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Friday, August 30, 2013

Maintaining Christian Unity

The use of technology for public ministry has been a wonderful tool for reaching a greater audience with the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. However, it should also give us cause for concern. The internet also offers a greater opportunity to weaken or undermine the unity of the church by causing discord, conflict and division among Christians. With just a few keystrokes, on a blog or social media site, one can set a blazing forest fire of discontent and animosity among Christians. Some Christian bloggers are quick to accuse falsely and then slow to apologize. A good number of recent attacks have to do with calling doctrinally sound teachers guilty because of some insignificant association with a false teacher or a false convert. To make matters worse, many of these bloggers have a prideful spirit and a "must win" mentality. Their selfish ambition spawns an ungodly rivalry towards other ministries.
The Apostle Paul warns us, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3). Doing ministry out of selfish ambition is something I have been guilty of in the past and something I need to continuously guard against. It should be the desire of every blood-bought Christian to take every selfish thought captive to the obey Christ and seek His agenda. "We are to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord we may, with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-7).
Factional divisions within the church occur when Christians choose to follow their favorite personalities instead of Christ and His Word. We can learn from Paul's admonition to the Corinthian church where some members were divided over following Paul or Apollos or Cephas or Christ. Paul exhorted them to avoid such divisions and to have the same mind and judgment (1 Cor. 1:10-12). He also warned the Galatians, "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, or envying one another" (Gal. 5:26). The apostle also had to exhort the Ephesian church, to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph, 4:1-3).
Unity among Christians was of great importance to our Lord. He prayed for Christians to maintain the same unity He shares with His Father so that the world would believe (John 17:21). We need to recognize the unbelieving world has access to social media and therefore, strive for Christian unity. The best way we can do this is with "compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you" (Col. 3:12-13). We need to put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col. 3:14-15).
Knowing that one of Satan's major objectives is to cause division in the church and ruin its witness to the world, we need to make sure we are working to accomplish our Lord's mission and not Satan's. We need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. May God help us all to do this for His glory and purpose!  proclaimingthegospel.org

Who Decides Gender Roles?

by Ken Ham - Article Link
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about how schools in Massachusetts are beginning to change the rules to allow students to determine their own gender identity and to use locker rooms and restrooms accordingly. Those changes signaled, I believe, what is going to become the norm in the U.S.
Well, a week ago California became the first state to pass a state law requiring public schools to cater to so-called transgender students. According to an article in the Washington Post, the law requires schools to accept students’ own claims about their gender:
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys’ or girls’ sports. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender. [emphasis added]
Now, many secular academics today make the claim that gender is purely a social construct and that people can determine their own gender. (For more on this, see Steve Golden’s article, “Are Gender Roles a Social Construct?”) But such an anti-biblical philosophy, I believe, will lead to a host of problems, especially in school settings.
The spokesman for the author of the California law said that the fears parents and students have who disagree with the new California law—which likely includes many Christians—are “overblown.” Apparently, many California lawmakers are more concerned about being “at the forefront of leadership on transgender rights” than they are about what God’s Word has to say about gender—or about the safety and privacy concerns of parents and students involved in California schools.
Really, what laws like this come down to is a rejection of the biblical distinction between males and females. Of course, we at Answers in Genesis acknowledge that this is a complex issue, but Scripture is clear that in the beginning, God created mankind as male and female (Genesis 1:27). There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that God created some as anatomically male but who identify as female or vice versa. (We do recognize that, because of sin’s effects on the world, there are physical variations and aberrations that do cause legitimate difficulty for a very small number of people, such as hermaphroditism. For more on this, read Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell’s feedback article on hermaphroditism.)
Like I’ve said before, as Christians, we should affirm our children’s God-given genders and cultivate godly masculinity and femininity in them, rather than encouraging them to abandon the gender God gave them in the womb:
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13–14)
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Steve Golden assisted in the writing of this blog.

