He found me in a field, I was alone there and he heard me crying. He came over and looked, and saw I was naked, bloody, my umbilical cord still attached to my stomach. Kicking in dirt and blood he gently picked me up and we left the field together as he carried me cradled in his arms.
He took me home. With warm water and a gentle touch he cleaned me head to toe, dried me, and put powder on me. Then he put some new, colorful, beautiful clothes on me and I was no longer filthy, scared, bleeding, cold, naked and alone.
As I grew he taught me. What he taught were things I doubt I never would have learned nor could conclude on my own through observation and experience. The teaching started out basic, but what I learned and how I learned grew in time; as I became more knowledgeable my confidence was increasing along with my understanding. I began to see things through a different kind of lens, a different way than through my own senses and reactions to everything in the world around me.
He started by introducing what he called The Three, or Trinity. Three was a number we returned to often, and could be applied to other things too, but my own experience and education began with these:
Love. Love is both being and action at the same time. It is how I see him and how I see other people. I saw him as the one who found me in the field and though he had nothing to gain by doing it, he took me as his own and cared for me. I can’t tell you what or why he loved me, I never did understand what about me would cause anyone to love me, and in fact I feared there may be far more reasons to never fall in love with me.
The love was never predicated nor conditional upon me, upon what I was expected to do, or what I could do, or could accomplish. It was freely given, and it filled me with a sense of purpose, a recognition that I had value to someone I cared for, that I mattered. As time went on I became increasingly aware that the love he had for me was beginning to grow in my own heart and returned to him that same thing – that same love – and other things were added to the love because these came naturally, they fit right in.
Adding to my love came trust. I reached the point where I had no doubt that he could do whatever needed to be done, he could care for me, he was a beautiful loving father that only wanted my life to be filled with good things. But those good things surprised me in the sense that they did not consist of anything I saw around me.
Light. I explain what I was taught by telling you what I perceived before the light came into my life. Before then there was only darkness. The darkness was thick and palpable. It had a sensation, a quality, it left me alone, quiet, brooding and afraid.
The light removed the darkness, bit by bit, the light enabled me to see things more clearly, more accurately. The truth of a matter came to light and it was refreshing, clean, and brought to me joy and peace somehow. The truth, or the light, was oftentimes quite unexpected. It was always simple and straightforward, never convoluted nor complicated.
The light shined on my father and his light on me. The truth came to me delivering with it a sense of freedom. It released me from preconceptions that were simply incorrect, or worse, dangerously erroneous and even harmful, those things that at first glance offered the most attraction to me. They were alluring, promising pleasure, security, even giving me a sense of my own inherent greatness as a human being, someone who could do anything, someone who deserved to be loved and admired.
But all these were distractions, counterfeits to the true light. The truth in the light was the opposite. It had nothing whatsoever to do with accumulating things or seeking the admiration of others. It hearkened back to the value of love, the one thing that I could not physically see, touch nor even count or measure. I began to realize the unseen things were worth more than the things I could see.
Life. My life began in horror. I was crying, cold and suffering. I was a broken castoff whose only future was more pain, more struggling, more sadness. But as Love and Light were taught, revealed and sealed within my heart and mind, the idea of life came into clear focus, and once again surprised me in terms of how unexpected it was.
The fear that I would die disappeared. The life I had could never disappear, and it could live on and on forever, even after the body I was in disappeared and returned to the dirt where I was found. I would live forever, so I never again had to fear my life being taken away by disease, time, accident, or by another person.
The life wasn’t filled with things, it did not consist of the accumulation of more and more and more abundance and wealth. Those were alternatives to a good life, attractive – yes – but counterfeits that could only waste my life, my time, and in the end would not be going with me after my body disappeared, which wasn’t a long time after all.
The joy of being alive was rooted in my identification with my father, and was wrapped up in the Love and the Light that over the years I came to understand more and more clearly. The joy of living brought a peace that was undisturbed, even as all around me – the world that I was born into – was suffering, screaming, dying, lying, and groping through their own dark lives.
As I grew I became aware that Love, Light and Life we so inextricably connected and integrated, as a kind of system, that I no longer thought about these as separate, disparate areas of study and growth. I became so wrapped up and enraptured by my father – and what I had been taught – that I was somehow a part of him, and he belonged to me, and a bond that had been created was so strong that nothing could alter the strength, durability, and entirety of the existence I had grown into… I had reached a place where I could immediately discern anything that opposed us, it didn’t matter how beautiful it first appeared, or how my senses were somehow drawn toward it, or how clever was the explanation that came with it.
I knew myself, I knew my father, I knew what it meant to live, to breath, to be, and the inexplicable beauty of what was truly Love, Light and Life apart from what I witnessed in the world all around me: Hatred, Darkness and Death.
Without my father, and his son, and his spirit, the three in one, I realize today I could never have found nor discovered these things on my own, not in all my trying and searching. They could only have come from him.
Abraham and his nephew Lot had grown wealthy. Their herds were so large that the herdsmen quarreled over land and feeding grounds for their animals. Abraham gave the choice to Lot where to go, and he would go in the opposite direction.
Lot looked down at the plains of the Jordan river and saw how lush and ideal that area would be for him. So off he went and into Sodom where he became one of the top tier among their city leaders. He married and had two daughters who were promised to men in marriage.
The ancient city of Sodom existed some 7,000 years ago—reaching its height during the Bronze Age around 3,000 BCE—in what is now the Jordan Valley. Although described as a fertile and lush “garden of Hashem,” Sodom was a notoriously nasty place fraught with sins like pride, gluttony, and laziness. Wealth had turned the people into moral reprobates. It was so heinous and morally bankrupt, God had no choice but to completely incinerate it.
Two angels were sent to see how bad Sodom was and they were welcomed into Lot’s home where they had dinner. A group of men, young and old, banged on the door and demanded Lot send those “men” out to them. Lot refused but they began to press their demands so the angels struck them with blindness and they groped their way back to their homes.
Proof of Sodom’s historical existence and fiery end have been supported by extensive archeological findings. Researchers even believe they have located the exact cave where Lot fled. It would seem both Abraham from the Bible and the recent Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project would agree— the fortified city of Sodom was clearly devastated by hellfire or the modern equivalent of a massive conflagration. According to archeologists digging at the site since 2005, a monstrous civilization from around 2,000 BCE has been uncovered, revealing scorched foundations and floors buried under three feet of dark ash.
In its heyday, Sodom was believed to be a tiered city with massive mud brick ramparts which protected the wealthier residents, including the king’s palace and related temples. This discovery has suggested a sudden, inexplicable end to Sodom which lingered as a wasteland for 700 years before being rebuilt. While theories on its destruction have ranged from earthquake to asteroid, there was no denying the scorched earth of Sodom left behind an ominous message for evil.
The city of Sodom was mentioned over ten times in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: sexual violence, oppression of the poor, neglect of the desperate, and ethical weaknesses plagued the culture to the point where everyone, save Lot, was beyond redemption. Evil prevailed everywhere.
Ezekiel compared Jerusalem to Sodom, saying “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and careless ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
In Luke 17:28–30, Jesus says: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded, but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
Fast forward millennia and take an honest look at the culture of the United States today. Just a few examples to highlight our degradation and descent into depravity, these would never have occurred even just a generation ago:
Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar shared an altered video Monday of himself killing New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and threatening to kill the president.
While homicides account for much of the carnage and terror associated with gun violence, the most recent data from health officials shows that suicides account for the bulk — over 60% — of gun deaths in America. And gun injuries, while they rarely make the news, put a tremendous burden on both American families and the health care system, according to health researchers.
About 1,000 civilians are killed each year by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime.
According to the NISVS, almost 1 in 5 women in the United States (19.3%) has been raped at least once in her life, including completed and attempted forced penetration. Additionally, almost 1 in 2 women (43.9%) reported experiencing at least 1 episode of sexual violence other than rape or attempted rape at some point in her life.
Wealthy Americans are using their money to buy their children places at elite colleges. An FBI investigation, appropriately named Operation Varsity Blues, has exposed a $25 million cash-for-admissions scandal. Coaches were allegedly bribed to declare candidates as athletic recruits; test administrators to change their scores, or allow someone else to take the test for them.
Gordon Conwell, Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA has conducted research on all aspects of finance related to Christian churches around the world through its Center For The Study Of Global Christianity. The Director of the center, Todd M. Johnson, PhD, said “there is a lack of research on fraud within the church,” but that is something he has been trying to change. Johnson teamed with David B. Barrett to write a book World Christian Trends, which represented a statistical view of the Christian churches of the world. Barrett was a pioneer in collecting data on churches and noticed a significant increase in embezzlement fraud during the 1980’s. In one of Johnson’s recent studies, Status of Global Mission 2013, there is a line item for “Ecclesiastical Crime,” which is projected to be $37 billion worldwide, or nearly 6% of the total $594 billion given to churches. Losses due to mismanagement of funds is also a line item totaling $8 billion.
Over 249 priests molested & raped over 1000 victims in Boston alone. Cases were brought about in almost every state in America and countries all over the world against Catholic priests. But what about the many, many others in churches all over the world? I’ve heard multiple stories of molestation & rape within the Church, amongst Believers in Jesus Christ. Children exposed to pornography, homosexuality, and demons of all sorts. Many have committed suicide or turned to drugs to escape the pain & guilt, voices we will never hear again. Others have been exposed to unnatural sexual relationships that now have them questioning their identities.
The wealthiest families are also the only ones to have experienced gains in wealth in the years after the start of the Great Recession in 2007. From 2007 to 2016, the median net worth of the richest 20% increased 13%, to $1.2 million. For the top 5%, it increased by 4%, to $4.8 million. In contrast, the net worth of families in lower tiers of wealth decreased by at least 20% from 2007 to 2016. As a result, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. In 1989, the richest 5% of families had 114 times as much wealth as families in the second quintile, $2.3 million compared with $20,300. By 2016, this ratio had increased to 248, a much sharper rise than the widening gap in income.
Since World War II, American has fought in Korea to a stalemate, while being defeated in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Hollowing out the government of Iraq on bogus claim of Weapons of Mass Destruction enabled ISIS and for Iran to assume the role of regional superpower.
The Covid virus sickened and killed millions all over the world, and the most vulnerable are the aged and those with compromised immune systems. But the obesity epidemic and poor diets and lack of exercise have contributed to a decrease in longevity in America. People are getting fatter, food more toxic and drugs like heroin and fentanyl have become epidemic.
What can say if we were to compare Sodom to present day America? The cultures are different and the material side of the equation has changed markedly, of course, over a period of thousands of years.
But the core virtues versus vice, morality versus immorality, infidelity versus fidelity, honesty versus corruption, and self-love with its narcissistic component has all but replaced humility, empathy and compassion.
The only question remaining is not will the Lord judge America as he judged Sodom, no the question is when and how will the judgment he has set against America be carried out. Yet almost no one seems the least bit scared or concerned…just as the citizens of Sodom had no idea.
My running is getting smoother now, I am finding the cadence is becoming efficient, with a strong stride. I look to my right and see the angel. To the left the Holy Spirit. In front of the three of us is the strongest runner setting the pace. It is Jesus.
Jesus came to me when I was a little boy, at a time when I was filled with grief. Afraid of my dad, a man who was physically abusive, I sat in my sandbox feeling very much afraid of just about everything around me. It was at that moment Jesus came to me and spoke. He first assured me that what was happening to me was not my fault, I had done nothing to deserve such brutal treatment, but that I deserved instead to be loved, cared for, protected and helped in this life. Then he told me He was going to be with me to take care of me from now on.
That was where my strength, that I now know to be faith, started. Later I would stand against my dad’s brutality and even protect myself, while my three brothers never overcame their fear, and that fear turned to hatred, hatred to bitterness, and their lives were impacted as they struggled to overcome dad’s terrible rule and reign and recover their own lives to live out as best they knew how.
