Eyes Wide Shut – Pete Garcia - https://www.rev310.net/post/eyes-wide-shut
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Revelation 3:18
Recently, I sat thru a sermon based on the principles of hope. The pastor gave a somewhat stirring message centered on living as a hopeful people in a society gone off the rails. His conclusion, summarized, was that as the world gets crazier and darker, people will turn to Christ because we are finally getting serious about our faith. To be fair, I didn't sit through the first three sermons in this series, however, I don't think, given the tenor of this last message that they were any better. This last sermon had four points to it with which, at least the first three I had no major issues. However, it was on his final point that he came out of left field and really turned his previous three points on their heads.
That’s my beef with all of this prophecy jargon that’s on the Internet. Let’s look out here. Don’t worry about the things that God has right in front of you to deal with because you worrying about all of that and focusing on all that and getting all the timeline just right...it’s not gonna do anything other than get you distracted from what’s right in front of you. These are the things God has called us to. The reason that the church, if it doesn’t feel like the church isn’t advancing, it is not because God isn't coming, it's because we’re not dealing with the things that are important that He’s called us to. We are not dealing with the responsibilities that are right there in front of us that God has called us to.
If this sentiment sounds familiar, it should. It is the overwhelming present-day consensus for the majority of messages billowing out of evangelical, catholic, and protestant pulpits every week. It's the proverbial either-or scenario. Pastors like this one, seem to think that mature Christians are incapable of both sharing the Gospel and also watching for the Lord's return. That's why I always like to emphasize (somewhat jokingly) that the reality is as mature/maturing believers, we can both walk and chew gum at the same time. It's not an either-or scenario.
However, this pastor's message seemed to indicate that the Church was somehow responsible for fixing all that ails the world. It's a mixture of Amillennialism's "we are the Kingdom" and Post-Millennialism's "we gotta fix this ourselves" sentimentality. I wish this sermon was just a one-off from some fringe church in the middle of nowhere, but it's not. It sounds like every other sermon coming out of a growing chorus of pulpits these days all across our fruited plain. It also sounds like this young pastor has pulled a lot of his talking points about getting 'busy' from books like The Purpose Driven Life. Who else embraces this dismissal of Bible prophecy? Quoting from Dr. David Reagan's article titled "The Abuse of Bible Prophecy," he lists the following:
1) Rick Warren
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, he mocks Bible prophecy when he states: “If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.” He goes on to characterize prophecy as a “distraction” and says that anyone who lets himself get involved in distractions like studying prophecy “is not fit for the kingdom of God.”4
2) Tony Campolo
In his book, Speaking My Mind, he attacks believers in Bible prophecy with these words: “Rigid Christians who believe in the possibility of Jesus’ soon return are a real problem for the whole world.” He then proceeds to blame them for wars and a host of other evils.5
3) Bill Moyers
He is a PBS journalist who is also a Baptist seminary graduate. He gave a speech in 2005 in which he denounced Tim LaHaye as a “religious warrior who subscribes to a fantastical theology.” He then claimed that those who believe in Bible prophecy desire environmental disaster “as a sign of the coming apocalypse.”6
4) The National Council of Churches
In December of 2008, the National Council of Churches joined the chorus of scoffers by issuing a denunciation of all those “who consider the state of Israel to be divinely ordained and scripturally determined, with a central role in ushering in the end of history…”
5) Rob Bell
He is one of the leaders of the Emergent Church Movement. Here is one of his many put-downs of Bible prophecy:
I would argue that in the last couple hundred years, disconnection has been the dominant way people have understood reality. And the Church has contributed to that disconnection by preaching horrible messages about being left behind and that this place is going to burn — absolutely toxic messages that are against the teachings of Scripture, which state that we are connected to God, we are connected to the earth, we are connected to each other.
6) Brian McLaren
He is the leading spokesman of the Emergent Church Movement. Writing in Sojourners magazine in April of 2009 he stated that any theology that stresses a special end-time role for Israel is: “Terrible… deadly… distorted… biblically unfaithful… and morally and ethically harmful.”
He further stated that those who take the end-time prophecies about Israel seriously, “use a bogus end-of-the-world scenario to create a kind of death wish for World War III, which — unless it is confronted more robustly by the rest of us — could too easily create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Or consider this incredible statement from his book, Everything Must Change:10
The phrase “the Second Coming of Christ” never actually appears in the Bible [Hebrews 9:28??] . . If we believe that Jesus came in peace the first time, but that wasn’t His “real” and decisive coming — it was just a kind of warm-up for the real thing — then we leave the door open to envisioning a Second Coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture.
