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Justice and Morality

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25

Image result for justiceGod is just. He constantly acts according to what is morally right or fair, morals being the principles that determine what is good and bad.

God is the moral law. Our Creator is the standard of right and wrong, good and bad. And He is unchanging in His promises [Hebrews 6:18]. He cannot be defined by whim or caprice [Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21]. Though His judgments are unsearchable by the human mind [Romans 11:33], His justice is as unchanging as His character.

Throughout human history, cultural values and moral judgments have shifted. But with God that which is right today is what has always been and what will always be right. Likewise, that which is wrong today is what has always been and what will always be wrong.

Most people don’t like this attribute, because–having bought into Satan’s lie that they can be their own god–they want to decide for themselves what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust. So much so, that people will surround themselves with others who say exactly what they want to hear [2 Timothy 4:3] just so they don’t have to deal with God’s truth on the matter.

But God is the judge of the whole earth. Everyone will stand before Him alone one day [Hebrews 9:27]. Everyone will answer for the things done and said in this life [Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12]. Everyone will bow their knee and confess God as God and Jesus Christ, His Son, as Lord of all [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

In that day, God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous [Hebrews 4:12]. The one blessed with eternal life and the other cast into the lake of burning sulfur [Matthew 25:31-46].

The choice is as simple and clear cut as black and white. As God posed the question to Cain, let us also consider, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]

Who determines what is morally right and good in your life? Which side of eternity will you be on?



Conduits of Power

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Image result for water hoseGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And He gives us His Spirit [Numbers 11:17; Judges 14:6; Acts 1:8; et al], enabling us, by His power, to bring glory and honor to His name.

By His Spirit, Moses and David led Israel [Numbers 11:17 & 25; 1 Samuel 16:13]. Samson tore apart a lion, effortlessly broke through sturdy rope bindings and battled dozens of men all at the same time [Judges 14:6 & 19, 15:14]. Mary bore the Christ-child [Luke 1:35]. Demons were cast out [Luke 4:36]. And we are empowered to live as witnesses to the truth of the gospel [Acts 1:8].

God’s Spirit doesn’t hide timidly inside us. So neither should we shrink back from a contrary world. Our friends and family might not want to hear about God anymore than they want to hear that eating vegetables and exercising are good for them, but they need us to speak God’s love boldly. They need us to live out the blessings–extreme joyfulness–of the godly, self-disciplined life.

Because–just like we once did–they need God. They need His power to transform their sinful hearts and finite lives into the eternal ones they were made for.

The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with that hope [Romans 15:13]. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with hope!

By God’s power alone we have peace in a war-torn, hating world–even while we ourselves are persecuted for that peace who is called Jesus [Ephesians 2:14]. By His power alone we have joy–though we ourselves get sick, face financial hardships, lose loved ones, get mistreated and threatened for our faith. By the power of His Spirit in our lives we have an abundance of hope that exceeds our finite capacity to hold it, and He keeps pouring the power and hope in and through us until we overflow with hope to everyone around us!

The power of God was never meant to lift us, whimpering, out of the gutter of self-pity or guilt–but it does. And it will do so faithfully and without criticism time and again. When it does–and we have been filled with all the power, joy, peace and hope that we can possibly need–then it’s time to go to work. It’s time to walk around like a fountain with legs and gush God’s power and love into the lives of everyone we meet.

Anything less is denying God’s power in our lives. Anything less is disobedience. Anything less withholds our blessing, locked within the timidity of our hearts.

Are you ready to be a walking conduit of God’s power to this lost and dying world?


What If?

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star.'” Revelation 22:16

Image result for book with no coverThe scriptures mention the angel of the Lord about seventy times [Genesis 16:7-11, 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2; Numbers 22:22-35; et al]. It is often said that this idea is difficult to translate accurately. Sometimes it seems like an angel, while other times it seems like a Christophany–Jesus Himself, in a pre-incarnate [before He was born in the flesh] appearance.

However, both Revelation 1:1 and 22:16 tell us that Jesus sent His angel to reveal these writings to John. Could it be that the angel of the Lord, then, is a title for a specific angel who is Jesus’ personal messenger to humankind?

Regardless of whether or not this is the case, the purpose of this message bearer to John is to testify to the churches. In John’s day, they were seven specific churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor [Revelation 1:4 & 1:20], but the letters were not to be dismantled because the truth therein was to be for all the church for all remaining earthly time [Revelation 22:9-10].

And in fact, the book of Revelation is extremely important for the authority of Scriptures. Yes, all of it is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16], that is not in question. But imagine a Bible without the book of Revelation. Imagine after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, if those same heavens fell quiet, the apostles carried on their earthly ministry and the New Testament ended with the letters of early church history.

But just as the God’s spoken Word began the Biblia or the sacred books, so the spoken Word of Christ brings them to the end. Christians living in the Roman Empire, and every believer after, needed to hear from their risen Savior about what they would experience and why–what was coming that transcended all of this earthly trouble. When and how we would one day be united with Him for eternity.