The angel came later when I wasn’t even expecting her. I had several close calls, near death misses, and I sensed her moving in closer each time in order to protect me. Many times in my life I faced tragedy and even death, and each time she was there, strong in her power and diligent in her job of looking out for and protecting me.
As I grew older I never forgot Jesus nor the angel. But school, a career, marriage and children took me deep into the world system where all of us human beings operate, where we live, move, and have our being. It is a world of corruption. A world of lying and betrayal. A world of grief and suffering. We begin to lose the spark and the innocence that existed when we thought we could do anything that we set our minds to do, and that people and the world would welcome us with open arms and celebrate our success along with us, just as we would celebrate theirs.
Life dragged on and became increasingly dreary and mundane. Each day was full of disappointments, setbacks and problems. I questioned my career choice…wondered about the purpose of life, and why happiness seemed always just out of reach for me. Then Jesus came again to me, this time seemed almost as fresh and new as the first time I met him in my sandbox as a child. He didn’t say much but it was his presence that almost knocked me off my feet. He said only, “follow me.”
I immediately said, “yes Lord, I will follow you.” So I’m thinking about my life and all these things as the four of us are running. Jesus knows the trail, his face is fixed like stone staring straight toward where he wanted to go. The angel is close enough on my right to make sure I don’t fall and get hurt. Likewise the Holy Spirit is bringing into remembrance all of my Lord’s Words as I am better understanding just what the heck we are doing right now, where we are going, why this is the right way and what will it be like when we reach the finish line.
This Jesus looks strong, and he is strong. But he had a lot of the same weaknesses of my own that he suffered in his short life, living only a bit more than 30 years. He suffered hunger and thirst, he would get weak and tired, he felt the pangs of betrayal, grief and rejection. He didn’t have any loyal friends, everyone over time finally just took off as they found other things they wanted to do.
Yet here he was doing this for me. I was overwhelmed with the combination of gratefulness, love, hope, faith in Him and the promise of where we would be soon. So I kept my pace, I kept my stride, I didn’t look back. The four of us rounded the final bend and I could see in the distance the beautiful bright but soft glow of a city. Jesus whispered, but just loud enough for me to hear him, “there is a crown waiting for you there, your Father loves you, we love you. There you will be welcomed and realize where you were intended to be, where you feel you have purpose, joy, peace and are surrounded by many who love you and take you just as you are…let’s pick up the pace…we’re almost home.”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us runwith perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Doubtful most Christians know how to operationalize this advice, to what degree, frequency, depth, but to learn what will help them get closer to their Lord they ask ‘how do I do it?’
I want to expand on each of these.
Belt of Truth
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,” (Ephesians 6:14).
The Bible will only tell you the truth. But the reason we read it over and over again is because the Holy Spirit can touch the Word in our hearts, sparking new revelations, insights, even epiphanies. In that sense God’s Word is a higher truth, a perfect truth, what I call “True Truth.”
Anything contradictory to our understanding that we derive from reading our Bible is a lie. That does not mean anything about those areas of life that the Bible does not touch on, it only refers to those matters of the heart: morality, faith, trust, sin, redemption, Redeemer, heaven, hell, suffering, life and death, and their underlying purposes from God’s standpoint.
Breastplate of Righteousness
“…with the breastplate of righteousness in place…” (Ephesians 6:14).
We are righteous in Christ, we ‘put on’ His righteousness, and that is how God will see us and judge us without punishment, since the punishment has already been taken at the Cross. As the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, we are increasingly conformed into the person of Jesus Christ, becoming more and more like Him as we surrender our will and allow the Lord to work in and through our lives.
Gospel of Peace
“…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).
Are you anxious, worrying about things, perhaps even those things outside your control? One of the things the Lord will give you as His gift is a joy and peace that passes understanding. This is the peace that produces the courage to stand against the raging storms we will face in this life. It is the peace that allowed those under threat of death to affirm their faith in God even as they were being executed. Peace like a river. As we walk in faith and follow Him, we will have that peace, and live our lives without fretting and constantly worrying. Isn’t that a wonderful gift? You can have that today if you let Him into your life.
Shield of Faith
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,” (Ephesians 6:16).
When Jesus said, “follow me,” He knew that to do so would mean that we first must trust Him. But to trust Him we must believe that what He says is true. When we reach that point and choose to follow Him, that is the choice that starts the clock that begins our life of faith.
That faith will be tested, and that shield will be needed against the fiery darts coming from the powers of darkness who seek our destruction. As we growth in faith, more tests and trials will come, and this process is needed to strengthen and mature the faith we have in our Lord.
So much so, that we can reach the point that no matter what our head and our senses and everything is telling us about hell all around us, we know He will keep us safe until we get to our appointment to finally go to Him. Faith is the product of trust and our hope of heaven.
Helmet of Salvation
“Take the helmet of salvation,” (Ephesians 6:17).
When we come to that place where we both see and regret the areas of our lives where we have fallen short – the Bible calls that sin – we cry out to God to save us. At that moment we are born again, we have been redeemed, ransomed, the payment was the blood Jesus shed on the Cross on our behalf. He was innocent, but He paid the requisite punishment for our sin.
This is a mystery and a miracle, but we cannot add anything to salvation, nor can we earn it. We either receive it as a gift and believe it, or we reject it, for any number of reasons we can think of to say no to our Creator who loves us and calls us to Him.
From salvation, part of the armament of the warrior of God, sanctification begins. That means we are now set apart for the Lord to work in and through our lives to change us from wandering, lost and hopeless sinners, into men and women of God who through the truth seek to want lives that conform in a manner pleasing to their Maker. That process takes us all the way to our last breath, as we grow in our spiritual maturity and become increasingly useful to God who will work through us in order to reach others so His Kingdom will be filled.
Sword of the Spirit
“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
The Word is sharper than a two-edged sword. When we speak to others the Word of God, it is going to have its intended effect. It may convict a person of their own sin, it may encourage and edify a believer, it may course correct an errant Christian who is walking on a dead-end path.
I try to rely upon and leverage Scripture, because my words, even if I paraphrase Bible chapter and verse, simply do not have the same power and punch as God’s unadulterated words that have survived for thousands of years, in spite of many attempts to eradicate these texts.
