Happy Thanksgiving

A friend’s daughter died a couple of days ago. She was eight years old.

We’ve been praying at the office lately for a little girl with brain cancer, and recently for another little girl—an infant—who has a particularly rare, aggressive cancer that one might expect would take her life.

Terrorists have orchestrated mass killings recently in Paris and Bamako and nobody believes we’ve seen nearly the worst of what is expected.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The truth is, life is gritty. Not even the Bible provides neat, pithy answers for the realities of life lived in a sinful world. 

No, we don’t choose to wallow in our problems and one has to believe that optimism is nearly always appropriate. The world has come through crisis after crisis and has managed to keep its head above water. Here we are again this year, settling in with our mashed potatoes (yum!) and cranberry sauce (not yum!) and green beans (green beans…) and turkey (or turkey-like substance), enjoying family, visiting in-laws and grandchildren and parents, grateful for a day to exhale. 

And yet the world is not well. And we know it.

The truth is we’ve never been promised a world without problems or personal pain. In God’s first conversation with the fallen human family, He promised enmity would undergird the experience of humanity from that time on. His words have proven to have been painfully accurate.

So how are we to be thankful this Thanksgiving? How are you to be thankful when your infant daughter is fighting for her life? Or how does a family unexpectedly bereaved of a nearly nine-year-old princess find it’s way to the point of thanks? Let’s not pretend there are easy answers.

Consider Acts 14:27. And keep its context in mind. In the same chapter a group of unbelievers had split a city down the middle so that half the people were not only opposing Paul’s work but were actively seeking to have him killed; the people of the city tried to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, and Paul was actually stoned, his body dumped outside the city where he was left for dead.

Acts 14:27 says, “Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them.” 

In spite of hostility, brutality, rejection, and persecution, “they reported all that God had done with them.”

It is not alarmist to suggest our planet is sliding from bad to worse. Neither is it unreasonable to live in hope because Jesus is soon returning to this Earth to put an end to sin and pain and welcome us into eternity.

We really do have much to thank God for, most of all that God is in our midst. Paul had it right when he said in Romans 8:38, 39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It’s possible your world has been shaken recently. If it hasn’t been, it will be. But as long as God is on His throne and Jesus is returning to this Earth, we have everything to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

IIW Social Media Post 11-26-15

WWII Veteran Traces Conversion to It Is Written

Today we received a special testimony of this 94 year old World War II veteran. He traces his conversion to Christ back to hearing George Vandeman, It Is Written’s founder, on the armed forces radio. We are thankful today for men like this one who sacrificed much so we could remain free. Thankful that the Lord touched this solider’s heart through a simple radio broadcast all those years ago. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Click here to watch his testimony!


IIW Social Media Post - 11-11-15

Reformation Day

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In the United States, October 31 means essentially one thing: Halloween. People dress up in costumes, children go trick or treating, and the fake cobwebs, carved pumpkins and plastic backyard tombstones will soon be put away until next year.

Halloween might just be the devil’s favorite day of the year as death, demons, zombies, and witches are all treated as harmless fun and games. And while the attention is on Halloween, most people are entirely unaware of the important significance of October 31.

On October 31, 1517, a young priest in the German town of Wittenberg made a defiant protest. Fed up with what he saw as the abuses of the church of Rome, Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 statements to the door of the castle church. And in doing so he altered the course of history.

Until this time, the Roman Catholic Church had been the ruling power in much of Europe. The Pope of Rome was the final authority not only in the church but also in society. Kings bent in the direction of the Pope. Those who did not were threatened with being shut out from the church. Whole kingdoms were made to fear being placed under “interdict”—religious services could not be held, baptisms were not performed, and the dead could not be buried in a Christian funeral.  The message to those under interdict was that heaven was essentially closed to them. Fear reigned as a church with unbridled power used that power with impunity.

One church practice Luther found especially galling was that of the selling of indulgences. For a sum of money people were able to purchase from the church the rescinding of the temporal punishment for sin. Payment of money to the church was said to release souls from Purgatory, and even pardon for sins not yet committed could be purchased. Appalled by this monstrous deception and other errors of his church, Luther eventually came to the place where he separated from the church and led others by his example and teaching to do the same.

