The Day of Days

At dawn the panic set in. In an instant, crashing waves of adrenaline began surging through his veins. Pupils fully dilated, he could scarcely comprehend the unbelievable sight before his eyes. But nearly 60 years and over 21,000 sunrises had failed to erase the memory that burned in his mind like the sun itself.

“My God!!” he shrieked.

Actor Pluskat

Actor Pluskat

Pluskat

Pluskat

Pluskat, as portrayed in the classic, The Longest Day

With those words, a concentric shockwave of terror sent a herd of men scattering in all directions. Arms pumping furiously, they raced down gravel roads and across open fields, their boots thundering the ground like galloping thoroughbreds tearing through the morning mist. Sleep would become a distant memory. The time for rest had now passed. What that dreadful morning revealed would never be forgotten. It would be a memory, chiseled into their brain for the rest of their lives. For what happened to them on that particular summer day would transcend every other 24-hour period they would experience hereafter. This day was unlike any other, and should they survive it, their children’s children would undoubtedly hear the story.

There have been moments in humanity’s narrative that changed everything. Days that rise above the ordinary. They are uncommon. Unusual. Rare. They are the days that truly make a difference. They revise reality, marking entire generations. By their very existence, they become chroniclers of mankind’s official memoir. In hindsight, they are red-letter dates. Moments etched in time that forever alter who, and what, we are. These days become hinges upon which history itself swings. And they are often made so by the most trivial contributions.

June 6, 1944 was one such day.

Largely considered to be the pivotal day of the 20th century, that misty morning 70 years ago defined a global struggle for freedom.

Germany’s Aryan Tyrant had conquered virtually all of Europe, subjugating its inhabitants under the cruel, iron fist of the Third Reich. It’s difficult for Americans today to conceive of living in such a time. We’re not accustomed to Rulers and Kings, as our relatively short history has been marked by democracy, not dictators. We struggle, imagining life in a world like this. We consign these eras to grainy black and white photographs, sepia snapshots, old news reels or movies. Somehow this minimizes their reality, as well as their impact on our lives today. However, those who lived through those days did so in vivid color and real time.

Just 3 years earlier, another transformative day had occurred. On December 7, 1941, some 181 Japanese planes armed with torpedoes decimated US warships at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing over 1,100 servicemen. That horrific event officially became a “date that will live in infamy”.[1] Now, three years into WWII, America and her Allies stood at the threshold of the invasion of France, the necessary next step to engaging Hitler’s menacing War Machine. Code named “Operation Overlord”, at stake was much more than a simple battle campaign or skirmish to retake a plot of land.

The liberation of all Europe hung precariously in the balance. If the German despot could accomplish his goal of hurling the invaders back into the sea, the war effort would have likely lingered on for years. England would probably have been lost altogether, reduced to rubble from Third Reich rockets. And the morale and fighting spirit of more than 160,000 Allied and American soldiers would have sunk to an all-time low. In such a scenario, historians can only speculate what would have happened if Nazi Germany had continued its conquest of the world, its development of missile systems and research into nuclear warheads. Therefore, there could be no more delays. It was an hour of urgency. The time was now.

On the night of June 5, the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, sat alone in his London headquarters, drafting a short speech in the event of disaster or defeat in Normandy. In it, he concedes failure, assuming full responsibility for the decision that surely would have sent tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen to their deaths.[2]

Then, in the predawn hours of June 6, 5,000 warships and landing crafts carrying 50,000 vehicles
and some 160,000 Allied troops disembarked from England. Accompanying them were over 11,000 planes, every one of them bound for France’s Normandy coast.

Early that morning, German Major Werner Pluskat arrived at his bunker, located some 100ft above the coastline overlooking what would later be known as Omaha Beach. Having been awakened by the sounds of planes and gunfire, the Major scrambled to his post in hopes of discerning the source of the battle sounds.

