Tuesday, June 30, 2009


egyptian ruins

But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.

Exodus 9:16-17

This is God’s most direct message to Pharaoh. He makes it clear that all that has happened so far in the plagues has served the purpose of calling the king to consider the sovereign rule of the God of Israel. Pharaoh was not battling some superstition. It wasn’t about a regional Canaanite deity that had no authority in the land of Egypt. This was the God of the universe. And God had made Pharaoh in His image. He raised up the king. This had to have Pharaoh do some serious thinking.

The Egyptians worshiped their king. Pharaoh was a god among many, but a powerful ruler receiving worship. What’s more, this man was familiar with the process of appeasing the myriad of other Egyptian gods. I think that deep in His thinking was the reality of realizing that all of it was culture, but that he benefited from the praise of his people. And to give that praise to some God he did not know was preposterous. Except that the God of Israel was clearly demonstrating power that no Egyptian god or priest of an Egyptian temple could match.

God raised up Pharaoh, but this proud man had exalted himself. This was the human tendency towards pride, bent by wealth and power to incredible highs. All the power and wealth of ancient Egypt made Pharaoh a mythic figure. And he had raised himself to the absolute zenith of human achievement for his day. And God let him know that even the most powerful, most influential, proudest man on the planet could not stand against the will of God.

In the end, we remember the Exodus as God’s work, not Pharaoh’s day of defiance. God forewarned the Egyptians time and again, but it would take complete personal devastation before they would acknowledge Him. But God’s glory prevailed. He is proclaimed throughout the earth, while Egypt and all the power of the Pharaohs eventually dwindled down to be covered by desert sand.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Spirituality is not enough

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, "Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD."

Exodus 8:8

frogs Pharaoh was a spiritual man in a land that practiced a lot of spirituality. In fact, he was worshiped as a living god. But all that spiritual interest was not enough to save Egypt. God was giving the land of Egypt an unprecedented revelation of His power and purposes. And Pharaoh was blinded and hardened by his own brand of spirituality.

Each one of the plagues was meant to show the falseness of their idolatry. They worshiped the Nile and it turned into a stream of blood and death. They had a frog god. And frogs overran the land. Pharaoh was himself a god, but was powerless to stop any of the plagues that Israel’s true God brought upon the nation.

It is popular today in our culture to applaud “spirituality” as a good thing. But that alone will not save a person, neither does it provide character or promote virtue. Satan is more “spiritual” than any human on earth, and he is dead set against God and His work! So there has to be something more. We must be brought to encounter God. We must come to grips with who we are and how great and holy He is. It is only after that kind of humble worship of Him that we are in place to truly know Him. It is not just about displays of His power. Pharaoh saw God’s power like no other human on earth and STILL hardened his heart against God. Even when He submitted to God’s desires, He still regretted it, and then died fighting against God’s work. Human beings can know joy in surrender to God, and avoid the defeat of fighting against Him.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The powers that be

sarcophagus But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.

Exodus 7:22-23

The great lesson from Exodus is that God is in control. And the last person to learn this the hardest way possible was Pharaoh. I have always found it odd that the magicians of Egypt would duplicate the water being turned to blood. It seems that Egyptian could dig wells as a new source of water. The magicians immediately showed Pharaoh they could do the same thing. However, what is telling is that they were absolutely powerless to undo the plague. They weren’t much help were they?

The power that confronted Moses was the power of a corrupt human heart. And human hearts will naturally defy God. They will deny Him outlandishly. This is as defiant as Richard Dawkins asserting that there “probably is no god, so get on with your life and stop worrying.” This does not offer much perspective. And it offers no solution to the plague of sin or the devastation of the inevitable judgment of conscience that all humans feel.

