End Of The Road 

Revelation 20:12
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “All roads lead to God”?  While it is not true, according to Jesus Himself, that all roads lead to heaven, it is true, all roads lead to God. Whatever road you choose to travel in this life, it ultimately ends at the throne of God. John explains that he saw every person who had ever lived, the good, the bad, and the ugly, all standing before the throne of God and awaiting judgment for sin. There is no road you can travel that will not ultimately lead to the throne of God. Even those who stubbornly resist the Spirit of God and refuse to accept Him, will stand before this throne, along with those who refuse to believe He even exists. There is no way of escaping the throne, but there is a way of avoiding judgment.

John records that a book was opened which contained a list of all the sins that each person had ever committed. One sin is enough to condemn, and every sin is recorded. However, there is a second book; the Book of Life, which contains the names of all who have received Christ and His forgiveness of sin. Those whose names are in the Book of Life have had all the charges against them erased. Paul put it like this,

Colossians 2:14 “. . . having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The most important decision you will ever make is the one regarding Jesus. If you choose to accept Him as Savior and Lord, your sins will be forgiven and you will be excluded from judgment. If you choose to reject Him, for whatever reason, you are left in your sin. One day you will stand before the throne of God and the book of deeds will be opened, read, and you will be sentenced. It seems like a pretty straightforward decision. Joshua put it like this;

Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Pastor Jim

 

Silence In Heaven

Revelation 8:1
“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

Revelation 8 paints a sober picture and before the events unfold, Heaven goes silent for half an hour. These events are a series of judgments that are unleashed upon the earth. While it, no doubt, grieves the heart of God to judge the sinful men He sent His own Son to save, these judgments are released as the prayers of God’s people arise like incense before the throne of God.

Revelation 8:3-4 “Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”

For thousands of years, the hearts of God’s children have been crying out against the injustices of men. In war-torn parts of the world, men’s hearts cry out; they are saddened and exhausted by constant uprisings, as others vie for power, position or wealth. They are weary of watching their sons and daughter die. They are weary of losing their freedom to share Christ with their neighbors and friends. They are weary of the persecutions that rise against them. Their hearts cry out to heaven, where their prayers become like sweet incense before the throne of God. In peaceful parts of the world, men’s hearts cry out against injustice and immorality. They are tired of wickedness running rampant; tired of evil being called good and good, evil. Tired of hearing of millions of wombs being assaulted and babies aborted. As their hearts cry out, they too, become like sweet incense arising to the throne of God.

Revelation 8:5 “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”

All that follows, is the just recompense of living sin-filled lives. All the injustice that man has brought upon man will one day be reckoned, as God righteously deals with the sins of man. While my heart and yours echo these cries for justice, we are all guilty of committing the very injustices we cry to be made right. Fortunately, there is a glorious escape from the judgement provided in the cross. Every heart that cries out for His mercy will be pardoned from all sin and escape the righteous judgment to come.

Pastor Jim

 

Israel

Ezekiel 28:25 “Thus says the Lord God: ‘When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant.'”

Without a doubt, the Bible is the most extraordinary book you will ever read. It is filled with fascinating stories designed not only to encourage moral behavior, but to reveal the character of God. Beyond that, the Bible actually paints a picture of what will unfold in the future. This type of writing is called prophecy, and its purpose is to prove the inspiration of the Bible, as well as to make us ready to face the Lord. One of the most intriguing areas of Biblical prophecy has to do with the nation of Israel.

Ezekiel lived to see the fall of the city of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jewish people. Because of their unwillingness to obey the Lord, they were defeated by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces and deported to various provinces within Babylon. Here in captivity, God makes them an amazing promise. They are told they will one day return to dwell safely in the land. This prophecy was fulfillment in at least three ways.

First, after 70 years of captivity, Israel was allowed to return to Jerusalem. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, 50,000 people returned to begin the long and arduous task of rebuilding the Temple, and repopulating the city of Jerusalem. Their stories are recorded in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Second, years later, Jerusalem would once again be destroyed. This took place in 70 AD when, after rejecting Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah, Israel rebelled against occupation. Roman forces conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish people went without a homeland for almost two thousand years. At the end of WWII, many nations of the world agreed it was time for the heavily persecuted Jewish people to be given a homeland. In 1947 they were granted land and began once again to repatriate the Promised land. Today,the fact that Israel exists is a remarkable sign of Biblical prophecy. That being said, we all recognize Israel is not experiencing the peace and safety that Ezekiel promised.

Finally, the Bible promises that Jesus Christ will one day return to set up a kingdom from which He will rule in righteousness and peace. This kingdom will have its headquarters in Jerusalem, which will finally experience the peace the Bible promises.

While we are not yet experiencing the return and reign of Christ, looking at the accuracy in which the prophecies of Scripture have been fulfilled, should encourage us to trust the promises of our Bibles, and live more devoted to our Savior.

Pastor Jim

 

Saved 

Ezekiel 9:3-4
“Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.’”

We find a reoccurring theme in Scripture, those who belong to God are protected from His judgment. When the plagues came upon Egypt, the children of God were spared, when judgment fell upon Sodom, Lot was spared, and here, as Judah is being judged, those who turned to the Lord, were spared. It is worth noting, they were protected from judgment because a mark was placed upon them. This is true of those who belong to Christ. Paul explained to the Ephesian Church, they we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13). This seal not only marks us as belonging to God, but also ensures we will one day receive our future inheritance in glory.

