Putting God's Word into Practice…

Notes from Nehemiah (13:15-22)

Flashback to the Israel’s covenant they made in chapter 10:

  • WE WILL NOT give our daughters to godless, foreigners as wives or take their daughters for our sons.
  • WE WILL NOT do business on the Sabbath or Holy Days.
  • WE WILL let the land rest and cancel all debts every seven years.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to pay the temple tax.
  • WE OBLIGATE OURSELVES to bring the firstborn and firstfruits of everything to the temple.
  • WE WILL NOT neglect the house of our God.

In those days, I saw in Judah people treading winepresses ON THE SABBATH, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem ON THE SABBATH DAY. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians, also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them ON THE SABBATH to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! (vs. 15-16)

In Exodus 20:8-11 it says, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within you gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

The Israelites in Jerusalem were breaking the Sabbath commandment in every way!  They were working, their donkeys were working, and the foreigners in the city were working!  Nehemiah called it “profaning the Sabbath.”  Profaning means to violate, to defile, to treat as unholy; yet God said the Sabbath was set apart as holy.  They were making their own way instead of following God’s way.

Maybe you think, “A little work on every day of the week is not a big deal.”  But it was a very big deal.  The Sabbath was about more than ceasing from labor, it was a sign of a covenant between the LORD and His people that they were trusting Him to sanctify them–set them apart as holy.  In Exodus 31:13b-14a it says, “ABOVE ALL you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you.  Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.”

Just one chapter prior in Nehemiah the people were having a robust celebration of dedication of the city to the Lord, now they were taking it back to do with it as they pleased!  Nehemiah was not going to stand for it!  He cautioned the merchants, confronted the nobles, and commanded the Levites to restore the sanctity of the Sabbath.  ONE MAN changed a town with righteous indignation, commitment to truth, steadfastness to the Lord’s ways, and bold confrontation.

But what does it mean for us?  Jesus Christ called himself Lord of the Sabbath in the New Testament.  He is the Lord of “ceasing of work.”  When we put our trust in Jesus for our salvation, we cease from working to earn our salvation and rest in His grace alone to sanctify us.  The problem we face is that many of us subtly disregard His grace over the course of time and work for our sanctification.  In Galatians 3:3 Paul wrote: “Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  In our own way, that is the definition of “profaning the Sabbath.”  Resting in Christ’s grace leads to eternal life.  Disregarding His sanctification and working to earn something for ourselves leads to spiritual death.

Are there any areas of my life where I am trusting in my own strength to provide for myself what I can really only find in Christ?  Do I need to cease from striving and rest in grace?

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Good News

She WILL bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for HE WILL save His people FROM THEIR SINS! (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus means “the Lord saves!”  What a wonderful name!  It’s the name above all names, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)

HE WILL SAVE–that’s promise!!

FROM THEIR SINS.  Jesus didn’t come to save us from our unfortunate physical circumstances, not from the consequences of our bad choices, not from our enemies, not from our sickness.  His primary purpose in coming was to save us from our sins.  That’s really our greatest need!!  If our sins aren’t forgiven, and we die with them hanging over us, we will be separated from God and all things good for eternity.  But, if we recognize our need for a Savior, the afflictions and disappointments of this life will be wiped away upon our death and replaced with an eternity of joy and peace in God’s presence.

Whatever I think I want or need today, nothing is greater than my need for a Savior.  Whatever I think will bring me joy and peace, if it’s not Jesus, it will never truly, eternally satisfy.  No material possession, no relationship, no healing will last as long as salvation.

Jesus came to save us from our sins.  Won’t you let Him do what He came to do today?  And if you have been saved from your sins already, worship Him and share your hope with your family and friends today.  That’s the best gift we have to offer.

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Notes from Nehemiah (Chapter 12:44-47)

The role of priest was all-consuming.  They served and ministered day and night.  The people depended on them for so much.  In God’s perfect wisdom, He provided a way for their financial and physical needs to be met.  Out of the tithes and offerings of the people they ministered to, a portion was given to each who served.

The people did not give out of obligation, but out of joy.  This, I’m sure, encouraged the hearts of their ministers.

“For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work!”

Think about your pastors.  Do you take joy in their work?  Do you find giving joyful, knowing a portion will meet your pastors’ families’ needs?  God is using your generosity to care for His servants!

