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Ukraine and Bible Prophecy

War erupted in Europe on Thursday, February 24. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of his neighboring country. This was an unprovoked act of war. Russian troops poured over the border, and Russian planes and missile launchers attacked Ukrainian cities and airports. The attacks spanned much of the country, far beyond the border provinces where there has been sporadic fighting between the nations for years.

Russian troops entered the nation of Ukraine from the north, east and south. Military targets and cities were hit with airstrikes, missiles and artillery. The obvious goal is complete conquest of another sovereign nation.

The question naturally arises: does this invasion of a sovereign democracy have prophetic implications. I believe it does.

A New Old-Style War

30 years ago, when the Iron Curtain fell, Ukraine voluntarily surrendered their nuclear arms in return for a promise from Russia not to ever invade. Russia has failed to keep its promise. This war is a violation of international law and Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the 1991 Belavezha Accords that established the Commonwealth of Independent States, the 1975 Helsinki Accords, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances and the 1997 Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The US and Western nations told Russia not to do it, but Russia has no fear of Western powers. Russia ignored our warnings and threats of sanctions. It shows us that Russia would not be deterred from Armageddon by Western threats, sanctions, and begging. Our threats and sanctions today are merely brushed aside, as Russia believes the US to be weak and crumbling.

Are sanctions really a match for missiles and bullets? Putin warned other countries that interfering with the invasion would bring about “such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history.” Some analysts believe that line amounted to a threat to use nuclear weapons.

There have been dozens of wars in the almost 80 years since World War II ended. Why is this one so important? What is different about this war? Well. this unprovoked Russian invasion is different from almost all wars in the last eight decades. It is another sign that the world may be entering an alarming new era in which authoritarianism is on the rise and the clout of democracies is diminishing.

This invasion by a totalitarian state into a democratic nation is to further Russia’s goal of being a dominant world power. Russia will surely win, and then will either annex Ukraine or establish a puppet government.

Throughout history, up to World War II, nations used war to expand their boundaries and set up client states in their region. But in the last 80 years, they have mostly abided by the international treaties and rules established in the 1940s. The relative world peace since 1945 has provided peace and stability, created surging living standards, and gave people longer, healthier and more comfortable lives. That relative world peace and prosperity was called “Pax Americana.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine looks like the kind of war that has been largely absent in the past 80 years but was once common. It is a sign that Vladimir Putin believes that Pax Americana is over and that the U.S., the European Union and their allies have become too weak to exact painful consequences. Maybe he is right.

Former President Obama turned a blind eye to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Putin may feel that Biden and the Western nations are even weaker now. Putin and his inner circle believe that liberal democracies are in decline, a view that Xi Jinping and other top Chinese officials share.

It seems we are once again entering a time when countries make decisions to do whatever their military power allows them to do. You can be sure that China is paying close attention, and will soon decide whether to invade Taiwan.

Putin wants Russia to be a global power. It can strengthen its geopolitical power by acquiring control of Ukraine’s deep warm water port of Odessa. Otherwise, it is limited in its ability to project power very far. In the North, it is impeded by harsh winters where her naval ports freeze up; in the East by a dominant China; in the West by NATO; in the Black Sea by uncooperative actors; and in the Mediterranean by unreliable allies.

However, from Odessa’s warm-water port, Russia can take on additional missions beyond the Black Sea at any time in the year, especially sealift operations and amphibious landings in the Mediterranean. This gives it access to the ME.

Prophetic Implications

For years Bible scholars thought the Soviet Union would bring on Armageddon. But then the USSR collapsed, and left America as the world’s only superpower. But that isn’t true anymore. Russia and China are determined to be superpowers – and probably already are. The Russian bear is growling again – after 30 years of silence.

The old USSR was very interested in asserting power in the Middle East, but seemingly forgot that in the collapse of the Iron Curtain. But once again, Russia interests are being pulled back to that biblical region.

We believe Russia to be the Magog of Ezek. 38:2: “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.” “Gog” is a man – the ruler of “the land of Magog” and of “Meshech and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:2-3, 39:1). Some believe Meshech to be modern Moscow.

Genesis 10 helps to establish the identity of these people. Magog was the second son of Japheth who, according to Josephus, the great Jewish historian, settled north of the Black Sea. Tubal and Meshech were the fifth and sixth sons of Japheth, and their descendants settled south of the Black Sea. The area is now the nations of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. But the violence of Middle East wars over the centuries drove these people north. The region of Meshech is now often identified as being north of the Black Sea (southern Russia and Ukraine and possibly the Republic of Georgia), and Tubal as an area in central Turkey.

Another significant reason for identifying Russia as Magog is her geographical location. The Bible usually describes geography in relation to Jerusalem. Ezekiel said, ” thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army.” Ezekiel 38:15. “And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel.” Ezekiel 39:2.

While looking at a map it is easy to see that north of Jerusalem is the broad expanse of Russia and the client nations of the former Soviet Union. Moscow is almost directly north of Jerusalem. Unquestionably the invading forces that will march against the nation Israel will be led by Russia.