25 Quotes About The Coming War With Syria That Every American Should See

If Barack Obama is going to attack Syria, he is going to do it without the support of the American people, without the approval of Congress, without the approval of the United Nations, and without the help of the British. Now that the British Parliament has voted against a military strike, the Obama administration is saying that it may take "unilateral action" against Syria. But what good would "a shot across Syria's bow" actually do? A "limited strike" is not going to bring down the Assad regime and it is certainly not going to end the bloody civil war that has been raging inside Syria. Even if the U.S. eventually removed Assad, the al-Qaeda affiliated rebels that would take power would almost certainly be even worse than Assad. Even in the midst of this bloody civil war, the rebels have taken the time and the effort to massacre entire Christian villages. Why is Barack Obama so obsessed with helping such monsters? There is no good outcome in Syria. The Assad regime is absolutely horrible and the rebels are even worse. Why would we want the U.S. military to get involved in such a mess?
It isn't as if it is even possible for the U.S. military to resolve the conflict that is going on in that country. At the core, the Syrian civil war is about Sunni Islam vs. Shia Islam. It is a conflict that goes back well over a thousand years.
Assad is Shiite, but the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been pouring billions of dollars into the conflict, because they would love to see the Assad regime eliminated and a Sunni government come to power in Syria. On the other side, Iran is absolutely determined to not allow that to happen.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have no problem with using Sunni terrorists (al-Qaeda) to achieve their political goals. And as a very important ally of the Saudis, the U.S. has been spending a lot of money to train and equip the "rebels" in Syria.
But there was a problem. The Syrian government has actually been defeating the rebels. So something had to be done.
If it could be made to look like the Assad regime was using chemical weapons, that would give the U.S. government the "moral justification" that it needed to intervene militarily on the side of the rebels. In essence, it would be a great excuse for the U.S. to be able to go in and do the dirty work of the Saudis for them.
So that is where we are today. The justification for attacking Syria that the Obama administration is giving us goes something like this...
-Chemical weapons were used in Syria.
-The rebels do not have the ability to use chemical weapons.
-Therefore it must have been the Assad regime that was responsible for using chemical weapons.
-The U.S. military must punish the use of chemical weapons to make sure that it never happens again.
Unfortunately for the Obama administration, the world is not buying it. In fact, people are seeing right through this charade.
The U.S. government spends $52,000,000,000 a year on "intelligence", but apparently our intelligence community absolutely refuses to see the obvious. WND has been able to uncover compelling evidence that the rebels in Syria have used chemical weapons repeatedly, and yet government officials continue to insist over and over that no such evidence exists and that we need to strike Syria immediately.
Shouldn't we at least take a little bit of time to figure out who is actually in the wrong before we start letting cruise missiles fly?
Because the potential downside of an attack against Syria is absolutely massive. As I wrote about the other day, if we attack Syria we have the potential of starting World War 3 in the Middle East.
We could find ourselves immersed in an endless war with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah which would be far more horrible than the Iraq war ever was. It would essentially be a war with Shia Islam itself, and that would be a total nightmare.
If you are going to pick a fight with those guys, you better pack a lunch. They fight dirty and they are absolutely relentless. They will never forget and they will never, ever forgive.
A full-blown war with Syria, Iran and Hezbollah would be a fight to the death, and they would not hesitate to strike soft targets all over the United States. I don't think that most Americans have any conception of what that could possibly mean.
If the American people are going to stop this war, they need to do it now. The following are 25 quotes about the coming war with Syria that every American should see...
1. Barack Obama, during an interview with Charlie Savage on December 20, 2007: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
2. Joe Biden, during a television interview in 2007: "The president has no constitutional authority ... to take this nation to war ... unless we're attacked or unless there is proof we are about to be attacked. And if he does, if he does, I would move to impeach him."
3. U.S. Representative Ted Poe: "Mr. President, you must call Congress back from recess immediately to take a vote on a military strike on Syria. Assad may have crossed a red line but that does not give you the authority to redline the Constitution."
4. U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader: "I see no convincing evidence that this is an imminent threat to the United States of America."
5. U.S. Representative Barbara Lee: "While we understand that as commander-in-chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack."
6. The New York Times: "American officials said Wednesday there was no 'smoking gun' that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack, and they tried to lower expectations about the public intelligence presentation."
7. U.S. Senator Rand Paul: "The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States and victory by either side will not necessarily bring in to power people friendly to the United States."
8. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine: "I definitely believe there needs to be a vote."
9. Donald Rumsfeld: "There really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation."
10. Robert Fisk: "If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida."
11. Former congressman Dennis Kucinich: "So what, we’re about to become al-Qaeda’s air force now?"
12. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem: "We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves."
13. A Syrian Army officer: "We have more than 8,000 suicide martyrs within the Syrian army, ready to carry out martyrdom operations at any moment to stop the Americans and the British. I myself am ready to blow myself up against US aircraft carriers to stop them attacking Syria and its people."
14. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Ba'ath Party official: "We have strategic weapons and we’re capable of responding."
15. An anonymous senior Hezbollah source: "A large-scale Western strike on Syria will plunge Lebanon virtually and immediately into the inferno of a war with Israel."
16. Ali Larjiani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament: "...the country which has been destroyed by the terrorists during the past two years will not sustain so much damage as the warmongers will receive in this war."
17. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences"
18. General Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards: (an attack on Syria) "means the immediate destruction of Israel."
19. Israeli President Shimon Peres: "Israel is not and has not been involved in the civil war in Syria, but if they try to hurt us, we will respond with full force."
20. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength."
21. The Jerusalem Post: "The lines between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime are so blurred that Israel will hold Damascus responsible if Hezbollah bombards Israel in the coming days, Israeli officials indicated on Wednesday."
22. Ron Paul: "The danger of escalation with Russia is very high"
23. Pat Buchanan: "The sole beneficiary of this apparent use of poison gas against civilians in rebel-held territory appears to be the rebels, who have long sought to have us come in and fight their war."
24. Retired U.S. General James Mattis: "We have no moral obligation to do the impossible and harm our children’s future because we think we just have to do something."
25. Syrian refugee Um Ahmad: "Isn't it enough, all the violence and fighting that we already have in the country, now America wants to bomb us, too?"

