A Grand Entrance

He is risen!

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.” 

Talk about a grand entrance!

Can you imagine the angels standing poised and ready to go at the word from the throne to release the risen Lord? Who will it be? When? Alright, there’s the sunrise—you—go! And an angle shoots down from heaven, no doubt at great haste once he was given the go ahead.

I have no doubt an angel can travel at the speed of light, and he makes a grand appearance—‘How about we shake the earth, that’ll show these big bad guards—and all the demons of hell, who the boss really is here, and then we’ll roll that puny little stone aside!’

‘Guards? Oh look, they seem to be a bit scared as they have fainted—poor dears.

I don’t know if angels employ sarcasm, I’m pretty sure my guardian angle does. Otherwise we’d never never get along. But somewhere in the midst of this grand angelic show—Jesus gets up and walks out of the tomb. Not just raised from the dead, but resurrected into a perfect glorified body.

A perfect body that can eat, yet walk through walls. One that can walk down a road and have a normal conversation with two travelers and  seem like another pilgrim, yet disappear in the midst of a meal at the end of the road. One that has flesh and blood scars that can be seen and touched yet can ascend to heaven like gravity is just no thing at all.

And then the angel just casually sits on the stone, I love that part. Hah, we’ll just slam into the earth at lightning speed with such force that the ground quakes, shove that little stone aside with a back hand brush like it’s just like it weighs nothing, watch the Lord of glory walk out into the sunlight like it’s the first day of creation when he created light and saw that it was good. And then the honored angel just casually sits on the rock like it’s a lawn chair at a picnic as he watches the guards finally recover their wits enough to run off like children being chased by hornets. —‘Off you go now!’

Fine day for a resurrection Gabriel! Why yes Michael, it is—the finest of days! At some point according to the other gospels, another angel has shown up as well—the gospels don’t name them, but it’s possible.

The angel, or one of the angels, then goes inside to sit and wait for the ladies.

Turned out the ladies were wishing for and worrying about the wrong thing. The stone was not a problem for the one who had the power to overcome death. In fact it sounds like the heavens had a lot of fun getting rid of that puny little rock.

Point made—what rock? Jesus is risen.

Let him roll away your stone today. Expect a bigger miracle, nothing is to big for the one who conquered death.

Rolling Away the Stone

“I felt like I was trapped in a tomb. . . All I had in there with me was a bag of weed, a bottle of whiskey and a bunch of good time friends to help me consume it.

“Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 

Mark 16:3-4

How often do we focus on the stone, beat our heads against it, rail at it, pray about it. And finally just camp out on it because—well, it’s not going anywhere.

The Marys and Salome knew that there was death behind that stone—but they didn’t believe they could do anything about it so they just focused on the stone. ‘Stupid rock! If only we could have done this the other day, before they sealed the tomb, we wouldn’t have to come back and worry about it now.’

If only Jesus hadn’t come back to Jerusalem, if only the Priests had listened to Jesus, if only he had been nicer to them, played their games. If only. . .  there is always an if only isn’t there? But we cannot go back in time, what is done is done. So now all we can do is worry about this big rock that is blocking the way.

Am I talking about the ladies or us? Both.

I can’t really get to my Lord because this stone is in my way.

‘I have to deal with it, or, I guess, just live on this side of it. Scared, alone and hopeless. Just as well, the situation is all hopeless anyway, there’s nothing on the other side but decay.’

That is just a lie, a distraction to keep you from even going to the tomb. At least the women had the faith to go to Jesus, even expecting little when they got there—’all we need is the stone removed—please?!’

Their mustard seed of faith was rewarded, and they realized that their stone, just like the ones Jesus had rolled away from their hearts when he was here, was gone.

Your stone can be drugs, eating, money worries or money clutching. It can be gambling, emotional scars, drugs, alcohol, pornography, physical pain and sickness, family issues, job issues, the cares of the world, the love of the world, fear, anxiety, depression—all of them huge stones that we push and push on to no avail—they are just there, keeping us from our Lord. And true life.

My biggest stone was being stoned. I spent years running around, running my own life, seeking everything that I thought my flesh needed and wanted, but got farther and farther away from my Lord until I felt like I was trapped in a tomb with no escape. All I had in there with me was a bag of weed, a bottle of whiskey and a bunch of good time friends to help me consume it.

But I was seeing and feeling more and more that I was dead and empty inside, and no amount of dope—not weed, not mushrooms, not cocaine, not acid, not speed—whiskey, beer or Tequila could cover it any more. And all the parties always seemed to end in heartache leaving me more lonely and empty than ever. Even the good money I was making in the welding trade that I had worked so hard to excel at was not rewarding in the least.

Then I started to hear the Lord call from the other side of the rock—’I’m here, waiting for you.’ I began to hear preachers preaching about a plan that the Lord had for me. I could no longer stand it—I had to get past that rock. But who will roll the stone away? I tried doing it myself. I tried quitting the drugs.

No smoking, no drinking, no snorting— nothing for a month! I declared. I am pushing that stoned stone aside.

Hah, it didn’t hardly budge an inch. I didn’t make it until the end of the first day and I was not only not moving that stone any farther, it was rolling back over the top of me.

I cried out “Lord, I do not want to be this way! I want to follow you, I want to really know you! I will do whatever it takes, go wherever you ask, I’ll read and study, pray and preach, I’ll make a fool of myself, go to the deepest darkest jungles—whatever—just roll away this stone—I can’t even breath anymore, I can’t stand to live this way!”

 ‘Out of my distress I called on the Lord, he answered me and set me free.’” The words of Psalm 118 that jumped out at me that night of my desperation from the old bible I hadn’t opened in years.

