Sermon Dec. 21, 2022

Ranger Drive

The next chapter of Brace Barber’s “No Excuse Leadership” follows Ranger Mark Chandler. The picture I am getting from these chapters is that these guys are being taken to the ultimate breaking points for a reason. They must be able to keep it together in the toughest of times for the good of all those under their command carrying out the mission.

When on a mission any ranger can be called upon to take command and continue to lead the group to complete the mission. Mark Chandler eventually will become a doctor and while doing his training as an intern he will hear talk of the extreme pressure the interns are under, sometimes going 24 hours without sleep. He laughs on the inside as he compares his ranger training to the difficulties of fulfilling the internship; yet he sees how making it through his ranger training prepared him to make it through the internship. Yes, even though you might be tired and overwhelmed you must keep a clear head because the life of this patient is in your hands.

The attitude of completing the mission no matter how difficult it seems is a must.

What does he remember about ranger training? Being constantly hungry and tired for 60 days. A quote: “Since we were already weak, it took emotional strength to carry us through. Mental toughness ultimately became more important than physical strength, and the amount that was needed in order to get through the next 55 days was staggering.” This was after the first week of physical training that was designed to take you to your physical limit.

Talking with his fellow interns years after going through the ranger training he recapped the amount of sleep he got over those 61 days. While in the field only 2 or 3 hours at most. More that four hours when traveling from one location to another for a different training course.

Much of the movement was at night, and at anytime you could be called on to be leader, so you had to always be ready.

I had read the chapter and was formulating how I would preach it when we went to Chrisian’s basketball game.

There it was a back and forth game that would go into overtime after some emotional swings that was taking everything out of both teams. In the end what is needed is a mental toughness that can see the thing through.

Text: Eph 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

I. Jesus Tempted

Mathew, Mark and Luke all talk about Satan tempting and challenging Jesus in the wilderness after going 40 days without eating.

Physically He is almost dead, yet he has to mentally and emotionally duel with the “father of lies”. Joan was talking about the difference between truth and honesty. The devil was using the truth of scripture to dishonestly divert Jesus from His mission.

We see this in all of the gospels. He must go to Jerusalem and complete the mission. He did!

II. Our Text

Our text talks of battle, wrestling, one on one combat with demonic forces, enduring the wiles or psychological attacks of the devil. There will be moments where, like our ranger, like Jesus in the wilderness, that we will be taken to our limits. The admonition stand!

1 Peter 3:13-17 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”  15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit

I am thinking about Chrisian’s family’s reaction to his association with our church. I remember my early days of personally knocking on every Sparta door to hear disparaging reports, the hush in Coulterville school when I said I pastored the Potter’s House church.

Nothing comes easy, the devil and his forces fight us every step of the way. The joy of having people come up to me and talk about the night and day difference in Tevin once he got saved. Is it worth it? Is that the mission?

In the midst of being slandered by people I must make myself “always ready” to give a defense of the gospel.

This is our calling, this is the church’s calling, this is the will of God; “that none should perish, but all come to repentance and be saved.”

III. What Matters

Our ranger described the difficulty in taking a group of starving, sleep deprived men into the night to accomplish a mission. The leader would have to be able to communicate the mission to them and allow them the space to accomplish their part in the mission.

Jesus has communicated the mission.

Each gospel and Acts have the mission stated. Here is Luke’s: Luke 24:46-49 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  48 And you are witnesses of these things.  49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

The verses fitted to our fellowship: 2 Tim 2:1-4 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.


Our ranger explained mission this way to his men: “Well, remember what the mission is and remember what my intent is, and use your judgment.”

Paul is encouraging Timothy to complete the mission as he prepares to join Jesus in heaven.

2 Tim 4:5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Let’s accomplish our part in the mission!

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To Mask or Not to Mask

I am doing a Sunday School on Mt. 24 prompted by watching the whole world choose to wear the mask in order to buy or sell. The kicker is that we have embraced the mask to the extent that we are willing to have people arrested and even turn in our neighbors. The appeal to science or common sense seems futile. Yet, I enjoy the common sense that still exists. Here is one such article: The Masking of America – Claremont Review of Books


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Chapter 29 Why Answered

“Do you know me?”

“Jack Strong, Gunny Jack Strong. Twenty year marine. Lost your family in a tragic auto accident. According to the Seattle Police you are a mental case that kidnapped a young Seattle woman. What else? Something inside you has a loyalty that goes beyond the average person’s comprehension. You chose to get involved in tracking down Keith because of your loyalty to a childhood friend. That loyalty involved you with a woman, Savanah, that brought you into contact with our gangster friends. You almost get caught breaking and entering with your friend Shaman. Savanah must have shared my card info with you. You called me. You are wanting to see the thing through to the end chasing all available leads. Willing to jump into this vehicle. You are not an ordinary man.”

“There’s more. I asked for your service records. My clerks did the cross searches with the files and we got the inside story of your record. I was impressed. Here is what they found. Do you know why they denied you your opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School?”

“My online courses didn’t pass muster.”

“Yes, that is what your official records report. We were able to see the behind the scenes battle that was going on between your commanding officer who recommended you and the Obama powers to be in the armed forces. Your commander put up a brave fight for you; but in the end he was forced to stand down. Simply put, they didn’t like your Christian faith.”