And clearly, the Lord said he would pull Magog back into a military presence in the Middle East. Ezekiel 38:4: “And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.” Warm water ports with good access to the Mediterranean Sea gives Russia the resources needed to expand toward the holy land.

Let me be clear: what is happening in Europe today is not the beginning of Armageddon. Too many Bible prophecies have to be fulfilled before Armageddon. But in describing the “beginning of sorrows” that precedes end-time events, Jesus said in Matthew 24:6: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

And again, this war marks the beginning of a potential major shift in the global order. This isn’t Armageddon, but the resurgence of Russia opens the potential for a world war as described in the Bible, and called Armageddon.

So does the strengthening of China – as I have said in several previous Bible studies. (Space limitations preclude going into the mentions of China in Bible prophecy here. Suffice it to say China could well be one of the “kings (plural) of the east” who will gather armies to Armageddon. Revelation 16:12.)

Ezekiel 38 lists some of Magog’s allies in the Armageddon conflict. See verses 5-6. The first is Persia (modern Iran) which is rapidly developing nuclear weapons capability. Others listed include Ethiopia, a biblical name for black African nations, and Libya, a biblical name for Arab African nations. Togarmah is modern Turkey, and Gomer with all his bands is a reference to Baltic or eastern European nations.

The reference to “Gomer and his bands” may have reference to what Russia is doing in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Some say this refers to southern Russia; others say it is a region in modern Turkey. But I believe it refers to European nations – especially eastern European nations that were once part of the USSR.

The Jewish Talmud, Yoma 10a, says Gomer is Germany or Germanic people. Some ancient ancient historians (Herodotus, Strabo, Plutarch, etc.), say they were the original settlers north of the Black Sea – which would mean the region of Ukraine.

The Gomer of Genesis 10:2-3 was the son of Japeth and grandson of Noah. One of his sons was Togarmah. His descendants were in modern Turkey. Another of Gomer’s sons was Ashkenaz, probably the founder of the Germanic tribes. Even today, Ashkenaz is the Hebrew word for Germany, and a Jewish person of central or eastern European descent is called Ashkenazi.

Gomer’s descendants formed the principal branch of the population of Southeastern Europe. This is significant because I believe Russia will come to dominate Southeastern Europe – either through annexation, or puppet governments who ally themselves closely with Moscow. This is prophetically-significant, because as you look at a map, you will see that Ukraine puts Russia just one step closer to the land of the Bible and the epicenter for the future Battle of Armageddon.

I also see this war as the first step in establishing a new world order. Russia and China are now uniting in their desire to diminish US power. The new alliance is far different from the Sino-Soviet bloc of the 1950s. Now Russia has considerable leverage because it is the major supplier of natural gas and oil to Europe. And China is NOT the impoverished, war-ravaged nation it was 70 years ago. It is a major global manufacturing powerhouse with a powerful and growing military.

In order to deploy troops against Ukraine, Putin has shifted military units away from Russia’s Chinese border. This shows increasing trust and cooperation between those two major powers. Russia and China intend to reshape the global order to their advantage. Maybe they will succeed.

I see a prophetic role for Russia and for China in Armageddon. But I don’t see a big role for the USA in Bible prophecy. Maybe because it didn’t exist when the Bible was written, or maybe the US is going to diminish as a world power.

In Ezekiel 38, western nations seem willing to try diplomacy and economic sanctions, but are reluctant to get involved in an actual military conflict. “Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” Ezekiel 38:13.

The same questions could be asked today: “Russia, are you coming to take a spoil? Is the nation of Ukraine the spoils of war?” Asking questions, sounding warnings, and imposing some sanctions, is all we are willing to do for Ukraine; and it won’t be enough to deter the Russian bear.

If we aren’t willing to go to war to protect this country, like nations weren’t willing to go to war when Hitler annexed Austria, and appeased him when he took over Czechoslovakia, then we won’t go to war to stop China when it takes Taiwan.

Where will the next dominos fall? And in the future, will we go to war to stop Magog, and the kings of the east, in Armageddon? Time will tell

So, in conclusion, I say to all, “It is time to get very serious about serving God.” If you have drawn back, if you are not currently serving Him in the body of Christ, please come back to your church. You need your relationship with the Lord to be strong and secure. We will welcome you with open arms.

The book of Daniel assures us repeatedly that God rules in the kingdoms of men. This isn’t happening outside of God’s will. He knows; and this is part of His plan. The beast is rising. End-time events are going to happen – just as prophesied in Revelation and other Bible prophecies.

The body of Christ is aware; and is concerned; but is fully-confident in God’s control and His divine protection for His people.

