Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What Will Happen To The American Christian?


Our church just finished a study on the book of Daniel.  One of the things that stood out to me was that Daniel prayed and fasted for twenty-one days to find the answer of what was going to happen to his people in the future.  God answered his prayer and gave him a vision of the future.  In the book of Revelation, John was given a vision of what was going to happen to the followers of Jesus Christ-Christians.  That vision confirmed what Jesus said, If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as it loves its own people. But I have chosen you to be different from those in the world. So, you don’t belong to the world, and that is why the world hates you.

Today, all over the world Christians are public enemy number one.  The hatred is seen daily in the Islamic countries where Christians are beaten, tortured, raped, beheaded, or driven from their homes.  Christians in these Muslim countries are going through significant tribulation right now.  The blood of these Christian martyrs is crying out from under the altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge those who live on the earth” and avenge our blood? The majority of the world’s Christian believes scattered over two-thirds of world face this persecution every day. In some areas, it is nothing short of genocide.

Meanwhile, back in America in our safe and secure, air-conditioned churches, where we still have the freedom to worship if we choose, we ignore the plight of our fellow Christians, and believe that the LORD will take us out of all the coming “tribulations” that our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are now going through.

It is estimated that as many as 160,000 a year die for their testimony with more martyrs in the 20th century than in the previous nineteen. Occasionally a high-profile case gets the media's attention, but most die in closed countries, often buried in graves known only by the LORD.
As I was scanning through some news articles one caught my attention. In the country of Chechnya, this Islamic State has urged its Muslim followers to kidnap and murder Christians in “Russian-occupied Muslim areas,” according to a letter published by an intelligence group that monitors the terrorist organization’s online communications.
ISIS says Russian rule there is an occupation.  Now here is what I find very interesting, the Muslims claim that Russia has intentionally occupied Muslim-majority areas in the Caucasus and Central Asia to convert Muslims to Christianity or forcibly displace them.
After the killing of five women in a church, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.  The killer, who the ISIS describes as an “extraordinary mujtahid,” used a hunting rifle to kill people attending the Russian pre-Lent festival Maslenitsa. The man reportedly donned a beard and yelled, “Allahu akbar.”
In a letter from those claiming responsibility they stated, “Allah permitting, this will be the spark for more bloody attacks that will destroy a larger number of the Christian combatants in all the Russian-occupied Muslim areas. Many of them will be killed as a punishment for their disbelief in Allah the Great, and it will plant fear and horror inside the hearts of hundreds of thousands of their brothers and make them flee with fear.”
In this same letter, there is a call for Muslims to kidnap and kill Christians living in Russia, and to use extortion.  “Let every Muslim know that the blood of those combatant Christians and their money is permissible and that taking any of them as hostages for ransom or to swap with a Muslim prisoner is also permissible. So, let the good deed be for everybody.”
Today, religion-based governments allow no tolerance for anyone labeled "Christian." These include countries where there are Communist, Islamist, Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern beliefs. Christians living under any of these are either unwelcome or shot on sight.

Millions have died in Islam's bloody campaign to control continental Africa. In Sudan alone 1.3 million have been killed, some by crucifixion. Tribal warfare in other African nations have caught Christians in the crossfire.
In the vision given to John, he writes about what would take place in the end-times. The testing of faith, and the persecution for being a follower of Jesus Christ would be faced by those faithful to the LORD.  Yet, those who remained faithful would be blessed.  The blessing contained in the vision given to John was that we would know what was coming, and could prepare ourselves spiritually.  The problem is the American Christian believes that they will not see the suffering the rest of the Christian world is going through.  For some unscriptural reason, they think they will not be here when all hell breaks loose.  The problem is the forces of hell have already broken loose, and many are dying everyday for their faith in Jesus Christ.  It is time that the American Christian open their eyes to what is happen now.  We are not talking about the distant future; we are facing the reality of the present.  
Paul writing to the Church at Ephesus admonished them to, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

In both the vision of Daniel and John we have been given the knowledge of what will happen to us in the end-times.  We need to use that knowledge to prepare for the coming trials that we not find ourselves like the five foolish virgins who were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

When Do I Stop Being An Immigrant?



