When Lions Attack 

Amos 5:18
“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light.”

In recent years, people have become fascinated with end-of-the-world scenarios. We have been inundated with movies about environmental crises, alien invasions, and zombie apocalypses, that have brought an end to the human race. Mixed in with these, have been best selling novels about the Book of Revelation. Believers and unbelievers alike, have read cover-to-cover, as the prophecies of the Bible are painted in real life scenarios. With all of that, we have seen little change in the course of the world we live in. It is as if people are excited about the possibility of the return of Christ, but not quite committed enough to allow it to change the way they think or live.

Things were the same in Amos’ day. Many people, who were living ungodly lives, were hoping for the Messiah to come and fix everything. Amos explained to the one who is not committed to the Lord, the day of the Lord will not be what they are hoping for. He went on to illustrate it this way,

Amos 5:19 “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him!”

Just as the armies came and took Israel captive, so the day of Christ’s return will one day come. The message of Scripture is a call to prepare in advance. The first step is to trust Christ for salvation, the next is to surrender all to him. The question to ask is, “What silly things are you holding on to that you would find embarrassing if Christ were to come today?” Whatever those are, it is time to set them aside and “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Pastor Jim

 

Looking Ahead 

Joel 3:1
“For behold, in those days and at that time…”

Joel leads us to the climax of this book. Chapter one spoke of a locust army attacking Israel as a form of judgment for sin, chapter two spoke of the Babylonian army and captivity of the nation. Now chapter three speaks of the ultimate judgment upon the nations who rebel against God and come against His people. All that follows, points ahead to the time when God will restore all things. Paul wrote,

Ephesians 1:10 “. . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”

Martin Lloyd Jones referred to this event as “God’s Ultimate Purpose”,and Paul called it “the dispensation of the fullness of the times”, while  Joel had used the term, “Day of the Lord”. This is the event that all things are headed toward. This is the end of the road of life. All things are heading toward the time when God will restore all things, and set His kingdom upon the earth.

Joel had previously predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the gift of the Spirit was given at Pentecost, the early Christians correctly viewed themselves as having entered the last days. David Guzik refers to the last days this way,

“Many have the wrong idea of the “last days”, thinking only in terms of the final years or months immediately before the return of Jesus in glory to this earth, or the rapture of the Church. Scripturally, we can think of the last days as an era, one that began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since that time, the Church has not been rushing towards a distant edge that represents the consummation of all things. Instead, at the Day of Pentecost the Church came to the edge – and has run parallel to the brink for some 2,000 years.”

That is why the NT writers lived with an expectation of Christ’s soon return.

Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Romans 13:11 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

And that is why we should be living with the same expectation. Joel went on to describe the final event in these last days. A time when all nations will gather at the valley of Jehoshaphat in one final rebellion against God only to be completely destroyed. This event is commonly referred to as the battle of Armageddon. As horrible as this event is, it is not the desire of God. He describes a glorious banquet in heaven awaiting those who receive Christ. God desires all men to be saved (2Peter 3:9). In the parable of the wedding feast He sought to persuade those who refused the invitation (Matthew 22:8-9). The desire of God is for man to beat their swords into plows, not the other way around. There will be a time when it is too late to turn to God, but today is not that day. The right response to realizing what is coming, is to refuse to remain one more day counted among those who are in rebellion against God. I am reminded of the poem by James Weldon Johnson who speaks of the folly of resisting God,

“Young man, Young man, Your arm’s too short to box with God.”

There is only one way to win in a battle against the Lord, SURRENDER!

Pastor Jim

 

I’ll Be Back 

Revelation 22:20-21
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘ Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

If you are anything like me, you have echoed the cry of John, from time to time in your walk with God. It seems whenever things become difficult, confusing or frightening, my heart cries out, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I realize, the only reason for His delay is His desire to see others come to faith in Christ. Peter wrote,

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

There is a day coming, in the not so distant future, when all the promises of Scripture will be fulfilled, and Christ will return for His church and set up His kingdom. As John sat incarcerated on the island of Patmos, his heart longed for the return of his Savior and Lord.

