The mark…

I honestly wanted to do some reading on Revelation 13 and 14 and study the mark of the beast.

That’s largely impossible now…well…impossible if you want to use Google to try to find information.


Pages and pages of “Is the vaccination the mark of the beast?”

There is a reason Google put all those hits at the top of the search results – people are worried, they are full of anxiety, they are wondering about the future. So, before any talk about beasts, and marks, and antichrists, let’s remind ourselves of something great.

Romans 8:31–39(‎‎31‎‎)What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (‎‎32‎‎)He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (‎‎33‎‎)Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (‎‎34‎‎)Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (‎‎35‎‎)Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (‎‎36‎‎)As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (‎‎37‎‎)No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (‎‎38‎‎)For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (‎‎39‎‎)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. (ESV)

What a wonderful promise! Christian, you need not fear, no matter what happens. No matter when or who or what the future brings to bear on you, your future is secure in the arms of Jesus who!

That is the cure for your anxiety. That is the cure for your fear. Remember that Jesus has you and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

You know that. Now, let’s apply that knowledge too the task at hand, because thinking about the mark of the beast and all that entails can be frightening indeed!

Especially if we let wrong understandings cloud our thinking.

The mark of the beast comes from a couple passages in Revelation, namely Revelation 13:16-18 and 14:9-11. Revelation 13 introduces this mark:

Revelation 13:16–18(‎‎16‎‎)Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, (‎‎17‎‎)so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (‎‎18‎‎)This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. (ESV)

Reading that, you might be saying (to yourself or out loud) “hmmm, that sounds kinda like what’s going on now…people losing their jobs because they won’t get vaccinated, and without jobs, you can’t buy stuff, etc.” Maybe you can see why some people are on edge. But if you know nothing else about the revelation of Jesus to John, know this: it was written as an encouragement to Christians who were facing extreme persecution.

That said, how does this relate to a vaccine?

In short, it doesn’t. Not really.

First and foremost, people aren’t getting the vaccine in their forehead or right hand. But even if they were…

… people can still buy and sell things without getting vaccinated. But even if they couldn’t…

… the vaccination doesn’t bear the name of the beast. But even if it did…

… there’s more. Remember Revelation 14:

Revelation 14:9–11(‎‎9‎‎)And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, (‎‎10‎‎)he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (‎‎11‎‎)And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (ESV)

The mark of the beast from Revelation 13 is further described in Revelation 14, and in Revelation 14, it is tied directly to worship…”if anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or right hand…”

All over scripture, “forehead” (see Jeremiah 3:3, Ezekiel 3:7-9, Isaiah 48:3-5, Numbers 24:17) is often used to symbolize assent or agreement or regard while “right hand” (see Acts 2:25-26, Romans 8:33-35, Hebrews 10:12-13, 1 Peter 3:21-22, Revelation 2:1) is often used to signify power, or might, or majesty. It is no different here.

It was no different in the Old Testament either:

Deuteronomy 6:4–9(‎‎4‎‎)“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (‎‎5‎‎)You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (‎‎6‎‎)And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (‎‎7‎‎)You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (‎‎8‎‎)You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (‎‎9‎‎)You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)

The similarities are pretty striking. First, love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. That is utter devotion. That is love. That is worship.

And what does this look in the lives of the people?

They were to internalize God’s words in their hearts, teach them to their children, integrate them into everyday life whether sitting or walking or going to bed or getting up in the morning.

And how could they accomplish this?

By binding God’s word as a sign on their hands and between their eyes (i.e. on their foreheads).

Was that a command to write the entirety of God’s words on their hands and heads? Was it a command to somehow mark themselves with a tattoo or brand? Some saw it that way and went to extreme measures. But most saw it for what it was – as a command to devote themselves entirely to God, to bind His words on their hands was to bind their work and to submit their power and authority to God – to think of Him and honor Him when they worked. To bind His words between their eyes was to bind their thoughts and will to God – to keep every thought captive to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Could you symbolize this with a tattoo? Sure you could. But it’s not about the tattoo.