I keep hearing people referring to all of us as immigrants. What I would like to know is how many generations are required before someone in no longer classed as an immigrant? My 12th grandfather George Truitt came to this country in 1640, my family has been in America for 377 years, would this mean I can say I am not an immigrant?
It is my understanding an immigrant is a person who comes from another country to take up permanent residence. My grandfather George was an immigrant from England and took up permanent residence in Virginia in 1640. His children were native citizens of America, making his descendants native born citizens and not immigrants.
I hear that the only people who are native Americans are the American Indians. Here is an interesting fact. In a very recent study (February 2014) of the genome of a little boy, known as Anzick-1 who was buried in Montana belonging to the Clovis culture. His genome is the first ancient American genome to be sequenced fully. The data indicates that he, as well as all South American and north American native populations, descended from Siberian populations that crossed the Bering Strait when it was a land bridge. So, the native American Indian are not native but also immigrated to North America.
With this small amount of knowledge, any one coming into this country now from another country is an immigrant. If they were not born here, they are not native. Immigrants are here by invitation only. Our government sets the number of immigrants who can come into this country by a process that protect the native citizens of this country. When we allow those, who hate our culture and values and disrespect our form of government to come into our country, we endanger the native citizens.
I am tired of having people putting me on a guilt trip by talking about women and children who need our protection. My problem as I see it is the reality of young men who should be protecting the safety of their own country and fighting for their freedom and liberty coming to America as “refugees.” They are here while we are sending our own sons and daughters to protect their country at taxpayer expense. We are allowing some of the very people who are killing our sons and daughter in their country to come to our country under the guise of a “refugee” and supporting them with taxpayer money. These “refugees” are taking benefits that could go to support Americans. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates in the first five years each refugee from the Middle East cost taxpayers $64,370. That is 12 times what it cost to care for one refugee in a neighboring Middle Eastern country. A staggering 91 percent receive food stamps, and 68 percent receive cash assistance. Given the high cost, it would be better if we paid neighboring countries in the Middle East to take these refugees.
The Middle Eastern countries have the money and space for them. This is where they should go; their culture is welcome there. Americans have a different culture. We are approaching the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ how many Muslims will we be offended by our celebration that Jesus Christ is the resurrected LORD? What type of protest will be made that we are offending their “religion”?
Our president is right to protect the interest of the American people. No one should be allowed in this country until they have followed the proper process. America is a sovereign nation with borders that are put there to protect and secure the nation, and anyone who comes to this country should only be allow in by invitation and vetting.

The Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ


Course Objective:   At the completion of this study the participant will have a greater understanding of the end times as given by Jesus Christ through his disciple John.  The study will be based on the number of (7) seven and how John groups the various visions into sevens.  Each of the 12 figurative prophecies in Revelation spans the Christian Era and will be studied in detail. 
Purpose: The purpose is to show Jesus Christ as the theme of the book and to reveal His place in the fulfillment of the end time prophecies.
Lesson Outline:
Outline of Revelation
 Session 1:  How To Read and Understand Revelation. – (Chapter 1)
Session 2:  Seven Churches a (chaps. 2-5)
Session 3:  Seven Seals – Christ’s People Preserved (chaps. 6:1-8:1)
Session 4:  Seven Trumpets – Christ’s People Witness (chaps. 8-11) .
Session 5:  Interlude – Christ’s People Victorious over Evil (chaps. 12-14)
Session 6:  Seven Bowls and the Last Judgments – The Cosmic Exodus (chaps. 15-19)
Session 7:  The Kingdom of Christ and Satan’s Doom (chap. 20)
Session 8:  The New Heaven and Earth (chaps. 21-22)
This Bible study is designed to highlight the significant points of Revelation. I encourage you, the participant, to maximize your learning by working through the study questions for each week prior to coming to class. These questions are not designed as a test of your knowledge and should not be treated as such. Instead, they are provided to help you begin to ask essential questions about the interpretation and contents of Revelation. We will focus on each of these questions when we gather together.
I encourage you to bring your insights and questions to class to share with others. Those doing this Bible study online send your questions and insight, so we can share them with others.
There is perhaps no more misunderstood book of the Bible than Revelation. Yet it has a clear message for all who would devote themselves to its pages. May God bless our study of His Word! 
Introduction
Dragons, bizarre creatures, epic battles, and an intimate love story laced with malicious treachery. This could be the tag line of a blockbuster movie, but instead, it is a thumbnail sketch of the end times.  During the past nearly two thousand years millions of people have had the chance to read the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Many have wondered if Revelation will show them in advance what will happen in the future. Some churches have used it to support their interpretation of current world events. Influential Christian teachers and even whole denominations have primarily considered it to be "off limits," a book whose message is so cryptic that it is of little value, or even dangerous. It is no wonder that most of the readers have come away scratching their heads and wondering, "what was that all about?
It is the only book of the Bible that does not have a consensus by theologians as to its theme, its structure, the outline of its main sections and the meaning of the significant symbols. It is a book that requires in-depth study, with the insight of the Holy Spirit, and it deserves much more than a quick glance to see what the mark of the beast is, or who is the Antichrist, and if there is anything that relates to the current headline news. A study of Revelation requires slow, thorough and repeated reading, looking up texts and wrestling with scriptural comparisons to uncover the mysteries that are there. But it is worth the effort—"Blessed is he who reads…this prophecy and keeps those things which are written therein."(Rev. 1:3)
As we start this study in the book of Revelation we first need to understand the division of the book.  Just like Daniel, Revelation is divided in to two sections.  The same bifid and chiasmic form found in the book of Daniel appears in Revelation. Revelation is a series of parallel prophecies about the Christian Era. Here is the 1st Chiasm:
 A: ch 2-3 The Seven churches     (The Church)
 B: ch 6  The Seven Seals     (World Judged)
 C: ch 7:1-8 The 144,000     (Jewish People) 
 C: ch 7:9-14 The Great Multitude     (NT Saints)
 B: ch 8-9 The Seven Trumpets     (World Judged)
 A: ch 11: The Two Witnesses     (The Church)

