Deep Sea Diving

Preparing a Sermon is like deep sea diving. You have all of your gear prepared, checked, and put on by your professors and mentors. You take the plunge into the deepest, most interesting texts that you believe carry the most meaning relevant to the people you are preparing to speak to. You dive into word studies, original languages, dictionaries and commentaries. You turn over every rock, even spaces between the rocks, examining and studying to discover every coral of meaning. Then, as you begin to come back up, your writing and editing, your practice and recording to make sure you get every word, every pause just right, you begin to feel more confident that this is the Word of the Lord and people are going to be impacted in an insightful and meaningful way. People will be moved beyond words and march up the aisle, begging to know more about the Good News. Just ahead of you, you see the sunlight gleaming off the the surface and you know this message will rock the house.

Only to have some person in the back shake your hand on their way out and say, “Better luck next week preacher!”

The New Normal

Sitting at my computer looking through email. Reminded me of an earlier time, a different job, different names, but me still sitting and looking at my screen. I have been sitting in this spot, doing exactly the same thing since I started in ministry. It made me long for those days, those friendships and relationships I used to have. Made me wonder if I would ever have them again. Yeah, I get wistful sometimes.

From 2001 to 2009, I ministered in a Christian Church in Clarks Hill, Indiana. In Clarks Hill, IN, I was close enough to touch Lafayette, where much of my extended family lived. I could be at my parents’ house in 20 minutes. In 2009 I was asked to resign that position, which left me and family without a home within just a few weeks’ time. With God’s help, we had a call from a church in Palestine, Illinois, a former Disciples of Christ Church where they welcomed our family. We stayed there until early 2012 when we moved to our present location in Morehead, Kentucky.

At times, it hits me. Why did God move me so far away? I miss my family, being able to see my uncles and aunts, my parents and my brother. I wish I could be with them, spend another cheesy birthday party or family meal, especially when those feelings come over me.

But this is the new normal. Family is now a phone call away. I live four hours from my parents, and sometimes I feel very alone. Working in an area where extended families live together “up the holler”, I miss the validation that comes from family, to know that you matter to them.

I see families every day trying very hard to tear themselves apart through drug and alcohol use, abuse and divorce. I see men and women destitute because they don’t have any family. Why? Because they’ve destroyed every relationship they have. Their own family will not take them in, not again. It crushes me to hear that, every time.

But true family isn’t about blood, or surnames. It is about our common relationship with Jesus. Even folks who’ve lost everyone still have a family in Jesus. And this is a family that will stick closer than a brother.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
(Mar 10:29-31)

What is Worship?

IMG20057It seems we’ve argued for decades about the nature of worship. From the revival tunes of the 19th century to the Jesus Movement in the 1960’s, to the wave of Contemporary Christian music that still permeates much of Christian worship today.  But all of this is about music, time signatures and instrumentation.  And while these things have a psychological effect that can lead us to worship (such as the hypnotic effect of a steady drum beat), these are no substitute for true worship.

So what is real worship. I can tell you that that real worship doesn’t depend on music. In fact, music can interrupt authentic worship. I can remember many times of sitting quietly and worshipping in the presence of God during Communion, that is, until the music starting playing. Then it distracted me with half-remembered words of the hymn it was repeating.

There is this verse of Scripture which points to worship music, and points to what Christian music ought to accomplish:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
(Col 3:16)

Do you ever wonder why the Psalmist never recorded the music to the Psalms? Certainly if God thought certain tunes were worthy to use in worship, couldn’t He have found a way to help us record notes? And yet, the only thing we have in our Bibles are the lyrics to the Psalms, and certain notations where titles of long-forgotten tunes are recorded. And yet don’t we often quote the Psalms for their content? “The Lord is my Shepherd”, “Be still and know that I am God”. As Colossians suggests, the most important part of worship music, or music that helps us worship, is the lyrics, the words which are intended to teach truth.

When I was in school, I was told that the best way to learn certain facts, like the states and capitals, or the Books of the New Testament, was to put them to music. I learned my alphabet this way, and I sure you did too. I still know the alphabet song, and remembering the tune also helps me remember exactly what order the letters are. Music was designed to help you remember. That’s why we are better at remembering the songs we loved in high school than the facts of US History.