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The Power of Unity

There is a concept in science called synergy. It is when different things interact so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual parts. A congregation of 200 members in the body of Christ is more than just 200 individuals. A power proceeds from each individual heart; and all these separate powers, when combined and blended, constitute another and a higher form of power. All of us, together, can do more for the Lord than if each one of us were just serving the Lord separately.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that two are better than one. We could unleash 200 individuals to serve God alone. But if we combine in the church, we can accomplish much more together than if each one served separately. Why? Because of Holy Ghost synergism. According to Matthew 18:20, where two or three are gathered in His name, the Lord adds an ingredient.

There is power in our concerted action. This is especially seen in our worship. When one person is worshipping and touching the Spirit, that is good; but when 120 or more are all worshipping together, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is awesome. The entire church is edified. The church is a building, a holy temple. It is a building of the Lord. Ephesians 2:20-21. It is a spiritual house, made up of lively stones. I Peter 2:5.

In a building, a stonemason puts in each stone individually. Modern technology has not found a way to put multiple stones in at a time. A bricklayer handles each brick as he places it in the wall. We do not have a means to lay a whole row of bricks or a whole section of the wall at one time. Brick walls are built one brick at a time. Even nails are still driven one at a time.

This is true in the spiritual house of God. The Master-builder handles each lively stone individually, and places each one in this building right where He wants them. See I Corinthians 12:18. To be effective, we must be put into the building. We don’t want to be a broken brick that is discarded. He has placed us here, where He wants us to be.

By itself, a brick is not particularly useful. But when combined with other bricks in a wall, it becomes part of an edifice. Ancient cultures displayed the support structures of their buildings and made them beautiful. The Parthenon in Athens is an example of a building that is beautiful because of its ornate pillars. The temple in Jerusalem had beautiful pillars. Yet a beautiful pillar, standing all alone, has no useful purpose. Pillars are supposed to support a building. If they are not doing that, then why have them? Revelation 3:12 speaks of those who are made a pillar in the house of the Lord. Hannah rejoiced prophetically about the pillars the Lord will set the world upon. I Samuel 2:8. But nobody will be a pillar in the coming kingdom who was not first a pillar in the house of the Lord in the church age.

Blend in; become a part of the church. Don’t be a lone brick away from the wall, or try to be a pillar without supporting a building. Don’t try to pull yourself out of the wall where the Lord placed you. For us to function as lively stones in the building of the Lord, we should become a force for good in the church, in our homes and in our community. If we learn to do well, we will cease to do evil. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Galatians 5:16. Evil is overwhelmed and overcome, not by just focusing on the things that are bad, but by turning the people’s hearts toward the things that are good.

It is up to us, then, to blend together in attaining righteous and worthy goals – as the church of God. Together, Holy Ghost synergy will allow us to do more for the kingdom than if we all worked separately, or even as separate little families.

I believe the family is the basic unit in the fabric of society, and the strength of the church. But never forget that your families are to be built into the family of God. Your family is to be working with the other families to build the church that Jesus died for. He came to build a church, and not to empower families to function independently.

A small collection of bricks, hidden away in a family home, is not the church of the Lord. The body of Christ finds its strength and power in the local church. The apostles of the first century did not concentrate on the strength of the family; rather, they built churches wherever they went. Church-building is the theme of the work of God in this present time.

We are to have strong families, but the strength of the family should never weaken the church. If so, something is wrong. Any time the strength of the family weakens the strength and the unity of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, that home is out of God’s order. You cannot steal the building material of the church to use it to build your own house. Haggai 1:4 shows it is wrong to have nice homes and a feeble church. There is power in our unity.

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Forgiveness in Marriage

  1. God’s Purpose in Marriage
How to Get Rid of Resentment When You Can't Forgive Your Spouse

As blood-bought, Spirit-filled members of the body of Christ, our entire purpose and reason for living is to bring glory to God. Paul’s statements in the first chapter of Ephesians establish that we are to live lives that reflect praise on His glory. We were born to serve the Lord, and to show this wicked world what the grace of God can do in the lives of sinners. Let us fix that concept in our minds: we exist to glorify God. I Corinthians 6:20 says we are a bought slave; so we should glorify God in our body and spirit. In John 21:18-19, we learn that by our death to self, we glorify God.

So, if our lives are to bring glory to God, what is the ultimate aim of marriage? Is it procreation? Companionship? Sex? Happiness? The ultimate purpose for marriage is not any of those; but rather the ultimate goal of marriage is holiness! We speak of holy matrimony. Jesus said that what God has joined together, let not man part asunder. Matthew 19:6. Children of a godly marriage are holy children. I Corinthians 7:14. God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden. It is something He gave to mankind. Why did He do it? God gave us marriage to make us holy, more than to make us happy.

Marriage among Christians is supposed to reflect the glory of God. While marriage is very real, it is also highly symbolic. Holy matrimony is a very visible symbol of the relationship between God and His people. Before we can really address how to improve our marriages, we need all understand the great symbolism our marriages are supposed to demonstrate. Whether we are married or single, we need to understand this point. The Apostle Paul was unmarried, but he understood this important symbol perfectly well.

