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Raising Children in a Godless Age (Standing Watch) 10 min. video

One Way (New Horizons)

There’s an almost universal urge to worship ‘God’. Two billion Christians, a billion plus in Islam, a billion Hindu, and countless other belief systems - each with its own form of worship. The urge is built into the human psyche. So - ’many ways to God’?
Christianity uncompromisingly claims to be unique, the ‘only way’ to God: ‘...there is salvation in no other One [Jesus of Nazareth]; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). That, on the face of it, unfairly excludes billions of humanity - both before and after Jesus.
Most of us hang on to the belief system into which we are born. Christians retain allegiance to the Christian tag, Muslims remain faithful to Mohammed etc. Each faith has its own standards and requirements, its own rewards. But why such diversity, as each claims to worship one and the same God?
As He is our Creator, God merits our worship - and from the beginning He has been jealous as to how we worship. He, for example, accepted the offering of the first naturally - born human, Abel, while rejecting that of his bother. The Christian Scriptures tell us‘...God is not a God of disorder’ (I Corinthians 14:33), and He has clearly defined how we should approach Him in worship. His instructions to Israel, His model nation, were ‘ shall worship no other god. For Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). And He doesn’t change but is’...the same yesterday, today and forever’.
But early in our history mankind in general lost touch and ‘...instead of worshipping the imperishable God, they worshipped images resembling perishable man or resembling birds or beasts or reptiles’ (Romans 1:23). It was the beginning of home-made - and often devil-inspired - religions, and has since diversified through to our time.
The LORD warned Israel not to worship ‘...the host of heaven’ [the sun etc] (Deuteronomy 17:2-3), nor to use their religious artefacts, their rites and ceremonies: ‘ shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their sacred poles’ (Ezekiel 34:13). Writes the prophet Jeremiah: ‘...Do not learn the way of the nations...For the customs of the people are vain’ (ch 10:2-3). The LORD of all is most particular as to how we approach Him!
Just one way to salvation, then. But just what is ‘salvation? Joining a church? Labelling yourself ‘Christian’? Getting to heaven? Doing good? According to God’s revelation in His Word, the usual notion of salvation is far from the truth. Not a stress-free life on earth, an end to life’s challenges. Not just a ‘statement of intent’ to commit to Christ, not ‘accepting Christ’. And not ‘pie in the sky when you die’.
The reality transcends all we can imagine. For God is preparing, training, a people for Himself, a royal priesthood to join His Family alongside His firstborn, Jesus, and to reign with Him on Earth for a thousand years and then throughout eternity. That is ‘salvation’.
The invitation is open to all of mankind - to every era since Adam, to every race. Open even to those who never come within sound of the Gospel message - for such are included in The LORD’s master plan for the ages.
But open only to those who actively respond to it, accept His terms, and who remain faithful, for: ‘...many are invited but few are chosen’. Anyone can come to Jesus and be ‘saved’. But there’s a cost: ‘...Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). Jesus himself said ‘...narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matthew 7:14). Not, then, an easy message!
To be saved—to become a part of the Kingdom of God, His Family - we must follow that ’one way’. Jesus again: ‘...I am the way’ (John 14:6).

Redefining Royalty (Sabbath Meditations)

