Saturday, February 24, 2018

Spring Anticipation

"For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away!"  Song of Solomon 2:11-13  NKJV

Although I have shared this post before, it just seems every spring that it is appropriate to share it again.  I am not sure if it is just part of a natural expectation resulting from a long winter or a prompting from events in the Middle East but for whatever reason, here it is.  The news that the United States is going to move its embassy to Jerusalem in May to coincide with the anniversary of Israel becoming a nation might well prove to be significant beyond expectations as a sign that we are near to our date of departure.  In any event, let's look at Solomon's thoughts today from his book Song of Solomon. 

Did you look forward to your wedding?  Did you possibly get a little more impatient the closer you got to the actual date?  I think most of us have either participated in our own, or observed someone else in this position and understand the impatience and anticipation someone approaching their wedding day experiences.  This though, raises a question in my mind which I would like you to consider as well.  Since the Church is described as the bride of Christ, and the Word also tells us He is coming to take His bride home at a future date, do you think Jesus is experiencing those same feelings of anticipation and impatience that we do?

When is the last time you heard a sermon taught on the Songs of Solomon?  To be completely honest, I don't recall personally ever having heard one.  Which truthfully seems to be a shame because if you believe that all scripture is inspired by God, and all scripture is profitable for instruction, you are then left with the question as to why this book was included in the scripture and what is its message?  As Solomon wrote this song to a Shulamite woman who he had fallen in love with, it is in essence his love song to her as he is courting her with the intent of making her his bride.  You don't need to read very far at all to understand the depth of his love for her, and the anticipation he has for the day she will become his own.

Seen in this light, it appears to me that this song can easily be considered to be what Jesus is feeling as He looks forward to His wedding to His bride, the Church.  Although the Jews have always looked at this book as signifying God's love for the nation of Israel, and it easily could be, I can also certainly see Jesus' love for the Church and His anticipation for the coming wedding in it as well.  One of the many interesting things I found while reading this book was this description of his intended which Solomon gives us in chapter 4.

"You are all fair, my love, And there is no spot in you."  Song of Solomon 4:7  NKJV

The fact that he sees no spot in her immediately brought to mind the description of the Church Paul gives us in the book of Ephesians.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."   Ephesians 5:25-27  NKJV

For many reasons, I can read this book and picture Jesus writing these words in anticipation of His future wedding with the Church.  Yet as long as we are going to talk about a future wedding, it would also seem appropriate to consider the possible timing of it, and see if Solomon gives us any clue as to when that might take place.  Notice his description in the passage from the second chapter, and everything that he says there.  It is obvious that Solomon is talking about the season of Spring, and all of the things that occur in Israel during that particular time.

"For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone."

Solomon tells us that the winter is past, as well as the early rains which normally fall in March and April.  It is these early rains which help start the growing season in Israel.

"The flowers appear on the earth;"

One of the things I, and many others appreciate most about spring is watching all of the flowers reappear after hiding under the snow for the winter.

"the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land"

Did you know that the turtledove is a migratory bird?  It normally leaves in the fall and returns to Israel in the spring. 

"The fig tree puts forth her green figs"

The fig tree normally produces its first crop in the spring, usually harvested in early June.

"And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell"

The grapes are on the vine ripening in preparation for the coming harvest which normally occurs in July.

The late Ray Stedman had this to say about this passage from Song of Solomon;

“There is the springtime of life. But it doesn't lie in the past. It lies in the future. One day this whole world will experience a springtime like that. The Lord Jesus Christ, returning at last to claim his waiting bride, will greet her in words very much like those. The springtime will come, the time of singing, the time when earth shall blossom again and the curse will be lifted and the flowers will appear on the earth. This is a picture of what can take place in the heart of one who falls in love with Jesus Christ and enters into springtime. The cold winter of loneliness, misery, and selfishness is past and the time of singing has come”.

All things considered, I think it is safe to say that Solomon was anticipating a June wedding just like many others have.  Spring has certainly proven over time to be the season of choice when it comes to weddings, and the wedding stories in the Bible are no exception.  Many believe the Church is rapidly approaching its own wedding in Heaven, and a close look at the state of this world certainly seems to support that belief.  One day, very soon it would appear, the Church will hear the groom call out for it to "come away" just as Solomon wrote in this passage.  It is my prayer that you have made the decision to accept the gift of eternal life offered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sin, and that you are part of the body, the bride of Christ which will live with Him forever in the place He is preparing for us.