He is the beginning of our understanding and the end as well [Revelation 1:8, 22:13]. He did not come to bring us the light of truth, just to leave us in darkness about where everything leads [John 1:5]. Countless heresies had arisen in the first few decades after Jesus’ ascension–when He wasn’t physically present to set them to right, but He refused to leave the lies unaddressed, to allow us to fall back into the waywardness of our sinful predisposition.

As the long prophesied Root of Jesse and Offspring of David to the house of Israel [Isaiah 9:7, 11:1 & 10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5], and as the true bright and morning star to the Gentile nations [Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28 & 22:16], He spoke into the confusion of sin that sought to overshadow His ascension. He remembered us–kept us in mind as worthy of consideration–loving us all the way to eternity and back just as He always has.

And He spoke. Light into the darkness. Life into the death consuming our heart and mind. Revelation into the confusion.

Satan again would leverage confusion about the understanding of scriptures and end times events to bar the faith-gates of our hearts. But what if God’s people returned to His Word for understanding? What if we received the Revelation that was so freely given to us? What if we let it penetrate everything that we are and we lived it to the fullest?


Eternal Gravity

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:13-15

See the source imageJesus speaks to close the Revelation, much in the same way that He did to open it, declaring His eternality and, therefore, the sovereign authority of this book [Revelation 1:8 & 17].

The Alpha and Omega–first and last, beginning and end letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the spoken Word of God through whom all things were created [John 1:3; Romans 10:17; Colossians 1:16], have their being [Acts 17:28] and–by faith–are reconciled to God [John 3:17; Acts 10:43; Romans 5:9; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 4:9].

He is before all things that are in this world and He will always be, long after every stitch of grass and blade of sword have perished in the fires of judgment. Nothing on earth will remain in the New Creation, because nothing else is eternal. Like traversing the gravity-free reaches of outer space, nothing in the physical world holds any weight at all in the scheme of eternity.

Only what is done for God has any gravitational pull in eternity.

Extremely and eternally joyful will be everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus, accepting His forgiveness for their sins and thereby washing the proverbial robes of their soul [1 Corinthians 6:11]. There is plenty of Old Testament precedent demonstrating the need for physical cleanliness to be in God’s presence, much of which was prescribed in tabernacle and temple worship [Exodus 19:14 & 40:32; Numbers 8:21; Ezekiel 16:9].

It’s true that cleanliness may not be next to Godliness–as it is nowhere stated in scripture–but to stand before God we do need to be sin-stain free. Without spot, blemish or wrinkle. Justified. Redeemed. Washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus. It’s the only way to access the tree of life [Genesis 2:9 & 3:22; Revelation 2:7]. The only way to be granted access to the twelve gates of heaven inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and guarded by twelve angels [Revelation 21:12 & 27].

Outside is the trash heap of the heavenly city, the eternally burning lake of sulfur [Revelation 19:20, 20:10 & 21:8]. The gates to hell are wider than the imaginations of humankind and the paths more numerous than rope-fibers of the hangman’s noose [1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-6; et al].

All ways but One lead to condemnation.

One Way leads all who find it to life.

Which gravitational pull do you obey? The weightlessness of earth or the truth of eternity? Unsure? Check the path your walking on. Gain discernment by comparing and contrasting the sign-posts of your life against God’s Word [James 1:22-25].


How Much Longer?

“Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” Revelation 11:7-10

Image result for worn out shoes on feetThe days of the two fire-breathing witnesses, possibly neo-Elijah and neo-Moses, will be limited. Their testimony to the earth about God will come to an end. And when it does, the antichrist will be able to out-muscle their plague-ability and fire-breathing self-defense. He alone will be able to kill them.

If any has been unsure to this point whether or not this world ruler is in fact the antichrist, his ability to subdue these to men of God should allay any doubt.

Why would God allow the antichrist to kill His witnesses? And in death, why would He allow their bodies to be treated in such an unholy way? I mean, in the days this prophecy was written, to deny burial was bold indecency. Then add international gloating and a gift swap, well, it’s truly audacious.

As humans, we often think of God sitting on His high throne controlling every little jot and tittle of human existence. So if good things happen, praise God He allowed it. If bad things happen, curse God and cease to believe in His existence.

While God did create the world and set everything in motion, He also endowed humans with freewill–that is the unmitigated ability to choose our thoughts, words and actions. Although He hates sin, for Him to  disallow sinful people to choose to sin means that He has revoked freewill. This is not in God’s nature any more than deception or unholiness.

So the question should never be, why. The question has always been, how long. The Lord voiced this to Moses, asking, How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? [Numbers 14:11]

How long will God put up with humans choosing to do violence to one another? On one hand, He wants to give second chances and we love to have these opportunities to do better. On the other hand, people don’t seem to be responding to these opportunities with the repentant hearts they truly need. In the big picture of eternity, God hates to see us suffer each other’s wrong doing, but He allows humankind to exercise freewill all the same in hopes that we will ultimately use that freewill to choose Him of our own accord. And He waits–long suffering–hoping to give everyone the opportunity to come to Him.