When the powers that be deny God, the reality is that God becomes more clearly in control. That is what we see in Exodus. Pharaoh holds on to his kingly authority only as long as God lets him. Eventually God will move so decisively that not even the most powerful human on earth can resist him.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Out of the frying pan…

frying pan egg Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

Exodus 6:9

Things have gone from bad to worse from the point of view of leadership for Moses. He knew that deliverance for Israel was going to be a “hard sell”. All of his objections to the Lord involved the fact that he felt Israel would not believe him. And now, as God has given Moses a spiritual “pep talk” for the people, his fears are realized. Israel will not listen to him. Moses knew Pharaoh would resist. He was not prepared for Israel to resist.

Moses follows the same patter in Exodus 10:12. He spoke objections against God’s plan. He was disheartened as well. God patiently encouraged him to continue with his message to Israel and his confrontations with Pharaoh. He knew Israel had a broken spirit in the midst of unbearable labor and slavery. And Moses too was being broken.

Before God brings incredible victory, there is often unbearable loss. Sometimes we must know deep sorrow in order to receive inexplicable joy. That is what is going on at this point in the book of Exodus. Moses and Israel are working through the results of Pharaoh’s hard heart to God. And they are not responding to God with commitment to Him either. There are times when we fall out of the frying pan and into the fire. And it is when those bad to worse moments happen that our faith is tried the most.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all."

Exodus 5:22-23

trouble Two observations about Moses’ response to God in this first “crisis’ of leadership are noted today. First, Moses seems really focused on himself. The people he worried about leading were upset and turned on him when their first request resulted in more hardship from the Egyptians. God had warned Moses that Pharaoh would not be favorable at first (Exodus 4:21-23). But this did not stop Moses from turning the people’s accusations to God.

A second fact to notice is the meaning of what the ESV translates as “you have done evil”. This is theologically impossible, so we are left to debate what Moses’ complaint means. Was Moses being disrespectful at worst, or just theologically sloppy when he seemed to accuse God of being complicit in what was wrong? I don’t think so. The Hebrew word that is translated as “evil” in verse 22 is the same word that is translated as “trouble” in Exodus 5:19. The idea behind the word includes hardship. This softens the accusation considerably when we realize that God’s moral uprightness is not being questioned. But Moses is questioning God’s sovereignty. That is a big difference. Moses knows God brought this trouble in His plan. He also knows Pharaoh has brought trouble. The tension between God and the strongest ruler on earth will be driving subplot of the Exodus story.

So a good view of God needs to include a healthy perspective on trouble, difficulty, trial, and basically “the bad stuff” in our lives. It is one thing to see God as sovereign, with even difficulty under His control. It is another to accuse God of being unfair or bad for not eliminating struggles, difficulties, pains, and outrageous sins. I think Moses just questioned his experience, but did not lay moral blame on God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beyond Fears and Worries

fear hands

Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Exodus 4:30-31

God knew what He was doing in raising up the leadership for Israel to deliver them from the hard slavery of Egypt. Moses has offered every objection to God’s call. At every turn he felt inadequate, and really he feared that Israel would not listen to Him. He had some maturing to do… still. It was God’s call that was on him. How could He doubt that what God had called him to do could fail when God was behind every bit of it? God reassured him with miraculous signs to perform to convince Israel that God was behind their escape from Egypt. That should have been enough.

Moses objected to being God’s spokesman, complaining of his poor speaking skills. He asked God to send someone else, dangerously close to complete denial of God’s call upon him from the burning bush. God was angry at that point, and He told Moses He would help him by calling His brother Aaron to serve as a spokesman for and with him. God did not withdraw His call from Moses.

Moses reluctantly obeyed God’s call, but was still quite timid, begging leave from Jethro, his father-in-law with the innocent request to go visit his family. But Moses had been slack in his commitments. God again met Moses, this time in judgment, for his lack of obedience to the Law in circumcising his son. Moses’ wife has more respect by performing the act. But there is now schism in his household. She is resentful of Moses and his lack of obedience that nearly cost him his life.

