Sunday, December 27, 2009

A New Year, A New Beginning?

With Christmas now behind us, most will now set their sights on the upcoming New Year with more than a few considering what has become a tradition we call New Years Resolutions. For many the start of a New Year signifies a time where we evaluate our past, and resolve to do things differently in the future. We talked last week about the feeling we get when we receive a gift far more costly than the one we gave in return, and the knowledge that God's gift to us was the most expensive one He could give. If the thought that the gift you gave in return, your life, is less than it could be, I have good news. The Bible tells us just how we can improve that gift in order to increase it's worth, and to make it even more pleasing to God. Consider what Paul had to say in the following passage.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 KJV


So we choose to give our bodies to God as a gift, and as Paul tells us, it needs to be holy and acceptable. But just how do we accomplish that? Well according to Paul, it is by transforming. The Greek word for "transformed" used here is metamorphoĊ, from where we get the word metamorphosis, which means to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure. Now since the New Year is where many choose to make a resolution to change their physical appearance by going on a diet or committing to an exercise program, I thought we might look at how transforming our spiritual bodies could follow some of the same principles as the physical.

One of my favorite memories of raising daughters was the time one of them looked at some pictures of me taken when I was an athlete in college. Rather than saying how good I looked or what a fine example of physical fitness I was, her comment was; "why don't you look like that anymore?" So it was at that tender moment I decided maybe I should pay a little more attention to exercise and fitness. Of course, at the same time I was busy teaching about Paul's advice to new believers and as I began to lay out a fitness program, I couldn't help but notice that the rules I came up with for physical fitness were very applicable for spiritual fitness. So let me share with you my three steps to getting in shape, spiritually first of course but then the physical as well.

Desire. Now I know this might seem to be at first glance a simple, if not entirely logical first step, but I would like to make the point that it depends entirely on how you define desire. I rather like the biblical definition myself.

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 1 Peter 2:2 KJV

The word used here for "desire" is epipotheo' which is translated to long for, or to pursue with love. Most importantly, however, is the fact that it is a verb. Now I would be the first to admit I have forgotten most of what I learned in English class, but I do remember what a verb is. It means action, doing something. To desire something in the biblical sense is not to just sit on the couch and wish for it, but to act upon that desire and pursue it. You have to make the effort. This is our first step to spiritual fitness; to desire to transform ourselves. What do we desire? Paul says "milk of the word", which to us as believers is knowledge of the scriptures, the word of God. This brings us to the second step.

Acquire. In order to begin to grow spiritually, we need the raw material which will make us strong. Our spiritual muscles need the protein we get from the word of God.

Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding Proverbs 4:7 KJV

Solomon tells us that as believers we need to "acquire" wisdom and "understanding". The Hebrew word used here for "get" is the verb qanah, which means to get, acquire, obtain. Anyone who has ever tried to get in better physical shape understands the need to carefully monitor what we take in for nutrition. Certain things will help us grow the way we want, just as certain foods will help us grow as we don't want. The Bible makes it clear that in order to get in spiritual shape we need to acquire the knowledge and wisdom to be found in the word of God in order to become stronger believers.
Taking in the right food, though, won't help us without the third, and most important part of our program.

Perspire. I know this is the part most people fail at when trying to transform their appearance. It starts out with exercise every day, then three days a week, then one, then "I just don't have the time". Exercise is an absolute when trying to get in shape, and it is no different when it comes to spiritual fitness.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Phillipians 2:12 KJV

So here you wonder just how hard I had to look to find the words "work" and "out" together in the Bible? Not to mention they are two words and not one? Well, actually it is one word translated as two and it is the Greek word katergazomai, which means to work out i.e. to do that from which something results. When Paul tells the Phillipians they need to "workout" their salvation, he is simply telling them that as believers, it is time for them to stop relying on his (Paul's) help since he has left them, and to begin to rely on God's help through the power of the Holy Spirit to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God. And, as you should have expected by now, the word workout in the Greek is also a verb.

In order to transform our lives into a gift to God which He will find pleasing, we must embrace the concept of action. It is a life of doing, not wishing. Desire, acquire, perspire. Three verbs, three steps to becoming the believer God expects us to be. If you feel the need to make a New Years resolution, may it be to become the child of God He wants you to be. But don't wait too long, who knows how long we have left to get in shape?

Keep watching.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Greatest Gift



I'm sure with Christmas coming this week, most of us are considering the gifts we plan to give, and quite possibly the one's we might receive. Now that I am officially, according to my daughters, old, I find myself thinking about Christmas' past, and the memories I have about them. As I thought this past week, I was struck by how many times I remember receiving a gift much larger, or more expensive than I expected and my feelings when I realized that my gift in return was probably not as nice as the one I received. There were also a few occasions when I received a gift from someone that I did not expect, and felt bad for not getting them one in return. To be sure, our giving should not be measured by the dollar amount we paid, but I think we all can sympathize with the feeling that at times we may have received more than we gave in return.