All of these tie together nicely. The sword came from the Word which produced a hunger that led to salvation. The Word is the truth of salvation and sanctification and right living. Faith is the natural extension of walking with the Lord and learning to lean on and trust in Him. Jesus never fails. The believer will find that he or she has miraculously acquired a deep and unending source of joy and peace within the soul. The simplicity of the Bible is that Christ died for the ungodly, that we might be saved. And when we accept this truth, His Word, His promises, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and God then sees us perfected in Him, without blemish, free of fault, without sin or stain. That is the garment we want to wear in order to be welcomed into heaven when our appointed time has arrived.
The Kingdom of Namaste never knew trouble, only goodness could be found there. All of what was created and built served and loved the majesty of the King, and the lives of the created beings knew only the sanctity of life, the riches of love, and the wisdom of truth. Nowhere was there any suffering, death, hatred, violence or deceit. The Kingdom was run by a ruler who was himself the very embodiment of life, light, and love, and was only interested in subjects who shared his purposes and values.
I had the good fortune of being allowed to visit this Kingdom and see for myself.
The entire nation was abundant in precious stones and gold, so abundant that buildings were adorned with jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst. The streets were paved with a pure gold so thin it appeared transparent. The doors on the buildings looked like perfect pearls, unblemished, no flaws, precious, their beauty intoxicating.
The music and the art here were the product of the most creative talents among the citizens. You could hear an a cappella choir in the distance singling with melodic perfection, as they faced the King on his throne. The light that came out from the King himself was so radiant that no other lights were needed anywhere in the Kingdom, for light was one of his basic, natural qualities. The music was loud, but it didn’t hurt my ears; it was powerful, moving, and I was enraptured, fixating on its perfect tone. The light was bright, but not bright in a way that I covered my eyes, its brightness bathed me in a soft and wonderful glow that was thrilling. I could feel the light covering my entire body.
I begged to remain there but was told I needed to return to my own home until a later date, but that an appointment for my return had already been set.
Not long after this I was allowed to visit another Kingdom, but this place was frightening. The wails of suffering citizens echoed throughout the dark forests, as its inhabitants were wandering and stumbling as they looked to salvage whatever they could to appease themselves in some way as they struggled for relief from their suffering. There was danger on every corner, I sensed that. The only means for a citizen to enjoy more for himself was to take from others, and that would mean stealing or destroying.
I heard a shout — scary and very loud. “. “I am Ripper… Tearer… Slasher… Gouger. I am the Teeth in the Darkness, the Talons in the Night. Mine is strength… and lust… and power! I AM LUCIFER!” He had quoted a line from a poem I recognized (Beowulf). He went on, “The time of heroes is dead: the Christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs and fear and shame.” “There’s no shame to be accursed by demons.” “I see you brought me treasure,” Lucifer said to the guide who brought me to this terrible place.
Now I could no longer bear the horror of this place as I began sobbing uncontrollably and gnashing my teeth, I feared I wouldn’t get out alive. “Can we please leave, I want to go home now,” I begged my guide. He looked sternly and firmly directly into my eyes, and said much the same thing as he has said at the other Kingdom I had visited, “you return to your home now, until a later date, an appointment has been set and you will be taken to one of these two destinations and be there for eternity…the good news is that you get to choose.”
Jessica Chastain did a great job capturing the depth and soul of both Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker in the latest movie, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Expecting a sound thrashing and bashing that the secular world inflicts on those self-proclaimed Christians who live like the devil, I was amazed at how Chastain captured the life path and process that started with the innocence of faith and loving the Lord, led to fame and fortune, that all finally crashed and burned.
The sweet faith of these two who would later found PTL (Praise the Lord) was evident from the beginning of the film. Young and new in the Lord, both Tammy Faye and Jim sought an audience among the children, using puppets to proclaim the power of the Gospel. They went on the road and their fame quickly grew.
But as the tens of millions of followers all over the world fawned over PTL and the two witnesses, the temptations that come with money and fame led to sexual sin and corruption and finally jail time for Jim, and later the collapse of the entire empire. Jerry Falwell tried to salvage PTL, but to no avail. And somewhat interestingly his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr. later would fall just as hard, as he was accused of watching the pool boy have sex with his wife in some sort of sordid sexual sport.
Trashed and broken, Tammy Faye and Jim became persona non grata in the Christian world, unable to get anything new and significant going for them. The film ends with Tammy Faye ultimately invited to sing at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. We watch as the audience looks generally perplexed and skeptical, but as the Lord carries her song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, the audience is clearly moved by the Holy Spirit. They begin to slowly stand, bow their heads, and reach their hands toward heaven in worship.
Though Jerry Falwell was strident in his stand against sin, Tammy Faye showed love and acceptance to homosexuals and excluded no groups. None. She sought to love on everyone. And the takeaway of the film is that although another human being who represented the God of all Creation fails and falls hard, her legacy will be the message of the importance of loving people, regardless of who these people might be.
Job was a good man, loved the Lord, trusted and obeyed, and did his best to live a life of faith and to please God. Unbeknownst to Job, Satan, a fallen Cherub, sought to put Job to a real test, telling God that of course Job would trust God, for he had been so incredibly blessed.
The test was tougher than anything you and I will ever face. His children were all killed, his possessions stolen or destroyed, and he himself was stricken with painful, bleeding boils from head to foot. He scraped the boils with a shard from broken pottery. The picture is grim.
Job’s friends were of the ‘health and wealth Gospel’ variety, and insisted Job must be hiding some sin or his life would not have taken this turn for the worse. He spent a great deal of discussion trying to convince them that he had nothing amiss. They weren’t buying it, but finally gave up and accused Job of trying to justify himself before God.
Interesting that though Job lost everything, though his wife was spared. As she watched his suffering she just shook her head and concluded with this disparaging remark, “just curse God and die.”