Those words became the messenger from God—the angel—that crashed to the earth like lighting in my soul and shoved that stone away like it was made of paper mâché. It turns out the stone wasn’t the issue.

The stone, the drugs and drink,  were hiding the death inside that was caused by my distrust in the Lord and my desire to maintain control. My real issue, the real stone, was the emptiness that came from running from God, from living for the flesh. I was worrying about the stone of addiction being rolled away when inside I was a rotting corpse.

When I decided to take that walk to the garden where I had last seen my Lord, to express my deep and unwavering love and devotion to him, when I declared that I would trust him, if he only rolled that stone away—that stone was obliterated.

When the words of that Psalm opened my eyes to see that I needed to trust Jesus and stop worrying about satisfying the desires of a never satisfied flesh, that I needed to stop worrying about what all my good time party friends thought of me, to see that I would never be free unless I cried out to Jesus—I knew I had to trust him, Trust him with my life, my heart and my soul. And he came crashing out of that tomb I had locked him in, in the dark recesses of my heart, and set me free.

The love and freedom I felt, the peace and the joy I felt, all of this came in an instant that night as I was kneeling on my living room floor with withdrawal cravings wracking my brain and body. On a cold January night the resurrection power of Jesus who walked out of that tomb and embraced me, set me free.

And I have never looked back.

And I have never regretted it for a minute. I have a freedom a purpose and the power of God Almighty backing me up. Because I finally believed—really believed. When I finally gave in and quit running from Jesus, decided to trust him with my heart and my life, the desire to dull my senses with dope disappeared. I did not want to miss a thing.

The stone was rolled away, and it was glorious.

I had been focusing on the stone, wanting it to be removed, but it was the death inside that needed addressed. But overcoming that was more than I could hope for–until I did. The miracle I got that evening was more than I could ever hope for, more than I expected. But we serve a God who overcame death–the stones are easy.

Turns out, Jesus didn’t want my promises of sacrifice and devotion–He just wanted my heart.

Crucified

There is just no good way to communicate all that happened when Jesus was crucified, no adequate words to describe nor explain, and surely, it is beyond human comprehension and description, all that happened that day on the cross, in the heavens, on the earth, below the earth, and most importantly and significantly —in the heart of Jesus, the Son of Man, Son of God.

We cannot fathom the depth of the love that held him to that cross and kept him on mission, thus we cannot fathom the depth of the pain he experienced in the depths of his soul as that intense and never faltering love was rejected, scorned and mocked—as those he loved, from his followers, to his people, to his own Father, turned away and rejected him, leaving him to suffer and die misunderstood and unappreciated.

The few who did still love and feel the pain of his ordeal in their souls were left without hope. And this only added to Jesus’ pain. No one seemed to understand that this was all necessary and foretold. Yet, if they had, it wouldn’t have happened; a plan and scenario only His Father could have foreseen and used for good—taking advantage of man’s ignorance and susceptibility to evil influences, to save him from those very things.

Even in their taunts they proclaimed truth, yet failed to understand the words. In three days this temple would indeed be rebuilt. But it would not be a temple built with hands. The large heavy curtain that separated the Stone Temple Sanctuary from the world was torn in two, perhaps because the Spirit of God had left the building— perhaps as a sign that the way was now open for all who wished, to come before the Father—through Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 There would be no more need for a temple made of stone for the Spirit of God would soon be residing in the hearts of those who loved him, a new temple was being prepared that day, and would be completed on the resurrection day—a temple rebuilt in three days.

Preparing this message I prayed “Lord, help me to communicate the significance and gravity of this event, what the cross means to us and what it meant to you. Help me to communicate the price you paid for our sin, for our redemption through your words, from your Spirit, from your heartLord, I hesitated (dare I even say it) help me to see the crucifixion through your eyes.”

But then I knew, that’s what I had to do. To try to take you there, to the cross on that horrific and reality altering day, through the eyes of the Savior. As I said, words can never fully explain, nor minds comprehend, the things of the Spirit that were happening simultaneously in history and in eternity that day. But we have to try.

After all, we were there. It was our sinful flesh that was being crucified that day, the evil that dwells in our hearts was being transposed from us to Christ in those dark hours. His death was our death, his hellish nightmare experience should have been ours.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When Paul said he had been crucified with Christ, it was not word play, that is the reality of the believer in Christ. So, since Jesus became us on the cross, maybe it is not so radical to try and see the cross through his eyes. It is after all, not we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

Through His Eyes

Jesus, the Nazarene, teacher, prophet and miracle worker, is being nailed to a rough hewn and heavy wooden cross, the kind the Romans use to cause a slow and hideous death that becomes a fear inducing spectacle for all to see. The sight of a cross struck fear and revulsion in all, because they knew what it was for—so did Jesus, and it loomed large in his vision just before he was forced to lie on it.

His arms are lashed to the cross beam with ropes and he turns to look at the soldier who has placed a sharp spike against his wrist. He sees the hammer rise and fall and he cries out in pain. He is startled by the sudden intensity of the pain that manages to override momentarily even that of his lash torn back pressed against the wooden beam, and the new puncture wounds being made in the back of his head, as he is forced to lay his thorn crowned head against the cross beam.

But what he sees as he looks through swollen eye lids at the soldier who is swinging the hammer is a man who has no idea the evil he is perpetrating and who it is that he is piercing with the nails. He is just a soldier following orders to execute what he believes to be just another Jewish rebel. Jesus looks at him, the one who sees him as just another worthless Jew to be rid of, and loves him, him and his fellow soldiers; and prays, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The next thing he sees is the soldier reaching over him to nail the accusation against him to the cross above his head. He feels the vibrations of every blow painfully transferred through the three nails holding his hands and feet.