That being said, it has often struck me, that the final promise of Scripture takes us from the promises of the future, to those of the present. After declaring Christ will return for His church, John reminds us that we are living in a present state of grace.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Grace can be defined as the giving nature of God. It i s expressed in His desire to save the lost, and to pour out lavish gifts upon His children. As we await the return of Christ, we live in the age of grace. The closer we get to the time of Christ’s return, the more difficult things will become on earth. As men harden their hearts to God, sin will increase and righteousness will become more and more scarce. It is vital to remember, although God will judge sin, it is His desire to save. The darker the background, the more brightly the message of the Gospel shines. Instead of becoming discrouraged by the present condition of things, let’s remember that it is in the heart of God to save. Let’s be busy praying for, and witnessing to, our friends and loved ones, until the day Christ calls us home.

Until He comes,

Pastor Jim

 

Book Of Life 

Revelation 17:8
“…And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

As the angel explains the images John sees, he makes reference to the Book of Life. This book is mentioned again, in Revelation 20:15, as the guest list of heaven. All, whose names are written in this Book, will have access to heaven; those who do not, will be cast out to eternal judgment. If there is one thing you want to be certain of in this life, it is that your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The question is, how do we get our names in that Book?

The Bible is very clear. Salvation is received free of charge, when we put our trust in Jesus Christ. It is something that cannot be acquired any other way. Jesus declared, He is the way, and no one could go to heaven apart from Him (John 14:6). Therefore, it is clear, our names are placed in the Book of Life when we put our trust in Christ for salvation. Since Jesus said He knows those who are His and no one can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:27-28), we conclude that our names are not written in pencil, ready to be erased at our first failure or doubt. They are written in permanent ink; we might even say, they are written in the blood of God. That being said, there is another interesting thought presented by the angel, as he refers to the Book of Life.

“…whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world…”

The angel suggests our names were actually written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. Before we existed, before we sinned, before we cried out to Christ for salvation, our names were already written in the Book. This suggests that God has every intention and desire that you and I should go to heaven. Jesus said He was preparing a place for us (John 14:3), and all we need to do to ensure our arrival is put our trust in Christ. How tragic, that some resist the grace of God, ignore the message of the Cross, deny the pleading of their loved ones, and end up with their names removed from the book; all because they were unwilling to bend their knee in surrender to Jesus. The only thing that can remove your name from the Book is a failure to accept the forgiveness Christ provides.

Don’t let that be you.

Pastor Jim

 

Armageddon 

Revelation 16:16
“And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.”

Recently, I had the privilege of standing on Tel Megiddo, the ruins of the ancient city of Megiddo. It overlooks, what is often referred to as, the valley of Armageddon. The experience was almost surreal. As I stood there, contemplating the events described in Revelation 16, I could see smoke rising in the distance, from tires being burned in protest to the fighting in Gaza and southern Israel. The silence of the moment was suddenly interrupted as the entire valley was filled with the roar of an Israeli fighter jet flying past. It was not difficult to imagine what the scene will be like when men gather in one last effort to eradicate God. Hundreds of years before Revelation was written, the Bible prophesied of this event.

Psalm 2:1-3
“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

I have always looked at this as the epitome of folly. Men, in rebellious pride, gather to do battle with God, who loves them so much He gave His own Son to save them. Up to this point in Revelation, judgment has been poured out in measures. We read of a fraction of the population being judged, allowing for the remainder to respond to the mercy of God. Yet, we also read time and again, that the inhabitants of the earth refuse to repent. Instead of being drawn to God, many become hardened toward Him. That hardness ultimately reveals itself in mobilizing for battle, to rid themselves of the influence of God, once and for all. In light of this, the second Psalm closes with some valuable advice.

Psalm 2:12
“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Instead of hardening our hearts to God, because of the things that we do not understand, or the raw deal we feel life has dealt us, we should accept His merciful plea and draw near to Him. Much of the difficulty we ascribe to God, is actually an extension of His loving kindness, seeking to draw us into relationship with Him.