Keep watching.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Do You Love Him?

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”                   John 14:15  NKJV

Most of us have, at one time or another experienced the joy that comes from knowing someone loves us.  I am equally sure that most of us would agree that there is no greater feeling than to know someone cares about us in a loving way.  Like many parents, over the years I have saved many of the little notes that I received over the years from all three of my daughters.  The notes were written on different occasions, and some are long while others are just short sentences, but they all had one thing in common and that was that they all expressed their love for me.

As I sat and thought about those years, I began to remember all the little things that they had done as they were growing up in order to show their love for me.  Some were big, some were small, but the one thing they all had in common was that whatever it was, it was demonstrative.  In other words, they were not content to just say they loved me, but rather they wanted to show me they did by doing something they knew I would enjoy.  I think it would be fair to say we would all agree that when we truly love someone it is a natural desire to want to do something in order to show that person just how much we care.  It also stands to reason that we would seek to know the person well enough to give them something we know they would want and enjoy.

Obviously as believers we should have the desire to know God on such a way as to desire to demonstrate our love for Him in ways that we know would please Him.  We do that by studying His Word and developing our relationship with Him in order to know Him better. In the passage above from the book of John, Jesus tells us just what God wants from those who claim to love Him, and that is obedience to His Word.  In this chapter, as well as the next, Jesus repeatedly explains that what God wants most, and expects, is that those who claim to love Him follow His commandments.

"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."           John 14:21  NKJV

Jesus makes it clear that the proof of our love for the Father is the desire to please Him by knowing and following His commandments.  So how logical does it seem that many today believe the greatest threat to the Church is the attack on the authority of the Scriptures?  It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering we are shown exactly how Satan works by looking at what happened in the Garden of Eden when the world is introduced to the deceiver for the very first time.  How does he choose to attack?  Simply by trying to create doubt about the very Word of God.

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.”                             Genesis 3:1-4  NKJV

In other words, God said it, but He really didn’t mean it?  How often today do we hear those same words or something similar when the Word of God commands a certain course of action which the world may find objectionable?  More and more today we see examples of the Church compromising on certain commandments we find in the Word in order to be “politically correct”.  As believers though, the question the Church should be asking is simply this; “do you really love Him”?  If you truly love someone your concern is how best to show them your love in a way that they would appreciate.  When it comes to our relationship with God, He has already made it clear how best to please Him.

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.”                    John 15:10  NKJV

I think the key word in this passage, and the answer to how best know what God expects is contained in the word “abide”.  In the Greek the word is “meno” which means “to sojourn, abide in or tarry, or continue to be present”.  In other words, by striving to keep God’s commandments we are pleasing Him, and as a result are able to live our lives in a relationship with our Father in which He can manifest His love for us just as we do for Him.  I like how David describes the relationship we can have with our Father if we seek to please Him in this way.

“ALEPH. Blessed [are] the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed [are] those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. You have commanded [us] To keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.”              Psalms 119:1-6  NKJV

Do you really love Him?  Are you trying to please Him, or please yourself?  You see, that is what it really all comes down to.  We either do what we know is pleasing to God, or we choose to do what pleases us.  My daughters looked for ways to make me happy, either by writing little notes or doing things for me they knew I would like.  That was their way of showing me they loved me.  Are you looking for ways to show God you love Him?  You do that by studying His Word and keeping His commandments.

"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?”         Luke 6:46  NKJV

Keep watching.

P.S.  This is a link to a very good article on the Isaiah 17 prophecy that I thought you might find interesting considering the current events occurring in that region.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

O Syria, Where Art Thou?

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. “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. “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; “Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.  Ezekiel 38:1-6  NKJV

I am going to assume that by now most of you reading this have heard about the incident Saturday morning in Israel where Iran sent a drone into Israeli airspace.  This resulted not only in it being intercepted and shot down by the IDF, but Israel sending planes into Syria to attack and destroy the base where it was launched from.  This, of course, prompted cries of indignation from Iran and Syria with the obligatory threats of future violence towards Israel, and statements from Israel affirming its right to defend itself from any and all attacks on its sovereignty.  Yet the one thing most everyone has agreed on to this point is that this is a major escalation by Iran.