A Sober Warning

Jesus was an amazing teacher: “Never has a man spoken the way this Man speaks” (John 7:46). His words always came with power and conviction and the mesmerizing ability to say so much, so clearly, and with such an economy of words (I have a lot to learn from this)! With a small child in arms, He has just taught a room of 12 proud disciples (1 an unbeliever) the sine qua non of Kingdom life: Humility (Matt. 18:1-4). Not simply humility as a virtue, but kingdom humility that marks spiritual life. Humility that has a conscious sense of the glory of God and seeks all grace, all life, all mercy, all joy, and all things from Him in Christ. The humility that trusts, the humility that obeys, and the humility that serves. You would think that’d be enough for one day. It wasn’t. Jesus has more to say. The lesson needs to go deeper, so He adds a gracious, yet sober, warning. Namely, that fellowship in the kingdom should reflect God’s own love for His children and His jealousy for our holiness. Yes, God has a jealous love for His “little ones” (Matt. 18:6) and so should we.
Still looking at the child in His arms Jesus tells this stumbling band of disciples: “Whoever receives one such child in My Name receives Me” (Matt. 18:5). He is not giving a lesson on child care in the kingdom (though He beautifully models tender love for them). He has already made it clear that the small child is a picture of those who have spiritually “become like children” and are “as this child” in faith (18:3-4). In other words, His statement could be paraphrased like this, “Whoever receives another Christian in My Name, receives Me.” This is deep and deeply important. Notice a couple of things about this statement:
Young boys walkingOne, Christians are to love other Christians by accepting them. Matthew jumps right to the point, Mark fills out some details. Apparently, just prior to this, the disciples were displaying a sectarian spirit and wanted to get rid of a guy because his ministry wasn’t following theirs (Mk. 9:38-41). So, Jesus tells them, “Do not hinder him … for he who is not against us is with us” (Mk. 9:39-40; Lk. 9:49-50). Basically, ‘Look guys, he is doing My work, leave him alone – he’s on our side’ (Mk. 9:41). We would do well to learn from this, particularly in how we view other ministries (ministers) who are faithful to the gospel, but may do things differently. Jesus says we are to “receive” them, that is, welcome them into Christian fellowship. His motivation in saying that, however, is much more profound than, “Let’s all get along.” The weight of the admonition is in the spiritual reality behind it: Our receiving other Christians is really a receiving of Christ, even the Father.
Our love for Christians displays our love for Christ. “Whoever receives one such child in My Name, receives Me.” Mark adds, “[and] Him who sent Me” (Mk. 9:37). To receive a Christian is to receive Christ, which is to receive the Father: “[for] the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38; cf. 16:15-16). There is spiritual oneness and union between the Father and Son: “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). Stunning, but it doesn’t end there. Christians also share a union with the Son and Father: “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Granted it is not with the same fullness as the Godhead (nor could it), but it is just as real. The point: how you treat other Christians is how you treat Me and the Father, for our presence is in them (as in you) through the Spirit. Act accordingly (cf. Matt. 25:35-40; Acts 9:4; 1 Cor. 6:15; 8:12-13). Our love for Christ is demonstrated in how we love one another.
God is supremely concerned about the spiritual effect we have on one another. He is concerned that we are instruments of sanctifying love to each other, which is why Jesus immediately follows with a sober warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). Frightening. The millstone would be as much as 5ft in diameter and weigh a couple of tons. Imagine having it tied around your neck, being tossed into the sea, being dragged head-first to the bottom as your reflexes force you to grasp for air only to take in water as the water pressure of the sea depths takes its effect. Gruesome picture, but it makes the point: God has an intense love for the purity of His children.
Sign : stumblingA good question to ask, then, is what is a “stumbling-block,” for I surely don’t want to be one! A stumbling block is anything that causes another to sin, or be kept from Christ. Let me suggest a few ways they come. Directly through false teaching and the enticement to sin. Satan is the exemplar, for he comes on the scene as a stumbling-block to our first parents leading them into sin (Gen. 3:16). The idols of the nations were constant stumbling block to Israel, but was even worse when it came from those meant to be her leaders (Gen. 32; Judges 8:27; 1 K 12:28; et al.). The Jewish leaders who presided over a corrupted Jewish religion had become a stumbling block to the nation, hiding the purpose of the Law, making it means of human achievement and their converts “sons of hell” (Matt. 23:15). Not unlike the Catholic Church, but its not limited to them, for Satan works through through a variety of religious lies (2 Cor. 11:1-15; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 1-20; Rev. 2:14) and the empty philosophies of the world and secular classrooms (Col. 2:8).
Christians can also be stumbling-blocks to other Christians. It happens when we live proud selfish lives that see spiritual freedom as means of self-gratification rather than an opportunity to self-sacrifice and love (Rom. 14:13f; Gal. 5:13). Or, when we are worldly-minded (Matt. 16:23). Our lives influence others for good, or for bad; for righteousness, or unrighteousness. If our speech, actions, counsel, and interest are not set on God’s ways and glory; we can become stumbling blocks to our brothers and sisters in whom Christ dwells (cf. 1 Cor. 8:12). We can become stumbling-blocks to unbeliever’s by living lives that are inconsistent with the gospel (2 Sam. 12:14; Rom. 2:24). Parent’s can become stumbling blocks to children by failing to live and love with gospel consistency (Eph. 6:4). Let’s not be stumbling blocks!
Ultimately God will remove stumbling blocks from the world (Matt. 13:36-43), through judgement: “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks” (Matt. 18:7), but for now they are “inevitable.” God has, in His sovereignty, granted Satan the dominate influence on this world system (1 J 5:19; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Pet. 5:8), though ultimately serving His purposes (cf. Job 1-2; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Rev. 2:10). For now, his influence is seen in every area of culture: media, self-esteem, facebook, and the ubiquitous pornography. The list could go on – just review Romans 1:24-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (and that in the professing church [v.5]). Yet, Jesus allows for no excuses, each is responsible for their own sin: “Woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes.” Each person who makes themselves available to an unrighteous world system and causes another to stumble is accountable. Sovereignty does not exclude responsibility.
Warning SignJesus does not leave it there, but leaves open the possibility of life and the warning of death. He appeals for personal repentance: “If your hand … your foot … your eye … causes you to stumble” (Matt. 18:8-9; cf. 5:29-30). Be aware of the sin in you. Here we need to pray with David: “Search me, O God” (Ps. 139:23-24). And when He reveals something, it must be meet with decisive repentance: “Cut it off … pull it out and throw it from you” (Matt. 18:8-9). Graphic language, but it makes the point. It also identifies four necessary components of repentance.
First, it must be decisive. It is a radical amputation (“cut it off … pull it out”). There can be no compromise with sin (Gen. 39:13). Second, it must be attended with a hatred of the sin (“throw it from you”). True repentance wants to be removed as far as possible from sin. Third, it must be turned from and battled in the heart. Self-mutilation is not the issue (Col. 2:23). He has already made clear – it is a matter of the heart (Matt. 15:19-20). Fourth, it is a pattern of genuine spiritual life. A disciple is a slave of Christ; a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:12-13; 8:13).
Sign:heaven or hellIt is also rational. Christ is worth it (Matt. 13:44-45) and the promise is amazing: “Enter into life,” eternal life – the life of God that longs to know Him in conscious enjoyment and loving fellowship (John 17:3). A life entered here and fully experienced in the eschaton, the age to come (Rev. 21-22). There is also a warning not dealing with sin: “Cast into the eternal fire … the fiery hell” (Matt. 18:8-9; Rev. 20:14-15). Notice, hell is a real place that people are “thrown into.” No one will go willingly, or happily at that moment. Hell is a real place of immense suffering - emotionally and physically. In other places described as: “outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and “the worm does not die.” A place of searing pain, despondency, despair, fear, and hopelessness. Hell is a real place of immense sufferingthat is eternal. It will never end. This is the most frightening (Matt. 25:46). It will not end, ever. No light at the end of the tunnel.
Hell magnifies the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. It also magnifies the unfathomable grace of God. It helps us understand the wrath that Christ bore on the cross, the suffering, as it were, of countless millions of hells. That is the mysterious depth of suffering behind the anguished cry: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He came to give Himself up for that suffering (John 12:27). He came to rescue rebels from His own judgment and bring them into His own fellowship with the Father and Spirit (1 J 1:3). He came to purchase for us our participation in eternal life, to reconcile us to God; He purchased our faith, our repentance, our salvation. He purchased our worship of His everlasting grace and glory (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Rev. 5:1-14). So now we can sing with pleasure and sincerity:
When I survey the wonderful cross / On which the prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss / And pour contempt on all my pride
See from His head, His Hands, His feet / Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet / Or thorns compose so rich a crown
Were the whole realm of nature mine / That were a present far to small
Love so amazing, so divine / Demands my soul my life, my all
O, the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross / Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O, the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross / All who gather here by grace draw near and bless Your name.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A high ranking Russian official says that the US and its allies with their threats to attack Syria is like attacking a monkey with a grenade