Going a little deeper:  What was the work that the priests did that the people took joy in?  The “ministry of purification.”  Their job was to help the people maintain purity before their God.  We have ministers who serve in small ways in that capacity, but we have Someone even better.  We have a great High Priest named Jesus! Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore, He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” In 9:13-14 it says, “Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. JUST THINK HOW MUCH MORE THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL PURIFY OUR CONSCIENCES FROM SINFUL DEEDS SO THAT WE CAN WORSHIP THE LIVING GOD.”  And finally, in Hebrews 10:21-22 it promises, “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”

Do you rejoice over the work of your great High Priest-Jesus?  Are you thankful that because He shed His own blood as a sacrifice for your sins and is ministering day and night on your behalf, that you are pure before the Father and can confidently worship in His presence?

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Deuteronomy 5 ~ The Ten Commandments

And Moses summoned ALL Israel and said to them, “HEAR, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall LEARN them and be careful to DO them,” (vs. 1)  God’s people have to put themselves in the place to hear His Word.  A truth-proclaiming church or Bible study would be a good equivalent today.  He requested that they not only hear it but learn it.  Learning requires studying and memorization.  It’s not enough to hear God’s Word, but we must search it out ourselves.  And the final requisite is obedience to God’s Words.  A memorized verse is never better than an applied verse!

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. (vs. 2-3)  God is the only living God, and He is the God of the living.  He if faithful from generation to generation–freshly speaking His truth into each one.  It’s not what our fathers know of Him that matters, but what we ourselves know of Him.

I am the LORD YOUR GOD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (vs. 6)  These are the words that inaugurated the giving of the Ten Commandments to the new generation.  God is saying “I am YOUR GOD–I belong to YOU!  I rescued you and saved you from slavery and oppression.”  When God asks us to be obedient to His commands it’s because He loves us and has our best interest in mind.  He is worthy of our obedience because our very life is due to His salvation.

The 10 Commandments:

  1. Have no other gods before the LORD. (vs. 7)
  2. Do not make or bow down to idols. (vs. 8-10)
  3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. (vs. 11)
  4. Observe the Sabbath day–to keep it holy. (vs. 12-15)
  5. Honor your father and your mother. (vs. 16)
  6. Do not murder. (vs. 17)
  7. Do not commit adultery. (vs. 18)
  8. Do not steal. (vs. 19)
  9. Do not bear false witness. (vs. 20)
  10. Do not covet. (vs. 21)

Interestingly, in the New Testament we are told that the only commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself.  Looking at the 10 commandments we can see how “all the law hangs on those two commands.”  Commandments 1-4 explain how we are to love the Lord, and commandments 5-6 speak to how we love others.  (Matthew 22:36-40)

Look through the list, it is impossible to keep all those laws!  Thankfully our righteousness doesn’t depend on our ability to keep them.  Our righteousness depends on God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness because we’ve broken them!  Our righteousness depends on Jesus’ righteousness, because He is the only person who ever walked this earth blameless and sinless.  Therefore, when He died on the cross it was for our sins–our broken commandments–not His.  When we put our faith in Him, His righteousness becomes ours! (Isaiah 61:10)  Once we are made righteous before our Holy God, we are called to live lives of holiness.  Therefore, the 10 commandments are still relevant today–they teach us how to love God and others! They give us the standard of living that pleases God.

God spoke these commandments directly to His people “with a loud voice, and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” (vs. 22) What a generous God! Only 10 commandments–spoken and written for the safety, salvation, and joy of generations to come.  The voice of the Lord caused His people to fear Him–to have the utmost respect for Him.  They took His commands very seriously, and promised to do everything He said.

I’ve been there.  Several times I have attended conferences–times set apart to hear from the Lord and let Him speak to my life.  His presence is palpable; He shows His glory and greatness; He speaks a word to me igniting conviction, change and freedom.  I am revved up, enthusiastic about obedience.  But I know that those feelings won’t last, and what’s more, God knows that initial passion won’t last.  But it doesn’t keep Him from speaking to me, from wanting the best for me, or from charging me to “not forget.”

Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (vs. 29)

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. (vs. 32-33)

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Happy Birthday! I’m 15!

