A Tenacious Tragedy

1 03 2010

There is only one way.  There has always only been one way.  There was a people who testified to that way, until the day that they met it face to face.  Upon meeting that one, they rejected him.  They continue, even now, upon that global stage, testifying to a “one,” but their fortress has been built without a cornerstone.  The prophets said that they would return to their homeland when the Messiah called them into it, but in the absence of a suitable Messiah, they have fulfilled the prophecy on their own initiative.  Abraham has lain with Hagar, having aborted the son of Sarah, in this case.  The prophecies will be fulfilled, even if they are not.

One must admire the tenacity of the Jewish nation, having been exiled not once, but twice, returning each time to rebuild a dream.  They have responded to the call, and they have come to assert their identity, to show the world that they have not been defeated.  Evangelicals, especially in America, have cheered their achievement.  More than that, the Christian Zionists, as they are called, actually live vicariously through these people.  The war of Ezekiel 38 seems to be just around the corner.  The Antichrist is set to amass his armies against her, only to be destroyed from above.  But what is this?  Israel, herself, is anti-Christ!  Even now, among her numbers, the Jews discuss the problematic matter of this friendship with the idolatrous Evangelicals.

The problem with Israel, as it stands today, is that she is no different than the day that Vespasian rode his chariots out to knock down her walls.

Before the king of Babylon even considered the spoils of Judea, the future victim had her own prophets warning of her demise, not the least of which was Isaiah.  In this, there was a due cause.  God had his purpose.  The people had fallen into an ungodly state, as had the land to the north, known as Israel.  That nation of Israel was scattered, but they lost their religious identity in the process.  Nine of the original twelve tribes were completely lost.  The land of Judea contained the Judeans, the Levites and the Benjamites (what was left of them).  The prophets warned that Babylon was coming.  Indeed, Babylon came.  They removed the followers of the I Am to a foreign land.

But the faith was not lost.  Their captors were conquered by the Persians, who granted them the freedom to return and rebuild their temple.  This meant many battles with the natives, who by no means identified themselves with this neo-native religion.

The prophets had spoken.  Greece was to come and trample Persia.  The winner would fracture, and its parts would wage war against each other, with the land of Judea caught in the middle.  Out of this, a king would come from the north and desecrate the temple.  After this, the Messiah would come.  All of this happened.  Daniel counted the years until Messiah, and those years had come, and the Messiah did come.

There has always been only one way.  That way came, and the people who followed the way came to a bend in the road and kept on going straight off into the pasture.  The promised Messiah brought redemption into the world, and the initial recipients, the wedding party, turned him away.  This is the crux of Christianity.  We do not differ with the Jews over one doctrinal issue.  We differ with them over the only doctrinal issue.  We follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They follow the god of Judah.

Abraham was sitting at his tent, and the Lord appeared before him in the form of human royalty.  Immediately, he recognized the impostor for his blasphemy.  God never takes the form of a human.  Therefore Abraham went straight out with his servants and had the man hung from a tree.  Is this how it happened?  Abraham did not do this, but Judea did.  The Lord appeared at her doorway in the form of human royalty, and she nailed him to a tree.  This is not to be mourned, so much, for it was through this tragedy that redemption was brought to all humanity.  The ultimate martyr, the ultimate sacrifice had been paid.  Yet, the Messiah lives.

A little over seventy years beyond the appearance of her Lord, Judea found herself sitting idly in the desert, lost without a Messiah.  Then the armies of Rome came and carried her away.  The land of Judah was smashed.  Its inhabitants were scattered.  Christ and his prophets saw this in advance.

A couple thousand years after the appearance of the Messiah, she returned to her homeland to fulfill a promise made to the children of Yahweh.  But she is still without her Messiah.  She has not learned from her Roman captivity, and she still spits in the face of God.  What is this disaster, that the beloved of God, the inheritance of Abraham, has remained stolidly against her God?

Time and again, the armies of the enemies of the modern state of Israel have come against her, and each time they have been destroyed.  God has taken her side.  How long can this last?  Their situation now is no different than it was the day that the Romans came knocking on Jerusalem’s doors.  Now, the Beast from the East is building nukes.  Now, the Beast from the West is rebuilding a new Rome.