This vision reflects a deconversion, a return to trust in the power of Pilate, not the unarmed truth that stood before Pilate, refusing to fight. This eschatological understanding of a violent Second Coming leads us to believe that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion…
If we remain charmed by this kind of eschatology, we will be forced to see the nonviolence of the Jesus of the Gospels as a kind of strategic fake-out, like a feigned retreat in war, to be followed up by a crushing blow of so-called redemptive violence in the end.
The gentle Jesus of the First Coming becomes a kind of trick Jesus, a fake-me-out Messiah, to be replaced by the true jihadist Jesus of a violent Second Coming. This is why I believe that many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.
His reference to “the gentle Jesus of the First Coming” in this quote immediately reminded me of the words of Jesus in Revelation 2 where He speaks a strong word of warning to the church at Thyatira for tolerating a false prophetess in their midst. Speaking of her, Jesus says (Revelation 2:22-23):
Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
That statement alone should be sufficient to dispel the myth of the supposedly “gentle Jesus of the First Coming.”
McLaren also ridicules the teaching of the Rapture and the Millennial rule of Jesus, and he dismisses Dispensational teachings about the end time as ‘pop-Evangelical eschatology.” Yet Dallas Theological Seminary (a Dispensational school) recently invited him to speak to all their students! [End Quote]
Clearly, the dismissal of Bible prophecy is a subject that has only grown in intensity in recent years thanks to the foolishness of infamous date setters such as the Millerites, Edgar Whisenant, Harold Camping, etc. However, I'd like to begin with several of my own rebuttals to this pastor's sermon (and those like it).
First of all, "prophecy jargon" doesn't come from the Internet. It comes from the Bible. Nearly thirty percent of the Bible is prophetic in nature, and to dismiss it out of hand as a distraction is both dangerous and foolish (see Matt. 16:1-4, 24:24-25).
Secondly, watching for the Lord to return isn't optional for Christians, Jesus didn't leave us that option. It's every bit as instrumental to our walk, faith, and responsibilities as is going out to make disciples of all nations.
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 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 watch. 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— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Mark 13:32-37 (my emphasis)
Sure sounds like a command to me.
Thirdly, if he (and other pastors like him) are serious about getting their congregations on fire for the Lord and getting serious about their faith (as his sermon seemed to indicate) one of the best ways to do that, is to teach and study sound exegetical Bible Prophecy.
Why is that? Because
1) Bible prophecy (eschatology) ties every other biblical doctrine into it giving the believer a well-reasoned and complete understanding of God's word beginning with Genesis 3:15 all the way to Revelation 22:20
2) It loosens our grip on the things of this world- as it was intended to do (Luke 21:34-36)
3) When understood properly, Bible prophecy motivates the believer to get busy doing all the work the Church should be doing (2 Peter 3:10-12)
Lastly, to study Bible prophecy is to study Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:10). If you want a church full of on-fire believers, teach them sound Bible prophecy. When it finally sinks in for people that we as a nation are not going to just continue on with the status quo into some unknowable, distant future, believing Christians will begin to focus on what's important; which is saving souls because that is the only thing we can take with us into eternity.
The age-old trade of pinning Matthew 24:36 to every prophetic discussion was only applicable up to 1948. However, after Israel was rebirthed as a nation again after nearly two millennia of diaspora, we really can't use that excuse any longer. Say what you will, but the fact we have a Jewish Bible, written by Jewish men, about a Jewish Messiah, who foretold on numerous occasions that Israel would be revived as a nation in the last days, doesn't leave us the option to feign ignorance any longer.
Furthermore, Matthew 24:36 was not the final matter our Lord said about the subject (see Revelation 3:3). While it is true that no man (or angel) will know the exact time of His return, we are expected to know the general time of His return so as not to be caught off-guard or asleep (1 Thess 5:1-9, 2 Thess 2:1-8, Hebrews 10:24-25, Revelation 3:3).
The repercussions of dismissing Bible prophecy outright far outweigh any negative aspects of being "distracted." It reminds me of an excellent article written by a Church of Christ professor some years ago in Pepperdine University's Leaven magazine. In his Eschatology: Essential, Yet Essentially Ignored, professor Lynn Mitchell perfectly summarizes the 'theological wasteland' created by the Church of Christ denomination's decades-long, systemic dismissal of all things prophetic. He writes;
All we have left is ah-millennialism.
We are neither passionately radical
nor invigoratingly hopeful.