He sees the dusty sandaled feet of those passing close by as they mockingly read the charge on the sign—“King of the Jews” And they laugh as they begin making jokes among themselves at his expense. He sees the hobnailed sandals of the soldiers as they push back the jeering mockers lest someone grab the pile of clothing that Jesus’ had just been stripped of—the sum total of his earthly belongings, now spoils to be gambled for.

To his left and right, he sees from the corner of his eye, other crosses and hears pained and hoarse voices alternating between curses and taunts as they too–mock him.

Lying on his back it is hard to see anything really, as He is forced to squint his burning eyes against the glaring overhead sun, a sun seemingly intent on adding to his misery. Suddenly his vision is swimming as he is quickly hoisted upright in one swift, well practiced maneuver, and he finds himself looking down on his world as the cross is lifted up and dropped with a flesh tearing thud into a hole in the ground.

Looking down

His vision soon clears as his dehydrated and blood loss weakened head stops spinning. He can now see the whole crowd, the same that has jeered and hissed at him all the way to this hilltop. He sees through the blood and sweat that flows unchecked into his tortured eyes, the Chief Priests who are now defiling themselves by looking upon the blood of a man who will soon be dead. Yet Jesus knows they must be there, the Chief Priests are the ones who must oversee this offering of the final Passover lamb.

Mark 15:31-32 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

Yet the taunts of the priests are like a knife to his heart, because he knows that they will suffer greatly for what they do, and they don’t have to —if they had only listened and believed. They were the first ones to be shown the truth; from the prophets, to his visit to the temple as a boy, and his many visits to the temple. God was speaking, and they were scheming.

He looks at the gathered crowd; he sees the faces in the crowd, and he sees into their hearts.

He sees the angry man who just lost all he owned to a crooked steward. He sees the hurting woman who just lost a baby girl to sickness and is despairing beyond words. He sees the horrified child peering out from behind his father. He sees the disappointed rabbi who really believed that he could be the Messiah, but is now angry that he was apparently duped—yet again.

Their taunts and jeers, rage fueled by disappointment and hopelessness, tears at his heart.

He sees the women who followed and cared for him looking on from a distance, horrified and confused. Their faces a mask of disbelief and pain as they weep into their hands and try in vain to comfort one another. He aches to be able to comfort them and tell them to not give up hope, ‘this is not the end’—but he knows that all they can see and hear now is death and despair.

Then he sees a sight that horrifies him more than all the rest—his mother, Mary,  standing next to his good friend and devoted follower—John. She desperately reaches out to him but is held back by John and the gleaming points of Roman spears.

The pain and anguish he sees in her eyes as they search his for some kind of answer, is another knife in his already aching and straining heart. “Mother,” he croaks between labored breathes “behold your son” referring to John. He then admonishes John —’this is now your mother’–care for her.

Everywhere he looks he sees and hears human pain, anguish, anger, fear and rage. All directed at, and magnified by his body pinned to this pagan cross.

But through it all, through the pain induced haze that causes his eyes to dim and nearly black out at times, through the taunts, cries and jeers, he still has a strength and a measure of peace; a strength and a peace that has been with him through all the years of his ministry, a presence he felt even as a child and recognized as a presence that he had known even long before that—a presence and oneness that had been his for eternity past—it was the presence of his Father.

His Father’s Will

He knows he has to do this. He knows the prophecies and the promises, that he is the promised one, the suffering servant, the seed of Evethe Lamb of God, he knows he is in his Father’s will. And that is what gave him the strength and the will to face this day in the first place, to come back to this city knowing it would be his end.

His cousin John had confirmed his mission at his Baptism—”Behold the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” and his Father had sent his Spirit to affirm and empower him in his human and frail form. But what happens now, as he hangs there on that fated cross, he is not prepared for.

Although he knew it had to happen, there was just no way of being prepared for it—the Holy one, the one through whom, for whom, and by whom, all things were created—he who knew no sin, had no way to comprehend, or scale by which to measure, the darkness that He was about to become—in the eyes of his Father.

And he feels the darkness as much as sees it approach.

He turns his eyes heavenward as the bright sun that had earlier tormented him now inexplicably dims until he can see nothing, not with his eyes—but his heart and soul are witnessing things he had never been forced to look upon before, he is feeling things he had never felt, and hearing voices of pain, vileness, condemnation and curses in his head that drown out and overshadow the mocking voices and the angry and anguished cries that have besieged him all day.

But then, the worst pain of all—the heart ripping, spirit killing, bone chilling feeling of sudden emptiness, scorn and abandonment, as all things good, all things right, his very sense of self and his very identity is suddenly ripped away—his Father has turned away—all of heaven, has turned away.

He has become sin, he has become darkness, he has become death. He is totally and utterly alone as all the heinous and vile things mankind has ever done or imagined doing is now in him. He is living it, breathing it, it is emanating from his very pores like the blood he had sweated out just the night before as he anticipated this moment.

He who knew no sin—has become sin. And his Father has forsaken him for it.

He looks down for a moment, forced back into the present by the painful reality of having to pull himself up against the nails just to take a breath as the pressure on his hanging torso makes it impossible to breath normally, and he sees, in the light of a few hastily acquired torches, the faces of his sheep—the ones he has promised to shepherd even if he has to go looking for them, and he knows—he knows, a sense from somewhere deep in his tortured core, that he has to endure this—for them.

But the anxiety, the rising feeling of panic, the bottomless pit of despair that has taken the place of the fullness and love he had always sensed from his Father is almost more than he can bear, and before he even realizes he has decided to speak, the anguished words of his ancestor King David are ripped from his cracked and bleeding lips—spoken in the language he learned at his mother’s knees “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

And still, the darkness grips him. He vaguely sees a sponge lifted before his face, he smells the sour smell of wine but it is soon withdrawn as those below shout something about Elijah.