Will you draw near to Him today?

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 43- Dedication Day
Ezekiel 44- Service

 

A Safe Place 

Revelation 14:1
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty- four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

The tribulation years will be the most difficult time period the earth has ever known. Any hardship we have ever experienced, will pale by comparison, to say the least of the trials during those few years. It is prudent that we each do everything we can to avoid being left here when these events begin to transpire. The way out is to trust in, and surrender to, Christ as Lord and Savior. If you have not yet made the decision to receive Christ, stop reading and pray. Invite Him to forgive your sins and be your Lord.

That being said, Chapter 14 gives a glimpse into the life of 144,000 believers, living and serving God through these dark times. It is particularly striking to me, that these individuals have the seal of God on their lives which, among other things, is certainly a seal of protection. With all the opposition to Christ and His followers, these believers remain untouchable as long as they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rrevelation 14:4) Their lives serve as a great example that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

I am reminded of David as he walked into the valley to face Goliath. Unarmed and untrained for battle, there was no safer place for Him to be than face to face with the giant. I think also of Gideon, with only 300 men at his side, and facing an army too large to number, he was both protected and victorious in battle. Conversely, I also think of Jonah. He was a man who knew the danger an Israelite would be in if he walked into the city of Nineveh. Unwilling to yield to the way of the Lord, he found himself in even graver danger.

While we are not to live foolishly, seeking adventure for adventure sake, we must not let the fear of the unknown or the threat of the “what if” keep us out of the center of God’s will for our lives. Just as these men were marked by God, and protected until it was time to call them home, so is the child of God who is walking in the will of God. We need never fear as long as we are following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Pastor Jim

 

The Mark

Revelation 13:1 
“Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

Keep in mind as you read through Revelation, John is seeing the events on earth from a heavenly vantage point. Instead of the glamour of wealth and power, John sees what God sees, a hideous beast filled with blaspheme, violence and hatred. It seems as though the entire world is enamored with this ruler. Like Haman of old, in the book of Esther, the world has found a common scapegoat in the believers, and their hatred streams forth in persecution. As a means of both coercion and identification, the beast requires a mark to be given to every person. Without this mark, survival will be difficult, and persecution guaranteed. This mark is later identified as being a series of numbers.

Revelation 13:18 “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”

In light of Biblical prophecy, we are living in very interesting times. This is particularly true as it relates to this identification mark that will be used for commerce. Up until recent times, all trade was done either through bartering goods for services, the use of coinage or currency backed by the nation, or in certain cases, a credit system based upon personal recognition and collateral. We have, in recent times, moved into an entirely new way of commerce; it is a credit system based on a series of numbers that identify the individual. I have found, over the years, as I travel, I have become more and more comfortable with this system, I rarely ever have cash. I have even traveled outside of the country without cash, relying entirely on the credit system.

That being said, I want to be clear, the current numbering system we use, is in no way the mark of the beast. I would even go so far as to say, an imbedded chip, under current conditions, would not be the fulfillment of this prophetic picture. This is pointing to a time during the tribulation, when the Antichrist has come to power and demands, in addition to whatever else is worshipped, he be worshipped as god. Those who will bow to him (like the Romans of ancient times bowed to worship Caesar) will be given a mark that allows them to buy and sell. Any who refuse will be persecuted and martyred.

After the last hundred years of human history, with all its violence, persecution, inhumanity and leader-worship, it is not hard to imagine a time when a ruler will come to power with such charisma he will be able to woo the hearts of mankind to bow before him as more than a man, but a human savior. While these things are fascinating to examine, they are really written as a means of warning, so we might escape these events. The secret to avoiding such a hellish calamity is to put trust in Christ, and be delivered from the tribulation that will be poured out upon the earth.

If you have not yet trusted Christ for salvation, do so now. Pray in faith,”Lord Jesus I ask you to forgive my sin, enter into my life and help me to follow after you.” If we can be of any help contact us at church@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim