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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Judges 9:23 says, “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.” Gideon’s 70 sons from his many wives had become rulers. Abimelech, a son from a concubine, asked the citizens if they would prefer one ruler instead of 70. They agreed. Abimelech then killed the 70 innocent brothers.

Both the act of the killing, and the citizen’s willingness to go along with it, displeased God. So he sent this evil spirit between them so that they turned against each other. They ended up wiping each other out. The city and its people were destroyed by Abimelech, and Abimelech, in the process, got his head split open.

I wondered about us. Has God sent an evil spirit between our government and its citizens? Is he displeased that our government has authorized the killing of the innocent? That our citizens, by a lack of resistance, show a willingness to go along with it? Innocent babies are aborted. Innocent Christians are beheaded and burned alive.

The citizens could have stood and said, “No!” to Abimelech. But they had slipped far enough from God – far enough in their moral values – that when Abimelech came along, they were not sharp enough to catch the fault; and they went along.

Have our citizens slipped? Are we no longer moved to the point of standing and saying, “No!”? Has our salt lost its savor? Going along does not have a good ending.

 

 

 

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There is at least one similarity between Christianity and the religion of Islam. Both want people to believe their message. But where one is a gracious offer, the other is an ultimatum.

It all started with Abraham. God picked him to begin a nation. The problem is he had two sons. Both began a nation. The Bible contains the record of one nation while the Koran contains the record of the other. This all happened before the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ craze. Only one nation was declared the winner.

The resentment began immediately and for thousands of years, it has brewed into a deep hatred. The losing side intends to claim what they feel is rightfully theirs. It calls for the annihilation of the other team and anyone associated with them.

All God ever wanted was a people that he could care for and be loved by. But in spite of all he did they kept forgetting him. After a 2,000 year pattern, he extended the invitation to anyone in the world. Forever a loving God, when he could rightfully wash his hands of us all, he continues his gracious offer.

Islam’s offer comes with an ultimatum. Join them in their fight or die. Their ways remind me of a verse. ‘Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy; but God came that we might have life.’ I believe their god is Satan. They are not a peace loving people.

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I was reminded recently of a verse in Hosea: “My people are destroyed from a lack of knowledge.” It is true today in relation to the religion of Islam. We lack knowledge of the fact that their goal is to take over. We are being told Muslims are peace loving, but that could not be further from the truth.

Brutal killings are taking place right under our noses, not by radical extremists, but by devout followers of the religion of Islam. They are, quite simply, the committed ones. They are following what the Koran instructs them to do with infidels (those who will not accept their teachings).

“The governments of the world should know that Islam cannot be defeated. Islam will be victorious in all the countries of the world, and Islam and the teachings of the Koran will prevail all over the world.” Ayatollah Khomeini

These brutal killings seem to go beyond acceptable limits to the civilized world. In actuality, it is not that far out of line when compared to Old Testament times. I just read in Judges where a tent stake was driven through the head of one king and it says, “On that day, God subdued Jabin, the Canaanite king.”

God gave his chosen people a small portion of land that they were to subdue. “Do not leave anything that breathes. Completely destroy them.” Like it or not, it is there and it is not pretty. But the people of these other countries had other gods. Think about that. There is really only one other ‘god’; the god of this world, Satan. And God wanted his followers destroyed.

In my opinion, it is this same god of this world that is the Allah of Islam. He is leading his followers in an all out war against the followers of God. Just as God wanted to annihilate Satan’s followers, so now, Satan wants to annihilate God’s.

We are believing the lie that our government, the media and others are propagating. We are being destroyed by a lack of knowledge. Evil advances when good men do nothing. It is time to wise up – to learn what is right – to use what is right to resist what isn’t. “Who is wise? He will realize these things.” Hosea 14:9

 

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A Gripping Thought

In the book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, there is a line that grips me. There will be plenty time to be gripped by the specific atrocities of which I will read as I work my way through the book; but this line is early on in the Preface which was written by William Lloyd Garrison. Already an abolitionist, Garrison, after hearing Douglass speak for the first time said, “I never hated slavery so intensely, as at that moment”.

