This week I was chatting to one of the builders working on our house about the events of Easter in AD70. Like most people, he had never heard the story of how Titus allowed hundreds of thousands of pilgrims into Jerusalem for Passover before locking them inside and slaughtering them all. It’s a terrible story, but one Jesus saw coming.
If you’ve ever wondered why Jesus said half the things he said about Jerusalem, the answer has to do with that Easter story.
My purpose is not to teach history, but to proclaim the good news of a Lord who cares. In addition to being Lord, Savior, and Son, Jesus is the greatest prophet of all. The events of the first Easter and the fortieth Easter prove it.
Anyhoo, this is just a friendly reminder that for the next 24 hours, you can get my book AD70 and the End of the World: Finding Good News in Christ’s Prophecies and Parables of Judgment for FREE. I’m giving away a digital copy to everyone who buys my new book, Letters from Jesus.
To claim your bonus book, (1) buy Letters from Jesus from anywhere, (2) email/forward your receipt to the publisher before 5pm Thursday (PST), and (3) you will be sent instructions on how to download your free book.
Ten years ago I started writing about the letters from Jesus, and two good things came out of that exercise: (1) a website call Escape to Reality and (2) my new book, Letters from Jesus. The book comes out today in paperback. Paul, what is your book about? Letters from Jesus is my most radical book. Contrary to all tradition, it dares to claim that the seven letters from Jesus are full of undiluted good news for all of us. There’s no bad news in the good news, and there’s no bad news in the letters from Jesus. Wait, Jesus sent letters?! Yes, seven of them, all postmarked from heaven. Oh, you mean those scary letters in Revelation. Tradition has taught us to fear the Jesus in these letters. We’ve been told that this Jesus is angry, capricious and occasionally violent towards us. We’ve been told wrong. If you love Jesus but are afraid of his letters, something doesn’t add up. But didn’t Jesus say he would vomit out under-performing Christians and remove our names from his book? No, that’s not what he said. Not even close. Contrary to what you may have heard, these letters are full of treasures, [...]
Many Christians are lukewarm, but not for the reasons they think. “I don’t go to church enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t witness enough.” Let me stop you right there. How much is enough? How many people do you need to lead to Jesus to stop him from vomiting you out of his mouth? The answer is zero, because Jesus will never vomit you out. You are not lukewarm because of your productivity. But you may be lukewarm if you are mixing the white-hot love of God with the stone-cold demands of the law. (If this is news to you, take the Lukewarm Test now.) How do we become lukewarm? The Laodiceans were famously lukewarm, but anyone can be lukewarm. All you need is a little law. In the Bible we find a great law that no one can keep. It’s a law to crush egos and silence boasting mouths. But the self-righteous take that great law and cut it down to manageable size. They belittle and cheapen God’s law, making themselves lukewarm. An oft-heard cry is that the modern church is being undone by cheap grace. The term cheap grace was coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in in his [...]
As a young man, I was told I was a pillar in the church. It made me feel good to hear the pastor say this, and I could hardly disagree. Of course I was a pillar. I was a good boy. I didn’t drink or smoke or do burnouts in the church car park. I arrived early on Sundays to put out chairs and I stayed back to pack up the AV equipment. I served on the worship team and got to share the Word on occasion. I was not only a pillar; I was a rocket going places. Watch me soar! I cringe to write about this now. I cringe to think how the label “pillar” separated me from those Jesus loves. Yet in the church, we divide people like this all the time: • We have the reliable pillars and the nonpillars who show up late and bleary-eyed bearing the unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke • We have those worthy to take communion and those who are not • We have the happily-marrieds and the shamefully divorceds • We have the mums-with-bubs fulfilling God’s call to be fruitful and the childless women who can compensate for their deficiencies [...]
“You gotta be hot, hot, hot for Jesus! You gotta get enthusiastic in evangelizing the lost. You gotta get on fire with passion for the Lord.” This is a message I used to preach, yet it is only half of what Jesus said. “You are neither cold or hot but lukewarm. I wish that you were cold or hot” (Rev. 3:15-16). Wait, what? Cold is the opposite of hot. If hot is good, how can cold be good too? I have heard some silly answers to this one over the years. “It is better to be dead in your sins than a half-hearted Christian.” Um, no, it’s not. Why would Jesus wish anyone to be dead in their sins? “It is better to be coldly opposed to God, than on the fence.” Even if that were true, why would Jesus wish you were coldly opposed to God? “Jesus is talking about extreme passion. Being really cold is exactly like being really hot.” Except it’s not. Hot and cold are opposites; they are not the same. “It’s because of the aqueduct. Laodicea got hot water from Hierapolis and cold water from Colossae. History explains the metaphor.” This is a well-known story, [...]
