What’s It Going To Take?

Political upheaval in the form of an impeachment hearing back in January, and finally resolved in February, in time for the various state caucuses and primary elections to take place, started all the 2020 craziness.

Also in early February a spate of tornadoes took place. “Across the three-day outbreak, 37 tornadoes were confirmed, including several that were strong and long-tracked. In the pre-dawn hours of February 6, an EF1 tornado near Demopolis, Alabama killed one person. Total economic losses from the event exceeded $925 million” (Wikipedia)

A month later a pandemic that spread faster than anyone expected, reached the US and caused overcrowding in some hospitals, a shortage of ventilators, and a shocking number of deaths.

Panic buying followed. Sanitizer, rubber gloves, masks, bleach and other sterilizing agents, water and, for some unknown reason, toilet paper, all disappeared from store shelves. For about a week, so did canned foods and meat and cheese and fresh fruits.

No shortages, we were reassured, but because of high demand, the distribution grid was overloaded. Thankfully goods came back, but closures started. Schools, all but essential businesses, churches, restaurants and bars.

In March, the much anticipated college basketball tournament, fondly called March Madness, was cancelled. Soon after, professional sports came to a screeching halt.

Social distancing became the watch word, and incrementally the death rate of those contracting the deadly Covid virus, dropped, from 19 percent of those infected in the US, to the current rate of 5 percent.

In April, more Tornado events took place, the Easter storms lasting 2 days and hitting the southeastern part of the US. At the end of the month another collection of tornadoes hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

May came and an African American died while being arrested by police. His mistreatment is caught on camera and caused nationwide protests, even some in other countries. Many protests in the US quickly turned into riots. In Seattle a group of people took over a six-block area they declared to be a police-free zone. The city allowed the group to continue for weeks, breaking into businesses, looting, leaving waste and graffiti everywhere. Until there were several shooting incidents and a march on the mayor’s home.

As part of the riots, a number of statues were either defaced or torn down most of historical figures the rioters did not approve of, but also including one statue paid for by freed slaves to memorialize their freedom and one of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg.

Reports began to come in that rioters were paid participants, moving from city to city to foment unrest.

Meanwhile, the US economy pretty much tanked, a number of essential workers walked off the job because of unsafe conditions, and grocery stores and pharmacies all began requiring masks (at least in some states).

June saw more of the same. Then in July, the National Football League opened training camps all around the nation and Major League Baseball resumed, the pro basketball league began to hold their playoffs, in a bubble.

At the same time, the first of the California fires started, and a less reported fire in Colorado swept through several counties and soon became the largest in Colorado history.

Intermingled with all the rest have been the hurricanes. “So far, it [hurricane season] has featured a total of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 23 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. With 23 named storms, it is the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record” (Wikipedia).

In August, more shootings, riots, and fires. And now in September one of the Supreme Court Justices passed away. The fires in Oregon, Washington, and California continue. A protest that lasted for weeks in Portland finally ended. And the political animosity builds as we draw closer to the November election.

Believe it or not, these are only the high spots. The year 2020 has been . . . pick your adjective. Crazy, horrible, abnormal, abysmal, unprecedented.

The divisions in our nation are only becoming greater. There is the Cancel Culture movement and the dispute over wearing masks or not wearing masks, and the far left push for anarchy and socialism seems to have gained a foothold in the universities.

There is a #WalkAway movement that reports people walking away from the Democratic Party, often because they come to realize they have been lied to all along (Republicans are evil, hateful, bigots, racist, and so on, they have been told. And then they actually have occasion to talk to some Republicans).

Why have I taken so long to point out all the problems of 2020?

I want to make the point that what we are experiencing is not just like any other . . . sweeping illness or storm season or violence or fires or political unrest. For one thing, all these have happened all at the same time, within one calendar year.

The people who want to dismiss any or all of these as just something that happens, are wrong.

God moves through storms and riots and illness. Often these kinds of events, whether rooted in the sinfulness of humans or in natural events, comes for the very purpose of giving us a warning. Here’s what Jesus said about this exact situation:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

No, Jesus said, those who died didn’t “deserve it.” But their deaths are a warning that all who do not repent will suffer the same fate. The clear point is, REPENT.

I’m not sure why American Christians seem to be slow to see God’s warning. It feels as if He’s writing it in the smoke that hovers over our land, in the storms that crash onto our shores and rip apart our buildings. And of course in the social distancing and the funerals which result from the illness that still takes its toll on people.

Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time for the US, for the world, to turn back to God. His message through it all, is, at a minimum, this: I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Key To Life

Christ as Lord 2The book of Jeremiah has a small verse toward the beginning that is the key to life. It either describes what is true of us or what was true of us but is not true anymore. It’s such a key verse that a counselor has made it the root of his teaching about our emotional health. But that’s for another day. The verse is Jeremiah 2:13.

For my people have forsaken Me the fountain of living water
To hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

I’ve been watching a YouTube video one of the atheists from the Facebook group posted. He’s explaining his journey from a teen who believed he was gong to become a pastor, to the atheist he is today. In the first part he describes how he was involved in church and how he was known at school as the Bible guy.

So what happened that brought such a radical change? The verse in Jeremiah explains. First there’s a point where people turning away from God forsake him. For some it comes sooner than later, but it manifests in a rejection of what God has said.

Next comes turning to our own resources which, like the broken cistern, can’t work.

Lot thought he could move from the fertile valley where he’d gone to live after separating from Abram, into the godless city of Sodom, and he did, but at a cost. Moses thought he could bring water from the rock by striking it instead of speaking to it, and water came, but at a cost. David thought he could hide from Saul by going over to the Philistines, and he did, but at a cost. Peter wanted to fight the soldiers who came to take Jesus and crucify Him, but he failed utterly.

Whenever man goes his own way, there’s either outright failure or great consequence later. Our schemes don’t work.

Eve wanted to be like God, ignoring the fact that God had actually made her in His likeness and had breathed life into her so that she became a living soul. She forsook Him, though, so she could go her own way and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What’s more, Adam followed her, knowing full well that God had said eating would result in death. He dug his own cistern presumably because he didn’t want to trust God to fix the problem Eve had created. He thought the only way for him to hold onto Eve was to do what she’d done.

At any rate, the schemes the two of them concocted did not work. They certainly didn’t become so very wise that they were like God—except, perhaps, in their own minds. That’s really the problem.

People who turn from God are basically saying they are wise enough in and of themselves to determine what’s right and wrong. The don’t what an authority telling them what to do, which is why some of them refer to God as a tyrant. In their minds, they are the top authority, and anyone who wants to boss them around has overstepped his bounds. He’s taking from them what they’ve determined is their right—to call the shots for their own lives.

Christians often talk about the throne of our lives and the struggle, an ongoing struggle, to let God sit in the place of authority where He, being sovereign, belongs. But those who forsake God have basically declared war on Him and have pushed Him off the throne and out of their lives. They have no struggle. They’ve decided they are in charge, and the only issue that comes up from time to time is how to make it work.

It won’t work. Not in the long run, and often not in the short run. But that’s not a fact you can argue people into believing. Most often people need to come to an end of themselves. They try and try and try and life is still falling apart, in one area or another. Many times in multiple areas.

That’s precisely what happened to Judah when Jeremiah was prophesying to them. God sent prophets and they ignored them. Then He sent adversity, but they went their own way. They thought God was the one letting them down, not rescuing them when trouble came. They didn’t understand that He wanted them to turn to Him and repent.

Here’s how God through Jeremiah described them:

“For all of them are adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like their bow;
Lies and not truth prevail in the land;
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” declares the LORD (9:2-3).

A few verses later, God declares His intent to punish His people for their waywardness:

“I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins,
A haunt of jackals;
And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”

Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? The LORD said, “Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them” (vv 11-14).