There had been scattered reports of an Allied bombing raid, but it had yet to be officially confirmed. Besides, a number of previous false alarms had made Germany’s commanders reluctant to generate fresh rumors about the coming invasion. In light of these earlier, bogus alerts, Pluskat and his men had actually been ordered to stand down that morning. But just to be on the safe side, Werner and his German Shepherd, Harras, climbed into a Volkswagen along with a few other soldiers and drove the four miles to his Normandy lookout post, arriving around 2am.

Once inside, Pluskat began peering through his high-powered artillery glasses (binoculars), carefully scanning the Cherbourg peninsula to his left, then slowly panning the horizon. He saw nothing. It was the same sight he had encountered day after day, night after night. Just the bright moonlight, occasional foggy mist, vast ocean and the whitecapped waves making their way to the shore. Then, just after 5am, as the sun began to rise, Major Pluskat decided to take one final look. Again, beginning with the peninsula to his left, he carefully scanned across the open sea.

Suddenly, emerging out of the distant morning mist appeared a sight so terrifying it seized Major Pluskat with fear. It was the largest armada of ships ever assembled in human history. The shock from seeing this caused Pluskat to exclaim,

“My God!! It’s the Invasion!”

Frantically telephoning his intelligence officer, Pluskat announced, “Block”, there must be 10,000 ships here!”

“Now look, Pluskat,” Major Block casually responded. “The Americans and British combined don’t have that many ships.”

“Come look for yourself!” Pluskat pleaded.

“My dear Pluskat, just where are these ships headed?” he inquired, snickering.

The stunned officer shouted into the receiver, “Right for ME!!”[3]

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It was the moment for which the Germans had fearfully anticipated. Though it was believed to be inevitable, the Allied Armada’s arrival came unexpected as Germany’s High Command was convinced the Invasion would take place at another time and location.           Because of this, they had stationed the majority of their troops and mighty Panzer tanks some 200 miles east. Further, Germany’s senior commanders were unavailable and far away at a military conference. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of Normandy coastal defenses, was in southern Germany attending his wife’s birthday. It would take him hours to reach his men. The Allies had achieved complete surprise.

There was however, one man who, upon receiving news of the Invasion, possessed the authority to order the immediate relocation of tanks, reinforcements and soldiers to the Normandy coast. With one simple command, Germany would have an excellent chance of holding the line, preventing the Allies from gaining ground upon their beach landing. They might even do what they had done before and hurl the invaders back into the sea. But unfortunately, that man – The Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler – was fast asleep some 800 miles away in his mountain retreat, having taken a sleeping pill the night before.[4]

And nobody…nobody dared wake him up.

“D-Day” would become the day and the decisive moment of the entire World War. History records June 6, 1944 as the “Day of Days”. And largely because of it, Germany would eventually be defeated and lose the War.

Distracted.

Deceived.

Complacent.

Unprepared.

Asleep.

You see, one day really can make a difference.

Days change things. Some days even change the whole world.

October 31, 1517 – Martin Luther nails his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral and Protestantism is born.

December 17, 1903 – The Wright Brothers successfully fly their biplane for 12 seconds and 120 feet. Travel would forever be revolutionized.

June 8, 1914 – Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated when one man, a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, lunges at his carriage and shoots him. WWI is set in motion.

October 29, 1929 – The US Stock market crashes. “Black Tuesday” officially births the Great Depression.

August 6, 1945 – The U.S. drops an Atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The nuclear age begins.

May 14, 1948 – Israel becomes a recognized State for the first time in 20 centuries.

November 22, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. America loses her innocence.

July 20, 1969 – The United States puts a man on the moon. “One small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind.”

September 11, 2001 – Terrorists attack the World Trade Centers in New York City, sending rippling effects throughout the globe.

 

One day.

And the world is never the same.