Many are speculating on what this might mean in regards to the future of the region, but for those who study their Bible, we already know.  In the passage above from Ezekiel where Magog and its allies are listed, I believe it is important to note two things.  One, Persia (Iran) is the first country listed which signifies its preeminence, while on the other hand, (two) Assyria (Syria) is not listed at all.  No one can read anything about the region at the present time without Syria being mentioned, or the presence of Russia and Iran within its borders being discussed.  So my question is simply this, O Syria, where art thou? 

Now many of you might recognize that question as a takeaway from a movie with a similar title, but there are actually some interesting parallels between the plot of the movie and the three “brothers”, as well as these three nations.  In the movie, one of the brothers “disappears” along the way, and in this passage from Ezekiel it seems Syria somehow goes missing too.   Considering this new escalation by Iran, it seems almost impossible to believe things can get any worse without the fulfillment of the Isaiah 17 prophecy about the destruction of Damascus. That in turn will set the wheels in motion for the following prophetic event which is the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy of the Gog Magog War.
The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, The kingdom from Damascus, And the remnant of Syria; They will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” Says the LORD of hosts.   Isaiah 17:1-3  NKJV

The relationship between Iran and Syria is complicated, but the one thing that remains clear is that Iran has invested a lot of money, materiel, and personnel to develop and upgrade Syria’s military capabilities. Much of Syria’s missile technology and armament has been provided by Iran, and at present it is reported as fact by many intelligence sources that members of the Iranian Republican Guard are in Syria helping develop and train Syrian troops. So the question must be asked, just what does Iran want from Syria in exchange for all of this help?

There is no question that Syria now finds itself indebted to Iran in a very big way, so it's logical to wonder to what extent Syria might go in order to repay the debt, or, for that matter, how much would Iran require as a payback for its investment? Iran has made known their desire for the total annihilation of Israel, and even gone so far as to brag about how many missiles could be launched in the event of a conflict, however most intelligence organizations agree their boast exceeds their capabilities. This fact leads many to wonder if Iran has agreements with other Arab countries for help in any attack on Israel. If so, this would easily explain the extent to which they have gone to arm Syria with weapons and technology they have not previously possessed.
The Doomsday Oracle

Syria where art thou?  Well, according to this prophecy, dealing with the complete destruction of its capital.  With all the problems Syria has right now with its own civil war, it’s easy to see where Iran might be more than willing to “play” the game it has begun with the thought that they can do what they please without recrimination by either Syria or Russia.  The result could well be the destruction of Damascus we find in Isaiah 17. That remains to be seen, but the Bible makes it clear that an event of unprecedented severity is coming to that region, and Syria will receive the brunt of it.  The Word also makes it clear what will befall any and all who choose to come against His chosen people.

“The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.   Zechariah 12:1-3  NKJV”

“The Iranians are raising the stakes of the bet,” Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the former head of the IDF’s Intelligence Research and Assessment Division, said on a conference call held by The Israel Project on Saturday.“According to Kuperwasser, Moscow is “being used by the Iranians,” securing Assad regime bases while Tehran continues to strengthen their hold in Syria. “Russia is, in a way, becoming the useful idiot of the Iranians,” he said. “We have to be careful about how Syria will look like when it is controlled by Iran. We (Israel) got a taste of it this morning,” Kuperwasser said.”

Revolutionary Guards dep chief warned Iran would “open the gates of hell over the Zionist regime” and had the military power to destroy all American bases in the region. These threats from Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami were Tehran’s first response to the downing by Israel of an Iranian drone which intruded on its airspace Saturday morning. The foreign ministry in Tehran said Israel lied about the intrusion and its claims were ridiculous. Turning to the Americans, he said “It would be better for them to leave the region before their defeat.”