He sees in his minds eye the brief image of Elijah as he was on the day that he and Moses had come to prepare him for this day, on the mount of transfiguration. And he is reassured just a bit, just enough to keep him from cursing the day he was born into this vile planet.

And he continues to fight to remember why he is here. To bleed for the sins which continue to course through him, and he understands the darkness of the sun. The Father had turned away from the sin he has become and the light of the world has departed, the Father has looked away and the Life and the Light of men is being extinguished.

Then suddenly, it is done. Three hours of torturous outer darkness separated from the love that is his Father, eons of compiled sin—blasphemies, perversions, murders, greed, vile and heinous acts of every nature, all crammed into the longest three hours ever lived by anyone on this earth—has ended.

He is still on the cross, he is still bleeding and fighting for every breath, still racked with pain and heartbroken for those he loves—but he sees the sun began to shine again and he hears the voice of his Father as coming from a distant place, and it whispers—it is finished.

‘It is finished Son’— words that Jesus quietly repeats. He looks down and sees the wide eyes and expectant faces of the now silent crowd and he knows that he has completed his mission. He senses his Father drawing nearer and he cries out— a cry of triumph mixed with pain and fury as from a warrior who has vanquished his foes yet still bleeds from the fight that was fueled by a need to finally and utterly destroy the enemy.

The body still wants to fight, his muscles quiver with the effort and his mind races with the implications of it all but he knows he is finished—for now. There is nothing left to do here and he releases himself from his battered flesh, he gives up his spirit, with the words, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.”  

 He is leaving his battered body behind, the shell of the man he had become for thirty three years, but he knows he will return because he knows he has defeated death on that Roman cross—no one else knows it yet—but they will—soon, very soon.

 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid. Mark 15:46-47

Jesus Cancelled

All is as was prophesied long ago. And we are not deceived or blind to the truth.

Jesus suffered the injustice and acquiesced to their illegitimate authority for one reason, so that we could be free of any verdict that unjust and illegitimate courts of law and public opinion could endeavor to impose on us. He carried the shame of rejection so that we would not. But alas, he is being rejected still, he and all who follow–cancelled, or so they think.

Rejected

We are entering into a season in this nation where we are becoming, as believers in Christ and adherents of his word, fair game for persecution and censorship. The enemy has gained the highest platforms and controls the loudest voices and he is doing everything he can to cause society at large to despise and reject the message of the gospel and we who dare speak and live it.

I don’t need to give you examples. If you need them you are the problem. All of you who are awake can see and hear the outright insanity and blatant lies that are being propagated as true and proper behavior; the killing, enslavement and perversions of our most innocent and susceptible, the militarization and transformation of our once free republic, and the abolishment of the rights that have protected the church and all God fearing people for so long.

All is as was prophesied long ago. And we are not deceived or blind to the truth.

Evil is called good and good is called evil. And those who dare speak out or express concern are quickly dumped on, ostracized, threatened and destroyed.

This is more than an attack on our nation, more than an attack on our traditions and values, this is not politics as usual—this is an outright war on the church—on us as Christians. And unless we are bold enough, prayed up and anointed enough, loving and courageous enough, to turn the hearts of this nation back to God, this will only get worse—until we are done and gone.

The church, and then the blessed and free nation where all people could worship their God as they see fit, will  be no more. And we will just be a pawn in the enemies’ end time strategy to destroy the crown of God’s creation—mankind— and doom us all to eternal death, separated from our Father.

But, if we recognize and hold on to the knowledge, the hope and the truth of our place in Christ, to the fact that no matter how despised and rejected we may be by the shrill and intimidating voices coming at us from all sides, we are not despised, we are not rejected, by the only one that matters, our Father. Because we know and have not despised and rejected his Son and the grace and hope that he gives us.

 And we have a secret weapon that the world cannot know for it neither sees him nor knows him but we know him for he is in us and is with us—the Spirit of power, the Holy Spirit of God.

When all seems hopeless and lost—God is just getting started. That’s when the miracles kick in. That’s when the Holy Spirit, which Peter did not have that dreadful night in the courtyard by the way, kicks in, rises up and says—yes, I know the Galilean, and I am with him and will always be with him. And I will not be weeping any bitter tears today.

Those days of powerless victimization and fear are gone. We are Spirit empowered and fearless warriors of Christ. And the enemy fears us. We will not be so easily cowed into silence or denial.

There is only one reason the enemy would be so determined and blatant in his attempts to silence us—because he fears the truth of God’s word in our mouths.

Time and again he has been defeated by God’s word. Even in what he thought would be his greatest triumph, destroying the very Son of God by deceiving his people into rejecting and despising him even to death, he was being defeated by the word of God, because he didn’t understand the prophecies that he was fulfilling in his blind hate fueled rage.

God used the hatred and evil that was unleashed by man’s disobedience and blindness to evil to achieve his ultimate purpose, to restore a real relationship with Him.

And I have to believe the same is happening today. So yeah, the enemy may think he is having his day, but it will be short lived, because our God lives. And his word never goes unfulfilled—never.

The more this world and the enemy tries to stop us, the more the words of the prophets are being fulfilled and setting us up for the final outpouring of His Spirit and the return of our King.

Satan is a fool and so are all those who do his bidding. He is only hastening his final demise.

We who love our God, love his word and welcome His Holy Spirit are never alone, never despised or forgotten by our God. And we will not, nor cannot, be cancelled!

God bless America!

Abomination That Causes Desolation

‘But the temple is no more—how can this be?

End times prophecy is tricky business with dual and even triple fulfillments, apocryphal symbolism and out of the blue proclamations and narratives that morph from historical records, to warnings of impending calamities, into oracles of events that we cannot ever fathom or foresee until they happen.

