—each and every one of them.

This becomes all the more important when you read Hebrews 11:

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more – Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, [this long list of heroes of the faith] toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves.

They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.

Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – the world didn’t deserve them! – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

Hebrews 11:32-40

This is a short message, but a vital one for our survival. Think about it! Look at a door near where you’re reading this now. Is it possible for your foot to go through that door without taking the rest of you along with it? The same is true for the kingdom of God. It is absolutely, completely, totally, inexorably impossible for us to enter into our rest in the kingdom until everyone else does. Wake up! You’re not going anywhere until the brother who you can’t stand enters into the kingdom.

Do you see this? No wonder it is so important for us to walk in love and forgiveness towards people. No wonder Jesus spent so much time cautioning us to love our enemies. Without them, you’re not going anywhere!

My friend, Charles and I went to see the movie “The End of the Spear” this year. It’s about a handful of missionaries who rescued a tribe from self-destruction by being willing to forgive them for the murder of their husbands and fathers. From now on, don’t pay attention to the pain that someone has caused you. Look at this as an opportunity. For how much more effective is it for someone who should hate us to love us. Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love.”

The blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

The Seventh Trumpet

This is pretty cool. Thanks to Bruce for getting me started down this path.

To understand this, you first must answer a simple question. When was the kingdom of heaven established.

Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”

Mark 1:15

Here, at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus begins to declare that the kingdom of Heaven is here. The kingdom began to be established, then, at this point. It was fully established by his death, burial and resurrection. At his death, everything before was ended and the new realm of the kingdom began, which is why Hebrews 9:26 states that Jesus was “crucified at the end of the world. (KJV)”

If you don’t buy this, please e-mail me and we’ll discuss this in another writing.

Revelation 9 contains the fifth and sixth trumpets being sounded as part of God’s judgment during the tribulation. These trumpets are judgments from God by armies who slaughter millions of people—not at all unlike the great campaigns of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans who conquered all of the middle east in the times before Christ.

What is interesting though is what we see in Revelation 10.

Then the Angel I saw astride sea and land lifted his right hand to Heaven and swore by the One Living Forever and Ever, who created Heaven and everything in it, earth and everything in it, sea and everything in it, that time was up – that when the seventh Angel blew his trumpet, which he was about to do, the Mystery of God, all the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.

Revelation 10:5-7

The word translated Angel here and throughout the New Testament simply means messenger. These messengers are in two forms. There is a whole kind of life form that God created to be his messengers and servants, these angels are like Michael and Gabriel, who are constantly around God’s throne.

The other type is anyone who is sent with the word of the Lord. This is why each of the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation are written to “the angel of the church.” This means the person who brings God’s word to a church. All of this is to say that just because someone in the book of Revelation is referred to as an “angel” doesn’t mean they’re not a human being.

This is the case here. The book of Revelation is the uncovering of the understanding of Jesus Christ. There are other actors throughout, but all of it is designed to reveal to us who Jesus really is. I believe this angel in Revelation 10 is another form of Jesus. Look at the similarities:

“The Angel…swore…that time was up.” Revelation 10:6.

Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here.” Mark 1:15

All the plans he had revealed to his servants, the prophets, would be completed.” Revelation 10:7

But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom.” Matthew 11:13

Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama.” Matthew 5:17

So what we’re seeing in revelation form is Jesus’ public ministry here on earth. Once again, we find that Revelation is not a book of the future, but is a book of the history of the revelation of Jesus Christ, just as he told us in chapter one.

Notice also that all of this is tied to the blowing of the seventh trumpet. Let’s skip to chapter 11 and find out what happens when that trumpet blows.

The seventh Angel trumpeted. A crescendo of voices in Heaven sang out, The kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of our God and his Messiah! He will rule forever and ever!…The doors of God’s Temple in Heaven flew open, and the Ark of his Covenant was clearly seen surrounded by flashes of lightning, loud shouts, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a fierce hailstorm.

Revelation 11:15, 19

So this comes back to when did Jesus establish his kingdom. The answer is, at his death. That’s why the last thing he says on the cross is, “It is finished.” At that moment, then kingdoms of this world became the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever.

And at that moment, there’s an earthquake and God’s temple in heaven flew open. When did this happen?

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.

Matthew 27:50-51

These events that happened at the death of Jesus are EXACTLY the same events as in Revelation 11. John is watching what is happening from a heavenly perspective, looking back across time. Let’s see what else happened at this time.