by Jimmy DeYoung - prophecytoday.com - Source Link
Listen to Today's Program Play

Russia is a steadfast supporter of Syria as Western powers including the US and its allies discuss and prepare for an attack on Syria. Russia in fact is doubling down. Russia has moved naval ships into the Mediterranean as Vladimir Putin warns Western powers not to attack Syria.

In fact one report says that the Russian leader has warned if the West does indeed attack Syria, Russia will attack Saudi Arabia. The world is now standing by to see if the Middle East will explode should the Western powers attack Syria.

Jimmy's Prophetic Prospective on the News:

Russia's support for Syria in the crisis in the Middle East is at this time in history setting the stage for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.

As Western powers discuss and prepare to punish Bashar Assad's government for the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, Russia is steadfast in its defense of Assad on the issue of chemical weapons of mass destruction usage in Syria. This standoff between Russia and the West may well become a major conflict in the Middle East.

What the world sees unfolding today is a page out of Bible prophecy. The ancient Jewish prophet Ezekiel wrote in chapter 38 and verse 2 about Russia referred to as Magog in the passage, that Russia will lead the last days conflict in the Middle East with an attack on Israel as the end result. Daniel another ancient Jewish prophet, said in chapter 11 and verse 40 that Syria, referred to as the King of the North, will be aligned with Russia in this move against Israel.

Syria in fact has threatened to burn Israel if the West does attack its homeland and Russia stands ready to join forces with Syria in this explosive conflict. According to the prophetic scenario found in God's Word the ancient Jewish prophets indeed talk about an alignment of nations that will come against the Jewish state and Syria will make the first move to destroy the Jewish state of Israel.

These developments in the Middle East are indeed setting the stage for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.  prophecytoday.com  

