Today is Halloween and I for one am cringing. The sheer number of professing Christians who believe they can sanctify the most culturally accepted and overtly Satanic Holiday on their ritual calendar is, in my view, insane. I know people who vehemently defend it as a cultural manifestation that should be honored. Nothing could be further from the truth. While names change according to time and culture, torture, sex and blood rituals, and human sacrifice have their roots in the worship of Baals and Belials of antiquity, the reason for God’s judgment of Israel in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk.
The “Harvest” that so many believe they are celebrating to supplant Halloween in Jesus’s name has nothing to do with Jesus. Its roots are found in a Druidic tradition whereby a human sacrifice would be offered and buried in a corn field to ensure a good corn Harvest. Ironically corn has almost no nutritional value and depletes the soil of nitrogen. Even more ironic is that so many shun God’s feasts first mentioned in Genesis 1:14 but embrace Halloween.
You can only argue on behalf of your confirmation and normalcy bias after reading this.
My former wife Jamie, now deceased, was a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse. While the so-called Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s has been conveniently dismissed as a conspiracy theory, she had childhood scars to prove it. For example, there were hundreds of scars up and down her back from a box cutter. They would cut her each time she screamed. I will spare you the more gory details of what she endured. You can ask me in person if you want to know more.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12
While I’m not going to write a dissertation on occult ritual abuse, I never would have believed it had I not lived with its consequences for more than a decade. There is a plethora of available info for those interested in the resulting trauma-induced mental illness on websites like The Insight Foundation. Suffice it to say that there are two schools of Satanism. The more contemporary and sensationalized Church of Satan is atheistic and mocks the idea of an actual being called the devil.
The other is theistic and knows the devil is real.
I’m writing this now because on this day I am reminded of how often we apply the Blood of Jesus like Ketchup to things that need to be crucified not sanctified.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
A lot of people will disagree but it seems to me that “being conformed to His image” involves constantly learning and coming to terms with just how miserably conformed I am to the world. It’s not a popular message.
It was in the wilderness of foreign missions that Holy Spirit showed me how flippantly I had regarded the Blood of Jesus through which I am redeemed and afforded the opportunity to become a son. John 1:12-13 Instead of pursuing the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified in the fellowship of His sufferings, I had used it as a comforting condiment to justify and cover my petty worldly existence like ketchup on a really bad cheeseburger. I’d redacted the word of God to make it fit my normalcy and confirmation biases. I conformed it to fit my worldview instead of letting it conform me to the image of His son. I made excuses when brokenness and repentance were required. The process began in Africa, and Honduras and continues today. I call it peeling the onion of self. I know it was Holy Spirit, not just my discursive thought because the fear of God fell on me. The closest comparison I can find is what happened to the delinquent Chinese boys in H.A. Baker’s book Visions Beyond the Veil.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness… 1 Tim 4:7
Halloween is not a day for celebration. It is a day for which we need to repent on behalf of ourselves and our ancestors.
The blood of Jesus is not a condiment!
But don’t take my word for it. Our prayer is that people would take Halloween and their worldview before the Lord and scrutinize it through the lens of scripture like the noble Bereans in Acts 17:11.
Now, these Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
It was during a Sunday service in 2003 or maybe 2004 when we first heard our pastor lift a teenage girl in prayer. Her name was Crystal. She’d been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. We became acquainted with her over the next decade as she frequented the same circle of believers. Much to her chagrin she always ended up the center of attention. I remember wondering if she felt like cancer had become her identity as people faithfully and fervently prayed for healing. While there were significant periods of remission, the cancer always returned.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”Rom 8:5-6
If there was one thing about Crystal that stood out most, it was a profound, almost palpable peace that seemed to envelop her. When I last saw her she was having horrific seizures several times a day. Yet, we never would have known it if she hadn’t told us herself. Maybe it was my imagination but her eyes only seemed to grow brighter as her life drew to a close. I remember the hospital room being filled with “persistent widows” praying for the miracle healing they just knew had to come. Ironically, Crystal was far more concerned with comforting them. There was something she wanted to share. Could it be that healing for the sake of healing alone is never the point, that there are deeper things, bigger things than mere physical health? But she was slow to speak and soft-spoken when she did. No one could hear her amidst the desperate invocations of the miraculous before visiting hours ended. I’m not being sarcastic. Surrendering to life’s end is hard for all involved even though the same natural end awaits us all. Very few truly embrace what the Bible says about this. I worked in nursing when I was young and used to care for the dying. They always had so much to impart as they shed the superficial layers of their lives. I really wanted to hear Crystal. I wanted people to embrace rather than just give lip service to the fact that “the world and everything in it is passing away.”1John 2:15-17 It was clear to me that
Cancer was Crystal’s ministry.
Everything she loved in and about the world had been repeatedly torn from her grasp. In truth, she was dying in every picture taken of her as an adult. The light and life in her eyes was a result of all the crushing and pressing that had transformed her into new wine. I could see that she yearned to pour it out. To be honest, I remember feeling angry…really angry! While people prayed for healing I prayed they would shut up and listen. Meanwhile, Crystal was patient, surrendered, desiring nothing. I remember looking into those crystal clear eyes – her head and body covered in praying hands. I wanted her to know that I shared her frustration. Instead, I saw Jesus staring back at me – convicting me of my petty anger and resentment.
Crystal died soonafter.
It may be my counseling background that has me viewing the current state of the world through the lens of Crystal and the five stages of grief through which every terminally ill patient must theoretically pass. They are denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. They speak for themselves. What is most relevant here is that these stages apply to all who dwell on the earth. I have observed that some people get stuck in one stage or another. Some form of emotional /spiritual illness often results. Today people are losing their sanity over the sudden recognition of their own mortality. It’s as if death didn’t exist before COVID. Similar to those who prayed for Crystal’s healing to the exclusion of all else, many are failing to embrace the reality that can only be seen amidst
True Trust and Surrender to God.
If you ask me COVID is just a symptom of a much deeper illness. People are desperately praying as I write, that God will heal our land. Yet the faith to which so many cling is really just denial. I’ve said many times, that as a nation, we are guilty of the same sins that resulted in God’s judgment of ancient Israel. He is judging us now. Still, many remain unable or unwilling to grasp the reality that individual justification is possible amidst God’s simultaneous judgment of a nation. Biblical illiteracy causes others to confuse God’s discipline with His wrath. Jeremiah 29 While people do everything in their power to cling to passing moments of bliss and preserve bliss’s beauty in its prime, it’s getting harder to deny that the world and especially the USA is in fact terminally ill. It has been for a very long time. Periodic lulls or remissions simply perpetuate the illusion that all is well. Meanwhile, God is speaking in and through the illness that he has no intention of healing. At least not in the way so many of us desire.
Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Eze 12:2
One thing seems certain. People will respond to what is coming in accordance with their respective stages of grief. Those in the denial and bargaining stages will continue to work and pray and cling to ideas and prophecies that a coming messianic POTUS will save the day. Meanwhile, the devil laughs, “Heads I win. Tails you lose”. Some will call for national repentance and like Jeremiah intercede on behalf of the nation. These often rail at unjust government as if we are righteous. But don’t expect to see Big Eva or any mega-church calling upon themselves to “turn from their wicked ways“. The fear of rejection is just too strong. Those in the anger stage may react foolishly and perhaps even violently while embracing a false belief in another 1776. Once again the devil flips a coin. “Heads he wins. Tails you lose.” Others will be so grieved that they become despondent. Some will even take their own lives. Still, others will step into Prov 3:5-8 driven acceptance and like Jesus in Gethsemane and perhaps Crystal on Kauai, walk-in Col 3:3 and James 1:2-4 knowing that “to live is Christ. To die is gain.” Phil 1:21. A place where worldly desire is seen for what it is and the only prayer that remains is
“Thy will, not mine be done”
By the way, this is a benchmark, not a platitude.
I didn’t know Crystal well enough to say when her transformation took place. I only saw the result. One thing is certain. She made peace with God and her own mortality long before I stood at her bedside. All she wanted was Jesus. And while she never had the time or opportunity for a husband, the crushing and pressing and suffering that was her life produced a new wine of grace and holiness becoming of a spotless bride. 2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:27, Rev 19:7
A spotless bride, not a prosperous person or nation, was and is the ultimatepurposeof Jesus’s coming.
Recently I was involved in a dialogue regarding progressive Christianity, Yoga and whether or not Christians should participate in it. I’m not going to say much about yoga because yoga is not part of my worldview.
Here’s a shorter video version. That, said the text has the links.
I am a Christian
For the record this is not even about Yoga but how we reason.
The validity of any argument is always rooted in its coherence and correspondence to its stated worldview and supporting presuppositions.
The presuppositional roots of most Progressive Christian arguments are almost always found in Pelagianism and, or Pragmatism. In contrast, Biblically sound arguments are always rooted in 2 Tim 3:16 “all scripture is God-breathed…”. Hence the first key in identifying a false argument within the context of the Christian worldview is the absence of scriptural references.
A second key is found in the underlying intent of a truth claim. Is it pointing us toward greater holiness or simply easing our conscience by confirming the minimum requirements to be saved? Some people want to get as close as possible to God. Others want to know how close they can get to the devil and still avoid hell.
In my opinion, most arguments for Yoga practice on the part of Christians are based on the latter. Therein lays the problem. People tend to focus on what Yoga or another secular practice is not. Our focus should remain on what Christianity is. But what about movies, music, and Christmas trees bro? Well, what about them? The leaven of Herod of which Jesus warned in Mark 8:15 represents the often very pragmatic trappings of the world. Namely depending on the material world and rooting our arguments in the natural. It only takes “a little”. Gal 5:9
Paul was clear in 2 Cor 6:14-18 “do not be unequally yoked…what fellowship does light have with darkness…?”
Many if not most so-called “common grace” arguments are based on the 1 Cor 8 “meat sacrificed to idols” argument, Peter”s vision in Acts 10:9-15, or 1 Cor 6:12 and 1 Cor 10: 20-23 “All things are lawful for me…”. Will people go to hell for doing yoga? Probably not. That’s really not the point. Still, context matters. “Yoga” means “unity”. The question that remains is, unity with what? We “cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.” 1 Cor 10:21.
Why would we want to?
Of course, there is the 1 Cor 9:22 become “all things to all men…” argument. That’s fine if your goal is to evangelize an unreached group of yoga practitioners. Still, the question remains, who is teaching who? Are they becoming more like you or is the reverse the case?
At the end of the day we are talking about gospel integrity.
False gospel narratives always begin by minimizing, rationalizing, and justifying sin. Ironically, these are known as “criminal thinking errors” within the realm of secular counseling. The double warning in Gal 1:8-9 should be enough to ward off any complacency in this area.
What is your position and why? Did you react based on emotion? Or did you suspend your judgment for a moment, search the scriptures and base your decision on God’s word. Remember, this is not about Yoga. It’s about how we decide.
Every once in a while I like to go back and review things I’ve written to see anything has changed. Recently Cathy and I reviewed Character from last March where I talked about prophetic teaching I gave to our GAP year squad about the 4th Turning. It was not well received by the Gen Z audience. I wrote that while I didn’t know the truth about COVID at the time, or the nature of the emerging crisis, it represented one of two things. Either it was a predictable crisis based on identifiable cycles in history that would eventually usher in another 20-25 year period of peace and prosperity. Or it marked the beginning of birth pains that Jesus prophesied in Mat 24. In either case, I said that the final outcome for individuals and people groups will be largely determined by the character of those affected. Romans 5.
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Today I remain inclined to believe that Mat 24:3-8 birth pains have ensued. I explained this in greater detail in the Gospel of the Kingdom. While I am not certain about the exact timing of the millennium, I remain convinced that preterists and pre-tribulation rapture adherents are dead wrong about the last days. There have been multiple tribulations and days of the lord. Isaiah 13:8 Yet the final Tribulation and Day of the Lord is still to come and the true remnant Church must endure through it until the end to be saved. Mat 24:13 If in fact, we are in Birth Pains and not just another 4th Turn, then the next point to be watching for will be the Ezekiel 38-39 / Dan 9:24-27 war and the reinstitution of the daily sacrifice in Jerusalem. This may or may not include the actual construction of a third temple on the temple mount.
Where does the USA fall into the end of days? That’s easy. It doesn’t. If we are in a Fourth Turn we might expect for the USA to reemerge as a great nation. Otherwise, the USA is done as a superpower and depending on your perspective; as the last remaining bastion of freedom and prosperity in the free world. The proverbial line in the sand has been clearly drawn. You will either support a Marxist and therefore Satanic agenda that proclaims “whiteness” as the original sin while supporting, the pedophilic grooming of our children in public schools, LGBTQ+ as normal and healthy, abortion, and the elimination of free speech to name a few. Or you will reject it instead of God’s word and accept the consequences.
Most professing Christians will compromise instead.
In the meantime, we are to “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him in glory.”…We are to “Put to death therefore what is earthly” in ourselves. Col 3 is the actionable foundation of Christian character.
Putting to death what is earthly begins with dealing with our Sin.
Why do I keep mentioning this?
Because I don’t see or hear anyone else placing at the forefront such that people would be driven to repentance or driven out the back door.
After defining the futility of struggling with sin based on human ability alone, Paul declared,
“Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death” Rom 7:24
Paul’s depiction of sin was based on a particularly gruesome form of punishment whereby a murderer was yoked to the corpse of his victim. Having a dead body hung from one’s neck as it decomposed was a death sentence to be sure and a slow painful one at that.
It’s been two years since the dump in which we used minister closed down. We just found another that brought old memories into the present.
The first thought most people have when they see dump scavenge for the first time and after the shock subsides is,
“Why would anyone choose to live here?”
