Revelation 9: "Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2 He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6 And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them."

We learn it is the 144,000 from the 12 Tribes of Israel who received the mark of God on their foreheads (chapter 7).

I realize it is unwise to assume Revelation chapters 4-22 are linear. But I have wondered this before, and I wondered it as I just read it again, how can we think the Church is on earth (besides the 144K) when the 'locusts' were told by God to hurt EVERYONE without the mark of God on their foreheads.

That makes zero sense.

I’ve read this passage in Luke’s gospel for years. And then one day I saw something I’d missed all that time.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

[Jesus continued] “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

I suddenly noticed the tax collector was not kneeling as he prayed. He was STANDING – just as the Pharisee prayed while standing.

The point? It is not the posture of the body that’s important. It’s the posture of the heart that pleases God.

I have come to the conclusion that reading the Bible is a waste of time.

Unless . . . and only unless the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the message of Scripture that is only, only, only supernaturally understood. That’s why we must ask Him, every time we open the Book, to open our eyes to what it says.

And it is only then, when He opens our eyes, will we understand why reading the Bible is unquestionably the most valuable time a person can spend every day.

If you do not yet follow a plan that gets you through the Bible each year, you can find multiple ‘annual Bible reading’ plans on the internet. Or you can try mine:

Jesus said to the man: “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:39)

Do you remember when you first knew Jesus was calling you to Himself, and you decided to follow Him?

When did that happen? How did it happen? What has your journey with Him been like?

Tell us your story. Even here on RC Social, won't you tell us your story? You don’t need to be eloquent. Just be honest. It doesn’t need to be 1,000 words. Say it in 50 if that’s all you need.

But please, say it. The Holy Spirit will use your story to encourage others. But you have to tell it first.

“So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it (i.e. the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the just shall live by faith.”

The Greek word Paul used for ‘Just’ – some translations render it ‘Righteous’ – means to be virtuous, innocent, without guilt, approved of or acceptable of God. It is the same Greek root of the word ‘justified’ and ‘justification’ used throughout the New Testament.

What exactly ‘is’ Justification by faith?

You can listen to my Sunday message here: or you can read it here:

I have been hearing about critical race theory (CRT), and so I thought to look it up. It is evident, from CRT proponents, that I am inherently and irrevocably a racist because I am Caucasian (i.e. white).

Everything that I have ever done, everything that whites have ever done in the HISTORY of humanity, was to benefit whites.

Think I am overstating it? Read this from the Encyclopedia Britannica (I acknowledge the source is likely tainted because it was probably written by a racist.

And if you think these proponents are not trying to foment an bloody race war, you are not paying attention.

Part two of two

Fast forward now to Calvary. Jesus hangs on the cross. On either side hang two thieves. It is possible that their parents were not there to watch their sons die. They would not want to be associated with their criminal sons, or the Romans might put them to death as well.

If their parents were not there, then those of the penitent thief were unaware – perhaps to the day of their deaths – of the interchange between their son and the Lord: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

While it is unequivocally true that only through faith in Christ can any soul be saved, we cannot know the thoughts of a person in the last moments of life.

But we CAN know this: Our most merciful God is not willing for any to perish. And therefore, there is every reason to hope that God gave our beloved dead one final chance to call out to Him.

For fifteen years, Jacob did not know his son was alive. The penitent thief’s parents might have lived the remainder of their lives unaware that their son was in heaven.

Christian! Trust in God’s love for your own beloved dead. Scripture promises us that everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. Even if they call in their last moments of life.

Do you grieve with grief upon grief because you believe someone you love died outside of Christ’s salvation? Perhaps this message will give you some hope.

I just finished reading this story in Genesis: “So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” 34 So Jacob tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” (Genesis 37:31-35)

If you are fuzzy about the context, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, had been sold into slavery by his brothers. To cover their crime, they made their father believe Joseph had been killed by an animal.
It would not be for another 15 years before Jacob learned that his beloved Joseph was still alive. Think of that for a moment. Fifteen very long years of grief before that grief turned to joy.

Continued to part two

God stopped me at verse 2 of 1 Corinthians 1 -- “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . . to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling . . .”