 As was true in Daniel, Revelation also has a message within the chiasm,
 During the Christian Era, there will be seven church periods and seven different kinds of churches. The Jews and the Church will be God’s Two Witnesses on Earth.
The second chiasmic:
The 2nd half of Revelation is NOT about the Antichrist.  Though much more complicated than the first Chiasm, here is Revelation's 2nd Chiasm:
A.  ch 12  -- Woman with 12 Stars     (All of Israel, OT, and NT)
B.  ch 13-14  -- Leopard-Lion-Bear Beast     (Satanic Kingdom)
 Ba (14) the Jews & the Church during the reign of that beast. 
C.  ch 15 -- Song of Moses and Lamb     (Victory for the Redeemed)
C.  ch 16 --  Bowls of Wrath     (Wrath for the wicked) 
B.   ch 17-19 -- Seven-Headed Beast     (Satanic kingdoms) 
Ba (18) Babylon and all the lost during the Scarlet Beast's reign
Bb (19) King of kings, Destruction of the wicked, the end of Scarlet beast
A.  ch 20 -- The "thousand" years    (the Church
John has grouped many things into sevens. But how many times does the number “seven” occur?  Looking at the number of areas John writes about and not counting repeated sevens of things in the same verse, the number obtained is seven times seven, or 49.

1.     Churches 1:4; 1:11; 1:20 (2)

2.     Spirits1:4 ; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6

3.     Candlesticks 1:12; 1:13; 1:20 (2); 2:1

4.     Stars 1:16; 1:20 (2); 2:1; 3:1

5.     Lamps 4:5

6.     Seals 5:1; 5:5

7.     Horns 5:6

8.     Eyes 5:6

9.     Angels 8:2; 8:6; 15:1; 15:6; 15:7; 15:8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9

10.Trumpets 8:2; 8:6

11.Thunders 10:3; 10:4 (2)

