Posts Tagged ‘prophets’

Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

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There is  a storm coming. And not many are prepared. Not a physical storm like what we’ve seen lately with rain and hail and tornados and floods; but a spiritual storm. One that will be more devastating than any tornado or flood.

The people of Judah had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded on. Judah had turned its back upon God and rejected any attempt by those sent to call her back. As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage—this time in Babylon.

They had refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine. They ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah and put it this way; “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north…and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…against this land and against its inhabitants…and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:9-11)

But the false prophets told them that God would never allow this to happen because they were God’s chosen people. They were insisting that God loved them and that He only wanted to bless them. But it wasn’t true!

Today we have the modern counterparts of these false prophets. Some promise that God will bless you if you send them money. Some say that God will not bring judgment against Christians because they are God’s chosen people. They say that God loves them and that He only wants to bless them. They claim that the world’s problems are a direct result of sinfulness in the “world”—But if we elect someone with “Christian values”,  America will be great again.

They have forgotten that God is the one who exalts leaders into office: (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21) So what if, because we have turned our back on God and instead placed our trust in man and rejected any attempt by those He sent to call us back, God also removes His protection from us?

There are many today who cry out, “God bless America!” But how can God bless America when we allow children to be beaten, raped and killed? How can God bless America when we refuse to allow our children to pray and criminalize those who do? How can God bless America when we ignore the suffering of the poor and destitute while we indulge ourselves on the luxuries we have accumulated for ourselves.

William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute. Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people.

He once related a vision he had concerning the lost. He saw a dark and stormy ocean. In that ocean he saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning. But what puzzled him most was the fact that although all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone no longer seemed troubled by those who were downing—nor did they even seem to care about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes—many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children!

The primary aim of the Salvation Army was not to provide charity, but to win souls from the devil. Booth stated that “what was important was not whether a man died in the poorhouse but if his soul was saved.” (‘The Salvationist in a Secular Society’— p29)

And yet today the Salvation Army is a human organization more interested in the needs of the flesh, rather than the needs of the soul. Is it possible that God had given William Booth a vision of the “future” Salvation Army and Christianity as a whole?

The Church today reminds me of a poem I read years ago written by Howard Clinebell:

The Little Lifesaving Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building wasn’t much more than a small hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves, went out night and day tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station. So much so that it became famous for its rescue efforts. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were purchased and donated to the station and crews were trained to improve the rescue operations of the station.

As the little lifesaving station grew some of the members were unhappy that the building itself was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were rescued from the sea. So the members raised funds for the station and replaced the emergency cots with beds and placed better furniture in an enlarged building.

Soon the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it so exquisitely that it became sort of a club. The lifesaving station’s logo still prevailed on the wall above the fireplace and its name was still used to raise funds,  but  fewer members were now interested in going out to sea on lifesaving missions. They even hired lifeboat crews to do the work that they used to do themselves.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half drowned people. These people were dirty and sick. And some of them were foreigners who couldn’t speak English. The beautiful club was thrown into chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower built outside the club building with an attached closet filled with clean clothes so that the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and dressed properly before coming inside.

At the next club meeting there was a split in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social structure of the club. Some members insisted that the lifesaving operations were the primary reason for them being there and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The latter were finally voted down and were told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could start their own lifesaving station further down the coast. That’s exactly what they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and later another lifesaving station was founded.

History continues to repeat itself and if you visit that seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along its shores.  Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but sadly, most of the people there drown.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 14-15)

The title may seem counterproductive and even in opposition to what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20. In Mark 16:15 Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation. The Greek word used for “preach” is kēryssō, and means to publish or proclaim openly something which has been done. And in Matthew 28 the Greek word used for “make disciples” is mathēteuō, and means to teach. (Notice Jesus did not say to make converts, but disciples)

And yet in all cases where the apostles “preached” the gospel or made “disciples” there is not one instance of any of them inviting an unbeliever into the Temple or a “Home Church” in order to hear the gospel preached by others so they could be saved.

We are commanded to—openly proclaim something which has been done for us; AND to make disciples—teach others about the Jesus we know and who saved us. WE—not the preacher or minister at our church—WE are to go.

I have heard many say that they invite unbelievers to church services so that they can hear the gospel. I say that they need to repent of their laziness and proclaim the gospel themselves.