As you might expect, at this time of year it is more than likely you will hear the words "greatest gift" applied to the birth of Jesus as the Saviour of the world, as well you should. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what feelings God may have had before making His decision to give such a gift to a sinful, unbelieving world. So let me share with you just a few things that crossed my mind while thinking about God's Greatest Gift.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV

Why did God give? Because He loved. At this time of year I'm sure most of us would have to confess that all the gifts we give are given to loved ones. Of course, that would probably be defined as family, friends, and those we have special feelings for. Yet God gave to the world, all of mankind, including those who have chosen, and will choose to reject Him! I'm sure something we all have in common is making a list of just who we plan on giving to, and just what we plan to give. Yet it is obvious God chose not to make a list, but rather to give to everyone. Now I think most of us would have to admit we would find it hard to give to someone we knew did not like us, or even hated us, yet even though God knew the majority of the world would reject His gift, He chose to give it anyway. Thinking about that made me wonder if I would be willing to give without reservation to people I knew wanted nothing to do with me. If I am to love as God has, and we have been commanded to do so, I should have no hesitancy at all to do just that.

What did God give? Obviously the most precious gift He possibly could, and that was the life of His own Son, Jesus Christ. I'm sure I'm not alone in taking time after making the list to think carefully about what I plan to give, or how much I intend to spend on the gift for that particular person. Yet there was no hesitation on God's part to give the greatest gift He could. Now as a father with three daughters, this one really got to me. If you were to ask them, I'm sure they would readily admit I was the most overly protective father around. There wasn't much of anything I wouldn't do for them, and not a whole of anything I would let them do. I'm sure they grew tired of looking over their shoulders as they grew up to see if I was watching. School functions, social activities, you name it, I was around, and fortunately for you, time and space prevent me from talking about dating. Now that was a special time. So to even consider the possibility that I could be put in a position to choose to sacrifice one of my own, I really don't think I could do that under any condition. Do you think God had to think about it, or did He make that decision without any hesitation at all?

Who did God give to? All of mankind. Us. Me. I don't know about you, but let me talk about me. A sinner. Someone who probably doesn't even deserve coal in my stocking, much less a gift like the one I received from the God of this universe. I don't even want to consider the possibility of losing one of my daughters yet God had only one Son, and He gave Him for me. Now here is where I start thinking about what could I possibly give to God that carries as much value as the gift He gave me? Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that I can never give God anything that will compare with what He gave me no matter how hard I may try.

One of the things I think of when I remember Christmas with my daughters is that I never cared at all what they gave me. No matter what it was, no matter how small, it was enough to know they loved me enough to want to give. All those years when I agonized over the "perfect" gift for each of them, my only thought was to make them happy and the thought of what I might get in return never even crossed my mind. Did God consider what He would get in return when He made the decision to give His own Son to us? I really rather doubt that. God chose to give the most precious thing He had as a gift to us, without thought of return. Yet we can make a decision to give God a gift in return, and I think that is the message for all of us as believers to consider at this time of the year. Have you given God the most precious gift you can in return, or are you holding back? My prayer is that all of us choose to give Him everything we can, and spare ourselves the embarrassment of knowing we could have given more, but didn't.

If you have never made the decision to give your life to Christ, I would encourage you to do that right now. Confess your sin to God, ask for His forgiveness, and invite Him to come into your life and accept the greatest gift of all, eternal life with Him.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.
Keep watching.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Running Out of Time?

But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. [For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch
Mark 13:32-37 KJV


By now I am sure you understand I consider it very important for us as believers to do exactly as this passage commands; watch! Whenever I teach on this subject I inevitably get questions relating to what should we be watching for and what exactly will we see? My answers to those questions reveals my belief about the origin of many of the events we will observe, and that is that they come from Satan himself.

You see, nobody knows scripture better than Satan. After all, who has been around to study it as long as he has? He quoted it when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and he most assuredly uses it against us. So do you think with what he knows about the end of the age, he wouldn't have a clue as to when God was preparing to take us home? You see, Satan knows what God has in store for him, and when he believes the end times are approaching it would make sense that he would do anything in his power to release all the evil on this earth at his control in order to take as many down with him as he could?

I believe much of what we will see happen before the rapture is a direct result in Satan increasing his efforts as he sees the day approaching. I truly believe this is exactly what we can see right now in the world around us. So many events are occurring on a daily basis that it simply seems unbelievable that we could not be close to the time Jesus commanded us to watch for. The following article is taken from a website I am sure many of you are familiar with called Rapture Ready. It is an excellent description of what I believe is happening right in front of our eyes, and so I thought I would share it with you today.

The Underworld Is Trembling

The devil is in frenzy. He is working overtime using all of the fiery darts in his arsenal to destroy every soul possible before his time is finished. Suicide is one of Satan’s primary tools that he uses on someone that he has beguiled to the point of despair. As America and the world continues to slip toward One World Socialism, watch for anarchy and violence to grow equally. The Holy Bible promises, “Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:26). Satan and his minions are passionately preparing to turn our world into a wilderness.

Revelation chapter six cannot be completed until after the Rapture, but we can already see the prelude. “And when he (the Lamb of God) had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Revelation 6:3-4). We forget that every act and every evil manifestation of Lucifer must be allowed by prophecy of Scripture or the Sovereign hand of God. Satan is always on a leash and cannot operate outside God’s allowed scheme. This is one of the believer’s primary assurances.

The entire population of this world is facing dangerous times. But the majority of them have absolutely no understanding of what is happening behind the scenes. The underworld always does everything in their power to hide their actions. Satan and his demons are invisible unless -- in some rare moment -- there is a physical manifestation. I believe these visible acts will become more frequent as the end unfolds.

