Jonathan Bernis - How To Prepare for the Last Days
Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to "Jewish Voice," and thank you for joining me today. I'm Jonathan Bernis. Well, I've been looking forward to this program for a long time. My guest today is a dear friend who I've known since the mid-1990's, when we both lived and ministered in the former Soviet Union after the fall of the iron curtain. It was an amazing time in history. Now, he stayed and has planted churches and trained pastors and leaders all over Russia for the past 30 years. Rick Renner, welcome to the program from Moscow! Thank you so much for joining us.
Rick Renner: Brother Jonathan, it is great to be with you.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, I'm so sorry that we couldn't do this in person. We've tried to... We've had different plans over the years to have you join us in Phoenix that just hasn't worked out, but I'm so glad, by the miracle of the internet, we're able to see you.
Rick Renner: I'm so glad to be with you tonight. And brother Jonathan, I am so thankful for your ministry. I will never forget the mid-90s, those massive, massive events that you held all over the former Soviet Union. It would be difficult to exaggerate the enormity of those events and the impact that they had on people in this part of the world, and to this day, I'm so thankful to you. Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, it was an incredible season, and thank you for leaving everything behind and the great work you've done all over Russia. And I know it's late there, so we don't want to keep you up too long, but we do follow your ministry and God has used you and your family so greatly. Tell us a little bit about the church, just a brief overview of the church in Moscow.
Rick Renner: Well, we've started churches all over the former Soviet Union, but in the year 2000, we started a church in Moscow. And guess where we started our church? You'll love this. We started in the hotel Russia, which is right on the edge of red square. What a place to start a church!
Jonathan Bernis: Indeed!
Rick Renner: And it was born in the power of God, and now, 20 years have passed. And Jonathan, that church is so strong. And of course, we have churches in Ukraine and the Baltics, but the church in Moscow, it is just amazing. It is amazing what God has done in Russia. And you know, Jonathan, it's like we have seen a flip-flop. The west seems to be sinking morally and Russia is making a return to morals. We're just watching this amazing thing take place, and God is really moving in Russia. I know that in the west people hear a lot of nonsense and a lot of fake news about Russia. But I live here, and I'm telling you, God is doing an amazing thing in Russia, and I'm so thankful that Denise and I and our sons have been a part of it.
Jonathan Bernis: I am, too. I used to watch your TV program also when I lived in Russia.
Rick Renner: You did?
Jonathan Bernis: All over Russia. I did, indeed, and it was some of the greatest years of my life. You know, it was one of the only places where if people would come for all-night prayer meetings en masse - you know, the majority of the congregation would come. And when we had to cancel a meeting because we couldn't get the hall rented or whatever, people were really disappointed and ended up going into homes to pray all night. It was really a Book of Acts experience, and I'm so glad you've continued.
Rick Renner: And people were so responsive to the teaching of the Bible on television that we came to a point where we stopped counting the pieces of mail by pieces, and we started counting the mail by tons. That's how much mail was coming!
Jonathan Bernis: I love it.
Rick Renner: Because the soviet people were so hungry.
Jonathan Bernis: I hope this is encouraging to all of you, because God is at work in Russia and throughout the Soviet Union, and in many other places of the world, the Spirit of God is moving. People are getting saved, discipled, sent out. We just need to catch up in America now and in the west. We're coming up on some perilous days and you've been talking quite a bit about that, about the last days. We've been in the last days for a long time, but we're coming into, you believe, a really critical time. Talk about the last days and perilous times that you believe are ahead.
Rick Renner: Well, you know, Jonathan, I'm a Bible man. So, I have to refer to the Bible, and in 2 Timothy 3:1, the Holy Spirit prophesied through the apostle Paul that in the last days, perilous times would come. And it's very interesting, that word, "Last days," is the Greek word, "Eschatos," and it describes the very, very end of the road. In fact, it was the very word used to describe the very last port, so if you were on a ship, this was the last port. If you'd come to this port, there was no other port to go to. You were at the very, very end, and that's the word the Holy Spirit uses in 2 Timothy 3:1. So, when it talks about the latter times, it really means when time has sailed to the final port and no more time is left for the journey, you'll know it because perilous times will suddenly be upon you.