The role of the pastor is to to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12)  And also to give instruction in sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9) Nowhere does the Bible teach or even allude to the pastor having the responsibility of preaching the gospel to unbelievers—-that’s our job. The pastor’s job is to equip US; so that WE can go into the world and proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

In Haggai 2: 12-14 we read, ’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:12-14)

Let me put it this way: If you were recently showered and smelled fresh and clean, and attempted to hug a skunk—would the skunk smell fresh because of you, or would you begin to stink from the skunk? And if you were healthy and went to visit someone who had a contagious disease—would your healthiness make the sick person well, or would you become sick from the disease?

Christians today have this idea that if they invite an unbelieving friend to a church service and at the end of the service, their friend walks down in front of the congregation and parrots some prayer, that they have done their part. But the actions of some can sometimes be deceiving.

In Acts 8:13-24 Simon Magus professed to believe, and was baptized, yet he was declared to be in the bonds of iniquity. In Matthew 7:21 we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Many complain about how weak the Church has become. The reason is simple. First we invited unbelievers to worship with us a God that they don’t believe in; Then we wanted to make them feel more like part of us and accepted, so we invited them to join the choir, or teach Sunday school, or work in the nursery; And before we knew it, they were preaching doctrines of demons from our own pulpits!

In 1Corinthians 15:33 we read, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” And that is exactly what has happened in many congregations after inviting unbelievers into their church services.

I don’t know of any parent who would allow someone they don’t know anything about to care for their child—and yet, many people drop off their children to the church nursery or Sunday school class without knowing anything about the person watching over their children, or what they’re teaching them.

By now I know that there are many reading this who are shouting at their computer screen about the many people who were saved because they invited them to a church service.

I do believe that God can draw unbelievers into a church service by His spirit and get them saved right then and there. But I also believe that God’s spirit is not limited to only reaching people in a church service. I know of people who were saved at rock concerts—one at a Led Zeppelin concert, the other at a Black Sabbath concert! Many more have been saved from talking to Christians on the street, at work and at homeless shelters.

I am not suggesting that we post guards at the doors of our churches to test people for salvation. For even the apostle Paul was sensitive to the unbeliever who may be in the midst of the believing congregation:

“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul assumes that there exists a possibility of unbelievers in the midst of our church services, but nowhere does he advocate believers inviting them.

So how should we behave toward unbelievers? 

Should we like them? Hate them? Tolerate them? Do we act like them when we aren’t in Christian company? Or do we snub them if we don’t agree with their lifestyle?

Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine and declare how sinful unbelievers are. Others just don’t care one way or another…But shouldn’t we still be concerned about their salvation?

The Bible is very specific about how we as Christians, are to conduct ourselves toward the unbeliever: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

God wants us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward unbelievers. First and foremost, we need to keep focus on the cross of Christ. Because the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, forgiven us our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us. As we were once against God in our unbelief, God was gracious and kind to us. Because of that, we are able to be kind to others who don’t yet know Him.

It seems to me that the apostle Paul was more concerned about the sinfulness inside the Church than he was about unbelievers:

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Yes, we want to reach out to the world. Yes, we want to touch the world. Yes, we want to lead them to Christ. But we have to stop short of a full acceptance of their lifestyle which could lead to a spiritual disaster—for them and for us.

So let us go beyond the church walls, go out quickly to the streets of the city—to the “poor and crippled and blind and lame”, and  proclaim to them the gospel. THEN invite them to your church so that they can be discipled. Do this, and you will fulfill the great commission of our Lord.

“And this, knowing the season, that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

Ancient Israel had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded upon and as a result had fallen from grace. Judah had turned its back upon God and rejected any attempt by those sent to her to call her back.

As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage again—this time in Babylon.

The Lord speaking through Jeremiah said, “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north…and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…against this land and against its inhabitants…and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:9-11)

But God’s people refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine and ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come.

Indeed, history shows us that the words of Jeremiah turned into fact as they were fulfilled down to the last detail. The desolation began with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 606 A.D., and finally Jerusalem was destroyed just as the prophets had warned. Israel and Judah were in exile for seventy years before the repentant remnant of the people of God were permitted to go back home and begin to rebuild their devastated cities.

It is no different today. Sadly, Christian America, including her preachers, did not learn from the message of Jeremiah’s warning.