You see, when you boil it all down, true, biblical Christianity really only has two options. Either it is all true (including Bible prophecy), and we must live as such, or none of it is true, and we are just random stardust floating in space. If the former, then the Church will exist/advance/be removed by the sheer willpower of God, and reality will bend according to His will. If the latter, then, well, what does any of it really matter? Because if the God of the Bible isn't real, then our existence here is accidental and when we die, we will blink off into nothingness. The Apostle Paul addresses a similar argument to the church in Corinth.
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Believers studied in sound eschatology will not live in fear or perplexity at the increased wickedness and lunacy that has currently taken hold of this world, because they will know that this is the way it is SUPPOSED to be at the end. It is this way at the end, NOT because we aren't doing our jobs, but because God's word already said it would (2 Tim 3, 2 Peter 3, Jude, James 5, Rev 3, etc.).
Things aren't going to get better. The Church isn't going to take over the world for Christ. If that were true, then Christ's Second Coming would be unnecessary. While it is true the gates of hell won't prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18), that is not the same as saying Church is going to win the world over so Christ can return. There is a huge difference between a stalemate and a decisive victory. The victory isn't going to be determined by how busy the Church gets in the here and now. The victory will be Christ's alone because only He can bring the Kingdom. If the Church could win the world over for Christ, then why have we waited 2,000 years to do it? The truth is we can't...nor where we supposed to. The Church isn't the Kingdom, nor are we building the Kingdom here on Earth. The Kingdom is what Christ ushers in at His coming.
I suppose one of the things that irked me the most about this sermon I sat thru, was his usage of traditionally prophetically charged passages like Titus 2:11-13 and Hebrews 10:24-25 as talking points, but completely stripping the prophetic significance from them (see 2 Peter 1:20-21). Not that this pastor will ever read or listen to my reply (i.e., prophecy jargon on the internet) however, I would like to ask him a question. Since you used Hebrews 10:24-25 as your closing scripture for the sermon you preached, what "Day" should we see approaching if we are not supposed to be distracted by looking for this Day?
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
I seem to remember Jesus seriously chastising the Pharisees for not being able to recognize the times. As a matter of fact, they missed His birth as well (see Matt 2 and why they didn't go with the Wise Men to see the Christ).
Seriously, I weep for what passes as a seminary degree these days.
Oh, I suppose I'm preaching to the choir here. Most of you have either attended or are attending churches like the aforementioned due to a lack of options where you live or for some other dire reasons. I think the human in me secretly hopes the Rapture happens on a Sunday, JUST so it could catch many of these prophecy-denying clergy in the act of dismissing the very thing they've built their careers off of mocking. I also secretly wish people would get raptured according to their own eschatology. Thankfully, God is not petty like I am. Nevertheless,
If the world is in the mess it's in due to its rejection of the one true God of the Bible, how much more will they be deceived by not knowing what is coming? Put another way, if the world truly knew the coming future, would it still be heading in the direction it's going? Verily I tell you, if Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. knew for sure what was coming, the overwhelming majority would be turning away from their pagan gods to the One True Living God of the Bible. That is the power of the prophetic word. We serve the only true and living God, who had the graciousness to tell us what was coming before it does, so we can warn the world. So important is this final point that 1) the book of Revelation is the only book in the entire Bible that offers a special blessing (twice) to those who read and apply the words of it, and 2) Christ affords a special place and privilege for those who are found faithful in watching (Luke 12:37-40).
In closing, don't let any pastor or theologian (so-called) rob you of your crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) by selling you a humanist, world-based philosophy designed to keep you distracted from what is really coming. This age had a beginning (Pentecost) and will have an end (the Rapture). We are to be busy with the Lord's work, yes, but just remember you are created in the image of God. This means you can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Israel Is Preparing for War – By Amir Tsarfati - https://harbingersdaily.com/worldview-with-amir-tsarfati-israel-is-preparing-for-war/
Shalom from Catania, Sicily! I must admit that as I’m leaving Israel, it is with concern and frustration. Every single person in my country’s military, intelligence, and government knows that the commencement of a very big war is not a matter of if but when.
In the past, America has been the stabilizing power that has kept the dogs at bay. But now, what once was the most powerful nation on earth is being led by an incredibly weak administration that is humiliatingly desperate to make a deal with Iran, seemingly at all costs.
If this new Iran deal goes through, instead of giving the US more influence in the region as they hope, it will essentially render America irrelevant in the Middle East. I love the US; it is like a second home to me. It breaks my heart to see what has become of this country that I have so admired and respected.
The Washington elite believe that if they can only come up with a good deal for Iran, the ayatollahs will gratefully accept it and hold to it. But that is not in their DNA. This administration is expecting those in the Middle East to think and act like Westerners. That’s not going to happen.
They also assume that Israel will go along with the deal because they are dangling the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia as some great reward. Again, that’s not going to happen either. We would love a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, but agreeing with a new Iran deal is far too exorbitant a price.