The political situation in America and almost every nation has come under the sway of evil people that do Satan’s will. Almost everything they are promoting fits the plans of the underworld. What could be darker in all the earth than the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in our public schools? Our tax dollars are being used to destroy the pure Biblical morals of the next generation. How could such a thing happen in America? And that’s just the tip of the Iceberg.

The Obama Administration has appointed a man, called his “Safe School Czar.” His name is Kevin Jennings and his accomplishment that merits this appointment is an organization called GLSEN. That’s short for Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. His organization has promoted sick sexual education to students as young as 14 years of age and maybe even younger. I cannot describe what this organization has promoted because it is so gross. If I did, you would quit reading this PNA. Believe me the truth is enough to make you frightened. As educated as I consider myself on evil, this discovery made me stop and weep sitting right here at my desk.

We have got to learn that this battle is not a “flesh and blood” war. It is a diabolical invasion and Satan is determined to win. We know he will not win, but that does not change the seriousness of our fight. The Holy Spirit said, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We will either learn to fight in the Spirit or we will lose. It’s that simple! “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:17-18). (Please study this entire passage.)

Satan knows all about Revelation chapter twelve and the war that is soon to occur in the second heavens. Satan is presently the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 2:2). This position of great advantage will end when Michael and his host of holy angels engage this liar and thief. Right now, Satan can appeal to God and can bring his lies of accusation against every saint of God. Every battle we win now, we win because we pray and struggle to defeat our old flesh and depend only on God and His resources in the Word of God.

The moment Lucifer is cast out of the heavens; he can never leave the confines of the earth. After his limited earthly powers and struggles during the seven years of the Great Tribulation, he will be cast into the Bottomless Pit. After spending a thousand years in the Abyss, he will then be cast into the Lake of Fire. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:7-10).

I hope you now understand why the underworld is trembling. When Jesus Christ appeared the first time, the fallen angels of Satan were terrified about their future. If they trembled then, you can understand the level of frenzy they are now experiencing. Read the description of these demons begging Jesus for mercy, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep (abyss)” (Luke 8:28-31).

Our future is both bright and challenging. We should rejoice because of what we see on the world scene. It is clear that the dark underworld is fighting for their final control. The darkest hour is always just before the dawn of a new day. We will witness the fury of evil, and every truth in Scripture will be fulfilled. The wicked will have their last opportunities to manifest the darkness in their heart.

Every person reading this article must prepare if they expect to survive. Every door in your life that you open to sin or Satan will become an invitation for demons to destroy you. Remember, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). The underworld is staffed by a multitude of spirits or fallen angels. There is more than one for every soul. Your protection is the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost. We are warned to “Neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).

Joseph R. Chambers, DD, DSL
jrc@pawcreek.org

I pray this article will help you understand why there is so much happening right now that we as believes need to be "watching" for and why we must always be ready to give an explanation to those around us who don't see this evil for what it is. Let your light shine so the world will see there is hope in a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we need not fear what God has promised to deliver us from.

Keep watching

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Light of Hanukkah

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [fn] it. There was a man sent from God, whose name [was] John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but [was sent] to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. [fn]He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, [fn] and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-14 NKJV

If you recall, I said last week that I intended to just ramble about my thoughts on Hanukkah, so today I will take up where I left off. Many of you know that God instituted seven Holy, or Feast Days for the nation of Israel after He had delivered them out of bondage in Egypt, but there is the possibility that some of you might not know that Hanukkah is not one of them. Yet it is a very important celebration for the nation of Israel, and even acknowledged by Jesus in the New Testament. (John 10:22) For that reason, as well as others, I became interested in studying this holiday to see what I could discover about it that might have implications or instruction for us as believers today.

Last week I discussed the Menorah and some of my thoughts concerning what it might represent especially in light of how it is constructed. You will recall my feeling that the branches light the center stem, which I look at as Jesus, the light of the world. I also mentioned that the branches represent us as believers, reflecting the light of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving, or dark world. I want to explore that a little more today and then suggest a possible implication related to the rapture of the Church.

There should be no question in our minds that Jesus is indeed the Light of the world. I think the passage from John 1 makes that pretty clear, but if that is not enough, consider the following words from Jesus;

I have come [as] a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. John 12:46 NKJV

So there I was thinking about Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Light, and the fact that John, as well as Jesus said He came into this world as a light, when something else crossed my mind. If you have followed me for a while, you know how much I don't believe in coincidences, so let me share another one with you. The following paragraphs are from my blog from 12/14/08 called Christmas in September.

..... The best indication, however, of just when Jesus was born can be found in the first chapter of Luke when we are told of the conception and birth of Jesus' cousin John the Baptist. When we are introduced to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, we are told in verse 5 of chapter 1 that he was a priest "of the course of Abia", or Abijah. It says also that he was beginning his service in the temple when he was told by the angel Gabriel that he was about to become a father. We know from 1 Chronicles 24:10 that the course of Abijah was the eighth course to serve in the temple. This would mean his service would have ended around the month of July. Assuming a normal term of pregnancy, John would have likely been born around April of the next year.

Why is this important to our question of when Jesus was born? If we look at Luke 1:36 we see that when Gabriel visited Mary to tell her about what was about to happen to her, he also said that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist and Marys' cousin, was in her 6th month of pregnancy. This means that Jesus was to be born approximately 6 months after John the Baptist. Look at John being born around April, and you end up with Jesus being born around September. Is it possible that Jesus was actually born in September rather than in December as we celebrate it?