So Colossians recommends, use music as a tool for helping teach Scripture. Music will help you remember. This is also why church music needs to be sing-able as well as memorable. I have sung a few new Church hits recently, but if you tested me, I wouldn’t be able to reproduce them, because they aren’t really that easy to sing. But I can pick up my guitar and belt out “Amazing Grace” or “The Old Rugged Cross” no problem. Worship music is an easy first step to apply when trying to get into worship.

And important second step is to use that music to teach truth, which I really don’t see much of in modern worship music. I see a lot of choruses, repeating the same phrases over and over, but often find these choruses theologically bland. “I Love Jesus” times 20. Am I trying to convince myself that I love Him? Does He really want me to say that? Would my wife want me repeating that same phrase 20 times in a single setting? Why not tell Jesus 20 different reasons that I love Him? He died for me. He set me free. He paid the price. He sacrificed. I mean, just going through all the different reasons I love Him would be a proper theological exercise and spiritual reflection than repeating the same phrase ad nauseum. I feel we often run afoul of Jesus’ warning about vain babbling.

The third step to worship is that inner reflection, that personal response to the truth of Scripture. Than can be through a song, a hymn, or a spiritual song, but it can also be through verbal praises (“Hallelujah!”) or physical praises (lifting hands) or in prayer, (“Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me whole”) or just a worship perspective, seeing your position in God’s love and enjoying that. It might mean sitting down and writing a journal entry or a blog post. Worship is the moving of the heart toward God. It is emotional, involving the heart. It is relational, involving the spirit. It is motivational, involving the will. It is intellectual, involving the truths impacted into your mind. It is physical, requiring changes of posture or position.

The point of this post is this: Don’t rely solely on worship music to worship. Music is a part of worship, but only a part. It is a tool to help move you into worship. Don’t let your worship be just about the tool.

What’s Your Number?


In my line of work, I deal with families who lose loved ones, sometimes without warning. In the process of treatment, utilizing all of our knowledge to resuscitate using drugs, physical techniques (like CPR) and others,  we connect patients to heart monitors, which count their heartbeats per minute. Usually 70 is a good heart rate but at those times, any heart rate is preferred to none.

But it struck me that the number of beats our heart makes is a definite number. It has a definite beginning, and a definite end. It begins when our little hearts begin in our mother’s womb, and end, sometimes on an E.R. treatment bed. If a person truly wished to discover this number, it is probably possible. But it is a number God already knows.

Let that sink in. God knows the number of beats your heart will make, He knows how many you have left. He also knows what you’ve done with each of them. If God numbers our hairs (Matthew 10:30) would He not know our heartbeats? Consider the following:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1Sa 16:7)

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
(Jer 17:10)
And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
(Act 15:8)

When I witness an unexpected death, I grieve with the family. None of us know when our beats come to an end.  Many times we can’t predict it, let alone prepare for it. I am reminded of a movie, called “In Time” that came out in 2011. In the film, people stop aging at 25, but have a clock on their arm to tell them exactly how much time they have left. They work for time, and barter time to pay for things, instead of using money. Though the movie failed to perform at the box office, it pointed out the innate human desire to know our time. If we knew when we would die, don’t you think we would be better prepared for it? Or if we knew our death was near, would we go out and run up our credit cards and live like royalty?  Could you imagine a world where you knew exactly how much time you had left to live? Seems to me this is information we are better off not knowing. Besides, I believe we have something better.

I think about the impact my death would have on my family, or theirs on me. Death can come so suddenly and destructively, it just leaves devastation in its wake. That’s why I praise God that I serve one who conquered death, that rose from the grave, and offers me hope for the same.

I know that when my number comes up, He will be standing there, arms outstretched, saying, “Welcome Home!” For when I die, eternity is laid out before me, and I will never die again. “For it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8:1) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16)

It is that hope that helps me help others in the midst of their tragedy. And I am grateful to God for His indescribable gift!

Hello There

I hope you’ve been finding these posts interesting. I been doing a lot of mining lately, into old articles that I’ve written, journal entries and whatnot, trying to build up this collection of blog posts and begin to generate a following. To be honest, I hadn’t intended on starting a blog, but once I got started, everything fell into place. I want to thank everyone who has been taking the. time to read thus far. I really appreciate you. I never knew how exciting it was to open my phone to discover someone new liked my blog. 

As I’ve title it, this is a place for my thoughts to ramble. Many of my posts are about things I’ve been thinking about about, or have written about. My interests are primarily with Christianity and Scripture, but have been known to wander into other areas. Because I’ve been used to writing sermons every week, some of my material will sound like that, and if some understand Christ a little better, then I shall not see my efforts wasted.