But in every case, as history has proven out, when they do happen, it is always starkly obvious for those who are watching. And it is always awe and faith inspiring.

Chapter 13 of Mark is full of fantastic prophetic warnings, and it all ends with this admonition from Jesus:

32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!Mark 13

It seems like Jesus is trying to tell us something—oh, I know, watch!

It would appear that one of those significant events to be on watch for would be the horrific desecration of the temple.

The “abomination of desolation.” Jesus is quoting Daniel here from centuries earlier; words that were initially fulfilled by the Greeks back in 168 BC when Antiochus Epiphanies set up an altar for Zeus on top of the Lord’s altar and sacrificed a pig in the Temple.

The fact that Jesus is repeating this prophecy in answer to the question as to when the temple will be destroyed, again, couched in a warning to flee when it happens, would indicate that it has not been completely fulfilled. And, indeed later, the Romans would desecrate the temple just before they would go on an all-out campaign to destroy Israel and to wipe it’s memory from the map, literally, renaming it Palestine.

But most scholars believe, and it would seem to be the case in the context of the world ending prophecies to follow—like a burnt out sun and stars falling like fall leaves— and in light of other biblical warnings, that Jesus is also referring to a much later temple desecration to come.

This may well be describing apostacies that the Anti-Christ, or man of sin, as he’s referred to elsewhere will commit in the temple. Some believe he will set up the image of the beast in the temple—the beast he forces the world to worship in the last days of his reign of terror as described in Revelation.

Temple?

‘But the temple is no more—how can this be?’ Huh, just a generation or two ago they also said ‘Israel is no more—how can this be?‘ We serve a God of the impossible. The meaning of these prophecies is often debated on the grounds that the temple cannot be rebuilt. Excuse me but—that’s absurd.

Because of Jesus’ words here, also repeated verbatim in other gospel accounts, I have always looked for the temple to be desecrated as a precursor to the day of the Lordfor these prophecies to be literally fulfilled.

I’m just reading the prophecies. Like this maddeningly out of the blue tidbit in Thessalonians, offered by  Paul as a supplement to a verbal lesson he gave them earlier, of which there is no record. All we have is this:

This passage would seem to indicate that the literal temple would be intruded upon by a usurper who sets himself up as God and actually takes a seat in the temple. If that’s not an abomination, I don’t know what is. Now, there is disagreement as to who this is, if it had been fulfilled by the Roman invaders. Or, if it is future, is it referring to a rebuilt temple, or to our own hearts as we are now temple of the Holy Spirit?

There is no historical figure who completely fulfills this prophecy and the immediate and plainest understanding of these words would make one picture an actual stone and mortar temple— The temple.

Which means what? That the temple would need to be rebuilt before the return of Jesus for his elect. And this all seems to be an echo of Jesus’ own words in Mark.

Impossible?

A rebuilt temple is something that indeed seemed entirely impossible until 1947 when Israel returned to their land with the blessing of the United Nations and reclaimed Jerusalem as their capital, which finally got the blessing of the United States just three years ago under President Trump with the relocation of our embassy.

Don’t underestimate the significance of the most powerful nation on earth acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital city of the people of the covenant after two thousand years of exile. I can guarantee you the enemy is livid over this, as are all his servants.

“But there is a mosque sitting smack on top of the apparent temple site!” Yes, Captain Obvious, there is. But God has overcome much larger obstacles than that in preserving Israel as a people without a homeland for thousands of years, even in the face of varied and many attempts at genocide over the centuries. Restoring the land to them and then preserving them there, even though they are a tiny island in a sea of mortal enemies.

So don’t be so sure there is anything in the way. Watch, that is the point of today’s lesson—watch. The branches of the fig tree are getting tender. (Mark 13;28-30)

Keep an eye on Israel, keep and eye on your own heart and fight with all your might to preserve and restore truth and the freedom to live and proclaim it. Pray for the church, for the United States, and keep praying for Israel—for their protection and for them to recognize their Messiah—many have and are.

Israel is intrinsically intertwined and a major, the major, player in all of end times prophecies. How we relate to and support or neglect Israel will determine how we fare as a people in these final days as well. So, be watchful for all of that.

The enemy is not done trying to destroy Israel and his greatest and final attempt is yet to come.

Armageddon

Blessed is he who watches. . .” We must be vigilant, watchful for the tricks of the enemy, so that we are not deceived into unwittingly supporting him against Israel, and against us– the church.

The enemy has plans, plans that are laid out in great detail in the old and new testaments, to stop and destroy Israel. He needs to destroy Israel because he is well aware of their key role in the final redemption and judgements of this earth that spell his final doom. The final desecration of the rebuilt temple in Israel will start the final countdown to our Lord’s return to avenge and rescue his people.

But we already know his battle plans;

This is but a small snippet of the great details given of this final battle and the preparations for it found in scripture. But there is something in the way right now, preventing thisus.

It would seem that we, the United States, are the major obstacle to the plan of the enemy, by way of the Antichrist and his pet beast, to his being able to make war on and destroy Israel.

Which is why the enemy is hell bent on destroying us, at least as the God fearing, freedom loving country that we have been who sees Israel as being the rightful inhabitants of the promised land and the people of the covenant of which we are now benefactors.

This goes way beyond politics, we are in a battle for the soul and survival of this nation, the world. Jesus will not let his people, nor his creation, be destroyed, and he will put an end to it all before that happens—and then, it is all over. Then, the day of the Lord will come. And that final battle on the plains of Megiddo will not go quite like the enemy hoped.

Because, news flash—Our Lord was Jewish, and he plans on returning to the same land from whence he left.

Zechariah goes on the say that Israel will be saved by fleeing through the valley created by the Lord’s splitting of that mountain. And the carnage that befalls the enemies of Israel in that day is described in great detail as well. And it is not for the squeamish.