So there it was. I always suspected something like that. My Lieutenant, my Captain and by Battalion commander all were positive I would get in the school. What happened, I was never really sure. I would stay in the Marines. The Lieutenant wasn’t the same after that and he seemed out of sync with too many forces trying to change the Corps. He moved on. My Battalion commander retired a bit after that. My Captain, mortgaged with three kids, just kept his head down after that. What we all had in common was our faith.

There was a moment of silence. “That Christian faith is what I share with you.”

Chapter 30 Xi’s Faith

That took my breath away.

“I graduated from Harvard, came home, married the woman our families had prepared for me and started my career with our foreign service. My wife got pregnant. We were allowed the one child and both sides of our families wanted us to make sure it was a boy. I assumed this would just happen. Once I took the time to talk with my wife, I found out she wasn’t so sure. She didn’t want to know the sex of the baby and take whatever we got. She had graduated from Berkeley, so I was kind of surprised at her thinking.”

“It turns out she had gotten involved with a Christian student group while at Berkeley and she had developed scruples about abortion. She had never told anyone, including me, about her involvement with the group. She distanced herself from the group as she got closer to graduating; but she couldn’t shake what she now believed.”

“The pressure from our families was intensifying. I floated the idea of accepting the baby no matter what the sex. They would not have it. My wife was looking for me to stand in the gap. I didn’t. Rumors were starting to circulate at my work about my wife and her refusal to get an abortion if needed. It seemed this was making me look bad. My future was now on the line. She relented to the pressure and we found out it was a girl. I would come home from work and she would be crying. One night I came home and she let me know the deed was done. No more crying but more than the baby died.”

“She died bringing our son into the world.”

“I was distraught. I blamed everyone and everything except myself. Yet, I could not escape from the guilt. I was watching an American family try and negotiate the trains in Shanghai. They weren’t doing well. I offered to help. I got them on the right train. They thanked me. We exchanged pleasantries and I was asked if I knew a translator. They had just arrived and were going to start a house church. I couldn’t believe my ears. I declined, but the man insisted that we share phone numbers. He asked if he could call me if he needed some advice on how to navigate life in China. I let him know I was a busy man, traveling a lot, but yes I would help if I could.”

“Over the next four months he called be at least a dozen times. It was always about dealing with the simple tasks of living. Simple for us, difficult for them. I am not sure how he did it; but I found myself looking forward to his calls. He always had a good word for me and I think he was salting me with the gospel; although I didn’t realize it. He had started church and he invited me over to a Thanksgiving feast they were putting on for their congregation. My Thanksgivings at Harvard were a mixed bag. I stayed in the dorm most of the time but once a professor invited me over to his house. I was enchanted by the scene. Family, food and football. What struck me was the prayer before we ate. I realized they were thankful to God for what they had going on. I decided to go to my missionary friend’s Thanksgiving celebration.”

“I prayed and became a Christian. I attended a service once in a while; but work kept me very busy, and I was traveling more and more. I was becoming a dependable man for our department, and I was given some unique assignments. This is one of those unique assignments. I was very discreet about my new faith. I was interviewed one time about my association with the missionary. I let them know how we met and how I just became their helper in living here. They seemed to be satisfied with my answer.”

His phone rang!

Chapter 31 Showdown

We had traveled through Chilliwack and had exited off of Highway 1. While he was talking, I took out my phone and called up the maps. It looked like we were about 10 or 15 minutes away from Harrison Hot Springs. We were traveling through farm country. It was a little after five and very little traffic. Covid must have brought the tourist industry to a halt. He ended the call.

“Listen up Sergeant Strong. They have taken your two friends from the resort and intend to deliver them to Seattle, placing them at the printer’s, which is going to be torched during the riot tonight. There is a curve in the road just ahead with forest on both sides of the road. I plan on pulling off the road and when I see them coming block the road with this vehicle. They shot one of our men at the resort. You can be a part of this or not; but you need to decide right now.”

“I’m in.”

We came into the wooded area and pulled over and backed into a small opening. This was happening. He calmly gave me instructions. There would be two of them. Should they choose to stop and negotiate with him; he will do his best to talk them down. They most likely will try and avoid the car and get by. He will head them towards the ditch on the other side of the road. I was to move about 10 yards up the road and stay concealed. If they come out and talk; they will be talking with weapons in their hands. Their training in a standoff will have them spreading out as they approach him. They will think he is alone. Should they slowly start lowering their weapons, get ready, they have a pre-arranged number to lift and fire. I will be about 20 yards away from the one closest to me. If they fire, I am to fire. I stationed myself behind some bushes. I am ready.

“We are waiting for a black sedan.”

Here it comes. Not fast, not slow. Xi pulls out in front of them and they swerve to avoid him and land in the ditch as Xi continues his turn to park in front of them seeming like a vehicle that had stopped to help. Xi is out standing in front of their vehicle. They are scrambling out. The driver is standing facing Xi while the other guy moves toward Xi’s car. Weapons are drawn. Xi shouts and the man on the passenger side halts. Xi backs up. They talk in Chinese. Xi is doing most of the talking. There is a pause, all three begin to lower their weapons. Sure enough, they spring back up and start firing. I am firing as I move closer and closer. My guy is down. The guy on the passenger side is down. Xi is down.