And Israel is stuck in the middle, still without her Messiah.  How long can this tenuous situation possibly last?

There is only one God.  There is only one way.  There is only one solution that can prevent Israel, the tenacious, Israel, the beautiful, from becoming the last great tragedy of the Jews.  God save the Jews.

The Last Train out of Hinckley

4 11 2009

Sometimes the church is like a burning train, running full speed in reverse.

The last train to arrive in Hinckley found it already veiled in smoke.  The previous train was boarded by the most nervous of the town’s residents.  That train, the second to last, escaped by tooth and nail, racing in and out of forest fires all the way to Duluth.  In that stretch, it had to cross six burning bridges.  The engineers examined the first five of them to make sure they could still hold the train.  When they reached the sixth, they knew that it was too far gone to hold them, but there was no turning back by this point.  Instead of stopping, they increased the speed and raced across it at full speed, arriving at the other side just in time to see it crumble.

That was the second to last train.  The last train was at least twenty minutes after that one.  The engineer of that train had heard by telegraph that the fire lines had been broken.  The firefighters were in full retreat.  As it chugged to a stop, masses of people swarmed it to board.  Over three hundred people got on, and more were coming, but the engineer could not wait for the entire town.  The fire was bearing down fast.  He pulled the bell rope to signal the train’s departure, and on the third pull, the rope came free in his hand, severed by fire.  He ran down the line and pulled another bell, and the train began to move.  The very last passengers to board were a mother and a couple of kids.

The train could not advance forward because of the fire, so it rumbled back the way it came.  People from the town began running after it for their lives.  The full force of the inferno hit as the train left the town.  Fireballs blasted through buildings, knocking down walls, exposing their interiors like doll houses.  Over the line, a final telegraph was received by the train, sent by the poor telegraph operator who remained at the station.  “I have stayed too long,” it said, and he stumbled out to the tracks toward the departing train and fell flat on his face, dead.

The engineer watched as people ran after him.  Two men managed to jump onto the cow catch.  A couple of boys ran until they passed out.  He watched the two men eagerly, hoping for their survival, but one of them was overcome and died, falling onto the tracks.  He left the engine to walk through the passenger car.  On both sides, the hellish blaze roared by.  Even inside the car the heat was unbearable.  When he saw flames licking in through the windows he realized that the train, itself, had caught on fire.  The terror among the passengers rose to a fevered pitch.  A woman’s dress caught on fire, and he quickly grabbed it and smothered it out.  This continued to happen throughout the train, with clothing igniting from the intense ambient heat.  One man, in a complete state of panic, ran to the door and threw it open, shouting that he could not take it anymore.  The engineer yelled at him to stop, but the man jumped out, bursting into flames before he hit the ground.

As the tracks heated, they expanded and buckled.  The train began to zigzag, a little at first, but worse with time.  Back at the engine, he found that his hands had swelled badly from handling the hot controls, puffing up like roasted marshmallows.  With help from his assistant, they took turns dunking themselves in the water tank and handling the controls.  But, the damage to the rails had gone too far.  The train had to be slowed to a crawl, and even then it was moving too fast to be safe.  Rails were splayed out in all directions, and the train could go no further.  Just as it stopped, two lakes came into view on either side of the tracks.  One was large and shallow, barely more than a giant mud puddle.  The other was smaller but deeper.  They had come to their place of safety at the last possible moment.

The engineer grabbed a bucket of water from the tank and put out the flames on the running board, enabling the passengers to exit the train.  Then he directed them to the small lake, and all but a couple of people followed him.  The few who didn’t tried to find their own way up a nearby creek, where they perished in the fire.  In the lake, the people lay flat on their backs, and even then the water was not deep enough to cover them completely.  They made up the difference by splashing themselves with the water constantly.  All around them, the fire blazed like the very pit of Hell.  Every breath was pure torture.

After what seemed like forever, the worst of the fire eventually passed, and they stood to view the ruination around them.  Everyone who took refuge in the lake was saved.  That meant that everyone on board the train, who actually stayed on the train, and who followed the engineer to the lake, was saved.  Before them stood the smoking remains of the train, burned down to the chassis.  The engine, even, had just begun to melt, sagging like softened butter on the tracks, glistening in its partial liquefaction.