So, If this is the generation that will witness the final days and get to represent Jesus Christ even in the midst of the great tribulation, what an honor and a blessing to be counted among those chosen for such a time as this, for our eternal reward will be glorious and wonderful beyond comprehension.

Watch, stay diligent, stay on task, and keep the faith. That’s what Jesus wants us to really understand, that he has not forgotten nor forsaken us and we are on the cusp of the greatest adventure of all time.

Even so, come Lord Jesus–come.

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

Rev 22:16—17

Church is Not…

Jesus was asked the question one day; By what authority are you telling us how we should do things here in the house of the Lord?’ Boy, if that doesn’t rank as the stupidest and most ironic question of all time, then it is certainly high on the list. ‘Who am I to demand that things be done God’s way in God’s house? Well, I’m God—any more questions?’

The stories in Mark 11 can be difficult, it’s like–Wow Jesus seems a bit harsh in his responses to a couple of different situations here—is he having a bad day or what?

No, Jesus is just done. He knows his time is short and he had no more patience for seeing his Father’s resources and gifts wasted, squandered and used for personal enrichment at the expense of those who need fed.

From a distance the temple of Jesus’ day looked spectacular. It was by far the grandest and most magnificent thing most of these people had ever seen. ‘Surely God dwells and moves in this place and I am excited about getting what my weary soul needs once I’m in there.’

Then they walk in and find themselves surrounded by a market place atmosphere being overseen by high and mighty looking men in very expensive clothing and bling that cost more than many of them made in a year, or maybe a lifetime. Yet the smell of manure hangs heavy in the air.

They are told their sacrifices are not sufficient—but for a price, they can exchange them for an acceptable animal, and they can exchange their heathen currency for a holy shekel—for a small fee of course—so that they can pay their entrance fee. . . er temple tax, and of course, still tithe and give alms.

Then, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with the crowd and watch the spectacle of the sacrifices being made by the professional priests up on the big platform—but then, ‘please move along, there are others waiting to come in.’

They then find themselves back out in the street, hungry both in body and in soul, feeling empty and taken advantage of. So they use what little money they have left to buy lunch and head home telling themselves that they are better off because they did their religious duty and went to the temple.

‘Well, maybe next time I’ll feel like I had an encounter with God. I had better start saving up now.’

People were going to the temple hungry and going away hungrier—and that made Jesus furious. He could see exactly what was going on, he could see into the hearts of greed that had made the temple a business, and he could see the sorrow and despair in the hearts of those who came to be blessed and forgiven but found only outstretched hands, not in blessing but in taking.

They were not being challenged to draw near to God, they were being manipulated, shamed and marketed—all wrapped in a polished veneer of religion to make them think this was all necessary to keep them from being damned—it was truly evil.

So yeah, a little violent overthrow of some tables was in order to try and set things right. But the arrogance of the priests, Scribes and Pharisees would not let them see that Jesus was trying to spare them the true destruction that their hard hearts would bring on. When the Romans would destroy their temple and the very ground it was rooted on.

Then they, like the fig tree, would be cut off from the source of life.

Sobering

To me there is a very sobering lesson in all of that for us as the church and for me as a follower of Christ. Are we being fruitful? Am I being fruitful?

We have talked about this often lately because it is literally happening at breakneck speed all around us—churches and ministries drying up from the roots. Dying overnight. It has been happening for several years actually. Church attendance in America is dramatically down and churches have been closing left and right.

And now the process has been sped up as all that many ministries depended on—the financing their huge buildings, staff, programs depend on—has been severely cut. Because people have either not been allowed to go to these programs and huge buildings, or because they realized that they were not truly being fed, only entertained, so they decided to stay home—and, to keep their money.

Or they’re happy to just watch church online—it’s just so much easier, and I don’t have to pretend to be okay.

Thank God for the means to bring the message to those who cannot be in house, but I’m sorry—that is not church.

Church is not—

Church is not just a sermon, online or otherwise. Churc is a gathering together of the saints- a coming together to learn, worship, encourage and exhort, pray and visit, laugh and cry, hug and touch—things we all need as human beings—as the church of Jesus Christ. Church is not a place or an event, we are the church—wherever we are together is church.

Church is us coming together to have God sit enthroned on our praises, to have Jesus move among us when two or more gather, to feel the presence of God as we invite his Spirit to move among us for healing and correction.

Church is a place where you gather to be taught the word of God by a pastor who loves you and knows you, who invests in you so that you can bear fruit to share, who challenges you to be a better person, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, not just a ticket holder to heaven.

It’s a place where we bring our voices together and lift our songs and our hands straight to the throne of God and feels his pleasure in our sacrifice and open our hearts to hear his voice.

Church is where we gather to share and give of what we have been entrusted with, knowing that it will be invested back into the Kingdom where God would reveal needs to alleviate, and opportunities to sow and equip the workers of the harvest.

When a place that calls itself a church stops doing that, any and all of that, Jesus takes issue and starts cleaning house. As a pastor in this consumer oriented society where the church at large has embraced a marketing mindset not unlike the cooperate world, that is very frightening.

I have been involved in church leadership and ministry for a few decades now and I know all the reasons for everything shiny and professional, all the bling and the pop, the technology and the marketing—and it all seems very reasonable and necessary to take advantage of every means possible to share the gospel.

But it too often turns into a beast that has to spend more energy and resources to feed itself then it does others.

Then you wake up one day and find that the people who are being drawn to your grand design are walking away empty never to return.

‘I thought; Surely God dwells and moves in this place and I was excited about getting what my weary soul needed once I was in there.’