Going forward, I anticipate the impact this blog will have. I look forward to hearing from you. God bless you all!

Something from Nothing

God isn’t around where He isn’t wanted. O the consequences we suffer for pushing Him away. We may cry out to Him, as David, asking why He stands so far away, but He is away because we have pushed. God is always near for those with faith enough to perceive it. His power binds our molecules together, keeps the sun from blowing up, causes the warm breeze to blow across our face. God is always here. He always listens. Our failure to perceive it lessens not a whit. How dare we blame God for unfaithfulness, we who are as fickle as the wind. God is afar off because we have left Him behind. I know this, because I have done it far too many times. I have walked away many times, only to run back to His arms.

“O wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?”

If there is any great miracle of Scripture, it is God’s ability to take my worthlessness and make me worthy. “Not many of you were wealthy, nor many of you wise in the world’s eyes” – one of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 1 because it is to true. I have often ignored my salvation because I wanted to do what I wanted. And I condemn myself. How can I be a worthy and faithful servant? I became worthy because of Jesus’ costly death on the cross. This is the price of grace, grace for sin shed upon that cross centuries ago, but just as effective today. I need to remember my sin and  shame, because it reminds me that I am not worthy of the gift. If I think I am worthless, then I need to remember I am costly to Jesus. My unworthiness leads to my gratitude. He shed the greatest price for me. If ever I feel insignificant, I need to remember I am His. And that’s all that matters.


What We Need in Church

What does our church need to achieve fundamental change? Three things: Greatness, Openness, Direction.

We need Greatness in worship and personal spiritual experience. We need to rise above mediocrity and “just enough to get us by.” We need great worship. We need worship where we come face to face with Jesus Christ, with Almighty God. We need sacrificial worship. We need to bring something to the service and to God’s presence, rather than expect to take something away from it. We need to expect to bring a gift to God, our broken and bleeding hearts, the kind of sacrifice He desires. We need uplifting worship. We need worship and personal spiritual experience that is literally “out of this world.” This is what gives us the glimpse of the “other side,” the realm of the eternal and the spiritual. Without it, our religion becomes dull, lifeless, monochrome, and carnal.

Next, we need Openness. We need to be open and transparent to our brothers and sisters in faith, to open our hearts to them. We also need openness to God, so that we do not approach Him with hypocrisy, but with complete and sincere honesty about who we are and we wish to become. This is called in John 4 worshiping in “Spirit and in truth.” “In Spirit,” for God is spirit. We can only approach Him as translucent spirit, not as opaque flesh. This is true intimacy, not the kind of “lets-make-love” philosophy passed around by fornication, but true and lasting intimacy of heart, shared between Christians, other Christians, and Christ, the true intimacy of the “Body.”

Lastly, we need direction. We need to know where we are going. What is the point of all this? Is it to make more money, to hire more staff, to break 200, or something else completely pointless? Are we trying to achieve a certain level of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13) together, something that we can measure and touch? Are we trying to bring new lives into the Kingdom? What is the direction that all of our services and groups and ministries are aiming for? Firmness of direction gives us a sense of purpose. Without it, we will fail, because we will fail to set goals. Failing to even set goals is a mark of a dying church. There would be no life here without direction. As children, out intention is to grow up. As older children, we set goals for our future, what will I be? As adults, we set goals in our career, how high will I go, or, how well a job can I do? As as Church, what is our direction? To get bigger? How big? How soon? Who will cater to? How will we grow? Are we willing to sacrifice our building to build newer and bigger? Are there sacred cows along the way we will have to butcher in order to make more room (i.e., music, wall color, more preaching, more services, more home Bible study)

Without these three, Greatness, Openness and Direction, Church is pointless, monotonous, and will eventually die. Do you want to be a hanger-on, one of the last to go down with the ship, or do you want to live?! Do you want to live the life that Jesus calls for in Scripture, to be filled overflowing with the water of life, to live life more abundantly? (John 10:10)

The Nephilim

Of course, any joker with a Bible can string verses together and come up with a new doctrine. But there are enough of these verses to present a troubling and compelling problem. Who are the “sons of God”? And if they are angels, what is Genesis 6 all about? How does answer or address the OOParts (out of place artifacts) issue and the genius of ancient man? Who were the Nephilim (KJV, “giants”), and are they all that mysterious?