Now many who have studied this subject consider it a very strong possibility that Jesus was not only born in September, but on the Feast of Tabernacles as well, because in verse 14 of the passage from John 1 the word translated "dwelt" is "tabernacled" in the Greek. So what does this have to do with Hanukkah, the Festival of Light? Just this, if you subtract a normal 9 month pregnancy from the Feast of Tabernacles you get a date of conception in December, right where we find the Festival of Light. If you believe as I do that life begins at conception, then when did the "Light" of the world arrive? Hanukkah? Interesting thought isn't it? Just coincidence? Well, just my opinion; not hardly!

I did, however, also mention this might have implications for the rapture of the church. How is that? Well, if we the Church, the Body of Christ, are a "light" in this world of darkness, reflecting the "light of Christ" to an unbelieving world, is there a possibility that "light" would leave on the anniversary it first "arrived"? If the past is any indication, we know God has allowed numerous historical events to occur on the anniversaries of His feast days, so why would it be a surprise if He did it again on this day?

Am I predicting a Hanukkah rapture? No, but truth be told, I for one would not be surprised at all. What I get from studying Hanukkah is just more conviction of my personal responsibility to shine my light as bright as I can to a world that seems to be getting darker every day. And if you may have stumbled onto this blog by accident and question where you may spend eternity, may I encourage you to pray to Jesus Christ and confess your sins, ask Him to come into your life, and begin to experience a life filled with the "light of life".

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Miracle of Hanukkah

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I'm sure the thoughts of many have moved on to Christmas, and everything associated with it. Did you celebrate the day after Thanksgiving by shopping, or by putting up your Christmas lights? There is, of course, nothing wrong with that at all, but what I want to do today is talk about a holiday that many in the western world know little if anything about. It's a Jewish holiday called Hanukkah, or The Festival of Light, and it lasts for eight days generally occurring before Christmas in the early part of December.

In Israel's history, after they had been released from captivity by the Babylonians, they returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple which had been destroyed when they were taken into captivity. A few hundred years later, around 175BC, Israel was under the rule of the Selucid Empire (Syria) and their king. This king, Antiochus IV, looted the temple, stopped the worship, and effectively outlawed the practice of Judaism. A revolt began and the end result was that in 165BC the king was overthrown and the Jews were able to resume worship in their temple. The trouble was, they discovered that when they went to relight the Menorrah, or lampstand in the temple, there was only enough oil to burn for one day. Since this oil was specially consecrated by the priests for use, it would take days to prepare more. However, a miracle occurred in that the one day supply of oil burned for eight days allowing time for the priests to prepare more. Although not one of the seven feasts of Israel ordained by God in the Old Testament, it is a very important celebration in Israel and is even referred to in the New Testament. During Hanukkah, the people celebrate by lighting one light each night for eight nights using what is known as a Hanukkah Menorah with eight branches on a single main stem as opposed to the Menorah used in the Temple which has six branches off of the main stem.

So why do I bring this up? I suppose because I find so many interesting things associated with this celebration that we as believers can and should be aware of. So I want to take a little time examining some of them, and share my thoughts with you as to why I think they are important. I will apologize beforehand if I seem to ramble in sharing these with you, but I have yet to take the time to organize my thoughts into an outline form so what you get might seem a little random. So first of all, lets talk about the Menorah. Of all the things to be found in the Temple, I think the Menorah was probably the most impressive. A description of it is found in Exodus 25 where God instructs Moses on how to construct it.

"You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its [ornamental] knobs, and flowers shall be [of one piece]. And six branches shall come out of its sides: three branches of the lampstand out of one side, and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side. Three bowls [shall be] made like almond [blossoms] on one branch, [with] an [ornamental] knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond [blossoms] on the other branch, [with] an [ornamental] knob and a flower--and so for the six branches that come out of the lampstand. On the lampstand itself four bowls [shall be] made like almond [blossoms, each with] its [ornamental] knob and flower. And [there shall be] a knob under the [first] two branches of the same, a knob under the [second] two branches of the same, and a knob under the [third] two branches of the same, according to the six branches that extend from the lampstand. Their knobs and their branches [shall be of one piece]; all of it [shall be] one hammered piece of pure gold. You shall make seven lamps for it, and they shall arrange its lamps so that they give light in front of it. And its wick-trimmers and their trays [shall be] of pure gold. It shall be made of a talent of pure gold, with all these utensils. Exodus 25:31-39 NKJV


Notice how ornate this object was, and how much care had to be taken to make it. Notice too how specific God was with His instructions on how it was to be made. Here is what I get from reading this description. First of all, God is very specific when He says that there are six branches, three on each side, emanating from a main shaft. Why is that important? Type in "menorah" in your search engine and read some of the results. I bet every one of them describes a menorah as a "seven" branched candlestick. Am I being picky here? I don't think so. I believe the picture God paints for us here is very important, and often missed. I think most of you are probably familiar with the following verse;

"I am the vine, you [are] the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NKJV

"Without me you can do nothing". I would think we should consider that a rather important statement by our Lord. You see, something has to support the branches. I guess that is why they call them branches, they "branch" off from something else. When I look at a picture of the menorah I see one main shaft from which branches grow. Is this the picture God intended for us to see? I really think it is, and I think I can give you something more to help consider that possibility. The branches get what they need not from themselves, but from the vine itself which has roots. So in essence, the main vine is the most important part of the picture. The vine supports the branches, not the other way around. Have you ever seen a vineyard when it is pruned? I live in wine country, and am surrounded by vineyards and wineries. After a vine is pruned I can tell you they look like stumps. Yet they aren't dead, and have plenty of life inside which manifests itself in the spring when the branches begin to grow. So the first thing I see when I look at a menorah is Jesus as the main shaft supporting the branches which symbolize all those who choose to believe.