Soon, the Biden administration will roll out their terrible new deal. Only a compromised and foolish Democrat-led government, along with their liberal, progressive EU buddies, will believe in it. The Israelis won’t buy it. The Saudis won’t buy it. The Iranian regime will gladly sign it, but they won’t hold to it.
Israel, for the sake of its own survival, will end up having to act alone to stop Iran from going nuclear. And that’s when it will all blow up.
So, that’s why as I look forward to what is ahead in Italy and Romania, much of my heart is still back home in Israel. I know that God has His hand on His nation and on His people. I pray for His intervention in the process of this new deal, and that He somehow restores the strength, reputation, and positive influence of the United States of America.
Netanyahu Assures Nation and World of Israel’s Readiness
As I mentioned above, Israel is preparing for war. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the beginning of a meeting with members of the security cabinet to send a message to his country’s citizens and to the world. “We are confident we can deal with any threat on our own, and also with other means…. The reality in our region is changing rapidly. We are not stagnating. We are adjusting our war doctrine and our options of action in accordance with these changes, in accordance with our goals which do not change.” He also took time to reaffirm that Israel was “committed to acting against the Iranian nuclear program, against missile attacks on the State of Israel, and against the possibility of the convergence of the arenas, what we call a multi-front campaign.”
Terror Attack on Israel/Egypt Border
A rare terrorist attack took place on the border between Israel and Egypt. Early Saturday morning, two Israeli soldiers were shot and killed by a member of the Egyptian security services. Because their location was remote, their bodies weren’t discovered until hours later. Once they were found, a manhunt took place, and the gunman was found. A shootout occurred during which the Egyptian and a third Israeli soldier were killed. The Egyptian government claims that it was all a misunderstanding that began as the security agent was pursuing drug smugglers. To Israel, the evidence points much more toward terrorism. Prime Minister Netanyahu is demanding a full investigation and clear answers.
Iran Develops Hypersonic Missile
With much celebration and fanfare, Iran unveiled their first hypersonic missile on Tuesday. The “Fattah” can reach speeds of Mach 13-15 and has a range of 1400 km. Just for reference’s sake, it is 1200 km from Iran’s border to Tel Aviv. This new missile is also capable of performing maneuvers outside the atmosphere that make it almost impossible to destroy.
Thankfully, if the US administration gets that Iran Deal signed, we in Israel won’t have to worry about the ayatollahs strapping a nuclear warhead to a Fattah missile, right? Phew, is that ever a relief!
UN Chooses Iran as Vice President of General Assembly
In a quintessential move which demonstrates what the United Nations truly is, the august body, designed for bringing about peace and harmony throughout the world, has this week voted Iran as vice president of the General Assembly.
This is despite the fact that Iran has murdered or executed well over 500 protesters and imprisoned tens of thousands more in the last nine months since the death of Mahsa Amini who was killed while in custody of the morality police.
It ignores the country’s defiance of the UN’s nuclear watchdogs and the Islamic regime’s stated goal of wiping Israel, a fellow UN member, off the face of the map. I suppose we shouldn’t expect more. It’s just more Utter Nonsense passed by the Useless Nincompoops of the United Nothing.
UAE Leaves US-led Naval Alliance
Not long after leaving a US-led maritime coalition, the UAE appears to be joining a new naval alliance. Led by Iran with the assistance of China, this coalition would include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Iraq, and, possibly, India and Pakistan. This is just one more evidence of the shift of power in the Middle East from the West to the East.
Saudi Arabia Cuts Oil Exports
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that they would cut oil production by 10%. The move, which will drop their output from 10 million barrels a day to 9 million, will likely cause higher prices around the globe. When asked the purpose of the move, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz said at a news conference, “This is a Saudi lollipop. We wanted to ice the cake. We always want to add suspense. We don’t want people to try to predict what we do…. This market needs stabilization.” Ummm, thanks, Prince, for that clarification.
Russia Destroys Ukrainian Hydro-Electric Dam
According to Ukrainian authorities, Russia blew up the Nova Kakhovka hydro-electric dam on Tuesday. The destruction of the dam caused the Dnipro River to flood many towns and cities downstream. Kherson, a city of more than a quarter-of-a-million people was completely flooded. Many consider this to be the most severe, destructive attack by the Russians since the beginning of the war. Moscow, however, denies any hand in the action.
Indian Train Crash Kills Almost 300
A signaling error on Friday led to a collision between two trains in Odisha state in eastern India. At least 288 people have been confirmed dead in the crash with more than 850 others injured. It is the deadliest train crash in India in over two decades. Pray for the families of the dead and the recovery of the injured. Ask the Lord to show Himself in this time of great tragedy and loss.