 

[1] Quote from the speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt on December 8, 1941 when he stood before Congress asking for a declaration of war. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/day-of-infamy/

[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/d-day-in-case-of-failure-letter-by-general-eisenhower-2012-6

[3] The Devil’s Garden – Rommel’s Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day, Stackpole Books, 2013, p. 186

[4] http://www.historynet.com/d-day-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-nazi-germany.htm

Don’t Look Back

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 My Old Dorm at USC

   It’s 1978, and I’m trying to sleep. But sleep don’t come easy when you’re living on the third floor of Preston Hall on the University of South Carolina campus. However, it’s not my roommate’s fault that I’m not sleeping. Sal (Salvatore) is a likeable guy. As Italian as they come. From Jersey, too. Sal would have fit in well with the old Chicago mob, mainly because he had “the look.” Hefty, dark skin with Rocky Balboa eyes. The kind of guy who could have worn a fedora and pin striped suit to class…smoking a stogie, and probably gotten away with it. Sal got me hooked on late night take-out  subs and pizza. Hey, it was college. But no, Sal, despite his snoring, wasn’t the reason behind my inability to snooze.

This particular night, it’s the guy down the hall – the one with the really loud stereo. Yes, we had an RA, but who knows where he was half the time. Besides, despite our rooms being next door to each other I wasn’t one of our RA’s favorite people. It may have had something to do with my not-so-nice comment about his 3-foot stack of Playboys.

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   Anyway, that night what was keeping my eyes wide open was Boston’s Don’t Look Back blaring from 3 doors down. Sorry if that (or any other Boston song) now reverberates in your head the rest of the day. Boston’s tight distortion and smooth harmonies have a way of getting into your mind like that. And just in case that’s not enough, here are some sample lyrics from the song itself,

Don’t look back

A new day is breakin’

It’s been too long since I felt this way

I don’t mind where I get taken

The road is callin’

Today is the day

I can see

It took so long to realize

I’m much too strong

Not to compromise

Now I see what I am is holding me down

I’ll turn it around

I finally see the dawn arrivin’

I see beyond the road I’m drivin’

Far away and left behind

    If you’re in a toe-tapping mood, you can listen to it HERE.

But despite how you might remember the band, view the song itself or parse the meaning behind the lyrics, the title still delivers some pretty kicking’ advice. Life is hard enough when you’re staring straight ahead, peddle-to-the-metal, giving it all you’ve got (I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about). But it’s even harder when you’re turned around or looking in the rearview mirror. Looking back takes your eyes off what’s really important. It causes you to hesitate, and maybe even second guess where God is leading you. And sometimes it can even derail you enough to become consumed by the past. Just ask Lot’s wife.[1] Or ask any runner. You can never win the race by looking behind you. Reminiscing is ok. But wallowing in regret is not.

Or you could ask Paul, and if so, this would be his response:

    “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

   No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

   Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things.” (Philippians 3:12-15)

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   You can thank Paul later for writing that if you like. Or you can thank God right now. Focusing on Christ and His plan for you always gives you something tangible to look forward to. Always.

Even if it’s just a good night’s sleep.

[1] Genesis 19:12-26

What’s It Worth? – Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1

“Thousands of dollars! What you’re holding in your hand is worth thousands!” he proclaimed, trying in vain to contain his emotions.

My friend went on to explain just how few of those books were still in existence. Feeling now like the “Indiana Jones of Beatledom”, I began gloating in my recent acquisition. But then I wondered, “Wow, with a find like this, maybe I should put it away in a place for safe-keeping. I mean, what if someone finds out I have it. They might want to steal it.”

While pondering how to protect my newfound treasure, I decided to check out E-bay, just to see if anyone else owned, or more importantly, was looking for such a collector’s item. And so, logging on to their web site, I typed in the information related to the “Get Back” photo book. Immediately, two items appeared, both identical to mine.

“That’s interesting” I thought to myself. “I wonder how much they’re selling for.”

Scrolling down the page, I was shocked to see a whopping price of . . .

 . . . $25!

“No way!” I said out loud. “This has to be some kind of mistake. They must have forgotten to add a couple of zeroes on the end of the price.”