Binding your heart, binding your work and power, binding your thoughts and your will to God…those are the marks God requires.

Taking the mark of the beast on your right hand then is not so much a vaccine, rather, it is a binding – you are placing the beast in a position of authority over you or power over you or dominion over you. Could you symbolize that with a vaccine? Sure you could. But it’s not about a vaccine.

Taking the mark on your forehead then is not so much a microchip, rather, it is a binding – you are assenting to the beast and agreeing with it and submitting your will to it. Could you symbolize that with a microchip? Sure you could. But it’s not about the microchip.

Binding your heart, binding your work and power, binding your thoughts and your will to the beast…those are the marks the beast requires.

What the beast requires is a complete parody of being bound by faith and trust to Jesus – loving the beast your god with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Keeping its words on your heart. Teaching them to your children, talking about them as you sit, walk, lie down, and rise. Binding them as a sign on your hand and between your eyes.

That is the abomination. That is the mark of the beast.

Could getting vaccinated represent this kind of alignment with the beast?

Maybe. Maybe people are getting vaccinated because they worship the government and want to bind themselves to it fully. People worship all kinds of things that aren’t God every day, and there are certainly people for whom the government is their god. I’ve seen it. I know people like that. But even so, I don’t know that I’d say they got (or would get) the vaccine as an act of worship.

But submitting to a tyrannical government isn’t what John was writing about. The beast of Revelation is not a government.

Remember the occasion – this letter was written as an encouragement to Christians in the 1st century (and every century since). John is telling them and us that trying to identify who or what the antichrist is, what the beast is, and what the mark is is far less important or useful than is the truth of what is taking place and how abhorrent it really is.

In fact, he’s warning us that it’s likely a distraction.

So, what’s taking place that is so wicked, so evil? What’s so abominable?

This is what is wicked – that the beast is setting itself up as a pantomime Jesus and parodying the seal of the Holy Spirit with its own mark – one that entails worship and power and majesty and devotion to it (forehead and right hand stuff.)

Christians are sealed with the Holy Spirit and worship Him and ascribe to Him power, majesty, might, glory, honor, etc. (forehead and right hand stuff.)

The rest are sealed with the mark of the beast and worship it and ascribe to it power, majesty, might, glory, honor, etc. (forehead and right hand stuff.)

It’s not so much about who specifically the beast is, or what specifically the mark is.

It’s about who the beast is not.

The beast is not God.

But it wants what only God deserves.

The purpose of Revelation 13 and 14 is not to scare you into being afraid of taking some mark – it’s to warn you that worship of anything other than God leads to an eternity facing God’s wrath.

The result of such worship is clear – eternal torment without rest, again “for those who worship the beast and receive the mark of its name.” Read Revelation 14 again – the truth is chilling, but only chilling if you do not belong to Jesus, not if you have taken a vaccine.

But if you still believe that the vaccination is the mark of the beast, then you must necessarily believe at least one of the following…

… that every Christian you know who got vaccinated was really never a Christian and is a beast worshipper, consigned to an eternal fire and judgement, drinking God’s wrath for eternity. In which case God will reject the very Children He adopted and un-adopt them and cast them out because of sin, NEVER to grant them repentance ever again. In which case, you deny the truth of Romans 8 and so many other passages.

… that a Christian can take the mark of the beast but not really worship it and divorce the entire thing from the context of worship that the bible places on this entire scenario. In which case, you are saying that the bible here is wrong for making the mark a result of or occasion for worship.

… that we can know who is a true Christian, not by their love for one another and their devotion to Jesus, but by their vaccination status. That idea makes almost all of the bible wrong again. Remember, the same John who wrote this letter also records tehse words from Jesus:

John 13:31–35(‎‎31‎‎)When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.(‎‎32‎‎)If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.(‎‎33‎‎)Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’(‎‎34‎‎)A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.(‎‎35‎‎)By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

And those don’t simply apply to vaccination as the mark. It would also apply to chips, or tattoos, or piercings, or credit cards, or any other thing.

I am fully convinced that this mark is not physical, and if perhaps it is, it comes in lock step with a full devotion of both head and hands to the beast, having been finally and ultimately given over to our sin by God.

Something God will never allow to happen to any of His children.


Christian, you can face this with boldness, with confidence, and with assurance! God’s hand is not so weak as to be stayed by a needle! Getting the vaccine or not getting the vaccine is a personal decision you can make in the confidence that it is not this mark.

This world is dark enough as it is.

So love God.

There are many things to steal away your attention.

So seek God.

There are things that take the place of God.

So worship God.

Abide in God and don’t interpret Revelation with the morning paper nearby as your commentary.

Who the beast is isn’t important to you…not really.

Who the beast is not? That’s important to you.

The beast is not God.

So love God.

Image Details:

License details

Creator: Thinkstock Images 

Copyright: © Thinkstock LLC

Are you for us or our enemies?

In reading Joshua 1-5 today, I was struck by a number of things, but there were two things that stood out even in that.  One of them is right away in the first verses of the first chapter – the way in which God commissions Joshua.

  • First, God informs Joshua that Moses has died (Joshua 1:1-2a).  God gives Joshua context.
  • Next, God tells Joshua that the task of leading the people now falls to him (Joshua 1:2b).  God gives Joshua work.
  • Next, God describes the land to Joshua (Joshua 1:3-4).  God gives Joshua boundaries.
  • Next, God tells His plan to remain by Joshua’s side (Joshua 1:5).  God gives Joshua encouragement.
  • Next, God uses that as a reason to tell Joshua to be strong and courageous. Twice.  So that the people will inherit the land that was promised to them. (Joshua 1:6-7a).  God gives Joshua a purpose.
  • Next, God ties the call to be strong and courageous with obedience (Joshua 1:7b-8).   God gives Joshua rules.
  • Finally, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous (a third time) because “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:9) God gives Joshua hope.

Basically God says “Joshua, Moses is dead, you have work to do, and here is what you need to do and where you need to do it.  I know you can’t possibly do it on your own, so I’m by your side.  So be strong and courageous so that through you, my people will inherit their land.  But you must be obedient to my law, else you will fail.  And remember,I will never leave you or forsake you.”

That’s the setup. But I noticed a few things as I read that – God encourages Joshua, but He never once encourages Joshua with words that would stroke his ego. Never once does God appeal to how well liked Joshua is. Never once does God ever say “You’ll make a great leader Joshua, you’re smart, talented, brave, and strong.”

Never once does God ask Joshua’s permission.

Far from it. In fact, God even has to command Joshua to be strong and courageous because the task set before him was literally impossible for him to do apart from God. I’ll bet Joshua knew this as well, which is why in verses 10-16, Joshua reiterates this to the people.

And given the response of the people, they probably knew this about Joshua as well, for they reply to him “Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” and “Only be strong and courageous.”

What an encouragement! To be a leader whose people know that the only way you can possibly succeed is by God working through you! And that they still bought into the vision and followed him, knowing that he can’t possibly win unless God is working!

This thought continues through the next few chapters as God prepares Joshua for the siege at Jericho.  Then, the other thing that struck me – right before the siege begins we see this encounter:

Joshua 5:13-15 [13] When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” [14] And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” [15] And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (ESV)

So, a commander shows up with a sword…big deal, right?  Yes.  absolutely, incredibly, BIGGEST DEAL!  Compare this encounter to this passage:

Acts 10:25-26 [25] When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. [26] But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” (ESV)

Peter was pretty awesome, but he refused worship.

.. and this …

Revelation 22:8-9 [8] I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, [9] but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (ESV)

Angles are also pretty awesome. But they refuse worship.

So what’s the big deal?  Notice how the commander responds to Joshua’s worship.  Did you catch it?  Incredibly, he does not correct Joshua from falling in worship at his feet.

And then he says “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Sound familiar?

Exodus 3:2-5 [2] And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” [4] When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” [5] Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (ESV)

Right before the siege of Jericho, God (most likely the person of Jesus) shows up!  And did you also catch how God answered Joshua’s question?  When Joshua asked “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”, God replied in a strange way.

He said “No.” (or “neither” depending on the translation.)

So, who was He there for if not Joshua or Joshua’s enemies?

Himself perhaps?  Was He there to take over command of His army?

Yes.  He remained true – He never left.  He was always there.  And Joshua’s final preparation was to lay down command and hand it over to God.  Joshua’s question was kind of wrong – God does not ally Himself to our causes no matter what they are, rather, we must ally ourselves with God’s causes.

We can learn a lot from these chapters, and we can ask ourselves a lot of questions too. Questions like:

How often do I jump out ahead of God? How often do I waver? Am I obedient to His word?  Do I trust Him?

Do I see Him as someone to serve me at my whim?  Do we ask for God’s stamp of approval on our actions, even righteous ones, or do we seek what God would have us do and then do that?

Do we see God as someone to seek an alliance with – to join us in our cause, or do we see Him as the general who commands us in His causes?

Through the story so far, we are beginning to realize that Joshua’s life was not about him.  And we should be realizing that our lives are not about us.  Joshua’s promotion was not about him – it was about God.  Joshua’s task was not about him, it was about God.  The encouragements Joshua received were not about him, they were about God.

It would do us well to remember our place in God’s plan.

Because in the final analysis, Joshua was not the victorious one.  Nor are we.

God was.

And is.

And evermore will be.

Forever Young

Forever young
I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, and ever

Hello.  My name is Jeff.  And I like 80’s music.  And Napoleon Dynamite. And I may be treating this song with too much seriousness, but the sentiment is strong today – many people are living in the past.

After rewatching Napoleon Dynamite for perhaps the 15th time, I remembered how much I liked this song – “Forever Young” by the not-well-known-here band Alphaville.  It was a reminder to me of high school, and all the fun I had there.  For me high school was not the terror filled, anxiety ridden, roller coaster that it is for many.  I had good friends, real friends.  I had no enemies.  I got along with nearly everybody.  In many ways, I was atypical.

But I also screwed up.  I was not as nice to some as I should have been.  I went with the crowd sometimes, and laughed at people I should have been befriending instead.  So, even while I was atypical, in many ways, I was also typical.

Songs like “Forever Young” are a call back to simpler times, to times where we felt as if we had the world on a string and could enjoy life for everything it offered.  No worries.  No deadlines.  No expectations.  No responsibilities.

All fun.  For the most part.  A time I would be happy to revisit.

But I’d never stay.

I would have to give up so much that I have gained to relive those times.  I do not want to be forever young.  Not in a million years.  You have no idea how much better I have it now than I did at any time in my history.  Even my yesterday is not as good as today.

Why?  Because my wife told me “I love you” today.  Because I got to be with my children and watch them care for little kids at church.  Because I am seeing my children mature into responsible kids (and adults).  Because I got to talk to my oldest daughter who is away at the moment.  Because I got to sing the praises of my Savior, who rescued me from the ignorance of my youth, who saved me from my sin and myself.  Because I got to do that with my kids.  Because every day, I am growing, changing.  Every day I lose a little more of the wretch I am, and gain a little more of the Jesus who loves me gave Himself for me.

Because every day is truly a joy, because my joy is not found in temporary things.  It is found in the God who has given (and still gives) me those temporary things to enjoy.  I reject outright the oft spoken lament – “my best years are behind me.”  The simple fact that God has redeemed me makes that statement utterly false.  My best day ever was today.  And tomorrow will be better still.  And it will all culminate in that great and glorious day when Jesus returns for His church.

And then my forever with Him will be a reality, not a shadow.

No, I do not want to be forever young.  Not for a million dollars a day for a million years.