Chapter 32 Chilliwack

I am driving Xi’s car back the way we came. My phone rings. It is Pastor. He bought a ticket just after talking to me when I called him from Jane’s this morning. He finished church and raced to the airport and just landed in Seattle. He was renting a car and now he listened as I tried to tell him the situation. I had been involved in a shoot-out. I was driving a Chinese diplomat’s car with Keith and Savanah drugged unconscious in the back seat. I was heading towards Highway 1 by Chilliwack.

“I might have something for you. I have a pastor friend, the pastor on the mountain, he lives east of Chilliwack in the mountains. See if you can avoid Highway 1 and make your way to the foothills east of Chilliwack. I will call Pastor Dave and see if we can arrange a rendezvous of sorts.”

I crossed the Fraser River on Highway 9 heading towards Highway 1. It looked like the mountains were right in front of me. I turned off of Highway 9 before Highway 1. I turned onto Yale Road and kept going. I was going through Rosedale when I spotted an abandoned warehouse. I pulled in behind it as the phone rang.

“Hi, I’m Nate. Where are you?”

I told him, he seemed to know exactly where I was talking about. He mentioned the shoot-out to me, could I tell him where that took place. I told him. He showed up in a work truck in about 15 minutes. We moved Keith and Savanah into the back seat, they were still unconscious. I guess they would be knocked out for a while.  

“I was doing an emergency repair job when my dad called me with your number. I am taking you to his place. Its off the beaten path, way off the beaten path.” We went from narrow road to narrower road to dirt road as we wound our way up higher and higher to a small plateau in the mountains.

“Everyone is at church; they will be home about 9:00. I am to make you comfortable.”

We placed Keith in a bed in the boy’s room and we placed Savanah in a bed in the girl’s room.

I asked where the bathroom was and I was directed to an outhouse for the boys, only the girls use the indoor bathroom. Nate gave me a coke and I sat down and finally just breathed a sigh of relief. I was out.

Chapter 33 Peace on the Mountain

I woke up. I had three kids staring at me. They had to be in the ten, eleven range.

“Good morning. Want breakfast?”

I said yes and off they went shouting “He wants breakfast.”

I heard some talking outside of the house. I borrowed a light jacket that was draped on the chair next to me and headed towards the voices. There was Pastor and Pastor Dave having a cup of coffee taking in the view. Pastor Dave poured me a cup of coffee and we just sat for a few minutes.

“Now what?” I said.

Pastor Dave responded, “Not yet just enjoy the mountain for now. We will see how God shakes things out for you.”

We all sat quietly until the Queen of the mountain came and invited us to breakfast. It was a rustic house that had been added onto many times. We entered a dining room that must have been transported directly from London. Beautiful table cloth, classy dishes and a tea set out of a magazine. They had added an extra table to fit the family of eight and the four guests. We sat down and Pastor was asked to pray. I thought of Xi.

Then the information started pouring out. Nate had brought us here but he had called Garret who was at church and told him where we had been picked up. Garret drove by and didn’t stop because there were about five black SUV’s behind the warehouse. No police vehicles that he could spot. A friend of Nate’s had driven out to Harrison Hot Springs. He came to the wooded bend in the road, he could tell some action had taken place but no vehicle and no bodies. Pastor had called Joan. She was supposed to be able to see Shaman today. She just started sobbing over the phone when she found out Keith was OK. She gave him Detective “Larsen’s number. Pastor Larsen couldn’t believe what Pastor told him about my adventures. He had heard nothing about a shoot-out anywhere. Seattle was on fire. He suggested just waiting to see how to handle the next step. Both Keith and Savanah had woken up in the night. They were comforted, told of my rescue and assured that they were safe. They went back to sleep.

The day was spent eating and drinking coffee and walking in the woods. There was a steady flow of church people wanting to come in and see the refugees. The royal woman ran a tight ship, the kids all did their part from oldest to youngest. Coffee, tea, snacks and meals were always available. Each visitor was treated like royalty. Savanah was recruited as number one steward. She fell right into the roll enjoying everything that was happening.

Keith was sharing his story over and over again. He knew it was a miracle of God that he was alive. He talked to his mom on the phone and when she visited Shaman they talked.

That forced Detective Larsen’s hand. He would drive up, officially, the next day and we would all return to Seattle and sort this out.

I was walking with the two pastors and Keith. Keith asked me about the shoot-out. I described my conversations with Xi. I described his instructions and how they matched the shoot-out. I then shared Xi’s last moments. He was mortally wounded, and he knew it. He asked me to take his wallet. He said there was enough information in his wallet for me to find his son. He wants me to find him and tell him how he died.

I showed them the picture of his son, looks like he was ten or eleven.

I wanted to talk with Savanah, but she seemed to be constantly caught up in the whirl of life’s activities. She and Sherry seemed to be getting close to each other and enjoying each other’s company. The kid’s let me know that she thinks that I am her hero.


“In the multitude of counsel” we decided that the truth was so far out there it could not be believed. Yet, it was the truth. When we got to Seattle I was detained. Shaman had been release with no charges being pressed. I was grilled over and over again by a group of detectives that couldn’t believe a word I was saying. There was no evidence of any Chinese shoot-out. Keith and Savanah’s stories backed up mine.

