From the Pastor
Pastor Mike Burns
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Victory Family and Friends,
I am presenting this article from Jimmy Evans, author of the book, Tipping Point. This article is for your consideration as we are watching the invasion of Ukraine. We want to remain informed both biblically and geo-politically as events around the world unfold, including in America. Remember… God is in charge; let’s trust him, pray for peace and more than ever, stay connected with your church family.
Russia Has Invaded Ukraine
Western nations have aligned against Russia. But is China allied with Putin?
By Jimmy Evans – Author of the book Tipping Point
As of last night, Vladimir Putin has declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of that country—which experts have been predicting for weeks now—is underway.
Typically today is when I would write and publish a “Quick Hits” article for Tipping Point, but I believe it’s important to inform you about what is happening right now.
I saw news beginning to break before I went to sleep last night and woke up to reports that a Ukrainian presidential advisor had told western media countries that a “full-fledged large-scale war has begun in Europe.” This official added, “Russia is attacking not just Ukraine, but all the rules of normal life in the modern world. What will be left of the security system on the continent? Zero.”
The assault began before dawn in Eastern Europe with missile attacks against the capital, Kyiv, and long-range artillery against the city of Kharkiv. This happened around the time diplomats at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting had gathered in a last-ditch effort for peace.
Explosions have now been heard across Ukraine, and videos show military vehicles streaming into the country. Russia forces are apparently now attacking from three sides as the rest of the world reacts.
• French President Emmanuel Macron called the Russian aggression “the most serious
attack on peace, on stability in Europe for decades.”
• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Great Britain and allies would “hobble the Russian
economy” with massive economic sanctions.
• President Joe Biden condemned Putin and said “the world will hold Russia accountable.”
As of this morning, the State Department has suspended consular operations in Ukraine. Biden is set to address the nation later today.
In a public address last night, Putin justified the invasion with false claims about genocide against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and said he would “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.” He sees Ukraine’s pursuit of democracy and NATO membership as a threat to his own rule.
But what is most noteworthy is that China has not yet criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China Supports the Invasion
As of this morning, China refuses to condemn the attack on Ukraine and instead is asking both nations, Russia and Ukraine, to “exercise restraint.” Meanwhile, China has accused the United States of “fueling fire” and allowing the situation to get out of control.
Instead of sanctioning Russia for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, China announced it had begun importing Russian wheat. This helps Russia. It could somewhat ease the impact of western sanctions against Russia:
The two countries had announced an agreement earlier this month for China to import Russian wheat during Putin's visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi and attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Beijing is navigating a complex position as it attempts to balance deepening ties with Moscow with its practiced foreign policy of staunchly defending state sovereignty.
Those “deepening ties” worry me. The Russia-China alliance is very troubling. Both countries are expansionary—they are trying to grow their borders, Russia with Ukraine and China with Taiwan. Both are also anti-West and anti-democracy.
I believe China has a role to play in Bible prophecy, just as I know Russia is extremely important in the events of the end times.
Currently both nations are defying the world. Russia is taking action, and China seems to support them.
Russia in Bible Prophecy
From a Bible prophecy standpoint, Ukraine alone is not that important. But Russia definitely appears in Scripture:
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.”—Ezekiel 38:1-4
This passage about the coming Gog-Magog War identifies Russia—”the prince of Rosh”—as one of the leading nations in a northern coalition that rises up as an invading force against Israel.
Could Russia’s invasion of Ukraine be the match that lights up this coalition? We already know Syria and Iran are aligned with Russia against Israel.
Could China become part of this coalition? We will see.
What we do know is that Russia’s actions will have enormous consequences to the world’s economy and geopolitics. Russian stocks have already crashed. Americans will also pay a price, with higher gas prices and inflation. I am writing this before the opening bell, but the U.S. stock market will likely plummet today, and oil prices are already headed higher.
More than anything, Putin’s attack is a challenge to global stability and democracy. Some experts see it as having little to do with Ukraine and everything to do with challenging Washington and the West. That Russia may be aligned in this challenge with another authoritarian state, China, does not bode well for future peace.
Former senior CIA officer Paul Kolbe, an expert on Russia, said this recently:
“This is a conflict that is going to extend over months and years whether the invasion goes well for Putin or not. He is going to change the shape of Europe and is going to set enduring lines of conflict within Ukraine and on the borders of Ukraine with the West.”
If nothing else, it is clear that the world is far less stable now today than it was yesterday. Every time violence erupts on a large-scale basis, I wonder if it will lead to the deceptive peace treaty that will eventually be orchestrated by the man who becomes the Antichrist.
It is Time to Pray
You may feel helpless in a time of war, especially when that war is taking place on the other side of the world. You may also think the violence is inevitable, given that it feels like Bible prophecy is playing out before our eyes.