Martin Luther originally had no intention of withdrawing from the Roman Catholic Church, but recognizing his faith in the Bible was incompatible with the teachings of his church he became a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Although they did not agree upon every point of doctrine, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, Thomas Cranmer and Nicolas Ridley in England and later John Wesley in England, all took steps away from the errors of the Roman church and lifted up the Bible as the believer’s rule of faith and practice.

Anyone who values religious liberty should remember the events of October 31, 1517 with thanks to God in their heart.  Martin Luther’s short walk along what is now known as the Schlossstrasse was a bold and defiant stand for Bible truth in the face of an extremely powerful church which tried repeatedly to end his life. Many people suffered persecution so that we today could have the freedom to read the Bible and follow it according as our conscience dictates.  Worse, thousands and thousands and thousands of people were killed because they chose to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and reject the teachings of a corrupt church.

498 years later, it would appear the Protestant Reformation is over. Not only are precious few still protesting, but most people are unaware as to what the Protestant Reformation was even about. Where are the Protestants today?

If you hold a Bible in your hand; if you value the freedom you have to worship as you please; if you understand salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; if you receive forgiveness from sin through Christ and not a priest or a church; say a prayer of thanks for what other great men and women of faith made possible by their example and their selfless dedication to God.

Forget Halloween.

Happy Reformation Day!

Never Too Late

One of the best things about conducting public Bible study seminars is seeing the Holy Spirit do wonderful things. In the Revelation Today series currently being held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we’ve been blessed to see God reach an unlikely heart.

Pastor Dave—one of the outstanding Chattanooga-area pastors—told us some exciting news on Sunday night. The background to the story makes that news all the more incredible.

Ralph (we will call him) was 95 years old when his wife contacted Pastor Dave to ask if he would study the Bible with Ralph. Pastor Dave was thrilled to study the Bible with this kindly older gentleman, but the studies didn’t go well. Ralph was a former university professor and an atheist. He believed in evolution and rejected the creation account of the Bible, and Pastor Dave had a hard time finding any common ground with Ralph at all.

So Pastor Dave felt impressed to focus on simply establishing a friendship with Ralph. Ralph loved classical music, so Pastor Dave learned about classical composers and would talk music with Ralph as they visited. Ralph liked that and the two men became friends.

Ralph was born in Germany and had dedicated his life to academia. There was never room in his life for God.

A year or so ago, Pastor Dave woke up at 3:00 a.m. and felt impressed to pray for Ralph. He crept out of the bedroom without turning on a light, banging his shins on furniture as he went.

Pastor Dave prayed for Ralph. A few days later Ralph’s wife told Dave that Ralph had had a dream that very night, a dream that caused him to wake up.  In the dream, Jesus appeared to Ralph and asked him to surrender his heart to God. “What time did Ralph wake up from that dream?” Pastor Dave asked. “3 a.m.,” she replied.

Ralph dismissed the dream as just one of those things. “It wasn’t real,” he told his wife.

But a week later, Ralph had the dream again. This time he was convinced God was really speaking to him. He began to attend church with his wife.

People—including Pastor Dave—prayed for Ralph, and when the Revelation Today series came to Chattanooga, Ralph accepted Pastor Dave’s invitation to attend. He heard how the Bible can be trusted, about the signs suggesting the return of Jesus is near, and about the behind-the-scenes battle between good and evil. And then he heard the invitation to give his heart to Jesus.

After the meeting Sunday night, Pastor Dave received a text from Ralph’s wife. “You’ll never believe the wonderful news…” When Dave saw her, she was in tears. Ralph has made his decision for Jesus. “I want to be part of the church family,” Ralph told Pastor Dave. “I want to be a follower of Jesus.”

A 97 year old atheist accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  A 97 year old found the free gift of eternal life. A 97 year old man was transformed by the grace of God.

A patient God had worked on that heart for almost 100 years!

It’s never too late.

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Almost There?

Drive from North Carolina to California and you will most likely travel on Interstate 40. As helpful as the mile markers are that you pass along the way, the most important signs are the “reassurance markers”: blue shields that every so often tell you that you are heading in the right direction on the right road.

God frequently allows us to see prophetic “reassurance markers” that help His people to see that we are on the right prophetic road, heading steadily towards the Second Coming of Jesus.

Pope Francis’ six-day “Apostolic Journey” to the United States is one such “reassurance marker.”