No Christian doubts the genuineness of God’s call on the apostle, nor why he is called ‘Saint’ Paul. But look at that next: “To those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling . . . .”

Christian – did you know God calls us ‘saints’? The Greek word hagios means ‘holy.’ Most translations render the word in English as ‘saints.’ Some render the word as ‘holy ones.”

In either case, the word means to be separated to God in active obedience to His word.

Now this is important: The word is NEVER used in the NT to describe super-dooper Christians. It's always used in reference to ordinary people in the pew like you and me – sinners bought with the blood of Jesus and who strive to do His will.

So, saint of God, how can we live holy and saintly lives? The New Testament writers address the question in many places, but here is how St. Paul answers it in Ephesians 4:1-4, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Christian! You have committed your life to serve Jesus. You have to the best of your human frailty separated yourself from the ungodly and corrupt practices, philosophies, and attitudes of your former life. So be sure of this: God calls you a SAINT. A holy one.

Are you perfect? Of course not. But neither were those Christians in Corinth. Or Ephesus. Or Philippi. Or Colossae. They were all sinners who knew they were saved by God’s grace, by His grace alone.

And as we permit Him to do His daily work in our lives, we will walk as saints.

Rome of Paul’s day was the capital of the vast empire. It was a prosperous, wealthy, religious – and shamefully licentious city. As such, it was not in the least dissimilar to any city in America today. Those who lived in Rome were as spiritually lost as any city and town in America and in the world today.

But God loved those who lived in Rome. And He longed to reconcile them to Himself, to bring them out of darkness and into His healing light.

What was the good news message that STILL has the power to change sinners into saints? You can listen to my message here:
Or you can read it in its entirety here:

Lazarus is dead. Buried. His sisters Martha and Mary are weeping. Their friends weep. And both sisters say to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John then tells us in 11:33: “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled . . ..”

Some have reasoned that Jesus was angry at the mourners for their lack of faith, or for accusing Him of not caring about Lazarus (If You had been here . . . .)

I do not believe either interpretation is true. The Greek word used for ‘groaned’ is embrimaomai – which means to ‘snort with anger.”

Jesus was not ‘snorting angry’ with those weeping around the tomb. Such a response would have been totally uncharacteristic of our Lord.

I believe He was ‘snorting angry’ at Death. Why? Well, for example, in the book of Wisdom we find these texts: “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.” (Wisdom 1:13). In chapter 2 of that same book, we find: “But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world . . ..” (2:24)

And who knows? Perhaps Jesus was also preparing them to receive what St. Paul would later write in 1 Corinthians 15:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No, Jesus was not angry with the mourners. That is simply not the character of the Lord described in the New Testament. He was angry with Death – just as He remains angry when Death steals your loved ones, and mine.

Oh, but how wonderful it is to know that our Lord of Life also is the resurrection and the life. And that He promised, “He who believes in me will live even though he die. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Do you believe this?

This is not the first time Bishop Barron has said something that should raise red flags with every Catholic. For example, search on the internet his view of hell, and of Fr. James Martin.

This YouTube by Fr. Mark Goring is (as usual) quite good.

In preparation for a Bible study I'm teaching next week, I thought of this quote from St Therese of Lisieux. She died in 1897 at the age of 24. What do you think of her God-view?

"Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love - difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility [and] realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events - to the heart that loves [God], all is well."

Part one of two parts:

The writers of The Chosen do something I have never seen accomplished in any other televised portrayal of Jesus and His disciples. Dallas Jenkins, et al., give the disciples real HUMANITY – with all the sins and pride and arrogance and jockeying for position and “me-first-isms’ common to humanity.

I thought about that uniqueness of The Chosen when I read the 9th chapter of Mark’s gospel. For example, when Jesus, Peter, James, and John return from the Mount of Transfiguration (vv. 1-8) they encounter a crowd surrounding the other nine disciples. The text tells us a father had brought his demon-possessed child to them for healing, but they could not cast it out. (vv.14-18).

Then the Lord says, “O, unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (v. 19)

I am amazed at myself that after all these years of reading this text, I only today recognized Jesus is NOT rebuking the crowds; He is rebuking His other nine disciples! We know this from verse 28 when they asked Him why THEY could not cast out the demon.