“For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” - Revelation 5:9-10
Did you read that, Christian? One day, if you play your cards right; if you endure till the end, you'll be wearing a crown, sporting a beautiful robe and eating on plates of gold set on fine linen. And we'll be reigning, baby! We're talking some serious power here. Rubbing shoulders with the elite, the who's who in the Kingdom of God. Won't it be awesome!
Okay, slow down a minute there, son! I think you might be a just a tad bit confused about this whole royalty thing.
If that's the picture of royalty you have in your mind, then you might be in for a bit of a shock when you learn what God really has in mind for those who will reign with Him.  Because it ain't at all what your thinking.
You shouldn't feel too bad. You wouldn't be the first to get it, well...all wrong.
In Matthew 20 the mother of two of Jesus's disciples, James and John, it seems was under much the same delusion. She, desiring her sons get their share of the glory, came with them to Jesus to ask that they be granted to sit, one at Jesus’s right hand and one at Jesus’s left hand, in His Kingdom.
Her image of what it means to rule seemed to be based on what she saw of the kings and rulers in the world around her. Sitting on thrones, issuing edicts, demanding servitude, wielding power. Jesus wastes no time here redefining for her what royalty really looks like.
In verse 22 He answers her, and her two sons, and says, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
They, James and John, said to Him, “We are able.”
So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”
Of course, they didn't know, at that point, what drinking of Jesus’s cup entailed. It’s certain that later, as they looked back on this event, that they rolled their eyes at their stupidity and ignorance. They really had no idea the sacrifice, the willingness to suffer for others, that being a ruler required.
Jesus goes on to spell it out for them and the other disciples.
Continuing in verse 24 we read, “And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus is saying, “You want position, you want authority? You want to sit as a King at my right hand? Then put on the shackles and chains. Roll up your sleeves, get in the trenches, and be a servant, a slave to all.”
It’s little surprising the disciples even went here, given Jesus’s often criticism of the religious leaders of the day and their preoccupation with their own power, position and external displays of righteousness.
In Matthew 23 Jesus chides these religious leaders for, among other things, doing all of their work to be seen by men; putting too much emphasis on external appearances - the white garments, the broad phylacteries and other religious adornments; loving the best places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues. He calls these leaders whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones. Pretty brutal assessment, wouldn't you say?
Given Jesus’s disdain for the externally focused religion of these Scribes and Pharisees, I think it's a safe bet that there will be nothing of the sort in His Kingdom, wouldn't you agree? I don't envision His kings and priests will spend a great deal of time sitting on thrones, polishing the jewels in their crowns or fluffing the trusses of their royal robes. Such pomp and circumstance couldn't be further from Jesus definition of royalty.
Oh sure, we might don the occasional ceremonial garb. But based on what I read here, it's hard to believe such occasions won't be the exception. We'll be getting or hands much too dirty for such finery.
To state it simply, Jesus wants those on His right hand and on His left who have his heart for service. He wants a heart that is willing to sit down and rub shoulders with publicans and sinners. He wants to rule with those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get busy weeping with those who weep, mourning with those who mourn, healing the broken-hearted, visiting those who are in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked - you get the idea.
He wants, by His side, those who think like He thinks; those who reject the culture of this world that places much too high a value on the outward appearance, on status, on being somebody. He wants, at His side, those who understand what true holiness, pure religion, looks like; “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” - James 1:27
Want to reign with Christ? Get your mind off the external and start building a heart for people. That’s the stuff of true royalty.

The Greatest Prophet (Children of God)

Who was John the Baptist and what was his commission? Most people do not know much about him. All they know is that he ate grasshoppers and honey and dressed in rough camel’s hair clothes. Actually, the Bible has a great deal to say about this prophet. There are so many things we should consider.  For example, who was it that sent John to baptize? Baptism had not even been initiated before John the Baptist came. With regard to John, the angel Gabriel told Zachariah:
“He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)
Can you imagine that John the Baptist grew up knowing that this was his special commission from God – to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children in the spirit and power of Elijah? For many, the life of John the Baptist remains an enigma. Who is this messenger being spoken of in Malachi 3:1?:
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1)
It was Jesus who said that John the Baptist fulfilled this Old Testament prophecy:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
Why would Jesus say that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever?
“I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28)
Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus says: “Truly I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. If ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11-15)
Jesus is saying, “This is the meaning of Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah!”
“The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)
John the Baptist is the pivot point between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

If God is so smart, why did He bother with us? (Morning Companion)

Think about this. If God knew that the human race would be so much trouble, why did he even bother? We’re a cantankerous lot who can’t seem to get along. We argue, fight, and steal. We form cliques and gangs, manipulate each other, and even war against each other.
Many of us lack trust in and respect for the God who gave us life, some deny that he even exists, and some are even in outright rebellion against their own Creator.
In various places in Scripture we’re called sons of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:14, 19; Philippians 2:15; I John 3:1-2). In other places we’re called heirs of God (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Titus 3:17; James 2:5). So here we are, troublemakers in many ways, yet with the revealed destiny and reality of being God’s kids.
Maybe we should think of it this way. Many of us are parents. We wanted to have children, even though we knew all about the Terrible Twos, the rebellious teen years, and the risk of heartbreak and disappointment. But we wanted kids anyway because of the joy and love that they bring. We want kids because we understand the joy there is in sharing and giving unconditionally, and the hope of a legacy we can point to with satisfaction to the end of time.
Maybe, in spite of the trouble God knew we would cause, our Heavenly Father wanted kids for the same reason we want kids. He figures we’re worth the trouble and risk.
What do you think? Are we worth the risk?