Jonathan Bernis: Wow. And do you, in your observation - now, you're seeing God do great things in Moscow and all over Russia, but in your observation, the church, particularly in the west, is not ready for what's ahead, right? Talk about that.
Rick Renner: You know, the western church, I truly believe is in very deep trouble because a period of difficulty is coming. It's already here. People are just beginning to wake up to the reality that things have suddenly changed. They've been slowly changing for a long time, but suddenly, it's here. And people are really realizing, "You know what? I think maybe we're in trouble". That's the season that we're living in, and some people, Jonathan, become really terrified and shaken by this, but there's no reason for us to be shaken by this. God chose us for this time. We're anointed for this. And if God chose us to live in this season, it means we can do this. We can embrace it, grab hold of the power of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Jesus, and the Word of God, and we can shine the light in this season, and if a season ever needed light, it's this season right now. But the truth is the church has to learn how to survive. They've got to put on their boots, grab their Bibles, and get ready to March through this end times season because it's different than any previous season.
Jonathan Bernis: I want to tell you, friends, this is something we've been talking about for weeks now. It just seems like the same message is converging, at least in my universe, I'm hearing this over and over and over again, even down to, "Get your boots on, get ready for battle". This is a very serious, critical time in Bible history and I love your optimism, Rick. We get to be part of it. This is not some horror that we have to pull ourselves through. This is a divine opportunity.
Rick Renner: It really is. You know, Jesus, when he came into the country of the Gadarenes, and the daemonia came out, he didn't run, he charged toward the situation. And I really believe this is our moment to charge. People are wondering what's going on. Let's face it - we're living in a nutty world and it seems it's getting nuttier by the day. We're seeing things that we never dreamed we would see in our life. And Jonathan, it's gonna get more bizarre as times go by. If we understand the teaching of prophecy and what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, we're headed for really tumultuous times, but we have the Bible. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. And Jonathan, you know, people say, "Oh, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do"? Well, now, listen. People have been studying their Bible for years and years and years, and now they have an opportunity to go out on the field and play. This is the opportunity to get on the field. It's our moment to play the game, not to sit on the side and say, "What are we gonna do"? Hey, get on the field and use everything you've been taught, you know how to use the word and you know how to use your faith. Get out there and use it and set people free. People need hope and this is our time to share it.
Jonathan Bernis: They do. I think that this COVID season, this pandemic that we're all coming through and hopefully are nearing the end of the end of, has been a very difficult time for so many. Because again, the church in the west, all of us have had to deal with hopelessness, uncertainty, isolation, discouragement, information overload. We don't know what's true and what's not. More misinformation, Rick, coming at us than I've ever seen before. It's been like a tidal wave. Can you speak to that a little bit? It's just people have felt paralyzed to some degree.
Rick Renner: Well, it really has been like that. I mean, so much conspiracy theories from one corner and from another corner. Everybody has an angle on what's taking place. And people are kind of at their wit's end. They don't know who to believe. They don't know what to listen to. And it just takes me back to the fact that we just have to be really rooted in the Word of God. That is the stability of our times. It's the anchor of our soul, and if we don't hold onto that anchor, we're gonna be tossed to and fro. And you know, Jonathan, in 2 Thessalonians 2, the apostle Paul wrote, and he said that at the end of the age, some really shaking times would come. Well, those words are amazing and when you understand it in the Greek, it says they're gonna come one after another, after another. And you have to really grab hold of yourself and make a decision that you're not going to be given to panic. And if you hold onto the Word of God, which is your anchor, it will be your stability. It doesn't matter what's going on in this sea that's raging around us.