But I think that this song shines a light on how people typically see this.  Could the desire to be “forever young” stem from a fear of losing temporary happiness, as in this, the first verse …

Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while
Heaven can wait we’re only watching the skies
Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

The scene is a high school dance with your sweetheart near, dancing the night away, wishing it would never end.  Even postponing heaven – heaven can wait, I’m having too much fun here, especially if the worst happens, and she decides to break up … the bomb.  It’s not the end of the world, but you think of it as the end of yours.  The eternal bliss of heaven is weighed against the end of a fleeting relationship and guess what wins?

Heaven can wait.

But why would you want to wait for this?

Revelation 21:1-5 [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

If you will put that on hold for the joy of a relationship in the here and now, even as you fear its end, then your problem is bigger than desiring to be “forever young.”

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don’t have the power, but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music’s for the sad man

At least there is an admission – we don’t have the power to decide to live forever or not.  But we still fight against the inevitable – we never say never.  Even as the desire to remain young, to remain in this moment forever, holds us captive, we realize that we can’t control it – it’s a fantasy to dwell in the now – if only I could stay this way forever.  Forever young.  This verse reflects some powerful truths … one: that we do not control life …

Acts 17:24-27 [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (ESV)

… and two: that life is short …

James 4:13-16 [13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (ESV)

The words of the song here remind us that we are ultimately not in control of our lives.  Which serves to make living in the now, forever young, much more appealing.  It is comfortable, we are happy, why risk it?  Especially if risking it results in the temporary pain of a lost relationship that was never permanent to begin with.

Ahh, the temporary bliss of young love…certainly real, but certainly not worth putting heaven on hold for.

Can you imagine when this race is won?
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune
The music’s played by the, the madman

But yet even in our desire to remain forever young, there is still an excitement about the future (can you imagine?).  Since we know that we cannot remain forever young, we look forward to the end.  When the race is won, and we turn our golden faces towards the sun (or, more rightly, the  Son)…

2 Timothy 4:6-8 [6] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (ESV)

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 [16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

At that trumpet, we will turn our faces towards the Son and see Him in all of his glory and majesty.  And we will join Him!  He alone will be the leader we praise.

The next couple of verses ask important questions, questions like “No matter who you are, one day, everyone will be gone, why don’t they stay young?”  “Am I growing old without a cause?  Am I perishing like a used up horse?”

The sad admission being “I fear growing old.  I fear being used up and forgotten.  I fear being useless.”  And that fear is realized in this lyric …

Youth’s like diamonds in the sun,
And diamonds are forever

Youth shines bright like a diamond.  And diamonds are forever.  Why isn’t youth?  Why can’t it be youth!!

But after much musing about the fleeting nature of youth, the desire to stay young forever and the impossibility of it all, and about why people might want to stay young, the song finally speaks to the real truth behind why so many want to remain forever young …

So many adventures given up today
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
Oh let it come true

… it’s regret.  Look at everything I’ve lost.  Look at the things I forgot to do.  Look at the wasted opportunities.  Look at my sad life of regret.  I wish I could live it all over again – I’d do better.  I’d be better.  If I could only remain young … forever young … everything would be different.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. [10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV)

Living a life of regret is miserable, it leads to worldly grief and death.  You fantasize about being young forever because you hate your now.  And when you fantasize about being forever young, you begin to live a life of regret.  And that mindset rejects the growth through trial – it rejects the joy in living life for God, always being changed, always finding purpose, always being fulfilled in knowing that you are not working for “the now” – for work that will be burned up like so much wood, but work that will last for eternity, because you are investing in the lives of those who will actually live forever.

Romans 8:28-30 [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

Would you choose to remain as you are forever, and therefore reject God’s work in your life?

All of this, of course, is predicated on you belonging to Jesus.  The question asked by the song …

Forever young
I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, and ever

… is a good question, but it is incomplete.  As I mentioned, everyone will live forever – so the question is not “do you want to live forever?”, but “where will you live forever?”  Because everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will ever live, will live forever and ever.

There is only one answer to that question.  No, you will not “cease to be” as many think.  No, not everyone will “go to heaven” as many believe, not even the “good people” are guaranteed heaven as you can never outgood your bad.  Never.