There are various reasons that include mental illness and addiction. The most common one is opportunity. This is where people work. The only rule at the dump is that the first person on the truck gets the load. While they are mainly looking for recyclables, there is always the chance of finding a yet to be defined treasure.
No one wants to miss out on the big score.
Living nearby increases their odds of a better life or so they hope.
Heidi Baker tells a story about one of her original ministries in Mozambique. It was in a garbage dump. She wasn’t there very long before she was assaulted with a broken bottle that a man held to her throat and threatened to kill her. Ironically she wasn’t robbed.
Instead she was accused of conspiring to steal their garbage.
Assuming that heaven is as undiscriminating as many believe, I figure a lot of us are going to be amazed when we realize the abject lack of difference between the Porcha for which the stockbroker strived and the empty beer can be fought over by dump scavengers in the third world.
We will all realize that every last one of us was a dump scavenger and that what the world thought was abundant life
is really a rotting corpse.
The word “Yoke” is mentioned more than 50 times in the bible and is usually associated with bondage or slavery. Today the world recoils at the idea of being yoked to anything or anyone especially rules. “Love is Love”, “My body my choice!”… That’s to be expected among nonbelievers. As for Christian
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 1 Cor 6:18-20
Still, some people can’t even handle the idea of oxen being yoked.
Yet Jesus instructs all believers to,
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mat 11:29-39
Paul explained that Jesus’s yoke is true freedom and that of the world is slavery.
“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1
Many people claim to have free will. Yet Paul is clear that apart from Christ all are slaves to sin. Sin blocks free will such that
“All we would do; we don’t – all we would not; we do.” Rom 7
No amount of intelligence, ingenuity, talent or human strength will free us. Don’t believe me? Try putting sin to death on your own. Maybe go one week without telling a single lie to anyone including yourself.
On the other hand, there is complete freedom in Christ.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Rom 8:1-2
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17
While it is true that no yoke is free of requirements, the “yoker” is always the sustainer and taker of life for the yoked.
The ultimate deception lies in the idea that it is both desirable and possible to free of all yokes.
One of the biggest errors we make as Christians is to present the love of God apart from His wrath.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”Eph 2:1-3
How many people come to the altar to be saved from their earthy circumstances and or trials they attribute to the devil?
The root is…
God warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evilin Gen 3. It was the one and only thing they could not eat. If they did God said they would die. This was an objective truth given by the source of objective truth. Many people argue over the fairness of this. Yet they can only do so subjectively.
In the end, it amounts to arguing about the fairness of gravity.
Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Then their focus went from God to themselves.
Self-centeredness was born.
While the devil is the adversary of all true believers, he is NOT adverse to the earthly well-being of unbelievers. Think about it. Why would he give them more reason to flee into the arms of God?
“You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”
The enemy baits people with earthly good, things that serve, and inflate our pride and sense of self-importance. Then he attempts to invalidate the goodness of God based on subjective earthly reasoning.
“How could a loving God allow_____?”
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.” –C.S. Lewis–
That’s right. The pain and suffering that drive us to God are caused by God or at the very least allowed by Him. To say otherwise is to give something or someone else more power and authority than Jesus. Mat 28:18. Healing doesn’t happen because God wants us to bring heaven onto earth. Supernatural signs and wonders are real and necessary because people are stubborn and refuse to believe unless they see proof. John 4:48. Even then many refuse to believe. Matthew 8:28 Others only believe for a while. Mat 11:20
There are consequences for unaddressed sin both individually and collectively as a nation.
Think of it as a friend who punches you in the face because you refuse to get out of the path of an oncoming train. Or the dog you want to teach to ride in the back of a pickup truck. Maybe you drive 10mph in a grassy field, let him jump out, and feel the pain in the grass instead of perishing on the pavement at 60mph.
By His stripeswe are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Just to be clear, the context of the word “Healed” here is primarily in reference to the restoration of a people group. Hence, it is through Jesus alone that we are restored to our original right standing with God.
How does that work?
There is an African tale about a King who was confronted with the fact that someone under his rule was stealing chickens. He ruled that anyone caught stealing chickens would receive 100 lashes; enough to kill most people. Soon after, the thief was caught and brought before the King. Much to his surprise, the chicken thief was his mother. The King ordered that she be strapped to the whipping pole. “You will give her the full 100 lashings,” said the King. ” “And one more thing,” he said standing to remove his shirt. “Do not diminish the severity of these lashes or you will be executed.” The king wrapped his arms around his mother and covered her with his body. “Proceed!” he said.
We are saved by God from God’s own wrath.
Today people hate Him because of the original sentence.
As for the suffering endured by believers…
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Heb 12:5-8
Suffering produces character and hope. Rom 5:1-5 Testing of our faith produces patience. James 1:1-4 The end game is that patience will have her perfect work so that we become complete, desiring “NO THING” but “knowing Christ and Him crucified”. 1 Cor 2:2 The Kingdom of heaven is upside down from the subjective system of values and standards on earth. Jesus beat the devil through submission when He could have just kicked butt and taken names. “A student is not above His teacher. “We win the same way. Mat 10:24-25
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”Mat 7:13-14
That word “narrow” means “with persecutions”.
We are saved by God from God’s wrath. We must endure to the end. Mat 24:13
He is God. We are not. Isaiah 55:8-9
Anything else is a counterfeit Christianity.
Unfortunately, 94% of Americans prefer the counterfeit .
The Passion of the Christ has become our primary ice breaker for preaching the gospel in Honduras. We just showed it in the mountains above our mountain last night.
Just like the Bible itself, the Lord seems to highlight a different point every time we watch it. Last night was marked by the scene where Jesus receives the crown of thorns. It is the first time we noticed that the Roman soldiers crowned Jesus
“King of the Worms”.
There are at least 350 Old Testament scriptures that point to Jesus. Several involve the original Tabernacle built by Moses approximately 1500 years before the birth of Jesus. If you have ever had the benefit of hearing Cathy’s Tabernacle teaching then you know that everything down to the smallest construction detail points directly to Jesus.
When I say small, I mean small.
Kermes vermilion or “coccus ilicis” looks more like a Beatle than a worm. Nevertheless, it was labeled a worm possibly because it loses the use of its legs after attaching itself to a tree to give birth.
Why does this matter?
Because Psalm 22, probably written 1000 years before His birth is one of the major prophetic passages concerning Jesus.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. Psalm 22:6
The Hebrew word for “Worm” in the OT is “Rimmah” which means maggot and is exclusively associated with decay. However, the word for “worm” in psalm 22 is Towla“scarlet stuff, crimson, a dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm coccus ilicis.” Interestingly, the word “crimson” is from a Sanskrit word KṚMI-JĀ meaning “worm-made.”
One of the most poignant points for me in the Tabernacle teaching was concerning the crimson dye that was used to color the tabernacle curtains and coverings. (Exodus 26) It was obtained from the coccus ilicis worm.