They were saved.  Their clothing was singed and smoking, but they were saved, nonetheless.


I write this from memory, having read it a rather long time ago.  I apologize for any inaccuracy.

There Comes a Beast

4 07 2009

The nation of ancient Judah was yet writhing with birthing pains, bringing forth the new body of Christ, but the seven-headed dragon, Satan, was already preparing to devour it (Revelation 12).  The city of the seven hills, the dragon,  was also known as Rome.  In fact, it still is.  In the early days of Christianity, it sought to destroy this fledgling faith.  The woman who gave birth to this new faith was Judah, with the sun and the moon and twelve stars, representing the tribes of Israel.  This was a flashback to Joseph’s dream, in Genesis 37:9.  Around 72 AD, this dragon sacked Jerusalem and laid it to waste, sending the residents fleeing into the desert.  Then it made war with her offspring, the believers in Jesus.

Then came the Beast from the sea.

The great empire of Rome came to be divided between the eastern, Byzantine, half, and the western half.  The western half fell to Germanic invaders, only to be revived again as the Holy Roman Empire, a nation which is said to have been neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.  Even this half was again divided into thirds, and one of these thirds was a European nation known as France.

France, whose monarchy descended from the beginnings of the new western Roman empire, was doomed.  The people revolted and overturned this regime, and out of the turmoil came the first horseman, otherwise known as Napoleon (Revelation 6:2), bent on conquest.  His France was like a lion with the wings of an eagle (Daniel 7:4).  The eagle was napoleon’s own symbol.  He was the wings.  However, those wings were torn off when Napoleon went into exile for the second time, where he eventually died.  The lion was raised up into a democracy, made to stand on its own two feet and given the heart of a man, which is the heart of a democracy.  For a time, he had conquered nearly all of Europe.  The irony of it all was that he rose to power on the back of a revolution to depose monarchy, only to declare himself a monarch.  This rider had been given a crown, just as the Apostle John had predicted.

Another of the divisions of the Holy Roman Empire was ruled by a monarchy that still named itself after Caesar, in the Roman tradition.  In their dialect, Caesar was spelled Kaiser.  This nation was Germany, and it sought to conquer the earlier monster of France.  After this World War, the people deposed the monarchy, and out of this upset came a new leader of the people, named Hitler.  He was the second rider, who took peace from the earth and made a legacy out of slaughtering countless masses of people for no strategic reason (Revelation 6:3).  He was also Daniel’s second beast, the bear who was told to get up and eat its fill of flesh, though it had already consumed Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, symbolized by the three ribs it had dangling from its jaws (Daniel 7:5).  In the end, this beast was raised up only on one side, as the previous beast had been raised up, which is to say that one side of it was made a democracy.  Germany had been divided.  Hitler had ridden in on the back of a popular revolution seeking democracy, as Napoleon had done.

The eastern half of the Old Roman Empire lasted longer than its western counterpart, but it was ultimately defeated for a time by the Turks.  As the western half was reborn with a new capitol and a new leader, so, too, was the eastern half, under czarist Russia.  It was hardly the same, but the rulers considered their nation to be a continuation of the Byzantine Empire, and so, in a sense, it was.  The czars ruled successfully, for a time, but their days were ended by the popular Bolshevik revolution.  Had the last vestiges of the Roman Empire finally come to an end?  On the wave of this attempt at a republic came yet another dictator, known as Joseph Stalin.  Out with one monarch; in with another.  So came the third horseman, who made his legacy from tampering with the economy (Revelation 6:5).  He was hardly in power before his disruption caused a collapse of the market and widespread shortage of bread.  Two commodities prospered under his communist regime, though, which were the alcoholic beverages and the crude oil.  And so we come to Daniel’s third beast (Daniel 7:6), the Soviet Union, symbolized by a leopard.  Initially, it was a union of four Soviet Socialist Republics, but it later grew into fifteen constituencies.  These four republics are represented by the four heads and four wings of the leopard.

All three of these monsters came to power in the vacuum left by the overthrow of some last vestige of a new Roman monarchy.  All three were foreign-born heads of state.  All three took control of the land of their birth, using the countries that they ruled.