The root word, naphal, means to fall, be thrown down, or lie down, and is translated in this fashion 453 times in the Old Testament (KJV)

Nephilim is translated “giants” in the King James Version, but in newer translations it is simply transliterated as “Nephilim”, meaning the word is brought into English directly from Hebrew.

From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (2:587)

“The word may be of unknown origin and mean “heroes” or “fierce warriors” etc.”

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon on this word:

“I prefer with the Hebrew interpreters . . . falling on, attacking, . . . Those who used to interpret the passage in Genesis of the fall of the angels, were accustomed to render [this word] fallers, rebels, apostates.” [Italics original]

Use in Scripture:

Nephilim is used in two Old Testament passages: Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after this) when the sons of God were having sexual relations with the daughters of humankind, who gave birth to their children. They were the mighty heroes of old, the famous men. (Gen 6:4 NET)

We even saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim), and we seemed liked grasshoppers both to ourselves and to them.” (Num 13:33 NET)


There is an old understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 as the fall of angels, lured by the beauty of human women, with whom they procreated. Note that all angels in the Bible are referred to as “he”. (Even Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:10 suggest that angels notice if a woman’s head lacks a “symbol of authority”, further suggesting that a free woman affects angels in some way.) Their children became the “mighty men of old, men of reknown” because they were thought to be superior to other men. Based on this, many believe the stories of the Titans and gods in ancient mythology are based upon the deeds of these “heroes”. However, any theory applied to Genesis 6 must also fit with Numbers 14.

Another theory suggests that the Nephilim were the men (and women) who were the offspring of the sons of Seth and the daughters of Cain. This theory isn’t nearly as exciting, and attempts to put “sons of God” into a more human context. “Sons of God” are also seen in Job 1:6 and 2:1, as coming before the Lord in heaven, which suggests at that point that they have a heavenly origin. The burden here is explaining how the sons are mere men in Genesis and heavenly beings in Job.

It is sufficient for our understanding of Genesis 6 that these Nephilim were instrumental in causing and creating such a world where the thoughts of men were evil continually and worthy of the judgment of God in the Flood. Their title suggests the fall of Adam, implying that they fall even further than he did. They may also be the ones who cause many others to fall into greater sin. By contrast, Noah was “a just man and perfect in his generations” and a man worthy to carry humanity through the Flood.

And for this to be a true interpretation, certain things have to be established. Namely,

  • The identity of the Sons of God. They must be angels in order for this argument to make sense.

  • That these angels had the power to take on the form of men, capable of procreation.

  • That this transformation was irreversible, and made them subject to death.

  • That these former angels are what the Bible calls “Nephilim”

  • That these Nephilim may also have been the mighty men of reknown (and possibly the basis for the many tales of mythology of the ancient world)

  • That when these Nephilim perished in the flood, God reserved a special prison for them, the abyss or Tartarus, where they would be chained until a day He has prepared.

  • That these are the same “spirits in prison” Jesus spoke to in the Spirit and the purpose of this visit was to prepare them for their role in judgment in Revelation 9.

  • That these “spirits in prison” are the locusts of Revelation 9 who will be unleashed for five months upon the earth.

As the first sinner, Satan received great leniency with God. Satan was not punished as the “sons of God”.

Genesis 61 “sons of God” = Revelation 9 “locusts”

Gen 6:4

The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men.

What if the word “Nephilim” (lit. “fallen ones”) refers to the “sons of God” who came to the daughters of mankind, rather than to their children? Nephilim could be the Bible’s subtle way of telling us these beings were transformed, which in turned corrupted the world.

1Pe 3:19-20

In that state He [Jesus] also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few–that is, eight people–were saved through water.

2Pe 2:4-5

For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment; and if He didn’t spare the ancient world, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others, when He brought a flood on the world of the ungodly;

Jud 1:6

and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, the angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling.

Jud 1:14-15

And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment on all and to convict them of all their ungodly acts that they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners have said against Him.

Rev 9:1-3

The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. Then locusts came out of the smoke on to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth.

Rev 9:7-11

The appearance of the locusts was like [these beings are horribly corrupted from their original state as angels of God]

  • horses equipped for battle. [armored and decorated for war]

  • Something like gold crowns was on their heads; [a sign of their authority]

  • their faces were like men’s faces; [that they were once men?]