“When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted.”
Not only did the worm have to die but her offspring would feed on her corpse until they were strong enough to go off on their own.
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. John 6:53-55
Everything down to even the tiniest worm that died and shed its blood on a tree so that others may live was a prophetic depiction of the final sacrifice of Jesus who shed His blood for us on the cross so that all who believe and repent might be saved. It was the original act of communion whereby we symbolically eat His flesh and drink His blood in remembrance of why He came and is coming. Who would have ever imagined that in a world that idolizes fame, fortune, power, and charisma, a world where everyone is vying to be seen and heard, that the God of all creation would use a worm to point us back to Himself and the reality of Maranatha.
We never cease to be amazed at His intricacy and depth. Hence, awe remains my primary expression of worship.
It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Prov 25:2
Like so many of his teachings and posts, this one by Rolland Baker (a.k.a. Mr. Miagi in my mind) resulted in a tirade of disagreement among proverbial dissenting Daniel-sans. Some were appalled. Some were confused. Others simply assumed he was mocking Pharisees and the religion of man. He later explained that he might have been doing all of these or none of these or all of these and more. In any case, I did some Acts 17:11 research. As it turns out the word “joy” is used 171 times in the ESV. “Mourn” is only mentioned 39 times and “mourning” 51.
That ought to tell you something!
Here’s the thing. The passage in question never once mentioned “joy”- only laughter. Laughter is mentioned 9 times in the ESV. Job 8:21 and Psalm 126:2 sound nice. Gen 21:6, Prov 14:13, Ecc 2:2, Ecc 7:3, Ecc 10:19, Jas 4:9 not so much. Especially James 4:9.
“…Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” James 4:8-9
It occurs to me that the automatic correlation of joy with laughter may be a bit flippant.
Still context matters.
I’ve experienced what is called Holy laughter amidst deep repentance and face-to-face encounters with the absurdity of my filthy rag self-importance. It is the light of God’s power and grace that causes me to laugh at the narcissistic me whom I behold in the dark glass. I’ve also seen it amidst others being delivered from homicidal rage, chronic depression, and suicidality, etc. Still, as positive as its fruits can be, this laughter seems soulish to me. Relatively speaking it is also rare in a world filled with coarse joking and foolish talk.
On the other hand, I have experienced some of the deepest and most profound joy of, and in the Lord amidst suffering and weeping. There is a depth and a sweetness in that place that transcends any laughter I have experienced to date.
When I inquired how many dissenters to the post are living on the mission field? One person responded with “everywhere is the mission field” “That’s true.” I said “Everywhere is also the world. The question is; where are you living?”
Point missed entirely.
Perhaps it’s the relative material barrenness and the utter dependency upon Jesus that barrenness cultivates. Maybe it’s the raw testing of faith where faith isn’t normally required. Maybe it’s the nature of the third world that facilitates tribulation becoming the seed of hope that does not disappoint. Then again maybe it’s just the sincere intention to endure whatever God chooses that opens the door. But it seems easier to encounter that paradoxical, electric, mournful joy that is so often utterly devoid of laughter and so filled with tears from a place of suffering rather than prosperity.
There’s a lot of confusion.
What I hear people calling blessing and purpose today seems contingent upon material comfort and prosperity rather than its absence. Yet Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief with no place to lay His head. He prayed for His torturers while He hung on the cross. He cried “my God my God why have you forsaken me!” in the peak of His suffering that no one can comprehend. He did it for the joy set before Him. But we want to turn Him into a laughing Jesus, a North American prosperity Jesus who would never let His children suffer even though that is the one thing of which He assured every believer on earth.
Hence as time goes on what charismatics typically call Holy laughter seems increasingly shallow to me and the world’s laughter evil in the face of it. Maybe that’s what these mystics whom so many mock and call legalistic were getting at. Maybe that’s what Rolland Baker is getting at too. Then again maybe they are just speaking in the context of James chapter 4. This begs the question; is the collective angst expressed on Rolland’s post more indicative of drawing close to God or of friendship with the world?
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
We’ve been full-time missionaries in Honduras for 4 years now. October will mark 5 years since we left Hawaii for IRIS Global Harvest School of Missions in Mozambique the cost of which remains the only outstanding debt that we owe. That’s ironic because the longer I am on the mission field the more I realize how priceless that experience was. And while we had a graduation ceremony, I am increasingly aware that I have yet to graduate.
I suspect that is by design.
While Rolland and Heidi Baker both hold Ph.Ds in Theology, they never formally taught on that subject. When we arrived we were greeted with,
“A lot of you came here to learn how to do missions. The truth is you came here to die.”
I have often wondered about that and it occurs to me that we’d probably have something called Bakerism today with Bakerists arguing with other “ists” over other “isms” had the school tried to condense the sovereign will of God into a university-style syllabus. Instead, we began and ended with the idea that missions flow from intimacy with, and dependency on Jesus. The implication was that intimacy must be sought.
It can not be humanly imparted or taught.
There was also an underlying motif regarding the inseparable connection between intimacy with God and suffering. This seems counter-intuitive when you consider the theological streams where the Bakers are most often embraced and those that reject them. Whatever you may think about them, the fact remains that the revival that so many crave was birthed out of suffering in Mozambique and has been the norm for the better part of two decades. Until recently most of this suffering was the direct result of storms, flooding and resulting famine. As of this writing, people have been beheaded in a village where we did an outreach. Untold numbers have been shot. Tens of thousands are fleeing radical Islamists who have created yet another internal refugee crisis. We are praying for Mozambique and expect more revival.
The rest of the church would do well to observe and learn while it prays.
That’s not to say there wasn’t any teaching. There was a whole range of teachings from various celebrity pulpits from around the world that may or may not have been endorsed by the staff. As for the Bakers themselves, Heidi modeled more than taught and always emphasized that “love looks like something.” She would occasionally give a hermeneutic on a specific passage of scripture like Jesus’s approach to the woman at the well as a model of her trademark “low and slow” “honor those we serve” approach to missions. Rolland was more the mystic and taught like Miyagi from The Karate Kid. His lectures resembled a cross between a stand-up comedy act and a Zen Koan possibly designed to leave people scratching their heads for years. He would lob one-liners like hand grenades into the crowd and then giggle as student brows collectively knit together.
“Ah yes, pray the money in they say”. “Well…hehehe what if God says no?”
“Lots of people argue about what God is or isn’t.” He’s a God of this.” “No he’s a God of that.” They say. “Well what if He’s a God of this and that?”.