12.Thousand men 11:13

13.Heads 12:3; 13:1; 17:3; 17:7; 17:9

14.Crowns 12:3

15.Plagues 15:1; 15:6; 15:8; 21:9

16.Vials 15:7; 17:1; 21:9

17.Mountains 17:9

18.Kings 17:10
The Book of Revelation is not just a collection of interesting symbols and metaphors or even a grouping of the number seven, it reveals in symbolic language Jesus and His great enemy who are engaged in a very real spiritual battle between good and evil that has been raging since “Lucifer, son of the morning… said in [his] heart… I will be like the Most-High” (Isaiah 14:12-14).
At the dawn of creation “that ancient serpent” succeeded in bringing the battlefield to earth. This is a battle to the death that has no neutral ground, even though most of the world’s people know nothing about it. A Revelation of Jesus unmasks the great deceiver and exposes his deadly traps, tricks, and agents. But, the Book of Revelation is not about Satan— it is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). Jesus is the hero and His complete victory, and the eradication of evil is the great theme. The purpose of this study is to present Jesus as He is revealed in the Book of Revelation, so that in seeing Him more clearly, we may fall in love with Him more than ever before.
DISCLAIMER
This study does not reflect the official teaching of the Friends Church (Quaker) and does not have any denominational endorsement, but represents the research and study of over forty years.  I do not consider myself an expert in Bible prophecy and only share what I have learned over the years.  I am not trying to convince you, or cause you to change your present beliefs about the book of Revelation; I only wish to challenge you to search the scriptures.
With that said, we will start the first lesson on April 18, 2018.  If you are interested in being part of this study send an email to ltruitt1044@gmail.com

Ezra- Christ Through the Bible


Text “For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us, but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” (Ezr 9:9)

After 70 years in exile, the people of Israel were coming back home. The new Persian emperor Cyrus had decreed that they return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of their God—which had lain in ruins the whole time (Ezr 1:1–4).

Zerubbabel and Jeshua, descendants of King David and Aaron the priest, answer the call to rebuild the house of God.

But the temple wasn’t the only thing in need, the Hebrews had forgotten God’s laws—and were disregarding them. Many of the returning people needed to remember the covenant they’d made with God. They needed to remember why they were in their situation: why they had to go to Babylon (which you can read about in Kings and Chronicles), and why they’d been allowed to come back. The temple needed a new foundation, but the people needed to return to the foundations of their faith, too.

Ezra, the scribe, answers the call to teach Israel the ways of God again (Ezr 7:10).

Ezra is also traditionally credited with writing the books of First and Second Chronicles. If this is true, then Ezra is the second most prolific author of the Bible (after Moses).

Ezra was a man of the Word and prayer. He was passionate for the purity of God’s people, seeking to praise God’s name, to bring in God’s Kingdom and to do God’s will on earth as in heaven.

The book of Ezra chronicles both stories: rebuilding the temple and remembering the law. This account weaves together several categories of written works.

  • Historical narrative—events surrounding Israel’s return, temple reconstruction, and revival
  • Official documents—letters and decrees sent to and from the Persian emperors during this time period
  • Jewish records—names of individuals and families who returned to Israel
  • Ezra’s autobiographical texts—prayers, reflections, and actions from Ezra’s point of view

These pieces come together to tell us how God began restoring Israel.

Ezra’s role in the Bible

Ezra begins a new beginning in Israel’s history:

  • From Genesis to Deuteronomy, God calls out Israel as a particular nation and teaches them His laws.
  • From Joshua to 2 Chronicles, God gives Israel a land and a king, but Israel loses both when they consistently disobey God.
  • From Ezra to Esther, God restores Israel from exile in their own land again.

Ezra and Nehemiah (the next book of the Bible) were initially considered two parts of one book. Ezra focuses on rebuilding the temple; Nehemiah focuses on rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Both form the story of how God reestablishes Israel in the land He promised to her. The book of Ezra also references other biblical prophets, namely Haggai and Zechariah, whose messages stirred up the people to finish building the temple (Ezr 5:1).

When God needed a man of pure character and firm conviction, He chose Ezra. Ezra means “help,” as in helping to restore and reform Judah. His example can be encouraging to any who desire to be faithful to God.

Ezra was a direct descendant of the priestly family of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). He was “a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6) and an “expert in the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of His statutes to Israel” (Ezra 7:11). In a testimony to his convictions, we read that “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

While in Babylon, Ezra gained the favor of King Artaxerxes, who granted him a commission to return to Jerusalem (this was the second return). The king invited all who wanted to go—Jews, Israelites, priests, and Levites—to accompany Ezra to Jerusalem. However, only 1,754 chose to make the journey, compared with 49,897 who had returned with Zerubbabel 79 years earlier.

The purpose of Ezra’s teaching, however, was not merely to reestablish the theocracy in Judah after returning from Babylon as some historians argue. The book’s emphasis is not on suppressing the previously mentioned prophetic hopes. In fact, a close reading of the text demonstrates that Ezra does not merely look back to the glory of Solomon’s kingdom but also points forward.