Checking the other identical item, I discovered it too was selling for the same low price.

“What is this? Wal-Mart?” I said. “You don’t sell a rare find like this for discount prices!”

Needless to say, I was crushed, mainly because I was already thinking of ways to spend that few thousand extra dollars. And so, with my ego thoroughly deflated, and my dreams of owning the “Holy Grail” dashed against the rocks, I logged off my computer as my wife remarked,

“Just remember, sweetheart. It’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”

“It’s only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.”

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In other words, the real value of something is determined, not by some unchanging, universal standard, but rather by how much cash a person is willing to shell out for it. Take a diamond, for example. C’mon, what is it really? It’s a ROCK! A mineral deposit. A piece of the earth! And yet, at some point in history we decided it had enormous value. The same goes for gold or any other “precious metal”. Or what about the value of land? An acre in western Kansas might sell for $300. But the same size real estate in lower Manhattan might sell for $3,000,000 or more! It’s all about location in real estate. Supply and demand. But it’s also about what someone is willing to pay for it. The same goes for cars, CD’s, cell phones, plane tickets and yes…..

…even Beatle memorabilia (oh the humanity!).

Can anybody feel my pain?!

You ever wondered what you’re worth? What your real value is? Your true “net worth’? A group of scientists once estimated that if you separate all the components of your body into minerals and water, you could sell them for around $10.

But is that it? Is that all you’re worth? Can a person’s value really be boiled down to a monetary figure? 

Your personal worth determines your sense of significance. It’s how important you are. And we all want to feel important, don’t we? It’s our desire to have value. A craving that comes from deep inside us. Every one of us longs for significance, that confident inner assurance that we’re really “somebody”. 

Ok then. So when you get an extra 15-20 seconds, read John 3:16 & Romans 5:8 from an actual Bible.

The repeat this to yourself 3x,

“I am only worth what someone is willing to pay for me.”

Feeling important yet?

What’s It Worth? – Part 1 of 2

The sign in my neighborhood read “Special Estate Sale – Today”.

My curiosity aroused, I decided to stop by and see what kind of stuff they were selling. Roaming from room to room in the old house, I marveled at what some people will sell….and buy! Cheap trinkets, discarded toys, used clothes, eyeglasses, shoes, broken radios and paperbacks with frayed edges. Frantic bargain-hunters scurried around like mice in a cheese factory, looking for that “find”, that one unique discovery, that treasure hidden among “junk”. I secretly snickered at their silliness as I nonchalantly browsed my way through the old home.

But then, while wandering around in a back room, something caught my attention. It was the cover of an old Beatle’s album. Now anybody who knows me understands what a Beatle fanatic I am. It’s a sickness really. I’ve been to doctors, and there’s no cure. My older brothers exposed me to the Fab Four’s music, so you see, it’s really their fault. 

Anyway….it goes without saying that anytime I see a Beatle album, I stop and take a look. Upon closer examination, I discovered it wasn’t actually an album cover at all, but rather a thin box. Looking inside, I discovered an extensive photo book of the Beatles’ Let It Be recording sessions. However, what really sparked my interest was the title of the book – “Get Back” – which I (of course) knew to be the original title of what eventually became the Let It Be album. Just prior to release, they changed it from “Get Back” to the current title.

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And that told me the book was unique.

Realizing I had found something relatively rare among rock memorabilia collectors, I snatched up the book and its cover-box, carefully looking around to make sure no one else was on to my rare find. After stealthily sneaking to the front room to pay for it, to my amazement, I discovered the item was priced at only $15. Writing a check as fast as possible, I quickly and quietly slipped out of the house, unnoticed by any other potential Lennon-McCartney enthusiasts. Arriving home within seconds, I called a fellow Fab Four friend in Nashville to tell him about my new purchase. By his reaction, I immediately sensed his excitement as he informed me I had officially stumbled upon the “Holy Grail” of Beatle memorabilia.

