The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:12 NIV)

Almost a century ago, “Think and Grow Rich” author, Napoleon Hill, wrote: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Variations on this theme have dominated self-help books and motivational talks since the idea for them began. Maybe there is something to the notion.

The Lord acknowledged the potential for accomplishing the impossible when he incorporated the divine image in man (Matthew 17:20). He deposited within Adam an ability given to angels: For good or evil, if it could be conceived and believed, it could be achieved. The bad side of this is it created a necessity to rid heaven of all who conceived or believed they could displace the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-15). The same thing happened on earth.

All like Korah, in Numbers 16, who would challenge God’s authority (Psalm 2:1-3), or deny His power (2 Timothy 3:5), or seek to share in His glory (Isaiah 42:8), must face everlasting banishment.

Nurturing subversive thoughts toward God immediately identifies the creature as His enemy. The Flood erased the first population of wicked who took a stand against the Almighty. After the end of this age, the second group of wicked will be looked for, but they will not be found (Psalm 37:10). A final purge will follow this age by a thousand years.

Babel was an early example of God’s respect for iniquity. In defiance of His command to spread out and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1), the people of Babel settled in one place and built for themselves a city. In it, they constructed a tower that reached to the sky.

They had acquired a mindset that it was no big deal to upset God’s laws. The tower was their way of showing God they did not fear another flood judgment. Their attempted overthrow was halted when they were scattered to the four winds. Nevertheless, what was conceived in their hearts was spread with them—witness the many tall city skylines around the world.

Well buckle up. They–meaning the rebels–are at it again. In defiance of God, they conceived a new plan to overthrow His rule and set laws. In Genesis 11, the invention that fueled Babel’s insurrection was brick-making. The breakthrough this time around has come in technology. Propelling Babylon the Great’s future conquests are recent developments in robotics.

In Part 2, we will begin to explore the potential for evil of robotics.

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“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for a word from the LORD, but they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12 NIV)

Like most Americans, I never experienced famine. In the midst of famine, people are not just hungry; they starve to death.

When God spoke through his prophet Amos, he promised a judgment—a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger, searching for a single word from the Lord, but they will not find it. Not a scarcity of words [plural], but an absence of a single word from God’s mouth.

Add famine of the Word to the list of tribulations to be endured before Jesus returns. After three years of solitary confinement in a late 40’s and early 1950’s Communist prison, Richard Wurmbrand could barely recall his name, let alone Scripture. No light of day, no conversation and no books. Nothing. Dead silence. Is that what a famine of the Word would be like?

Recently, I read a heartfelt comment on The Priests of God. It struck me that we may already be in a famine judgment’s early stages. He wrote, “I was so thirsty for truth that I didn’t know I was thirsting. It’s like being hungry for so long your stomach stops hurting and your body just accepts it as normal. The truth is rarely taught here.” (“Here,” in his case, meant where he attends Christian services.) Food is offered, but it isn’t really.

In a food and nutrition-conscious culture, Christians may be spiritually malnourished and not know it. In other words, we can grow accustomed to eating food devoid of nutritional benefit. Junk food fills, but robs us of our appetite for fruits and vegetables. Some will reject the spiritually healthy, opting instead for the chips, cake and soda of our religious culture.

If ears do not want to hear, the Lord will go silent. Word must be in us, in our heart and mind, or it won’t be anywhere. Take a lesson from the ant. Store up God’s Word now. It is going to be a long, cold, silent winter. Famine is coming.

 

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43 NIV)

Some leaders love to create dependence in their followers. They desire to be sole arbiters of what is right and good. They enjoy the attention they receive, particularly the deference given for their opinion on matters of faith and politics.

When the flock comes for their weekly feeding, the shepherd is there with the spoon and bucket. They would not have it any other way. Control the diet and you control the sheep. Keep them calm and sedated. Lull the sheep into passivity and the shepherd has done their job. The best compliment is “Nice sermon” said with a satisfied smile.