First, I want you to understand that God is in control. He knew this would happen. He is not surprised by Vladimir Putin. The West may occasionally be caught off guard at Russian aggression, but God knows the future and knew this was coming.
Second, you can pray for the people of Ukraine. Experts have warned that a war in Ukraine could kill as many as 50,000 Ukrainian citizens. I’ve already read reports of families crowding into subway stations to find protection from bombs. It could also introduce a refugee crisis, with more than a million people trying to flee Ukraine to safer places.
The economic sanctions against Russia will further destabilize its people and could have severe outcomes. I am certain Putin’s actions are not always supported by his own people, who end up being innocent victims of his paranoia and desire for control. The Russian people likely do not want this war. Pray for them, too.
Nevertheless, my goal for this site has always been not just to educate and inform you but also to comfort you. While others may be confused or frightened, you can be calm and comforted because you know what the Bible says, and you are able to contextualize the events happening in the world with what is predicted in Scripture.
If this is the start of the Gog-Magog War or if it will someday lead to the events of the Tribulation, take comfort in knowing that we will not be here when those things happen. We will be rescued from the judgments mentioned in Bible prophecy. Jesus will be returning to take us to be with Him forever.
The news may be grim today. Take a deep breath, trust in Jesus, pray for peace, and remember that God is in control.
Published on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 @ 11:34 AM CDT
On Sunday, July 25th, I finished preaching the series, Taking a Kingdom Risk. In this series we learned that Kingdom Risk Taking is a necessary component of true discipleship and is a Kingdom protocol (code of conduct) for following Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to risk, to obey and step out in faith for His glory and to the fullest potential for the kingdom of God realized. Every great risk in Jesus’ Name begins with confidence in the goodness and trustworthiness of God. That He who calls us to “step out in faith” means to trust the One who supplies us with whatever we need to fulfill plans and purposes in and through us.
Kingdom Risk Taking has 6 Characteristics that helps us recognize and understand what is required in in this endeavor. The first five characteristics I have preached about and they are described on the podcast at our website (wordofvictory.org). Here is a synopsis of the last and sixth characteristic:
- Kingdom Risk Taking Is Rooted in Identity.
- Kingdom Risk Taking Is Calculated.
- Kingdom Risk Taking Is Rooted in Faith, Not Fear.
- Kingdom Risk Taking Invites Uncertainty.
- Kingdom Risk Taking Requires Persistence.
- Kingdom Risk Taking Ensures Growth.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…
Godly risk taking is different than the risk tied to immediate gratification, which is plentiful in our culture.
- Immediate gratification is often self-serving and short sighted.
- Kingdom Risk Taking is God-driven with long range
The latter can take you some place different, some place better!
Obeying God and stepping out of our comfort zone to trust Him and to walk by faith not only has positive repercussions for us and others around us today, but also for generations to come in the future (see Gen. 26:24).
Because it requires discipline, tempering the uncertainty (characteristic #4) and persistence (characteristic #5)… however, Godly Risk Taking is less common among many Christians.
Published on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 @ 11:27 AM CDT
Day 8: Resurrection Sunday
On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account.
Early Sunday morning, several women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James) went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. An angel announced:
"Don't be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen." (Matthew 28:5-6, NLT)
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus Christ made at least five appearances. Mark's Gospel says the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene. Jesus also appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and later that day to all of the disciples except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.
The eyewitness accounts in the Gospels provide what Christians believe to be undeniable evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed happen. Two millennia after his death, followers of Christ still flock to Jerusalem to see the empty tomb.
My Insights about “Why the Resurrrection Matters.”
3 Reasons the Resurrection Matters
The resurrection of Jesus (alongside his crucifixion) is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity.
The resurrection of Jesus (alongside his crucifixion) is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. “If Christ has not been raised,” wrote St. Paul, “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
I am a Christian because I believe in the resurrection. I am convinced that after dying a violent death on a Roman cross on a Friday afternoon in 30 A.D., Jesus of Nazareth came back to life and emerged from the tomb on Sunday morning.
This is not easy to believe. But if it is true, it is the most pivotal event in human history. Much has been written in defense of Jesus’ resurrection, the most thorough and convincing book being N. T. Wright’s massive 800-page volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God.
What is unquestionable is that the first generation of Jesus’ followers did believe he had risen, and were convinced that everything had changed as a result.
Consider just three of the ways the New Testament highlights the significance of the resurrection.
- Jesus’ resurrection means that his sacrificial death on the cross was sufficient, and therefore our sins can be forgiven.
Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15, reminding us that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (vv. 3-4). Then, in verse 17, he argues that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
In other words, Paul saw a direct connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the sufficiency of his death to atone for our sins. When Jesus rose again on the third day, it was the public announcement that God was fully satisfied with the sacrificial death of his Son. In his resurrection, Jesus was vindicated (1 Timothy 3:16). But in his vindication, we are vindicated too. That’s why Paul says in Romans 4 that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
- Jesus’ resurrection means that death is defeated once and for all.
As Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, “God raised [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Death lost its grip on Jesus!
But the resurrection means that Jesus not only defeated death for himself, but that he defeated it for us. He died and rose as a new representative for humanity, as the Second Adam. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” writes Paul, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). His resurrection guarantees ours.
Perhaps no one has said this more eloquently than C. S. Lewis. In his 1947 book Miracles, Lewis wrote:
“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits,’ the ‘pioneer of life.’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has been opened.”
The empty tomb assures us that sickness and suffering, death and disease will not have the final word.
- Jesus’ resurrection means that the material world matters.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, when the apostles said that Jesus rose again, they meant that his physical body came back to life. The risen Jesus wasn’t a phantom or ghost, but a breakfast-eating, flesh-and-bone, human being (see Luke 24:36-43 and John 21:10-14)
When Jesus’ came out of the tomb in a physical body, it was God’s definitive stamp of approval on the creation project with all of its materiality. The resurrection shows us that matter matters. And this is why the early Christians looked to the future with confidence that the created order itself would be redeemed (see Romans 8:18-25).
Though we wait for the full consummation of new creation, the Scriptures also teach that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is already working within us (Ephesians 1:19-20). The resurrection, you see, not only assures of God’s forgiveness and comforts us in suffering as we anticipate the final reversal of death, disease, and decay; it also motivates and empowers us to push back the tide of suffering and evil in the present world, through word and deed, in mercy and in justice, all in Jesus’ name.
Sunday's events are recorded in Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-23.
Published on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 @ 8:25 AM CDT
Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb
Jesus' body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ's body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus:
"He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus' body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth." (John 19: 39-40, NLT)
Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community.
Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ's death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus' body and prepared it for burial.
While his physical body lay in the tomb, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation:
"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NLT)
My Insight on “What Jesus Did While in the Tomb:
What Is Sheol? In the Old Testament, Sheol is the place of the souls of the dead, both the righteous (like Jacob, Genesis 37:35, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:13–14) and the wicked (Psalm 31:17).
In the New Testament, the Hebrew word Sheol is translated as Hades, and the description of Sheol in the Old and New Testaments bears some resemblance to the Hades of Greek mythology. It is under the earth (Numbers 16:30–33), and it is like a city with gates (Isaiah 38:10) and bars (Job 17:16). It is a land of darkness — a place where shades, the shadowy souls of men, dwell (Isaiah 14:9; 26:14). It is the land of forgetfulness (Psalm 88:12), where no work is done and no wisdom exists (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Most significantly, Sheol is a place where no one praises God (Psalm 6:5; 88:10–11; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18).
In the New Testament, the most extended depiction of the afterlife is found in Luke 16:19–31. There we learn that, like the Hades of Greek mythology, the biblical Sheol has two compartments: Hades proper (where the rich man is sent, Luke 16:23) and “Abraham’s bosom” (where the angels carry Lazarus, Luke 16:22). Hades proper is a place of torment, where fire causes anguish to the souls imprisoned there. Abraham’s bosom, on the other hand, while within shouting distance of Hades, is separated from it by “a great chasm” (Luke 16:26) and is, like the Greek Elysium, a place of comfort and rest.
While much mystery remains, the picture begins to take shape. All dead souls go down to Sheol/Hades, but Sheol is divided into two distinct sides, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. The righteous who died prior to Christ dwelt in Sheol with Abraham, and though they were cut off from the land of the living (and therefore from the worship of Yahweh on earth), they were not tormented as the wicked were.
Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?
What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on Holy Saturday?
Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after his death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.”
Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:15; 86:13; 89:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–40; 12:23).
After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).
Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).
Good News for Us
What implications does this have for Holy Week? Christ’s journey to Hades demonstrates that he was indeed made like us in every way. Not only did he bear the wrath of God on our behalf; he endured death, the separation of his soul from his body. His body was in Joseph’s tomb (Luke 23:50–53), and his soul was three days in Sheol, “in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
“But as Psalm 16 makes clear, Jesus is not only like us, but different. Jesus’s body was buried, like ours, but it did not decay. Jesus’s soul went to Hades, like the Old Testament saints’, but wasn’t abandoned there. God raised him from the dead, reunited his soul with a now-glorified body, so that he is the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest.
And this is good news for us, because those in Christ now bypass the land of forgetfulness, where no one praises God. Instead, when we die, we join with the angelic choir and the saints of old to sing praises to the Lamb who was slain for us and our salvation.
The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!!
Saturday's events are recorded in Matthew 27:62-66, Mark 16:1, Luke 23:56, and John 19:40.
Published on Saturday, April 3, 2021 @ 8:43 AM CDT