Moses was a gifted man. But his human frailties had twisted the real potential. He had been rash. He had been an excuse-maker. He had been mediocre in spiritual obedience. But God was changing all of that in Him. Clearly God was going to deliver people. And He was using Moses and Aaron, warped and wounded as they were, to accomplish His work.

What strikes me most in this passage is the fear of Moses. I think that he was so worried about the response of Israel to himself, that he failed to grasp the significance of God’s call. Here he is, standing before a supernaturally burning bush, talking with the God of all the universe, the Creator, the God of Abraham, and he can only express how he feels about how Israel would respond to him. He is myopic. God is broadening his vision. And when the first message was delivered to the elder of Israel, they responded just as God knew they would: they believed, and they were thankful and worshipful that God was aware of their pain and ready to do something about it.

What Moses feared did not happen. His objections were totally unfounded because the decrees of God have a power to them that is unfathomable to human strategies and plans. What Moses worried about was never going to happen (at least at this point in the story). Later, Israel would struggle, and by that time Moses will have grown into a confident man of faith. For now, Israel is ready. God had seen to that. God had prepared a leader, and a people to be led by Moses.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Essential God


Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"
God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Exodus 3:13-14

Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush was a unique call for a unique purpose: Moses was the man God created to deliver Israel from Egypt and bring them back to the land promised Abraham so long ago. Moses’ desire to know God’s name could mean that Israel had forgotten this truth. God’s revelation of His name to Moses would be a founding wall of Judaism that lasts to this day. The significance of The Name can be discerned from this ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 3:13-14:

I am who I am. In response to Moses' question (“What is [your] name?” v. 13), God reveals his name to be “Yahweh” (corresponding to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH). The three occurrences of “I am” in v. 14 all represent forms of the Hebrew verb that means “to be” (Hb. hayah), and in each case are related to the divine name Yahweh (i.e., “the Lord”; see note on v. 15). The divine name Yahweh has suggested to scholars a range of likely nuances of meaning: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for his own existence; (2) that God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in his being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what he is (e.g., “the same yesterday and today and forever,” Heb. 13:8); and (4) that God is eternal in his existence. While each of these points is true of God, the main focus in this passage is on the Lord's promise to be with Moses and his people. The word translated “I am” (Hb. ’ehyeh) can also be understood and translated as “I will be” (cf. esv footnote). Given the context of Ex. 3:12 (“I will be with you”), the name of Yahweh (“the Lord”) is also a clear reminder of God's promises to his people and of his help for them to fulfill their calling. In each of these cases, the personal name of God as revealed to Moses expresses something essential about the attributes and character of God.

To know God at this level is to know God at the core of His attributes and character. It is the very person of God for Him to be the self-existent, always existing One. And this God who called Moses into leadership and loved Israel is the same God Who calls me into service and loves the world in Jesus.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Between Two Worlds: Easily Edified

Between Two Worlds: Easily Edified

This was something I needed to read. This concept will find it way into Sunday's sermon on Mark 2:23 - 3:6. The Pharisees were not easily edified...

How God makes a leader

babyMoses-300 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, "Because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."

Exodus 2:10

God uses even the worst actions of an evil tyrant to His advantage in raising up a leader. God took a man’s lifetime to develop Moses. And He used the very Egyptian system that oppressed Israel to raise up the leader to deliver them. Moses was providentially developed over the course of his lifetime to become the deliverer of the Exodus.

God used the Pharaoh’s own daughter to save Moses from the infanticide order that threatened all young Jewish males. You have to think that the Jews resisted this everywhere they could. I am sure Moses’ parents were not the only ones desperately trying to hide a male child from watching Egyptian eyes. Eventually in desperation, his mother hid him in the floating baby boat in the Nile, where he was discovered by the very daughter of the king, embraced as a human whose life was precious, and saved from his fate by the love of the enemy! This is the way God works.

Then Moses was handed over to Pharaoh’s own daughter and raised as her son in the finery of Egyptian royalty. He was given the best education, raised to be a prince, and became so identified with the culture that when he ran into Midian after murdering a cruel taskmaster, he is described as an Egyptian. He was the only Jew who could confront Pharaoh in his own courts, and God had made him just for that opportunity.