In the end God honored Job’s integrity and rebuked Satan. He restored more than Job had lost earlier, and the takeaway for us is that suffering does not mean we have some unconfessed sin in our lives, that is simply untrue. The lives of people like Jesus and Paul are a testimony to the difficulties that Christians will face if they choose to walk with God. Except for John, all the apostles were hideously executed when they could have saved themselves. All they needed to do was to deny that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham and a good man. But he was drawn to a prosperous town called Sodom, and became one of the respected leaders there. Sodom had been judged shot through with evil, except for Lot, no upstanding and upright righteous people lived there. It would be destroyed just as a pack of rabid dogs need to be put down because there simply is no means of saving them. Nations can cross a line when their sin is so dominant in a culture, that the suffering and sin prevent anyone from breaking out and calling on the Lord for His help. An entire nation can give themselves completely over to sin and darkness and will suffer terrible lives, the consequences of sowing to the flesh and following Satan rather than God.
Two angels led Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the city as fire and brimstone rained down and utterly and completely destroyed lives and property. Though the four were warned, “don’t even look back,” Lot’s wife stopped, turned, and looked back at the holocaust that was occurring. She became encrusted in salt, and the archeologists have today found such large quantities of salt in this area that they suspect either a meteor or volcanic activity accounts for such massive devastation on such a large scale.
The boyfriends of Lot’s daughters, and Lot’s wife, had succumbed to the lure of sin city and found they could not extract themselves nor free themselves from the bondage of the sin that dominated the culture. Sin blinds. Sin numbs. In the end it destroys.
Balaam & Balak
Balaam was a prophet of God. Balak was the King of Moab. Moab had become surrounded by Israel, which had grown in numbers and military might. Balak heard about Balaam and was convinced that if Balaam would pronounce a curse on Israel, the nation of Israel would suffer as a result. Balak sent a contingent to Balaam’s home, offering him a lot of money.
God did not approve of this, of course, but the smell of so much money put Balaam on his donkey and off to Moab he rode. But when he tried to curse Israel as Balak watched, the Lord put in the mouth of the prophet only blessings. He tried several times, but always blessings.
But as we see many times, the determination of man, when it comes to his own will versus the will of God, finally leads man to get his own way, a seemingly successful result, but ultimately ends in destruction. Balaam moved into the Moab neighborhood and counseled Balak how to get the beautiful Moabite women to intermingle, marry and lead the Israelites into their own rites and rituals of idol worship. This finally led to the weakening of Israel as a nation and their own defeat and destruction.
Balaam became a wealthy man, just as was Lot, but was ultimately killed when Moab fell.
Samson & Delilah
Samson was a Nazarite, set apart from birth to serve God as a ‘judge’ over Israel. His strength was legendary and unrivaled, and on several occasions the Philistines learned some pretty tough lessons as he could stand against a great number of them all by himself, holding his own and taking his stand, while thrashing scores of Philistines with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey.
He did not heed the Word of his Lord when it came to his choice of women however, and missed the opportunity to select a wife from among his own people. This led to the enchanting Delilah, whose fealty was first and foremost to the Philistines. They paid her to learn the source of Samson’s strength.
Samson tired of her constant nagging and finally confessed that as a Nazarite he could not cut his hair. So the time came when he was sleeping; she snuck up close to him and cut his hair. It wasn’t the hair itself that gave him power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through the obedience of his people that was the source of the power. Nevertheless, the disobedience meant his strength was sapped, and the Philistines gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him.
Yet just as the anointing on the final song sung by Tammy Faye at Oral Roberts University, the final act of Samson was to wipe out more Philistines in one fell swoop than all the others he had killed when his strength was with him. What today media might call a ‘suicidal religious terrorist attack,’ the Philistines were gathered together to celebrate their god Dagon. After bringing out Samson for entertainment, Samson though blind, felt the large pillars of the temple within the reach of his arms.
Samson prayed to his God and God returned the strength he needed to push mightily against the pillars and collapse the temple, killing 3,000 Philistines, along with Samson that day.
David & Bathsheba
David was loved by God and called ‘the apple of His eye.’ Wherever he went, whatever he did, the Lord gave him success and victory. Though he had been hiding in caves and running from the former King Saul, the Lord protected David and always helped him escape the wrath of Saul.
Once David was finally anointed King after Saul’s death in battle, peace and prosperity prevailed and all the nations feared the power of mighty Israel. But just as in peacetime and prosperous times we may finally relax and enjoy, that is when testing and temptation take their turn at trying to topple the child of God.
Joab, David’s military leader, was off in battle while David stayed home. One evening as David walked about on his roof he saw a naked Bathsheba bathing on her roof not far away. He was smitten and had his servant fetch the beautiful woman. He slept with her and she became pregnant.
David instructed Joab to setup Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, to be killed in battle so he could marry Bathsheba and raise the baby. Needless to say, the Lord was displeased. And consequently the seeds of violence that were sowed brought a whirlwind of violence into David and his family’s life after this. And the baby died soon after being born.
Yet David loved the Lord and continued walking in faith, making plans to build a great temple dedicated to God. With his bloody track record, God forbid that David should build this temple, but was touched and pleased that David had this in his heart and mind to accomplish.
So it was Solomon, another son of David and Bathsheba, that took the plans for the temple and later completed this amazing architectural wonder, filled with gold and silver and so awesome that leaders from all the nations would visit just to see it and to meet Solomon.
God spoke to Solomon, instructing him to avoid mixing with nations whose gods were counterfeit gods and whose practices would lead the Israelites astray. But much like Samson, Solomon was tempted through his power and riches, and slowly but steadily lost his anointing and close relationship with God as a result. He married 700 women and enjoyed the company of another 300 whom he didn’t marry. He became involved in business with nations that God had forbid him to trade with. Though he was once intimately close to the Lord, and his prayer dedicating the new temple is one of the sweetest odes in the Bible, he became depressed and despondent in the twilight of his life.
His later writings would declare that all of his knowledge, all of his accomplishments, everything that he had done now seemed to him empty and meaningless, as he would die just as any other man, and would never know what became of all that he left behind. This failure led to a national fracture, and Israel would become separated during the time of Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam. Yet the Lord continued to bless the Israelites and kept for himself a people he loved and had promised through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to shepherd and protect.