You will either be with God forever (in heaven) or apart from God forever (in hell).  But even that’s not strong enough.  This is perhaps better:

You will either enjoy all of the benefits befitting a child of the King of the universe, all of His love, all of His splendor, all of His goodness, all of the riches of His majesty, and enjoy it forever because you have been redeemed, forgiven, and adopted into His family, with all of the blessing that befit an heir of infinity.

Or you will suffer an eternity of paying a debt that you cannot ever hope to pay, of incarceration for your crimes against an infinitely holy God whose rules you have willfully broken over and over again throughout your entire life.  You will never experience the joy promised in Revelation 21 because you have chosen to say “Heaven can wait.  I’m happy right here.”

Being forever young.

Like the fool…

Luke 12:13-21 [13] Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” [14] But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” [15] And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” [16] And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, [17] and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ [18] And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ [20] But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [21] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (ESV)

… rather than forever His.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 [19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

1 Corinthians 15:53-58 [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” [55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

Do you still want to be forever young?

I don’t.  I’d lose far too much.

… so that no one can buy or sell

Just a thought experiment here…

For those of you who care, the end times position I hold to is called “amillennialism”. If that term is unfamiliar to you, let me help … are you familiar with the Left Behind book series?  If so, it is NOT that.  Not really close.  Except that both views hold to the future return of Jesus.

Given that, my view of the end times is really quite different than most of contemporary Christianity, as is my understanding of the “mark of the beast.”  Almost every discussion of the end times involves the topic of “the mark of the beast” and what it could be.  Many (most?) people think it is a physical mark, many (most?) people think it is something like a chip, etc.

I’m not one of those people.

Here are two of the five “mark of the beast” passages: Continue reading “… so that no one can buy or sell”

Christian, would you fail the “religious test”?

I have attempted to stay away from political posts this year, unless such topics have a direct line to or from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the past week, there have been a few overtly political events that are rooted in the utter rejection of the truth of the gospel, and one of them involves a man who many Christians supported for president, Bernie Sanders, the so called hero of the common man.  But Sanders has come out squarely against both Jesus and Article 6 of the Constitution. Continue reading “Christian, would you fail the “religious test”?”

Who shapes your worship?

Jeremiah 18:1-4 (ESV) (1) The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: (2) “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” (3) So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. (4) And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Worship is so much more than singing, but there is so much worship in singing.

I’m reminded of that when I think of the songs we sang with the college students at The Salt Company in Ames.

I was an orphan, lost at the fall;
Running away when I’d hear you call,
But Father, you worked your will.
I had no righteousness of my own
I had no right to draw near your throne,
But Father, you loved me still.

And in love, before you laid the world’s foundation,
You predestined to adopt me as your own.
You have raised me up so high above my station;
I’m a child of God by grace, and grace alone

Continue reading “Who shapes your worship?”

Christmas…so much more than a baby in a manger.

Christmas is coming.

More than presents, more than time off of work, this season makes me think of who Christmas is really all about. It makes me think of who I really am, and what Christ came to do for me, with me, and through me.

It makes me appreciate that Jesus didn’t simply live, die, and rise again, only to leave and never come back. He promised that He would return after making a place for His people, after making all things new…that He would return to gather them from every tribe, tongue and nation…that He would return, not as He first came – as a helpless baby, but that He would return as a King forever…as THE ONLY King forever.

I rejoice in everything He promised, everything mentioned above, but there is more in which to rejoice.

In this interlude, He has given us His Spirit as the Helper, the Comforter, the Guide.

And I rejoice that He left us His word, His truth. In the intermission, while we wait for all of His promises to be fulfilled, for Him to return to the world’s stage, we wait with His word…His unchanging word…His true word. And His Spirit who guides us with that truth, who enlightens that truth for us, and who changes us by that truth.

He has spoken.

And He now speaks through His word.

From the time He first spoke the universe into existence until now, His word has remained unchanged. His truth is still truth. Though nations change, though people live and die, though cultures shift, though our ideas of right and wrong become less concerned with actual right and wrong and more concerned with what we desire, His word has not changed.