But a handful of God’s ministers have refused to stand in their pulpits and preach a strong message of repentance:

“The day of the Lord is near, which is a time of judgment, and that God is specifically warning America.” -Anne Graham Lotz-

“Self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle. My heart aches for America and its deceived people.” – Dr. Billy Graham-

“The only thing that can save America from the judgment of God is genuine repentance.”  -Dr. Kenneth E. Hagin-

“America will fall to her knees in repentance or she will fall to her knees in judgment.” -Pastor John Hamel-

“And the time isn’t far distant when the wheels of God’s judgment are going to go sweeping through this old God-hating world.” -Billy Sunday-

There are many who say that only religious fanatics and madmen are obsessed with God’s judgment. They say that such doomsday prophets are a hinderance to the message of God’s love. They say that this idea of God’s judgment on America cannot happen because we are God’s chosen people to bring His gospel to the world.

While Jeremiah was prophesying coming destruction because of the sins of the nation, a number of other prophets were prophesying peace. (Sound familiar?) The Lord had Jeremiah speak against these false prophets. (See Jeremiah 28 and 38)

Today, Christians are again listening to the false prophets who are telling them “peace, peace, when there is no peace”. And continue to shout, “God bless America!”

How can God bless America when our nation has shed innocent blood on a more massive scale than even Hitler could imagine through abortion and gun violence. How can God bless America when we took the Bible and prayer out of our public schools and refuse to acknowledge His existence? And how can God bless America when we worship Hollywood stars and entertainers instead of Him?

As a result, our children have become uncontrollable beasts who murder without conscience. Pornography has been piped into our homes for us and our children to view at the push of a button on the remote control. And our teachers and ministers, who are supposed to help our children and be examples for them, have become sexual predators who rape and molest them!

AND YOU THINK GOD IS GOING TO BLESS AMERICA?!!

I am not a prophet, but I am convinced by what I read in Scripture that time is growing short for the Church to arise and shine!

In his book, “Why Revival Tarries” Leonard Ravenhill writes:

Solemnly and slowly, with his index finger extended, Napoleon Bonaparte outlined a great stretch of country on a map of the world. ‘There,’ he growled, ‘is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! If he wakes, he will shake the world.’ That sleeping giant was China. Today, Bonaparte’s prophecy of some one hundred and fifty years ago makes sense.

Today Lucifer is probably surveying the church just as Bonaparte did China. One can almost behold the fear in his eyes as he thinks of the Church’s unmeasured potential and growls, ‘Let the Church sleep! If she wakes, she will shake the world.’ Is not the Church the sleeping giant of today?”

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5: 3-15 ESV)

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted

Can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions

Are they lost or are they found?

Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down

All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?

There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

(From Slow Train By Bob Dylan)

Why America is no longer great

Last year I posted a blog titled, “An Open Appeal For Revival”. It was copied from a letter that I had sent many years ago (before the popularity of the internet) to almost every pastor in my town with the hope that they would begin preaching on the subject. I also mailed copies to several famous radio evangelists.

Sadly, I received no response.

Since then I have often wondered, “Why is there no revival today?”

Anyone who reads a local newspaper or watches the evening news will have to admit to the fact that America is in deep trouble.

We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security; We’ve given up the security of family values and replaced them with immoral ideas and attitudes; We’ve traded the value of honest work for enslavery to a bureaucratic government system of relief; Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against; Our children have become uncontrollable beasts who murder without conscience; And those who were designed to help us, protect us and be examples for us—from parents and teachers to the local minister on up to the President, have instead led us to the brink of destruction.

And yet, people still believe that if we just elect the right person, he or she will make our country great again.  But Psalm 146:3 states: “Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (NAS) I like how this verse translated in the New Living Translation: “Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.”

For decades, instead of putting their trust in God, people have put their confidence in powerful people—and discover that there is no help from them. Consider who the candidates for the next presidential election are. One of them who is leading in the polls is a man who is narcissistic, brash, insulting and often goes into obscenity laced tirades against anyone who disagrees with him. Another one is promising a political nirvana where the government will take care of everyone—from education, to healthcare, to job equality. Many of the other candidates have been so busy attacking each other that the real issues get lost in the shuffle.

In his book, “Why Revival Tarries” Leonard Ravenhill writes:

“Solemnly and slowly, with his index finger extended, Napoleon Bonaparte outlined a great stretch of country on a map of the world. ‘There,’ he growled, ‘is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! If he wakes, he will shake the world.’ That sleeping giant was China. Today, Bonaparte’s prophecy of some one hundred and fifty years ago makes sense.