Let's now consider the purpose of the lamp itself which is to give light. The purpose of having a lamp is to give light when it is dark in order to show us the way to walk without stumbling over something we would not ordinarily see. If God is showing us a picture of His Son as a lamp, with those who believe as the branches whose purpose is to give light, can we find another part of scripture to support that thought?

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12 NKJV

So if Jesus is the light of the world and the main shaft or vine, as His branches we have that light as well with the ability to give light. Jesus told us that in the book of Matthew where He says this;

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 NKJV

So what I see here is this, a lampstand such as the menorah gives light two ways. One, it shines light outward to fight the darkness that surrounds it. But two, the branches also send light inward, lighting up the shaft itself. When the world looks at the lamp, not only do they see the effect of the light it produces, but they see the lamp itself. So the second thing I think of when I see a menorah is Jesus as the light of the world, not only giving light but being glorified (lit up) by those who believe.

Then of course we come to the reason behind the celebration of Hanukkah, and that is the miracle of the oil. Obviously a lamp without oil cannot give light, so the oil is probably the most important part of the picture we are looking at here. Throughout the Bible it is plainly seen and accepted that oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament kings and priests were annointed with oil as a sign they were being "consecrated" and filled with the spirit. In Zechariah we see that the prophet was shown a vision of a lampstand with oil dripping into it and when he asks what it signifies is he is told;

So he answered and said to me: "This [is] the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. Zechariah 4:6 NKJV

We also know Jesus told His disciples that they were going to receive the Holy Spirit as a gift and just what the results of that gift would be.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8 NKJV

When we become believers and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we receive the "oil" we need to light our lamps. We have the power we need to live the life God expects from us and "light" the world with the deeds that will bring glory and honor to God. It also gives us the strength we need to let our light shine in the midst of the darkness we seem to be finding ourselves surrounded by more and more as we get closer to the end of this age. So I guess this is the third thing I see and think about when I look at a menorah, and that is the oil of the Holy Spirit which lights up the world through those who believe.

Hanukkah might be considered a "Jewish" holiday, but I hope from my ramblings you can see that it can be a beautiful picture of our life with God through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. When I think of Hanukkah and see a menorah I remember Jesus as the vine, we as the branches, and the Holy Spirit as the oil which helps us shine the light of Christ in a world increasingly filled with darkness.

Keep watching.

Oops. I told you I was rambling. I forgot to mention why I think God specified that the bowls would be like "almond" blossoms, but I think I will let you study on that for your "homework" this week. (Clue: Almond trees are the first to bloom. Think firstfruits, rapture, etc. :) ) Have a good week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wings Like Eagles

A question I have always had in regards to living in the end times is just how much discomfort are believers going to be subjected to as we get closer and closer to the return of Christ for His church? Lately it would appear that the answer to that may be a bit uncomfortable as more and more I am hearing about situations where dedicated, committed believers being subjected to trials they never suspected would occur. Many are a direct result of the state of the economy, as I hear of Christians losing their jobs, having trouble paying their bills, and even struggling to put food on the table. Of course, it should come as no surprise that the natural question which results from these situations is simply "why"? As a believer, shouldn't we be able to expect God to spare us from these troubles?

The reality is, that question is not a new one. How many times in the Old Testament can you recall someone asking God "why"? The past few weeks we have been looking at some of the prophecies in the Old Testament written by the prophets around the time of Israel's captivity, and I want to share something that Isaiah wrote about this subject.

Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to [those who have] no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew [their] strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:27-31 NKJV


Obviously, from this passage we can see that Israel was complaining to God that He was obviously unaware of their suffering because He had not done anything about it. They were feeling as if God had abandoned them, and was either unaware or unwilling to do anything to alleviate their suffering. Especially interesting is the idea we see that the people felt that God was obliged to deliver them! Do you notice the words "just claim"? They felt as God's chosen people, they should somehow be immune to struggles. I am sure many today are experiencing those same feelings as they experience the hardships that seem so prevalent in our nations current situation. Yet Isaiah goes on to answer those feelings by telling us three things we need to remember when we experience trials in our lives.

First of all, Isaiah reminds us that God is never asleep, or too tired to listen to our cries for help. He doesn't "faint" or get "weary", and believe it or not, He has a plan that we as humans may not "understand". His ways are not our ways, but Isaiah assures us that even though we may not understand, or agree, God's ways are not our ways.

Secondly, Isaiah assures us that God will give us the "power" and the "strength" we need to endure. It seems here as if we are being told that within the body of Christ there are three levels of maturity. The "youth" would refer to those who are new and relatively immature believers who would struggle the most when experiencing these kinds of difficulties. The "young men" would be those who have grown enough to endure a bit longer, but still struggle with circumstances they could not control. Those who are able to "wait", however, are those believers mature enough in their faith to understand that God is always faithful to provide the strength we need to endure.