The Rapture and destruction of Damascus

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Love the Lord

by Dave Hunt - thebereancall.org - Source Link
May 1 2013
This is a transcription of Dave Hunt’s final talk at our TBC conference in 2008. It has been edited for space and readability. The full talk is included in the audio version of this month's newsletter.
We are in a cosmic battle. This is a mystery. How could there be a battle between God and Satan? Isn’t God much stronger than Satan? It depends on what you mean by “strong.”
God draws His people to Himself with love; Satan, with deception. There are so many mysteries that it’s beyond our comprehension. InRevelation:5:1-6: “I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof? No man in heaven, nor on earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals. And I [turned around to see this Lion] and I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.”
In Revelation:22:1: “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” I think you know that is not H2O. The Bible does use metaphors. When you take the bread and the cup in remembrance of Christ, that is not His body and blood. It’s a symbol, and we do this in  remembrance  of Him.
“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…” (v.2). Adam and Eve got thrown out of the Garden lest they should eat of the tree of life and live forever. And now, here it is! I don’t know whether it’s the same one—I rather think it is. “…The tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits….” I don’t understand this. We’re in glorified, resurrected bodies. This is in eternity. So, we’re talking in mystery language here, but it’s something that God wants to reveal to us. “…Bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Why do they need healing? I don’t understand it, but our focus is on the Lord. “There shall be no more curse, but  the throne of God and of the Lamb  shall be in it, and his servant shall serve him” (v.3). So the throne of God to the very end is the throne of God and of the Lamb. And the Lion of the tribe of Judah is the Lamb, and He is there as though He had just been slain.
We were talking about the cosmic battle being fought. It’s for control of the universe! Why does God still have to fight with Satan for control of the universe? This is not a Star Wars battle with weapons of mass destruction. It’s something deeper than that. Revelation:12:7: “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon fought with his angels.”
The Bible says so much in a few words. Why would you find dragons everywhere—all over the East, on the temples, and so forth? Why do you find serpents? Satan loves to be called a dragon. He’s not ashamed to be called a serpent. He loves to be the serpent!
“The great dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven” (Revelation:12:7-8).
Praise God! “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world…” (v.9). He is the deceiver. He deceives the whole world! “…He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night” (vv.9-10).
We see that “accuser” in the book of Job. The sons of God appear before God, and Scripture says, “And Satan came with them.” Satan still has access to God, and he has authority.
Then it turns the focus onto us, because we have a very important part to play in this battle. This is a battle for the soul, for the heart, and for the mind of man. And what was our part? “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Satan still doesn’t understand. Look at what he offers to mankind: “Follow me, and you’ll have all the free sex you want, all the drugs—everything! How could they resist it?” I think of that poem “On the King’s Highway”:
’Twas on the King’s highway near a century ago
That a preacher stood, though of noble birth,
Telling the fallen and low
Of a Savior’s love and a home above
And a peace and a joy they all might know,
While slow through the crowd a lady proud
Her gilded chariot drove.
“Make way!” cried the haughty outrider.
“You’re blocking the king’s highway.
Our lady is late, and her majesties wait.
Give way there, good people, I pray.”
But the preacher heard, and his soul was stirred,
And he cried to the driver, “Nay!
This is the king’s highway, but I hold it today,
In the name of the King of kings.”
And then he says that there is an auction for this woman’s soul and for all that she has, and he continues (loosely quoted):
I see three bidders, the world steps up at the first, and Satan, and so forth, and they tell what they’re offering, and then the third bidder speaks:
And what hast thou to offer, thou man of sorrows unknown?
He gently said, “My blood was shed to purchase her for my own.
To conquer the grave and her soul to save, I trod the winepress alone.”
And then she’s converted. She takes off her jewels and her coronet, and lays them, as it were, at the Savior’s feet.
Satan thinks he’s going to win. Look at what he offers! But what does Jesus offer? “You’re not of the world. I’ve chosen you out of the world. Because you’re not of the world, the world will hate you. If you want to follow me, take up the cross, follow me. That’s where we’re going” (John:15:29Matthew:16:24Luke:9:23Mark:8:34; 10:21).
So, we come to the climax throughout the Bible. In Job:13:15, Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” Job was an overcomer through the blood of the Lamb!
In 1 John:4:19, we read: “We love him because he first loved us.” I love the Lord! Why do I love Him? There must be a reason why we love Him. In fact, there are many reasons! Have you told Him today, “I love you, Lord”? You should tell Him over and over.
I tell my wife every day, “Ruth, I love you more today than before! You are beautiful, and I love you so much!” You ought to tell your wife, your spouse, but we need especially to tell the Lord.
In fact, it is a command. When He was asked, “What’s the first and great command?”, Jesus replied, “The first commandment is Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy might, and the second is like unto it…thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew:22:37).