And as much as we want to change it, as much as we want to deny it, as much as we ignore it, God’s word stands forever.  And everything He has said that was recorded for us by the men He chose, still stands.

If you call yourself a Christian, do you believe this?

If you call yourself a Christian, do you rejoice in God’s revealed truth as much as you profess to love His Son?

And if you say you love Jesus, do you listen to His word? Do you obey His commands?

Is Jesus “all about the relationship” with you?  What about His demands on your life?

Because He has demands…

Matthew 16:24–26 (ESV) (24) Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (25) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (26) For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

If I say I loved my wife, but ignored her words, what would that say about my love for her?

If I say I loved my wife, but constantly tried to find ways around her requests of me, what would that say about my love for her?

Think on this as you read headlines about “that couple on HGTV who DARES to attend a church that hates homosexuals.”

Think on this as you read the charges and realize that they are nothing more than false accusations. This couple’s crime is simply believing what Jesus said about sexual relationships, and trying to live in light of that belief. They do not hate. In fact, if they are like EVERY OTHER Christian I know, they actually love the very people who accuse them of hate.

To “that couple on HGTV”, that couple who is being hounded for the crime of believing what Jesus taught, I leave these words of encouragement…

1 Peter 4:12–19 (ESV) (12) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (13) But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (14) If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. (16) Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (17) For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (18) And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (19) Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

But think on this also, especially verse 15, as you contemplate how to respond to those who would level false accusations – Jesus was falsely accused too, and what was His response?

He spoke truth. He acted according to His purpose. And He died for His people – a people who pounded the nails into His flesh, mocked Him, scorned Him, beat Him, ignored Him, denied Him, and greatly sinned against Him for thousands of years.

So what am I to do? I cannot determine who is to be forgiven – I am not the God the Father. I cannot die and rise for the forgiveness of the sins of those who are faithless – I am not God the Son. I cannot change hearts – I am not God the Holy Spirit.

But I can speak truth…but only if I know it. God has spoken to us, and if I have any hope of addressing the sin in this world, including my own, I must listen. I must study. I must read. I must pray. I must be transformed. I must love truth.

And I must love those who would sin against me.

(Matthew 5:43-48 ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus came to this earth for people such as this. And while He was on this earth, He loved with a perfect love that calls out of death into life, those who sinned against Him. Even now, while He is preparing a place for His people, He is still calling, still loving, still making the dead live.

This is what Christmas celebrates. It is not simply “Jesus”, it is everything Jesus was born to do, did do, and still does. Which certainly includes the celebration of His birth and the expectation of His return.

But it also includes a celebration of His word.

Because we cannot say we love Him and ignore His words.

(John 14:15-17 ESV) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.


A stone of stumbling…a rock of offense

Romans 9:30–33 (ESV) (30) What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; (31) but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. (32) Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (33) as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

In case you hadn’t heard, the gospel is offensive.

1 Peter 2:7–8 (ESV) (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The gospel (good news) actually begins with bad news. Very bad news.

That bad news? You are a disobedient criminal (sinner, wicked, corrupt, pick whatever synonym you want) by nature and by choice.  Wanna hear worse news?  Payment for your crimes is demanded and will come due.

Can it get even worse?

Consider this … that payment that is due is made throughout eternity, with no chance of parole. No bail. No visitation.


Nobody wants to hear that they are a criminal facing an eternal prison. Nobody wants to hear that no matter how hard they try, their best will never be good enough to earn them a stay of execution.

There is no reduced sentence for good behavior.

And lest you think it’s “just them”, this prison sentence isn’t just for Joe who thinks he’s a woman, Sue who married her girlfriend, Jim who he beat his wife, or Bob who’s a creeper, it’s all encompassing – the gospel leaves no room for “acceptable” rebellion …

Romans 3:10–19 (ESV) (10) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (13) “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (14) “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” (15) “Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) in their paths are ruin and misery, (17) and the way of peace they have not known.” (18) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (19) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Notice carefully what Paul says it is that causes of all of this – not that “Joe thinks he’s a woman” or “Sue married her girlfriend” or “Jim beat his wife” or “Bob looks at women lustfully.”