He’d talk about miracles and missionary tales but mostly about the miracle giver in a way that sounded like a Song of Solomon 2.0. It definitely made the “macho” in me squirm. Then he’d run around the pavilion shouting “BOOF!”, pretending to shoot people with his microphone while hundreds of twenty-somethings fell down consumed with what I viewed as sheer bandwagon fallacy laughter. I wasn’t having it. I was mad. I’d come here to learn how to do missions not act like a stupid drunk kid. I remember Rolland paused and looked at me for a moment before deciding to forgo the “Boof”. My offense immediately melted into a conviction that I had failed the “become as a little child test”. I then experienced the rejection of a little child deemed unworthy of the “Boof”. Mission accomplished. I know it sounds silly. But God has different ways of tearing our old wineskins apart and causing old wine to flow like blood and more often tears on the floor. I have since learned that silly is often an easier path through ears and into hearts than are hardcore theological arguments. That is not to say that theological correctness isn’t important. It most certainly is. Anyway, Heidi addressed getting knocked down in a later session, “If you don’t get knocked down, just get down.” she said.
Turns out – nothing quenches Holy Spirit so much as pride.
Those who regularly read my blogs may have detected that I am always repenting and reforming as I am being conformed. I am fully aware that I will always know in part and see in a glass darkly until the perfect comes and I am known as I am fully known. Still, I thirst for righteousness and have very little patience for blatant fraud and heresy. I am not a cessationist. Rather I am passionate about “testing everything while holding fast to what is good.” 1 Thess 5:20-21 There are some false theological streams in which some Harvest school graduates are immersed that I find downright scary if for no other reason than they and their disciples are going to melt like snowflakes in a flame amidst the call to endure what is coming. I want to know Him far more than I want anything from Him. I think Rolland and Heidi would agree. That said, If I never see another miracle, sign, or wonder again and it would have absolute zero impact on my faith.
Both Cathy and I experienced full supernatural deliverances when we surrendered to the Lord. We know that we serve a personal God who actively intervenes in His creation according to His sovereign will. We’ve seen God cast out demons in people and seen tumors disappear. Twice we saw the miraculous replication of food. Once in Honduras when we didn’t ask for it,
and once in Mozambique after Heidi had a group of five-year-olds pray. We’ve seen cataracts dissolve, deaf ears opened and lame people dance when they previously couldn’t even stand. We’ve been delivered from what should have been sudden death at least three times while on the mission field. Only God knows the actual count. We’ve seen the other side in action as well. Still, most times we don’t see anything happen when we pray. Some would call that proof of stupidity.
Others would say we need to grow in faith. Luke 17:6
I just listened to a podcast featuring Dick Brogden. He told a story of when in his twenties he had fervently and faithfully prayed for a Kenyan woman to be raised from the dead. Suddenly her body jerked upward. “Praise God!” he exclaimed. Then he realized a particularly large woman had just sat on the end of the stretcher and the leverage had jerked the body upward. He felt stupid and angry at God and asked the Lord why? The answer he got was that God would trust him with His power when He could trust him with His glory. Dick had to admit that if God had raised the woman from the dead he would have written newsletters and given testimony thanking God but also making darn sure that everyone knew that Dick had been heavily involved. I think a lot about that when I write about what we do. I am absolutely convinced that if anyone is ever raised from the dead when I pray it will be because enough of Brian has died and been flushed away. It will not because of any grandiose growth in my faith.
The miracle of suffering
I recently read about David and Svea Flood a Swedish missionary couple who went to the Congo in 1921. Long story short the village chief prevented them from witnessing to anyone for fearing of angering the village spirits. Only one young boy who was allowed to sell them chicken and eggs heard the gospel. They felt like failures and then lost everything. Svea died, another couple adopted their young daughter Aggie, and David returned to the West where he deconstructed and fell away from the faith. Aggie grew up in South Dakota. Long story short she eventually learned what had happened in Africa. She did more research and found that the boy to whom her parents had ministered was now a pastor that led his entire village to Christ. At last count, 110,000 people had been baptized as a result of that single seed. Aggie then sought out her 73-year-old birth father who was alcoholic and still very angry with God. He cried when she told him that his efforts had not been in vain. In the end he reconciled with her and with the God of this and that.
So why does God do miracles sometimes and not others? Better yet, why does God do miracles at all?
One reason is for unbelievers to take notice. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48 Signs and wonders follow the preaching of the gospel. Mark 16:20. As for sign chasers, I always imagine Jesus shaking His head and rolling his eyes just before He performed a miracle.
For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?Mat 9:5
Yet even Jesus could do nothing apart from His Father. John 5:19 Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. John 15:5. It would seem to me that in addition to dying to self, miracles are contingent upon our alignment with the will of God. True alignment with God looks like people weeping on their faces not men in thousand-dollar suits in celebrity pulpits boldly declaring a self-ordained anointing, power and authority to align God’s will with theirs.
I have a hypothesis.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Mat 7:21-23
Have you ever stopped and really considered that passage? Better yet, have you ever scrutinized yourself in accordance with those three verses especially in the context of your most treasured assumptions about God? That passage is in my opinion the scariest one in the entire bible. It is entirely possible to be doing all the right things even supernatural things for all the wrong reasons and not even know it. The remaining question is, “how can I really know if God knows me?” Even more, “do I even want to be known by God, or do I just want a cheap fire insurance policy and freedom from the anxiety that we used to call conviction of sin?”
“…If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Cor 8:1-2.
That’s encouraging. But then “who loves God?” I mean – I feel like I do. Still, Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:15 I just murdered the same guy ten times today, coveted my neighbor’s stuff and committed a host of other sins in my mind. Mat 5-6 Now what? Do I redact the scriptures that make me uncomfortable, find a teacher with a more palatable hermeneutic or face the truth – “oh what a wretched man I am!”? Sigh…I guess I’d better head on back to the old throne of grace and say “sorry”… Yes, I know my wretchedness is covered by the shed blood of Jesus and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Rom 8 Of course, I am saved by grace through faith that is not even my own so that I can’t brag about it. Eph 2:8-9 Still, the fact remains that I don’t always obey His commandments. Not only because I can not but because I choose not. Again, I don’t have self-esteem or identity issues. I’ve heard countless feel-good sermons over the last fifteen years explaining my identity and why I am the righteousness of Christ… The fact remains that Mat 7:21-23 is still there in its unredacted form declaring that not everyone who thinks they are saved and doing the will of God will be saved in the end. Maybe I just need to sing “I am a friend of God” and “Reckless Love” until I believe it. Or maybe as George Mueller wrote I need the simultaneous recognition of my utter depravity with the grace and miracle covering of the blood of Jesus. Maybe I need a full and realistic view of my filthy rag works and the offscouring of all things that I am in the context of His righteousness in which I am so miraculously clothed. It doesn’t matter that I am a missionary. Any time I take an honest look at my reflection in the dark glass, the truth of ME strikes Acts 2:43 (Phobos) terror in my heart. It is, I think, a fruit of sincerity in that it produces “a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 That in turn yields a return of the joy of His salvation. Psalm 51:12 It results in wisdom Prov 9:10 and genuine life application alignment with God Prov 3:5-8 the verification and validation of which some times but not always, maybe, just might be confirmed by a sign or a wonder.
It was during our first trip to Honduras that I also made my first trip to a third-world dump and saw children eating raw garbage.