The real problem was becoming evident. We had stumbled onto something that we were not supposed to. Each of our statements gave validity to the illegal activities that were taking place in that print shop. The print shop was totally destroyed, no trace of any workers and what do you do with our stories that they couldn’t break because we kept telling the truth.

An FBI lawyer met with all three of us. He let us know that they could find ways to arrest all three of us for our activities. They wouldn’t though. We needed to sign documents saying we would not talk about the things we had discovered because those activities were now under investigation by the FBI. We signed.

We celebrated with dinner at Shaman’s. Of course, it was followed up with Monopoly and dessert. The kids had all gone to bed. The adults plus Keith were sitting in the front room. Savanah would be heading home in a bit. We all savored the moment.

Shaman being Shaman asked me if I wanted to do a One Minute Bible Study with Savanah. I think I turned red. He then looked at Savanah and suggested that she choose “Ten Rules of Dating”.

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Chapter 28

Chapter 28 Chinese Man

Doug and I were parked off of 80th and Highway 5. There was nothing to say. Then I got the text. “Be there in five minutes”. Doug got on 5 and then took the 85th off ramp. I thanked him and got out. He said he would wait and see the license plate number of the vehicle.

A minute later a black SUV pulled up to me. A black license plate with red and some Chinese lettering, a diplomatic plate. I got in. “Friend of yours?” “Yes”. “You will be OK.” Just a hint of accent. I am looking at a Chinese man my age. He is well dressed and looking very together. Not a man to mess around with. I started counting. I got to a thousand and still not a word. This is a disciplined man. I stopped counting.

I wasn’t sure what to do or even what to say. He knows who I am and knows what’s going on with Keith, the printers and Savanah. I wanted to pepper him with questions but I held myself in check. What did Savanah say about him? “Honesty”. Yes, there was something upright about him, this was not a crooked man in any way. When he wanted to talk I knew it would be honest. My biggest question: “Why are you teaming up with me?”

We were traveling East from Bellingham towards the Sumas border crossing. Still not a word. He glided through the border crossing without a stop being waved through. His phone rang and he bluetoothed a conversation in Chinese. I am looking for inflections and watching his body language. Yes, he is tensing up. He is giving commands but I am hearing excuses at the other end. He ends the conversation.

“I am breaking protocol by allowing you in this vehicle. You do exactly what I say. Is that understood?” “Yes Sir!” “We are heading to a resort, Harrison Hot Springs. It has been bought by a Chinese company and it is closed down because of COVID right now. Your friends Keith and Savanah are being held there. I came up from San Francisco last week and thought we had ironed everything out. Keith was the wild card I wasn’t prepared for.”

“Now there are too many voices involved. My instructions include a warning to not allow any American citizens to be harmed. The American gangsters don’t see it that way. There are also elements of Chinese intelligence that would love to see American casualties, anything to drive our nations further apart. Right now the men holding Keith and Savanah are following instructions from someone else. My contacts at the resort are doing their best to postpone action until I arrive. It will be tight”.

I tried processing what was happening. “It will be tight”, “postpone action” and “American casualties” were ringing in my ears. Is this going to be a war zone? I am armed, will it come to that? It is beginning to become clear to me. The Chinese are financing this ballot operation but using American gangsters and American Chinese programmers. It is a domestic operation in appearance. They will be covered, but a death associated with the deception might bring too much light on Chinese involvement. Xi is looking at a bigger picture that requires Keith and Savanah to not be harmed. The gangsters thought nothing of wasting Savanah’s life and would probably do the same to Keith, except now another group of Chinese operatives are involved. Their agenda seems different form Xi’s. Keith and Savanah are expendable and if there is blow back, so what, it furthers their desire for the future war between China and the U.S.

Yeah, I’m feeling it. Its going to be tight alright. There is still something unspoken between us. Why am I here? What motivated Xi to pick me up? Something else, why did he give Savanah that card? There is something more than orders going on here.

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Chapter 25

Chapter 26 The Escape

The family silently stared at me sensing my desperation.

Jane spoke: “Hey, its Sunday morning we need to get ready for church. And Jack, you are going with us. Why don’t you call pastor while we get ready. Doug will be by about 9:30 in his van. He picks us up every Sunday morning. You will go out wearing David’s hoodie, taking his place in the van.”

I moved over to David’s room while they got ready. I called Pastor. He would just be getting ready to start Sunday School in the Midwest. He picked up. I gave him a brief rundown. He was excited for me. What a miracle that I would end up at Jane’s. He was sure God was going to help me. I couldn’t help feeling hopeful. He asked me to say hello to the gang and then we prayed. God was going to undertake for us. I wasn’t sure how but I thanked him and let him get back to church.

I stared at the posters on David’s walls. I was already losing the boost he had given me. Then it struck me. I was looking at a picture of the Great Wall of China. I found the photo of the Chinese guy’s card. Talk about a Hail Mary pass! Xi Jack. What a combo of names. I looked online on how to pronounce Xi, Shi. I called him. He picked up with a single “yes?” I spoke his name. “Yes.” I let him know who I was and how I got his number and as compactly as possible let him know my situation. He quietly listened.