Third, Isaiah uses a beautiful example of an eagle to picture what life as a mature believer can be. Can anyone imagine running and never getting tired, or walking forever without running out of gas? Fortunately for me, I live in an area where all I have to do to watch eagles is drive a mile to the river that runs through a canyon south of town and I can spend hours watching bald eagles fish and hunt for their food. If you have never had the opportunity to do something like that, I want to share a few observations about eagles.

One of the first things you notice when you get up close and personal with an eagle is just how big their wings are. I don't know just how they can fold them up so small, but let me tell you, when they unfold those wings to take off they are impressive. It is common to see eagles with a wingspan of 6-7 feet, and when they fly by 20 feet or so away you usually feel like ducking. Of course, with wings that big it follows you should see the size of fish they can take off with. I am talking about salmon bigger than they are! The strength they possess is just amazing to watch. To see them dive on the river and come up with a fish that size just takes your breath away. Then of course, we come to the hunt. These eagles can soar forever! They just sit over the river riding the air currents and never hardly move their wings. They just sit up there floating for hours without seeming to expend any effort at all until they spot dinner swimming below.

Is it any wonder God chooses to use the eagle as an illustration of His care and concern for His own? The power and strength and endurance is there for us when we need it, but what is required of us most is to wait. We are an impatient people who want answers and action right now, but our God is a God of patience and deliberation.

Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalms 34:19 NKJV

God tells us that as faithful, righteous believers we will suffer afflictions. However the proper response is to wait upon the Lord who is not only able, but promises to give us the strength we need to soar like eagles. Note in the passage from Isaiah that God does not promise to take away the suffering, but rather to give us "strength and endurance" so we can be delivered through it. When believers suffer, rather than growing tired or fainting, we need to ask for strength and wait for the promises of God as a witness to those around us that God indeed will provide what we need.

Please join me in praying for those who are struggling as we approach the end of this age. Never forget, God is faithful.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here Comes the Judge

"Don't judge me." "You're judging me." "The Bible says judge not lest you be judged." Have you ever heard those words directed to you? I know I have, yet many are unaware of the simple fact that if you do hear those words, it probably means you are busy doing what God asks of us. No, not judging others, but informing others of what God has said in His word concerning what He requires of us.

When I have taught about this in the past, I always like to use this example. Have you ever been pulled over by a policeman? Do you remember what it felt like when you saw the car pull up behind you? Not me! I wasn't doing anything wrong! Then the lights go on and he motions for you to pull over. You look in your mirror and watch as he slowly gets out of his car, adjusts his black robe and picks up his gavel before slowly walking to your car. Gotcha didn't I? Of course that's not what he looked like, because he is a law enforcement officer, not the judge. It is simply his job to tell you he observed you breaking the law. It is the judge you face in the courtroom who has the power to pass the sentence, and in reality, it is he alone that "judges" you.

Last week we discussed our responsibility to speak out about what we see happening in the world around us, and the fact that just like the prophets of old, we are in essence warning of God's coming judgment. The thought occurs to me that the Old Testament prophets probably heard "you're judging me" a whole lot. Of course, that did not stop them from doing what they were told by God to do, and neither should we. There is, of course, a more acceptable way of doing that and I believe we need to be sure we warn people with and attitude of love, and not with an attitude that could be interpreted as "judgmental". I'm sure we all have a passage or two in scripture that means something special to us, or one we seem to feel applies to us more than another. One of my very favorites is the following passage from the book of Psalms.

The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, [And] in keeping them [there is] great reward. Psalms 19:7-11 NKJV


I liked this Psalm so much that I memorized the whole chapter, and have tried to remind myself to quote it every day. One of the first things I noticed about this Psalm is how much David is saying he loves God's laws. Now just like anyone else, I would rather people not tell me what to do, so I wanted to discover why David was so desiring of knowing God's laws. What came to mind as I read this Psalm is that David concentrates on the positive results of following God's laws rather than the judgment that comes from disobeying. Not to say we are not warned of what could happen if we don't, but as we would say in this day and age, he concentrates on the "upside".

I look at this as a clue as to how we should approach fulfilling our obligation to speak out about what we see around us today. Accentuate the positive aspects of obeying God's laws, without minimizing the judgment that God says will certainly come. I have said before that when I encounter something unusual or out of the ordinary when studying scripture, it is Gods' way of making a point. Consider the following as an example. There occurs an unusual verse in the book of Zephaniah I want you to read. Why unusual? It is the only time in the entire Bible where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is contained in just one verse. Guess what the subject of that verse is? That's right; Gods' coming judgment of this world.

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; [fn] My determination [is] to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy. Zephaniah 3:8 NKJV

Do you think it's possible God is trying to make a point here? Is it possible this verse is His way of emphasizing that a decision to reject Him and His laws has only one result? We know that the time where all the nations of the world will be gathered is during the Tribulation. The Bible also makes it abundantly clear what the scope of that coming judgment is.

That day [is] a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers "I will bring distress upon men, And they shall walk like blind men, Because they have sinned against the LORD; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, And their flesh like refuse." Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD's wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land. Zephaniah 1:14-18 NKJV

We see the signs of that coming time all around us today, and as the Bible tells us, when you see the signs you know He is near. Standing up as believers and speaking out about what we see, and using that as an opportunity to affirm Gods' laws and expectations of His people will most certainly occasion a response accusing us of judging others. But we are not the judges because we only speak out about what we see. The responsibility to judge and pass sentence is Gods' alone and He has promised He will certainly fulfill that duty.