My feeling, along with many others, is that time is quickly running out for the Church to accomplish its work here on earth, and it would come as no surprise to hear the trumpet blow and our call to go home to be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at any time.  If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to allow Jesus Christ to come into your heart, and accept the free gift of eternal life He has offered you, I urge you to do so right now. You can do that by simply praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Fourth Quarter

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  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. 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.    Ephesians 6:10-13  NKJV

Today being Super Bowl Sunday, I suppose it seems appropriate to write a football themed article.  While watching this past week’s State of the Union address, like many of you it was readily apparent to me that some in this country are just looking for an excuse to spew hate and discontent with little or no justification whatsoever.  Seeing this level of hatred, and looking forward to the Super Bowl, my mind being what it is could not help but put the two together and think of an interesting correlation between football and what we can expect from Satan as the Church age approaches its end.

Let me attempt to explain what I am thinking here.  If you follow football at all you are certainly familiar with how the game changes as you approach the last minutes of the game.  In football, not only does the play calling get more aggressive in the fourth quarter, we normally see the two minute offense utilized, where the team that is behind stops using the huddle to call plays and does whatever it can to speed up the game and try to catch the other team off guard. To the uninitiated, what happens on the field in the last minutes looks like total confusion as two teams pull out all the stops and try anything and everything in order to win the game. In other words, if you are behind, the closer you get to the end, tactics change in order to try and pull out a win.

Consider if you will, that if we are approaching the end of this age as many believe, then certainly Satan knows that as well. If we think seriously about it, we should readily admit Satan probably knows the Bible a lot better than we do. This is, of course, the individual who tempted Jesus by using scripture to justify his arguments. There is no question in my mind that Satan is fully aware that his time is running short, so it should be easy to believe that he will change his tactics the closer we get to the end. He will do whatever he can to take as many down with him as he can. So as believers, is it too much to expect that attacks on believers will increase in frequency and severity?

Knowing this, I thought it might be appropriate to look closer at what Paul had to say to us in the book of Ephesians about our fight against Satan and his forces of darkness. In this passage, Paul outlines all we need to know about defending ourselves from these attacks.  Here we see that Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus and explaining God's purpose for the church, as well as outlining what God expects from His people. God knows what we can expect from Satan, so He goes to great lengths here to teach us how to defend ourselves. In verse ten Paul's tells us that our strength is from the Lord, and it is His strength that will fight our battles for us. How often do we fail because we think we can fight our own battles rather than let God do it for us?

Paul then tells us that we need to "put on the full armor of God".  Paul's point here is that to be successful we need to wear the whole suit. It may sound funny, but I remember something that happened when I was playing football in college back in the dark ages. I was a receiver, technically in that particular offense called a split end, and my job was to catch balls over the middle of the field rather than out by the sidelines. I had missed a few balls that were over my head, and I decided that it was my shoulder pads that were hindering my ability to stretch my arms as high as they could go. So I decided a little modification was in order, and after taking some of the "excess" padding off, I could then catch the passes that had up till then been a little out of my reach. All was well and good until the inevitable collision occurred which convinced me that removing part of my protection was a really bad idea. This is Paul's point. To succeed in defending ourselves from the "wiles" of the devil, (or tactics), we need to put on the complete armor leaving nothing off. Why?

The answer to that can be found in verse twelve where he tells us we need to do this because of who and what we are facing. He tells us our struggle is not “against flesh and blood". You see, if it was, we would probably only need to be defended from our front where an attack by a person would probably come from. But we are facing a fight from two fronts; rulers, forces, and powers of darkness of this world, and spiritual forces of wickedness from the heavenly places. So there are at least two fronts to defend ourselves from, and these attacks can come from any direction. There is no way we are capable to defend ourselves in this kind of war. We need to put on the complete armor God has provided, and let Him do the fighting for us.  If we do this, we are told in verse thirteen that we will be able to stand, and not be defeated in that “evil” day.

I think it is entirely possible that the events we are seeing not only in this country, but around the world are a sign that we are in the “fourth quarter” where we see Satan trying anything and everything to try and win the “game”.  As disturbing as it is to watch our own politicians and citizens exhibit what can only be described as outright hatred, that could truly only come from Satan, how reassuring it is for us to know that our strength comes from the Lord and our victory is already won.  We can literally watch as God does our fighting for us and stand firm knowing that our deliverance, the rapture of the Church, is but moments away.

Keep watching.