  • they had hair like women’s hair; [the glory of a woman, 1 Cor 11:15, and the cause for Paul’s concern that women keep their head covered]

  • their teeth were like lions’ teeth; [their ferocity and taste for flesh, 1 Peter 5:8]

  • they had chests like iron breastplates; [their invincibility]

  • the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle; [wings, DUH, and their proficiency and speed in war]

  • and they had tails with stingers like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. [their unique power at this time, not to kill, but to make men suffer]

They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon [“destroyer”]. [normal locusts have no king, but this king is a star who fell from heaven and now reigns as the king of these beings] Also, some research suggests that Apollyon and Apollo have some connection here, but nothing is definitive.

Sons of God used their power to become human, and corrupted humankind. God wiped them all out with a flood! Becoming human has a price.

Hell is described is having different levels, though details are uncertain. Hades is the abode of the human dead, while the Abyss (Tartarus) is the prison for these fallen spirits. In Revelation 9, Apollyon is given the key to this abyss to release the curiously described “locusts”. These locusts were not helicopters, but are much worse. These are the angels who “left their first estate” and are imprisoned in this lowest pit.

Jesus made proclamation to these spirits. Why? Was He gloating? Was He preparing them for their future mission? Was this a chance for their redemption? Or was He demonstrating that in Him and through Him the presence of the Spirit is properly given to men, unlike their own methods? Jesus Christ is the perfect God-Man, the presence of the real, true God among men that these angels attempted to copy in their Nephilim, which I believe became the basis for many of the mythological elements we know of today.

1 the sons of God saw that the daughters of mankind were beautiful, and they took any they chose as wives for themselves. (Gen 6:2)

Some Notes on The Great Tribulation


Is there a great tribulation awaiting the saints of God? According to some who teach end-times prophecy, a great tribulation of seven years follows the rapture of the faithful to the Lord, and those saved during this troubled time will endure great persecution.

We see the term “the great tribulation” in Revelation 7:14 and this is so in the Greek text (in Revelation the term utilized is thlipseos). But there is a question. Is this “great tribulation” is intended to be the same as in Matthew (there the term is the same, but in a different tense – thlipses)? Is this something that modern Christian need to keep on their rader?

The word is used in various tenses 45 times in the King James Version. It is defined by Strong’s as “pressure (literally or figuratively): – afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.” Of those 45 occurrences, it is coupled with “great”1 on four occasions. Only in Rev. 7:14 is it referred as “the” great tribulation in the Greek. So what does this tell us?

Well, let’s take a look at some context. The tribulation reference in Revelation 7 is in answer to a question addressed to John. In his vision, he had seen 144,000 witnesses, the sealed servants of God who hail from 12 tribes of Israel, followed by an innumerable group of people of all ethnicities who worship around the throne of God. They are wearing white robes. We discover in vs. 14 that this group in white robes had been through “the great tribulation” and endured severe persecution.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:13-14)

Jesus earlier predicts to Smyrna (Rev 2:10) that they would receive tribulation ten days. Same word, but not a “great” tribulation. From this we may ask a few questions about tribulation in general: Are these ten singular days of tribulation, or ten straight days of trouble? Did only Smyrna receive them? Does their prophecy color our understanding of the great tribulation five chapters later?

Throughout the New Testament, tribulation is spoken of as a regular and expected occurrence of the Jesus’ followers (Rom 8:35). So what is it about the tribulation mentioned in Revelation 7 that makes it “the” great tribulation? That these came out of the Great Tribulation seems to say that during this time, there will be great persecution of Christians, for these are washed by Christ’s own blood.

But there is another prediction of great tribulation made in Matthew 24:21-22.

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
(Mat 24:21-22)

In the original Greek text, there is no article “the” for “great tribulation”, saying instead it will be “at that time there will be great tribulation.” Vs. 21 seems to say that this tribulation will be unequaled. The number of dead doesn’t necessarily come into it, because it isn’t about how many died, but that many did die (as implied by verse 22), and they died horribly. in the parallel passage in Luke 21, Jesus specifically says:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. (Luk 21:20)

So we are meant to understand that the desolation and destruction spoken of in Matthew 24 (and Mark 13) is also this destruction in Luke 21, that is, the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew mentions the “abomination of desolation” in 24:15 which parallels this statement in Luke 21:20, as if to say that the Roman armies are the very harbingers of abomination that is the desolation of the Great City.