Hosea 2: 16 says, “And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.”  The center column reference in most Bibles will say that “Ishi” means “my husband;” and that “Baali” means “my master.” Speaking to Israel, God said they would call Him their husband instead of their master. Verse 19 explains why: “I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.”

There is a big difference between “husband” and “master.” The relationship between God and His people is not one based on fear, and force; but one based upon love, intimacy, trust, loyalty, etc. God wants a relationship like that of a husband and wife; and not like that of a master and slave. How do you view God – as master or as husband?

Isaiah 62:5 tells us that God rejoices over His people like a husband over a bride. In Matthew 9:15, Jesus is described as a bridegroom. I know the bride of Christ is a limited company of 144,000 overcomers, but in some respects, the entire body of Christ is like a bride. This is seen in Revelation 12:1, where the church is a woman, a married woman who is pregnant. In Isaiah 54:1, the church is the married wife.

At one time, God was the spiritual husband of Israel. But in Jeremiah 3:8, we see that God divorced Israel because of her spiritual adultery. When speaking to backslidden Israel in Mark 8:38, Jesus deliberately used “adulterous” to describe them – not because of sexual adultery; but spiritual adultery. The Lord expected a relationship of fidelity and trust between Himself and Israel. But the natural Jews played the harlot spiritually, and He divorced her. He is now married to the church, at least in a symbolic sense.

Why is this important? Because our marriage as members of the church is supposed to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church. This is why Paul said after writing about marriage in Ephesians 5:32: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Paul’s writing in Ephesians 5:22-33 demonstrates this relationship between marriage, and Christ and His church.

This is not just an interesting analogy. If you really want to understand how your marriage, or any marriage, is to bring glory to God, you must comprehend this point. God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant way to populate the earth. Marriage is to point to the loving, caring and close relationship that God wants to have with His own chosen people.

So, does every marriage in the church showcase the loving relationship between Jesus Christ and His own ransomed church? Sadly, no. But our marriages, in the body of Christ, should.

  1. Love is a Decision

My purpose here is to present the concept of forgiveness within the framework of a Christian marriage. It should be so very easy to forgive the person you love. But let me say something first about loving the spouse you married. You should love that person even during those times when you don’t like them very much.

Jesus said the second greatest of all the commandments is to love thy neighbor. He taught that we are to love even our enemies. Divine love, or charity, is greater than both hope and faith – Paul so taught. We can sometimes love our enemies better than we love our own spouse. Those whom ought to be closest to us, those who promised and swore before God to love and cherish us, are sometimes the ones we love the least. Little children, such things ought not to be.

Hate springs quickly from the human heart. It doesn’t have to be taught. Whenever we are provoked, hatred rises up. But love isn’t that way. Love never springs up instantly. Nobody “falls” in love. Infatuation and lust are quick to appear, but not true love. Love is not an unbidden natural response. It is something that must be acquired. It must be pursued, sought for, and attained.

It is really sad when one spouse says to the other: “I don’t love you.” In truth, that statement is an admission of failure. The person who says that is really admitting that he or she didn’t learn to love their spouse. The Christian thing to do is to learn to love people – even your enemies. If you haven’t acquired love for your spouse, then you haven’t acted as a Christian. Please let me state this without you being insulted: If you don’t love your spouse, you are admitting you have failed to live as a Christian.

There is a common misconception in society. It is not only common, but dangerous. Society thinks love is an emotion. It is not. It certainly has emotional contexts and connotations, but love is not an emotion. It is a decision. You decide to love someone. If you say to your wife, “I don’t love you;” you are saying you have decided not to love her. How does that statement compare with the truth of Scripture?

I John 4:20 asks, how can you love God, and not love your brother or sister? Can you love God and not love your spouse? Jesus said love was the greatest commandment. In the midst of debates and arguments in the home, somebody has to rise up above the din and implement the greatest commandment. Your spouse is your neighbor. Love your neighbor.

Jesus said to love God, and your neighbor. It is easy to love God. He is good all the time. He doesn’t get on our nerves. He doesn’t yell at us. He is always loveable. But loving your marriage partner, well that isn’t always easy. But he or she is your neighbor. And think about it: how can we love God? He is so different from us. He is a Spirit; we are flesh. He is sinless; we are thoroughly infused with sin. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, as far as the heaven is above the earth. He is eternal; and we are temporal. He is unlimited; we are beset with limitations. We are not much like God. How can we love Him? Yet we do.

But if we can love God when we are so different from God, how much easier should it be to love another human being; the one you married? We have many more similarities with our spouse than we do with our God. We are both flesh and blood; we live side-by-side with them. They are much more like us than our God is. Can we decide to love them?

Matthew 5:43-44 is where Jesus told His followers that they cannot just love neighbors; He said to love your enemies. This again proves that love is not an emotion. Nobody naturally “feels” like loving an enemy. You have to decide to love them – despite what they have done or are doing to you. It is the Christian thing to do. If a child of God can decide to love their enemy, why can’t they decide to love their spouse? Is their spouse their enemy? It doesn’t matter whether they are or are not. Our only response to them is to love them. “What if they don’t love me back?” It doesn’t matter. Your enemies probably won’t love you back either; but you are still to love them. Remember, love is a decision.