The pope’s already stratospheric popularity has surged on the back of the constant news coverage afforded him by a breathless media. In-depth, long-form profiles of Pope Francis have been published by virtually every significant news outlet, with one cable company establishing an entire channel dedicated solely to coverage of the papal visit.

Before he had completed his first year as pope, Time Magazine christened him “The People’s Pope”. A journalist in secular Great Britain opined that “even atheists should pray for this pope,” and a prominent U.S. sportswriter stated that “this pope might even convince me to go back to church.” The New York Times reported that Francis has “achieved a unique global stature in a short time.”

While the number of professed Christians in the United States is declining rapidly, America has embraced this conservative religious leader. Broadcasters—who as a group have little positive to say about faith or the Bible—breathlessly congratulated their colleagues on encounters with Francis. The pope was celebrated during his American visit. Francis is huge.

The pope’s brief pontificate has been characterized less by doctrinal teaching and more by compassion. Francis has emphasized social and humanitarian issues while demonstrating humility and kindness. The world applauded when a 53-year-old man suffering a disfiguring condition known as neurofibromatosis traveled to the Vatican and was hugged by Pope Francis. Even his own father wouldn’t touch the man, who later said, “I felt like I was in paradise.” A photograph of Pope Francis kissing the tattooed feet of a young criminal offender in Rome quickly circulated around the world. Such events are the rule of Francis’ reign as pope, not the exception.

Pope Francis has shaken up the Vatican City, defining the Catholic Church’s message as one of mercy and making the Vatican a more open institution.His decision to shun the papal palace in favor of living in a humble apartment combined with his now-famous “Who am I to judge?” quote went a long way toward putting a new face on a church that for years has been mired in scandal. A Jesuit and senior analyst at the National Catholic Reporter told National Geographic, “I jokingly say that Harvard Business School could use him to teach rebranding.”

The greatest significance of Francis’ visit to the United States will not be in what he says or does while here. As the Jerusalem Post reported, “The Vatican’s relations with various states turn slowly; church authorities are cognizant of history and do not hurry things.” The greatest significance of this papal visit lies in the fact that it happened at all.

It is important to remember that the man now being celebrated as “the world’s greatest moral leader” is also the planet’s most influential political leader. Rome is both church and state, with political ambitions that cannot be disentangled from its spiritual ideals. The Bible long ago saw the papacy’s rise to global prominence, going so far as to predict a time when “all the world wondered” after the church of Rome (Revelation 13:3).

Pope Francis’ benign disposition does not tell the entire story of his pontificate. The man who asked, “Who am I to judge?” is the leader of a church which for centuries has stood in the place of God on Earth. The church of “The People’s Pope” reserves the right to forgive sin, with Francis even declaring that the church would extend forgiveness to women who had had abortions—for a limited time and at the discretion of its priests.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals forgiveness comes via God through Jesus, and not via the church through priests.

Add sacramentalism, celibacy, idolatry, Sunday sacredness, the role of tradition, baptism by sprinkling, the role of Mary, and a whole host of other teachings, and we begin to understand why an entire era of history—the Reformation Era—is named after a movement that stood against the teachings of Rome. Francis is the incredibly popular leader of a church positioning itself as the dominant spiritual and political force in the world.

Ellen White wrote many years ago that the Protestants of the United States “will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power,” and that America will “follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience” (The Great Controversy, p. 588). She also wrote: “Let the restraints now imposed by secular governments be removed, and Rome be re-instated in her former power, and there would speedily be a revival of her tyranny and persecution” (p. 564).

While some might rather ignore these plain statements, current events suggest they have never been more reliable.

While the world sees a kind man urging humanity to do its best, it is easy to fail to see the forest for the proverbial trees. In spite of his gracious acts and inspirational words, Francis leads a church that has merchandized grace, offered a corrupted version of the plan of salvation and placed tradition above the Bible. His popularity is soaring and shows no sign of slowing down.

We are rapidly heading west toward California from North Carolina. The blue shields say “40 West.” And even though we might not be able to see the mile markers as clearly as we wish, there is no doubting we’re almost there.

P.T. Barnum, Believers, and Blood Moons

Photo by Mike Mezeul http://www.mikemezphotography.com/

P.T. Barnum never actually said it, although one doubts that he would have argued with the premise.