Reverend David Hocking, Calvary Church, Santa Ana
Locally here a popular pastor fell into an adulterous relationship and was drummed out of his church. Humbled and broken he approached Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel for work. Many people at Calvary Chapel were appalled and preferred to prevent David Hocking from ever becoming a part of Calvary Chapel.
But Chuck Smith had pastored a long while. He used to say that as time went on he found himself less and less judgmental, and more and more willing to forgive, even some of the more egregious sins. Christians are “becoming” more like Jesus as they grow in faith. Their strident and judgmental posturing gives way to softening and tender, forgiving hearts that see that the truth is we all have a sinful nature. All of us want to love and be loved, but none of us measures up to a standard of “deserving” such love, as we all fall short in some areas of life.
These stories are to demonstrate a common thread. Christians will find themselves on a road that includes many of their personal and inevitable faults and failures. But these are meant to strengthen us, to humble us, in order that we seek God with all our might, knowing that we are incapable of becoming good people with loving hearts through our own efforts. Only by seeing the sinful nature of ourselves can we love others in spite of their shortcomings. After all, everyone is an image-bearer of their Creator, and truth be told, we want to take as many to heaven with us as we possibly can.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Yesterday I watched the new documentary, ‘Jesus Music,’ chronicling how these songs written relate to faith, God, and spiritual ups and downs. The genre and growth have radically changed over the years.
It begins with the ‘Jesus Movement’ that began in the early 70’s. Jesus people, also known as Jesus freaks, were disenchanted young people for the most part. They witnessed the emptiness and harm of the sixties sex, drugs, and rock and roll, of which Woodstock was probably the best example in terms of the Cri de Coeur of the 60’s.
Stumbling half-drunk out of a bar one rainy night in April 1972 I walked down a small side street and peered into a window. I saw several long-haired hippies strumming a guitar and singing. They looked happy and the scene was lit up and inviting. They beckoned me ‘come in’ and later that night I ended up praying to accept the Lord in that little coffeeshop in my small midwestern hometown.
Years later I found myself among the young barefoot, shirtless, long-haired men, some with vacant stares from years of LSD trips and drug experimentation. I sat at the feet of a man named Chuck Smith, at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. I was to spend the next 25 years learning from him, as he taught the Bible from cover to cover. He took many years to get from Genesis through Revelation, but his mission was singular and focused. He just taught. His mantra was “simply teach the Bible simply.”
Bands such as Love Song and artists like Phil Keaggy, Wickham, Chuck Girard, were invited to sing at the church. Chuck baptized Lonnie Frisbee, a spaced-out whack-job of a new Christian, to become a pastor to help him as the church was growing so fast people were sitting outside what was first a huge tent and later to become a large church. Maranatha Music was birthed in 1971 and began to record the rock and roll of holy rollers filled with the Holy Spirit. The bands were good, many of the songs came from their secular days when drugs were a part of their gigs.
When it came to baptisms, Pirate’s Cove in Newport Beach was filled with the faithful (including me). Over the years tens of thousands were baptized there by Chuck Smith and his fellow pastors. The ‘Jesus Music’ film shows Chuck Smith and the baptisms that occurred there.
If 1972 could be symbolized as the left bookend, then 9-11 is the right bookend. Here we will discuss why these two dates were so important.
“The Christian Woodstock”
Expo ’72 was the most visible event of the 1970s Jesus movement.’ It was held in Dallas, Texas from June 12 to June 17, 1972, at the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl featured bands, well known preachers, and pro players from various sporting teams. Billy Graham spoke on six different occasions. The festival was held on a huge open swath of land just north of downtown Dallas that had been cleared for construction of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. People from 75 different countries attended the event. The event drew an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 mostly young people. Newsweek described the crowds as being “militant Christians.” Featured artists were Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews, The Archers, Children of the Day, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.
Following this “Christian Woodstock,” Jesus Music came to be known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). A great many that attended the event went on to become ordained ministers or joined Christian organizations such as Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Mercy Ships. When I was finishing up my 7-year tenure with Texas Instruments, rather than returning to Texas, I left the company, and they gave me a $5,000 bonus for the work I did in Southern California. I prayed what to do with this unexpected money and ended up sending it to Mercy Ships in Florida.
Mercy Ships was docked in Florida in 1984, and though they had the people and the necessary gear, including medical supplies, they needed just exactly $5,000 to fuel the ship. Two women from Mercy Ships visited me in California later that same year. They told me the Lord answered their prayer and told them the money was on the way. They just wanted to meet in person the guy whom the Lord used to set their ship a‘sailing to Haiti.
The popularity of interdenominational (or non-denominational) churches exploded, even as the denominations began to suffer empty pews much as Europe had experienced earlier. The study of the Bible became not just paramount, but the primary objective of the Calvary Chapels and similar movements such as Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and ‘purpose-driven’ life. The young hippies who studied under Chuck Smith went on to build large churches of their own. People will recognize names such as Greg Laurie and a dozen others in America, but the Gospel continued to expand throughout the rest of the world and today almost 2,000 Calvary Chapel churches can be found throughout the world.
Somewhat strangely, Chuck Smith never asked for donations, never begged for money. He didn’t have members in the strict sense as he didn’t have a Christian denomination. After much study myself I have concluded that the teaching comes closest to that of John Calvin.
Calvary Chapel holds, somewhat loosely (or flexibly), the following views on the five points of Calvinism:
Regarding total depravity, Calvary Chapel affirms that “apart from God’s grace, no one can be saved,” and that “mankind is clearly fallen and lost in sin.”
Regarding unconditional election, Calvary Chapel affirms that God, “based on his foreknowledge, has predestined the believer,” and that “God clearly does choose, but man must also accept God’s invitation to salvation.”
Regarding limited atonement, Calvary Chapel affirms that Jesus died “for the whole world” and that the “atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ was clearly sufficient to save the entire human race.”
Regarding irresistible grace, Calvary Chapel affirms that “God’s grace can either be resisted or received by the exercise of human free will”.