Far from it!  By quoting Isaiah, Paul says that the reason everyone has “become worthless” is not the individual ways in which sin manifests itself in our lives, it’s this:

“All have turned aside.”

We have all turned aside from and rejected God. We have all spit in his face. We have all thought that we know better. We have replaced the true God with ourselves.  Even when we thought more highly of ourselves.  Even when we thought that we didn’t really hate God when we only ignored Him most of the time.

Yeah … that was hatred.  Calling it something else to make yourself feel better about your rebellion doesn’t change what it is or was.

Rebellion.  God is your king regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it.

And we replaced Him with anything else because “Ain’t nobody telling me what I can and can’t do!”

And that rebellion, no matter how it plays out in our lives, is worthy of death.  Which leaves us with only two options (that is, if we don’t want the death penalty):

  1. I can pay for my own crimes for eternity
  2. someone else, someone who is able, can pay for my crimes

And here is why the gospel is good news.

The good news, though it starts off with a death sentence, ends with the hope of freedom! That the death sentence that we all deserve was already carried out, on a cross, 2000 years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Executed by the only righteous judge in the entire universe, against the only person in the entire universe whose humanity demonstrated that he deserved life – someone who willingly chose to take the bullet for his enemies.

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

There is only one way to be pardoned, one way to be free, and it goes right through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Acts 4:8–12 (ESV) (8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, (9) if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, (10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. (11) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (12) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

And yet, even in that great news, there is offense…

John 14:1–7 (ESV) (1) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The “no one” that Jesus is referring to is literally “no one.”  Not one person in existence.  Not one person who has ever lived, is currently living, or who will live from now until the end of time.  Not you, not me, not anybody in the history of forever has any hope throughout forever except through faith in Jesus.

Could it be that some of the best news of the gospel is perhaps the most offensive thing about it?  That you can do nothing to earn grace, nothing to deserve a pardon.  You can’t “out-good” your bad.  You can’t work off your sentence.

And perhaps the saddest thing is that we try so hard.  Only to fail so miserably.  It never ends well when we try to do Jesus’ job for Him.

And oh how we try.

Remember Paul’s admonition?  Remember the condemnation he proclaimed?  That we have all turned away from God?

Now hear the hope – turn away from yourself and trust in Jesus as your only hope of pardon, as your only escape from the eternal prison that awaits you, and set your eyes on this…

Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV) (1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (5) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He is powerful to make all things new.

Even you.

Eternity in the echo chamber

In the wake of the horrific Orlando murders, I am reminded of conversations about death throughout the years that my friends and I have had with various people – many of whom claim no particular allegiance to Christ or Christianity, and some of whom are avowed atheists.  These conversations are good and necessary – we should all be aware that our life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow.  Even atheists believe that they could die tomorrow, we all could.

Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow.

In these conversations that we have had, we have noticed a few things common in all of them:

  1. Almost everyone believes that there is something after death
  2. Almost everyone believes that they will be in a better place after we die
  3. Almost everyone believes that Omar Mateen is not in a better place

And almost everyone believes that Omar Mateen is not in a better place for this reason – that he deserves to be punished for what he did. Continue reading “Eternity in the echo chamber”

#lovewins, logic, and bigotry

Recent events should be clarifying a ton of things for everyone.

Should be.

But the clarity that has been reached is probably something many of you already expected.  It has become crystal clear…this country is full of bigotry, hatemongering, phobia, and hypocrisy.  Those darn Christians, right?


It is interesting to me how many of the same people who were celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision redefining marriage with #lovewins, are now threatening a dentist with death, and having a total meltdown with crass name calling and profanity laced tirades against anyone who would dare, DARE, chastise Planned Parenthood for murdering children.

It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

Continue reading “#lovewins, logic, and bigotry”