Instead they found salesman with outstretched hands promising the means to a more pleasing sacrifice to the God who wants to bless you—if you’ll only commit to the program and keep paying the temple tax. Then Jesus comes in and turns over the money tables and drives out the merchants, rebukes the priests, and speaks in parables the mysteries of the kingdom for those who have ears to hear.

True Church

And those who stick around to hear, will be asked to share—and they will. Because they cannot hold in the fire. God cannot be stopped and his plan cannot be thwarted—and the enemy fears that. The true church will survive—and prevail.

“Because the people have spoken these words,
    I will make my words in your mouth a fire
    and these people the wood it consumes. Jeremiah 5:14

Who gave you the authority!? God did. Any more stupid questions?

No one can stand up to or prevail against the word of God and the wisdom given to those who love God and his word.

Don’t give up, don’t give in, this is just getting good. . .

We Just Aren’t Getting It–Yet

Or —‘What the Hell is Going on Here!’

We are all a part of a much larger plan and are being prepared for the full implementation of it.

As the followers of Jesus headed to capital city with him, they had visions of grandeur that turned into horror.

They say a baby’s world ends where their vision does. If they cannot see it, it does not exist. So when Momma leaves the baby’s sight she has left him all alone in the world. But when their world is about to end because there is this sudden pain of hunger or an uncomfortable squishy feeling in the diaper causing a wail that in their minds can be heard by all of creation—all 10 feet or so of it—Momma suddenly comes back into the world and fixes it.

‘Momma—don’t you leave me again, when I wake up you had better be here. I have big plans of a bottle, a burb and a song.’ As far as they know that is all there is and all there ever will be. Sometimes that daddy person pops his face into the world and makes goofy noises—but then he just vanishes also.

A baby cannot fathom that there is a whole grand world out there full of many babies just like them and that the people who pop in and out of their world have a life and an existence apart from them, and that they are all part of a bigger plan, of which they will be more and more a part of.

Their scope and perception is very limited—as is ours. We have a hard time imagining anything beyond our own corners of the world, let alone Heaven and the spiritual realm, the true nature of eternity and the grand scope of the billions of human souls just like ours who all have a stake in how eternity plays out.

We cannot fathom how it is all affected by what happens here in the realm of time and space where the most important thing is how we feel at the moment. We think we get it, and we try really hard to look past our noses—but we are really clueless.

When our expectations of what is going to happen, what must happen, do not happen—we lose all hope; “The world will never be the same, there is no way this can work out. ‘Lord how can you just leave me here hanging like this? This person must be president, this person must be stopped, this policy must be secured, this wrong must be righted, I have to be allowed to do this and that, go here and there, I must be seated at the right hand of power— I must have my bottle filled and my diaper changed today or my world will come to an end!’

No little Johnny—just be patient, don’t sell the farm just yet—there’s a much bigger picture, a much larger battle, a much grander plan being implemented and today is just a tiny part of it.

Just because you’re uncomfortable today does not mean you have been abandoned. Just because you sister dumped the strained peas on your head and seems to have gotten away with it because daddy was off in the kitchen for a moment, doesn’t mean you are forever doomed to have a sticky head and a mocking sibling.

Okay, that got a little strange and I’m not sure where to take it from there, but I hope you get the point. We do not see the big picture, we do not know how today will affect tomorrow and we certainly do not know what tomorrow holds and just exactly what our Father in Heaven had planned for us as we squabble over the strained peas.

But I do know this—we are all a part of a much larger plan and are being prepared for the full implementation of it.

Today we may feel like helpless children—I think that is God teaching us that we must be like helpless children, we must be humble, urgently seeking our Father; ‘Please! Come back into my world and fix this—I can’t!’ Exactly—you cannot fix it. Only God can.

You just need to learn to trust, to be patient, to look for and be ready for, the day when you are used to win the final victory.

Today you are the servant of all, taking the scorn, the mocking and the beatings so that tomorrow you can be great, so that you can be used of God and see his glory revealed, washing away all the darkness and vileness that has mocked us and oppressed— not just us, but our God as well.

Today we are being taught these lessons, being taught how to trust and persevere so that we will still be here when His day comes. In the meantime it will get messy, and it is. Nothing really worth having comes without a price and a fight.

Hard Lessons

The twelve were learning this on this journey to Jerusalem.

The disciples expected Jesus to just waltz in and claim the throne. They weren’t understanding the fights required to get to where they were truly headed, the patience, determination and faith it would require. Nothing good comes easy. Not when evil insists on having it’s day.

The 12 fully expected to see everything work out according to the scenario they had imagined and conjectured, maybe even by the end of the week—’We know what’s going on, we know the scriptures, we have been following and being taught by the Messiah himself day and night for three years! I mean, it just has too, because the only other outcome is our end. We are not welcome in Jerusalem, the seat of power, not if we are with Jesus and are known as his followers.’

So this must be it! This is our day! Here we go!

They were sadly and profoundly mistaken. Instead of the glory they expected and promised one another, by the end of the week the  scorn and violence they feared had fully overtaken them, murdered their King, turned them into refugees and outlaws hiding for fear of their lives—silenced.

Glory revealed

But what happened three days later? The very thing they were promised—Jesus rose again and he was seated on the throne. But that throne and that kingdom was not earthly, the throne was at the right hand of the Father and the kingdom was the universe, and, our hearts.

The days of scorn, mocking, abuse and violence ended in the revealing of the Son of God in all his Glory. And suddenly—they, who had been scorned and mocked as ignorant fisherman and uneducated nobodies from obscure fishing villages up north, would be looked to as the ultimate authorities on all things concerning the Messiah.

They were the experts and the final word in the quickly expanding church of Jesus Christ that would soon eclipse the precious traditions and religion that the Pharisees and Priests clung to, leaving the experts who scorned them looking like fools. And they were. Fools who completely missed what God was doing because of their arrogance. Because they were sure that they were first. But in the Kingdom, the first will be last.