The reason the child of God is spared from the judgment of God is because Jesus bore it on the cross. In one of the most profoundly theological statements ever made, Jesus declared “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) It was at that point, the wrath of God was being poured out upon all sin. Every sin ever committed was paid for on the cross, so any who trusts in Christ could be forever pardoned.

While it is true, we often must face earthly consequences for sinful actions, if we have trusted Christ, we will never face an eternal penalty.

Romans 5:9 “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Pastor Jim

 

Visual Learner 

Ezekiel 4:1
“You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem.”

Some people are visual learners. They seem to have a difficult time processing information audibly, but the moment they can see it, things become perfectly clear. Most of the pre-exilic prophets relayed the same message to Judah. They warned of coming destruction by the Babylonians and exhorted the people to turn to the Lord. Ezekiel will share that same message, but will do so with some very powerful imagery. This chapter alone gives three such illustrations.

First, Ezekiel is told to make a model of the city of Jerusalem. When he first began this project, I am sure those who stood back and watched were wondering what he was building. As each day passed, the image became more clear, until it was obvious to all that it was Jerusalem. It must have been quite a shock when he began to fill the surrounding hillsides with foreign troops, and build siege walls outside the city. Even the most casual observer, would have no problem understanding the message.

Once completed, Ezekiel used another approach to get the same message across. Each day he would enter the public square, lay out a bed mat, and lie down on his left side. He remained there throughout the day, and repeated this for 339 consecutive days. One the 340th day, he turned over and laid on his right side for another 40 days. This was done to illustrate the coming judgment on Judah for their iniquities.

Finally, Ezekiel was instructed to bake the bread of affliction. God wanted the people to understand that serving false gods meant becoming slaves. Jesus taught the same truth when He said if we serve sin, we become a slave of sin (John 8:34). Slavery brought affliction and affliction, personal suffering. To deepen the impact of this illustration, Ezekiel was told to cook the bread using human waste as fuel. This proved too much for the prophet, who pleaded with God, and was instructed to use cow dung, instead.

I find it interesting the great lengths God will go, in order to insure that the message gets to everyone. He is still in the business of doing that today. I have heard testimony after testimony of a person who seemed to suddenly be surrounded by believers. They were invited to church, witnessed to at work, and came to realize that an old friend or family member had turned their life over to Christ. It is clear, God desires each of us, and will go to great lengths to reveal His love for us, and our need for Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Clean Me

Jeremiah 48:11
“Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.”

Jeremiah is describing the judgment that will fall upon Moab. He explains, in vivid fashion, that one of the chief causes of their wickedness was the fact that they were like a vessel which had never been cleaned. Their failure to allow the difficulties of life to purify their actions, ultimately lead to their judgment and destruction.

Trials are not the most pleasurable experiences in life. Whenever we face difficulty that is beyond our ability to endure, we wonder if there is a God, and if so, why He is allowing such hardship to come our way. One reason for the difficult seasons of life, is that they are designed to stir things up in our lives, in order to purify us.

Like taking a dirty cup, filling it with hot soapy water, and shaking it back and forth to release the dregs, hardship is designed as a means of getting things out of our lives that will ultimately bring the judgment of God. Instead of questioning the love of God, we should allow difficulty to serve its purpose, and examine whether or not we are living in a way that pleases God. Had Moab turned from their wicked ways, they would not have been facing heaven’s wrath.

What about you? Are you practicing things that are unacceptable to God? I am not talking about wanting to live for God and slipping along the way, instead, I am referring to a person who is looking at the Word of God and saying, “I don’t care what it says, I am going to do what I want.” Be careful, that kind of living will lead you face-to-face with the judgment of God.

Pastor Jim

 

Crime And Punishment 

Jeremiah 9:9
“’Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord.
‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’”

Jeremiah went to great lengths to expose the sinful behaviors of his nation. Not only had they violated the covenant with idolatry, but they were also horribly mistreating one another. A nation that was supposed to love, care for, and serve one another, was instead committing heinous sins against one another. Adultery, theft, corruption, deceit and injustice filled homes, courtrooms and politics. A nation designed to be a light to the world, had become just like the world they were supposed to impact. It is no wonder that God asks,

“’Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord.”

It seems whenever the subject of judgment comes up, God is accused of wrongdoing. It is as though righteous assessment of wrong behavior is somehow unfair or unloving. We fail to recognize that society cannot survive without dealing with injustice and immorality. We also fail to realize, the judgment of God is as much corrective as it is punitive. While there will ultimately be an accounting for sin, God’s first desire is not to punish, but to redeem. It was only after years of prophets rising early, staying up late, and consistently warning the people, that God finally sent the Babylonians to conquer Judah. We need to keep in mind, although judgment will fall and it may seem sudden, it can easily be avoided. No one has to sit under the judgment of God. All can receive pardon through faith in Christ.

It is important, as a follower of Jesus, we declare faithfully, consistently and clearly that judgment can be averted through faith in Christ. Instead of being afraid of the subject, we should be heralding the way of escape.

Pastor Jim