Garrison was moved by the message, but he was equally, if not more, by the caliber of the person who delivered it. Seeing the potential of this one individual, made for an understanding that was “more clear than ever” that the rage expressed in the brutal beatings was undeserved and beyond unfair.

And then the line; “With all his noble powers and sublime aspirations, how like a brute was he treated, even by those professing to have the same mind in them that was in Christ Jesus.” From an extreme example of a person’s ability to so twist their belief as to permit as acceptable the things they did, it made me wonder on a smaller scale what I permit that seems acceptable to me . . . but isn’t.

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Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” This was a major problem in Jesus’ day. Those in authority were heaping more on the people than they could bear. Instead of being compassionate helpers, they were harsh. Their actions were harassing and as a result the people felt helpless.

 Though Deuteronomy 8:1 does say, “Be careful to follow every command that I am giving you today”, the problem was they kept adding. Thinking they were helping and clarifying, they instead were making it so difficult, nobody could measure up.

 Jesus slams them for missing the part of being the merciful shepherd. Focusing entirely on the phrase in Deuteronomy, they overlooked the compassion God showed them over thousands of years when they forgot God’s commands completely. They missed his original intent.

 Our rulers today are doing the same thing to us. By focusing on a phrase or two in the Constitution, they squeeze out meanings that our founders clearly did not intend. They create more and more laws, more and more regulations; the result of which is this same harassing. It is becoming more than we can bear.

 Our government is out of line. They do more to protect a tadpole that will one day turn into a frog than they do to protect a fetus that will one day turn into a baby. The list could go on.

 

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How much is our usefulness to God dependent on our own faith and spiritual sensitivity? How about the God sized breakthroughs? When Jesus went back home and into the familiar synagogue, there was very little faith present. As a result, Jesus did very few miracles there.

To this same group of people he makes the point, “There were many widows, yet Elijah was not sent to any of them; but to a widow in Zarephath” and “Many in Israel had leprosy, yet not one of them was cleansed, only Naaman”.

I believe much is on us to position ourselves as a proven faithful servant. God used this story this morning, as the never ending “follow me”, to draw me to himself. He is a gracious God.

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As much as Genesis 1 begins the account of God bringing life to a lifeless earth, so Revelation 6 begins the account of God destroying it. In Genesis, God had been “hovering” as He waited for just the right time to begin His creation. But in Revelation He is “hovering” for another reason. At just the right time He will begin His destruction; and here in this 6th chapter, that time has come. In Genesis He is the Creator; but here in Revelation He is a “conqueror bent on conquest”. And specifically here in chapter 6, He has mounted up and is “riding out”.

These judgments come in waves, with each wave getting worse. The beginning may not necessarily be seen as judgments, even by those who are expecting them. In the early stages, “peace will be taken from the world”. There will be food shortages and natural disasters. Are we there yet? We can’t say for sure, but before these waves are over, there will be no doubt.

The first wave is described as seven seal judgments. The seventh seal ushers in a more intense wave referred to as the seven trumpet judgments. Opening a seal does not make a lot of noise; but it’s hard not to hear a trumpet. As the first wave of seal judgments might not be seen as this beginning of God’s judgment, these trumpet blasts seem to be designed to make it a little clearer. It gets so bad during this time that “men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them”.

It’s a little hard to imagine all that is supposed to happen. As many today would scoff at the idea that the things we are seeing are a part of these judgments, still, there will be those, even as things get much worse, who won’t believe it. John tells us that “the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent”.

There is at least one unmistakable event that takes place during these trumpet judgments. God will raise up 2 witnesses that will prophesy for 3 ½ years. They will have miraculous powers “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want”. At the end of the 3 ½ years, they will be killed. “Their bodies will lie in the street for 3 ½ days and the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts. But after the 3 ½ days, a breath of life from God enters them and they stand to their feet.”

Like I said, it will get to the point that it will be unmistakable. We obviously are not there yet, but it is at least possible that we are on the front end of it all. Over time, it will become clear. We either are or we are not. There are a lot of details in this account of “what must one day take place” that I do not understand. But the more familiar we are with what can be understood, the easier it will be to recognize these waves as they begin to hit.

These first two waves of judgments – the seven seal and the seven trumpets – end in this 11th chapter. As they could be categorized as judgments on the earth, the last trumpet judgment ushers in a new wave that could be categorized as judgment on the inhabitants. John transitions with, “the time has come”. It is time for the next wave where we will see the Woman, the Dragon and the Beast. It is not good.

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In the first 3 chapters of Revelation, John, while he writes the series of letters to the churches, is on the island of Patmos. This 4th chapter begins with John being called up to heaven where he will remain throughout the rest of this book.

The first thing John describes is the throne in heaven. The thing that struck me was his description of the four living creatures around the throne. One was like a lion. One was like an ox. One had a face like a man. One was like a flying eagle. Each of the four creatures “never stopped saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

I had a thought I had never considered before. By the lion doing what it is created to do, day after day after day, is it not perpetually declaring, “holy, holy, holy”? The eagle, as it does what God created it to do, is it not also declaring . . . and the ox? All three with different design do what they were designed to do.

And then I thought about the one that had a face like a man. Do we do what we were created to do? Do we all work to provide for the betterment of our families? Do we all choose as a mate, a member of the opposite sex that we might produce a family? Do we honor God in and with our lives? It is the only one of the 4 that chooses.

As a side note, I thought of when God created man. If God had intended for man to be with man and woman to be with woman in addition to man being with woman, He would have created 6 people – 3 men and 3 women – but He didn’t.

There is a verse in chapter 5; “with your blood you purchased men for God”. Funny, He didn’t have to purchase the other creatures; they do what they were made to do. But man . . . man had to be “purchased”. And then, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.”

I’ve wondered more lately than ever if I am doing what I was created to do. I watched Men of Valor a few nights ago. Trained Men of Valor fought against evil to rescue a woman who had been taken hostage and was being tortured. These trained men who rescued her cussed and drank a little, but I couldn’t help but to wonder if maybe they didn’t cause God to stand up and take notice. I wonder if He didn’t stand up and say, “Now that’s what I’m talkin about”.

In both the 4th and 5th chapters, John refers to “the seven spirits of God”. Could these spirits be like facets of a diamond? Isn’t there a part of God that both loves and hates? Is He not both full of mercy and yet He will eventually judge? Is He not both gracious and jealous? Is He not also a God of vengeance?

We are at a critical point in our nation’s history. A couple of states just voted to accept gay marriage. Our government is leaning toward raising taxes so that it does not have to cut its out of control spending. Both financially and morally we are bankrupt. Business as usual is as much out of line for our government as it is for us. Personally I am searching for a better way “to serve our God” in these trying times. I believe the question we should all be asking is, what will we, who have “with blood” been “purchased for God”, do to serve Him? And will it be enough to bring Him to His feet?

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In this letter to Sardis I saw a difference in what he wrote to Pergamum. The people of Pergamum, for the most part, “remained true”, but there were some among them “who held to the teaching of Balam”. But with the church of Sardis, they, for the most part, “were dead”, and yet had some who were very much alive. One was a batch of good apples with a few bad ones and the other a batch of bad apples with a few good ones.

How is He described and what are the words He has to say to this predominately bad batch of Christians? First, He is described as the One who is “holding” them. He specifically is “holding” the leaders. He who could have written them off and let them go; instead, He “holds” them.

His word to them . . . “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die. Remember what you have received and heard; obey it and repent.” In the same way that we might hold in our hands an apple with some bad spots in it, deciding whether to pitch it or cut the bad spots out and keep it, similarly He, with this church is in effect holding it and choosing to keep it. He is willing to cut the bad spots out; the question is . . . will they let Him? And His final words: “He who has an ear, let him hear.” We who have the spots . . . will we see it?

To the church of Philadelphia, He is described as, “holy and true”. It is a similar description as to the church of Laodicea – the last of the seven churches. To them He is the “faithful and true witness”.

What’s interesting is that the church of Philadelphia is “holy and true” right along with Him, while the church of Laodicea is not the same “faithful and true witness”. To church of Philadelphia, though they had “little strength, yet they had kept his word and had not denied his name”. While others advanced, they on the other hand remained in relative obscurity. To the so called religious who had looked down on them . . . and worse, “I will make them acknowledge that I have loved you”.

To this group of “holy and true” believers – who probably struggled with whether or not He was even mindful of them – He lets them know that their day is coming. He is encouraging them to “hold on” and to “overcome” – to remain “holy and true”.

To the church of Laodicea though, the “faithful and true witness” has a bone to pick with this group who has not been. They are lukewarm; they have no passion. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich.”

To this church in particular – but I think really to all – He has these life changing words. And for any “who have an ear to hear them” – for any who will “overcome, just as He overcame, he will give the right to sit with him in heaven”.

It is popular today to think that we are covered by grace regardless of how we live. But when you are really familiar with His words to us, there is a bit of a different picture painted. Jude refers to “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality”. That is not a popular message today. “Who do you think you are to tell us how to live?” But these are His words . . . not ours.

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I have to keep reminding myself . . . write what you see. Part of me, when I decided to read through Revelation again, wanted to figure it all out. But the other part reminds me . . . just write what you see.

First of all, when John addresses each of these letters to “the angel of the church”, it makes sense to me that he is referring to the human leader. I don’t see that there would be any reason for him to write to a literal angel.

Too, I see a clear continuity in each letter. For example, in this first letter to the church of Ephesus, “the words of him who walks among them” and “they have forsaken their first love”. To me, I see the clear image of a couple just enjoying walking together – being together. I see the image of the passion that a young couple has for one another.

In spite of the fact that they were doing some things right – working hard and enduring hardships together – they had lost this passion they had at first. His words to them, shows a side of Himself that longs for us to have that. A couple can get so mechanical – so taking care of business – and yet ending up losing the passion they once had. We can get that way with Him.

Contrast that with His words to the church of Smyrna. To them, He was the one “who is the First and Last, who died and came to life again”. This church was facing persecution – persecution “even to the point of death”. His words to them were assuring words. From His words to them, they could have the assurance, if indeed they did face death, that they had a “crown of life” on the other side of it. They could have firmly fixed in their minds that the One who died for and before them, came to life again. They could know that they would do the same.

His words to us are fitting. He knows what we need to hear. To the church at Pergamum, who had among them those “who held to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality”, to them He was “the sharp, double edged sword”. His word to them . . . “Repent”.

Similarly with Thyatira, they “tolerated that woman Jezebel”. “By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality”. His word to them was the same, “Repent”. And how is He described for them? Very similar to the way He was for the church of Pergamum. He was “the Son of God, whose eyes were like blazing fire”. Isn’t this the perfect image for a group of believers, many of whom had been enticed and misled. No matter how distant from Him we get, He is still able to pierce into our distracted hearts and minds and whisper steadily the words we desperately need to hear; “Repent . . . before it is too late”.

This call to repentance is in spite of the good. To Pergamum He acknowledged that “they remained true to his name”. And, when someone close to them had been killed for not renouncing their faith, “they did not renounce theirs”. They took their Christianity seriously. Nevertheless . . . He had these things against them and they needed to hear it. Similarly with Thyatira, “I know your deeds, that you are now doing more than you did at first”. Nevertheless . . .

I believe it is time we take a fresh look at the words He has for us today. It is time that we take inventory and realize that “He has a few things against us”. “We’re not as good as we once were.” But if we will hear His words, I believe “we can be as good again as we ever were.”

“He who has an ear, let him hear” the words He has for us today.

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