He let me know that he was driving up from San Francisco. He would be driving through Seattle around 2:00 on his way to Canada. He would pick me up. I asked David where a good place along Highway 5 would be to be picked up. He said you were going to a special service today at Lorraine’s church. Tell him 85th Street and 5. I told him. He said OK, be on the offramp going north so he wouldn’t lose any time. He would text as he got close.

“Van’s here!” We marched out to the van. It was a work van, “Ballard Hardwoods”. A guy got out and slid open the door while Jane got it the front seat. He had a homemade bench seat set up for Unique and I. We got in and drove past the gang house at the corner without incident. Just a normal Sunday for Jane’s family.

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Sunday Sermon:

Why Repent

“I wish masks worked. Most Americans now wear them. Telling people they have been conned doesn’t make them happy.” From “Unreported Truths About COVID-19 and Lockdowns Part 3: Masks” by Alex Berenson

Text: Rev 9:20-21 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

I. The Context

In the Book of Revelation chapter one shows us the “Alpha and Omega”. Chapters two and three describe the seven churches. Chapters four and five find the church in heaven, I interpose the rapture. Then:

Rev 6:1-2 Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

While the seven seals are being opened we get two pieces of good news, kind of.

Rev 6:9-11 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. … and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.


Rev 7:14-17 So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

What are we seeing? The church age has ended. The church has been raptured. The antichrist has been released with the first seal. We have war and all of its wicked attributes across the earth. There is a spiritual war going on simultaneously. People are getting saved. The fifth seal describes their salvation costing them their lives. The second mention of the tribulation souls comes just before the seventh seal and the seven trumpets. It describes: Rev 7:9-10 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

The fact that they are with Jesus and not on earth tells us that their faith is tied to their deaths.

Who is killing them and why?

II. Our Text has the answer.

Rev 9:20-21 But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

These are the people doing the murdering of those who profess Jesus during the tribulation.

Their number one characteristic is they “did not repent”.

They have a god. They worship their god. Somehow the worship of their god calls for the elimination of those that worship Jesus.

They are joined with their gods who are demons.

How did their lives get linked to the demonic?

“And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

What murders were they involved in before they started murdering the believers?

The answer is abortion. Abortion has become an international right that is defended with a zeal that goes beyond reason. Think about the woman who wants to film her abortion and post it on Youtube for the world to see.

The leading cause of death in 2020 was abortion with 42.7 million deaths or murders. Compare that to the 1.9 million Covid deaths worldwide.

How did they get linked to the demonic?

By their sorceries. Here is the Greek word:

pharmakeia (far-mak-i’-ah); from NT:5332; medication (“pharmacy”), i.e. (by extension) magic (literally or figuratively): translated: KJV – sorcery, witchcraft.

I smoked weed and moved up and down the drugs available to me. I did LSD for the first time and wrote a letter to a friend describing the experience which included a definitive new strong belief that there is no God. While my letter travelled to him, he had sent a letter to me with his first time experience with LSD and the same conclusion that there was no God.

Years later, I had a friend who was going to do LSD for the first time. He was an Anthropology Graduate student. He was going to write notes. As the drug was beginning to make its way into his body, spirit and soul; he wrote “There is no God”.

We live in “A Brave New World” and the powers that are want us to have our “soma”. Here is an explanation of Huxley’s use of “soma” in his novel published in 1931:

Soma is a drug that is handed out for free to all the citizens of the World State. In small doses, soma makes people feel good. In large doses, it creates pleasant hallucinations and a sense of timelessness. The citizens of the World State are encouraged to take soma by “hypnopaedic” sayings like “A gram is better than a damn.” When they experience strong negative emotions, citizens take a soma “holiday” to distract them from the unpleasant feelings. John sees soma as a tool of social control. He says that taking soma makes the citizens of the World State “slaves.”

Now that marijuana has become the new wonder drug that can heal every known sickness in the world. You might want to question why the powers that be are so interested in getting us all on drugs?

Rom 6:16-17 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

This is the defining verse of the generation that will refuse to repent and will eventually work with the government or just allow the government during the times of the tribulation to murder Christians.

This is all before they receive the “mark” (mask).

God is giving them room for repentance. Once they take the mark their fate is sealed.

These people are very committed to their sin and the government and laws support their sin.

The next identifying feature is “sexual immorality”.

Who would have guessed that in the year 2021 one of the main political concerns of our nation was whether or not men who had transgendered into women could play against women in sports as a woman.

As a young pastor in Seattle I remember preaching about the world wide web. I used spiders as my example. The point was from the very beginning 4 of the top 5 web pages were porno.

We have become a society where “the thrill is gone”. Normal sex between a married man and woman is something experience by a smaller and smaller segment of our society.

Enough said, our society embraces the demons that accompany all forms of sexual sin.

The last attribute of the people that are going to joyfully murder the Christians during the tribulation is that they will not repent of their “thefts”.

The ten commandments make a clear statement: “thou shall not covet”.

You can desire things, a wife, a house and a life. You just cannot desire something that someone else has. Coveting what belongs to someone else is a sin.

Much of modern politics revolves around manipulating us to think that it is unfair that “they” have more than us. The toxic mix of Marxism and Socialism is the rule of the day. The big boys on top aligned with the government boys always do well and the regular people have no interactions with them. It is the neighbor down the street who opens a business and does well, he is the one targeted in the future world economic system.