Let’s say one of the sheep steps out of the routine of scanning recommended devotionals, old sermons, church newsletters or other pastoral-approved materials. On his own he reads the Bible. He finds a passage that sounds like an ominous warning. It unsettles a spirit that had been asleep. Seeking understanding, he reads the word of the prophet to his shepherd. The glare he receives for his unauthorized reading is so intense that the trite explanation is quickly forgotten. The look threatened to end his spoon fed ritual. Once sheep taste the Word of Life, they seldom return to their docile past. Taste and see that the LORD is good… (Psalm 34:8)

Many religious leaders, began to put their faith in Jesus. Though they were supposed leaders, they were more like followers. They had been spoon fed their entire religious lives, yet they discovered Christ’s words had power. They loved the food from heaven that came from his mouth. They were secret admirers. How they wished they could speak openly about their joy, but they were afraid. The message was clear: Follow Christ and no longer be welcome at synagogue. Become one of his disciples, and be a pariah within your “former” religious community.

Spoon fed Christians pay a price–sooner or later. Their reliance on a shepherd that pacifies and puts at ease will leave them helpless when disaster strikes. When events take place that prophets warned about, the hireling will disappear and their spoon will go with them. If there is no personal Bible study of the prophets, then sheep are in great danger of starvation when evil reigns. If we are not self-feeding and God dependent, then our reliance on the spoon will leave us with little choice but to die.

I know what I am talking about; I used to be a shepherd spooning it out every Sunday. Then I tasted the pure, spiritual word of God. It cost me a secure vocation and comfortable lifestyle, but, oh, how I love to teach hungry saints to feast on the Word.

In times of disaster, they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Psalm 37:19)

 

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  (Matthew 24:15-16 NIV)

“Watch out that no one deceives you.” With this warning in Matthew 24:4, Jesus began his detailed description of events preceding the sign of his coming and the end of the age. Deception will be rampant, so our Good Shepherd shows his love for the flock by sounding an alarm. As in the past, many disciples will turn away from following Christ (Matthew 24:10-11, cf. John 6:66, Revelation 12:4, 9). How will this happen? The answer is by severe trials and deceit in the mouths of trusted leaders (cf. Matthew 16:21-23).

“If the plain sense makes sense, we have the right sense.” This is a general rule for interpretation. Nothing can be plainer than Matthew 24. In this prophecy and its parallels in Mark and Luke, Jesus gave a chronology of signs that are introduced with terms like following, then or immediately after. So, we have a sequence of events.

Many Pre-tribulation rapture teachers (PTR) who are fond of advocating for a literal interpretation of the Word, attempt to muddy the waters of Matthew 24.  They do this to protect their doctrinal view. Other passages will invite a verse-by-verse exposition, but not Matthew 24. Some go so far as to say Matthew was written specifically for Jews. (They rightly point out the Church is not mentioned in Matthew 24-25. An argument from silence; the weakest of all arguments.) Watch out for this deception! Esteemed Bible teachers will use this or similar frail arguments to hinder disciples from gaining a proper understanding of prophetic events–all to preserve the PTR position.

They imply Jesus’ Olivet Discourse does not matter, since it was written for Jews, not the Gentile Church. “Christians,” they say, “will be raptured prior to the tribulations described in Matthew 24.” According to these teachers, Jews, will have to endure the Great Tribulation, along with the highly fictional “Second Chance Christians.” Jews have a history of suffering, some argue they deserve it. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the church.

If Matthew 24 was simply for Jews, to whom did Mark (chapter 13) or Luke (21) write their Gospel version of the same Olivet Discourse? Common sense must be used. Jesus was addressing disciples, whether Gentile or Jew. As a warning, “Make sure no one deceives you” is only relevant to followers. Many will fall away at the end. This pertains to Christians led astray by false prophets and false christs.

Let the reader understand could not have been directed at contemporary Jews. Who among them would read Matthew? The command was intended for Bible-toting Christians. It is for us, those who name Jesus as Savior and live in the end times.