In the historical record, we find that the armies of Rome did surround Jerusalem in AD 70, besieged the city, and killed anyone who tried to escape. The evil that occurred within the city itself is typical of sieges, with people turning on each other, and often, eating each other for lack of food. The fire that destroyed Jerusalem was started from within the city, and the Romans simply moved in afterward to get at the gold, which had melted between the stones of the Temple Mount.

Thus as Matthew says, it was a great tribulation for the people in the city at that time. It’s greatness magnified by the fact that the very House of God was utterly destroyed, and would never be rebuilt. No more would there be possibility of offering sacrifice for sin upon its altar. Judaism as they knew it ceased to exist.

It’s like Jesus’ crucifixion. The death of Jesus Christ is the greatest death that ever took place because of its significance. It is the same with the destruction of Jerusalem (as suggested by the parallel text in Luke 21:20-24), not that it is the greatest body count, but that it was Jerusalem, the seat of God’s Temple, that was destroyed, burned down, and utterly ruined.

You might suggest that the Holocaust of the 1940’s was worse than the destruction of Jerusalem (70,000? vs. 4,000,000) and you would probably be correct. The holocaust had a much higher body count. But did it carry a greater MEANING than Jerusalem? The Destruction of Jerusalem meant that God had abandoned His people. The Destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied by Jesus and its fulfillment was proof of His divinity. The holocaust just doesn’t carry as much weight in these areas.

So the greater question is if THE Great Tribulation of Revelation 7 is the same as a great tribulation in Matthew 24. In retrospect, it does seem that the two have different subjects. In Matthew, the ones who suffer are the Jews who ignored Jesus’ warnings and suffer God’s final wrath upon them. In Revelation, the subjects are Christians who have suffered a great deal because they were Christians. They present themselves as martyrs for Christ, not those who have suffered God’s wrath.So is there an historic period that corresponds to this?

I might suggest that this period corresponds to the New Testament period. In the time of the Apostles and the Early Church, many died and were martyred for the cause of Christ (And people continue to do so) What makes this early period unique is that they suffered and died before God’s final judgment on Israel.

If you follow chapter 6 and 7, you find that these are martyrs who suffered in that early period, and were under the altar in heaven. They were given white robes until the full number of their brethren arrived. Then they are fully revealed in chapter 7 as those who emerge from THE great tribulation.  All of this takes place within the seven seals. Since this takes place before the fall of the Great City, where our Lord was crucified, it seems that this Great Tribulation didn’t refer to Jerusalem, but to the plight of Christians who suffered for the name of Jesus. This may be what Paul means when he makes this reference:

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:36-39)

While modern Christians believe they can rest easy, be warned, if it happened before, it can happen again. There is rampant persecution for Christians today all around the world. Pray for our brothers and sisters so suffering, and pray that our nation never becomes like that.

1 Matt 24:21; Acts 7:11; Rev 2:22; 7:14

On this Father’s Day

IMG20040When my grandfather died in 1989, it was a Saturday in December. Dad had worked all night the night before and was sleeping when the phone call came. I picked it up. It was mom, who was at the hospital. She said to wake Dad up and have us all come to the hospital. I woke him up, but he rolled over. I told him Mom wanted us to come to the hospital. He said ok, and fell back to sleep. I left the bedroom. He woke up fully a few minutes later and coming into the living room, confirmed what I’d said, and we all rode up to Lafayette, to Home Hospital, where my grandfather was. When we arrived, I heard crying, and looking into the room, saw my uncles, my mother, and my aunts weeping around the bed. Grandpa was lying there with his jaw open. I remember seeing his jaw just hanging open, which was just unnatural and wrong. Part of me knew he was dead, he’d had prostate cancer for about a year, but it felt wrong to see him so utterly still. It was the first time I’d really seen anyone dead before. I didn’t know how to feel, or what to think. I just felt numb. It was weird to see my family, who normally would be laughing and talking together just weeping and holding each other. I didn’t know what to do or how to react.

Sometimes, I still don’t.

The closest I came to crying over him was at his funeral, when someone was singing, and nudged my emotions to the surface. If I had known him better, or longer, I probably would have been more distraught. But all I could feel was numb. Every December 26th I remember him again on his birthday. I remember waking up the morning after Christmas and having breakfast with him before we had to go home. But what tears me up now more than ever is what he could have told me. Whether or not we was proud of the direction my life has taken, or what he would have thought about my family. I don’t know why I care what he would think, but I do. He was always quiet in his praise of others, and I guess I am hoping I would make the cut.