But first, God had years of desert living ahead for Moses. He would learn to lead by shepherding flocks, just like Israel had done before coming to Egypt. He would survive the desert and learn to teach others to do so. His impulsiveness would slowly fade in the life of a gentle shepherd in hiding… until God would call him to His purpose, and then all the experiences would come together in God’s providence. And this all took an extraordinary amount of time. An entire generation was slowly waiting, praying to God, groaning in need and waiting.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Multiplication in opposition


So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Exodus 1:13-14

The book of Exodus is about two very clear things: 1) God’s ability to deliver people and 2) God’s ability to raise up leadership among His people. In order for those two realities to be seen, there must be circumstances of dependence upon God. Chapter 1 sets the scene for the reader. And it is a scene of definitive need. Yet, God is in control.

Israel had gone to Egypt under God’s plan. The severe middle eastern famine had driven Jacob and his sons there. God had prepared them for this by sending Joseph ahead of them, putting him in charge of the land and food management, and taking care of His people. But then a generation changed. And eventually a pharaoh arose who did not remember Israel’s past with Egypt. And fear and ethnic prejudices began to control Egyptian policy. The result was oppression for God’s people. They became slaves. This eventually escalated to a governmental policy of control, eventually leading to a decree of infanticide for Hebrew male children. This was bad. The official policy toward Israel was slavery, persecution, and government mandated infanticide. Yet God sovereignly allowed His people to continue multiplying.

In the midst of these circumstances and despite these circumstances God began to work. He took forty years to begin to deliver Israel. Seems like a slow process, but it was God’s plan and wisdom and not human impatience. The situation lasted at least two generations. And it would begin in the worst circumstances. But deliverance would come through a plan God devised. He would show Himself strong to His people, through a leader He had prepared, to a people who would resist Him. But God always delivers on His promises.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Better Days Coming


But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Malachi 4:2

One of the underlying themes of Malachi is contrast between God’s disobedient people and God’s obedient people. This chapter provides the final picture of that contrast in the future “day of the Lord”. God’s picture in strong. In Malachi 4:1 the disobedient are set ablaze like stubble in a field, burning in the oven of God’s judgment. Malachi 4:3 sees them as nothing but ashes under the soles of the righteous. Pretty rough language.

Those who fear God’s name are encouraged to see that future time as a new refreshing day. Righteousness rises with a new sun and healing comes to those who have suffered for doing right. They are giddy and playful like calves set free from overnight stabling in a barn stall. God longs for joy to mark the lives of His people, and judgment alone is not the vision God has for Israel. He also wants them to know unspeakable joy in His work and presence.

The prophet ends with a call for Israel to return to obedience to the law of Moses. They were showing horrible contempt for it, mixing the outward forms of it with inward disdain. God wants His people to love His Word and His decrees again. That is how they will love Him. He is after their hearts, and the final admonition of Malachi shows this. God would capture their hearts by sending “Elijah” with a generationally stirring message to them (Malachi 4:5-6). He will turn families toward each other, and toward God. This is promised before the day of reckoning to God is at hand. Of course, this was clearly answered in the first advent in the ministry of John the Baptist. I believe it will be strongly shown before Christ’s second advent, possibly with the direct ministry of Elijah in Israel again. God will keep His Word.

This little prophet of Malachi has had a lot to say about the heart that truly should turn to God. I have been surprised at its relevance to my own. God always is concerned for the heart, and I should not be surprised that my heart is the target of His word and His Spirit’s work. It is where He does His most important work. And better days are coming when a final move of God in calling people to Him and judging those who reject His work will make a world where the best work of His in all hearts will mark everything everyone does.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

An Entry in God’s Journal

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.