But His spirit will not contend with man forever [Genesis 6:3]. He will return in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye at an hour we do not know [1 Corinthians 15:52].

Will you be ready when He comes? Even now, is your heart right before God?


Fire Breathers

“If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” Revelation 11:5-6

Image result for fire breathersMany say that these two witnesses are neo-Elijah and neo-Moses because of their attributes in these verses. The ability to protect themselves with fire from their mouths has a few scriptural precedents.

In 2 Kings 1:10, 12 and 14, King Ahaziah is trying to command Elijah to come to him, but he keeps sending military bands to fetch the prophet. The first two commanders make the demand, calling Elijah man of God. To which Elijah replies, If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you… The fire does rain down and consume the men, verifying Elijah’s relationship with the one true God. The third commander demonstrates wisdom and humility. He recognizes God for who He is and Elijah’s relationship to God. He doesn’t come shooting his mouth off by order of the king, but humbles himself with a petition for his very life. In the end, the wise commander and his men are spared, and Elijah relents and goes to see the king. Unfortunately for the king, the message he insisted on receiving from Elijah was not a good one.

Elijah also prayed that it would not rain for three years and it didn’t [James 5:17].

In Numbers 16, Moses also spoke of divine consequence for unholiness among the tribe of Levi. The ground split and consumed the offenders, followed by fire from the Lord Most High.

Of course, Moses also commanded Pharaoh to let God’s people go, and pharaoh’s hardened heart response resulted in the Exodus plagues [Exodus7:17-19].

Not to mention, when Jesus was transfigured on the mount in Matthew 17, who should appear with Him but Moses and Elijah.

The prophet Jeremiah was told that his words would be a figurative fire that would consume the spiritually dried up people who heard them [Jeremiah 5:14]. And certainly, words that bring the realization of our own sinfulness and guilt are burning words in our soul.

When Moses proclaimed the coming plagues, he did so in hopes that Pharaoh would relent and repent before God. Before his words split the ground and brought fire from heaven, he begged the Levite offenders to reconsider their complaints before God. When Though Elijah prayed for rain to be withheld and for the rain to be released, and though his remarks called down a hail of fire, Elijah lived to bring glory and honor to God alone.

So shall these two witnesses be in the End Times. It will still not be God’s will that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but respecting the freewill with which He created all men, God will show Himself God. Mercifully, He will send these powerful witnesses upon the earth so that even the Gentiles audaciously trampling and desecrating the Temple will be given the opportunity to know God and repent of their ways before the final moments of this earth.

Are your words ablaze with the truth of God’s Word? Do the dry souls around you catch fire to God’s glory and honor alone?


How To Study Puzzling Bible Passages

“Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulon 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.” Revelation 7:4-8

Image result for putting pieces togetherI’m going to be honest, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers in this passage. But when I come across a piece of scripture that perplexes me, it is exciting to start hunting through God’s Word for understanding. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. It makes the simple wise and enlightens the eyes [Psalm 19:7-8].

Obviously, 144,000 is the product of 12,000 sealed from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But my question is why 12,000 from each tribe? I’ve searched through the commentaries to see what others have said and the agreement is inconclusive. This is a point of Scripture on which we can pray for God’s understanding and that, if it still pricks our hearts to know, we can ask Him about in heaven .

A few thoughts to consider when delving into the Word to understand this matter:

1) The tribes are given out of order and two are omitted, but there are still twelve total–so in all things we can know that God’s purposes prevail [Proverbs 19:21];

2) These same 144,000 are mentioned again in Revelation 14 with the Lamb–so we can read within the larger context of Revelation to see if anything else can be disclosed about who and why;

3) There are many Old Testament passages that refer to the twelve tribes in list fashion, often with social/spiritual commentary about the state of each [i.e. Genesis 49, Numbers 26 and Deuteronomy 33 to name a few]. I’m particularly interested to study through these scriptures to see what light they can shed on the puzzling Revelation 7 passage, because they may give insight into the order rearrangement and omissions mentioned above. But also because they give snapshots of the tribes over distant points of time and place.

In Genesis 49, the patriarch Jacob is blessing his sons, the tribal heads, on his death bed. Blessing in this instance meaning that he speaks to the character and lets them know what it will produce in their life, so not always a positive. While the Deuteronomy 33 passage is Moses blessing the twelve tribes before they part ways–him to his death and them to possess the Promised Land. This blessing is as it sounds, good things spoken on behalf of each tribe, good things spoken with future blessing in mind.

4) One other factor not to be overlooked in interpretation of difficult Scripture passages–the Holy Spirit. As I puzzled over this the last few days and looked for other passages that might give insight, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the equality of the number 12,000.

No matter what each tribe’s patriarch behaved like or the decisions he made, no matter what the particular history of each Israelite tribe throughout scripture and beyond, God does not show favoritism [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]. He forgives each of us equally. He loved each tribe equally. No matter their position or their history, when they devoted themselves to God they inherited the same measure of blessing.

What’s your Bible study routine? Do you dig deep into passages that perplex you or skip over them? Do you have sound Bible study tools and practices?