Too many people are confused. They have been told that love is a many-splendored thing. They think they fall in love. They think love is over when the “spark” is gone. They feel love is some giddy, emotional attachment. They are wrong. Love can have wonderful emotions connected with it. But the decision to love is not an emotional decision. It is a choice. If you base your choice of who to love on emotions, you are going to have a lot of trouble in life. Base your decisions on higher things than emotions – duty, commitment, responsibility, service, and such noble criteria.

God’s Word commands in Colossians 3:19: “husbands, love your wives.” It teaches in Titus 2:4 that wives are to love their husbands. These are not biblical suggestions. This isn’t optional. This is the Word of God for your life. If you are married, decide to love your spouse. Decide right now. Whether you feel like it or not; choose to love the person you swore before God that you would cherish and honor in sickness and in health, till death.

  1. The Virtue of Forgiveness

There are so many things I could cover about Christian marriage. I remind you that the purpose behind it is to demonstrate the love of God for His people. There are biblical guidelines that will improve your marriage. But the number one step in this is to choose to love your spouse. That choice means it doesn’t matter what he or she does. It doesn’t matter whether they are nice to you. It doesn’t matter whether physical relations are good or absent. Love is constant and abiding. Love is deliberate. You are supposed to love your wife. You are supposed to love your husband.

But let’s move to the heart of this subject: forgiveness in marriage. They say to err is human, but to forgive is divine. There is some truth in that. Forgiving is very god-like. It is one of the most noble and most honorable acts a human being can perform. It separates mankind, who were made in the image of God, from baser animals. Animals cannot forgive. They can forget, but have no capacity to forgive. And forgiveness is an identifying characteristic of a Christian.

Forgiveness is not just some noble dispensing of your pleasure on someone else. It is a commandment for Christians. We aren’t given a choice in this matter. We are required by our Lord and His Holy Word to forgive those who trespass against us. The requirement is stated in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Then Jesus said in Matthew 18:35 that God will be angry with you if you don’t forgive, from your heart. “From your heart” means a full pardon – as if the transgression never happened. It is not just words from the mouth; there must be a removal of the pain of the injury from your heart. You must decide to treat a guilty person as if he or she were not guilty; as though they had not committed the transgression.

 A powerful scripture on this is Ephesians 4:32: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” What does it mean to forgive as God forgives? Our Lord forgives those who don’t deserve to be forgiven, and He forgives them completely. We are to forgive like that – forgiveness is supposed to be both undeserved, and unreserved.

Earlier, I pointed out the biblical requirement to love your enemies. Now, in the context of forgiveness, I am giving you the scriptural admonition to forgive your enemies. In this context, sometimes your spouse is your enemy. So forgive your spouse. I doubt anybody can hurt you as much as your spouse can. He or she knows your weaknesses. That person knows your darkest secrets, your secret faults, your vulnerabilities. The very close and frequent association in marriage creates so very many opportunities to hurt and offend.

You will have more opportunity to forgive your loving spouse than you will a persecuting world.  Unless you are married to a perfect overcomer, you will have an endless set of opportunities to demonstrate the mercy of God through forgiving. Remember that God chose marriage to display His grace to the world. How can you claim to be a Christian if you cannot display the primary godly principle of forgiveness by forgiving the person you married?

To forgive means to pardon or overlook an offense. It means to treat an offender as not guilty. But usually he is guilty! And forgiveness means you choose to treat him as though he did not offend. Forgiveness is not justice. It is not fairness. It is a deliberate decision to leave the scales of justice unbalanced. Your enemy somehow hurt you, and you choose to treat them as if it never happened.

Too many marriages are in trouble because one or both parties are demanding justice, when they should be practicing forgiveness. Retaliation and getting even are never the road to happiness. Revenge is a poison to your own soul. In I Corinthians 6:7, Paul made this statement in another context; but even in marriage, a true Christian learns to take wrong and to suffer being defrauded.

I am not talking about meekly submitting to true abuse, and maybe it is too hard for you to forgive unfaithfulness; but I am saying you can and must forgive your spouse for the accumulated hurts, slights, and emotional and spiritual failings that you know he or she possesses.

You are to do so because the Lord has commanded you to forgive. You do it because your forgiveness is a display of the glory of God to your spouse, your family, the church and the world. And you do it for your own benefit. Because the hatred, anger and bitterness of refusing to forgive are poisonous to your own heart, forgiveness is also an act of self-defense. It not only releases the other party; it releases you from the toxic effects of these seething emotions. Hebrews 12:15 says that bitterness is poison. It is toxic to your spiritual life.