Malachi 3:16


God keeps His journals. Scripture makes this sort of statement as a matter of fact. Revelation takes about “the books” being opened at the last judgment. And the most important of those books is the “Lamb’s book of life”. I know that I tend to journal about the things I see in God that make me take notice. It seems from this passage that God journals about the deeds of His people.

Malachi 3:6-18 shows two contrasting groups of people. The first group, represented by the majority in Judah, are going through the motions of spirituality. They are led by corrupt priests and leaders. Their hearts are not in their worship. They have no problem offering diseased animals on the altar of sacrifice. They hold back tithes an offerings. They accuse God of being unfair.

The second groups is faithful. They fear God, and they encourage one another in the truth and in the right way. And God takes notice of them. It is this second groups that makes an entry in His “book of remembrance”. Their faithfulness to obeying and following and believing in Him is known by Him. He accepts their worship. He rewards the faithful remnant, even as He seeks to turn that first group back to Him.

I want to make an entry into God’s “book of remembrance”. I am afraid that I get caught up in the line of thinking of the ones who question God and only give him a half-hearted worship. I am reminded that faithful following is rewarded, and repentance from my turnings away will lead to renewed blessing if I return to former faithfulness.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

23 Years of Sanctified Marriage

wedding rings Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

Malachi 2:15

God brings husband and wife together. He makes two one. And Malachi tells us there is something deeply spiritual going on “with a portion of the Spirit in their union”. I am not sure of all that phrase means other than I do know that the Spirit of God hovered over the creation of the world. God’s Spirit must attend and guide and stay with each marriage bond as a couple enters into that relationship.

This verse also gives a “why” behind godly marriage: to produce godly kids. Holy marriages produce a generation of believers. And God desires that marriages do just this. There is a deep commitment to God, to one’s spouse, and to one’s children in God design for marriage.

God was upset with Judah for the casual profaning of the marriage covenant. Divorce was becoming easy. Casual infidelity seems to have been prevalent. It was destroying the future of any godly offspring. It was destroying what He had uniquely created. God equated a casual disregard for the marriage covenant with the worst sins of violence (see Mal 2:16).

Marriage is a holy place. I recently finished reading Gary Thomas: “Sacred Marriage”. I was struck by the reality that the goal of my marriage is not my happiness, nor is it the happiness of my wife. The goal of our marriage is holiness. Marriage is a path to sanctity. It is not just another indulgence in my selfishness.

Sunday June 14th, Joni and I will celebrate 23 years of marriage. I thank God for my wife. God has used her to change me, to encourage me, to make a real man of me. I would not be anything today without her wisdom and friendship. I know that God joined us together and I pray for our continued lifetime of mutual love and sanctity to continue. It is what gives my life so much perspective and purpose… God brought us together and made us one with a portion of His Spirit in our union.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Big God in a Big World.

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 1:11

old maps

Two distinct observations come to me from this first chapter of Malachi. The first has to do with the overwhelming use of the phrase “Lord of hosts” throughout this small prophetic book. Why does this description of God overshadow and emphasize the message of this book? It is used in this little book more than any other OT Book. Look…

Lord of Hosts

The ESV Study Bible provides some insight:

In the postexilic period of Malachi, the postage-stamp-sized Judah, as a tiny province within the vast Persian Empire, had no army of its own. It is precisely in such times, when God's people are painfully aware of how limited their own resources are, that there is no greater comfort than the fact that the Lord has his invincible heavenly armies standing at the ready. It is like the comfort that Elisha prayed for his servant at Dothan when they were surrounded by the Syrian armies: “‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). Perhaps it is like the comfort felt by Jesus before the cross: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

God was using this description to comfort a nation that had all its securities ripped away. They still had their problems. Their worship was stale, not from the heart, ritualistic, and only going through the motions. But they needed to know God was on their side. He is a big God… the Lord of the hosts of heaven’s armies.

The second observation has to do with the phrase at the beginning of Malachi 1:11. What significance does this description of the rising and setting and sun have to the context of Malachi? Again, the ESV Study Bible provides some clear exegetical insight…

Surprisingly, Malachi refers to the presentation of incense and pure offerings in many places, even among the nations, rather than exclusively in the temple in Jerusalem as Deuteronomy 12 requires (cf. Mal. 3:3–4; 4:4). A key to this controversial verse is to recognize that from the rising of the sun to its setting is standard predictive language regarding a future age of great blessing (e.g., Ps. 50:1; 113:3). Isaiah 45:6 and 59:19 include with this phrase a reference to the ultimate engrafting of the nations, suggesting that a similar meaning is implied in Malachi. This finds further definition in such texts as Isa. 19:19–25 and 66:1–21, where the nations will be made to be “Levites” and will offer acceptable offerings on approved altars to the true God. For the engrafting of converted Gentiles into Israel, cf. Ruth 1:16–17; Est. 8:17; Psalm 87; Isa. 56:6–8; Zech. 2:11; 8:23

The last phrase has a twist of Covenant Theology in it, but I am going to let the discerning person deal with that. It is clear that Gentiles are “grafted in” to God’s plan to call a people to Himself (see Romans 9, 10, 11). So in this last book  of the OT canon, God left clear indicators that He was reaching not just Israel, but the world. Malachi really does serve as a fitting bridge to the New Testament in many ways. This is just the first observation I will make about that bridge.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Expectant Living is Important

second-coming He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:20

The book of Revelation ends with this commitment to expecting the return of Christ. I think it is something that we have not paid as much attention to as we should have. I grew up during a tumultuous time (the 1960’s and early 70’s). The culture changed dramatically in a ten year period, and my parents and I came to faith in Christ in the middle of all that social change. And the Baptist church we attended preached A LOT of eschatology. With war in Vietnam, radicalism redefining culture, the vivid daily threat of nuclear holocaust, drug culture going mainstream, and political corruption, it all seemed to be lining up. As a kid, I fully expected Jesus would return before the 1980’s were upon us. That really bummed me out, because I wanted to at least graduate high school!

The one advantage of all those sermons on Christ’s soon return was that I lived with a sense of urgency and expectancy. I knew that when the church was raptured and the events of biblical prophecy began to unfold, one of them would be the judgment seat of Christ where I would give account of myself. And being aware of the immediate possibility of that happening kept certain clear spiritual priorities in front of me. This is why I believe that good eschatology ought still be preached, maybe not with the newspaper headlines that it had in the 70’s but at least with some conviction that it is imminent!

And 2009 has been already a year of sweeping change. Old threats are re-emerging. North Korea has gone from sounding like a toothless old man, to flexing some serious nuclear muscle. Iran is leading radical Islam dangerously toward a hellfire confrontation with the West. Despite eight years of effort, the war on terrorism continues unabated in threats against American life. And America transformed in the 60’s and 70’s by a culture war is now leaning further toward Sodom than ever. Gay marriage, family redefinition, government bailouts of the largest corporations and banks, and a weird new socialistic ethic have seized the culture. And the evangelical church looks like the 1960’s again with social gospel, liberal theology, cutesy inspirational talks, and political liberation displacing the gospel in many churches. Time to remember that Jesus is coming soon. It never was time not to remember that truth.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Heaven and Earth.

new-jerusalem2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:1-2

Of all the grand descriptions in the book of Revelation, this vision of what will be our ultimate eternal destiny is most compelling. God is remaking the universe. He is doing something both new and the same. There is a heaven. There is an earth. And this time the physical planet will also be His physical dwelling place in a place of His design: The New Jerusalem. It is called a “holy city” that is “from God” and “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”.

We know that this will be such a remarkable place that it will be uniquely associated with God’s people. The New Jerusalem is called “the wife of the Lamb” in Revelation 21:9. Then the rest of the chapter goes into detail on its measurements and glorious construction. Somehow this beautiful final city is also the unique abode of all believers. It is where my heart will find its final home. That is why it is a holy city. It is the dwelling place of God and it is the dwelling place of His holy people. One cannot help but wonder if that was what God hoped for in the Garden of Eden all along. That at some point He would work with Adam and Eve and their descendants in the construction of just such a place.

The origin of the New Jerusalem is “from God”. It comes to the earth from heaven. Jesus Himself promised to “go and prepare a place” for us and come and bring us to Himself. That will find its complete fulfillment in the arrival of the New Jerusalem. And I think He is already preparing that place for us even now.

And the city is festive. It is prepared for a wedding of the Lamb to His Bride. It will be the place where we will share our lives forever with Jesus. And it will be a place of joy, intimacy, shared life, and joy and fulfillment that we can only now barely comprehend in our redeemed fallen natures. But when we are as a race fully holy, this experience will be more thrilling than we can ever imagine. My heart quickens just a little thinking about it now. It is what my deepest hopes want to see.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Why I am Premillennial


Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:6

Six times in the first seven verses of Revelation 20 the phrase “thousand years” is mentioned. I firmly believe this means something, and there is no reason not to see it as a literal time span. But in all fairness, there are competing interpretive views that are within the pail of evangelical orthodoxy. The ESV study Bible provides a succinct summary:

“These verses are among the most controversial in Revelation. Responsible scholars disagree regarding the meaning of the “thousand years” in vv. 2–7 (see Introduction: Millennial Views). The three main views are represented by: (1) Premillennialists (those who believe Christ will return “pre” [before] the millennium) think that this thousand years (Latin, millennium) is a future time of great peace and justice, which is usually thought to be a literal 1,000-year period that will begin when Christ returns to reign on earth as a physically present King, and which will include resurrected believers reigning with him. (2) Postmillennialists (those who believe that Christ will return “post” [after] the millennial period) think that before Christ returns to earth the gospel will spread and triumph so powerfully that societies will be transformed and peace and justice will reign on earth for a thousand years (or for a long period of time), after which Christ will return for the final judgment. (3) Amillennialists (those who hold an “a” [non-literal] millennial view) think this thousand years is the same period as this present church age, and that there will be no future “millennium” before Christ returns for the final judgment. Related to this is the question of whether the thousand years are to be interpreted literally (most premillennialists hold this view) or symbolically (most postmillennialists and amillennialists and some premillennialists hold this view). Those holding each view read John's millennial vision in terms of their understanding of other biblical texts and their approach to prophetic literature as a whole. Likewise, each of these views falls within the framework of historic Christian orthodoxy.”

It would seem to me that both amillennial and poststmillennial viewpoints must as a rule at some point interrupt a literal, plain interpretation of scripture in order to arrive at their destinations theologically. In my opinion, premillennialism maintains the most consistent hermeneutic. It is not without its questions and rough spots, but it is most consistent with plain interpretation. I also believe it has the benefit of being the easiest view to integrate Old Testament prophecy into the picture of the Book of Revelation. At times, it is virtually seamless, particularly with the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. These two facts (hermeneutic and biblical prophetic harmony) are why I am still a committed premillennialist. My committed reformed friends have yet to provide convincing theology to the contrary.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The real hallelujah chorus…

hallelujah 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.”

Revelation 19:6

This loud rejoicing comes in heaven as two things occur. First Jesus and His saints prepare to wipe out the beast and false prophet at the final battle of Armageddon. All opposition is defeated by the word of Jesus’ mouth. And justice is finally met against all the evil that has arisen against Christ at the end. That is cause for rejoicing and praise.

The second event is the preparation for the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is there that Jesus and His church experience the joy and the celebration of the church’s redemption and Christ’s final possession of the church. And it is a feast… a party like none other. This brings on the songs of praise from the vast multitude in heaven as they anticipate this great event.

So praise can be offered both in judgment and in joy. We can rejoice that God is just and the giver of our mercies. We can worship the God Who is simultaneously our Great Lover and the Fearsome Judge of all who reject Him. He deserves this type of praise.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Reason for God to act.

babylon sign

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.