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Politicians In Our Major Cities Have Decided The Solution To The Crime Wave Is To Help Criminals Commit More Crimes - by Michael Snyder - http://endoftheamericandream.com/politicians-in-our-major-cities-have-decided-the-solution-to-the-crime-wave-is-to-help-criminals-commit-more-crimes/
Should we just go ahead and give free needles and free crack pipes to everyone in America? After all, if New York City and Los Angeles plan to solve their raging drug problems by handing out free drug paraphernalia to addicts, perhaps we can solve our nationwide drug crisis the same way. Let’s make the entire country one big “harm reduction zone” and then everything will return to normal, right? Unfortunately, that is not the way that the real world works. If you give addicts what they need, they will thank you. And then they will go ahead and do drugs right in front of you.
I don’t know why politicians can’t understand that this sort of approach is doing far more harm than good. On Monday, New York City unveiled their new vending machines which will allow addicts to get drug paraphernalia for free…
Big Apple officials unveiled a street vending machine Monday that covers it all when it comes to catering to drug-users, offering free handy paraphernalia such as crack pipes and lip balm — and also Narcan for overdoses.
The vending machine, one of four set to be placed in some of the city’s most drug-infested neighborhoods, swaps out what would be more typical offerings such as candy bars and potato chips for the drug-related freebies to try to combat the surge in overdoses in the five boroughs, city Health Department bigs said.
The pipes that come with the “safer smoking” kits can be used to smoke both crack and crystal meth.
At least they are versatile.
Needless to say, addicts are quite enthusiastic about the new program. In fact, the first vending machine was completely empty less than 24 hours after it was unveiled…
New York City’s first public health vending machine giving out free crack pipes, condoms and Narcan, an overdose-reversing drug, was already empty less than 24 hours after being unveiled by officials.
But eager city officials determined to keep residents in rich supply of clean drug apparatus were quick to revisit the site on Tuesday afternoon with more.
Elan Quashie, the Opioid Overdose Program Director at Services for the Under Served, said: ‘We’re going to restock every day. Probably multiple times a day.’
Are they really planning to restock the machine “multiple times a day”?
I find that hard to believe, because I have never seen such a high level of customer service from government bureaucrats anywhere that I have ever lived.
It turns out that Los Angeles County has a similar program.
But instead of vending machines, social workers actually go around and give “supply kits” to addicts that contain “glass pipes, needles, fentanyl test strips and naloxone”…
Los Angeles County’s Harm Reduction Program has drawn attention for its controversial approach to tackling the fentanyl epidemic.
As part of the program, outreach workers distribute harm reduction supply kits containing glass pipes, needles, fentanyl test strips and naloxone, a drug used to counteract an overdose.
The program comes at a significant cost to taxpayers, with the county spending over $31 million this year, a sharp increase from the previous year’s approximately $5 million expenditure.
That sounds like quite a good deal for the addicts.
But what about the rest of us?
In order to fund their addictions, the addicts have to steal stuff. Retailers have become a primary target, and a new bill that has been going through the California legislature would actually “ban retail staff from stopping thieves stealing from their stores”…
Lawmakers in California are hoping to push through controversial legislation that would ban retail staff from stopping thieves stealing from their stores.
Senate Bill 553, which was submitted by State Senator Dave Cortese, has been passed by the State Senate and will now progress to policy committees in the State Assembly. Cortese hopes the proposed law will prevent workplace violence and protect staff from being forced by their employers to step-in during robberies. But some store bosses are furious about the plans, with the California Retailers Association mocking the move as an open invitation for thieves “to come in and steal.”
It is already ridiculously easy to shoplift in California, and the politicians want to make it even easier?
Are they insane?
The theory is that there will be fewer violent confrontations if the crooks are just allowed to do whatever they want.
Of course the overworked and overwhelmed police rarely get there in time either.
And the few thieves that are caught are let go with just a slap on the wrist as long as they keep their shoplifting under a certain dollar amount.
California is getting dangerously close to legalizing shoplifting, and I am sure that is what many of the politicians would like to see.
But if you use the wrong pronoun or make an “offensive” statement on social media, that could get you into really big trouble.
All over the western world, authorities are really cracking down on such “crimes”. In fact, a new law in Australia would put people in prison for up to three years for making “offensive” statements on social media…
A sweeping law could see Australians jailed for three years for posting what’s deemed ‘offensive’ on Facebook in an attempt to protect minority groups.