Forgiveness is not easy; nor is it a light thing. But I am asking you to consider deeply, and make a deliberate decision to forgive a lot of hurts you have already received. And then prepare your heart to forgive more of them in the future. You cannot have a long term relationship with anyone you are unwilling to forgive. It is the requirement of God for every Christian; be quick to forgive.

Colossians 3:13: “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Few if any situations in life give us so frequent an opportunity to practice the godly virtue of forgiveness as does a marriage.

                                                                                                                        Glenn Goodwin

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The Greatest Threat to the Church – Part II

There is animosity between Christ’s true church and the devil’s world. They cannot co-exist in harmony. Either the church will triumph and separate the saints of God from the world; or the world will win out and separate the saints of God from the church. The influence of the world separated Demas from the work of the Lord. See II Timothy 4:10.

Satan’s greatest tools are iniquity and idolatry. Iniquity is a direct attack on the church. It may be subtle, but it challenges the teachings of the ministry, the authority of the church, or the operation of the Spirit. God hates iniquity. Psalms 5:4-6. But sadly, most workers of iniquity do not know that they are working iniquity. See Ezekiel 33:30-33.

Its doubtful Hymenaeus and Philetus knew they were the workers of iniquity. See II Timothy 2:17-18. Diotrephes thought he was doing the right thing; but worked iniquity. See III John. They probably spoke dreams and words – but they were not of God. Jeremiah 23:25-28.

Idolatry is even more subtle than iniquity. It is an indirect attack. Idolatry, today, means far more than just worshipping an idol. Idols today are anything that lessens your love and committment to the Lord and His church. There is much idolatry in the 21st Century. It isn’t the mere bowing down to worship statues; rather, it is a frame of mind. Anything that diminishes your ability to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is idolatry. Matthew 22:37-39.

That can be a job, your family, your leisure activities, money, prestige, pride, or a multitude of other things. These are the things that choke the Word, and render you unfruitful in the things that really matter. See Luke 8:14; 21:34.

Satan’s greatest tools are iniquity and idolatry. Ezekiel 14:3 says that the people of Israel had set up idols in their hearts; not statues in their living rooms. Worldliness and materialism are idolatry. If the enticements of this world separate you from your first love, you have become an idolater.

If we align with the worldly order and system, we commit spiritual adultery. God’s people have a mission; to be a light to the world. Isaiah 49:6. To fulfill that mission, there must be a separation from the world. Ezra 9:1-2, 12-14.

Ministers are to feed God’s people with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15. God sets watchmen to warn His saints. Ezekiel 3:17. Someone must warn them against iniquity and idolatry – lest they grow cold and draw back from the very thing that can prepare them to inherit eternal life.

Persecution will not destroy the church. Never has; never will. But iniquity and idolatry have destroyed many once-powerful churches and movements. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16.

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The Greatest Threat to the Church

The two greatest threats to the church are the two greatest threats to your salvation. Satan destroys the church one person at a time. I Peter 5:8. He is unremitting in his attacks. He marshalls forces and pressures to defeat the work of God by enticing the saints to defect.

The two greatest threats we face are iniquity and idolatry. Iniquity causes saints to stumble into unbelief; idolatry is placing anything on the throne of your heart other than the Lord. God said through His prophet: “Son, of man, these men have set up idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face…” Ezekiel 14:3. Note that idolatry was in their heart; not a statue on a shelf.

The light of the glorious Gospel has shined in our hearts. We are the temple of the Holy Ghost. If we are not careful, the light of God can go out in our lives, and in our churches. See I Samuel 3:3. But like the priests of old, we are to see to it that the fire of God never goes our on the altar. Leviticus 6:13.

There are forces in this world that would extinguish the light. The true church of Jesus Christ does not belong to this world. Romans 12:2. It is a small outpost of heaven, surrounded by hostile forces, deep in enemy territory. It’s only chance of survival is to be protected by “air cover” from heaven – with regular supply drops. There is a war of epic proportions being fought between the forces of good and evil. Ephesians 6:12.

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The Future of the Church

Make sure the young people growing up in your home, or your church, are involved in the work of the Lord. Are they engaged or disengaged? Do they participate or observe? Do they know how the Lord added their family to the church? Do they testify in church? Engage them in conversation. Ask them about their salvation, their understanding of the mission of the body of Christ, and the future. Above all, make sure they know they are a part of the church. It is easier to walk away when someone feels no attachment. They will not be the church of tomorrow if they are not an active part of the church today.

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The Church Cannot Fail


Chains of iron will not stop the church from completing its mission. Not even martyrdom can stop God’s work; the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Jesus prayed for the church in the seventeenth chapter of John. He prayed for the success of the church; His prayer will be answered.

Christ loves the church – enough to die for it. Ephesians 5:25. Do you think He will refuse to use His power to protect the church He died to build?

Jesus said that He would be with His people to the end of the world. Matthew 28:20. Because of that, we need have no fear. “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5-6. Christ loves the church. His love was so great that He died for the church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Ephesians 5:25.