Meanwhile, Cathy went to a river baptism where she and three girls got covered in gold dust. Previous to this I saw a video featuring falling gold dust and people who claimed to awaken with divine dental work in the form of mysterious gold fillings and gold teeth. All of it sounded ridiculous to me but I kept my mouth shut. All I knew was that I’d just witnessed the worst, most heart-wrenching poverty I’d ever seen. I told Cathy I felt like I’d been hit upside the head with a cement block.
Now she was ranting to me about pixy dust on her cheeks?!!
Still, I had to admit it was pretty strange. It disappeared the moment we tried to remove it from her skin but it stayed on the three girls for days. A picture of them hung on our wall in Hawaii for years.
Pretty soon gold dust testimonies were rampant throughout charismania until some big-name megachurches notorious for hosting “glory clouds” got caught pouring gold glitter into air ducts.
“Gold dust mold dust. Whatever!” I thought and dismissed the whole thing.
Then I heard a podcast featuring a pastor who claimed to have seen gold dust in his church. He’d been in Jerusalem praying when a Rabbi approached him to ask what he was doing. “Why I’m praying for the peace of Jerusalem.” The pastor replied. That sparked the Rabbi’s interest. Somehow the conversation got around to the subject of gold dust at which point the Rabbi freaked out. “Gold dust is falling on the gentiles?! Gold dust is falling on the gentiles!!” He exclaimed. Apparently, somewhere within extra-biblical Jewish literature, there is an expected prophetic sign of the coming of Messiah involving gold dust falling on the gentiles.
The betrothal or engagement period for a Jewish marriage is one year. During this time the bride and groom do not see each other at all.After the betrothal ceremony, and just before leaving for a year to prepare a home for his future bride, the bridegroom would give her a Matan. According to the Rabbi, this was traditionally a gift of gold and signified a pledge of his love for her. It was to be a reminder, that he was thinking of her while they were apart and that he would return at the appointed time to receive her as his wife.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Suddenly, the absurd didn’t seem quite so absurd.
Fast forward to Cerro Azul Meambar Honduras last year. It was about a week after our house was destroyed in the landslide. We had the clothes on our backs, food, and a temporary place to lay our heads but otherwise, we didn’t know what we should do. We knew worse things can and do happen. Still, there is an element of suffering in losing everything you own and finding oneself suddenly homeless in the third world. Should I throw in the towel and go home? Oh shut up, Brian! Instead of throwing in the towel, we threw ourselves into outreaches to get food, water purifiers, beds, and clothing, etc. to those most in need. It was mostly selfish.
After all the best way to cope when you are hurting is to help someone who is hurting more.
Cathy was sick on the last day and wasn’t with us as we delivered the last bags of rice and beans. The crisis adrenaline was wearing off as we headed back to our vehicle and I started to experience some oh so irrational and unspiritual feelings of lostness as waves of fleshy negativity rushed through my brain. Was God punishing us? Was this a warning? “His sheep hear His voice.” Did I not hear Him? Had I gone against his will by moving here? Did Mat 7:21-23 apply to me? Shut up Brian! Sure I could acknowledge the theological error cognitively but the emotions remained.
That’s part of being a fallen human on a fallen earth.
The post-hurricane heat and humidity were heavy that day. Suddenly a cool breeze picked up and blew on my face as the four of us approached our vehicle. We all noticed a small whirlwind of gold dust swirling by the front passenger door where I had previously been sitting. It was more than a little freakish to see gold dust-covering just my side of the car. I’d never seen anything like it. All I can say is that it brought tears to my eyes and I can not describe the completely irrational yet profound sense of relief, assurance, and peace that converged with what I was seeing. It was as if God was inaudibly speaking,
“Don’t worry. I know you.”
Since then Cathy and I have become more eschatologically oriented in our approach to the gospel. Not in a conspiratorial, “the vaccine is the mark of the beast” sort of way as so many seem prone. But in the sense that the primary task in missions is a participation in the preparation of a spotless bride for a wedding and a wedding feast.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev 19:6-10
That preparation includes studying ourselves approved as we are commanded to do. 2 Tim 2:15 so we can be good Acts 17:11 Bereans and avoid being deceived. Mat 24:4 It also involves watching and praying and miracles, healings, signs and wonders. Some are for all the world to see. Others may be very personal. After all, the very first miracle Jesus ever performed was only known by a few. John 2 The preparation of the bride involves knowing the grace, love, and kindness of God. It also involves knowing His severity and coming wrath. It involves blessing and the experience of abundance. It involves suffering, loss and persecution. 2 Tim 3:12
Our God is a God of this and that.
If we are to know Him we must first know about Him through His word. Sorry, but reading books by people who claim to go to heaven and dialogue with the Father everyday instead is not going to cut it. Yet if we only know about Him and never know Him personally then what does it matter if we know about Him at all? Even worse, if I claim to know Him but the things I know contradict what He says about Himself in His word then who is it that I know? Hence Mat 7:21-23
Yeah, that’s a mind-bender.
As I often explain to atheists when they strive to refute Christianity, I love my wife. I can not prove to them that I love my wife. Neither can they prove that I don’t. I know that I know and that’s all there is to it. Intimacy with God works the same. By the same token, I don’t take every intimate interaction with my wife and make a doctrine of marriage out of it. Instead, I look to God’s word and compare myself, my experience and my marriage to His standard. Everything that is true, everything that matters is rooted in the fact that Jesus is the bridegroom and we are His bride. We expectantly await his return in faith with the hope that we will not be found naked Rev 16:15 and or without wedding garments Mat 22:11-14. We do so despite experiences and external circumstances not because of them. Tribulation, suffering, and persecution remain the only real guarantees for us in this age. Still, the promise of our blessed hope remains. Titus 2:13 I’m not about to make a doctrine out of my gold dust experience. And you shouldn’t use it to support or refute those of anyone else. Sound doctrine is derived from scripture alone. Still, if Jesus places His hand on your shoulder in a breeze, lights a bush on fire and speaks to you through it, or gifts you with a gold dust Matan while you wait, that’s great. I recommend receiving it the same way you are called to receive the James 1:1-4 joy of having your faith tested and with a clear understanding of its purpose. Don’t dismiss it, or worse – make it an idol of it as so many do. Just be grateful and receive His peace and the blessed assurance that He knows you. Then get back to the business of knowing Him more through His word, spending time in the secret place with Him so you can more fully obey Him, love Him and become more fully conformed to His image such that He knows you even more.
In the endyou might know this about God. Others might know about that. But none of us really know God until we know Him as the God of this and that.