Let the reader understand are Jesus’ words to modern-day the Church, particularly Bible students. They have God’s Word; so, they are without excuse. If we do not know what takes place, how can we prepare. Ahead of a favorite PTR verse, Matthew 24:36, Jesus summarized his prophecy by saying, “See, I have told you ahead of time.”

The Word judges us, so let the reader understand. Not reading prophecy to take it to heart denies disciples of great blessing (Revelation 1:3). Neglecting Jesus’ warnings begs another question, “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4 NIV)

In Part One, we witnessed Simon’s quick transformation. In Matthew 16, he was elevated from the ordinary to Disciple-extraordinaire, Peter. Picture him in Matthew 16:18-19 with a proud and pious look, holding the keys to the kingdom.

In three short verses, it all changes. He has horns and resembles the devil. In moments, Simon went from exalted status to Jesus’ enemy. He transitioned from celebrity saint to Satan. What line did he cross with God? The same one prominent Christians transgress on a regular basis. Peter knew who Jesus was, (i.e. the Son of the Living God), yet, in Matthew 16:22, he undermined prophecy. (“Never Lord. This shall never happen to you.”)

Peter knew some things, but the future was not one of them. He should have shut-up and listened to Jesus. Disciples are notorious for not taking prophecy to heart. They may know in part, presuming they know the whole, but it is what they don’t know that makes them dangerous. The wise are aware of how much they do not know, but the fool thinks he knows everything.

Jesus gave us the essentials in his Olivet Discourse. He instructed disciples on the basics for overcoming at the end of this age (Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7). He, who is sovereign over all things, told his followers in advance (Matthew 24:25). Have we taken these words to heart? Have we listened to Jesus’ words, or do we let the well-intentioned Peters feed us a diet of fake prophecy?

The end times will be marked with a great falling away. Authorities will attempt to undermine God’s prophetic word. They will describe a different future than the one Jesus presented in Matthew 24:9-10. Religious leaders will become a major stumbling block to saints who take prophecy to heart.

Three times in Matthew 24 (vs. 4, 11 and 24), Jesus warns about deception. But does it matter to those who know only part? “Many will fall away because of me,” is not just a prediction, but, because of who said it, it is an absolute. The Lord said many disciples will fall away, not just a few on the fringes.

Has apostasy or a falling away ever happened? Of course it has. History presents a pattern. For example, many disciples could not accept Jesus’ hard teaching in John 6. Then what? We learn, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

When the going got tough, many, who had followed in the good times, bailed. We can understand desertion by pretenders, but what about the Lord’s inner circle, the twelve? In John 6:67-69, they had refused to leave Jesus.

As the cross of Calvary drew nearer, Jesus’ twelve disciples declared that even if they faced death, they would never leave him. Before that, in Matthew 26:31, Jesus said they would all fall away, and quoted Old Testament prophecy confirming it. So, were they there to the end or, that very night, as Jesus said, did they fall away?

Jesus never entrusted himself to men (John 2:23-24). Men will often reject the literal words of Jesus, and listen instead to sources like Peter.  If we read the whole, and not just part, we would know fake prophets will come and that those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

Teachers will give the many what they want to hear. They purpose not to know the whole, only the part that suits them. So, the many are set up for a major deception. (My people perish for lack of knowledge.)

“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” so wrote Alexander Pope. Anyone who owns, or has access to a Bible, has no excuse. Ahead of time, Jesus told us all we need to know. For shame if we do not take his foreknowledge to heart.

To God be the glory, great things He has done

It is more than two months after our announced date, but here it is!

“The Priests of God: Unveiling the Order of Melchizedek”

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Watch out no one deceives you for many will come in my name claiming I am the Christ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4 NIV)

The Part-to-Whole fallacy may be explained this way: “Because part of a thing is true, it does not mean all of it is.”