Jonathan Bernis: I have to pause on this because it's so important. The Word of God is the only accurate source for your information. And look, I know many of you spend a lot of time on Facebook, on Instagram, watching various news outlets, searching the web, and you're getting flooded with all kinds of conspiracy theories and information and misinformation, and it's very destabilizing. Somebody said it last night to me, "There's an off button," and I want to say it to you. There is an off button. You need to push the off button when you get that overload. Spend more time in the Bible than on Facebook, okay? Spend more time in the Word of God than on cnn, or even fox, or searching the web. This is the survival book right here. These are the words of life.
Rick Renner: That is right.
Jonathan Bernis: Rick, we need to take a quick break so that we can tell our viewers about a special group of resources that we want to sow into your life this week, including Rick's incredible new book, "Last Days Survival Guide". I want to encourage you - don't miss the chance to get this book. It really, really will help you. Stay tuned and we'll be right back.
Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back to, Jewish Voice. Before Rick and I continue, I want to take a moment just to say thank you. Thank you for supporting this ministry. You are truly making a difference in the lives of so many Jewish people, many who are in desperate need of medical care, clean water, antibiotics, education, and most importantly, hope. So, thank you again for your amazing support. Of those who have become monthly partners, we couldn't do this without you. Rick, thank you again for joining us all the way from Moscow. Hey, I want to ask you this. You've always been a lover of Israel and the Jewish people. Since I've met you, you've always had a special place in your heart for Israel. In fact, you told me that one of your - you now have Jewish grandchildren. Talk about that.
Rick Renner: My son married a Jewish girl and now I have Jewish grand boys. My son said, "Dad, I always wanted to be a Russian Jew". Now we have Russian Jews in our family.
Jonathan Bernis: I think that's fantastic, but thank you for being such a...
Rick Renner: We have a lot of Jewish people in our church. It is amazing how many Jewish people live in the Soviet Union, far more than people realize.
Jonathan Bernis: It is, and Jewish people are finding their Messiah all over the world. It's incredible.
Rick Renner: That's right.
Jonathan Bernis: We've seen tens of thousands over the years come to faith in the former Soviet Union. Israel is experiencing an awakening. We're seeing Jewish communities that were previously lost, like the lemba in Africa, Jewish people coming to faith. The Ethiopians, over 130.000 now living in Israel. It's a remarkable thing. But, thank you for your ongoing love for Israel and the Jewish people. That's something about you that I've always really appreciated.
Rick Renner: Well, that's the heart of God.
Jonathan Bernis: Amen. Let's jump back into the last days, and not only the last days, you believe we're in the last of the last days, and we talked about perilous times. And I love that, that it's the last stop on the line. We really need to wake up. But, this is not a doom and gloom message. It's a message of victory. It's a message of opportunity. It's a message of revival. Right, Rick?
Rick Renner: You know, God is not in the business of scaring us, but he is in the business of preparing us, and God gave us a lot of information in the Bible to prepare us. And I'd like to read a verse to you from the riv of 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Listen to this amazing verse, Jonathan. It says, "Some things will be happening right before his coming that could shake you up quite a bit. I'm referring to events that will be so dramatic they could really leave your head spinning. People will feel alarmed, panicked, intimidated, even unnerved. Naturally speaking, these events could nearly put you over the brink emotionally. I wish I could tell you these incidents were going to be just a one-shot deal, but when they finally get rolling, they're going to keep coming, one after another, after another, and that's why you have to determine not to be shaken or moved by anything you see or hear". It's exactly the scripture that we need for today!
Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely.
Rick Renner: We've got to get a grip on ourselves and not be moved by all of the things that we're hearing. And if anybody has access to the internet, they have the possibility to hear a lot of different things. Some of them are right, some of them are wrong, some of them are sound, some of them are crazy. But, hey, we have the Bible - it's always right. And again, God never gives us anything to scare us. God is not in the business of scaring people. He just doesn't do that. But he does prepare us, and the Bible has given us everything we need to be prepared to sail through this season, and we're gonna do it with victory. And Jonathan, we're gonna make it all the way to the other side.