But there comes a fourth monster (Daniel 7:7).  There comes a fourth rider (Revelation 6:7).  Its different from the other three in its methods, and far more destructive.  It starts out very little, but it grows quickly and uproots the previous three.  It’s name is death, and it kills with war, famine, plague and wild animals.  This monster is also the Beast from the Sea (Revelation 13), the successor to Rome.  His seven heads are the same seven hills of Rome, and his territory comes to include that of the first three, the lion, the leopard and the bear.  Could these three beasts be the ones that Daniel’s “little horn” defeats in chapter seven?  If this monster is to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, then perhaps its ruler rises on the tail end of a popular revolt against some old, final vestige of the Roman Empire?  But, is there anything left of that empire?  There is only the Vatican, seated within Rome, itself.  This puny little city-state would have to grow very quickly and powerfully to consume all of Europe and Russia.  It seems impossible.  Nay, it seems ridiculous.  If it is, then the Pope will be killed, and the Catholic church will be destroyed, only to be replaced by the kingdom of the Antichrist.  One might think this notion to be an offense to the Catholic church, but one of their own has already prophesied it.  Saint Malachy, long ago, numbered the Popes, in a writing known as the Prophecy Of The Popes.  The current Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, is the last one before all Hell breaks loose and the church crumbles, according to their tradition.  Another is mentioned after him, named Peter of Rome, but this is believed to have been added by someone else at a later time.  It is strange, though, that the Apostle Peter would be expected to come again to lead the remains of the church that they believe he founded.  Is this a ruse to lead people astray?

The Catholic church may not be involved, and the Pope may not be killed, but one thing is certain, which is that the next horror to befall humanity in the tradition of Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin will be a Westerner.

But he will have a false prophet (Revelation 13:11).  Whereas the previous beast was from the sea, this one is from the earth.  It’s a reference to Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat (Daniel 8).  Daniel’s prophecy predicted the Greek invasion of Persia.  This has already been fulfilled, but John’s prophecy has alluded to it for the sake of reference.  The reason Daniel’s beasts were a lion, bear and leopard was for the purpose of making a clear reference to John’s later prophecy, but here, John’s details serve to make reference back to Daniel’s prophecy.  The Greeks were represented by a goat that came from across the sea.  The Persians were represented by a ram that stood upon the earth.  “Across the sea” refers to Europe, being across the Mediterranean Sea.  The distinctive feature of the ram is its two asymmetrical horns, representing the hybrid nations of Media and Persia.  The Persia of ancient times is the Iran of today.  The false prophet of the antichrist is therefore Iranian, or Shiite, at the very least.  Not coincidentally, the Shiites of Iran have already built a special temple to their own messianic figure, who is expected to arrive shortly.  Theirs is the Twelfth Imam, and they even expect our very own Jesus Christ to return and lead us to faith in their Imam.  Will we see an imposter of Christ bow before the throne of a Muslim messiah?  Perhaps we will.  One might also note that this Beast from the Earth had the appearance of a man.  If the symbolism holds true from Daniel’s prophecy of the beasts, then this means that the nation of the false prophet has the appearance of a democracy.  This also implies that the nation’s democracy is not real.

But this reign of the Antichrist and his prophet will not be like the others of times past, for it will be maintained by the magic of Satan himself.  Otherwise, such a thing would have been impossible.

That’s my take.  I could be wrong.  We’ve certainly seen our share of hacks make fools of themselves over these enigmatic words.  More prophecy follows, but that is another discussion for another time…by someone else.  I’m done.  What’s important is not so much the details of the events as is whether or not we’re prepared for them.  The end comes for everyone, sooner, rather than later.  We all have our own personal end-times tragedy.  The end of human civilization is more dramatic and captures the imagination, rather than the end of one lone man, but to that one man, his end is the end of the universe.  If I am unprepared for my own demise, then I might as well be unprepared for the world’s demise.


Signs and Wonders to the Muslim Heart

1 07 2009

The way into the Muslim heart is through signs and wonders.

My brother, a chaplain in the United States Air Force recently returned from Iraq with some interesting news.  Firstly, I must say that military clergy are very much restricted in how they share the gospel, so much so that they hardly seem representative of a free country.  Great pains are taken in policy to assure that they do not force their religion on anyone, to the point that they cannot share their beliefs with the people of that nation unless specifically asked to do so.