We just watched this happen with the shut downs. Somehow it was safe to go to Walmart, but not church or the small independent business down the street. Some states had wars over whether a landscaper could do his job or not.

The natural evolution of wealth in every totalitarian system in the history of the world is the players on top and the rest of us equalized in our poverty and “soma” (bread and circuses) or (food stamps and youtube).

Covetousness hates people who work hard and succeed. We as a nation are doing everything in our power to destroy those kind of people.

A person could go on and on about all of these things. If you can’t see these attributes of humanity forming all around you; you must be spiritually blind.

What would happen if you opened your eyes? If you do it during the tribulation it will cost you your life.

III. Place yourself

2 Thess 2:7-12 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

It would be another sermon that would explain how the spirit of lawlessness becomes the law of the land (we are already there in so many ways).

We rather repent or this…

We are the deceived who perish: “with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

We believe and live lies: “that they should believe the lie”

We love our sin more than truth: “who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


Gal 6:7-10 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

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Chapter 27

 Chapter 27 He’s Got the Whole World…

“This is Doug Begg!” Jane introduced us.

Doug started talking right away as if he had known me forever. We were all going over to Lorrain’s church, the Philadelphia Church. She used to go to church with Jane, Doug and his wife Karen with my pastor. Karen and her grandkids would meet us there. He was describing the big event as we slid by the gang house. They scarcely gave us a second look. Doug didn’t seem worried.

He laughed, “Angels must have made us invisible.”

I interrupted and asked about making it to 85th at 2:00. He would make sure I was there. Jane talked for me as she informed Doug of all that was going on with me.

Doug’s response: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.”

He said church was the right place to be for a man in my circumstances. This was going to be the perfect sermon for me. Apparently, on Christmas Day Lorrain’s pastor had a heart attack that led to 13 operations. He would be preaching today for the first time since then. At one point he had an e coli infection that wouldn’t clear up and he had to remain sedated with his chest open in the hope that the infection would peter out. Hopeless, but everyone prayed.

“Jesus Saves” was lit up on the church. This is a Scandinavian church that was touched by the Pentecostal fires in the early 1900’s. There was electricity in the air as we entered and sat with Karen and the grandkids. I met Lorraine. She already knew what was going on from Jane and let me know that Jesus was going to help me.

“We just believe, that is all we can do”.

I listened to the sermon. The pastor and his wife shared their story. Even though the place was overpacked with visitors; the sermon was a love letter of thanks to the congregation that prayed them through. Into the storm, through the valley and up from the ashes…I am gently being ministered to.

Doug treated us all to Dick’s Drive In after service. I sat and politely listened to the talk, they were so comfortable together as a group. The tension that had disappeared during church was building back up. What if Xi didn’t show? What then? I found myself totally dependent on Jesus. Maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be. Doug was just killing time for me, he was looking out for me.

We said our good-byes and the group prayed for me with Doug taking the lead. I was feeling better. Lorraine, at 91 years old, would give Jane and Unique a ride home. Some people have the genes. Doug would get me to the off ramp at 2:00.

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The Untouchable

Chapter 25 The Untouchable

“Now what?” Jane asks.

“I guess I should make some calls”.

I called Shaman, no answer. I called Detective Larson.

“We are all in hot water and its getting hotter. They haven’t charged Shaman yet; but they are grilling him and no one is being allowed to talk with him, even his wife.”

“How is Joan doing?”

“She is beside herself.”

“You have a target on your back. You are the main suspect in a kidnapping of Savanah. One of the untouchables held a briefing this morning. He had photos of you at the printing office and stalking her at the troll.”

“How did those photos get from the bad guys to the police?”

“I think there are some bad guys in the department. I stashed your truck before they found it. Your wiring is messed up; but et least the truck is drivable. They know you were involved in the church break in; but it is not being mentioned in any of the reports. You are being described as a psycho ex-marine who went nuts after your wife died.”

“What is an untouchable?”

“I’m sorry, that is our slang for any of the officers who have special sexual identities. They are a bitch to work with; and if you say the wrong thing there goes your retirement. Your untouchable thinks he has finally arrived with this assignment. He is pulling out all of the stops to get you. You can tell there is pressure from the higher ups.”

“What can I do?”

“I am not sure. It gets worse. Keith’s friends at the high school are identifying all of the chatter about a big protest/riot tonight centered around downtown where the printer is located. These guys might be trying to cover their tracks with the rioting. You know what that could mean!”

“You think they might try to stash the bodies and make them appear as collateral damage during the riots?”

“I wouldn’t put it past them.”

“What are you doing?”

“Sorry, my hands are tied, believe it or not I am the lead detective in tracking you down. I think they are setting a trap for me as well. They know I go to church with Shaman and my paranoia is getting the best of me. I will do what I can; but I really don’t have any leads to follow on Keith or Savanah. Do you have anything?”

“I am just getting going, I am being hid by a family just across the street from the church. The gang at the corner is connected to the church and they are scouring the streets looking for me. Let me call Joan and I will keep in touch. Can we keep contact using your phone?”

“It’s my personal phone, so for now we are OK. We will keep in touch.”

