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The Number of the Beast (Standing Watch) 17 min. video

Hirelings (Children of God)

When I was young there was a saying: ‘The captain always goes down with his ship.’ It went unsaid that the captain would do everything possible to save all hands from drowning.  But times have changed.  Recent news stories report on how captains today are sometimes the first to abandon ship in order to save their own skins. That is because they are hirelings.
A hireling just works for a wage – without being fully vested in a major enterprise. God uses the analogy of a hireling for the purpose of showing whose heart is in the right place. Someone who does all the receiving in any relationship is like a hireling. The point is this: as Christians, we have the opportunity to be altruistic and unselfish as Jesus was in laying down His life for all others. Jesus tells the story:
“The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep. The hireling flees, because he is an hireling, and cares not for the sheep.” (John 10:10-13)
Jesus did not leave us or forsake us – but gave His life for us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus tells us that the sheep can be scattered at the hands of a hireling, because a hireling’s first concern is not for the sheep. When we look at a minister, we cannot tell just by looking at him if he is a fine pastor or if he is a hireling – because those things are only spiritually discerned.
There was a time in the Church of God when men looked to God and trusted in God to provide. Have you noticed the not so subtle change in what the church organizations are doing today? You would think that their every waking moment would be consumed in preaching the Gospel to all of creation… and that is often what they claim to be doing, when in point of fact they are busily growing their congregations.  Now they would argue that it is first necessary to have large numbers of members, so that they can have the cash to be able to do the work. But for nearly two decades they have not mounted a large scale effort at getting the gospel to the world, because they felt that it was necessary to first get their own retirement house in order.
Have they forgotten the precept of stepping out in faith and waiting upon the Lord to furnish the means for the Gospel? Let’s not forget that this is not man’s work but the work of God.
“This is the work of God that ye believe on Him [Jesus Christ] whom He [God the Father] hath sent.” (John 6:29)
A hireling is a person who works for material reward instead of devotion to a principle he believes in with all his heart. They send out supposed religious materials, but when they do there are pages and pages of nothing but committee meetings and decisions to be made about title changes for their publications and how to better ‘get people interested in their own organization’.  They make a short reference to religious sounding ideas, but in the next paragraph they go back to discussing yet another committee to be set up to determine which way to look best for possible newcomers.
They believe that, if their sales pitch is the best and most colorful, people will respond and become Christians. Brethren, it does not work that way. Not one person has ever been ‘talked’ into becoming a true Christian. The Truth of God need not be embellished. It is God who touches the receptive heart.
Certainly there is a job for preachers to do. The Gospel must be preached to the world so that those whom God will call can respond to the Truth.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
But, let’s be clear: It is not the preachers who grow the church membership. It is God, Himself, who gives the increase and adds to the Church (1 Corinthians 3:6).
“The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you. To the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

“Tis the season to be jolly ... fa, la, la, la, la, la ...” (Sabbath Meditations)