For example, observe the edict in Ezra 7:12 ff. as a starting point. The language concerns the house or dwelling of God which is in Jerusalem. Here is the desire for pure and effective worship among the Jewish people over and against the worship of foreign gods. There is a return to the religion of old, but there is something more. For example, holiness is no longer merely restricted to some particular place such as the temple; instead, holiness is expanded and extends beyond the temple itself. (2) This anticipates something more significant to come (e.g., Jn 4:21; Eph 2:19-22).

Ezra was a man of prayer.  In his prayers, there is a reflection on the past but also a looking forward to what God has promised.  He acknowledged the relief from bondage from Babylon and a secure place to dwell.  The reference to a “a secure place,” (literally “a tent peg”) is meant to imply a firm anchor of stability for the community; however, the notion also alludes to something that is transient since it probably refers to the nomadic practice of staking a tent. There is no final satisfaction here that these Israelite travelers have indeed arrived at their final destination, for this rebuilt temple is not the final temple. Rather, there is in the book of Ezra the recognition that believers are aliens and strangers here on earth: pilgrims pressing towards a heavenly city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).

Ezra has set forth some excellent points for ministers and teachers in the days to come.

Ezra has set the right priorities of duties:

1.     first study,

2.     then practice, and then—and only then—

3.     teaching it to others.

The book of Ezra also reminds us that he respected the forward-looking nature of God’s plan. In other words, the Scriptures look forward to another place, another time, and especially another man.

You know that Ezra was only a man. Yet, there was another man, not a mere man, that Ezra’s life and theology ultimately points forward to. He is Christ. This Christ is a man, unlike the Pharisees. This is one, who when he taught, caused the people to marvel at his teaching and say, “Here is one who teaches with authority, not like the other Scribes and Pharisees.”

Look at the life of Christ.

1.     He practiced what he preached.

2.     He spoke only truth

3.     He not only knew the Scripture He was the WORD.

As the Apostle says, “Who is sufficient for these things?”. Not us. Only Christ. However, may God grant as ministers of the Gospel, the ability to trust in and depend upon this Divine-human teacher, in whom all of our shortcomings in our own study, practice, and teaching are washed away. Christ is our penalty payer and our probation keeper. May God grant to us the grace to continually lay hold of that alien righteousness, which Ezra merely shadows and points forward to, which alone can cover all of their deficits and demerits.

May God grant us this grace so that they may proclaim with the apostle Paul, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col 1:28, NIV).

 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”  – 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

Restoration of the people

Although the second return numbered fewer than 2,000 people, we must consider that five decades had passed since the completion of the temple in Jerusalem.  Much can happen in two generations. The temple was complete and in use, but something was missing: a right attitude toward Almighty God. The people still lacked understanding. They were not obedient to God.

God works in a systematic and orderly way. Through the Persian king, Cyrus, He fulfilled His promise that the Jews could return to their homeland after 70 years in captivity. Next God provided Zerubbabel to rebuild the literal temple. Finally, God set His hand to begin to restore the spiritual temple, a remnant of Judah. He used Ezra to accomplish this. Jesus told the woman at the well that the spiritual temple was more important that the physical temple.  The worship of God would be in spirit and truth.

Ezra took a census of those who volunteered to return to Judah and Jerusalem with him. An important and practical reason for the census was to determine the needs for the temple services.

Ezra was surprised—as he considered who could serve in what capacity—that no Levites were present. “And I looked among the people and the priests and found none of the sons of Levi there” (Ezra 8:15). So, he directed leaders of his countrymen to “bring us servants for the house of our God” (Ezra 8:17). The leaders then made sure some Levites would return with Ezra for the service of the temple.  Jesus said to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.

Next Ezra needed protection for “us and our little ones and all our possessions” on the long journey back to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:21). He was ashamed to ask the king to supply an escort of soldiers for defense against any enemies they might encounter. So, he proclaimed a fast, and he and the people humbled themselves before God, asking Him to safeguard them on this dangerous trek. “So, we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:23).

The journey was safe and uneventful. “So, we came to Jerusalem and stayed there three days” (Ezra 8:32). Then they gave offerings to God.  In the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in the 17th chapter of John Jesus prays for our safety.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.   As thou hast sent me into the world, even so, have I also sent them into the world.   And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.   Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Removing sin

After their offerings, the leaders came to Ezra worried about a significant problem: Men of the remnant of Judah and a few from Israel had taken wives from neighboring gentile nations. This God had expressly forbidden them to do since such marriages would weaken their resolve to honor God, who had explicitly chosen and selected Judah and Israel to represent Him.