“What do you think it’s worth?”, I inquired.

 

…to be continued tomorrow in Part 2.

Simplicity & Sausages

Life can get so complicated. So many things pulling us in all directions that we actually lose our direction at times. Social media, friends, school, family, hobbies, job, career…they all bring out a different part of who we are, often diluting us. Weakening us. At times we can become disoriented and wonder what in the heck we’re even doing with our lives. That’s why it’s important to regularly re-calibrate ourselves to what matters. To focus on the really good stuff. To become centered.

To simplify.

Not so long ago, I met a man on the street in Colchester, England. He sells hot dogs. That’s it. Just hot dogs (or sausages, as the English say). Regular or extra large. With or without cheese.

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Some may look down on a grown man who runs a hot dog stand for a living, but I actually found myself admiring the man. This smiling vendor had found his niche, and that’s what got him out of bed each day – to offer his best to the world. 

One of the keys to personal fulfillment is finding that one thing you love and then to go do it with all your heart. In fact, the people who make a difference in this world are those who harness their gifts, passions and personality, directing them at what they feel is God’s destiny for them.

Admittedly, that can take some time and energy. But it’s one quest that is abundantly worth it.

Noah was a man with ONE major mission in life. One. Thing. To. Do. His singular, simple task was to build an ancient aircraft carrier and preserve a remnant of humanity for the new world.

He kept his eyes on the end goal for 120 years. He hit the bulls-eye with his life.

And so can you.

For more on how you can reach your goal of living a faith-filled life, get a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah. Available at Barnes&Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

5 Things Christians Should Know About ISIS – Part 2

The full text of my first post addressing this horrible, pre-apocalyptic crisis can be found HERE.

In summary, here is a biblical explanation of why there are people like this and why it is happening now.

1. There have a “seared conscience”.

2. They have no restraining Spirit influence.

3. They have been abandoned by God.

4.  They Are Storing Up Wrath for Themselves – Paul also writes that those who blatantly reject God’s grace are “storing up wrath for the day of wrath” (Romans 2:5) because of their “stubbornness and unrepentant heart”. If there are degrees of rewards in Heaven, it stands to reason there are degrees of punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:15, 11:21-24; Luke 12:42-48). How ironic that those who commit such heinous crimes against humanity are actually increasing their own punishment in the afterlife. And the horror of horrors for these radical Muslims is that the Judge sending them to this Hell will be the Jewish Messiah!

5. They Are Helping Pave the Road to Revelation – In recent history, Bible scholars have struggled with Revelation, largely due to the fact that so many scenes and events in that prophetic book are bizarre and difficult to imagine. But with modern technology, the reemergence of Israel as a nation and a growing one world government (just to name a few contributing factors), a portrait of the end times is much more in focus now than it even has been. But one verse particularly stands out. Revelation 20:4 speaks of “those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God”. I believe the activity referred to here takes place during the Tribulation period. These Christian martyrs will literally have their heads taken off (the Greek word for “beheaded” only appears in this verse and means to “hew or cut with an axe”). I find it interesting that the chosen method of killing believers in the Tribulation parallels that of first century Rome. But what is even more amazing is that this method of execution is making a comeback right now through radical Islam. This brutal method of chopping and sawing off the heads of Christians has laid dormant for 2,000 years, but is enjoying a growing resurgence in the last days.

ISIS, though clearly an indication of an unholy marriage of demonic activity and the total depravity of man, is evidence of Satan overplaying his hand once again. Having chosen to use more deceptive means to accomplish his purposes in the past, he is now unmasking himself and coming out of the shadows through this barbaric behavior. This terrorist group isn’t technically a biblical sign of the end times, but it is an indication that the kind of evil prophesied to thrive in the last days is already upon us.

 One more thing: Believers can expect this type of activity to get worse as we continue ramping up to Revelation. 

So how does a Christian respond to all this? Should we panic? Cower in fear? Run and hide? What does the Bible say? How can you live a courageous and victorious spiritual life in times like these? And is there any hope? 