Queensland’s Labor government has introduced a bill that would dramatically increase the maximum prison sentence for racist, anti-gay, anti-trans or seriously bigoted statements.
Making such statements already carry a maximum six-month jail term, but that would be increased to three years under the new bill.
This is where the entire western world is going.
Drug addicts, thieves and violent criminals are now considered to be “victims” that must be treated with compassion, but those that express “offensive” views on social media are considered to be a massive threat to “democracy” and must be dealt with ruthlessly.
We live in a society that has been completely turned upside down, and it is only going to get worse in the years ahead.
Once upon a time we were the greatest society on the entire planet, but now we have become a bad joke to the rest of the world.
Is there still any hope that we could turn things around even at this late hour?
The Beginning and the End - Enjoying the God-Centeredness of the Bible - Stephen Witmer - https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-beginning-and-the-end
Do you want to know an inside secret about sermons? You may have noticed it already. If you haven’t, you probably will from now on. Here’s the secret: Preachers often like to begin with an image, story, word, phrase, or Bible passage, and then return to it at the end of the sermon. Those bookends emphasize the preacher’s point, pushing it deeper into the hearts and minds of a congregation.
The biblical authors understood this. King David begins Psalm 103 with an exhortation to himself: “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1). He ends the psalm in exactly the same way: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Psalm 103:22). This bracketing (the technical term is inclusion) underscores the point of the whole psalm. David urges his own soul to praise the Lord. Everything in between provides reasons for praising the Lord, as well as exhortations for all of heaven and earth to join in praise.
If the borders of a psalm may point toward its main emphasis, what about the beginning and end of the Bible as a whole? When we examine the bookends of Scripture, what do we find?
The End from the Beginning
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God . . .” Before anything else existed — sunsets, seaweed, giraffes, algebra, lightning, tomatoes, laughter, supernovas, bubblegum, coffee — there was only the triune God, eternally happy within his triune self. Everything and everyone else came later.
At the other end of the canon, the close of Revelation describes an eternal future in which “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). Notice three truths about these bookends. First, God bestrides the Bible, vibrantly present at both the beginning and end. He’s the Alpha and Omega of the Scriptures, the first and the last. He never began to exist, nor will he ever cease to do so. He is absolute, unchanging reality. Of no one and nothing else is this true. Only God is present at both the beginning and end of the Bible.
Second, something important has changed from Genesis 1 to Revelation 21. At the very beginning of the Bible, God exists within the happy community of himself. At the very end of the Bible, he dwells with his people in a new creation. Where did those people and that place come from? God himself created and redeemed both the people and the place.
Third, it turns out that the story doesn’t end when the Bible does. It goes on and on and on, for eternity. The Bible’s penultimate verse is a cry from the heart: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20), which means that the Scriptures conclude on tiptoe, yearning toward a deeper, fuller, richer experience of the presence of Christ. God’s story is an eternal one. The cry of God’s people is always for more of God.
Story Beneath Every Story
The implication of all this is that the Bible is not ultimately our story but God’s. God himself is the main character — and also the author who dictates the action. The Bible tells primarily of God’s works, ways, and words.
Yes, there are lots of secondary characters and interesting subplots. We learn about the material creation, including the abundance and variety of plant and animal life that fills the world. We read fascinating accounts of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul, and hundreds of others, who make big mistakes and accomplish great things. The Bible bursts with stories of human frailty, rebellion, intrigue, love, courage, and tragedy. But none of those stories is the main one. None of those characters is the hero.
The overarching story line of the Bible is the story of God — the only one present at both the beginning and the end. Everyone (and everything) else is there in the story as an invited guest, beyond their deserving. All the complexities of human existence, and the vast lifespans of galaxies, exist within the eternal story of God.
Overlooking the Lead Role
It may seem blindingly obvious to claim that the Bible is mainly the story of God, but how easy it is to miss. Years ago, a famous Bible scholar wrote an article called “The Neglected Factor in New Testament Theology.” In it, he argued that God himself was the neglected factor! God’s presence was so often assumed by those committed to studying the Scriptures with care and rigor that it was largely overlooked. Yes, this actually happens.
On a more everyday level, many of us could honestly admit that we commonly place ourselves at the center of the stories we inhabit. When we grant God a place (all too often we forget him entirely), it’s to notice how he fits in around our own story. We may be mystified or angry or sad that he hasn’t intervened more frequently. Or we may be genuinely grateful for what he’s done. But at the deepest level, we’ve flipped the script: God inhabits our stories, rather than the other way around. Maybe God-centeredness isn’t so obvious as we thought.