Note Ezra’s words in this regard: “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites” (Ezra 9:1).

These heathen nations worshiped false gods. Were the Israelite men to remain married to their foreign wives, the prospect of false religion again enticing and seducing God’s people was a real and dangerous problem. This, God had earlier warned, was precisely one of the reasons His people would be taken into national captivity unless they repented.

God had sent Ezra to teach His people His way of life, to reveal to them their sins and exhort them to heartfelt repentance. “Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this’ ” (Ezra 10:1-2).

Shechaniah encouraged Ezra to take the responsibility and make a decree that Jewish men separate themselves from their gentile wives. “Then Ezra arose and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So, they swore an oath” (Ezra 10:5).

Ezra issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to the descendants of the captivity, directing them to gather in Jerusalem (Ezra 10:7). The men of Judah and Benjamin came as directed and sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of importance of the business at hand and because of heavy rain. (This took place in the time of year we would call December.)

Ezra led a confession to God, admonishing the gathered Benjaminites and Judahites and some Israelites to put away their pagan wives. Most of them agreed to do so and obeyed God’s command through Ezra. After several months “they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives” (Ezra 10:17). God, through His faithful priest Ezra, had removed a significant source of sin from the people. God recognized that His people need to be united spiritually in their worship of Him (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and free us from the bondage of sin.

Although faithful Ezra had helped the remnant of Judah to return to God, they did not remain faithful. Neither had Israel repented and turned to God after Assyria removed its people from their northern kingdom almost three centuries earlier (721-718).

In chapter 9, Ezra responded to the disobedience and rebellion of God’s people by weeping over Jerusalem, just as Jesus would weep over Jerusalem’s refusal to receive and welcome Him.

Just as in the life of Ezra, Christ loves His people, He wants to bless them but is saddened by rebellion and disobedience.

Ezra was also a priest and a scribe devoted to the law of Moses. Jesus came as the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and he countered temptation and those who challenges him in debate with appeals to Scripture.

Paul like Ezra knew the importance of laying the foundation in Jesus Christ.

 “According to the grace of God given me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Another priest to gather Israel

God promised the people of Judah He would return them to Jerusalem, after their 70-year Babylonian captivity, to rebuild the temple and restore proper worship. God similarly pledges to return Judah and Israel to their ancestral homeland. Many prophecies show that at Jesus Christ’s second coming He will gather the descendants of Israel and Judah from the ends of the earth (Isaiah 11:10-12; Jeremiah 23:3-8; Ezekiel 36:1-38; Ezekiel 39:25-29).

“ ‘Then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 39:28-29).

God promised: He would gather Israel back to her land after He had punished her (Dt 30:3). The book of Ezra shows us how God kept that promise.

The LORD is coming back.  Just as He kept His promise to Israel to bring Judah out of Babylonian captivity.  He has kept His promise to free us from the bondage and captivity of sin.  He offers to you today that freedom.  If you have not accepted Him don’t wait until it is to late, time is running out, and you do not want to miss the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation.  Don’t be like those who stayed in Babylon and missed out on the freedom of that the LORD gives to those who follow Him.  Jesus is ready to forgive your sins and free you from the bondage of sin.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Children, Guns and Mass Shootings