Around 1870, a group of businessmen with somewhat compromised principles attempted to convince the paying public that a statue they had created was, in fact, a petrified, pre-historic human being. Experts dismissed the hoax for exactly what it was, but among those who defended the authenticity of the ‘giant’ were theologians and preachers. The existence of a 10-foot tall giant from pre-historic times suggested giants once lived on the earth, ‘validating’ Genesis 6:4 which, they said, suggested that very thing.

In reference to Barnum’s role in the Cardiff Giant hoax, David Hannum stated, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” The recent talk about the supposed Biblical significance of blood moons has again demonstrated exactly the same thing.

Perhaps Christians are especially prone to frauds and hoaxes. To begin with, we believe in the supernatural. We believe in things we don’t see, even remarkable things which, for unbelievers, stretch the boundaries of credulity. Grandma was really that sick and then miraculously revived in answer to a simple prayer of faith? The Christian would rightly answer, “Yes, indeed!” As a group, we Christians are very open to the unusual and unexplainable.

A friend of mine told me about the time he became lost while hiking in the woods. While following a stream out of his predicament, he became disoriented and was overcome by extreme cold. After praying God would provide some way to keep him warm, he looked over to the bank of the stream and found a pair of abandoned fishing waders. Unbelievable. Unless, of course, you believe. And Christians believe.

Many Christians have a worldview that is heavily influenced by prophecy and prophecy, at times, can be difficult to understand. The Bible suggests the end of the world is coming, that Jesus will return, that in Earth’s final days a strange beast will affect society and a mark will be enforced upon almost every living being. In an effort to understand these strange passages of Scripture, it’s virtually impossible for a believer not to be exposed to fanciful interpretations.

We want to believe. And we want to believe the great, the magnificent, the sensational. That is likely why Christians continue to send money to preachers who promise that the prayer mat they offer is going to enhance their relationship with God. Or that a container of holy water is in some way going to draw a person closer to the Almighty. It would seem that no one could possibly deduce from Scripture alone that the donation they send to any given ministry is, in actual fact seed, which will result in a harvest one hundred times greater than the amount sent.

It would seem that way but Christianity is still riddled with snake oil salesmen and a gullible public willing to support them. A preacher who sets a date for “Judgment Day” should only be ignored (and prayed for). But certain believers believe and the world watches on while the eye of Christianity is blackened.

Which isn’t to say people shouldn’t be entitled to believe what they choose to believe. They most definitely should. And they most definitely do. Some Christians pray to dead people. Others believe a God of love is going to burn people in hell forever (which is an especially long time). Some believe in confessing sins to a human priest who claims heavenly authority to forgive sin. Others insist that when Jesus returns many believers will disappear, leaving behind unsaved masses who will live through a time of terrible crisis. There are still churches where otherwise perfectly reasonable people handle rattlesnakes due to what they believe to be a mandate from God. And so it goes. But why do people believe what they believe? What makes it possible for some people to believe not only the unbelievable, but also the irrational?

Which brings us to blood moons.

After conducting a funeral service several weeks ago, I was approached by a lady who told me with great conviction that it was all going to happen on September 23. I wasn’t sure exactly what “it” was, but she made it clear this was something to do with judgment and the economy and the end of the world. She exuded confidence. “Well, one thing is for sure,” I told her. “We’ll soon know if your prediction is accurate. And if it doesn’t happen?” I asked. She recited a carefully prepared answer that left her feeling far less confused than she actually sounded. One didn’t need to be a scholar to know there was no light in her ludicrous claim. This was snake oil. A prayer mat. Seed money. This was a Cardiff Giant.

I was told growing up that deaths came in threes. At times it definitely seemed to be that way in our little town. But whether true or not regarding death, it certainly seems to be true of bad predictions. At least, it has been lately.

Bad prediction number two dealt with the papal visit. Pope Francis is an incredibly influential man, and the church he leads is not only the most influential church in the world, but also (it could be argued) the most influential nation. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the amount of times I was told that during his Apostolic Journey to the United States the pontiff would make an announcement of prophetic, game-changing proportions. While it is certainly true that the iron-fisted rule of the popes of yesteryear was characterized by dramatic and even draconian pronouncements, the People’s Pope was on an altogether different mission to the United States. While his predecessor appeared to have been carved out of ice, Francis emanates likability and kindness. His smile could light up a room and his demeanor is equal parts kind uncle, family friend, and Mr. Nice Guy. His six-day American charm offensive was never going to be about saber rattling. The day after he left the U.S. a CNN.com headline read, “How the Pope Brought us Together.” Those who hyperventilated prior to Francis’ week in the U.S. are now left saying, “Yes, but…” Yes, but your judgment was terrible. You banged the drum and sounded the alarm and tried to convince us that the sky was falling. It wasn’t. It’s still very much there. For now.