How can it be love if it’s commanded? We’ve mentioned some of these atheists, Christopher Hitchens, very brilliant, Jewish, raised as a Christian, who really speaks in fond terms of his Sunday school teacher way back then. But he hates the Lord. And this is one of the things he would say: He calls God “that heavenly dictator up there.” He says, “We’ve got to love him, but at the same time, we’re supposed to fear him. Now, how are you going to work that out?”
Well, he doesn’t understand.
How can love be commanded? “If a man love me, he will keep my commandments.” I love Psalm 27, a psalm of David. David writes, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord….”
What do I know of the beauty of the Lord? I think about that a lot. “…To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”
Why do I love Him? He’s beautiful! Remember Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1? It’s very powerful. Paul tells us in verse 15: “I cease not to pray for you….” In verse 16, he prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”
And the psalmists, the apostles, cry out “O that I might  know  him!” And you know what keeps us from knowing Him? And being like Him? John gives that to us in 1 John 3: “When we see him, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Now we see through a glass darkly…. I sometimes cry, “Lord, I don’t even know You! I wish I knew you better!” It’s beyond our ability, but one day when the veil is removed, the blindness of our hearts and eyes will be gone. We will see it suddenly!  This is Jesus as He really is!  And that is going to transform us.
So Paul says “…that the eyes of their understanding being enlightened….” We need understanding. In Matthew 13, the sower goes forth to sow. The first seed falls by the wayside, remember? And the birds of the air come and pluck it. The disciples don’t understand the parable at all. They say, “Lord, tell us, what does this mean? And what about these birds plucking up the seed?”
And Jesus says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and  understandeth  it not….” We’re not trying to just talk people into something. They’ve got to  understand  what they’re getting into. That’s what Jesus said: “Take up the cross, and follow Me.” He’s telling us that this is not a beautiful trip that you’re going on. It’s going to be an arduous journey, a strait gate, a narrow way.”
He wants us to  understand , so He says, “When they hear the word and they don’t understand, then comes the wicked one and takes out of the heart the seed that was sown.” We’ve got to get people to understand!
This is Paul’s prayer: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints….” We have an inheritance. We have an inheritance in Him. It’s going to be glorious for all eternity.
But in Ephesians:1:19-20, Paul writes: “…what is the exceeding greatness of his power, to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power….”
What would you think would be the greatest expression, the greatest demonstration of God’s power? “When I consider thy heavens, and the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars that you’ve made”? Or when we sing, “How great Thou art”? No. What is it then? “…According to the working of his mighty power,  which he wrought in Christ ,  when he raised him from the dead , and  set him at his own right hand  in the heavenly places….”
I don’t fathom that, but I do get some inkling of it. This is the greatest demonstration of God’s power—that He could save sinners, those who hate Him; that Christ would die for them, and that somehow He would pay the penalty. That is something that I’ve discussed with philosophers. It is not just! The innocent man is punished for the guilty! And that brings forgiveness? How can the innocent pay for the sins of the guilty? It’s not just. How is that going to do anything for God—or for anybody?
Paul tells us, Galatians:2:20: “I am crucified with Christ.” It wasn’t just that Christ died.  We died in Him . I don’t know how God works that out, but haven’t we experienced it? I know that something happened to me.
He did something that transformed us that Satan doesn’t understand. We were born again through faith in Christ when we accepted Him as our Savior and we recognized that He died for us—in our place! That does something.
“The exceeding greatness of his power…that he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand…far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians:1:19-23). That’s what God accomplished. Satan doesn’t understand it to this day, and he probably never will—but he will face the consequences of it.
I need to say a few words about Islam, because it is growing everywhere. Let me just give you one contrast: “ La Ilaha Ila Allah, Muhammad rasulu Allah ”—“There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” You either repeat that, or it is off with your head, wherever they can do it. And they don’t care— you don’t even have to believe it! That’s one of the things that Islam glories in: “Just repeat the words, that’s all Allah wants.”
In contrast, what does the Bible say? “Love the Lord your God with all your  heart ” (Deuteronomy:6:5Matthew:22:37), and “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus…. (Romans:10:9).”
According to Islam, “If thou shalt confess Allah and Muhammad with your mouth—that’s okay.”
But the Bible tells us, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and  believe in thine heart  that God has raised him from the dead….” You remember what Jesus said? He quoted from the Old Testament—God speaking to Israel: “You honor me with your lips, you draw nigh to me with your mouth, but your heart is far from me. In vain you worship me.”
Islam is spread by the sword. I sometimes quote them facetiously, “Islam is peace. And if you deny it, we’ll kill you to prove it!” I wish that I could reason with Muslims. Are they convinced?
People used to talk about “shotgun” weddings, but we don’t even bother with that anymore. You don’t drag your bride to the altar by her hair with a gun in one hand and say, “You will marry me, and you will promise to love me!” That’s not the way it works. You haven’t won her heart, and God is not going to get us to heaven by threats, but by love.