What God wanted was for them to repent, turn back, and worship Him, but they weren’t willing. Nor are many today willing to give up going their own way. They don’t want to let God call the shots.

This atheist who made the video said as much. There came a day when he started dating the girl he said had a reputation in high school as “the party girl.” Eventually, he, the Bible guy, decided they should move in together. People in his church tried to tell him he shouldn’t but that didn’t matter. And then, shortly afterward, he started drifting away from church. And besides, God wasn’t answering his prayers about the things he didn’t understand in the Bible.

Well, sure. He’d already made up his mind about what he thought about the Bible, about God’s authority in his life. God says clearly that our sins make a separation between us and God and because of them, God’s face is hid from us so that He does not hear.

He’s not going to continue giving us living water when we’ve forsaken Him, when we’re off trying to dig our own cisterns, broken though they are. Not until we get on our knees and repent.

The Church That Tolerates False Teaching

Pergamon-the white stone-0026The third message Christ delivered in the book of Revelation was to the angel of the church in Pergamum. Almost as if reciting a list of pros and cons, He begins with a declaration of what He knows about this church.

First they held fast to Christ’s name. Then, they did not deny the faith even when they experienced persecution, even when one in their midst was martyred.

Jesus then moved on to the “But I have this against you” column. The number one issue was that someone in their church was doing what the Old Testament prophet Balaam did.

Balaam is actually not as well known as his donkey. He was the prophet hired by Israel’s enemy to curse God’s chosen people. When messengers from the enemy king first approached Balaam, he refused to go. After negotiations and direction from God to go but to only say what God told him to say, Balaam went.

Balaam’s intention was not pure, however. God sent an angel against him and had it not been for his donkey, Balaam would have died. In a miraculous intervention, God allowed the donkey to speak to Balaam, then opened his eyes and set him right.

And yet, though Balaam did deliver God’s message of blessing over the people of Israel instead of the curse he’d been brought to deliver, he found a way to get paid. He told the enemies of Israel how they could entice God’s people to sin. For a time the plan worked. Their sin brought God’s wrath upon Israel, and many people died.

So in the church of Pergamum, there was a “Balaam” teaching ways that would lead God’s people into sin. If that wasn’t bad enough, there were others holding to the teaching of the infamous though anonymous Nicolaitans—those who did deeds God hates.

You’d almost think God was holding this church accountable for being tolerant. And you’d be right. They weren’t removing the Balaam-like false teacher. They weren’t telling the people holding to the teaching of the Nocolaitans to knock it off.

Because they did not take steps against the false teaching in their midst, Jesus told them they needed to repent. And if they didn’t repent, Jesus said he’d come “with the sword of My mouth” and make war on those they should have dealt with.

I suspect this sword is the word of God, which Paul identified in Ephesians as part of the armor of God. Clearly, the best weapon against false teaching is the truth.

Jesus closes his message to Pergamum by once again giving promises to those who “overcome.” You’d think “overcoming” is a theme in these messages.

And still I have to ask the question: overcome what? Interesting that John, who wrote Revelation, had this to say about overcoming in 1 John 5:4:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Those who have ears to hear receive the promise that if they overcome, Jesus will give them “hidden manna.”

Manna harkens back to the days of the Exodus when God literally fed His people with the bread of angels. For forty years, He provided for their physical needs. Manna also alludes to Jesus Himself, the Bread of Life.

The second half of the promise is a little more cryptic. Jesus promised to give them a white stone and on the stone would be a “new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it” (Rev. 2:17b).

One possible idea is that the white stone referred to something from the Greek culture:

there is an allusion here to conquerors in the public games, who were not only conducted with great pomp into the city to which they belonged, but had a white stone given to them, with their name inscribed on it; which badge entitled them, during their whole life, to be maintained at the public expense … These were called tesserae among the Romans, and of these there were several kinds.” Clarke then gives examples of the different kinds: “Tesserae conviviales, which answered exactly to our cards of invitation, or tickets of admission to a public feast or banquet; when the person invited produced his tessera he was admitted … But the most remarkable of these instruments were the Tesserae hospitales, which were given as badges of friendship and alliance, and on which some device was engraved, as a testimony that a contract of friendship had been made between the parties.”