Interested in knowing more about the age we live in, and how it relates to the end times? In my book, As It Was in the Days of Noah, I uncover several additional striking similarities between Noah’s generation, the end times and our day. Plus, discover what God would have His church do in the meantime. 

AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH is available at Barnes&Noble as well as Amazon, or anywhere books are sold.

5 Things Christians Should Know About ISIS – Part 1

The shocking, ongoing murders and beheadings of women, children, Christians and American citizens by the Islamic terrorist group ISIS has captured the headlines in recent days. World leaders have condemned such grizzly acts, but it remains to be seen what will actually be done about it. Meanwhile, decent humans across the globe are outraged that such barbarism could be committed by so many. They can’t believe this depth of pure evil could be perpetrated, and in the name of religion. Everybody is shocked and stunned.

Everybody except Jesus Christ.

When asked about the sign of His coming, Jesus told His disciples that prior to His return, earth would resemble the “days of Noah” (Mathew 24:37). As we rewind to Genesis 6, we get a clearer picture of what He was referring to. Fast-forwarding to Revelation 5-19, we see it again. One of the marks of Noah’s generation was a rampant spirit of violence throughout the earth (Genesis 6:11-13). This brutality and violence is one specific reason God cited for unleashing global judgment on mankind.

What we see happening with ISIS is a replica of that same spirit of violence. But have you pause to wonder “why”? Haven’t you asked yourself how thousands of human being could ever be so evil? Fortunately, the Bible shed light on this situation. Here are 5 reasons why people could act like this:

  1. They Have a “Seared Conscience” (I Timothy 4:2) Paul wrote that it’s entirely possible for human beings to reach a point in their sin where it literally doesn’t bother them to commit evil. There is no guilt. None. No remorse. In fact, they celebrate and rejoice in it! Sin dulls their sense of right and wrong so deeply they are totally numb to morality. There is a complete inversion of what is right and wrong (Isaiah 5:20). The devaluing of human life becomes a natural next step. This same type of barbarism happens over 125,000 times a day in abortion clinics all across the world.
  1. They Have No Spirit Influence – One of the telltale signs of the very last days is the removal of the “Restrainer” (2 Timothy 2:6-7). Pauls says that the Antichrist will not be revealed until “he who restrains … is taken out of the way.” I believe this “Restrainer” is the Holy Spirit living in believers (the Church). Once the Rapture occurs, there will be nothing to hold back evil from exploding all over the earth. But even now, Paul says, this “mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Timothy 2:7). In a land like Iraq where Christian influence is all but extinct, and where a controlling, wicked religious group is possessed by a spirit bent on bloodshed, it is no surprise that these activities are occurring. When the Church loses it’s influence in holding back sin in a society or culture, that’s a sign things are about to get really bad.
  1. They Have Been Abandoned by God – Romans 1 outlines the process by which God abandons humans and humankind. After rejecting the revealed truth about Him through creation and conscience, men create substitute gods and pursuits. Immorality becomes inevitable and even encouraged. Finally, God’s patience comes to an end and He declares, “Enough is enough”. At this point, He literally and judicially delivers them over to a “depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28-29). One of those “things” is that they are “full of murder”. There is no God among these people. You might wonder, “But could an ISIS member be saved? Perhaps like the Apostle Paul, who murdered Christians prior to his conversion?” Yes, is it possible with God. But probable? I don’t think so.All indications are that these men are reprobates, and have disqualified themselves from salvation by rejecting God’s grace (Galatians 5:4).

Check here for the final two reasons these atrocities are happening. For more on the last days, get a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah.

Hey Jesus, Why Noah?

Sitting on a hillside outside Jerusalem a day or so before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus Christ answers His disciples’ questions about the last days and His return to planet earth.

But of all the analogies the Lord could choose from to describe the last days, why does He land on Noah and the Flood? What’s the parallel here?