Do you think that He will refuse to use His power to protect the church that He died to build? Of course not. He will use all power in heaven and earth to protect this wonderful institution.

The church is both fragile and strong, powerless and powerful, temporary and permanent. It is fragile because it is a voluntary association and iniquity can weaken and destroy any local expression of the church. But it is strong because it is training the rulers of the world to come. It binds the devil in the lives of believers. It is powerless because it has no authority in society.

It cannot legislate morality, nor force its will on anyone. But it is powerful because it is infused with the power of God. The gates of hell itself cannot prevail against it. The church is temporary because every local assembly eventually becomes lukewarm and then cold.

The candlestick is eventually removed from each location. But it is permanent because the institution continues after the local expression dies out. And overcomers that have been laid away to await the first resurrection will be back!

The Lord gives power to His church. Really, it is given a lot of authority.

Though despised and often-rejected, the church is the way to everlasting life. The power the Lord gives to the church includes: The Keys to the Kingdom. Jesus said to His ministry: “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19. No one can enter into the kingdom without using the keys. The church is the vestibule, or entry way, into the kingdom. An entrance into the kingdom must be “ministered” to the believers. See 2 Peter 1:11.

That is why excommunication is a meaningful sanction. Server the Lord in the church is the route to being in the coming kingdom. Power Over the Devil. Jesus gave His church power over devils. Luke 9:1. The first sign that identifies true believers is that they cast out devils. Mark 16:17. The evil spirit knew who Paul was. Acts 19:15. Authority to Heal Diseases.

Those whom Jesus ordains, He gives power to heal sickness. See Mark 3:14-15. When a child of God gets sick, he or she is to call for the elders of the church. James 5:14-15. There must be a church for there to be elders to pray for the sick. The church has always been healing in the name of Jesus. See Acts 3:6, 4:10. Authority to Speak in the Name of Jesus. The church represents the Lord to the world, much like an ambassador represents a foreign country. The church speaks and teaches in the name of Jesus. Acts 4:18. Paul preached in His name. Acts 9:27, 29.

The church is instructed to do all in the name of Jesus. The church, through its ministry, is authorized to “command” in the name of Jesus. See 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and Acts 10:48. Ultimately, Great Power. At the end of the church age, the church is going to receive “great power” from the Lord. Revelation 11:3. So, the church is the instrument that the

Lord is using in this age. He died for the church, He is the head of the church, and He is committed to seeing the church fulfill its mission. We do not have to be a part of His work, but we pray that we are, and that we will continue to be.

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7 Steps to Rebellion

The Bible tells us that rebellion is as wicked, as vile, and as reprehensible as witchcraft. I Samuel 15:23. Elihu, in Job 34:37, said you can add rebellion to your sins. So many people do. In the Bible, we read of Judas Iscariot, Hymaneaus, Diotrephes, and others. Rebellion is common today: children rebel against parents, saints rebel against the church order and teaching and backslide, elders sometimes even rebel against the pastor and split the church.

Rebellion isn’t an instantaneous act; it’s a journey. There are usually seven steps to rebellion. I’d like to point them out – using Joab and Absalom. Rebellion is a particularly wicked sin because you can backslide alone but usually rebellion takes others down with you.

Joab was King David’s general. He was also David’s cousin. Many times he was loyal and faithful to David, but eventually got caught up in rebellion against David’s choice of Solomon to be successor-king. Absalom was David’s son. When Absalom’s sister was wronged, Absalom plotted revenge against Amnon. He was then banished from the kingdom, then returned, then plotted rebellion against David. His rebellion was nearly successful in driving David from Jerusalem, and gaining the throne for Absalom.

But anyone who goes down the road to rebellion will usually follow these seven steps:

1. Independent.  The person headed for rebellion says he can decide for himself what is best. The church may teach against it; but this person says, “I don’t see anything wrong with it.” As if God’s got to clear everything with them, personally. The church may teach against women wearing pants, or body piercing, or certain worldly entertainments and activities, but the independent person chooses to ignore the pastor’s teaching, and do it anyway.

Joab was like that. David met with Abner, with a goal of reconciling Israel and ending a civil war. Joab felt he knew better than David and killed Abner. II Samuel 3:17-30. Then when David decided it was best to banish Absalom, Joab schemed and brought him back. II Samuel 14:1-33. Later, when David specifically said not to kill Absalom, Joab felt he knew better, and killed him. II Samuel 18:12, 14. Finally, when David felt the Lord wanted Solomon to succeed him, Joab acted independently and supported Adonijah. I Kings 1:7.

Absalom’s journey to rebellion also started with this step. He never really submitted to David. When David didn’t do what Absalom thought should be done, he plotted and killed his brother, Amnon.

A person with an independent spirit never settles into church order and discipline. She refuses to conform; he picks and chooses what teachings he will accept and which ones to reject.  Proverbs 18:1 says, “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” It means that a person who keeps himself separate by making his own decisions, countermanding the wisdom of their pastor, isn’t very wise.

2. Hurt and Offended. The second step in this journey is to become hurt and offended – like Absalom after his sister was wronged. Every child of God will be often hurt, but you don’t have to be offended. Jesus warned in Matthew 24:10 that many shall be offended – but you don’t have to be one of them.

The word, “offended” in that verse is from the Greek word: “skandalizo” – the part of trap upon which bait is hung. Be careful, the desire to be offended is just bait on a trap! Don’t take the bait! David refused to be offended when he was wronged by King Saul or when Shimei cursed him as he fled from Jerusalem. Those who are offended over their hurts are moving toward rebellion.

3. Passive. A person on a journey to rebellion starts to withdraw from their prior commitment to the Lord and their loyalty to the church. They resign from activities, etc. Where once they burned with passion; now their ardor cools. Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 that when iniquity abounds, love waxes cold. But we are supposed to be actively involved; not passive and hurt. We read in Judges 5:23: “Curse ye Meroz.” Why? Because they were passive; they came not to help when help was needed. And Jeremiah 48:10 says cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood. When there is a battle to be fought for the Lord, we need every soldier.

Absalom went through this stage before open rebellion. II Samuel 13:22 says, “Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad.” People taking this step develop an unnatural nonchalance; they “don’t care” what the church is doing; they “aren’t interested” in serving; they want to remain distant and uninvolved.

4. Fault-finding. The fourth step is to become hypercritical. They mull their offense in silence for a while, but then begin to speak out criticisms and express their grievances. Be careful when you criticize and complain. It can happen to anyone. It is easy to do; Miriam became critical of Moses.

This is a critical time; a dangerous step toward rebellion and insurrection. Judas Iscariot criticized Jesus for letting costly spikenard be put on Him to anoint Him for death. See John 12:3-6. Moving from withdrawn passivity to fault-finding is a big step in the wrong direction.

Absalom reached this step in II Sam 15:1-3. He was critical of David because there was no man deputied of the king, to right the grievances of the people.

5. Political. A person taking this step is seeking allies and gathering support. Politicians say whatever they have to say to gain supporters. They want others to agree with them, to feel sorry for their wrongs, and to “take on another’s offense.”

Absalom, in II Samuel 15:4-6, stole the hearts of the men of Israel through his political agitation and complaints. He convinced others that David wasn’t right, wasn’t doing right, and that Absalom’s grievances were legitimate. Those who have been offended always want the support of allies.

6. Deception. The next step is when the rebel deceives himself and others. Seeing that he has allies convinces a man (or woman) that their cause is just. Absalom deceived by his apparent success. And he deceived others – they thought he was right, that he should be king, that insurrection was God’s will.

Not everyone really knew what was happening. Some innocents were caught up in what was going on. Verse 11. It seems as if some innocent people always get swept into any conspiracy. They weren’t malicious; and if Absalom had not defected, they would have probably remained loyal to David all their lives. But your rebellion doesn’t just affect you; it affects others. Even if the rebellious repent, usually innocent lives are lost. You can rebel against the church, leave and take others with you, and even repent and come back – but will the others you influenced to leave make it back too? How are you going to explain to the Lord that your rebellion caused innocent lives to be lost?

Rebels always think they are right; and usually believe God with them. Absalom did. Be very, very careful in rising up against God’s established leadership. David may have had every “right” to rebel against King Saul, but he wisely chose not to do it. He refused to strike out against Saul, and was blessed. Just because you are “right” doesn’t mean you have to act – you might be better off suffering yourself to be defrauded. I Corinthians 6:7.

7. Open rebellion. The final step is open insurrection against the established order. It might be leaving the church, or splitting the church, or launching a social networking campaign against the church. The law of God forbids setting fire to the field. Exodus 22:6. The Bible says that “an evil man seeketh only rebellion.” Proverbs 17:11. Don’t take the bait; don’t fall into the trap of rebellion.

What to do?

What should you do if you find yourself with someone who is on this seven-step journey to rebellion?

A. Be careful who you associate with. Proverbs 22:24-25 says to make no friendship with an angry man; it may ensnare your soul. Don’t become one of the innocents caught up in a rebellion against God’s order.

B. You might have to become the north wind. Proverbs 25:23 says, “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” Rebellion is not so easily spoken where it is not easily heard.

C. What if you suddenly realize the person on this path to rebellion is the man in the mirror? First, analyze where you are on this path, and then get off it! Get back on right path. If you are independently ignoring the teaching of the church, start being loyal instead. If you are withdrawing into an unnatural nonchalance, get more involved. If you are criticizing, start praising. Etc.

Don’t keep going down the road. If you find yourself headed towards destruction, like driving 90 mph toward a cliff, if doesn’t do any good to slow down to 60 mph. If you are going to destruction, don’t change your speed; change your direction. Even if you have legitimate grievances – like David had about Saul – give them to God and submit (not to obvious sin, of course, but that is a whole different lesson). God can make right whatever isn’t quite what it should be.