Calvary Chapels “believe in the perseverance of the saints (true believers) but are deeply concerned about sinful lifestyles and rebellious hearts among those who call themselves ‘Christians’.”
If 1972 was the left bookend, then September 11, 2001, is the right bookend. Following 9-11 another revival took place in America. Americans converged in churches across the country as another revival was unfolding, though this time the revival was short-lived. Michael W. Smith released a choir-assisted album, “Worship,” that interestingly came out on September 11, 2001. He stated that after the choir sang together, they all went to a back room to pray and cry.
Ten Years After this we are once again at a crossroads in America. What happens next will be anything but dull or life as usual. Those opposed to God are growing in numbers and their voices are increasingly angry and demanding we put a stop to Christianity. The remnant the Lord has have become mostly quiet. Social media no longer tolerates Christian posts and I have been thrown off these platforms twice, censored and censured for nothing more than trying to edify and expound on faith and encourage those who may be seeking.
As a nation America is weakening in direct proportion to its apostasy, and as it turns from God our national problems are growing worse and worse. The list of problems is getting longer and the nations who view us as their enemy are a growing number as well. Here are just a few examples that seemingly defy resolution, and are consistent with the history of failed nations that forget that God is our Creator and apart from him we can do nothing:
Daily news has every sector of society shot through with rampant and pervasive corruption. Churches are hiding places for pedophiles and the perverse, and colleges and universities are selling student acceptance to the highest bidder. Businesses have become so corrupt that it is virtually impossible to compete if you choose to do so honestly and ethically. The stories of Boeing and Wells Fargo have become daily fare.
Subject matter experts are becoming a despised group, doubted, and their expert opinions supplanted with conspiracy theories and those so enraged that they are willing to punch a disabled Walmart greeter who asks the customer to please mask up.
Today groups have banded together and even go into hospital ICUs to urge those dying from Covid19 to leave the hospital as the virus is a hoax. Upwards of 3/4ths of a million people have died in America because we cannot get to herd immunity with so many misinformed and angry anti-vaxxer’s who believe they are smarter than infectious disease specialists, immunologists, and virologists.
The mob would like to lynch the most recognized leader of the effort to stop the pandemic, Dr. Fauci, calling him evil while threatening him and his family.
Each subsequent war results in increasing failure relative to our military goals and objectives. Today we have a startlingly large number of soldiers committing suicide. The soldiers know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They know we cannot defeat an asymmetric enemy in places like the caves of Afghanistan.
We left both Vietnam and Afghanistan humiliated, having lost these wars, and left our fellow soldier-partners who trusted in us, to be tortured and killed by the Viet Cong and Taliban.
Get-rich-quick schemes from meme stocks and cryptocurrency have replaced any desire to find a job and work hard, so many jobs go unfilled. Today we have more open positions than we have unemployed people.
The stock market has become a gambling casino, and social media facilitates large groups capable of moving any given stock price up or down simply due to the large number of willing and jubilant participants. Zero-commission trading platforms such as Robinhood have created a video-game atmosphere and venue to buy and sell stock as young people are using student loans and money borrowed from parents to bet in the stock market.
Natural disasters are increasing. Drought, heat, hurricanes, fires, all increasing in frequency with disastrous consequences. People simply don’t know what they personally, individually might do as the climate change debate is filled with arcane data and inconsistent opinions, as well as false information and conspiracy theories.
The wealth gap has never been greater as billionaires own most of the assets and over half the population doesn’t have $5,000 for an emergency.
Crumbling infrastructure is evident in roads, bridges, utilities, as America not only doesn’t move forward with mass transportation such as mag-lev bullet trains, but increasingly appears to have the look and feel of a third-world country. Sleeping homeless are hit by trains, new high-tech cars burst into flames, the ubiquitous car keeps people driving from point A to point B hundreds of hours each year.
We are becoming isolated in a world with strong nations such as Russia and China declaring that the U.S. is their enemy.
Rather than be seen as the model of how democracy, capitalism and freedom can be adopted for the benefit of other nations seeking to become strong, we are today seen as a global bully, corrupt, dangerous with our freedom being used to be wretched rather than virtuous citizens.
Politics have become divisive, extreme, and polarizing, as populism pushes people toward either socialism or fascism, to the extreme left or the extreme right, and the only product of this populism has been anger and rage, along with the eruption of violent protests.
Our greatest influencers are the actors and billionaires, high-tech gurus, people who popularize hedonism, sex, money and power, fame and influence, as mainstream people are lonely and lost in a world where they see their own lives as so far removed from these influencers that they must be losers lost with no reason to love, as selfishness and narcissism increasingly replace empathy and compassion.
We don’t know how all this will end for America. Will we fail and fall like so many empires before us? Or will we turn back to God, have yet one more great revival, and allow him to heal our sick nation? Many nations of antiquity are nonexistent now, having brought God’s judgment upon themselves for their sin.
Edom (Jeremiah 49:17–22), Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13–15), Sodom (Genesis 18:20), and Babylon (Jeremiah 51) were all wiped out, according to the biblical prophets, for their evil in the sight of the Lord. There remain no representatives of the Hittites (Exodus 23:23), Moabites (Zephaniah 2:8–10), or Philistines (Zephaniah 2:5) due to their stubborn rebellion against God.
Romans (Chapter 1:18-32)
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
“There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In.” (Leonard Cohen).
Our earliest memories of life are painted in bright vibrant colors of joy and happiness. The world is a tabula rasa, a blank slate, and every single thing in it is surprising, fascinating, beautiful and awesome. We hop, skip and jump to music light-hearted and jubilant, cheerful and carefree.
Some troubles begin to sound in the instrument of our minds and body, friends say cruel things to us, parents and teachers scold and reprimand us, and the new keyboard you wanted so badly you were never to receive it.
As life presses on we find an admixture of light music, but sometimes life plays in a minor key as the painting of our lives begins to show darker oils, streaks and confusing images no longer bright, sharp and clearly discernible as before.