 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. Isa. 3:12 KJV
This past week the shooting of 17 people has dominated the news in America.  Every time a school shooting takes place or a mass shooting there is a rush to blame the gun.  First let me say, I do not own a gun, I am not a member of the NRA, but I do support gun ownership and the Second Amendment.  I have a life gun permit because it is my Constitutional right. I believe that an individual has the right to protect themselves, their family and property.  As a minister, I believe the church has the right to defend those who worship with whatever force is needed to save lives.  As a retired teacher, I believe schools should not be allowed to become soft targets but protect students with armed security and the use of deadly force.  With all that said, I have a few observations that I would like to share.
Isaiah told us what would happen when we turn away from the LORD.  There would be judgment brought upon the nation.  This judgment would be identified by children becoming oppressors and women ruling over them.  The leaders of this country have lead us down the path of destruction and have turn our nation away from the LORD.
There is a generation in America today that has no regards for human life.  It is not the evil of the gun that has taken so many lives but the darkness in the hearts of the people.  What I found interesting was when Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the NRA was confronted by the parents of Parkland victims, they displayed the same anger Nikolas Cruz had when he killed his seventeen victims.  The people who rushed the stage and were screaming “burn her” to Dana Loesch, were no different from Nikolas Cruz.  They want to ban guns but are willing to use firebrands to burn her to death. 
Not long after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Gen. 6:5-6).  How much longer will evil continue before the wrath of God is poured out on mankind?
Paul, in writing to the Church at Rome describes today’s generation, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and hatred. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent new forms of evil; they disobey their parents.… (Rom.1:29)
It is this generation that is demanding to be heard, children who are disobedient to authority of any type, lack respect for human life, feel they are entitled to whatever they demand.  This is the generation that does not know God.
How did we get to the place we are as a society today?  We rejected the LORD.
I was a junior in high school in 1966 when I became aware of the depth of evil in our country. Mass murder would become a common event over the next fifty some years. Some of these murders would make a lasting impression on me. The pictures of the eight nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital murdered by Richard Speck to the clock tower at the University of Texas campus in Austin where Charles Whitman, kills 15 people and wounds another 32 before being shot dead by police. That was in 1966. I have never forgotten the picture of the clock tower or the bodies scattered on the ground or the images of the eight nurses.  Evil hearts have a bloody face.

Over the years, I have also often asked myself this question, “What has changed in America that can explain the increase in evil by individuals?” After fifty years in the ministry and almost thirty years as a teacher what has changed is that there is far less religious influence today. When I first started teaching in public school, I was amazed at the number of students who had never attended a church service, and that includes funerals and weddings. So, it is not surprising they would not know “Thou shall not commit murder.” 

That brings to mind the next question, where does the idea for these horrible evil crimes originate? Violent movies? Violent video games? Political warfare language?  Or could it be the mind-altering antidepressants which are associated with violence? Are, these factors contributing to the increase in mass murders?

Not to sound arrogant but I do have the answer, as the Shadow would say, “It is the evil that lurks in the hearts of men.” The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Murder starts in the heart, not with a gun. It is a spiritual condition. I know the progressive socialist won’t accept this. They will look everywhere for an explanation except where the answer lies---in the heart. To stop these violent acts the heart needs to be changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
                                                                                                                                           
Much of popular culture minimizes religion, glorifies foolishness, wallows in corruption, and revels in cruelty, mayhem, blood, gore, and sadism. All these feeds the evil heart. Will it ever stop? History would tell us, NO!  Not until we change the heart, and this can only be done by the transforming power of Jesus Christ. 

It is no the government’s responsibility to teach right from wrong.  It is not the school’s responsibility to teach to teach right from wrong.  It is the parent’s responsibility to train their children in the right way.  It is the churches responsibility to help train and support the parents in teaching their children right from wrong.  However, churches cannot help parents if they fail to see the importance of religious training.  

Parental involvement is extremely crucial to a child’s life; parents‟ involvement, or lack thereof, both in the school, home and at church, will automatically influence the future of our children. It is up to the parents to have the will to be present, both physically, mentally, and spiritually and available to their children.

Parents have a huge role in a child’s life.  They are the determining factor in a child’s success or failure: academically, socially, spiritually and financially. Furthermore, an extreme abundance of parents in our 21st Century are divorcing and spending less valuable time with their children. The family is broken.  Single mothers are left to raise their children without the support of the father.  Parents have become too busy with their jobs, marriage issues, financial needs, and social life. Many must work two or more jobs to sustain the family’s basic needs and to provide their children with the most they can to be well-educated and achieve the most in life, while others face multiple problems with husbands or wives, not even to mention the issues outside of home with jobs, government rules, and other fundamental life issues. Consequently, they lack involvement in the child’s life. Most of the reasons why children do not care about school are not motivated to learn, start drinking and smoking, become parents at an early age, cause accidents, are placed in jail, and even die early are because of the lack of parental involvement. However, a child’s life can completely turnaround from failure to success if a parent decides to address the spiritual needs of their child and their own life.

 Finally, the lack of parental involvement has become, and will continue to be, a severe issue in our society, unless parents start to make a real “change.”   That change cannot happen by moving away from the influence of a godly home based on the principles of God’s word.  Until we address the real issue, we will continue to see an increase in violence and face the judgment of God upon our nation.