Today Lucifer is probably surveying the church just as Bonaparte did China. One can almost behold the fear in his eyes as he thinks of the Church’s unmeasured potential and growls, ‘Let the Church sleep! If she wakes, she will shake the world.’ Is not the Church the sleeping giant of today?”

Years ago Keith Green recorded his song, “Asleep In The Light” about how the Church has become so comfortable in their salvation that we have become oblivious of the suffering and danger all around us. It is as pertinent now as it was then.

America cannot be great again without repentance! 

Year after year we have all heard the sound bites of presidential candidates promising to make America great again. But without repentance, all they are are useless sound bites.

Repentance means more than just being sorry. Someone once said that the road to destruction will be paved with the souls of the sorrowful. I’m sure that all of the fallen angels are sorry now that they followed Satan in his failed revolt against God.

There are two types of sorrow. There is worldly sorrow—like when someone is sorry they got caught, but not for their actions. We have seen this time and time again with political leaders. They tend to speak about the consequences of their sin but never take responsibility for the sin itself. Godly sorrow is when someone is truly sorry for their actions and the nature of their sin; and also take responsibility for it. (See 2nd Corinthians 7:10)

Results of true repentance will be a new life washed clean by the spirit of God. The person repentant of sin will no longer be pleasing themselves but will strive to please God and others. Those things that were once important to the flesh will no longer matter as much. Those who truly repent will work at making a better home, a better workplace, a better community, and a better world.

All of the reasons why America is not experiencing power and greatness today can be explained with one word: REPENT!

Consider the prayer of the prophet Daniel:

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. (Daniel 9: 3-10)

Notice that Daniel confessed the sins of his kings and princes as if they were his own! We must come to God now and acknowledge our sin to him—And the sins of our leaders, past and present as if they were our own!

We are in critical condition and are in need of true revival by the spirit of God! We need to stop relying on political leaders and surrender ourselves to God and receive His forgiveness and mercy. Only then will America be great gain.

Until the Church repents of her sins and turns from her wickedness, we will never witness the healing of our land:

“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters, they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward…Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land, but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”  (Isaiah 1:4, 18-20)

I don’t think the world has ever been in a greater sense of turmoil than it is at this moment. I don’t think our nation has. All the blasphemy, all the unbelief, all the dirty stories, all the lying, all the deception, all the sexual perversion, and all the drunkenness—this tremendous iniquity goes up in the sight of God. The shadow of darkness and death is over this generation like nothing we’ve ever had before. And yet, the greatest tragedy of all is this: We have neither the vision nor the passion, nor at this moment, the intention of setting our house in order.

We need to learn from history what happens when people forsake God.

When Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and surveyed all that he had successfully accomplished, Solomon celebrated by throwing a gigantic party and feast for eight days!

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’  (See 2 Chronicles 7:14:11-22)

Could it be that the reason America is no longer great, that our leaders have become weak and scorned by other nations is because we, like Israel of old have forsaken the one true God and held onto other worldly gods?

Remember God’s warning to His people through the prophet Isaiah:

“Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers…Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice…If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (See Isaiah 1:2-20)

It is my hope and prayer that America, just like Nineveh of old, will repent of its sins—from the president on down to the youngest child. And we will be saved from God’s wrath. (Jonah 3:1-10)

Most people never question why they believe certain things or why they practice certain religious traditions. In a world filled with popular customs and traditions, very few seek to understand the origin of those things. People most generally accept common religious practices without question, choosing to do what everyone else does because it’s easy, natural and comfortable—they can go along with the crowd without rocking the boat.

Most follow blindly along as they have been taught, assuming that what they believe and do is right. They never take time to prove what they believe is true. Nowhere is this more true than in the observance of Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and other supposed Christian holidays.

Many millions keep these days without knowing why—or where they originated from. Most suppose that they are found in the Bible because they see millions of professing Christians observing them. Surely hundreds of millions of people can’t be wrong—Or can they?

Many Christian churches have agreed that the upcoming holiday of Halloween is rooted in paganism and witchcraft, and yet, these same churches have tried to “Christianize” even Halloween by calling the celebration a “Harvest Party”—complete with “more appropriate” costume contests, (No witch or devil costumes) games and bobbing for apples! (If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…)

Here is what Jesus said about the popular customs and traditions of this world: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:6-9 ESV c. Isa 29:13)

The proof is overwhelming that these modern holidays that the churches embrace and promote are “traditions” and “commandments of men.” But vast multitudes keep them anyway, seemingly content to worship God in vain!