And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 1 Peter 1:5

I can vividly remember the morning God’s love and truth transformed by life.  It was a Sunday morning, October 31, 1999, and the church was wrapping up its service by singing “I Surrender All.”  My heart was on the verge of doing just that.  For over a month, my mind and soul had been in a tug of war for my very life.  My mind argued, “You know the facts. You know about salvation. You know about sin and its consequences. You know about Jesus and believe He was hung on a cross to die for the sins of the world and raised back to life. You believe in heaven and hell.”  But my soul was countering, “Even the demons believe that stuff and they tremble.”  Salvation is more than knowledge.  It is a moment of transformation when your old life dies, and God supernaturally gives you a new life.  A moment of surrender, repentance, forgiveness, cleansing, freedom, peace and joy–THAT LASTS!

  • God chose me to believe in Him
  • God called me to put my faith in Him
  • God gave me the gifts of faith and grace
  • God forgave my sins and made me whole
  • He opened my eyes to His love and truth
  • He changed me and continues to daily.

Today I celebrate 15 years of salvation, 15 years of hope, 15 years of peace and 15 years of surrender.

By His power may my life song continue to be, “I Surrender All.”

“I Surrender All” by Jadon Lavik http://youtu.be/uaTXNxUXcn4

P.S. There are some dangers of being a 15-year-old that I think can easily transfer from natural age to spiritual age that I want to be aware of and work on this year:

  • Not try to be independent
  • Never lose the wonder
  • Stop taking things for granted
  • Realize I’m not entitled to what my peers have
  • Don’t forget what’s important–not fill my time with entertainment


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Revelation 22:6-21 ~ Come Lord Jesus

Two years, seven months, and 17 days–501 posts!  That’s how long it has taken me to blog through the New Testament.  What a joy it has been to read God’s Word nearly daily and pray about how to apply it to my life and to share it with others!  Studying the life of Jesus from his birth through his death and resurrection to his ascension and his promise to come again while seeing the impact it has had throughout time and in my life personally has been my greatest joy in this journey!  All of life–past, present and future–is about Him, by Him and for Him! To God be the glory!

“Behold, I am coming soon…” Jesus promises this to John three times in this last chapter of Revelation. For every promise to “come,”  there is a responding request to Him to “come”–like now!  When I was younger I didn’t want Jesus to come back until I had a chance to get married…then after I was married I wanted him to wait until I had children…having children now there are times I’d like Him to wait until I get a chance to see them raised and give me grandchildren…My life is good, and sadly my urgency for His return has been low.  When John was writing these commands, the Christians were being persecuted mercilessly (as many are still today).  I can imagine that reading that Jesus was coming back soon was music to their ears!  And the plea of their hearts was for Him to, “Come!”

2 Timothy 4:8 says, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to ALL WHO HAVE LOVED HIS APPEARING.”  Do I long for His appearing?  Am I excited by His promise to come soon?  Can I shout the request to, “Come!” along with the Spirit and the saints?  Am I ready for His coming?

Jesus doesn’t say exactly when he will come, but when He comes He will reward the faithful and punish the faithless.  He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega–He has seen and knows all things!  The reward of the faithful is entrance into the eternal city, the ability to eat from the tree of life, and to quench our thirst with the water of life.  We will be provided for and protected in His presence forever–fully satisfied, fully content!  The price for this reward has been purchased by the blood of Jesus that He shed when He died on the cross.  Only those who have put their faith in His sacrifice to cover their sins will receive this reward.  IT IS NOT TOO LATE!  JESUS COULD COME BACK TODAY–WOULD YOU BE READY???

Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

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Revelation 21:9-27 ~ Good News, Bad News, Good News

In the beginning of Revelation 21, we are told of the new heavens and new earth.  God promises He will wipe away every tear and take away all mourning, pain, and death for eternity.  GOOD NEWS!  In the next section of verses from this chapter we see a picture of what it will be like to live in the heavenly city.  Here are a few quick descriptions and key points:

  • Having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
  • Length, width and height are 1,380 miles.  That’s about the distance from Cleveland, Ohio to Key West, Florida and Cleveland to Laramie, WY and then up into the sky the same distance.  That’s huge!
  • The walls are 216 feet thick.
  • Walls are made out of jasper
  • City made out of pure gold
  • Foundation of the city adorned with every kind of jewel
  • 12 gates made out of a single pearl each
  • Streets of the city are pure gold
  • No temple–for the Lord God the Almighty and Jesus are there
  • No need for sun or moon–for the glory of God gives it light and Jesus is the lamp
  • The gates will always be open
  • There will be no night
  • Nothing unclean will ever enter it.