One reason is because Noah lived in the “end times” of his own world and generation. Second, Noah’s life and work were a prelude, leading to global judgment. Third, there were numerous, observable prophecies made in Noah’s time and in the generations leading up to the Flood. And finally, the condition of mankind in Noah’s day best illustrates what life will be like as we approach Christ’s return.

Specifically, Jesus says, like in Noah’s day, people in the end times will be going about their lives, doing “business as usual,” just doing the things they ordinarily do. They’ll be living for themselves, without giving God a passing thought. Those in Noah’s day had chosen to ignore and reject God’s message. Likewise, His future judgment will come when unbelievers least expect it. The Flood, judgment, eternity…none of this was on their radar.

Jesus also described additional direct parallels between Noah’s day and the last days. For more on how much our current world resembles those generations, dive into AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH at your local Barnes&Noble, or whoever books are sold.

Getting Stronger

Last Saturday, I made some repairs to the stone wall that lines part of our backyard. I’d recently been observing (actually creeping by) a stonemason who’d been upgrading a wall in my neighborhood, thinking to myself,  “Hey, if he can do that, then so can I!” So after doing a bit of research, I gathered my materials together and bought a bag of masonry cement. Saturday rolled around, and eager to get on with my project, I hoisted the 80-lb. bag of rock dust to the back yard to prepare the mix and get after the repairs.

What I did not anticipate, however, was the sheer weight and awkwardness of lifting that bag while in a bent over position. The result, though not immediately noticeable, was several days of back strain and pain, made more tolerable by my pal, Mr. Ibuprofen and 3 of his siblings. Sure, 80-lbs. may not seem like that much, but lift it the wrong way and you’ll quickly discover how brutal such an exercise can be. Truth be known, I have a weak back to begin with. In college (among many other foolish decisions I made), one Friday afternoon I jumped out of a fraternity house second-floor window and landed in a pile of sand (Don’t ask why I did it. It was supposed to be a joke). Upon my encounter with the sand, I discovered the joke was on me as my back was bent into an inhuman position. Let’s just say my chest and knees came together with extreme pressure.

 I stayed in that position for 3 days.

 Alone in my college apartment while all my friends were away (including my roommates and girlfriend), I languished in bed all weekend, unable to walk, eat or find any pain medication. There was no food in the fridge and the cupboards were bone dry (college life!). This was also in the days of no cell phones (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), so if someone wasn’t at home, it meant you couldn’t contact them (imagine that!). In my  72-hour delirium, I do recall crawling to the bathroom once. That wasn’t much fun.

 Upon my girlfriend’s return to campus, she found me in bed, emaciated, in the fetal position, and not smelling too fresh. After feeding me from my favorite burger joint, she got me some medication and a heating pad. Miraculously, in a few days, I no longer walked around like a elderly chimpanzee.

 All that to say, this is one big reason why I have such a weak back.

 Weak muscles can’t bear much weight or lift heavy things. Strong muscles can.

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 I think faith is as much like a muscle as anything. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the more weight you can bear and lift.

Some believers have weak faith. They have trouble trusting God for the smallest things. And when the big weight of life lands on them (as it often does), they crumble under the pressure. Some of these people are weak because they are afraid to really let go and give God everything…everything about themselves and their lives (family, career, future, finances, emotions, etc). They are living in disobedience and their spiritual growth is hindered. They are like adults who still suck on pacifiers and throw tantrums. They are miserable people.

Others are weak because they are simply young in their faith and haven’t developed strong muscles yet. Some are plagued by reoccurring sins or areas of immaturity. But in time, they’ll be ok, as long as they keep growing and trusting.