Jonathan Bernis: We are, indeed. You've been destined to make it through. You've been destined. So, you may not feel like it right now, but we're not going by feelings, we're going by faith in the Word of God, and you will not just endure, you will be victorious - in Yeshua's name, in Jesus' name. Rick, give us...You go into, you talk about some very specific pitfalls that Christians need to be very alert to, and you also talk about some really practical preparations, steps to prepare. Can you touch on those? First, some of the pitfalls that we need to be aware of. Some of the people watching might have fallen into some of these and they want to get out. They don't know how, and there is a way out. So, talk about that, and then let's talk about some things we can do to prepare.
Rick Renner: Well, Jonathan, I know that a lot of parents and grandparents are very grieved about what's happening with their kids and their grandkids, and it seems like their family is going a direction morally that really disturbs them. And we're living in a period when the world is becoming lawless, and the Bible prophesied that. It prophesied that. Lawless doesn't mean a state of anarchy, however, we're seeing anarchy today as well. But it really means to throw off the law, to throw off the Word of God and to say, "You know what? We've already been there and we've already done that. Now we're gonna go a new direction. We're gonna be progressive in our thinking. We're gonna go into a new world with new beliefs". It is the abandonment of time-tested truth and morals to go a new way, and the world is really becoming modified to go in this direction, and especially our younger generation who really has not been appropriately taught the Bible. They just have not been taught the Bible. They've heard motivational preaching. They've heard inspirational preaching. That's good, that's fine, but there's nothing to replace the verse-by-verse teaching of the Bible, because that establishes people.
Jonathan Bernis: That's so good, and we're seeing that, sadly, in the U.S. Where some of the progressive churches really do move away from Bible teaching, and it's really a lot of self-help. It's not bad things. You can strengthen your relationships with other people. Some of it is very focused on a relationship with God, but we've lost to a large degree the verse-by-verse teaching of the Word of God, and you're exactly right. We have the next generations being raised without biblical literacy, and it's very, very troubling. I believe God can change that. He can change that.
Rick Renner: I believe that he can, too, but it's gonna require a change of our hearts, where we come to the Lord and say, "God, we want you to change us, bring revival to your church, bring revival to your people". It can happen. He can revive us again.
Jonathan Bernis: Rick, talk just for a few minutes - we just have a couple of minutes left. Talk to people who have been feeling...Not just feeling, but have been isolated. They have been confused by everything they're seeing and they're asking, "Where is God? What's next for me"? They may have come out of a strong community of faith, but they're just in a state of maybe not free fall, but they're just in a period where they're really - they have uncertainty and less hope than they need.
Rick Renner: Being in a state of isolation is always difficult, but let me encourage you. The apostle Paul wrote many of his letters because he was in a place of isolation. The apostle John received the Book of Revelation when he was isolated in a cave on the Isle of Patmos. It was a forsaken, horrible place, but God stepped into that place and met him there. God stepped into all of those prisons with the apostle Paul and met him there, and these particular people came out of those periods of isolation with a new revelation. And I want to tell you that if you will open your heart, even if you feel that it's been difficult, you've been lonely, maybe you're discouraged - what a great place for Jesus to show up in your life in a brand-new way. He wants to give you a new revelation of himself. He wants to step right into that place where you are, and he'll do that if you'll open the door.
Jonathan Bernis: Amen. Rick, thank you so much. I just want you to receive that. It's not over. God's not finished with you. He has not abandoned you. He loves you. He's very much aware of what's going on and he is committed to you. He's not only the author, but he's the finisher of your faith as well, so your destiny is not finished yet and you have so much more ahead - so much more. So, receive these words of encouragement from pastor Rick. Receive it. God is going to do great things through you and in you. We have to take a quick break so we can share some information about the great resources that we're making available to you today. Don't miss the chance to receive your copy of Rick's book, "Last Days Survival Guide". I know it's gonna be a blessing to your life. You need to get this book. You need to ingest it. So, make sure you get it right now. And then, after the break I'm gonna come back into agreement with you in prayer for your needs, because God hears and answers prayer. So, don't go anywhere.