Reading through the list (or the chapter) what excites your heart the most?  Is it the pure gold streets, the giant pearls, the precious jewels, the size, or the presence of God?  What excites our hearts the most about our eternal home may reveal what it is we are longing for most in the present!  Lord, help me to long for your presence more than any other thing!  Let my amazement over heaven point me to Your beauty and grandeur.  Let me be fully satisfied and contented with You.

Everything above is GOOD NEWS!

However, both sections of verses (1-8 and 9-27) are punctuated with a warning.  Heaven is not for everybody!  In God’s grace and sovereignty, He had John continuously remind the reader that some will not be in His glorious presence where there is peace, love, beauty, joy, and rest forever.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Vs. 8)

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (vs. 27)

You may not be a sorcerer, but have you ever lied?  Have you ever invested your life in something that was not God, elevating it to a place of a god in your life?  Have you been afraid to trust God with your life?  Have you refused to believe that you need Jesus to save you?  All these things will keep you out of heaven!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? DO NOT BE DECEIVED! Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. BUT YOU WERE WASHED, YOU WERE SANCTIFIED, YOU WERE JUSTIFIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BY THE SPIRIT OF OUR GOD! (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Jesus has the power to wash away all our sins–even the ones we think are unforgivable.  Trust me–I was 7 out of 10 of the lifestyles mentioned above before Jesus saved me.  There is freedom in Jesus.  He alone has the power to change us and make us right so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. God longs to cover bad news with the GOOD NEWS in our lives.


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Revelation 21:1-8 ~ Woo Hoo!

It’s back to school season in households across America!  Even though we have tennis shoes, pencils, shirts, notebooks, folders, etc…it is so refreshing to get all new!  I love looking at the stack of clean lined paper packs, doodle-less notebooks, unsharpened pencils, clean pink erasers, shiny shoes and still creased  shorts and shirts.  New things are wonderfully full of opportunity and unwritten experiences.

God said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  And John saw the prophecy unfold before His very eyes.  After Satan–and all who stand in opposition to the gospel–are  defeated for the rest of eternity, God will create a new heaven, a new earth and a new city–Jerusalem.  Along with this new earth will be a whole new way of living where God is dwelling among His people and we are able to love and worship Him freely–without the dampers of sin, the deception of Satan, and the distractions of the world.

He will wipe EVERY tear from their eyes, and death shall be NO MORE, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain ANYMORE, for the former things have passed away.

With Satan gone, sin will be gone, and everything related to sin will be vanquished!  The Bible says the penalty of sin is death.  Please hear me, I’m not saying that your mourning, sickness, pain, tears, etc…are always a direct result of personal sin.  But because we live in a sinful world among sinful people the consequences of sin are all around us…and every living thing is dying.  So this new world will have no crying, mourning, pain or death…

  • no heart attacks and strokes
  • no ALS
  • no chronic back pain
  • no unfaithful spouses
  • no pornography
  • no addiction
  • no mental illness
  • no poison ivy
  • no autism
  • no allergies
  • no loneliness
  • no depression
  • no wheelchairs, walkers, canes
  • no hearing aids or glasses
  • no sunburns
  • no violence
  • no war
  • no relational conflict
  • no bankruptcy/debt
  • no cancer
  • no broken bones/dislocated shoulders
  • no orphans
  • no widows
  • no homelessness
  • no unemployment
  • no divorce
  • no insecurity
  • no discontentment
  • no doubts
  • no hopelessness
  • no strife
  • no exhaustion
  • no restlessness
  • no …

In His presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore! Psalm 16:11 

I can’t wait!!!

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Revelation 20 ~ Hard Truth

This chapter feels like a mystery/action movie with one too many twists or battle sequences.  Or like a “good” horror movie: when it feels like the movie is over and evil is defeated, the villain reaches out and grabs the leg of its victim one last time.  The comeback is short-lived as “good” delivers a final blow!