Some Christians are weak because they subconsciously convince themselves they can do life without other believers. These people are very deceived and secretly full of pride. They haven’t realized yet that one great source of muscle-building is being in community with fellow weight-bearers (see Gal. 6:1-3). They haven’t yet learned how important it is to be taught the Word of God in the context of their spiritual family. These people do not have a bright future, spiritually-speaking. That’s one reason why their marriages fail and their families disintegrate. It’s why they can never seem to make progress in their lives. Doing it alone, they sadly have no idea how great life could be if they let God work His mighty strength through them and through His body. They don’t know that even in their weakness, they could experience strength (2 Cor. 12:9) Instead, they get “stuck”, bogged down in a life where their biggest goal is merely to survive and “get by”.

Paul-Anderson

Living here on Planet Earth can be carefree at times. It can also be heavy and burdensome. But whatever life sets before you – light or heavy – He wants you to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10). Practicing that daily choice to trust Him won’t always be easy, but it is within your reach.

Even right now.

Are You “Over the Rainbow”?

You’ve probably seen them. The cute little rainbow stickers on the back window of the car in front of you proclaiming “gay pride”. The idea is that many colors (i.e. sexual preferences and orientations) are all a part of big, beautiful collage of colors. But from where did this rainbow thing originate? Was it dreamed up by some graphic artist sympathetic to the homosexual community? As a matter of fact, yes! According to this website, the Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, who created the flag in response to a local activist’s call for the need of a community symbol.  Each color represented a different tenet of gay rights (pink = sex, orange = healing, yellow = sun, a sort of new age approach to sexuality). The design has changed a few colors over the years, but remains essentially the same. Starbucks proudly flew an 800 sq. ft gay pride flag over its headquarters in Seattle. Silly us, we thought they were a coffee shop.

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The original gay pride rainbow flag.gaypride2-200x200Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.23.13 AM

Starbucks headquarters

According to the Bible, the original rainbow (along with the ones we see refracted in the sky today) were birthed, not from Gay Pride, but from God’s Promise. Following Noah’s Flood, which destroyed every violent and immoral person on the planet (estimated in the billions), God placed a first-ever rainbow in the sky, made possible by the rupturing of the water vapor canopy which previously filtered out the sun’s ultraviolet rays in the antediluvian earth (Genesis 1:7). God created the light and water particles that uniquely make up what we now know as the “rainbow”. But the reason He did it was to communicate something to all creation – that He would never flood the earth again by water. This is known as the “Noahic Covenant”.

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; andnever again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”(Genesis 9:12-17)

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Gay people didn’t intentionally invent the rainbow flag as a snub to God and the Bible. Though they have embraced this symbol as their primary logo, I doubt seriously that Genesis 9 was even remotely a part of their original motivation.

Even so, we see a lot more homosexual rainbow symbols than scriptural ones. When’s the last time you saw a rainbow sticker on a back windshield with the phrase “Remember God’s Promise” emblazed across the bottom? Rainbows aren’t going away – either on flags, stickers OR in the sky. So maybe we should get over how people use (or misuse) them and get back to why God gave them to us in the first place.

Every rainbow that appears in the sky (you know, the one we Instagram and Pintrest to death) is meant to comfort, remind and warn all humanity.

Comfort – God will never flood the whole earth again to wipe out humanity.

Remind – God rescues the righteous prior to global judgment.

Warn – God is patient, but His wrath will eventually be unleashed on sin. Therefore, run to the Ark!

You can believe that the gay rainbow symbol is an innocent design or some subversive Satanic plot to undermine and replace God’s definition of the rainbow. But I believe we should go a step further. The God of the Bible invented colors and God made the rainbow. So, at least in your own mind, why not steal this symbol back and redeem it for Him, returning it’s meaning to the rightful Owner. Every time you see a rainbow, whether pasted on a windshield, waving in a gay rights parade or shining in the sky overhead, remind yourself about it’s original meaning. Thank God that His promises remain true, even thousands of years later.

And that the God who floods also forgives…

…you.

For more clarity about what the Bible says about homosexuality, forgiveness, love and the flood, check out As It Was in the Days of Noah.

For the most beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, here’s one of my favorite guitar players, Tommy Emmanuel.