When they’ve completed their witness, the Beast from the Abyss will emerge and fight them, conquer and kill them, leaving their corpses exposed on the street of the Great City spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, the same City where their Master was crucified. For three and a half days they’ll be there – exposed, prevented from getting a decent burial, stared at by the curious from all over the world. Those people will cheer at the spectacle, shouting “Good riddance!” and calling for a celebration, for these two prophets pricked the conscience of all the people on earth, made it impossible for them to enjoy their sins. Then, after three and a half days, the Living Spirit of God will enter them – they’re on their feet! – and all those gloating spectators will be scared to death. I heard a strong voice out of Heaven calling, “Come up here!” and up they went to Heaven, wrapped in a cloud, their enemies watching it all. At that moment there was a gigantic earthquake – a tenth of the city fell to ruin, seven thousand perished in the earthquake, the rest frightened to the core of their being, frightened into giving honor to the God of Heaven.

Revelation 11:9-13

This passage is talking about the law and the prophets we read about in Matthew 5. Nearly all of the prophets of the old testament were martyred for the word they preached, just like what we just read. Their bodies laid in the city “where their Master was crucified.” And at the end of this, the people left behind who had had been stunned the earthquake and the resurrection gave glory to the God of heaven.

What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.) The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:52-54

Here is the exact same event we just read about in Revelation chapter 11. This is the seventh and last trumpet that sounded at the crucifixion of Jesus—that heralded the establishment of the kingdom of heaven.

What’s more, this is not the only evidence in the New Testament about the events surrounding the last trumpet sounding…

The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise – they’ll go first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16

This scripture, often thought to be an example of the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, was fulfilled at Jesus’ resurrection following the final trumpet of God and the Archangel calling out “Come up here” as we just read in Revelation 11.

So what is the point of all of this?

The point is simply this. The rapture is not some future event that we await with bated breath. Many have already had their rapture. They are with the Lord now in their resurrected form. Enoch, Elijah, and, in my opinion, Moses, and John the apostle went there ahead of us without having to die. What are you waiting on? The word of the Lord has spoken.

Come up here!”

The Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar

While king, Nebuchadnezzar had two striking dreams that were prophetic in nature. In both instances, only Daniel could interpret them.

The Statue and the Rock

In the first dream, the king saw an enormous statue. The head of the statue was gold, its chest and arms of silver, stomach and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and his feet of clay mingled with iron. A great rock, cut without hands, then struck the feet of the statue and shattered the entire statue. The rock then grew into a huge mountain covering the whole earth.

Daniel gives the interpretation of this dream telling us that the head was the Chaldean empire under Nebuchadnezzar. The silver chest was another kingdom, which we now know would be the Medo-Persians. The bronze was the third kingdom, the Greeks under Alexander the Great. The fourth kingdom was iron, representing the Roman Empire. The fifth kingdom would be the Romans mixed with the weakness of men.

At the end of these empires, God would bring The Rock and set up an everlasting kingdom, not made of men, but God only and that this kingdom would level man’s government and fill the whole earth.

Its when we get to the second dream that things get interesting.

The Great Tree and the Heart of the Beast

A couple of years later, Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream. Here is the dream in his own words from Daniel 4:

“Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.

“I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man’, and let a beast’ heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.

“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”

Daniel 4:10-17

Now anyone that went to Sunday School as a child is familiar with this dream and what happens next. Daniel warns Nebuchadnezzar that the dream is about him. A year after having this dream, Nebuchadnezzar is gloating over his accomplishments.

“The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’ mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying , O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers , and his nails like birds’ claws .

“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”

Daniel 4:30-37

The thing that I just came to understand when re-reading this is that the what happened to Nebuchadnezzar is really a parabalized form of what the dream is really about. In all actuality, this dream is about the same thing the first dream is about.

The key is the bands of bronze and iron placed around the stump. You will notice that there is not mention of these bands in Daniel’s interpretation. This is because these bands are there to match up with the metals of the statue in the first dream and indicate that there’s more going on here than first meets the eye.

The top of the tree is the same as the head of the statue. Cutting down the tree signifies that the head is going to be cut off, but the stump and the trunk are going to remain embedded in the earth. This stump will be given the nature of the beast and will continue to exist.

The bands of iron and bronze mean that this beast nature is going to continue in the earth through the descendants of the Greek and Roman Empires. That beast nature, then is going to rule the earth for seven times, the seven years of the great tribulation.

The Babylon/beast nature system is going to rule the earth through the leftovers of the Greeks and the Romans. All of our thinking, our science, is named for Greece. Our words science, biology, geography, are all Greek words. Most of our government buildings are modeled after Greek and Roman architecture, like the U.S. Capitol.

On the back of our money is mottoes in Latin, the language of the Romans. Our laws and medicine are fraught with terms from the same language.

What God is saying through all of this is that the beast nature still rules in the earth and will continue until the completion of the Great Tribulation. At the end, though, God will establish his kingdom made without hands.

“…that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”

Daniel 4:17