Satan is referred to as the dragon, the ancient serpent, and the devil, but his goal is always the same: to deceive!  At the beginning of this chapter, Satan is bound and sealed in a bottomless pit.  Jesus sets up His kingdom on earth and reigns for 1,000 years.  Can you imagine life on earth without the devil prowling around deceiving all of mankind and with Jesus tangibly at the center of all things?!  The problem is that humans have free will!  Our hearts are desperately wicked!  Even in a perfect environment, being ruled by a perfect King–people will choose to rebel against Jesus and try to make their own way.  At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released from captivity and start deceiving again.  Revealing the rebelliousness of hearts, he will raise up an army of unbelievers who would rather follow Him than side with a Savior.  But just like the villain making one last run at his victim in a movie, Satan will be crushed.  He will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur and “be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (vs. 10)

I wish that was the end of the story, but there is one more event–one that gives a lot of company to Satan in the lake of fire–one that sentences many to eternal torment and total separation from God–the great white throne judgment.  This is where all the dead from all time will stand before God’s throne and be judged “according to what they HAD done.”  No more chances–the past will finally catch up with them.  Those who spent their whole lives refusing God’s grace and salvation will have to give an account before the Lord, and it will be too late to change their minds. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (vs. 15)  

So what does any of this mean for me:

  1. Satan was defeated at the cross, but not bound!  Therefore, he is roaming, prowling, deceiving, destroying, devouring, killing, stealing all day long (1 Peter 5:8, John 10:10).  I need to be alert, on guard, sober and watchful!
  2. I know my name is written in the Lord’s Book of Life.  I have received Christ as my Savior and surrendered my life to Him.  My sins are forgiven because of His sacrifice, grace, mercy and forgiveness.  I need to walk out my life in accordance with this miracle!  I must be diligent to love God and others, to disciple and teach people to obey God, to aim for holiness in my thoughts and actions, to “do” God’s Word.  I only have so much time and I need to be faithful!  “Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
  3. Many, many people will choose to reject the good news of salvation through Jesus–thinking they don’t need saving and that there is nothing to be saved from.  But in order to reject something, it must be heard. And how will they hear if no one proclaims (Romans 10:14-15). I have a responsibility to “each day proclaim the good news that He saves,” (Psalm 96:2b) to “rescue those who are being taken away to death,” (Proverbs 24:11a), and to “save others by snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 1:23a)
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Revelation 19:11-21 ~ Grass-eater and Fishguts

When I was young, an older kid dared me to eat the grass clippings that had been tracked into the baby pool we were playing in. I ate a few to “impress” him and consequently earned the name “Grass-eater.”  The summer after seventh grade, I had my mom put highlights in my hair. I swam every day and spent a lot of time in the sun.  The highlights quickly turned green and orange.  That same summer there was a drought in my city and the fish died, and they were green and orange laying in the cracked mud of the riverbed.  You guessed it, I received a new nickname–Fishguts!

Nicknames reveal who we are and what we do.  They are often not self-proclaimed but given by others who witness our lives.  Jesus is called two names right off the bat in this section of verses–Faithful and True!  He received those names because that is Who He is and how He functions.  His faithfulness and truth is what is valuable about His character.  He will fulfill all promises and prophecy.  In this chapter Jesus is also called The Word of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and He has a private name that no one knows.  This reminds us that we cannot fully know Him in our human understanding–He is unfathomable and exceptional!

Verses 17-21 give us a glimpse into the future when Jesus will fulfill the most anticipated promise–His return to earth to rule and reign and set the world free from the curse of sin.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection are only part of His victory.  They give us victory over sin and death personally and daily.  But a time is coming when Jesus will purge His creation from all evil and completely redeem forever giving the final blow to Satan and sin and all the pain and repercussions that come along with living in a deceived world.

Jesus is Faithful and True.  He is Lord of lords and King of kings.  He is a valiant warrior who fights for us.  During this final battle against sin, those who belong to Christ will follow Him into battle, but we will not lift a finger.  The victory is eternally His alone.  And those who are behind Him will be the only survivors!  Evil will make war on Jesus, and Jesus will prevail.

Maybe you’re thinking, “What kind of God would annihilate all the people who oppose Him?”  Any world leader has the power–and even the responsibility–to destroy evil and uphold good.  Right now there is a “Christian genocide” happening in Iraq–this should ignite in us a demand for justice and a desire to see the blood of innocent children avenged.  Any good ruler would take action.  How much more so for the King of kings and Lord of lords!

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