An Iraqi man and his son came in to the military hospital with burn injuries.  Apparently, the Iraqi hospital was next to useless in terms of receiving real care.  The son was seriously burned over his body because he had fallen into the open cooking fire in their house.  The father had burned his own hands pulling his son out of the fire.  The father was worried that he would lose his job because he hadn’t been able to tell his workplace that he was in the hospital.  He was also worried that he wouldn’t be able to do his job anyway, because of the injuries to his hands.  My brother prayed for him and also had his workplace notified that the reason he wasn’t showing up to work was that he was in the hospital.  The father also asked him to pray for his son, who was in a different section of the hospital.  The son had blood poisoning  (septicemia), and was bloated, lying there hooked up to tubes.  My brother had seen a lot of people at the burn unit he had worked at for a while, and many died even though he prayed for them.  Since the father had asked him to pray for the boy, and there was no one around except a Catholic nurse, he anointed the boy with oil and prayed the Scriptures in Jesus’ name.  During or after the prayer, he felt the power of God surge through his body and out through his hand to the boy.  This told him that something significant was happening.  It was some time later that he encountered the two again.  They were really excited to see him.  The man’s hand was totally healed.  The boy was totally healthy and the only remnant of his injuries was the appearance of new skin.

In another case, a young Muslim man had serious wounds and was continually in a lot of pain.  He asked my brother to pray for him, and he did.  The next day was his day off (he got one day off per week).  When he returned the second day after the prayer, he found that the Muslims had been excitedly asking where he was all during his day off.  He found the man that he had prayed for, who had been in continual pain, and the pain had completely cleared after the prayer and stayed away permanently.   One Muslim man made the sign of the cross after my brother spoke and prayed with him, and the interpreter was flabbergasted and told him later that it was basically a statement of conversion.  By the time his tour was up and he had to return home, the Iraqis were bringing their friends to come and see this “Christian imam,” to whose prayers God listened.

The way into the heart of the Muslim is through signs and wonders.  Consequently, any effective witness in their world must be full of the Spirit and ready to pray for miracles.  The result of their faith, the sort of faith that germinates from a seed to a fully grown mustard plant with the water of the Holy Spirit, is that more miracles are likely to take place among them in testimony of Christ than would otherwise be seen in the western world.  Americans have been infected with a bad case of Hollywood.  Miracles are for entertainment purposes, not for conviction, in the eye of the American unbeliever.  Consequently, miracles are less likely to happen on this continent in the testimony of our Lord.

When Napoleon invaded Egypt, I’ve heard it said that his opponents roused the native population against him using magic tricks of the illusionist sort.  His response was to send in his own magicians to counter the spiritualist claims of his enemies.  This brings us to the dark flip side of the coin.  The way into the Muslim heart, even for Satan, is through signs and wonders.  In the last days, the Antichrist will use sorcery to bring the Muslims into his kingdom.  I feel entirely convinced that, while he himself will be a westerner, he will be proclaimed the Twelfth Imam, returned, by the Shiite clergy of Iran.  I’ve been saying this since before Iran began asserting itself  to become the blemish that it is today.  The false prophet of the Antichrist will be an Iranian leader, for certain.  In those days, it will be much like the battles between Moses and the Pharaoh’s magicians, for God will send two witnesses to wage war against the Antichrist through miracles of the Heavenly kind.  After all, the way into the Muslim, Arabic, and Persian heart is through signs and wonders.

We have before us both a great opportunity and a tremendous nightmare.  Either we will face this challenge with missionaries with the courage to pray for the impossible, or we will bypass this battleground and cede it directly to the enemy.  We could have the advantage of arriving first, before the enemy comes, but this moment will fade.  I’ve tried to avoid getting into End Times prophecy, because I’ve literally been writing about it since I was four years old, and I’m rather burned-out with the whole thing, but I felt this much needed to be said.  Tomorrow’s Napoleon, tomorrow’s Hitler and tomorrow’s Stalin will wage a war of sorcery, unlike anything the world has yet seen.  Will Christians rise to the battle, armed with faith and power?

Or will they watch television all night?

I know it’s frustrating, because it’s something that goes beyond us.  All we can do is pray, and there’s no guarantee that anything will come of it.  Even so, I tend to think that it must be worth the effort.


