End times

The Trumpet Shall Sound, 23 April 2023

The Trumpet Shall Sound
Handel’s Messiah
1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Series Big Idea: Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: Transformation is coming soon…get ready!
High school. For some, it’s filled with wonderful memories of making the homecoming court, scoring the winning touchdown, or winning the spelling bee. For others, it’s social awkwardness, struggling through final exam week, or a long list of poor choices. I went to Brighton High School in Michigan and graduated in nineteen-something! The best thing that happened to me in high school occurred in my senior year when I met the love of my life, an amazing girl named Heather.
The second best memory of high school is band…symphonic band, jazz band, and most of all marching band. I played the trumpet and our trumpet section was so passionate, we made t-shirts that said, “Trumpets Jam.” I don’t have the t-shirt, but I still have the trumpet! The greatest thrill was when four of us were featured at the Detroit Lions halftime show at the old Pontiac Silverdome, hearing my name over the PA system in front of 80,000 fans (most of whom were at the concession stands or bathrooms!).
Today we’re continuing our series on Handel’s Messiah, arguably the greatest piece of music ever composed…with lyrics taken directly from the Bible. Today’s song is The Trumpet Shall Sound. The text is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. The New King James Version reads,
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NKJV)
Is this good news? Absolutely!
Let’s look at the passage again, this time from a modern translation.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NLT)
There is so much we don’t know about the future, but this hopeful text reveals many things. First, transformation is coming. I’m too old to have played with Transformers, but I know of their ability to change from one thing to another. That’s the idea of transformation. A caterpillar is transformed into a…butterfly. Our physical campus is in the midst of several transformations. The garage across the street has been leveled and will soon be transformed to green space. Our children’s wing was first transformed by a car flying into our nursery and is now being transformed again with new flooring, murals, and decorating to become vibrant space for kids to encounter Jesus. You get the idea!
We all realize change can be hard, especially when loss is involved, but in the case of our campus—and the case of our bodies—transformation is a beautiful thing. I said two weeks ago the odd of you dying are about 100%. This text seems to make an exception for some in the future who will not die. There will be a brief moment when a trumpet is blown, the dead will be raised, and our mortal bodies will be transformed. Transformation is coming.
Second, we must prepare for the transformation. There will be no advance notice. It will happen suddenly…in the blink of an eye. That’s fast! Nobody knows when this event will occur, not even Jesus (so don’t waste your time with people claiming to know)!
Our transformed bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body. I mentioned it will be immortal. Jesus ate after the resurrection, so we will eat…but perhaps we won’t have to count calories! There was at least one moment when Jesus seemed to defy the laws of physics and enter a room without going through a door or window.
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.  (John 20:26, NLT)   
That’s kind of fun! Resurrection Sunday is about more than just Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a preview of coming attractions for his followers, too. We will have our own resurrection day soon (well, after we die!).
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NLT)
Compare our current bodies from our resurrected ones:
Perishable                             imperishable
Sown in dishonor                 raised in glory
Sown in weakness               raised in power
Sown a natural body           raised a spiritual body (1 cor. 15:35-54)
Sickness and death             no sickness or death
There’s more to the transformation than just the physical flesh and blood which will decay and die. Our sinful nature is in rebellion against God. It’s not suitable for the new world that is to come, the new creation
If we read a bit more…
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
            “Death is swallowed up in victory.
55         O death, where is your victory?
                        O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT)
I love those words. Those are fightin’ words! Death, you won’t have the last word. Your time is coming to an end. Jesus defeated you, and someday we will, too!
Paul quotes from two Old Testament prophets, Isaiah (25) and Hosea (13). But if you look at the entire library we call the Bible, you will see the themes of creation, death, and new creation. What God did in Jesus the Messiah He will do for all of Jesus’ followers. Through Jesus, we’ve been given victory over sin and death. It has been given, it will be given, and in the here and now it is being given to us.
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57, NLT)
Like much of scripture, it is a present and future reality, now and not yet. Sure, we look to the future, but don’t miss the present reality, the mission, the calling to make disciples and restore masterpieces now. Jesus didn’t come so we can go to heaven when we die. He came so we could experience moments of heaven now—Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven—and in a more complete way in the future. Perhaps you were taught that the value of Christianity begins when you die. Paul…and Jesus…and I would vehemently disagree.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT)
The things we do in this life matter for eternity, good or bad. Paul is saying specifically the things we do for the LORD are not in vain, they are never useless. This is an important thing for us to remember. We have a present responsibility, an opportunity today.
All this talk of resurrected bodies and new creation are wonderful…for followers of Jesus. But tragically, there is an alternative destination for those in rebellion against God. From Matthew 25 to 2 Thessalonians 1 to Revelation 20, we see judgment is coming and without Jesus as Savior, they are without hope. We must tell them. We must show them. We must proclaim good news in word and deed. Family, one of my four prayers for us is passion…passion for the things that matter to God…passion for the lost. I have family members, friends, and neighbors I love who are facing an eternity without God. I can’t imagine such a hell! My heart aches when I think about them living without God now, too, and how they’re missing out on a life of peace, joy, and meaning.
But ministry is hard. I don’t mean professional ministry. Any ministry, any discipleship, any outreach, any investment we make in people…because people are people. They are messy. They wander. They betray. They deny. They leave. They backslide. They sin (just like all of us!). Discouragement is rampant among anyone trying to make disciples, restore masterpieces, love their neighbor as themselves. You’re heard the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” It’s not biblical, but it seems true sometimes.
First Alliance Church, be strong. Be immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the LORD. Nothing you do for God’s Kingdom is in vain. Even if people quit your Life Group. Even if your ministry struggles. Even if the person you are discipling seems clueless. Even when that student you poured your life into makes poor choices. Even when your own children or grandchildren walk away from the faith. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You matter. Your Kingdom work matters. We’re all called into the disciple-making ministry and it’s hard. It’s rarely convenient. It will stretch you and take you out of your comfort zones…but God will meet you there, and there’s nothing better than that!
I love these words from N.T. Wright:
How God will take our prayer, our art, our love, our writing, our political action, our music, our honesty, our daily work, our pastoral care, our teaching, our whole selves – how God will take this and weave its varied strands into the glorious tapestry of his new creation, we can at present have no idea. That he will do so is part of the truth of the resurrection, and perhaps one of the most comforting parts of all.
Wright, N. T.. Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 228). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Family, I love you, and I’m so proud of you. Many of you have served around here for decades, pouring your time, talent, and treasures into God’s work here and around the world. A day is coming when you will receive your reward. It will be greater than any paycheck or new car or lottery winning. Your new body alone will be worth it, to say nothing of eternity with the LORD.
The day is coming. The trumpet will sound. The dead will be raised. We will be transformed. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Hallelujah, 25 December 2022