The Galilean fisherman Simon was often right. In Caesarea Philippi, he hit the jackpot when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Like a seed, the disciple’s confession had been planted by the heavenly Father. It earned Simon a new name. From that time on, he was “the Rock.” (Matthew 16:17-18)

Peter enjoyed a new status. God spoke to him. With that heady experience behind him, he then felt qualified to contradict the word of Christ:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)

Peter, the Rock, rebuked Jesus; though it is doubtful Simon would have been that brash. He must have been upset by what he deemed as “the Lord’s negative confession.” Peter wanted to hear only positive. He may have assumed that since he was granted special revelation about Christ’s divine person, he received divine revelation on prophecy as well. As far as who God is, even demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19)

Sharply, the Lord Jesus rebuked the Rock. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

This is how it will be in the last days: Men and women will be esteemed and placed in positions of honor. They will receive wonderful revelations, even prophesying in Jesus’ name and performing miracles. They will draw large crowds and wow their audiences, thus becoming susceptible to Peter’s error (Matthew 7:22). Not every spirit is from God, so no one should assume they always speak or act for Him. Especially when it comes to prophecy, first test the spirits, or we may find ourselves opposing Christ (1 John 4:1).

Caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware.”) Simply because our fine preacher or pastor has wonderful abilities, and rightly identifies Jesus as Lord, it does not mean he or she may not call God a liar. To assume our respected teachers or mentors know everything, without testing the spirits, places the responsibility for being deceived on our shoulders.

In Part 2, we will examine more evidence that, in the last days, the Part-to-Whole fallacy will cause many to fall into Satan’s deadly trap.

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come to him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour–when darkness reigns. (Luke 22:52-53 NIV)

Forces of rebellion that have long been suppressed, are displaying their new found strength. It is natural for those who discover their muscle, to want to flaunt it. When they were weak, they would never consider a show of force, but with their bulging bicep comes a desire to exercise it on someone. The line drawn in the sand is no longer a boundary, but an invitation.

In these days, revolt has gone mainstream. Institutions of all sorts are flexing muscle they never had before and are challenging authority. Cities are declaring their own rule of law by their non-cooperation with federal law enforcement. The state of California is not only in non-compliance, but threatening to secede from the union. The once neutral judiciary has stepped into the fray by barring long-standing powers afforded the U.S. executive branch.  Higher education has made its presence felt among the rebels. Professors are inciting, then academically rewarding students for becoming active protestors. Much of the media has fanned the flames. What was once suspected, is out in the open.

Provocative and insulting remarks are the order of the day at gatherings of TV, music and movie personalities. Remarks that formerly would cause censure, are encouraged. It seems many want in on the act.

Not to be outdone, major sports has jumped in with both feet. The one escape there has always been from politics has waded into the revolution. One professional football player refused to stand for the national anthem. A year later, a spirit of rebellion has gained a wave of support among other football players, pro basketball players, and now baseball players, as well. Refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner is chic. Since the U.S. president jumped in and expressed his indignation over those who dishonor the flag, the floodgates have opened. Watch for Little League and Pee Wee football players to take a knee, not because they are praying; praying is illegal. They will be kneeling in protest like their sports heroes do.

This is the onset of the hour of darkness. It is what the beginning of the end looks like. It is when rebels start to reign. All my life, I have immersed myself in politics and sports. Sports was once a god that I worshipped. I am sickened by the whole mess, the entertainers, educators, athletes–all of it. When the nation comes to ruin–as it surely will–what solace will they take from their part in their country’s collapse?

As North Korea’s leaders take their threat of a nuclear attack  to a new level, home-grown revolutionaries, from all sectors, are doing the same. No one wants peace. There is no compromise. There is only an unquenchable appetite to show off their power. They are feeling it; the rich, the powerful and the famous are turning out in a show of force. Stadiums, arenas and theaters will soon be rubble. The hour of darkness will soon be upon us.

I grieve over what I see happening. My former idols are self-destructing. For all who claim loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom, the hour of darkness is a necessity. We must separate ourselves from the world. In the process, we must destroy our idols before they lead us into carrying clubs and swords, because after that comes the darkness.