Revelation 18:24

Just a simple observation from this text today. When God does finally move against the Babylon in Revelation, it is because she has opposed Him to the point of killing His messengers and His people. He executes profound judgment because His justice must deal with profound sins: rejection, raging against God and His work, and the responsibility for the deaths of most of those on the planet who have died to this point in the book of Revelation. God can easily handle His own opposition. He does not need anyone else to serve justice for Him.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who Jesus is; who we are.

the lamb of god in the heaven.ceiling of the vatican embassy in sofia.bulgaria. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.

Revelation 17:14

There is no doubt, for one moment, in the book of Revelation that the powers that array themselves against Christ will succeed. They will try. They will use all the earthly power at their disposal to rebel against God and persecute His people. And they will fail because Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. No one can thwart His plans or disobey His authority successfully. Jesus is in control.

And those with Him are uniquely His. They are called by Him. They have responded to that call. And in that response they realize that all along they were chosen in Him: the people of God by His design and purpose. And they are faithful to Him. They obey and submit to the King of kings and Lord of lords and find themselves on the victory side of the war against the Lamb.

So these very simple descriptions have profound meaning. I see Jesus for Who He is and I realize that nothing in this present world will destroy Him or His work. I see who I am as one of His faithful called and chosen ones. And I know that serving Him and obeying His command in the fray will be rewarded with sure victory over those who would rebel against God.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Do not think that Tiller's Murder was justice!

Vigilantes DO NOT administer justice. A murder of a murderer is murder. The state is the God-given authority on that matter. Democracies and Tyrannies alike. And don't give me the lines about "would you kill Hitler if you had the chance"? or that war is somehow murder. Wars are waged by governments who have the authority to bear the sword against what is wrong... Read Romans 13:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 13:1-4.

Paul wrote this when Nero was burning Christians as torches to light his garden. Deal with the tension, believer. Governments do not always have biblically moral policies. And in a perfect world, our government should outlaw the brutal murder of unborn children. But it does not. And had it acted on late-term abortion provider George Tiller, it would have indeed been justice. But one angry anti-government madman is not justice. It is further injustice. It hurts the peaceful and prayerful pro-life cause more than we can imagine.

Christians, let's make sure we understand justice. Only Jesus will dispense it in eternity (Read Acts 17:30-31). And it is an imperfect and rare commodity until then. When we understand that only God gives justice, we do well. When we think that humans will always do it, we make a HUGE MISTAKE. Fallen humanity cannot really understand justice. Even the best judge is born a wicked sinner who rages against God. Even a Christian involved in the legal system or law enforcement still struggles with a selfish human nature. Let's understand that. And don't let ourselves think that justice was somehow served. It wasn't...

Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Pr 28:5.

True & Just


And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, "Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!"
And I heard the altar saying, "Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!"

Revelation 16:5-7

This song of worship comes as a direct response to God’s retributive judgment on those who have rejected and rebelled against Him. It praises God for His justice. The praise follows a simple line of thinking. God is just because He brought the judgments. He acts in judgment and that alone is cause for Him being seen as just. Secondly. God acts in such a way that those who are judged are judged in a deserving manner. There is an irony in the judgment that turns the water to blood, since the beast and his followers have led a bloody persecution against God’s people. The punishment fits the crime, and that is just.

Thirdly, God is just because He is the Almighty. God has all power at His disposal to dispense His justice. He is remarkably restrained when one considers that fact! He could just obliterate the world of humanity at any time, but does not do so. And the final observation about His justice is that He is true. He does not cause further sinful behavior, neither are His judgments subject to debate about their moral equity. He is true and so are His actions.


I do not pause to consider these truths enough, because like most Christians, I tend to associate judgment with rage or anger. But Your justice is fundamental to Your very person and nature, as the angels sing of in this passage. May I be equally impressed and worship You Who are just and true.


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