People waiting to see the blood moon, at Mt St Helens.

And then there was the blood moon. Or judging by the sheer volume of speculation and hype, The Blood Moon. The moon turning red due to lunar eclipse—a very rare event—coincided with the Biblical Jubilee year. The whole sorry exercise was little more than a demonstration that while Christians know the end of the world is coming, many know precious little about the Biblical signs pointing to the event, and less again about the prophecies that actually inform it.

Why are believers in Jesus such easy prey? In asking that question, I don’t want to be like the scholar who, in the aftermath of the Waco siege, defined a cult as being essentially any Christian group who didn’t agree with his understanding of the Bible. It’s okay to be wrong. Even the disciples didn’t understand some of Jesus’ plainest statements. But it’s curious, isn’t it, when Bible-believing Christians are led to believe entirely unbiblical speculations? How did people arrive at the conclusion that the economy was going to crash on September 23? Or that the pope was going to push the world towards doomsday? Or that a red moon was ushering in the end of the world? It certainly wasn’t through careful Bible study.

Which makes you wonder, how is it that Christians who claim to believe the Bible end up in such theologically divergent positions? Why is it that people pray to the dead? Why is it people believe in a seven year period of global tribulation? Why is it that earnest saints of God honestly believe sending a $100 check to that sincere man on television is going to result in a financial windfall and material prosperity? These positions aren’t the result of careful Bible study, because the Bible makes no such claims. These are Cardiff Giants. I remember talking to a dear lady who told me “that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Together we read 2 Corinthians 5:8, the passage from which that thought is derived. “See?” I asked her. “It doesn’t say that at all. It’s just not there.” She stared at the Bible. She stared a little longer. She blinked. And then she said, still staring straight ahead, “Well, it must be somewhere else in the Bible. Our preacher read it just last Sunday.” He said it, maybe, but he never read it. Another blood moon.

We want to believe, but we evidently don’t want to read our Bibles to see if what we’re basing our beliefs upon is fact or fiction. It’s easier, especially when dealing with subjects such as the Jubilee year, to simply take someone else’s word for it. We want to be able to trust our pastors and teachers, and so we do. Yet Christianity is the simplest thing in the world. If you accept the premise that the Bible is the word of God, all you need to do is base your beliefs on what you find written therein. If the instructions on the box say, “Don’t use this heater around water.” Then you don’t. If the instructions on the package say, “Microwave on high for two and a half minutes.” Then you do. If the Bible says blood moons and the Jubilee year are going to herald the coming of Christ, then so be it. But if the Bible doesn’t say such things—and it doesn’t—then you shouldn’t give such claims the time of day.

But as someone once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Christians heard someone say—without any biblical basis—that the economy was about to melt down, and with eyes wide open they bought into the silliness and shared it with evangelistic enthusiasm. Believers heard someone claim Pope Francis was going to bare his theological fangs and press his foot down on the prophetic accelerator, and because so many trust without verification, the idea was widely accepted in certain circles. And all across the Christian landscape the cry went up that the blood moons were in some way a herald of the end of time, that these signs in the heavens were harbingers of the end of it all.

While it’s true the end will come; while there’s nothing more certain than the fulfillment of prophecy; while Jesus will return and the Earth will go through “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1), Bible-believing Christians stared into the phony face of the Cardiff Giant and declared with gusto, “He’s real!”

P.T. Barnum would have loved it.

Top moon photo by Mike Mezeul

Mirror, Mirror: When Seeing Isn’t Believing

businesswoman looking in the mirror and reflecting

A British journalist wore the same outfit in the changing rooms of ten different clothing stores, and was photographed in each one by the same photographer using exactly the same camera. But When the photos were compared, the results were surprising. In some of the photos she looked great (according to her) while in others, not so great. In fact, she said one photo made her look like “a pregnant hobbit.” Remember: same person, same outfit, same photographer, same camera. The difference was that the lighting and the mirrors and the color of the walls differed from store to store, so while she really looked just fine in every situation, it often appeared that she didn’t look good. She was okay. Her circumstances had changed. And they often told her she was not okay.