The good news is that God is a forgiving God, and has promised to deliver anyone from that coming judgment by simply accepting His free gift of salvation and striving to follow His laws. May we be bold to share that good news with others in a spirit of love and forgiveness as we see the day approaching.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Decline of a Nation

We have talked lately about what the Bible calls "the days of Noah", and the fact that Jesus himself said that the world would be in a similar situation as it approaches the time of His second coming. My thoughts this week surrounded the similarities between what we see happening in our nation right now, and what Noah, and the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah saw happening in their day. What's more, I also considered the strong possibility that we as believers share the same responsibilities as those individuals had in speaking out about what they saw.

I'm sure most of us are familiar with the following passage.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. [For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. Mark 13:33-37 KJV

Did you notice how many times we are told to watch? Did you also notice the last verse says we ALL are being commanded to watch? I get the idea this is a rather important point Jesus is trying to make. So why is watching such an important responsibility? Consider the following passage from the Old Testament concerning watchmen and what was expected from them.

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take [any] person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. Ezekiel 33:2-6 KJV

It was the last verse in that passage that got my attention. If a person is appointed to be a watchman, and does not fulfill his responsibility to warn of what he sees, he will be held accountable for those who perish because of his failure. Talk about responsibility. I have no doubt that watchmen in the Old Testament took their job very, very seriously. So here is my question to you; since we are commanded to watch, have we as believers been appointed "watchmen" with the same responsibilities as those in the past? Are we required by God to not only watch, but to warn of what we see?

The state of our country has been the subject of much talk in the last year or so, what with the "changes" being instituted by the leaders in our government. Many have made no secret of the fact they believe the moral compass of our nation is seriously malfunctioning, and the direction we are going is quite the opposite of what it should be. Many have asked what we should do as believers when confronted by what we see happening in our nation today? I believe the answer is as clear as it was to Noah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and all the others appointed as watchmen. We need to stand up and be counted as opposing the direction our country is headed, and especially be clear as to why. Times like these are an opportunity to share the love of God with those around us, and to explain His laws and expectations concerning our behavior. The Bible is very clear that any nation that turns it's back on God will be judged. No question.

Look at what God had to say about Israel in Jeremiah's day.

And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. Jeremiah 1:16 KJV

Do you see any similarities between our country and what was happening at the time of Noah? Are we as a nation turning from God and worshiping what we have created with our own hands as they did in Jeremiahs' day? Are the decisions made concerning social issues based on God's laws, or popular feeling? Is our country headed for judgement? If we continue on the course we are on, I have no doubt. Will it be hard to stand and be counted? Absolutely. However look at what God told Jeremiah when he was commissioned to serve.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I [am] with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. Jeremiah 1:17-19 KJV

Are we living in the last days? Personally I am surprised we are still here given what I can see with my own two eyes. America is fast approaching the time of judgement, and as Jesus said, "no man knows the day or the hour". Do you want to be surprised at His coming, and realize you failed in your responsibilities as a watchman? I don't. May you find strength to watch and warn others of what you see by the power of God's promises to us.

Keep watching.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Gap Theory

A question that often comes up when discussing the rapture of the church, if you hold to the pre-tribulation rapture position, concerns how much time may there be between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation? Many people believe there is no gap, and that the tribulation begins right after the rapture takes place, while others feel there may be some time between the two events. Personally, I am not too sure there is any way to know the answer to that precisely, but it's possible there are clues to be found in scripture.

We looked last week at the story of Noah and the circumstances surrounding his following the command of God to enter. We saw there was a period of seven days that separated his entering the ark with the beginning of the rain that fell for forty days and forty nights. If we consider the entering of the ark and the closing of the door to be a picture of the rapture of the church, could it be that this is a clue that there might be a little gap of time between the rapture and the tribulation?

Another possible clue might be found by examining some of the specific circumstances the Bible tells us will occur during the tribulation, and consider if the rapture might well be the event that produces the environment needed to force the world to make the moves we are told will occur. If you remember what we discussed last week, you will recall the following passage.

For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, Matthew 24:38 NKJV

We mentioned the fact that according to this verse, life on earth changed on the day Noah entered the ark. I don't believe anyone would care to argue that life on this earth will change dramatically immediately after the rapture. One of the biggest questions one might have is how will the governments of the world react to this event, especially in the area of enforcing peace in what will most assuredly be chaos?

When the Bible talks about government during the tribulation period, it tells us a couple of things. In Daniel 7 we see described a time when the world will be divided into 10 "kingdoms". The word for kingdom used here is "malkuw" which can be translated "realm" (of territory). So in essence Daniel is saying that during the tribulation the world will be divided into ten distinct regions or territories.

In Revelation 13 we are told that during the tribulation, the coming world leader will amass so much power that all the nations (the ten territories) will give their allegiance to him, thus establishing a one world government. Looking at both of these prophecies makes one seriously question the possibility the entire world could even talk about a one world government, much less agree to it if the period of time between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation was short.

Of course, there is an easy answer to that and it's this; what if the framework was already done, and only had to be enacted or ratified by the governments of the world immediately after the rapture? If that were the case, the church would have two really big signs to look for to know without a doubt that the rapture was near, right? Well, I didn't bring all this up just to let you down, so listen to this.