Idols (OzWitness)

I once knew a man who had restored a classic 1930s turbo charged Bentley. It was immaculate, with sparkling metalwork and shining leather. The man though, came to the realisation that his beautiful car took up so much of his life that it became an idol. He had to get rid of it.
For a Christian, it is a matter of values. Anything that inserts itself between us and our God, replacing Him and His word as the focus of our lives becomes as much of an idol as a carved image or a 1930s Bentley, and sadly there any many idol worshippers around today, including many who profess to be Christians.
One of the most common idols is portrayed on every news broadcast, and can often head the news or take up half of its allocated time. That idol is sport. Sport has replaced religion for many, become much more than a pastime or hobby, and its followers are as ardent as any religious worshippers, often spending large amounts of their time and money to worship their idol.
You don’t have to be a pop star to be an idol, either. Even religion can become an idol, if it focuses on a man, rather than the true Creator God, and many fall for that mistake. The time is coming soon when, one night, every person on earth will receive the same dreams or vision. God will gain everyone’s attention, everywhere, with a miraculous message of warning about the coming tribulation and the return of Christ. Revelation 14: 6-7, ‘Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people . And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’
Will most people act on that warning or will they still retain their idols and fail to keep the Commandments? Sadly, God’s word reveals that their failure will cost most people their lives.

Sitting as a Queen and not a Widow (First Century Christianity)

“To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I SIT as A QUEEN AND I AM NOT A WIDOW, and will never see mourning.’ “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.‘” Revelation 18:7-10
The ‘all capitals’ in the verses above is not my doing. The translation I use makes note of when the New Testament cites the Old Testament by putting the words in all capitals. In this instance, John is referencing Isaiah 47. In fact, a whole lot of the book of Revelation references the Old Testament.
I am bringing this up because I want to ask the reader a question: from where does a queen derive her power? This is a much harder question to answer for those of us in the Americas than for those on the European continent, because we largely lack monarchies on this side of the world. A queen derives her power from a king. In order for a woman to ascend to the throne of a country, her husband must have died or her father died without having male children.
In a recent sermon, I spoke about identifying Babylon and how to come out of her. The congregation of true believers is analogized as a pure bride by the Apostle Paul and others, but even in the book of Revelation itself we can see that the congregation of those who remain true are referred to as a chaste bride clothed in white:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:7,8.
The contrast we have here is a congregation of faithful and obedient believers being identified as a chaste bride clothed in white and the congregation of syncretic and disobedient believers being analogized as a harlot clothed in scarlet. This is a pretty easy distinction to figure out.
However, the identifier of the Babylon of the end times being a queen and not a widow gives us a little more insight. That means this Babylon character is a power that believes it derives its power from itself without the need of the husband that is Yahweh. There are a couple groups that fit this category, but which country or culture do we see today that has been historically faithful, blessed beyond comprehension, and yet has decided to push any reference to the Almighty from the public square? Western culture as a whole has been pursuing secular agenda for quite a while, but the United States today is remarkably pushing God out of the public square. We have had the world’s most powerful military and economy for quite a while and have lived in almost universal peace and safety for over fifty years. This degree of security and prosperity for such a length of time makes us start to believe that we will never see mourning, especially nothing like the hard times our forefathers endured to build that peace.
There are a whole lot of things lining up recently that look end-time-ish lately. Is this the end, birth pangs for the end, or just another cyclical change in the power structure on planet earth? Only Yahweh knows for sure. But it is intriguing to explore the parallels between the USA and the Babylonian end-time power. While this nation has sinned a lot historically and has never kept the 4th commandment, it was founded by those seeking to have the religious freedom to worship the God of the Bible as they saw fit. As our country has prospered immensely in the last 50 or 60 years, our culture has turned more into a more secular humanist society. This means we, as a nation, have decided to lean on our own works and reject the Almighty. Our culture has also very rapidly been promoting the mixing of belief systems under the guise of ‘tolerance’. These things add up to fitting the idea that America is starting to believe that she is a Queen who needs no husband and that is a dangerous place to be.