It pays to remember that circumstances can lie to you. You could be having a good day or a bad day, you might be hungry or tired or have low blood sugar, and these things can affect the way you feel about yourself. You can be a child of God but be having the sort of day when for any number of reasons you just don’t feel like one. So who should you believe? Should you believe what you see in the mirror on the wall?

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” And that’s an important principle to incorporate into our faith walk with Jesus. When you’ve chosen to be a follower of Christ, Satan will accuse you and tell you you’re not worthy and he will try to crush your faith. What then? What should you think when you look in the mirror and you know that a moment ago you saw a Christian, but now you’re not so sure?

The answer is to live by faith. Faith tells you you are a child of God. Faith tells you you have received Christ’s righteousness. Faith says your sins have been forgiven. Faith will hold on to God and won’t let go, in spite of circumstances.

The lighting changes, and so do the mirrors. But when God tells you that you are His child, then that’s what you are.

Evil Doesn’t Win

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I have visited Auschwitz twice.

The first time it was late spring and the pleasant weather at the time made it difficult to truly comprehend the horror of the place. A month later it was freezing cold, there was snow on the ground and it wasn’t hard at all to begin to understand something of the kind of hell Auschwitz actually was. My wife was taking photos of a display of shoes when it dawned on her she was focusing the camera on the shoes of a small child She couldn’t keep from weeping. (Click here to watch “Never Again?,” filmed on location at Auschwitz.)

The numbers of people who perished—the vast majority of whom were Jews, ‘guilty’ of possessing the wrong ancestry—combined with the truly tragic accounts of loss and brutal hardship and inhumane living conditions, cannot help but affect you deeply.A Polish historian who assisted us with our filming that day admitted that the work of being a tour guide at the former Nazi concentration camp leaves many people depressed and bitter.
Our tour guide during our second visit had been terribly scarred by his work at Auschwitz, confessing to us that he lived with little hope and without belief in the decency of humanity.

But as we were preparing to leave Auschwitz—now the quaint Polish town of Oświeçim with a population roughly that of Minot, North Dakota—something occurred to me that gave me great hope.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex was a key part of Hitler’s “Final Solution,” his attempt to eradicate Jews from Europe. It was his best shot at an utterly incomprehensible act. Backed by the might of his own war machine, he attempted to annihilate a defenseless group of innocent people. And failed.

Hitler failed. Evil didn’t win.

Since Hitler’s death in 1945, evil has surfaced in many forms on a massive scale. Despots such as Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceausescu, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, and others are remembered with derision and contempt. All of them were responsible for the evils of tyranny and death. And all of them are dead. 

They failed. Evil didn’t win.

Fourteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, four passenger planes, containing a total of 246 passengers and crew, were hijacked by 19 terrorists. Two of the aircrafts were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City; one was flown into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C.; the fourth plunged to the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers. Almost 3,000 innocent people were killed in history’s worst terrorist attack.

But evil didn’t win.

It certainly inflicted heavy losses. It caused an enormous amount of pain and grief. That awful day has altered the way of life for virtually everyone living in the western world.

My then-much-younger son once asked me if I thought society would ever return to pre-9/11 airport security. I was grateful for the question. He was still too young to understand the effects of evil.

But evil didn’t win. Society marches onwards. Security measures have increased. Insecurity has increased. But the world is determined to press ahead against an enemy that will never be permitted to win. Yes, our service personnel continue to risk their lives in places far from home, terrorist attacks are still being carried out, we dutifully allow ourselves to be x-rayed while going through security, but no one believes the terrorists are ultimately going to win. They simply won’t. They simply can’t. Evil doesn’t win.

The Bible presents a scenario that has, in recent years, become significantly more believable. 

A powerful entity emerges. 

Revelation 13:1. “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”

Incredibly, the world not only follows this power, but yields to it. Worships it.

Revelation 13:8. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

And then things go completely awry.

Revelation 13:15. “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”

Maybe once we might have found it hard to believe such a scenario is even possible. Now? Now we no longer question the limits of humanity’s evil. And in a world racing to the bottom morally and socially, it even appeals to reason that a power might emerge that could win the hearts of the people of the world, only to go rogue and lead the planet into chaos and ruin.