This battle is going to be won by love. I remember the hymn, “O the deep, deep love of Jesus…” It’s a mystery. “I am crucified with Christ.” Something happened when I met Jesus. I was born again by the Spirit.
And He’s promised us something. We read it in Ephesians 1—Paul is praying that these people will know  the hope of His calling . First Peter 5:10 tells us what is the hope of His calling: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you….” So the God of all grace has called us to His eternal glory!
By contrast, atheism is materialism. There is nothing but matter. Francis Crick, atheist, co-discoverer of the DNA alphabet, said: “You, your joys, your sorrows, your memories, your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Isn’t that wonderful to know! It is meaningless! It is hopeless! What is the hope that the atheist offers? According to them, a quiet grave at the worst.
Listen to Bertrand Russell: “All the labor of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the death of the solar system.” It couldn’t be said more clearly. One day all of the dreams, one day all of the corporate ambition and all of the monuments man has built, the skyscrapers and all the libraries will be burned up. They’re gone, like sandcastles washed into a cosmic ocean of nothingness. What did it all matter?
So you have to ask the atheist: “Richard Dawkins, why do you work so hard? Why do you write so many books? They’re all going to be burned up. Why do you struggle to stay alive a little longer so that you can pen a few more words to the glory of the molecules?”
And when “Sagan the Pagan” got in the presence of the cosmos, he exulted, “Oh! The  cosmos ! Do you want to know who you are? Why you’ve got nitrogen, you’ve got hydrogen cells in your body that once were part of a distant star system, and they’re in your body! And one day, some of the molecules in your body will be out there in another star system….” I think that’s insanity cloaked in pride, and they’ve all got a good dose of it.
By contrast, look at Werner von Braun, the German space scientist, founder and former director of NASA’s space flight center. He was always eager to testify. Listen to what he said: “Manned spaceflight has opened a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I cannot understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe.”
The first Apollo astronauts to circle the moon sent a message back to planet Earth: “We’ve got a message for you.” And they read the first 10 verses of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created….”
Do you remember the first food and drink that was consumed on the moon? It was the bread and wine of communion! Atheists say, “No scientists believe in God.” Yet these men were scientists.
God is being glorified, and the poor atheist doesn’t understand that He has something wonderful for those who love Him: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians:2:9).
Listen to the hopelessness of atheist Sam Harris: “Tens of billions of viewers passed in the growing darkness of a universe condemned to become a galactic graveyard.” That’s what they have to look forward to. That epitaph is pronounced in advance upon everything that Bertrand Russell wrote, everything that Dawkins ever did or wrote, so why do they insist, “I want to convert you to atheism! I want you to hate God. And I want you to have this beautiful future lying ahead of you. What a hope we give you!” Expending such a great effort to extend their life, merely to stave off death a short while longer in order to leave some meaningless record of one’s having been there. But there’s no record. Nothing will be left of all the proud structures that man has built.
Richard Dawkins writes: “We are staggeringly lucky. However brief our time in the sun, if we waste a second of it, or complain, couldn’t this be seen as a callous insult to those unborn trillions who will never be offered life in the first place?” He is speaking of those who apparently didn’t get into the right space in the gene pool, and they were sloughed off. To the living he says, in effect, “But you made it in the lottery! And here you are. Your genes brought you here.” He also says, “The knowledge that we have only one life should make it all the more precious. The atheist view is life-affirming and life-enhancing.”
But we say it a little bit differently:
Only one life; ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Because we have something that’s going to last, but they have nothing like this: Daniel tells us, “We will shine as the stars of the firmament.”
“I love the Lord, because He’s heard my cry, as long as I live” (Psalm:116:1-2). And in eternity, we’ll praise Him. In 1 John:4:4-8 we read: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you that he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for  God is love .”
God is love. This says more than just that “God loves.” It’s saying that the very essence of God’s being is love. God  is  love. We don’t understand it. But then you get to verse 19: “We love him because he first loved us.”
I love you, Lord! Why? Spend a little time in His presence beholding the beauty of the Lord. Get to know Him.
The testimony of Rabi Maharaj, the ex-guru, is written in his book  Death of a Guru . At that time, Rabi, a young guru, was being worshiped as “god” by his followers. His cousin Krister, a believer in Christ, took Rabi to this little meeting. Rabi had come to the conclusion that the gods he worshiped were out to kill him! Krister had brought him to this old building with the paint peeling off and Rabi thought that he heard an orchestra in there—a huge crowd of people. They went in, and I think he said there were about 15 people, and the orchestra was a little girl with a tambourine! But he had never heard people sing “Sunlight, sunlight, in my soul today.”
“No,” he said, “my heart was filled with darkness.” You don’t sing about how you love Krishna. You don’t sing about how you love Shiva, the Destroyer. You don’t sing about your love for Muhammad, or Allah. But these people—who were they? What had happened to them? And what a love they had for this God whom they serve and worship, and for this Jesus who had died for them.