Not all of us are feeling all that jolly this time of year, are we? Frankly many of us conservative Sabbath Keeping Christians find much in this season about which to be downright cynical.
The empty hype, the commercialism, the rituals and timing of the season, adopted so blatantly and obviously from ancient pagan rituals; all of it has many of us muttering a collective “bah-humbug”.
It's very easy this time of year to wear our cynicism on our sleeve and to feel, well, somewhat smug in our spiritual correctness, isn't it?
But consider this. Could it be that in our zeal to reject all things pagan, ducking out of office Christmas parties or skirting family gatherings, we actually do the truth more damage than good? Could it be that we actually miss opportunities to witness the true gospel of Jesus Christ?
“Now wait just a minute! You're not suggesting that we start erecting Christmas trees in our living rooms or singing Christmas carols around the neighborhood are you?!” Absolutely not.
In Jeremiah 10 God commands us to “learn not the way of the heathen.” God hates the worship of pagan idols. God detests all things pagan, and we should as well. So, you're not about to see a tree in my window or a glowing plastic Santa anywhere on my property.
But, having said that, there is a way of approaching this season that, while not compromising our conviction against participating in its pagan practices, allows us to use the core intent of the season to advance the truth of the gospel.
In Acts 17:22-23 is the recounting of Paul's preaching on Mars Hill:
“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus...”
Here he was, standing among carved idols, in the midst of a city wholly given over to pagan worship. Now, Paul had some choices didn't he? I'm sure that, as he stood there next to that pagan idol, his bah-hum bug meter was off the charts. He could have easily let his disgust for all that is pagan take over.
Instead, he chose to take a decidedly different approach.
‘...and [Paul] said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you”.’
Rather than launch into a full frontal assault on the evils of idolatry, Paul made a conscious decision to focus on what he was for, rather than on what he was against. He dialed down his bah-hum bug meter and used the opportunity that the moment presented to witness to the Gospel.
His example is instructive for you and me.
In Luke 2:10 we read, ‘Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.’
Come on, admit it, Sabbath Keeper. When you read this passage, especially during this season, your bah-humbug meter elevates a little, doesn't it? If it weren't for the fact that it' the Bible, you might be tempted to reject it as just more Protestant Christmas drivel. But it really is a very meaningful, powerful passage. And, if you choose to tone down your bah-humbug meter just a little, you might even see your way to actually use this passage as your own Mars Hill moment. How?
Most Christians during this season focus on the baby in the manger, don't they? They read passages like this one and see only that “there is born to you this day...a Savior” part, while overlooking or downplaying the meaning of the powerful words that follow, which declare Him as “Jesus Christ the Lord.”
And really, that is much of the problem with modern Christianity’s approach to the gospel. Focusing only on the loving, merciful, accepting and forgiving aspect of the gospel, but failing to acknowledge Him as Lord of their lives. For many of our Christian brothers and sisters, the concepts of obedience, striving to overcome our sinful natures, preparing for His second coming as Lord of Lords and King of Kings is just not part of the lexicon of this season, let alone the rest of the year for that matter.
And therein lies our greatest opportunity for sharing the gospel. In that omission lies our Mars Hill moment.
Who knows if, rather than turning others off by our sour demeanor and cynical attitude, we might be used as tools in God's hands this season to bring tidings of even greater joy to someone whose eyes God might be opening to understand His plan as revealed in the full Gospel.
It's possible, but only if we make the conscious decision to take advantage of the Mars Hill moments this season might provide. Only if we determine to, ever so slightly, dial down our bah-humbug meter.

Time to Stop Praying? (Morning Companion)

One time God told Moses to stop praying. If we accept that prayer is a good thing, why would God tell someone to cut it out?
“Why are you crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15). Given the circumstances, I would think the question should be, “Why not?”
Here’s the story. Moses had just led Israel out of Egypt. Through his hand God had turned the Nile into blood, brought many plagues on the Egyptians, and with boldness he had led the nation to freedom. Now, shortly after this triumphant march from slavery, Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides to chase down the fleeing masses with his infantry and chariots in order to drive them back to their former state.
Why shouldn’t Moses cry out to God? Why would God object?
In this is a lesson about prayer. The newly freed Israelites had already cried out to God (verse 10), after which Moses tells them to do something: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (verse 13). There are indeed times when all we can do is stand still and wait. As the old saying goes, “Let go, and let God.” But in spite of appearances this was apparently not one of those times.
Thus God says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” And then he says, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (verse 15). It is time to get off your knees and into your hiking boots. Tell the people the time for standing still is over. Now is the time to do something about your situation.
We can make two grave mistakes regarding prayer. One is to think that we can get along just fine without God’s help. If we just work hard enough, sweat hard enough, and think clearly enough, we can make all the right things happen. I can put on my boots and fight my own way through the wilderness.
Or we can make the other mistake. There is something to be said for waiting on God, “standing still”, shall we say. It’s true that in some circumstances God’s strength is revealed through our weaknesses. But simply sitting in our pajamas while waiting for God can be just as bad as thinking we can do it all on our own. Most of the time God expects us to be actively involved in carrying out his will. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”
God could not have led them through the Red Sea had they had just stood still and waited.

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).

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.