Zechariah 9:9-10
Revelation 19:6; 11:15; 19:16

Series Big Idea:
Handel’s Messiah may be the greatest work of music ever created, bringing praise and glory to the Creator.
Big Idea: The Messiah is King of kings and LORD of lords…hallelujah!
Throughout this season of Advent—waiting, arrival—we’ve been looking at various scriptures through the lens of
Handel’s Messiah. If you go to a live performance of the musical masterpiece, you will likely get something called a libretto, a booklet with notes. The first time I experienced it live, I was struck by how the libretto was entirely Bible passages!
We’re going to look at two songs on this the day we celebrate the birth of the Messiah. The first one is
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion. Like much of Part One of Handel’s Messiah, the text is from an ancient prophet, this time Zechariah:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be “from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’ (Zechariah 9:9-10. NKJV)
What does this mean? These prophecies were fulfilled hundreds of years later when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday.
Matthew the tax collector recorded the following:
As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.” (Matthew 21:1-3, NLT)
This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
            ‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
            riding on a donkey’s colt.’” (Matthew 21:4-5, NLT)
As I’ve said before, one of the reasons I believe the Bible is true is because of the fulfilled prophecies, especially those pertaining to Jesus the Messiah. There are more than 300 Messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled. According to Christianity.com, the chances of one person fulfilling eight of them are one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. The odds of fulfilling 48 of the 300+ would be one in ten to the 157th power!
Before we look at our final song for this part of Handel’s Messiah, I want to jump back to the Zechariah passage. It ends,
His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10b, NLT)
We find ourselves between the first and second comings of Jesus. Zechariah wrote around 500 BC…about 500 years before the first Christmas. We’re 2000 years on the other side of it awaiting his return. He’s not coming back as a baby. He won’t be riding on a donkey. There will be no arrest or crucifixion next time. We live in the awkward in-between with the Bible and Holy Spirit to guide us, yet a great day is coming…for those who follow Jesus.
Is that you today? A few weeks ago we saw how Judgment Day is coming for us all. We either bear the penalty for our sins and mistakes or trust Jesus’ death and resurrection to pay for us…but that requires surrender, followership, devotion to Jesus.
The greatest gift you can give Jesus for his birthday is your heart. Actually, your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He doesn’t need something from WalMart! He wants you!
The most famous verse in the Bible says,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV).
That word “believe” doesn’t mean intellectually agree. The original Greek word
pisteuo means to have faith in, to trust, to commit. We live in a culture that tells us every day it’s all about us. The message might as well be we’re gods and don’t need God. We don’t want someone telling us how to live our lives, even if He wrote the instruction manual and knows what’s best!
God gave. The Father gave the Son, Jesus. Jesus gave His life. When he left earth after he rose from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to live inside every disciple, every follower.
There are actually three parts to Handel’s Messiah. The first is what we might call the Christmas portion. Part two we’ll cover as we approach Holy Week, the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. Part three is about the resurrection of the Messiah and the resurrection of our bodies when he returns. Our final song today—the last song of 2022 for First Alliance Church—speaks not of 2000 years ago or even the present, but the future. The texts come from the book of Revelation where John the apostle records a vision from the LORD.

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! (Revelation 19:6, NKJV)
This is a picture of the coming King, the return of the Messiah. The word “Alleluia” or “Hallelujah” means “praise the LORD.” It is the same in languages around the world.
I’ve been in big crowds, but none have sounded like many waters and mighty thunderings. This is some choir! The word “omnipotent” means all-powerful. God may seem distant from you today. You may wonder if He hears your prayers (He does!). You probably ask, “Why?” a lot like I do, but He is at work, often behind-the-scenes. He’s waiting, perhaps for us to finish the mission of letting 8 billion people know they are loved by their Creator who wants them to surrender and follow Jesus.
Do you know Jesus? Do you know the Messiah? There’s no other agenda or purpose or mission we have at First Alliance Church than proclaiming the gospel, the good news, that Jesus is LORD. It’s all about the Messiah. He wants every man, woman, and child to trust and love him with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their mind, and all of their strength…and then love others as they love themselves.
Let me say again, what are you getting Jesus for his birthday? He wants you! When he returns, you’ll be on the winning team! Listen…
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15, NKJV)

He shall reign…forever…and ever! That’s a long time! Here’s another description:
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
            KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16, NKJV)
I did not put this in all-caps. It’s how it’s written! Jesus the Messiah is greater than any king, president, CEO, movie star, social media influencer, athlete, or author. He’s greater than any angel, demon, and definitely greater than satan. He’s greater than communism, capitalism, religion, or political party. He’s truly the GOAT: the greatest of all time. And he’s returning soon. Are you ready?
The most famous song in Handel’s Messiah celebrates in lyric and music.

If you’ve ever attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, you know everyone stands when the Hallelujah Chorus begins. Tradition says this is because King George II stood up during the song in the 1743 London premiere, so moved by the music that he stood in reverence. Regardless, we conclude our first series on Handel’s Messiah and our Advent series by singing…the Hallelujah Chorus.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

More Signs of the End, 30 May 2021

More Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:14-37

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Keep watch, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

Open your eyes! Look around! Be on guard! Be alert! Get ready! Keep watch! Watch!

This morning we continue and conclude Mark chapter thirteen, what is known as the Olivet Discourse, words spoken by Jesus on the Mount of Olives about the future. The chapter begins

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

The temple was the most sacred place, essentially the center of the world for the Jews. I can’t imagine something comparable in our culture…maybe the US Capital or, in Toledo, 5/3 Field…just kidding! But the temple was arguably the most important and majestic structure on the planet.   

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

They ask two questions: when and what will be the sign. He spends verses 5-13 describing what will happen first, including wars, natural disasters, persecution, and the preaching of the gospel—or good news—to all nations. Today we’ll see more details about when this—the destruction of the temple—will occur…though it also appears he is speaking about the end of all things and his return.

Today I’m going to do my best to give you a crash course in biblical prophecy. I can almost guarantee you it will frustrate you, if only because my sermon will last nine hours! Just kidding! But to understand today’s text, some background is necessary.

The prophet Daniel in the Old Testament used a peculiar phrase three times (9:27, 11:31, 12:11) in his short book: “abomination that causes desolation.” It speaks of the Gentiles polluting the Jewish temple with idolatry. It was defiled in 167 BC by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) with pig’s blood poured on the altar in an offering to Zeus, an event predicted in Daniel 11:31. It led to three and a half years of intense persecution for the Jews.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 11:31)

The temple was defiled again in AD 70 by the Romans when they destroyed the city of Jerusalem.

Paul Carter notes, “The catastrophe of AD 69-70 is, in a sense, a foreshadowing of the catastrophe of satan’s little season or the Great Tribulation…just as Rome encircled Jerusalem, so shall the antichrist encircle the people of God in the last days.”

Jesus said in last week’s text there will be many signs of the beginning of the end, but they’re not the end. They’re like a woman with birth pains—having contractions. That doesn’t mean the baby has arrived. It’s just a signal that the process has started. In many ways, our world has been in the midst of tribulation since Jesus ascended into heaven. We have seen wars and famines and earthquakes—and pandemics! The past 2000 years have been a season of tribulation. It has hard for Jesus. It has been hard for his followers who have been persecuted, tortured, and even martyred.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mark 13:13)

following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it. Saved people persevere.

Now we come to the most controversial part of the chapter. Is Jesus speaking of the events that would occur in AD 70 with the destruction of temple, or something further into the future…perhaps even things have not yet occurred in the past 2000 years? Or both?

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Mark 13:14)

This was a sign, a signal. “Let the reader understand” is a way of saying, “This is Bible code. There’s a message here. Don’t miss it!” The first part of the chapter said to stand firm, but now Jesus says when you see these things, go. Flee! Jewish Christians heeded this warning and they did leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed in AD 70, saving many lives.
In AD 69, there was a succession of four Roman emperors‑Nero, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian—filled with murder, violence, and civil war. Then in AD 70 during the destruction, people starved, practiced cannibalism, and fought for food scraps. Titus burnt the temple and crucified thousands of Jews. Yet more Jews were killed by other Jews than by the Roman invaders. It was a brutal time.

Matthew Henry notes, “The Jews had rejected Christ as an abomination, though he would have been their salvation, and now God brought on them an abomination that would be their desolation, an abomination that was spoken about in this way by Daniel the prophet (9:27), and that would bring about a cessation of the sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses.”

Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. (Mark 13:15-16)

Survival is more important than stuff.

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! (Mark 13:17)

They will be the most vulnerable. They usually are!

Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. (Mark 13:18-19)   

Jesus doesn’t say when this will happen, but urges them to pray.

Again, Christians fled Jerusalem in AD 70 when it was invaded. Many took refuge at Pella in the Transjordanian mountains.

“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. (Mark 13:20)

Praise the LORD! God is sovereign and in control. We may question why God allows certain things, but don’t think for a moment that He is out of control He has given us free will to make choices, but He always has the last world. He may have given us—and satan—freedom, but there are limits.

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. (Mark 13:21-23)   

Jesus is warning them—and, perhaps, us. Watch out! Get ready! Don’t be deceived. Then he seems to shift to his second coming. He uses apocalyptic language and quotes Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4…

“But in those days, following that distress,

“ ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ (Mark 13:24-25)   

Can you imagine? And this wasn’t even the end of the world, though it would be the end of their world.

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:26)   

The Son of Man is a reference to Daniel 7:13. Those are glory clouds, not rain clouds! This will be a great moment! Jesus’ complete vindication. John saw something similar in his revelation…

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

Paul used similar language in his letter to the Thessalonian church…

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Encouraging words, indeed! Back to Jesus’ words in Mark…

And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:27)   

A great harvest will occur which will include not only Jews, but Gentiles, too. We are called to make disciples “of all nations.” Now Jesus tells a parable.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. (Mark 13:28-29)

The disciples wanted signs. Jesus gives them one.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Mark 13:30-31)

This will last no longer than forty years, the typical length of a biblical generation. But wait, Jesus says “this generation?” Some believe that meant the events up to verse 23, excluding his second coming from verses 24-27. Others think it refers to “this race” as in the Jewish people, not Jesus’ contemporaries. If that’s the case, “all these things” includes both the temple’s destruction and the second coming. Jesus guarantees these things will occur. Jesus always keeps his promises.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

It’s ridiculous—and quite frankly a waste of time—to predict when this will happen since Jesus doesn’t even know! Anyone arrogant enough to give a date thinks they’re greater than the Messiah! What’s the point? It’s certainly not to make predictions!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:33)

Be on guard! Be alert!

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34)

Keep watch!
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. (Mark 13:35-36)   

Keep watch!

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark 13:37)   


So What?

Be on guard! Be alert! Keep watch!

That’s it. That’s the message. It’s an old message that is extremely relevant today. As I said last week, we’re one day closer than yesterday!

Jesus doesn’t say worry about the antichrist. He doesn’t say be anxious about the mark of the beast. He doesn’t even say get stressed about satan. He simply says tribulation is coming, get ready, and what follows will be wonderful for those who remain faithful to God. Jesus is coming back soon. Are you ready?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Signs of the End, 23 May 2021

Signs of the End
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 13:1-13

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Get ready, for the end of the world is coming…soon!

One of the most common questions I get as a pastor is, “When will Jesus return?” The broader culture describes it as “the end of the world.”

You may recall about a decade ago many were saying the end of the world would coincide with the Mayan calendar’s ending on December 21, 2012. 12-21-12.

Wikipedia is packed with past predictions of the end of the world, beginning with the Jewish Essene sect in 66-70, Some thought it would end on January 1, 1000.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end in 1941 in the middle of four dates given by Herbert W. Armstrong. Then there was Jim Jones in 1967, Charles Manson in 1969, the Jehovah’s Witnesses again in 1975, Pat Robertson said 1982, Edgar C. Whisenant in 1988 (
88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988), Louis Farrakhan in 1991, Harold Camping in 1994 (and 1995!), and Nostradamus 1999.

Many of you were around at Y2K and experienced great commotion at the turn of the millennium. Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, and even Jonathan Edwards thought 1.1.2000 would be the big day.

Unfortunately, the predictions continue to this day. I only have two responses:

  1. 1. We’re one day closer than yesterday.
  2. 2. Get ready!

Today we’re back in the book of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, “good news,” that tell about the life of Jesus. He’s why we’re here. He’s our guide, our leader, our Savior, our LORD, our Senior Pastor. When you focus on Jesus, you can forget all of the religious mumbo jumbo, conspiracy theories, cults, and heretics. Jesus is our authority. This is why we talk about him, sing to him, and love him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Today and next Sunday we’re in Mark chapter 13 in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, also found in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21. It is sometimes called the Little Apocalypse because of its apocalyptic or literally “uncovering” language.
One of the challenges with apocalyptic language (besides pronouncing it!) is the questions raised, specifically whether it speaks of a past, present, or future event.
Biblical prophecy often has more than one meaning in view. It can be challenging to discern whether what we’re reading is something in the future or a past event that followed the prediction…or both!

If you w
ere drive west on the Ohio Turnpike and stay on I-80, eventually you’ll see what looks to be a large mountain ahead, maybe a hundred miles in the distance. As you get closer to the Rocky Mountains, however, you’ll discover what looked like one mountain is actually a series of mountains. What looks like rock 150 miles away may also include peaks 160, 170, perhaps 200 miles away. There is no definitive point of the Rocky Mountains (unless you count the gift shop at Rocky Mountain National Park!).

The same can be said about biblical predictions of the future. Many people think they know what exact day or event is being described, but it might be a reference to more than one. Broadly, many of the prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled about 2000 years ago during his first coming…while many will not occur until he returns…soon!

The context of Mark chapter 13 is Jesus’ rising popularity with the crowds and the growing hatred of him by the religious leaders. In chapter four, Jesus talked about “hearing.” In this discourse, the them is “watching,” watching out for the way evil will materialize. The images are not always pretty. Pastor Keith spoke of suffering last week, and persecution has been a way of life for so many followers of Jesus throughout the ages. But Jesus will have the last word! I’ve read the end of the book!

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)   

The temple was incredible, one of the wonders of the Roman world. It covered one-sixth of the city! The Babylonians destroyed the original temple of Solomon. The book of Ezra describes the smaller replacement. Now centuries later in our text, Herod Antipas was still completing the edifice started by his father, Herod the Great.

Imagine this temple, twice the size of the Athens Acropolis. It covered thirty-five acres. Perhaps most impressive were the stones mentioned here, some 45 feet long, 11 feet high, and 12 feet thick!

If you go to Jerusalem today, you can see the remains at the Temple Mount.

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)   

That’s a jolting statement! What do you mean, Jesus? Will there be an earthquake? A tornado? How do you know?

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
(Mark 13:3-4)

Like so many today, they wanted to know about end times. Jesus had given them valuable real estate advice! Don’t buy those building! They won’t last!

They wanted to know when. Give us a date, Jesus! Maybe we’ll go on vacation that week and avoid the destruction. They also wanted a sign.

Jesus said to them:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. (Mark 13:5-6)   

Jesus says watch for imposters who will deceive. Has this ever happened in history? Absolutely! False messiahs have formed cults and led many astray. Jesus is warning them of what is ahead, though he gives no dates.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (Mark 13:7)   

He tells them to watch for calamities of human origin: wars and rumors of wars. Has this every happened in history? Of course! Tragically, there have been wars somewhere on the planet since…well almost since Adam and Eve! For the most part, USAmericans are unfamiliar with war, at least on our soil. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live in Israel today in the midst of the conflict…or other places where war is ensuing.

Jesus says wars must happen. Why? He knows the human heart. He knows our lust for power, for money, for domination over another. He knows our enemy and the death and destruction he always leaves in his path. He says, “Do not be alarmed. Keep calm!”

Jesus says watch out for calamities of human origin.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
(Mark 13:8)   

This is actually the place to start to understand our text for today. Jesus says watch out for natural calamities like earthquakes, famines, …pandemics?! He doesn’t say these are signs of the end, though. They are just the beginning.

Now Jesus moves to the next sign: persecution.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. (Mark 13:9)   

The book of Acts is filled with the fulfilment of these prophecies. While they most certainly asked, “Why, LORD?” during their persecution, it prompted the spread of the gospel to other peoples. God had a plan. God always has a plan!

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

The parallel in the book of Matthew says,

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

One of the driving passions of our church and denomination’s founder, A.B. Simpson, was to see the Great Commission completed so that Jesus could return. He took this verse at face value.

Is it a statement of what will occur or a condition for Jesus’ return.

New York Journal reporter approached Dr. Simpson with the question, "Do you know when the Lord is coming?"

"Yes," he replied, "and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all."

The reporter's poised notebook gave the ready promise.

"Then put this down: 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations and then shall the end come.' Matthew 24:14. Have you written the reference?"

"Yes, what more?"

"Nothing more."

The reporter lowered his pencil and said, "Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached to all nations Jesus will return?"

“Just that.”

"I think I begin to see daylight," answered the reporter. "I see the motivation and the motive power in this movement."

"Then," said the Alliance leader, "You see more than some of the doctors of divinity."

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)   

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. Which comes first? Can we actually make the end come sooner by preaching the gospel to all nations? It seems like Jesus is stating what will occur rather than a precondition for his return, but I maybe wrong. Regardless, we are all called to make disciples, to love others well, to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have, to share good news.

Jesus continues…

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)   

I would imagine the disciples found this to be incredibly encouraging.

Today we desperately need the Holy Spirit. I need the Holy Spirit each time I stand before you, and I pray He speaks through me. My wisdom is not worth much, believe me!

The persecution would expand beyond the government.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. (Mark 13:12)   

Jesus is warning them of the cross they must pick up daily to follow him. The enemy will divide families. Two thousand years of history have born this out. It’s heartbreaking to hear of people rejected by their families when they begin to follow Jesus, but it should come as no surprise. Following Jesus is dangerous…but worth it.

Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
(Mark 13:13)   

That’s a troubling yet comforting sentence! I’ve never met anyone who wants to be hated, but entering the kingdom of heaven will be worth it. All believers will someday be vindicated. Jesus never breaks a promise!

So What?

I know some of you have been told this passage is about the second coming of Jesus. Others believe it’s about the end of the world. Where does this fit into the Millennial reign of Christ? Was all of this fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the temple? I actually believe the latter, but I could be wrong.

Again, biblical prophecy can be challenging to understand. We do know Jesus will return someday. We are told repeatedly to be ready…and to get others ready. For centuries, our brothers and sisters in the faith have faced tremendous suffering and even martyrdom, and that may be our fate someday, too.

In our text for today, Jesus says do not be alarmed. He says those who stand firm will be saved. If we seek God’s glory instead of our own, His Kingdom will come and His will will be done. I’ve always been amazed that the persecution we avoid is often the very thing that results in the spread of the gospel, the good news. What Jesus said here came to pass as recorded in the book of Acts and Philippians 1. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

We need to get ready…for the return of Christ.
We need to get ready…for the possibility of suffering.

Tom Wright notes, “…those Christians who don’t face persecution often face the opposite temptation, to stagnate, to become cynical, to suppose that nothing much is happening, that the kingdom of God is just a pious dream.”

We also need to get others ready. Everyone deserves a chance to know Jesus.

Jesus never breaks a promise! He not only made predictions about the destruction of the most beautiful building in the world, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. He said in verse 11 that the Holy Spirit would come and give them words to speak when they were arrested and on trial.

Next week we’ll see Jesus address when the destruction of the temple will occur and more signs of the end, even if today’s passage merely described the events leading up to the end of the temple.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Is The End Near? 14 June 2020

Is the End Near?
Series—What in the World is Going On?

Big Idea:
Are you ready for the return of Jesus? Are others?

What in the world is going on?
If you’re like me, you’ve asked that question a lot lately.

The deadly coronavirus is one thing. The lockdowns and ensuring chaos have been—at least for many—even worse.

The senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are one thing. The ensuring protests and violence are—at least for many—even worse.

What in the world is going on? Are these the last days? Is Jesus coming back soon? If so, what difference does it make?

Last week I mentioned one of the most common questions I get is, “Are we living in the end times? Are these the last days? Paul wrote these words to his disciple, Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Does that describe our world today? I think so!

Does that describe Paul and Timothy’s day in the first century? Yes!

The Bible is not always the easiest book to understand. I think we can discern the meaning of Exodus 20:13. It says,

“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

But what about those other passages which talk about beasts and horns and fire? It can be confusing…and even scary.

The Bible is not a book. It’s a collection of books…sixty-six books written over hundreds of years in multiple languages by a variety of authors…yet they fit together as one beautiful story. When we study the Bible, we must ask three questions:

  • - What did it mean then? This is known as exegesis. It is important to discover the original, intended meaning of a passage because a text cannot mean what it never meant.

  • - What does it mean now? This is known as hermeneutics.

  • - How do we apply it to our lives? So what?

(Note: a great resource for hermeneutics—studying the Bible—is Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth)

This is a simple process, but not necessarily easy!

One of the key factors in reading the Bible is understanding the type of literature. If you go into a bookstore (remember those?!), you can find graphic novels, reference volumes, comic books, biographies, and satire. If you don’t understand the difference, you’ll almost certainly end up with some crazy conclusions!

In the same way, we cannot read the poetry of the Psalms the same way we read the laws of Leviticus. The stories of the prophets are different from Paul’s personal letters. There’s one type of literature that is especially fascinating and misunderstood: apocalyptic.

VIDEO: Apocalyptic Literature, https://bibleproject.com/videos/apocalyptic-literature/

One of the most provocative chapters in the Bible is Matthew 24. Jesus responds to his disciples’ questions about the end of the age.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:4-8)

He’s speaking of the end, right? Actually, he says in verse six these “things must happen, but the end is still to come.” When will all of this occur? It already has! I can prove it!

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (Matthew 24:9)

He’s not speaking to us. He’s talking to his followers about 2000 years ago! They all died in the first century, nearly all of them martyred.

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:10-13)

Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience looking for signs of the Messiah. You may have heard this is about a future event, but it’s obvious Jesus is speaking about first-century events, specifically the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.

This past week I was listening to the Alliance’s EquippingU podcast where they were discussing the moral decline of our nation, the marginalization of Christianity, and opposition to the views of the Church. These verses in Matthew sound a lot like our present day. One person said that we no longer have home-field advantage, to which the other speaker said those in the first century would remark that we still have it easy compared to their experience living under Roman rule.

If we read the Bible as if it was written to us, we’ll end up with some radically different conclusions than if we understand it was written for us. These events Jesus is describing already occurred…yet we can relate to them today.

Some have said there are four approaches to apocalyptic texts:

Preterist these events occurred around the time the text was written (“past”)
Idealist this describes the ongoing conflict between good and evil
Historicist this helps us understand God’s perspective in human history
Futurist these describe events in the future, before and during the end times

Which approach is the best? It depends! In some cases, more than one might be useful.

Despite the difficult conditions of the early church in the first century, the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2) and did incredible things, moving the Church from Jerusalem to regions across the known world. Jesus predicted that, too!

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(Matthew 24:14)

This is a famous verse in the Christian & Missionary Alliance. It has been understood by some to mean when everyone on the planet hears the good news of Jesus, Christ will return. If we evangelize the whole world, we can go home!

I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong, but it’s not what Jesus was referencing. This was fulfilled nineteen centuries ago!

It is possible that it speaks of two eras, one in the past and one in the future. This is true for some prophecy even about the Messiah. Some speak of the first coming of Jesus, others his return, and perhaps some describe both!

So What?

Are these the end times? Yes…but they began around AD 70! Actually, the war began in 66 AD until 70 AD.

Is the anti-Christ alive today? It’s possible, but previous generations said the same thing. Does it really matter?

Is Jesus returning soon? Absolutely! He said so…about two thousand years ago!

It can be fascinating to listen to predictions, look for prophetic fulfillment in the news, and get excited about the Second Coming of Christ, but there’s really only two things we must do:

  1. 1. Get ready.
  2. 2. Get others ready.

Get Ready. Jesus said later in Matthew 24,

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44)

Jesus is coming. When? Soon! In our lifetime? I have no idea! All I know is we’re one day closer than we were yesterday! The point is to get ready. If you want to study this chapter, many believe the first 35 verses were fulfilled in 70 AD (preterist), while verses 36-51 speak of the future (futurist)

Someday this body will die. It might be from COVID, cancer, or a car accident. We don’t know when, but the odds are pretty good! Only one generation will be alive when Jesus returns. It might be ours, it might be thousands of years from now.

I’m afraid too many people waste time and energy trying to figure out the
when instead of focusing on the Who.

After describing many great men and women of faith, the writer of Hebrews continues,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Family, we need to fix our eyes—and our attention—on Jesus. Will there be trials? Absolutely! Will people hate us? In every generation. Will we be martyrs? It’s always possible, and not historically unusual.

We need to turn our eyes away from the tv news and social media and toward Jesus. Followers of Jesus have no reason to fear. None. Zero. Zip! When we look to him, we will not grow weary and lose heart. We will not freak out about chaos in the world, instead preparing for the new heaven and new earth. We must be ready for our end…and get others ready, too. Tomorrow may be too late.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Family, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the reason we’re here. He’s our hope—not our economy, politicians, or popularity. From Genesis until the end of Revelation, God is in control. He’s got this! We need to get ready…and we need to help others get ready, too. Now is the time to share good news with our family, friends, and even strangers. We need to pray, engage in spiritual conversations, and tell our story. Perhaps the best way to love well is to introduce people not to religion, but to Jesus.

These are crazy times. Are these the last days? Maybe. We’ve been in the end times for two thousand years, but someday Jesus will return. Are you ready? Are your friends ready?

Family, our world is out of control. Coronavirus. Racism. Political divisions. Fear. Anxiety.

The world needs Jesus! He’s coming soon. Let’s get ready. Let’s get others ready. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Hope in God’s Promise, 29 March 2020

Joyfully Hope in God’s Promise
Series—Jeremiah: Called to Faithfulness
Jeremiah 31

Series Big Idea: Jeremiah was faithful despite his difficult prophetic task.

Big Idea: God has promised a wonderful future for those who follow and obey Him.

I did it! It took a while, but I finally did it. I know I was given an extension, but seeing those two letters from the federal government for days—weeks?—led me to just do it. I went online and did the US Census!

I couldn’t remember what questions would be asked. It’s been ten years! I expected to answer my name and address. I wasn’t surprised by the race question. I marked the “White” box. But then it asked me for more detail. The Census website says,

The category “White” includes all individuals who identify with one or more nationalities or ethnic groups originating in Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. These groups include, but are not limited to, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Polish, French, Iranian, Slavic, Cajun, and Chaldean.

There was a blank under “White” and it wanted more detail. German? Yes. Irish? I don’t think so. Of course, many have been surprised by their AncestryDNA.com results. I’ve never taken one of those tests, but I’m fairly confident of the ethnic heritage of both of my parents.

What is your ethnicity? Do you know much about your family of origin, your nationality?

By the way, I believe there’s only one “race…” the human race!

Few people groups on the planet have endured more hardship and persecution than the Jews. They’ve had and lost land. They’ve had and lost their temple. Thousands of years after God’s covenant with Abraham, the Jews continue to follow and break that covenant. Fortunately, there’s a new covenant…and Jews and Gentiles alike are invited to participate in it.

This month we’ve been looking at the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to speak some uncomfortable truths to the Jewish people. After Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, God led the people of Israel to the Promised Land. The Jewish nation divided and became the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 11-12). Even worse than their relationship with one another was their relationship with God. It seemed to change like the weather. There were moments when they worshipped God and moments when they turned to worship idols…sometimes even in God’s temple! There were times when they were repentant of their sins—ashamed of their behavior—and other times when they were proud of their rebellion and evil. Like a roller coaster, their righteousness went up and down, and along with it, their relationship with God.

The remarkable thing about God is grace. He is a God of second-chances. He is a God of mercy and forgiveness. But we must repent. We must turn away from our sin and return to God. When we repent and return, He will restore us into a right relationship with Him. That’s where we find true joy—not in circumstances, but in a relationship with God.

Some people flippantly say God loves everyone. While that’s true—for God so loved the world—a relationship requires two parties. I may love you, but if you reject me, we won’t have fellowship. We’re all on God’s “bad list” until we repent and obey.

God and the Israelites have had a complicated history, a relationship that is sometimes hot, but usually cold. Quite simply, the people were usually more concerned about being like their neighbors than living a radical, counter-cultural lifestyle devoted to the LORD.

This might sound familiar. This might describe our nation. Whether or not we were ever a “Christian nation,” we seem to trust the money which bears the slogan “In God We Trust” more than God. That was, at least, until COVID-19. Is God getting our attention? Is God getting your attention?

He has a way of doing that! He gives us freedom. We weren’t created to be robots. Every day we choose whether to follow God or the world. Every hour we make such decisions.

Our text today is from the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31. God has expressed His displeasure with the people and begins to cast a vision for the future, for a time when the people will return to Him, trust Him, make Him LORD, and obey.

“At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:1)

He declares they will be a united people. The sins of King Solomon and his foolish son Rehoboam which divided the Jewish nation will be reunited. The land will be restored. People will accept responsibility for their sins.

The next nineteen verses speak of a restored Israel. In the end times, God will restore the Jews to their land (Ephraim is a reference to the northern kingdom of Israel). Verses 21-26 talk about a restored Judah. People will experience the blessing of the LORD as people come together in harmony despite their past differences.

Are you with me? It’s about to get good!

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:31-32)

God had made a covenant with the Jews, but they repeatedly broke it. Unlike a contract, a covenant is a solemn commitment. In biblical times, it usually involved the sacrifice of an animal, the shedding of blood. God made such a covenant with Abraham. Abraham and his descendants would be God’s people, and through the Jewish people, all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The old covenant was made with Abraham, but now God describes a new covenant, a future relationship.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

This was God’s plan from the beginning, to be LORD, to be their guide. In the old covenant, people would receive temporary blessings as they turned back to God (as they did under Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Hezekiah and Josiah). They had moments of revival, but they didn’t last.

The great evangelist Billy Sunday was once told revivals weren’t necessary because they didn’t last. He replied, “A bath doesn’t last, but it’s good to have one occasionally.”

This new covenant is more than just renewal or revival. It’s not just something for the people to obey, but something in both their minds and hearts, not on stone tablets. It’s personal. Instead of focusing on conduct, the new covenant changes character. God is saying in the future, a beautiful relationship will emerge.

The new covenant is internalized in minds and hearts.

No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

All the people will know God…not just about God, but actually know God, be in a relationship with God. The Hebrew word here for “know” is “yada,” implying a relationship more than just facts. Within that relationship, God will forgive—and forget—their sins. That’s good news! That’s great news!
The new covenant involves the forgiveness of sin.

I need to pause and say these words were not written to us, but they were written for us. Remember, God is speaking to the Jewish people.

This is what the LORD says,

he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name:

“Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)

If you know the story of the Prodigal Son, you know God is a loving Father who never gives up on His children, even when they walk away and break His heart.

This is what the LORD says:

“Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:37)

The imagery is beautiful. God will never break His promises to Israel.

The new covenant involves a new city, a new Jerusalem.

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.” (Jeremiah 31:38-40)

When I visited South Korea many years ago, I was surprised to learn the small peninsula had been invaded many times throughout history, some saying as many as 2000 times! While many historians disagree, South Koreans live with an awareness of both past invasions and the potential for a future disruption, demolition, uprooting.

The Jewish people were well-aware of such upheaval throughout their history. This prophecy is wonderful, the promise of God filled with hope.

So What?

The book of Jeremiah was written around 600 BC, so it’s about 2600 years old. Did God keep His promises to the Jews?

Yes…and not yet.

One of the challenges with biblical prophecy is discerning what has been fulfilled and what remains to be fulfilled. The story of humanity is not complete, as I hope you know! There are many events described in the Bible which remain in the future.

The great marker in history was Jesus. He ushered in the new covenant on the cross (Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20). Gentiles have been grafted in with the Jews to participate in the new covenant (Romans 11:12-32; Ephesians 3:1-6), which is why these ancient words have relevance for non-Jews today. All followers of Jesus share in the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13; 10:14-18). They are born again, made new, alive in Christ, new creations, regenerated into the family of God (John 3:1-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:13).

I mentioned biblical covenants involved blood. Jesus’ death on the cross involved blood. He was the perfect sacrifice. I often say First Alliance Church is not about religion, but a relationship…with Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.

Do you know Jesus? I don’t mean do you know about Jesus, but do you know him? He came to connect us to our heavenly Father. He showed us what it means to be human. He taught timeless truths which have literally changed the world. His death and resurrection conquered sin and shame, making it possible for all of our failures to be forgotten, all of our mistakes erased, all of our brokenness mended.

Jesus is the Messiah the Jews were anticipating. He’s the one prophesied in the Old Testament. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He’s seated now at the right hand of the Father (Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20), awaiting the moment when he is instructed to return to earth, not as a baby in a manger, but a triumphant king to rule and reign forever.

Some treat the gospel—the good news—as going to heaven when you die. If that’s the case, what do we do in the meantime? The gospel—the good news—is Jesus is LORD, and we get to go to heaven before we die. We get to experience joy, peace, meaning, satisfaction, and love now. Heaven is where God is, and He wants to do life with us now! He wants to lead us now! He wants to be with us now! When you follow Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit, too, God the Spirit living inside you to fill you with gifts and fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Many of the things described in Jeremiah have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, yet some things remain.

It might be simplistic to say, but the Old Testament was about the old covenant, given to Moses. The New Testament was about the new covenant, rooted in Jesus.

One thing that remains is God has promised a wonderful future for those who follow and obey Him. I’m glad—especially as a Gentile—that I’m living on this side of the cross, a participant in the new covenant. I love grace—unmerited favor—and need a lot of it! I’m grateful for the cross and empty tomb and the forgiveness and freedom it offers.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ friend John who said,

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9)

This pandemic will eventually be over, but the greater enemy in our world is sin. The good news is there is a cure that can wipe away all of our sins…Jesus. He is inviting you and me today into a relationship with him that will last for eternity, both now and in the life to come.

Tragically, many people have rejected God. They did it in Jeremiah’s day and they do it in ours. They think they’re wiser and smarter than God, or they simply want to do things their way. I urge you, don’t be like the fools in the Bible who rejected God. Repent and receive the abundant life Jesus offers. Choose today, tomorrow, and every day to surrender to Jesus.

I don’t understand why COVID-19 is ravaging our planet, but I know who does. I think God might be trying to get our attention, reminding us of the things that really matter, and inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him.

The vision God paints for Jeremiah is beautiful…unity, righteous living, forgiven sins, a new city, and most of all a relationship with Him. Our scripture today is packed with hope for those who follow Jesus, the Messiah who ushered in the new covenant available to every man, woman and child on earth.

Today can be your day to begin your spiritual journey…or get back on the path. Don’t wait another moment to get right with God. He knows you, He loves you, He’s inviting you to do life with Him. God has promised a wonderful future for those who follow and obey Him. The best is yet to come.

Credits: some ideas from D6, Warren Wiersbe

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • You can watch this online worship experience here.
  • Parable of the Weeds, 26 July 2015

    Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

    Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

    Big Idea: good and evil coexist in our world—for now!


    Last week we began our series Parables, a look at several stories Jesus told as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel—good news—or biography of Jesus.

    Lectio Divina: Matthew 13:24-30

    Last week we talked about a man who sowed seed. The success of the harvest was not dependent upon the sower, the seed, the water, or the sun, but rather by the soil. Bad soil produced bad crops and good soil yielded a great harvest.

    As we continue reading Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus continues to talk about sowing seed, this time seed that apparently lands in good soil…but there is a problem. Its origins go back to the Garden of Eden—in more ways than one!

    In the first chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are enjoying God, the Garden, one another, and work. Yes, they enjoyed work.

    They were punished for their disobedience, listening to the enemy, the serpent, satan, the devil. They ate the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences.

    To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
    It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

    At the risk of oversimplifying the punishment, God allowed weeds to grow!

    I hate weeds. Hate is a strong word, yet weeds were the bane of my existence as a child. You may have heard me share stories about pulling weeds in our garden and yard. I’m sure my mom would disagree but it seemed as if my sister and I spent half of our summer days pulling weeds in 100 degree heat, sun beating down, no water until dinner, no rest until bedtime, and no vacation until winter break! I love you, mom!

    Obviously I had no such experience, but I do vividly remember moments—if not hours—pulling weeds, wanting to curse Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and causing me great hardship!

    Weeds are nasty. I dare say weeds are evil.

    As we will see from our text today, had I studied the Bible more as a child, perhaps I would’ve discovered this passage and used it as an excuse to not pull weeds!

    Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (Matthew 13:24-26)

    First, this is a parable, a story of what the kingdom of
    heaven is like, a picture of the future. We are all so curious about heaven. Where is it? Who will be there? When do we get to go? What does it look like? Do all dogs go there?!

    Jesus says a man sowed good seed in his field. Good seed produces…good crops, in this case wheat (my apologies to those who are gluten-free!). We can assume the soil is good, but unfortunately the man has an enemy. The enemy goes to the trouble of sowing in the same field, but instead of sowing seeds, he sows weeds.

    Why? Weeds grow naturally. I have a garden full of them to prove it!

    Growth takes time. It takes time for babies to grow into adults, for seedlings to grow into big trees, and for seeds to grow into crops. In the early days following planting, it’s difficult to know what is planted…or where. Many gardeners use popsicle sticks or other markers to show above ground what is below.

    In Jesus’ parable, the wheat and weeds appear together.

    The world is getting better. The wheat is growing.
    The world is getting worse. The weeds are growing.

    “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ (Matthew 13:27-28)

    This is a great question. I’m sure I asked it many times of my mom. Do you
    really want us to pull the weeds? Wouldn’t it be better for us to swim in the neighbor’s pool and not get our clothes dirty?!

    No parable or analogy is perfect. As a general rule, pulling weeds helps the crops grow. This explains why I’ve grown so few crops in our garden over the years; we don’t spend enough time pulling weeds, they rob the crops of nutrients, and sometimes even choke them, winding their way around the stems of our plants. Weeds are evil!

    The answer really is surprising.

    “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” (Matthew 13:29-30)

    Jesus seems to be saying two things:

    1. Pulling weeds risks pulling the wheat.
    2. At harvest time, the wheat and weeds will be separated and have very different outcomes

    Do you understand this parable? If you’ve read this chapter, you have an unfair advantage, one unavailable to Jesus’ disciples. A few verses later we get the explanation.

    Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (Matthew 13:36)

    The more I read the Bible, the more I understand human nature and realize I’m not alone in my cluelessness! There’s so much of the Bible I don’t fully understand, yet that prompts me to pursue it all the more.

    He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)

    Jesus begins by identifying the two teams! Jesus sows good seed—the people of the kingdom—into the world. The devil sows his people into the world, the weeds. The harvest is coming and angels will harvest the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one.

    God is real. The evil one is also real.

    Most people prefer to talk about God than about satan. More people believe in angels than demons. They’re all a part of reality.

    If you don’t believe me, last night “an 8½-foot-tall bronze monument featuring a goat-headed Satan” was to be unveiled in Detroit by The Satanic Temple. The monument, a “1½-ton Baphomet, which is backed by an inverted pentagram and flanked by statues of two young children gazing up at the creature, shows Satan with horns, hooves, wings and a beard.” (

    So much for underground! For the record,

    “The Satanic Temple Detroit chapter founder Jex Blackmore has said the group doesn't worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.” (freep.com)

    As I’ve said before, the essence of satanism is the worship of self, something that seems to be our national—if not world—religion!