The follower of Jesus who thought they had missed out on and blown their chance for glory days because it didn’t happen in their time and in their way, were given their positions of authority in the Kingdom just when they least expected it, after they thought all was lost. Because they had drank from the cup and shared in the baptism of Jesus.

But today, heading toward Jerusalem, they are still in the humbling and learning stages and things are about to get real.

Before they could be washed in the blood and baptized with fire they had to see the blood shed and fight the fires of hell’s fury. They may have been born and raised at the knees of the rabbi’s who taught them the prophets and the law, they may have been hearing talk of the Kingdom to come straight from Jesus for three years now, but they were still a long way from glory, at least as far as the price to be paid.

They still were not prepared nor seemed to understand the suffering that must happen first.

See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

They had to pay their dues so to speak, learn their lessons, get kicked around by the best for a bit, mocked, scorned, bruised and tried—it would be nothing compared to what their Lord would suffer of course, but nonetheless it all seemed pretty hopeless and final; ‘This is as big as our world gets and we just lost it allwe just watched our last chance die.’

Little did they realize.

Fury

People accuse Spirit filled believers and “Evangelicals” of being out of their minds. But it is really the devil who is out of his mind-with fury.

People were used in earnest by the enemy of our souls to try to stop Jesus in his mission to bring people to his Father. His family thought him mad, the religious elite thought him demon possessed, and the government thought him a threat to power. Why would we think our mission, to bring people to the Father, would be any easier?

Correction: Mark 3::21-22

Just like any power hungry world leader, inclined towards evil, the enemy of our souls is never satisfied with what he holds, he always wants more— more territory, more death, more captivity, more fear, addictions, sickness, fear, more control—he wants it all.

He can only do that by stopping us, and by proxy, stopping Jesus. Something he has been trying to do with varying degrees of success since the days Jesus walked the earth and took away his right to keep us enslaved in fear of death and judgement.

 He is now out of his mind with fury and is determined to deceive all of us into believing that God’s ways are foolishness and madnessthat the lies he spreads are superior to our archaic ways and beliefs.

By changing the language— the meaning and acceptance of words— and vilifying those who believe in right and wrong, good and evil, he turns wrong into right, truth into lies, murder into choice, perversions into preferences, lusts into needs, violence into peaceful protests, scripture into hate speech and on and on.

But no matter how he schemes and blusters, God’s word remains and continues to change lives and keep God’s kingdom present in his dominion, and Satan’s fate sealed. But he keeps trying. Just like the last great European battle of World War 2, the Battle of the Bulge, an all but defeated enemy, Germany, threw everything they had into one last gasp effort in a battle that destroyed thousands on both sides but ended in the Allies destroying Hitler’s ability to wage war entirely.

It was a doomed effort but in the midst of it, the soldiers hunkered down in their frozen fox holes in the middle of the Ardennes  Forest, only knew that they were in a fight for their lives moment by moment, but they never gave up because they knew they could not loose. They were the U.S. Army and their cause was righteous.

I think that’s where we are, in the midst of perhaps the last great push by the enemy to destroy the church, to push us back and keep us from storming his gates.

The battles are ramping up and becoming more extreme in their vehemence and absurdity. Hitler mustered up children and senior citizens to fight to the death in that last battle knowing that they could not win. But he was determined to inflict as much damage as possible. He even ordered his generals to destroy their own cities if they retreated just to spite his enemies.

The generals refused to do it, it was indeed an absurd order, and fight; and they knew it.

Too bad the leaders of the enemies army in our own battles don’t see the absurdity of destroying your own cities. I talked to my Dad yesterday again about the destruction of many of our favorite old places in downtown Minneapolis. Between the shutdowns, looting and burning, the city is never going to be the same. It just makes me sad, Minneapolis was a wonderful and uniquely Minnesotan place, my birthplace, a place of generations of family history and treasured memories for.

And that is happening all over the country. But we know who is behind it. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. We know who he is, and he and his minions know who we are as well. We are the army of God, sons and daughters of that same God.

The enemy, Satan, is showing his hand in all of this like never before because the more furious and desperate he becomes, the more obvious it is just how truly evil and hateful he is, as his thin veneer of justice and moral superiority is wearing through and the ugliness revealed. And it should disturb and motivate us to shine even brighter even as the darkness does its utmost to overwhelm us.

Having the enemy expose himself should encourage believers to pray more earnestly and specifically, and even be excited, because for all the seeming power and influence the enemy seems to have—we know we can have so much more to counter. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the worldright? Now we get to prove it.

But it’s hard I know. No one wants to be seen as mad, out of their mind or just plain ignorant. And that’s the brush we can get painted with. That’s a strategy the enemy uses to bind us so he can plunder our worlds.

But don’t get discouraged. If people thought Jesus was out of his mind, why would we expect to be treated any differently? Don’t let the enemy stop you from being who the Father created and called you to be and whom Jesus freed you to be. God wants to use you to bless, heal and deliver others from the lies of hopelessness and worthlessness.

We cannot let the world determine our worth and our usefulness—especially to the kingdom of God. We cannot let anyone deter us from speaking the truth as God reveals it to us. We cannot let anyone deter us from doing the good we were created and called to do and we cannot stand by and watch others suffer if we can help them. Whether it’s prayer for healing, a word of encouragement or correction, a prayer for deliverance or even just a much needed hug.

God calls the foolish, so if others call you the fool, shame and slander you to shut you up or stop you, consider that a confirmation of your call and an affirmation of your effectiveness.

You are not in this fight alone, we might be seen as an army of fools, but we we are fools for Christ, and together we are unbeatable!