If you wanted to control people using fear and dark threats, you could become a Sith Lord, or you could take the good promises of Jesus, turn them inside out, and use them to terrorize God’s children. Let me give you an example: Unless you repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand out of its place. (Rev. 2:5) What does that mean? It sounds scary. I’d better do whatever the man of God tells me. And bam, there goes your freedom. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go. In the research I did for Letters from Jesus, I read dozen of commentaries and was regularly horrified by how this good promise was interpreted. What does it mean to remove your lampstand? Apparently it means Jesus is going to close your church or kill your pastor. Yes, I actually read that. “How dreadful are the punishments of Christ!” said a certain Victorian minister. “He may take away your minister; and he may also take away the light of his word.” (Think about that for a second: If you don’t repent, the man up front gets whacked by Jesus. Makes perfect sense.) Sadly, this was par [...]
Who were the hardest working Christians in the Bible? The answer must surely be Paul and his friends, but many people will say it was the church at Ephesus. They say this because of what Jesus said in his letter to the church: “I know your deeds and toil” (Rev 2:2a). Commentators make much of Jesus knowing the Ephesians’ deeds and toil, as though an impressed Lord was recording their labors in his scorebook. But the original word for know simply means “I see”. It’s not necessarily a commendation. In these letters, Jesus says, “I know” in regard to both good deeds (Rev. 2:19) and bad deeds (Rev. 3:1, 15). When Jesus says, “I know” to the Ephesians, he’s saying “I care.” Because he loves us he is intimately acquainted with our lives. He knows what we’re doing. It’s a good thing that he knows, but it may not be a good thing that we’re doing, and this was the case with the Ephesians. “I know your deeds and toil.” Many believe that Jesus was commending the Ephesians for their hard work, but the word toil means labors, extreme weariness, and beating. The Ephesians were taking a beating. They were [...]
If Christians are worn out, it is for one of two reasons: (1) they don’t know how much their Father loves them and (2) they have an unbiblical definition of work. Hey, I’m not judging anyone here. When it comes to overwork, I’m guilty as sin. I’m a workaholic who regularly pushes himself past breaking point. I’ve learned a lot through my mistakes, but sometimes I wonder whether I have learned anything at all. So put this one in the “Do as I say, not as I do basket.” On the subject of rest vs work, I have much to learn, but one thing I know for certain is this: Jesus does not want you to work yourself to exhaustion. Rather, he wants you to rest from your labors, and trust in his finished work. “But Paul, what about all those scriptures that say things like Jesus knows our deeds and we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and we will be rewarded for doing good?” I encourage you to check out the 30+ articles I have written on these and other deeds-scriptures. (You can find them in the Archives>Subject Index under “works”.) Today I want [...]
Today is Escape to Reality’s 9th birthday, and to celebrate I’m giving away free PDF copies of my most misjudged book, AD70 and the End of the World: Finding Good News in Christ’s Prophecies and Parables of Judgment.
I say misjudged, because people who haven’t read it have claimed that I’m a preterist (I’m not) or that I don’t believe in either the rapture (I do) or the final return of the Lord (I am very much looking forward to it!).
Anyway, you can read the book for yourself and make up your own mind. Not interested in the end times? The book also covers the treasures found in Christ’s parables of judgment. Something for everyone!
This giveaway is for all E2R subscribers only and the offer is good until Thursday, Feb 7, 2019. Download instructions are below.
If you were to make a list of big topics discussed by Jesus and the New Testament writers, the subject of deeds or works would have to be on that list. They all spoke about it, and no one more than Jesus. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not doing the works of Abraham (John 8:39-40), and said we would be judged for what we have done (John 5:28-29). This frightens some people. They think we have to get busy for the Lord and that he will judge us on our performance. “Am I doing enough? Will I make the grade?” Others are confused. “I thought Jesus wanted to give me rest (Matt. 11:28). Why did he say “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)? What does he want from me – rest or hard work? All confusion and dead works would end if we only understood the Biblical meaning of work, which is this: Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you… The work of God is this: to [...]