Did you get that? He said – likely in frustration – “Guys, how long will it be before you realize who you are in Me, and what authority you have in Me?”

As I write this I also now remember when the Lord was asleep in the boat and the storm nearly swamped them. They shook the Lord awake, and He said to them after He stilled the waves, “[Guys], where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).

Part two of two parts:

Back to that text in Mark 9. Mark reminds us these disciples, these SAINTS, were human. That’s what The Chosen writers show us again and again. Like that last scene in Season 2, Episode 3.

Human. With all the angers and frailties and doubts and fears that you and I have – just like we find in the Scriptures (and in Season Two, Episode One) when James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-54). Dallas, et. al., did a fine job of again portraying their easily angered humanity -- angered to the point of exacting revenge. They acted not too dissimilar to how I sometimes act.

Or what about when parents brought their children to the Lord for a blessing? What did His Twelve do? They rebuked the parents! (Mark 10:13). And Jesus’ response to His Twelve? “He was indignant” and rebuked THEM. (10:14)

And then there is the scene in Mark 9:31-34), when Jesus told them of His impending crucifixion. And their saintly response? They argued with one another about who among them was the greatest disciple.

Oh, c’mon, guys. Did you not just hear what your best Friend had told you?

Yeah. Just like me, at times. And you. And every other man and woman on this planet. Human. Sinners. DESPERATELY in need of redemption and ongoing chastening by the Lord, exhortation, teaching – and forgiveness.

The Chosen episodes each evokes sometimes laughter, sometimes tears – but always reason to reflect on my life in Christ, and how much He really loves me – in all my frail and sinful humanity.

These episodes are well worth watching again and again.

Part two of two:

The statistical odds of one person fulfilling only eight of the hundreds of prophecies about Jesus are 1 in 10 to the 17th power (in other words, 1 followed by 17 zeroes).

Listen, if those odds of 1 in 10 to the 17th power are insufficient evidence to demonstrate the historical reality that Jesus is the eternal Son of God and Messiah, then no further evidence will suffice.

And since God fulfilled His promise to humanity regarding the FIRST coming of Jesus, we can now have every confidence in God’s promises regarding forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the penitent and obedient follower of Jesus.

That’s why the writer to the Hebrews tells us “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus . . . . 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith . . . . 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

Are you reluctant or fearful to come before your most merciful Father in heaven? Please, don’t be. He is even now holding out His arms to you who desire to come with penitent and humble hearts.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son whose father ran
out to meet him when he saw him off in the distance. In the same way, YOUR heavenly Father runs to meet YOU – He runs to meet ALL who come humbly to ask Him in prayer for forgiveness.

Part One of Two.

Many theologians state there are more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures fulfilled by Jesus. Here are only a scant few that many of you will immediately recognize their fulfillment by Jesus in the New Testament:

Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:20); He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14); He would come from the line of Abraham and then through the line of Judah (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18, Genesis 49:10); Messiah would be heir to King David's throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 9:7); And His throne will be eternal (Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 2:44); Messiah would be ‘God with Us’ (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23); He will be the mediator of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-37; Hebrews 8:8-13) and He would die as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of humanity (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Many years ago, Professor Peter Stoner, then Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College and Chairman of the science division at Westmont College outlined the mathematical probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the clearest and straightforward Messianic prophecies.

What was his conclusion? See part two of two.

I just had a somewhat surprising yet pleasant experience in two stores I just visited.

When I was offered a mask, I told the person I have a medical condition (I do). I began to tell her what it is, but she stopped me and said I didn't need to tell her because it would be a HIPAA violation. So, she let me into the store without a mask or any further comment.

Most people are NOT aware of Title III of the ADA federal law. I just learned of it the other day. I did not have to mention the federal law to the store gate keeper, but I was prepared to do so.

I really am relieved to learn this little-known fact because wearing a mask has been extraordinarily uncomfortable for me.

Been thinking a lot lately about the 'almighty-ness' of God -- mostly because of what I glean from the hourly evil vomited up for our consumption by the news media.

And then I found this quote by AZ Tozer that certainly helps define it:
"God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feelings, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and earth, all motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell."

I know this in my head. Please, Father God, make it so that I will also know this in my heart.

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