Worms in the Wood

30 05 2009

Change always brings the crazies out of the woodwork.  Here, you’ve got one man walking through town naked, telling everyone that some Middle Eastern nation is going to kill, destroy and maim.  The end is near, they say.  There, you’ve got a man lying on his side for days next to a street, talking to a cake made with mud, babbling something about how the country has lost its faith in God, bringing down wrath upon everyone.  The end is near, and the sky is falling.  One man even married a prostitute, just so he could write verses about her and compare her to the sinfulness of the country.  We’re all going to Hell in a hand basket, and we forgot to pack a lunch.  The country was once founded in faith, dominated by one set of beliefs, but something external worked its way in.  The country once served a higher calling but now serves only itself.  The people who once were in love with God, who founded the country for the sole purpose of unifying under one religious code, now love only themselves and revile any rules that would suggest that they not do exactly as they please.  Now we’ve got self-proclaimed prophets and conspiracy theorists trying to make everyone afraid that the end is near, because their religion is waning, and they’re afraid of seeing the country change.

 I could be talking about the United States of America, but I’m not, yet.  When the ancient nations of Israel and Judea were adopting the beliefs and lifestyles of the nations around them, compromising faith and purity, all kinds of people claimed to have a word from the Lord, threatening punishment.  The prophet, Joel, told that an army would come from the north and take over the region, that they would be unstoppable.  The prophet, Isaiah, said that Babylon would prevail and take his entire nation into exile.  Yet, even though that nation of Judea was, in fact, far less faithful than it had been in times past, it was still far more in league with the laws of Yahweh than was the nation that came to conquer it.  Prophets predicted judgment on God’s nation, which still retained some faith, but where were the prophets of Babylon, which never had any such faith?  Seemingly, the nation that had never followed God was getting rewarded at the expense of a nation that had once followed God, and even yet still followed him a little.

 Why is it that a man is deeply angered and hurt by the woman he loves, who once loved him but turns her back on him, but he is unmoved by a woman on the street who never loved him in the first place?

 Joel was right, though.  Assyria from the north conquered Israel and led them out with cruel hooks through their jaws, like fish.  Isaiah was right, too.  Babylon besieged Judea until the people started to eat their own children, and then the Judeans were taken away and scattered.

 Ever notice how loud the religious conservatives are getting?  Notice how they portend disasters and coming storms; how they believe that there will be a great war in the Middle East and calamity will befall the United States?  Ever wonder why a halfway Christian nation would expect the wrath of its own God, while the same God fairly ignores the faithlessness of pagan nations like Nepal and China?  To some, it seems like the whining of a losing team.  Ground that the Christians could once take for granted is now probably lost forever.  To others, it seems like history repeating itself.

 We love those who love us.  We are most easily hurt by those we love the most.  We believe that God loves us, but we don’t seem to think that he has feelings, ironically.  God is only love, never resentful, right?  He only rewards, but he never punishes, right?  We expect him to let the country slide until it has completely lost its faith and looks exactly like the nations that never believed, and then we think he might do something about it.  Punishing a faithless nation is like beating a dog that hasn’t got a clue that it did anything wrong.  Try yelling at a coyote, “Bad dog!”  What do you think it would do?  If you’re lucky, it would walk away.  You can’t train a dog that has no loyalty.

 Yes, the End-Times crowd is really in their wheelhouse now.  The nation is on the brink of falling into a pit that it can never crawl out of.  We’ve got industrialized infanticide and legitimized homosexuality.  Some despot, somewhere, is itching to show us a little divine nuclear punishment.  The screams of the religious right keep getting louder.  Their tactics seem to get nuttier by the day.  They’ve been stricken from the schools and the textbooks.  They’ve been defeated at the polls and denounced by the press.  They’ve been censored here and there, yet they keep coming through with their absurd claims of conspiracy.  They claim that the government is out to silence them.  I can’t imagine why they would think that…just because it’s true.  You start changing society, and the voices of the old way warn of bloody murder.

 The only problem, though, is how starkly frequent the nuts prove to be right.  The only thing worse than crazy people everywhere warning the world of impending doom is crazy people everywhere accurately warning the world of impending doom.