I need death to be more than the grave, but a New Beginning, for my grandpa and for everyone else’s. I need to death to be temporary, not permanent.

There are two things going on at the cross, one explicit in the gospels, and one implicit, which is expounded in the letters.

  1. The death of Jesus Christ was a horrifying event (What we see)
    1. The manner in which the gospels records Jesus’ crucifixion is actually matter-of-fact, told in passing, as if the gospels’ audience were well-familiar with this manner of execution. Mark 15:25 (NIV) is typical, “It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.” The word employed in the Greek is stauroo. There is no reference to the nails, the “tree” or to the manner of how the nails were fixed. The only reference to “nails” in the New Testament is Colossians 2:14, where Paul employs the image of “nailing” to nailing (proseloo) the law to Jesus’ cross.
    2. The gospels focus on what Jesus says from the cross, and what the crowds say to the crucified Jesus. The manner of Jesus’ death, that is, slowly losing his ability to breathe, adds unseen drama and urgency to Jesus’ words.


  2. The death of Christ Jesus was a atoning event (What we know)
    1. The gospels hint at this in the rending of the Temple veil, a sign that the way to the Holy Place (if you were familiar with the placement of the veil) is made clear upon Jesus’ death.
    2. The letters too add to the weight of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice – namely Colossians 3:13-14, “. . . He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” And Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The letters stress that Jesus’ death on the cross was a means of God saving sinners from eternal punishment for breaking the Law and satisfying the wrath of God for sin. Romans 5:9, “Since we have not been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

Why it matters

  1. So what? Why do we care about this? Because we abhor senseless death. With every fiber of our being, we strain to find reason out of chaos. When a father or mother dies, we look for a reason. Maybe it was the cancer, maybe it was the hospital. Maybe it was “his time” or “God needed another angel” but we strain to find a reason for things when they cut to our heart. We strain because we cannot accept that God would allow someone good to die for no reason. Many of us shake our fist at God, even to deny He exists, or at least to hate him because we cannot reconcile a good God with senseless death.
  2. Of anyone on earth, Jesus’ death was the most senseless. He had committed no sin. He had no regrets, no family members he was on bad terms with, no one he owed money. Jesus had everything to live for. Yet on that night in Jerusalem, he was arrested, arraigned in a kangaroo court, and murdered in front of everyone.
  3. Over and over again, Jesus repeats that it was exactly God’s will that he go to the cross. Jesus prayed in the garden, “not my will but thine be done.” He knew he was going to die, knew the greater purpose for which he died, and still prayed in the garden to avoid it. Why? Was it because some part of him screamed that he didn’t deserve it?
  4. But the death of Jesus Christ changes how we look at death. His death was infused with purpose and meaning. Every facet of his death throes we examine in detail looking to uncover fresh meaning. From the significance of the promise of paradise to “it is finished” we keep finding new ways to see this very old story. Why do we do this? Because I think it helps us understand why our grandmas pass away, and our grandpas. Our moms and our dads, even our children and grandchildren. We need the death of Jesus to mean something powerful and significant to bring meaning to the deaths of those we dearly love. We need this story to be true. The world tells us we are pinning our hopes on fairy tales, but I don’t remember Cinderella dying for me, or Rapunzel’s grave to be found empty, or the seven dwarves testifying to their dying words that Snow White is risen. We find the faith in Jesus Christ tested and tried and found true. We find that meaning plastered all over the New Testament, both for him and for us. Each and every death isn’t an end, but a portal to a new and eternal beginning. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we find hope for our own loved ones who have passed on, and an urgency to declare Him to those who haven’t accepted Him. Perhaps we are better informed than the lost for those who die without Jesus, and ought to grieve more.

Do you see? As the gospels show us the death of Jesus, which we can relate to and understand, the New Testament show us its meaning, which we cannot know without the Bible. Each baptism is a reenactment, each death a harsh reminder, but each day we live in Christ, a new creation and a joy to know we have our hope in Him. It is a hope that we will hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. Now you will be faithful with much.” The death and resurrection of Jesus make it possible for us to believe that death, though harsh, isn’t the last word.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

(Heb 2:14-15)