 

 

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will hate and betray each other… (Matthew 24:9-10 NIV)

Living under an illusion provides a feeling of safety. Reassured by the people around us, we possess the confidence of lemmings as they march to the cliff. When the myth that held our group together shatters, then disillusionment sets in. The collapse of false ideas sets us free. Our freedom is much like a boat that has slipped its moorings. This is what I see coming for America and the West.

Professing Christ while singing a hymn is likely to produce a different response than confessing Jesus in the face of persecution. Going to church is one thing, but going to prison for Christ is altogether different. It is easy to sign on to a worship service; it takes more conviction to sign on to mistreatment for the sake of the Name. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian executed by the Nazi’s, who said, “Jesus invites us to come and die.” (Yes, the word is “die” not “dine.”)

When the Vietnam Conflict was at its peak in 1969, I was graduating from college. Before I had my diploma, I received my 1A draft classification. My selective service number was in the low double digits. I knew what was coming.

I had a strategy, however. A college friend told me about his friend. He was in the Army yet had stateside duty. He wore civilian clothes and interviewed college co-eds. From his description, the job sounded like it was meant for me.

I did not want to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, so, within a week of leaving college behind, I was with the Army recruiter signing up. One year later, I was on a cot, staring at the inside of a tent, swatting mosquitos, wearing fatigue pants and a tee that was wet with sweat; wondering how it had come to this. I was one of a half million, and one of thousands of fresh troops new to the Republic of Vietnam. Instead of doing interviews on campus, my new home was a base camp surrounded by sand bag walls and barbed wire. As with a lot of my buddies, we had not signed up for this. Personally, it was the best thing that could have happened. God’s hand was upon me. I thank him for my service and the life-changing experience.

In several weeks, our oppressed brothers and sisters are to be honored with a special Sunday service. Each November, time is set aside to recognize the witness of fellow saints. In hostile countries, Christians who sign up to follow Jesus, do so with no illusions. When persecution is suffered, they understand it as part of their commitment. Jesus warned his disciples they would be afflicted. He said, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:25)

In the last days, a great falling away is promised (2 Thessalonians 2:3 and Matthew 24:10, see above). Of the millions presented with a cross, most will opt to depart the faith. The reason: When their duties were given, sacrifice, pain and hardship were not on the list. Had they read their Bible or heard the testimony of today’s martyrs, they would have known. But they only listened to their recruiter.

For the unwary, disillusionment is inevitable. They think they are fulfilling their duty, and on the path of blessing. They believe suffering is for others. They are not ready for great distress. Sacrificial service is something for which they did not sign up.

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13 NIV)

Last week, those on Florida’s east coast evacuated to the west coast. Too late on the western side to evacuate, Hurricane Irma surprisingly changed tracks and threatened the state’s Gulf Coast. While southwest and southcentral Florida prepared for the worst, Irma altered her path again and shifted to the east. The idea that man can somehow control natural forces, like hurricanes, or predict what they will do, should be permanently put to rest.

His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:9).

Our God is the Sovereign Lord. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:9). If people affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma did not gain some humility or fear of God, will they ever?

Life is full of ironies. When we feel confident everything is under control, something usually happens to prove otherwise.  Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft aglee [translation often go astray].” Go ahead mice, make plans, but be aware of conditions beyond your control.

Several posts ago, we announced the book The Priests of God would be available by late July or even earlier. We are now a few days from the first day of Fall, and still the book awaits publication. I will not bother with the details except to say our best laid plans gang aglee. Our Sovereign God takes note of the sin of presumption. Assuming we have it all under control is rooted in pride. It is then our God manifests his sovereignty by foiling our plans and thwarting our purposes (cf. Psalm 33:10).

“You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 5:15).

In James, we find an admonition to mice and men: “You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 5:15). What yours truly should have announced was, “God willing, we will have a book by… (fill in the date).” Sovereignty, as I see it, acknowledges God is in charge. When our Lord is satisfied that we do indeed understand who is the mouse and who is the Almighty One, then The Priests of God will go to print. In God’s time, it will find those for whom it is intended.

God willing, I’ve learned my lesson. When circumstances are out of my control, I know who controls my circumstances. Now, who moved my cheese?

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