Further along the path we hear low, ominous harmonies from something like a pipe organ out of our sight but somewhere up ahead. Anxiety grips us as more paint colors of gray, white, red and black, evoking thoughts of dread and death, melancholy and angst, rather than the favorable and exciting emotions these same colors elicited in our childhood. The music in the distance is a dirge, a mournful lamenting dove down the path that beckons us to continue our journey through life in spite of increasing reservations and fear of what the future may hold.
When we can see we are nearing the end and considering eternity, we look at the mostly completed painting of our life. The frightening colors and cacophonous accompanying sounds dominate the painting. Many regrets, few memories of those things that brought lasting perpetual joy and fulfillment. We wonder about what lies beyond and we remember what we thought about when we considered the God of all creation.
It dawns on us that God was with us the entire time, working through the conscience of our heart, whispering to us to listen to our better angels, showering us with waves of joy whenever we did yield to our instincts of empathy, compassion, humility, honesty, generosity, kindness and other virtues. Now the time has come to focus on Him. He will accept us with the dark and foreboding character of our life’s painting and the music that fits the scene. He can because he found the Way to accept us no matter how terrible our life was.
God has the power to make a creature that only loves Him and never turns away in rebellion. But the very notion of true love involves choice, if we buy a new Artificial Intelligence robot that continuously reassures us of its love, is that meaningful to us? If that’s all we want to hear in our pride and narcissism, I suppose that is all we are willing to tolerate.
But angels and men were created with the capacity for choice. They were subject to temptations to disobey their Creator, and when they did, they lost their connection to a perfect, holy and just God and His Kingdom that permits no evil anywhere in the territory.
Ever notice that we seem to have three kinds of people among us? A group that builds up, adds to the overall well-being of earth and life, shows compassion for others, and serves rather than is self-serving?
A second group tears down. They soil the nest they were born in, pollute and harm, while also harming animals and mankind as a result of both selfish motivations, and a lack of caring for others around them. This group goes further than criminals and violent people. It includes those wrapped up in themselves and lacking empathy and compassion for others. They take but they don’t give.
In the middle are many people who could best be described as neutral overall, somewhere in the middle They live a life later having a lot of regrets, having made selfish choices and bad decisions, but along the way performed some good works that they see as justifying themselves and the lives they chose to live.
ONE THIRD /// ONE THIRD /// ONE THIRD
This is not mathematically nor historically a calculation anyone could defend. But throughout Scripture you see the distinction and separation in many places. A few examples follow:
A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.
“It will come about in all the land,”
Declares the Lord,
“That two parts in it will be cut off and perish;
But the third will be left in it.
One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.
One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.
“And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
John writes, “His [Satan’s] tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Rev. 12:4).
“many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
Which of the three groups are you a member of? The “OVERCOMERS?”
This is the third that remain steadfast through trials. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (John 5).
Overcomers are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of the world’s system. An overcomer is not sinless, but holds fast to faith in Christ until the end. He does not turn away when times get difficult or become an apostate. Overcoming requires complete dependence upon God for direction, purpose, fulfillment, and strength to follow His plan for our lives (Proverbs 3, 2 Corinthians 12).
Christians must recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground designed for entertainment and our pleasure. Our ability comes from His power, the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts and sparks the Word whenever we are facing problems with temptation. The Word, the Holy Spirit, and prayer are weapons against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, the world system, and the devil. “Apart from Him we can do nothing.”
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8).
Overcoming is enduring. Jesus encouraged us to “endure to the end” (Matthew 24:13). Jesus promises rewards to those who overcome. Those are not the rewards offered by the world, but rewards that will be your treasure in heaven.
The destroyer group will be cutoff and cast out, along with Satan and a third of the angels that went with him. They will be relegated to a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This will be an eternal sentence, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”
The middle or neutral group will be judged according to whether they received forgiveness of sins through the gift of faith in Christ. If so they will be citizens of heaven as the blood of Jesus Christ will have been a sufficient ransom paid for all their sins. Most of these people will have struggled on the fence as double-minded, serving both God and themselves at various times and in different ways.
But many will have rejected Christ while clinging to their own alternate ideology, whether a manmade religion or some other philosophy that was the invention that came from the imaginations of men throughout history. These people will be judged according to their works, and a great many will find that their works will not stand up to divine examination and scrutiny.
Examined closely they will be shown that the good that they would was done for the adoration of the public, the praise and the accolades were their reward, and they have therefore no more reward beyond these self-serving and self-righteous acts of charity and philanthropy.
Search yourself and take personal inventory. If you have hardened your heart against God, your destination is fixed and certain — it won’t be heaven. If you are counting on your ‘good works’ to justify yourself you may experience this when you make your appointment with death and arrive at the Judgment:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7).
Are you a good person? Do you do good? If so, do you do good based upon opportunity or is it because of duty or obligation?
Likewise, do you love your neighbor? What kind of love is it? Is it love for those who share your views, religious, political and ideological? Do you have exceptions in terms of those whom you feel you cannot love? What are the reasons for the exceptions? (You can pick more than one)…
Perhaps Other might consist of…
Loud and boorish people
People who are selfish and only self-serving
None of these? Great, doing well so far! But can you love those who…
Betrayed you, stole from you, harmed you or someone you love?
Convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison?
Found guilty of pedophilia, mass murder or random acts of violence?
Do you see where this is going? I submit that our goodness and our love; our willingness to forgive and to genuinely love, and to love unconditionally with a heart that can quickly forgive, is a very small, stunted and skewed version of the possibility of loving unconditionally.
If you love someone, truly love them, you will do good for them and even do so anonymously. You won’t be seeking credit for your good works. If you can honestly see your own shortcomings, the deceitfulness of your own heart, your many flaws and foibles, you can forgive those you see in others, including those faults that you may not personally have.
Every one of us is an image-bearer of our Creator. Every one of us is a sinner, coming up well short of holy perfection. Yet every one of us has the hope of heaven if we can overcome and love both God and man…
It really is just that simple.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.— Leviticus 19:18
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.— Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Jesus was asked a question, “what is the greatest commandment,” by a Pharisee who was considered to be “an expert in the law” (Matthew 22:34–36). Jesus answered by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).