Joe Biden has been in the Oval Office for more than a month now and doing everything we feared he would do as well as some things he promised that he wouldn’t. And to think he’s only getting started. Our friends in Romania and those who escaped Venezuela are dumbfounded over American apathy and zeal as the seeds of Marxism sprout in the US. Meanwhile, a substantial portion of Trump supporters continue to cling to a false prophetic hope that Donald Trump will still be president in 2021. I just read the latest QAnon prediction that March 4th is the new projected date. Jeremiah Johnson, the most repentant false prophet recently stated, in his video series entitled I Was Wrong, “the charismatic prophetic movement is deeply sick.” Meanwhile, Trump apostle Johnny Enlow just issued a rebuke and warning to those who would dare criticize God’s prophets like himself.
In a previous post, I correlated the politicization of Christianity with the actions of Christians in Nazi Germany.
As it turns out it all may have started with Eusebius.
Eusebius was among other things the first Church Historian and possibly the unintentional founder of Christian Nationalism under Emperor Constantine. As he wrote in The Life Of The Blessed Emperor Constantine,
“As the sun, when he rises upon the earth, liberally imparts his rays of light to all, so did Constantine, proceeding at early dawn from the imperial palace, and rising as it were with the heavenly luminary, impart the rays of his beneficence to all who came into his presence.”
Constantine was the 1st Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and suspend the persecution of the Church. That was a good thing. Eusebius loved Constantine. As it turns out Eusebius might have been Constantine’s, Paula White.
Previous to this the early Church met in homes even though many Jewish Christians also continued to attend synagogue. When Constantine converted he made Christianity the official state religion of Rome and the Church came out from the underground into the Basilicas.
Ironically, Basilicas were built for Emperor worship.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians,
“Awake ‘o sleeper and rise from the dead and Christ will give you light.”
Light is symbolic of wisdom and truth. Today we have a shortage of both. May I suggest that the current business at hand for the church should not be politics but rather prayer, study, and discussion regarding how the Church is going to be the Church if the current trajectory toward global Marxism continues? People have been talking about a return to the Acts 2 church for decades.
As I explained in the previous post a lot of Christians placed their faith in politics, people, and their hope in false prophecies regarding the reelection of Donald Trump. Poor exegesis and perhaps no exegesis was the cause. Again, I did not want Joe Biden and I firmly believe that he and his administration represent abject evil. Still, God allowed it. He also allowed Nebuchadnezzar. As Christians, we need to depend on God and be guided by the Word instead of politics. Politics is the way of the world. Rather than viewing the times according to a new prophet with a new word from God we are commanded to study ourselves approved and rightly divide the Word of Truth. We are to view ourselves, the events of our lives, and the times in which we live through the lens of scripture. Any serious study regarding the role of prophecy in the New Testament will quickly reveal that it involves Holy Spirit inspired preaching and teaching directly from scripture, not inspired additions to what is already written. That said, false prophecies are a mark of the end times. So is persecution. As for those who proclaim themselves to be apostles and able to operate in all the gifts, the qualification for such a title is given by Paul in 1 Cor 2 Cor 11. It involves being beaten, whipped, caned, shipwrecked, stranded at sea, starved, naked, thirsty, and robbed, considered a weakling, a fool, and persecuted by fellow believers, all the while being a servant to all and above all prioritizing one’s “deep concern for all the churches”. Martyrdom, not prosperity was their final reward.
Our Hope in Two Parts
We must understand that the Gospel message preached by the apostles was two-fold. The first was the Gospel of Salvation whereby Jesus conquered sin and death and made a way for all people to be reconciled to the Father by grace through faith that was in itself a gift so no one may boast. This is the meaning of Jesus’s words “It is finished”. The second was the Gospel of the Kingdom that remains to be fulfilled. Together they are Maranatha. Jesus has come. Jesus is coming. It was not a message of an earthly kingdom NOW, as even the apostles initially thought. While the message was most certainly prophetic it had absolutely nothing to do with our prosperity or comfort in this life. Nor were the disciples consumed with themselves, their identities, or their own reflections as they imagined them to be in God’s eyes. Rather the Gospel of the Kingdom that they preached was an apocalyptic one rooted in the Old Testament, especially the book of Daniel.
So what time is it?
Jesus gives the disciples a near bullet-point outline of events leading up to the establishment of His Kingdom on earth in Mat 24 and the first part of what is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse.
He was extremely clear in answering the disciple’s question regarding the sign of His coming and the end of the age. He prefaced or book ended the outline by pointingto the Temple and saying,
“You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Mat 24:1-2
That prophecy was fulfilled when the second temple was destroyed by the Romans under Titus in 70AD.
First He said to be careful that no one deceives you that many would claim to be “Christ”. It is important to remember that the Bible was not written in English. Therefore we must not take our understanding based upon our English Bible versions for granted. Christ is Greek for “Christos” and means “anointed”. Consider for a moment how flippantly we toss that word around today. “They will deceive many” Mat 24:4-5. While anyone claiming to be Jesus today is sure to be dismissed out of hand, “anointed” also refers to those who presume themselves qualified to speak in His name. Many claimto be anointed today. Many are being deceived.
Then Jesus describes the coming birth pains. War and rumors of war, nation against a nation. While we tend to read “nation” as “country”, nation translates to ethnos or people group. It is the word from which the English word ethnicity is derived. There will be pestilences e.g. plagues and locusts, etc., famines and earthquakes. Of course, all of these have continued throughout history and there are multitudes of false prophets who have tried to time the second coming accordingly. That is perhaps one reason why so many pastors today avoid eschatology completely. We know for certain that all of these have increased in scope and frequency since Jesus was crucified. It would appear that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and storms, in particular, have increased in size and or frequency over the last several decades. Climate change activists warn of coming droughts and famines.
Then His followers will be hated, persecuted, and killed. This too has continued and is once again on the rise throughout the world today. One need only visit the Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors websites to see that global persecution of Christians is on the rise. More Christians have been martyred in the last century than on all previous centuries combined. Granted the severity of persecution in the US is nowhere near that of places like Iran, China, and Ethiopia to name a few. Yet given the admitted spirit and agenda of the current administration, its sanctioned organizations like BLM, ANTIFA, etc. and the growing negative public perception of Christians it’s not hard to imagine what could be coming soon.
And many will be offended, betray one another. I could be wrongbut I am unaware of any other time in history when the Body of Christ has been so divided.
And hate one another.
Then many false prophets will deceive many.
And lawlessness will abound
And the love of many will grow cold.
It doesn’t require a statistician to see the exponential increase in these four in my lifetime alone. In addition to false teachings in the church, they are increasingly fueled by a post-modern and or neo-Marxist world view that eliminates the idea of objective truth and especially objective moral law. It is the same spirit of anti-Christ that resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred million people in the previous century alone.
But those who endure will be saved.
The exact nature of that endurance is clarified in Rev 12:11
And (in the midst of all this) the gospel will be preached within all of the world as a witness to all Nations (ethnos, people groups) Please note the word “witness” does not refer to passing out tracks on a street corner. Witness means “Martyr”.
This is the opposite bookend in the outline. The verses that follow further clarify what Jesus outlined here.