    Talk of heaven and hell, God and satan, angels and demons makes many uncomfortable, but whoever said life and reality were to be comfortable?

    Here’s what Jesus said:

    “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-41)

    I don’t like the thought of hell any more than the next guy, but these are Jesus’s words. Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. There will be a separation of the wheat and weeds, the sheep and the goats, those who follow Jesus and those who follow their own desires, those who worship God and those who worship themselves.

    Which are you?

    The world really is getting better.
    The world really is getting worse.

    A day is coming when we will all be judged for the way we lived our days on this earth. Today really matters. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.

    This past week Heather and I attended one of the most gut-wrenching gatherings we’ve ever experienced, the funeral of a five month-old baby who died in his sleep. Like all funerals, it was a reminder of how fragile life is and how each day is truly a gift. They say you are not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? Are your loved ones ready?

    The reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven upon following Jesus is there is work to do here on earth. Light and darkness coexist. Good and evil coexist. One is always in tension with the other. Let’s make sure we are in the light of Jesus and reflecting that light to our dark world today. Tomorrow might be too late.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Antichrists, 1 John 2:18-27, 17 May 2015

    Big Idea: We must know the Truth and avoid the lies.

    Scripture: 1 John 2:18-27

      Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
      But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
      As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
      I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.


    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…antichrist?

    My mind races to the book of Revelation, end times movies, Christian persecution, and global chaos.

    As we continue in our study of the book of 1 John—a letter written by one of Jesus’ best friends and the author of the Gospel of John—this word “antichrist” emerges.

    To review last week’s text that precedes this week’s scripture, John writes

    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

    There’s a great contrast between God’s ways and the world’s ways, and that distinction will continue to be expressed in today’s passage.

    Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)

    “Little children” is used again, speaking to the babies in the faith. John tells them it’s the last hour, which sounds like one of those end times movies again with earthquakes and people disappearing and chaos ensuing. You may have noticed it has been the last hour for quite some time! On the one hand, it’s tempting to dismiss You might not be around tomorrow.

    Antichrist can mean against Christ or it can mean instead of Christ, a substitute.

    There is going to be an antichrist but there were many in John’s day. They denied the deity of Christ, that Jesus was God. Many claimed to be Christ. Revelation 13 describes a wild beast that is called forth by satan, a political ruler against Christ and also a wolf in sheep’s clothing who pretends to be Christ, a religious ruler. Both can be called antichrist, one against and one instead of Jesus.

    They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)

    Have you ever seen someone excited about something, only to lose their enthusiasm? In sports, we call these fair-weather fans. They’ll support a team as long as they’re winning, but when the championships end, they jump on the bandwagon of another team.

    This happens frequently in the marketplace. A person will be passionate about their job until it gets difficult and they’ll quit or—worse—complain.

    Faithfulness is never more evident than in relationships. The reason marriage is more than just a piece of paper is the commitment it records.

    I have seen so-called followers of Jesus abandon the faith, and there is nothing more tragic. Eleven of the twelve disciples were faithful, but Judas did not remain with them.

    A popular argument among Christians is whether or not you can lose your salvation. Some suggest if you can, you were never a Christian in the first place. I’m not here to debate the issue here, but Jesus said in Luke 8 that the Word of God is like seed, some of which falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil that took root and persevered and produced a crop.

    Are you truly a follower of Jesus? Are you a new creation? Why? Is it simply for what you can get from God? What if He fails to meet your “needs” and He disappoints you?

    Paul said

    Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

    Three chapters later he added

    Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

    Does this describe your life? Are you standing firm in the faith? How do we do that? By filling our mind with God’s Word, our heart with prayer, and our hands with service to others. Simply, we know and follow Jesus.

    John continues

    But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:20)

    We need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us understand the truth.

    I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:21-23)

    They had the truth but lies are entering. Some see the world as the enemy, but the real enemy is inside the church.

    Again, there are many antichrists, then and now, those who deny Jesus is the Messiah.

    If Jesus is not God, we’re in trouble.
    If Jesus is not human, we’re in trouble.

    As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

    We must remain. We must abide. We must persevere. We must continue daily to follow Jesus…hourly…every moment!

    This requires discipline. That’s not a popular word, but I heard a great definition of discipline this week:

    doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you want to do (Jeff Fisher)

    Sometimes I don’t want to jog, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of being physically fit.

    Sometimes I don’t want to invest time in my relationship with God, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of knowing Jesus.

    Sometimes I don’t want to invest money in savings, but I overcome that objection by thinking about the reward of having an emergency fund or resources for the future.

    In John 15, Jesus said if we abide/remain/persevere/invest our lives in Him we will bear fruit, but it doesn’t happen automatically or instantly.

    What did they hear from the beginning?

    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

    And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

    God promised us eternal life. That’s a long time! It’s not just eternal but life! If we trust Jesus with our lives, eternal life is promised.

    I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

    Who’s trying to lead us astray? Anyone who is not teaching the Word of God. Do you know it well enough to know the truth from the lies? Never trust me over the Bible…and let me know if you ever hear a word that doesn’t align with the Bible.

    I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m in process. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!

    My favorite theological quote is from Leonard Sweet who said, “20% of my theology is wrong. I just don’t what 20%”

    He’s not saying we don’t need teachers, but we especially need the Holy Spirit.

    But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)

    So What?

    There are many false teachings and false teachers. They perpetuate myths. Can you think of any? Here are some:

    1. God wants you happy. God wants you rich.
    2. God won’t give you more than you can handle.
    3. It doesn’t matter what you do.
    4. It doesn’t matter what you believe.
    5. Praise God when things go well. Ignore Him when things go poorly.
    6. Jesus was a good teacher but never died.
    7. Jesus was a good teacher but never rose from the dead.
    8. Jesus was not God.
    9. Jesus was not human.
    10. God helps those who help themselves.
    11. All good people go to heaven.
    12. Only good people go to heaven.
    13. Success is always measured by numbers.
    14. There is only one road you can take, one plan God has for your life.
    15. If you’re not busy, you’re lazy.
    16. God is not okay with doubt and questions
    17. There are bad sins (abortion) and acceptable ones (gossip)
    18. Your behavior affects God’s love for you
    19. The church is a building or a gathering
    20. All pastors are perfect, holy, and super spiritual
    21. The Bible is all about rules
    22. The Bible is boring

    Finally, challenge what you hear from me, challenge what you read in the media, challenge what you see in our culture. Does it align with the Word of God? It’s so tempting to follow conventional wisdom or what is politically correct without wrestling with the scriptures. Yes, sometimes they’re difficult to understand. Some things are controversial, but we must humbly seek the truth, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is why we have elders. This is why we have Life Groups. This is why we have a Facebook page and Q&A in sermons…to study, wrestle, and seek to understand the truth…both the words on the page and Jesus,
    the Truth.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.