The inscription of the new name which no one else knows implies an intimacy between the one who overcomes and God. I think the white stone and new name might be my favorite part of this message though I don’t really understand it.

Just to make things interesting, Jesus also will have a new name no one will know.

He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. (Rev. 19:11)

So in this aspect, those who overcome will be like He who has overcome sin and death and Satan and the world. Amazing that we are even remotely identified with Christ, and yet time and again, that’s His promise.

The Forbidden S Word

Some words are still forbidden in our western culture. A select few are bleeped from live shows, thanks to modern technology, because they are still considered inappropriate for the general populace. Certainly “adults” use those words, but they aren’t considered right for polite society.

Still other words get people fired. Anything caught on mike that might be construed as a racial slur is grounds for dismissal. Terms demeaning women or homosexuals are creeping into that same category.

Then there are the words no one will say, not publicly anyway. And no, sex is not one of them. Quite the opposite. When once sex was considered private, something not to be discussed in mixed company, now sex and all its parts are fair game, not only for discussion but for comedic source material.

So what is this forbidden S word, if not sex?


No one wants to talk about sin in public. You won’t hear sin come up on Dr. Phil or David Letterman or Saturday Night Live.

Saying that someone sins is considered judgmental, the worst kind of accusation today. Someone who is judgmental is intolerant, which is tantamount to saying he is a perpetrator of hate crimes.

Yet sin does the greatest damage to a soul, a family, a business, a community, a government. Its consequences are deep, hurtful, and lasting. Lasting. As in, eternal. Apart from the forgiveness of Christ, sin damages whatever it touches.

It’s behind terrorism, behind sex trafficking, pedophilia, first degree murder, corporate greed, government corruption, HIV/AIDS, welfare fraud — in other words, it’s behind all the problems society wants to eradicate.

But nobody wants to talk about it.

Not even Christians.

When we do, we are deemed unloving, accused of being gleeful when we point the finger at sinful behavior, and even of rejoicing at the idea that people will be condemned to hell.

How ironic. Today it’s considered more loving to let people walk off a cliff in blissful ignorance than it is to shout out warnings for them to stop and turn around.

But the culture in Jeremiah’s day was no different. When he started pronouncing the warnings God charged him with, saying that Babylon would come and capture Judah, he was accused of treason. His life was threatened on more than one occasion, and eventually he was arrested.

People even came to him and said, What are you hearing from God? When he told them, they said he was making it up. At one point a group of them accused his assistant of getting Jeremiah to say negative prophecies against them.

The real issue wasn’t Jeremiah. It was God and His word. Those people did not want to submit to God’s authority. They wanted to go their own way.

At one point, Jeremiah told them, from God, to surrender to the Babylonian king. If they would wave the white flag, they would go into captivity but they would not die.

They refused, and a year and a half later when they were under siege and were starving to the point of eating their own dung, of cannibalizing their dead, they still did not bow to God’s direction.

Their defeat was total.

The king who would not follow the word the Lord delivered by Jeremiah, witnessed the murder of all his sons, and then his own eyes were blinded. He ended his days in a Babylonian dungeon.

All the nobles, priests, officials, scribes, anyone of standing who had not been killed were carried away into exile. Shockingly, the total number of people taken was only 4,600.

Over 600,000 people had migrated from Egypt during the exodus, but instead of growing and prospering, their number peaked out in David’s rule and then began to decline.

But to drop as low as less than 5,000? Did they never think to ask God what was wrong? Did they never consider that perhaps the prophets were right?

Or had they stopped listening to the prophets? Was sin already a dirty word, and they no longer talked about such things openly? And if anyone dared to be so bold as to stand on the street and tell people to repent, perhaps those walking by would avert their eyes and hurry toward home.

After all, who would use the forbidden S word in public? For shame!

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm  Comments (14)  
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