Our tendency to minimize and marginalize God is sometimes evident in our approach to the great Bible bookends of Genesis and Revelation. Both are battlegrounds for fights about how and when exactly God created, as well as the timetable of events for his return. These questions are not unimportant. But sadly, they’ve sometimes overshadowed God himself. Our fascination with how God has acted (or will act) has too often led to gross neglect of the central truth that he has acted at all — and what that says about him.
Even a brief look at Genesis and Revelation (which is all we have space for here) shows that these two great books tell the story of God.
At the Center of the Beginning
In Genesis, all things are from and for God. He’s the originator of all, and he’s the first enjoyer of all. He creates by speaking everything into existence. That means all else is derivative and has its source in him. Even as he creates, he observes and appreciates what he makes. Over and over, he sees that his creation is good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), even “very good” (1:31). We get the sense that he’s really enjoying this. All things are from him and for him.
Moreover, humankind, the pinnacle of this “very good” creation, exists to display his worth. God’s creation of men and women in his image, after his likeness (Genesis 1:26), suggests that their vocation is to image him forth to the rest of the world, serving as agents of his rule. His command to be “fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) demonstrates that their display of his worth isn’t meant to be merely local but rather global. And God is doggedly persistent in his project of blessing all mankind and displaying his worth everywhere. He doesn’t allow the rebellion of Adam and Eve to derail his project but persists in working with humanity. After the catastrophic judgment of the flood, he starts over with Noah’s family. Following the proud self-assertion of the nations (Genesis 11), he calls Abram to serve as a conduit of divine blessing for “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3).
Throughout Genesis, God is the sovereign planner, the persistent initiator, and the main actor. He’s the one who sends the flood, calls Abram, blesses Abram, renews his covenant promises to Isaac and Jacob, and sends Joseph ahead into Egypt to preserve his people (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). He writes the story and moves it forward at every step.
God is also the sweetest blessing, the ultimate treasure, of his people. After Adam and Eve’s rebellion, their greatest punishment is exile from God’s presence (Genesis 3:22–24). More precious even than the blessing of land and offspring is God’s promise to Abram “to be God to you and to your offspring after you” and his promise regarding Abram’s descendants that “I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7–8).
Genesis is a profoundly God-centered book. In it, all things are from, through, and to God.
At the Center of the End
The seven blessings scattered throughout Revelation (the first in 1:3 and the last in 22:14) show that the main purpose of this book is not to satisfy end-time curiosity or to solve apocalyptic puzzles, but to bring divine blessing to God’s suffering people. God means to give grace, as is evident in 1:4 (“Grace to you”) and 22:21 (“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all”).
Importantly, God’s blessing is not a gift that is separable from himself. Rather, the blessing of God is God. In the new creation, he will “dwell” with his people (Revelation 21:3), a promise that recalls his presence among Israel in the tabernacle. In fact, the description of the new Jerusalem as a perfect golden cube (Revelation 21:15–21) nods to the Most Holy Place in the temple, suggesting that in the new creation God’s people will enjoy his immediate presence, as only the high priest was permitted to do (and that only once a year).
In the new world, his people will see his face (Revelation 22:4), a staggering privilege not even Moses was permitted. The long and painful story of exile from God’s presence that began after Adam and Eve’s sin and banishment from the garden, and continued through Israel’s exile from the promised land, will finally end. God’s people will enjoy his perfect presence in the new creation and will never again be sent away.
Meanwhile, as God’s people await this promised future, Revelation steadies them by insisting that nothing happens by chance, but rather all things occur by God’s sovereign plan. The book is “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1). That key word must expresses divine necessity. The book ends with the reminder that “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 22:6). It must take place because God has willed it. His sovereign control brings steady comfort and strength in the present.
Revelation is radically God-centered. The sovereign God ordains the ways of the world. The glorious, triune God is the aim and treasure of his people. His throne is set in the midst of worshiping angels and humans (Revelation 4–5).
Joys of a God-Centered World
The God-centeredness of the Bible’s bookends suggests that the whole Bible is, in fact, focused on God and meant to tell his story. And this is very good news for us. When we live for ourselves, life doesn’t go well. But when we live for him, we’re living along the grain of the universe, as he designed things to function. We therefore experience true, deep, lasting joy. When John the Baptist heard that Jesus was growing in prominence, he said, “This joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29). John was happiest serving as the spotlight operator, shining his light on the one true star of the show.
The biographer Arnold Dallimore records a story about Charles Spurgeon, in whose day streetlights were gas-lit. Each had to be lit individually. One night, Spurgeon observed a line of streetlights being lit that went right up a hill, from its foot to the summit. He later described that moment:
I did not see the lamplighter. I do not know his name, nor his age, nor his residence; but I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way. As I rode along I thought to myself, “How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life! I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into eternal brilliance above when my work is done.” (Spurgeon, 162)
Let’s allow our joy to swell as we live within the one great story of the one true God.