I called Joan and did my best to comfort her; but this was bigger than any comfort I could bring to her. We prayed together and told her I believed God. It was just a show, my confident faith was no where to be found. I was empty again.

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Chapter 22, 23, 24

Chapter 22 Ready, Set…

Shaman let me know that Detective Larsen had recognized one kid out of a bunch of young guys going in and coming out of the old church. He followed him to a bus station. They have a history of sorts and this kid is trying to get his act together. He said they watched some social action videos as part of a participation project. When the detective pressed him about who was in there; he admitted there were at least two guys still in there. One was in a room, he knew because he was shouting as we walked down the hallway pass the room. The other guy he saw from a distance as he was leaving. The young man described someone who looked like Keith. It was 10:00 and I was to hustle over there because we were breaking in tonight.

I parked about a couple of blocks away from Shaman and called him. He said the security guard comes out about every hour or so for a smoke. His last break was at 10:20 and it was 10:30 when I got there. I quickly told him about Savanah. He couldn’t believe it. I locked the truck and walked over to where he was watching. We then looped around the back of the church. We slowly made our way along the alley. We kept our baseball caps low over our heads and walked with our hands in our pockets. The cameras were probably not being monitored but were being stored. We couldn’t be sure where exactly one stopped and the other started but we felt like we were in a blind spot. We waited. We were about 20 yards from the back entrance. Shaman seemed desperate and I was glad I was here for him. We were about ready to break the law.

I quietly asked Shaman, “Do you remember when you found me in San Francisco that night?”

“Yeah, what a night, I will never forget it.”

“You have told me bits and pieces and I have heard you include it generally when you have given your salvation testimony. I don’t believe you have ever given me the complete picture. Tonight as I was searching for Savanah, I told myself that if you could find me that night I could find Savanah, and I almost did.”

“You remember saying ‘there is no God’ right? You went zooming into outer space from there. When you started running, I couldn’t keep up with you so I settled down where we had been sitting until the concert ended. You never showed up. They were done packing up the equipment. I had been doing circles around the concert area hoping to spot you. You know how you pray in those situations. Well I did and the next thing I know I run into a guy who is witnessing to some of the roadies. Turns out the guy had been a bass player in one of the groups. He had gotten saved and comes around to the concerts to talk with his old compatriots. He was a good guy and people respected him. I stood and listened to him, when he turned to me and said you look like you need God’s help. I laughed and everyone else laughed. I told him my story and he said you came to the right place because he knew where all the party houses were. We went to one house, everyone was shocked to see my new friend but they all remembered the ‘running man’ and you weren’t there. It was his confidence and grace that impressed me. He was his own man yet he managed to stay on good terms with everyone at the party house as far as I could tell. The next house is where we found you.”

“When you testified you added some bits.”

“When we started the search, we prayed. He asked me if I was right with God, you know how I would have answered. He didn’t press me, but I knew he knew I was about half right with God. You know what I mean, church kid’s dilemma. We found you. When he delivered us back to Golden Gate we prayed a prayer of thanking God for a miracle, because that is exactly what it was and I knew it. As he left his parting words to me were ‘God is going to show you something today, never forget He has your number’”.

“Then John called you.”

“Not exactly, I called my parents to check in, which I had been doing every day as you know. They were freaking out but were doing their best not to show it. My mom let me know that John had called that morning looking to talk with me, saying it was important. So important, that he gave her a number for me to call him back. When I realized you would be sleeping it off for a while I went to a pay phone and called him. Turns out he had done acid last night too. He seemed spaced still, but he let me know loud and clear that ‘there was no God’. It knocked me over. I told him about your experience and how you had said the same thing. We were silent. Then I told him about the guy helping me find you. I told him what he said to me and I told John in no uncertain terms that I am sure there is a God and I know LSD and every other drug has the ability to move a person to the dark side. Silence. He finally mumbled that I might be right and hung up.”

“You came back from that trip as a man of God. You were still Shaman but you were different and everyone knew you were different. You were Shaman the man of God. Thanks for staying my friend even though our paths diverged.”

“I knew that just like God had my number, He had yours.”

We heard the door opening and the security coming out for his smoke.

Chapter 23 …Go!

We casually walked towards the security guard as if though we were walking through the property to get to Broadway. He wasn’t concerned until Shaman said they have his son inside.

I said “Don’t move.” He froze.

“Quickly, how many people inside?”

He wasn’t ready to risk his life. He told us. Yes, two guests, probably heavily sedated and two staff workers. Both are playing on their computers, the cameras are running but they were not monitoring them. He gave us the layout. His card opens all of the doors. The church sanctuary is used as a large meeting hall. This backdoor leads to a hallway that skirts the sanctuary on the right and offices on the left. His key opens all of the doors. The two guests are in two rooms about halfway down the hall. One woman is at the reception office at the main entrance. The nighttime orderly, he is in charge of the guests, is in an office just past the two guests.

“Do you know the names of the guests?”

“Not really, I might have heard them, but it isn’t registering.”

“Keith. Ring any bells.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Your call Shaman, I am with you.”