Eventually, Rabi was on his knees before the preacher, who happened to be a former Muslim, a schoolteacher. And he didn’t need to have an “exorcism.” He said that as soon as he put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one who had died for his sins, “tons” of dark things went out of him.
Something happened to us all. We love the Lord. I love the Lord because He’s heard my cry. I love Him because He first loved me. How could you not love Him? I speak to my own heart.
It’s amazing what God can do in our hearts if we allow Him. It’s the new birth. We’re born from above, born in the Spirit of God, when we believe the gospel message.
Just as the DNA is in words, and there’s no life—no physical life—without words, there is no spiritual life without words. And you know what they are: 1 Peter 1: “Being born again by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
Why do we preach the gospel? People don’t have a transformation if the Word of God doesn’t come into their hearts and they don’t understand who they are in sin, or who Christ is and why He came, and then believe this. We don’t come to God as that proud lady driving in her chariot with all of her jewels. We come as broken sinners, recognizing our guilt and our need of Christ.
The Bible is so clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans:6:23). That’s what Dawkins is reaping. That’s what “Sagan the Pagan” reaped. That’s what the cosmos gave him. Death. The cosmos—finally all dead. “The wages of sin is death…,” but it’s even worse than that. The second death is the Lake of Fire, and it goes on forever and forever and forever. An eternal dying, with regret and remorse: “How could I have been such a fool? I didn’t need to be here. Christ died for me. He paid the penalty for my sins, and here I am because I rejected Him.” No hope….
“…But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans:6:23). Let me remind you what a gift is. If you are going to receive forgiveness, if you are going to receive eternal life from God, you must receive it as a gift. A gift? What does that mean? It means you can’t work for it, you can’t earn it, you can’t merit it. A lot of people try to pay for the gift of God with church membership, good deeds, penance—it won’t work. Everybody’s on the same level. We come as hopeless, lost sinners for whom Christ died, and we must be willing to receive a gift. The gift of God is eternal life. You don’t want a gift? You want to work for it? You want to earn it? You want to show God how good you are? And that you deserve it? Sorry! You must receive this as a gift, and you can’t pay for a gift.
“The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He can’t give it to you any other way, but only because Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
To summarize what’s been going on here, we are in a cosmic battle for the universe, and we’ve read the end of the story: war in heaven, Satan and his demons—his angels—are fighting against Michael and his angels, and Satan does not prevail and he’s thrown out, because the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who defeats them all, is the Lamb! A slain Lamb is on the throne. You think about that. You ponder it.
I love the Lord because He first loved me.
I don’t want to forget the Father, because the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. He knew what was going to happen. He knew that His Son would be mocked and hated, spat upon, crucified, and you see that so beautifully in Genesis 22.
God calls Abraham: “I want you to kill your only son, the son you love.” What a picture of Christ: “The Father sent the Son…” The Father gave His Son to be the Savior of the world. In Genesis, Isaac says, “I’ve got the wood, father!” So he wasn’t a little tiny kid. He was carrying the wood for the fire, as Jesus carried the cross. “Here’s the wood, you’ve got the fire. Where’s the lamb?”
Abraham replied, “God will provide himself a lamb.”
I love that verse: “So they went  both of them together .” Abraham and his son. It was a joint operation. We don’t want to forget God the Father, who gave His Son, and Christ, who suffered for our sins—they went both together.
Prayer:  Father, you are so wonderful. Your grace and your love are beyond our comprehension. Lord, we love you because you first loved us, and herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. And you demonstrate your love, Lord, in dying for our sins. Who could doubt it? Who could doubt that you love us? You never sinned, but you were treated as though you were all of the sins of the world, and you were punished in our place. Lord Jesus, we love you.
We love you with all of our hearts. Oh Lord, forgive us for not saying that often enough to you. Lord, we ask for a deeper understanding. Help us to know you. Help us to have an understanding. Lord, we grope. We see through a glass darkly. We understand so little, but we understand enough to know the gospel message that you sent your Son, and He came willingly and took our place. And Lord Jesus, we love you for this. We ask that you would reveal yourself to us more fully. We want to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in your temple. So draw us closer to you. We want to get to know you better. Like the song, “Down from His Glory”—“Without reluctance, flesh and blood his substance, He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan. O glorious mystery! Sacrifice at Calvary. Now I know He is the great I AM!”
God and the Son, the Holy Spirit—a joint operation, “I and my Father are one.” We don’t understand it, but, Lord, we want to draw closer to you. We want to please you in our lives, we want to serve you, we want to honor you, and, Lord, we want to take this glorious gospel, without which no man can be born again, wherever we go. So, Lord, give us opportunities and help us. And, Lord, we just love you, and may that be reflected in our lives, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.