Open your Bible and your mind

You must be willing to open your Bible and honestly accept what it says about the holidays of men—and about God’s Holy Days. It has been almost universally taught that the annual Sabbaths and feasts mentioned in the Bible have been done away with—that they were only for ancient Israel, or just for the Jews. Many churches teach that Jesus “nailed them to the cross” along with most everything else in the Old Testament.

The majority of people will strongly defend what they have been taught simply because they have been spoon fed these beliefs in their churches. And believing them to be true, they will read with prejudice anything that contradicts their assumptions—even if it is proven to be false in Scripture.

II Timothy 2:15 commands us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God expects us to study his Word so that we can act on it.

No matter how comfortable a lifelong practice may be, shouldn’t we base our decision on proof from God’s Word instead of what some man has told us?

Since the Bible condemns these almost universally observed “Christianized” holidays of men, how did they come into popular practice?

The Prophecy of the “Little Horn” that changed everything

Daniel 7 contains an extraordinary prophecy that reveals exactly how the professing Christian world came to celebrate “Christianized” pagan holidays in place of the annual days that God made holy.

When carefully examined and compared to other Scriptures, it becomes clear that Daniel’s vision describes four world-ruling empires as four beasts. Beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire, they would span the last 2,500 years preceding Christ’s Return.

Virtually all serious students of Bible prophecy will recognize that the ten-horned fourth beast is the Roman Empire, and the ten horns are its ten historic resurrections. (or revivals) Verse 8 introduces a “little horn” that arises among the ten horns of the Roman Empire.

Here is what Daniel records: “I considered the [ten] horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”

Verse 20 describes this little horn as one “whose look was more stout than his fellows.” (he looked greater or more important than the others) Those who understand even the most basic elements of Bible prophecy will recognize that this “little horn” is a small kingdom or government that took a prominent position in history within the ten successive resurrections of the Roman Empire.

It is also obvious from the description of this little horn that it is a small but powerful religious hierarchy government associated with and controlling Rome. Because Daniel states, “And he shall speak great words against the most High God, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” (Dan.7:25)

For those with eyes to see, God gives tremendous insight into the work of this little religious kingdom. Over the last 2,000 years, only one church fits Daniel’s description. Only one church has continually spoken “against the most High God” by trying to change the LAWS and the TIMES that God has made holy! Only one church has continually persecuted the true Church and saints of God, who have not been willing to compromise his laws and times. And there is only one church that all other denominations are derived from and continue to uphold its doctrines, laws and times of IT”S holidays!

It is time for God’s people to really study and obey his Word, so we can truly be a people separated for God’s own purpose! (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading God’s Word, so I was astounded to find that so few Christians know the basic beliefs of Christianity. Take for example this simple question, “Do Christians go directly to heaven and unbelievers go directly to hell the instant they die?”

The Church and Immortality of the Soul

Many Christians are taught the doctrine of immortality of the soul, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. In fact, in Genesis, it proclaims that the first humans were created mortal, with only the POTENTIALITY for immortality if one reads it in context. They were told specifically to “replenish” the earth but then after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were sent in exile from Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) to PREVENT them from eating also of the tree of life and BECOMING immortal. Thus, the story, if taken literal, indicates human life, like all other life is mortal.

The same word used to describe the life-force, or soul, is used for both human and other animal life in many places. “…and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul.” (Genesis chapter 1: 30) By using Scripture we can explore the concept of the soul, or life-force ( nephesh) ) And note that it does not indicate that the soul is naturally immortal in these passages.

Job describes death as lying down and sleeping, not being awaken.

“But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come” (Job 14: 10-14)

Job is not arguing against the concept of the resurrection. Rather, he pleads with God to hide him in Sheol (The grave) until his wrath is past, and then remember him, causing him to live again! (v.13-14) One cannot ask for a more clear statement of the hope of resurrection. Later, Job asserts that he has a Redeemer who lives, and that he (Job) will see God in a resurrected body, long after his present body has been consumed.