Daily Jot: The American Chronicles: The Outing - Bill Wilson – www.dailyjot.com
One of the many fun things we are able to do with our Airstream travel van is take friends on outings. We have shared the van on trips to wineries, restaurants, parks and picnics. Sure, we could all meet at these venues by driving separate cars, but it’s more fun if we go together, or as they would say in “Christianese,” have fellowship. Sometimes, though, one could write a sitcom about what happens during these little excursions. This is the story of just one—just one—such outing with our very close friends from our church—Kim, Chuck, Cindy, Christine, Ed, Tony, my wife Chris and me. There were so many “moments” I’m sure that not all will be recorded in this missive, but you will get the picture.
Speaking of pictures, I wanted to get everybody together alongside the van to capture the moment before we embarked on our great adventure to Harvest Gap, a family-oriented restaurant and brewery in historic Hillsboro, Va. I had told everyone inside that when we went out to the van, I wanted to take the picture. Getting everybody lined up for the picture, however, took a while. We were all gathered together when Chuck had to move his SUV. Then we started forming up and Tony had to get his walker. Kim was talking to Cindy and didn’t know that we were going to take a picture. I reminded her that I had announced it inside. She said she didn’t hear it because she must have been talking. We were almost lined up again and Ed had to go to the bathroom. Now we were lined up. No, Chris had to get our dog Charlie. Finally, picture taken.
It doesn’t help when the average age of the group is 69 ranging from 59 to 84. Half of us can’t remember what we were about to do and the other half doesn’t remember what we did when we did it. We all have our little idiosyncrasies. Chuck, who had a stroke a few years ago, is very inquisitive. Whenever we are driving, he is usually riding shotgun and has these outbursts, “Look at that!!!!” or “What’s that!!!???” They are said in such exclamatory terms that I think someone is slamming on their brakes in front of me or something disastrous is happening. When I call him out on it, he says, “I had a stroke you know.” Then Kim is in the back with the ladies and asking if the air conditioning can be turned up because she is hot. She “glistens” a lot.
Finally, arrived. Then getting everybody out safely. It was like one of those Senior Center field trips. Once inside, we got settled right in front of the band. Then everyone was getting up and down and trying to hear one another about what they wanted to eat and drink. It was our own little beehive of activity. Now Christine was tired as she had worked all day so she wanted coffee, and her dutiful husband Ed went and found her some. Christine, on a half of cup of coffee, started singing and performing along with the band. Tony was making jokes, but even though he was sitting next to me, I couldn’t hear him. Cindy was sharing her food and trying to carry on meaningful conversation. After a while, it was time to go. We all loaded up again and drove off.
On the way home, there was a beeping noise in the van. Ed went into his “flight engineer” mode and was looking all over the van for the source of the noise, which we couldn’t really figure out. Turns out, it was telling me that a bird had made a nest in the air filter chamber—but that’s another story. Fortunately, we got home safe and sound. It was one of those evenings with friends. Kind of recalling Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 3:13, “that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.” These folks truly are a gift of God as are the times we have together. We all have a laugh about it, and sometimes we can even remember what was so funny. Happy Trails!
Daily Devotion: He’s in Complete Control - by Greg Laurie – www.harvest.org
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
https://harvest.org/resources/devotion/hes-in-complete-control/ - Listen
I don’t know about you, but I constantly look at my watch throughout the day. What time is it? What time are we supposed to be there? How much time will it take?
Time is a part of our lives. It’s inescapable. That is what Solomon was talking about when he wrote, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT).
We find two important words in this verse: “season” and “time.” The Hebrew word for “season” refers to a fixed, definite portion of time, while the word for “time” refers to a beginning or a starting period.
When we put those words together, we see that Solomon is telling us that God has appointed everything that comes into our lives for a specific purpose. God knows just when to bring things in, and He knows how long they should last.
The things we experience are not random events that float in and out of our lives. Rather, they are specific events that God has chosen, and they are timely and purposeful. This includes the good times that we experience and the bad times we experience.
And in retrospect, we’ll see that many of the bad times will turn out to be good times. That’s because it is through those so-called bad times that we learn some of life’s most important lessons.
We also will recognize that we’re not in charge of our lives. God is. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we come under His protective care. This means God is fully aware of everything that happens to us.
God is always paying careful attention to the smallest detail of our lives and is in complete control of all circumstances. There’s a season for everything. We’re not victims of fate or dumb luck. God is guiding and directing our steps.
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