THIS IS IMPORTANT
You will notice that at no point did Jesus say the church will be evacuated (Raptured) and spared from the Great Tribulation. The truth be told the idea of a Pre-Tribulation rapture never existed before 1830. Jesus was clear. The church must endure and the gospel will be preached amid, and as a result of, that enduring. Those hungry for revival will be happy to know that a deep dive into Joel 2 will reveal that the greatest revival on earth will accompany the greatest tribulation the body of Christ has ever known.
Obviously, my flesh would prefer that the whole world came to Jesus amidst my own comfort and prosperity followed by a quick cloud ticket out before things get uncomfortable.
The fact remains that the gospel has always thrived the most amidst persecution.
Tribulation, not prosperity is the seed of the Hope that does not disappoint. Rom 5:3-5
Suffering is part of God’s plan.
Keep in mind I am only sketching things out here. Again, we know in apart and we all see as in a glass darkly. You might see things differently. If so I’m happy, (actually excited) to look at any scripturally base argument that you (not a YouTube video) can provide.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),.then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” Mat 24:15-16
The New Testament was not yet written during the Apostle’s missionary journeys, let alone the book of Revelation. The Book of Daniel was their primary Gospel. Hence Jesus would have expected them to know what He was talking about. The abomination of desolation was in direct reference to Dan 9:27, Dan 11:31,and especially Dan 12:11-12.
For those who love deep dives,
Dan 12:11-12 gives and the exact timeline for when the Tribulation will begin and end. Contrary to popular belief, Mat 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” is not a broadly stated principle implying that Jesus could come at any time. It specifically refers to the period between the end of the tribulation and the Dan 7 appearance of Jesus. As for the tribulation itself, do the math. 1290+1335 = 2625×365 = 7.2 years. That is where we get the 7-year timeline for the tribulation.
– Suffice it to say that at some point the daily sacrifice will be taken away and the abomination of desolation set up. Dan 12:11 sets this time period at 1290 days or 3.5 years which according to my model would be the midpoint of the Tribulation. Those claiming that the A of D took place in Jesus’s day or the Dome of the Rock was it must ignore the context of Dan 12:11-12. The Dome construction was a six-year project completed in 691 AD. The daily sacrifice was taken away in 70AD. Even if we interpret a day as a year that leaves us with 621, not 1290. The only way the math works is if we take the week in Dan 9:27 to mean 7 years and “days” in Dan 12:11-12 as literal days. The only other option is that we are nowhere even close to the end and none of what I am saying matters. However, if I am correct, the daily burnt offering will be re-implemented. It is alsoworth noting that Rabbinic law requires that the sacrifice be performed on the Temple Mount but not necessarily in the temple itself. At the very least a third altar needs to be constructed. It has. In fact, we saw a portable altar ready to be towed into place when we were in Israel. The problem is that Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock which is a Muslim Mosque. Jews are forbidden to worship there even though it sits in the center of Jerusalem and the entire area is under the control of the Jordanians.
Enter Donald Trump
Perhaps you heard of the Abraham Accords whereby President Trump brokered a deal that resulted in formerly hostile Arab Muslim nations making peace with Israel to include a realignment of powers that looks a lot like the Kings of the North and South in Eze 38. (More on that later provided there is enough interest as this is already becoming a sermon outline.)
Perhaps more importantly, Saudi Arabia is now Israel’s ally and Jordan no longer has exclusive control over the Temple Mount. Saudi Arabia is the site of Mecca to which Muslims are expected to make at least one Hajj (pilgrimage) in their lifetime. Therefore, in my opinion, the Temple Mount may be much less of a concern to them.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has expressed concern over rumors that the Dome of the Rock will soon be replaced by a 3rd Jewish Temple. Of course, the Jewish Sanhedrin has been negotiating behind the scenes for years and preparing to begin construction within just days of receiving permission to return to the Temple Mount. Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in full support of this effort.
My point here is that I am viewing world events through the lens of scripture. The next event that believers should be watching for is not a miraculous restoration of traditional American values, as comforting as that would be, but the return of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount and the re-institution of the Daily sacrifice.
At some point after that, the Anti-Christ who according to Ezekiel comes from Gog, which is somewhere in the area of present-day Northern Syria and Southern Turkey will be revealed. He will be identified by the false peace in Dan 9 followed by the end of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation. We can only speculate what that might be. Still, the back-to-back adjectives “abominable” and “desolate” imply that it will be pretty clear when it happens.
These two events mark the point where we can begin the 7-year count down.
What follows in Mat 24:16-28 pertains to details and instructions for Israel during the Tribulation particularly in reference to Jer 30 and what is commonly known as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. This will be the final and most severe chastisement of Israel such that if those days were not shortened no flesh would survive out of which the biblical, as opposed to the current self-appointed Remnant believers will emerge.
Mat 24:29-31 describes the return of Jesus and what many call the Rapture. This is in direct reference to Dan 7:13-14. Entire volumes have been written on this chapter in Daniel but suffice it to say that The Son of Man in Daniel is the Son of Man to which Jesus referred to Himself at least 78 times. It was His primary identity, declaration of His deity, and the main reason why the Jewish leaders wanted Him dead.
Mat 24:32-51 and Mat 25 provide more details regarding our preparation and response in parable form. They are not separate events.
You may have noticed that I didn’t say a whole lot about the Book of Revelation here. The reason is simple. It is the hardest to understand and characterized by the most insane and twisted interpretations of any book in the Bible. Hence a majority of eschatologically minded believers tend to be more concerned with avoiding the Mark of the Beast, than provoking the Jewish people to jealousy. The Book of Revelation is impossible to understand without a firm grasp of Old Testament end times prophecy. Don’t even think about delving into Revelation without first understanding Daniel, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Joel, and Ezekiel for starters.
Finally, a correct understanding of eschatology is a fantastic evangelistic tool. Most people don’t want to hear they are sinners. Almost everyone is interested in the End Times. That opens the door to the full Gospel message especially as we witness the fulfillment of end times prophecy. A correct understanding of eschatology could also potentially determine whether a believer ends up in Heaven or Hell. For example, I often wonder what might cause a great 2 Thes 2 falling away that would correspond with the man of perdition (the anti-Christ) being revealed? What better cause could there be than a reported 71% of believers who currently adhere to a pre-tribulation rapture view suddenly, finding themselves left behind? What about those with a post-millennial view committed to transforming the culture and “making earth great again” so Jesus can return? What happens when everything they believed in and worked for is shaken and burned up and they face imprisonment and death?
And you thought crushed MAGA dreams were bad?
Listen maybe I am completely wrong and the faithful will get a cloud ticket out of the tribulation? What do I know? After all, I’m only studying, not prophesying. In that case, great! Apart from the last 16 years of being married to the most wonderful wife beyond anything I ever could have imagined, the majority of my time on earth has been brutal, full of tragedy, and heartbreaking. Maybe suffering is too much of a norm for me. Or maybe I have a partial understanding of what Paul meant when he said,