Daniel wrote about “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1). Daniel and Revelation both speak of a time when the world unites with evil before turning to eradicate the followers of God.

One can imagine hope was in short supply for those living through the hell of the holocaust, or for victims of Stalin’s pogroms in Russia, or of the killing fields in Cambodia. But the darkness of that experience eventually gave way to the light of a new day. Before Jesus returns, things are going to be dark indeed for followers of God and His word. It is often said that it is darkest just before dawn, but dawn does come. And in the close of time, it will be a dawn such as the universe has never seen.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True… And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11,16).

Jesus returns! Paul wrote to Titus calling this event “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). He wrote to the Thessalonians of a day when “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

We live in a world that, for six thousand years, has been marinating in sin. But in the words of the old spiritual, “There’s a better day a’comin’!” Jesus really will return to this earth. We can’t know precisely when, but there’s more than enough reason to believe He’s returning soon. Very soon. 

In the meantime, we remember 9/11, we honor those who lost their lives on that day, we remember our service men and women making enormous sacrifices to serve their country, we mourn the very existence of terrorism and war and death and destruction.

We remember. And today we remember that evil doesn’t win.

“Even so, come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

(Click here to watch “Never Again?,” filmed on location at Auschwitz.)

We All Have Secrets


I was sitting on a bus traveling between terminals at a major airport when through the window of the bus I saw a giant sized billboard suggesting unsubtly, “Life is short. Have an affair.”

That was a decade or more ago, and the irony is that a company that profited from deception has itself been brought to its knees by an act of deception, as hackers released the (often very personal) details of the company’s customers.

Compassion for those who have been outed by the hack has been in short supply. There has been a lot of “they got what they deserved,” even though the innocent spouses, children and family members deserved nothing of the sort.

The realities of the virtual world are only now beginning to sink in for a lot of people. Online footprints are difficult to erase, and real privacy essentially doesn’t exist on the internet. What you do in the depths of the world wide web can very easily float to the surface, with embarrassing results.

But the truth is, we all have secrets. How would you feel if your most personal details were exposed? What if your deeply-held secrets were published on a searchable database? Yet as uncomfortable as that sounds, the Bible is clear that one day the private secrets of most people on planet Earth are going to be revealed for all to see.

In Revelation 14:7 the Bible says, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come.” Daniel described the judgment taking place, writing, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire” (Daniel 7:9). He goes on to say, “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10).

The books of record that contain the deeds and misdeeds of everyone who ever lived will one day be opened. As Solomon wrote, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

“With every secret thing.” Take a moment to think of how you’d feel if you had to confront a record of every secret thing you’ve ever done. Suddenly few of us look much better than outed Ashley Madison customers.

While many people are right now desperately trying to figure out how to handle the damage caused to their reputations, God offers all a simple remedy for dealing with a shady past. 

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

In the judgment that precedes there return of Jesus, even the record of the sins of those who have faith in God are blotted out. When the books are opened, the pages are clear rather than stained by iniquity. In place of sin is purity and righteousness. The grace that forgives is grace that cleanses, and in the judgment the redeemed are found to be “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Repentance opens the door to the cleansing power of God. Grace doesn’t justify sinful behavior, but it does justify the sinner.

As nice as it would be to go back in time and undo damaging actions, that’s simply not possible. Peter denied Jesus, and had to live with that knowledge for the rest of his life. David’s callous and immoral treatment of Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheba lived with David as long as he did, and the woman taken in adultery was outed as an adulteress. 

But Peter was restored by Jesus Himself. David’s prayer of repentance (see Psalm 51) was heard and accepted by God, and the woman in question heard Jesus say, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).

A contemporary society which long ago made peace with its immoral underbelly still finds reason to occasionally wring its hands and tsk tsk the actions of those caught in a moral fall. We call that hypocrisy.

But God sees the hearts of us all, and He does so without condemnation. David wrote that God “knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14), and He loves us anyway. The Bible promises that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 

We all have secrets. What shouldn’t be a secret to anyone is that God is able to heal and cleanse, remake and restore. The reality of the judgment isn’t only that sinners will be judged, but that sinners may be cleansed and restored. God offers that hope to sinners everywhere. 

God offers that hope to you.