“Let’s do it. I will stop at the orderly’s office. Hopefully you can get by without getting seen. Try not to show weapons.” I zip tied the guard and in we went. We quietly hustled down the hallway. No lights in the rooms. The next office door was open. Must be the orderly. We paused, tried to peek in, couldn’t see anything and Shaman gave me the go ahead. I hopped pass the door. “Abraham, is that you?” I am now running to the front desk. Her phone was ringing, she picked up as she was looking at me. “No I don’t think that was Abraham.” Her conversation ended. I couldn’t tell if she had a way of communicating trouble, but I didn’t notice any movements as she came from around the corner and accompanied me down the hall. Shaman had the orderly opening the doors. First kid, a wiry small fry and he immediately sensed what was going on and bolted down the hallway towards the back door. Next office a big football player, sedated, but not Keith.

“Let’s get out of here. They won’t call the cops they don’t want to explain why these boys were locked up. Let’s go.” Shaman led the way out the back again. We saw the wiry kid surrounded by gang bangers outside the back door. We turned around and ran as fast as we could to the front entrance. Shaman still had the key. It opened the door and out we went. The big kid was sticking with us. We went left up the hill towards the vehicle. Another vehicle pulled up and three or four guys came tumbling out. We instinctively split up. I went left and Shaman went right. The big kid kept running down the middle of the road.

I could hear tires screeching and car doors slamming. I was galloping through a neighborhood climbing from terrace to terrace. I was a couple of blocks up the hill when I decided to see if I could cross towards my truck. I heard shouting they spotted me. The shout came from further up the hill. I started making my way down the hill. At one point I saw a couple of guys making there way towards me from the top and a couple more guys moving my way from the church. I started moving along a fence line that separated one row of houses from the lower row. Eventually there was no room to walk so I was clinging to the fence as I went further into the neighborhood. It was a 30 foot drop so I was ready to jump down if I had to. I heard a wicked snarl and a bark as I felt the dog’s teeth tear at my hand. I was falling.

Chapter 24 Where Am I?

“How you doing Jane?”

“Enjoying the peaceful morning. Quite the change from last night. Did you boys have trouble again at my church?”

“Jane you know its not your church anymore. The city had better use for it.”

“What could be better than a church in this neighborhood. I’m blind but I can see that and so can you? How is your mother doing?”

“She’s getting better, thank you. They sent me down to ask you what you saw last night. I know you are not blind all the way and you see more with your poor eyesight than most people see with 20/20 vision.”

“You boys disturbed any sleep I might have gotten, but come closer and I will tell you what I saw last night.” He played along with a smile.

She softly sang a rap version of the Battle Hymn, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…David gave me the beats, how do you like it?”

“I love you Jane, I will see you later.”

My mind was making sense of the conversation I had just heard. I was in a basement on a big bed that took up about the whole room. There was a computer  screen on a dresser at the foot of the bed. No closet, so things were neatly piled around the bed. The dresser drawers were useless since it butted up against the bed. My head felt like it was twice the size and my right hand was bandaged. My pistol, wallet and phone were gone. In the doorway was a big pit bull staring at me. I wasn’t sure if I should move or not.

I heard her open the door and come into the house, she was singing a bit in the kitchen with the water running and she came down the stairs of the basement. “Manny, don’t you bother him.” The dog looked away. And there she was, my angel.

“Well good morning my young man.”

I didn’t quite know what to say so I mumbled a good morning back.

“I’ll bet you are wondering how you found yourself to be waking up on that bed there. Do you mind if I sit for a minute on the bed to tell you?” She sat and positioned herself so that is wasn’t awkward sitting on the edge of the bed and twisting a bit to see me. Manny was immediately on the bed licking my face.

“Unique, Unique come get Manny out of here.” The princess arrived and with a command they were off. I adjusted closer to the corner so that she didn’t have to twist as much.

“You and your friends caused quite a commotion last night. They were out in force looking to find you guys. David, my son, let me know that they caught two young guys trying to escape the dungeon and one man who must have been breaking them out. You, they have been looking for all night into the morning. Manny was going wild through the ordeal just like every other dog in the neighborhood. David’s room is at the other end of the basement. He had his window open, making music with all of the sounds. We all heard Goliath give his roar, Unique cracked the door and Manny was out like a bolt going in the direction of Goliath behind us. Goliath sits up on top of a 30-foot wall and the two of them go back and forth with knowledge that they will never get close to each other. Unique and David went out to retrieve Manny and there you were.”

“I need to get out of here.”

“No I think this is right where God wants you Jack.”

She smiled the most beautiful smile and the unseeing eyes spoke a kindness that the years could never rob from her as she said my name. I felt a wave of emotion. No, she is playing with me, she has my wallet, that’s how she knows my name.

“We have been praying for about six months for Jack Strong and here you are.” Now I am confused, is she talking about the accident? Is she a prophetess are some kind of witch?

“Imagine our surprise when we looked into your wallet. Jack Strong. Your pastor used to be our pastor here in Seattle. I called him and told him you were here. He knew something wasn’t right, your ‘everything is good’ texts didn’t fool him.” This was Jane, sure I knew who she was. Unique, David; I knew the whole family.

“Unique, bring Jack’s things in here.” In she waltzed, placing my things on the bed. This gave Manny the excuse to jump back on the bed. Now it was the four of us. Jane asked me to tell her what was going on and the words poured forth and it felt like a load was being lightened on my soul.

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