Daniel describes the resurrection as waking from sleep in the dust.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)

Is it not clear what Daniel is predicting in chapter 12? He speaks of those who are sleeping in the dust, awakening to everlasting life. Others who awake will not see life, but suffer shame and everlasting contempt. Jesus used the same language to describe the resurrection. He said “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)

Many will argue that Job and Daniel were Old Testament views and that everything changed after Jesus died came. But in John 11 Jesus comes face to face with the reality of death when his friend Lazarus dies. It is in this context that we read the shortest verse in the New Testament – “Jesus wept.” Death is real, and it is a real tragedy. Yet Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with that same metaphor that appears throughout the text of Scripture. He said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. His disciples did not get it. They thought that he was describing the beginning of Lazarus’ recovery.  They assumed that if he were literally sleeping, then the worst of his illness was over, and he would soon be getting better. So Jesus had to spell it out for them and explain that his friend was already dead.

Paul teaches that most will sleep, but some will be changed without it:

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 )

Paul affirms what readers have seen elsewhere in the Bible. Death is a sleep from which believers will be awaken. This awakening will take place “at the last trumpet.” (The resurrection)

When Peter delivered his sermon at Pentecost he said, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” (Act 2:29) He later said, “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts 2: 34-35)

If David, who was a man after God’s own heart, did not ascend to heaven, where is he? Peter said he is still in his sepulcher! Along with Clement of Rome (who died about100 AD), Ignatius (died about 107), the Didache (about 120), Barnabus (died about 140), The Shepherd of Hermas (about 154), Polycarp (died about 155), Justin Martyr (about165), Tatian (about 172), Iranaeus (about 202), and a host of others. They are all still dead in their graves!

So where did this notion of natural immortality come from?

Almost every ancient culture has some form of notion of either an immortal transcendent being or that the dead live on in some kind of other world or afterlife so it is almost impossible to note exactly when the very first instance of that belief appeared in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians had this notion evident in their elaborate preparations for the afterlife for their dead.

But the Early Church Fathers never questioned the Biblical teaching of the mortality of man, the sleep of the dead, and the resurrection to eternal life or to judgment. They never speak of the natural immortality of the soul, nor of eternal, unending punishment of hell. They present death as the cessation of life, and immortality of the righteous achieved only at the resurrection – therefore, immortality for man is conditional.

The Bible consistently uses a metaphor for death that is viewed as neither socially or theologically appropriate among most Christians. It calls death a sleep. But if a believer slips and refers to the dead as sleeping, judging from the reaction among traditionalists, you would think that they had shot God!

A long standing tradition within Christianity asserts that death is a move to a new higher level of consciousness where the righteous are rewarded for their good deeds on earth or punished for their rejection of God and Jesus. Consequently, anyone who dares to imply that the intermediate state of the dead is one of unconscious sleep runs the risk of being branded a heretic or cult member.

Nevertheless, it would do us all well to return to biblical terminology instead of traditions that keep us from using the Bible as our guide. The biblical authors knew what they were talking about. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write words which expressed the way things really are. It is not their fault that the popular church has chosen to see and say things differently.

I have heard so many Christians refer to the passing of their loved ones as watching over them from heaven. But thinking logically, how could one enjoy their eternity in heaven if they had to witness the murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed against their loved ones on earth? And what sense does it make for God to condemn an unbeliever to the flames of hell only to pull them out at the resurrection to judge them and then throw them back into the flames? Is that the actions of a loving God?

John Wyclif, while Professor of Theology at Oxford University, translated the Bible into English. He taught soul-sleep, and that the Rich Man and Lazarus was a parable and couldn’t be used as a basis of theology. Wycliffe also declared that the fate of the wicked was everlasting punishment, not continuing punishment.

Martin Luther also emphatically rejected belief in the immortality of the soul, and held that death is a sound, sweet sleep. Had it not been for John Calvin, it is possible that Conditional Immortality (soul sleep) would have become the predominant view in the Protestant churches. Whereas Luther rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of the immortality of the soul, John Calvin re-introduced it.

Now we can understand what Jesus was doing in John 11 when Lazarus died. He was explaining to his disciples that death is not the end, because he (the Resurrection and the Life) will not allow it to be. But make no mistake about it – if there were no Jesus, death would be the end. We can call death sleep only because there is a Jesus who intends to raise the dead. So calling death sleep is a statement of faith in Christ.

Refusing to call death sleep is also a statement of faith. It reflects a faith in death itself.  It joins Plato and other pagan philosophers in affirming that God created the human soul indestructible, and therefore it must remain alive after the death of the body. So the real person never sleeps but remains conscious during the intermediate state of death, and indeed for all eternity.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

That time HAS come. So it is even more important to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

To teach and perpetuate fables that are not biblically sound is worldly and carnal.

More to come….