In case you are unaware, the European Union has already divided the world into ten regions, or territories. You can check them out by using the following link.

http://ec.europa.eu/world/where/index_en.htm

As far as the one world government is concerned, in December the United Nations will convene in Copenhagen Denmark to ratify a new treaty on "global-warming". So what? Well, it is reported that although this treaty is said to be about global warming, what it really does is create a new political entity with the power to govern the world. Did you get that? In essence, it creates a one-world government. If you find that hard to swallow, I suggest you use the following link to read what others have to say about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjIheYw3fOw&feature=player_embedded#
http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=113848

So my question to you is this, if the world is already prepared to enact the conditions described as existing during the tribulation, just how close is the rapture of the church? Is it possible the tribulation could begin in as little as seven days after the rapture just like the picture we see in the story of Noah?

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Noah and the Rapture

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, [fn] but My Father only. But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:36-39 NKJV


These verses from the Olivet Discourse are probably familiar with many, if not most believers today. Jesus is talking about His return for His church, which we know as the rapture, and He describes that time as being like the times of Noah. As with most of you, I always seem to find there is more than meets the eye when studying scripture. Just when I think I have figured a passage out, something else, another question or idea pops out of nowhere and forces me to look even deeper. This passage is no exception.

The subject of the flood of Noah has always been a favorite of mine. Years ago I spent a great deal of time and money actually searching for the resting place of the Ark using clues from the Bible, ancient accounts and maps, and satellite imagery of the geographical area I felt it had landed. ( yes, I think I found it, and I have an interesting satellite pic to prove it but no one believes me ) At this time of the year, when the rest of the world is preparing to celebrate Halloween, I am always especially reminded of the flood because the Bible tells us it occurred on the seventeenth day of the second month on the Jewish calendar. That puts it around the same time of the year as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, The Day of the Dead, and all the other names it has gone by throughout history. ( yes, celebrated at the same time of the year the flood occurred is just another coincidence, right? )

So to be sure, this week I was studying this passage yet again when something came to mind that I had not considered before, and that is what I want to share with you today. If you look closely at the passage, notice something Jesus said. He said that people in Noah's day went about their lives doing what they did "until the day that Noah entered the ark". So? Well, let's look closely at the passage in Genesis that talks about that day.

Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made." Genesis 7:1-4 NKJV


What these verses tell us is that God told Noah to go into the Ark because in seven days the flood was going to begin. Do you see where I am going? Matthew tells us that the normal, everyday life of the unbelievers of Noah's day continued until "the day" Noah entered the Ark. If the flood did not begin until seven days after Noah entered the Ark, what happened on that day that got their attention to the extent they changed what they had been doing? Since Noah had been going in and out of the Ark for 150 years while he built it means something different had to have happened this particular day. Considering this, the only answer I could come up with is found in the following verse.

So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. Genesis 7:16 NKJV

To put it another way, after everybody went in, God shut the door! Now I got to thinking about the door, and the first thought I had was "just how big was that door"? I mean, it had to be big enough for the largest animals on the earth to walk through. That door must have been huge! With a background in construction, my next thought was how was it engineered? Hinges? Sliding? Let's not forget weight either. Made of wood thick enough to withstand the pressures it would face from the sea, and treated with pitch which would make it even heavier. It would have taken a massive effort on the part of Noah and his sons to put that door in place. But the Bible tells us God shut the door. What exactly did the people outside see and hear when God shut it? Did they see it closing seemingly all by itself? Did it close slowly or slam shut with a loud noise? Maybe a little thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure? Whatever happened, if people changed their behavior when that door shut there must have been a message there that they heard loud and clear.

What might that message have been? I wonder if it was a sense that no matter if they changed their minds or not, they had lost their chance to get in? Thinking about this led me to a couple of other passages where God talks about closing a door.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Matthew 25:10-12 NKJV


Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' Luke 13:24-25 NKJV


I think the message God intends for the world is clear. In order to escape the judgment that is coming, you must enter before the door is shut. In Noah's day, I believe the people of the earth had a good idea what was coming when they saw the door shut, and realized they had lost their chance to escape. When the world sees the church disappear in the rapture, they will know just as the people of Noah's day knew, that the door was shut. My prayer is that you have made the choice to enter in before that door shuts. The day that Noah entered the Ark, the tenth day of the second month, occurs this week. Have you made your choice? Jesus said this;

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 NKJV

I pray you have asked Jesus to come into your heart, and have given your life to Him. If you have, we will walk through that door together. Hopefully soon.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Setting the Stage

My apologies for the delay to those who faithfully look for my posts every week, but the motherboard (who named it that?) on my computer decided on it's own to "retire" without warning and the results were predictable. So after waiting a week to get a new one installed, and discovering how much was "lost" and after having to rebuild, I think I'm back in a position to pick up where we left off. Hopefully this won't happen again anytime soon, or at least until I figure out what "backup" means.

Actually, although it might sound far fetched to some, I am curious as to the timing of my system failure. Many events in the Middle East are beginning to combine in such a way as to point exactly to the prophetic scenarios detailed in the Bible to occur immediately before, and after, the beginning of the tribulation. Some of you have read my book on the Isaiah 17 prophecy, and are familiar with the geopolitical alliances revealed there which exist at the time of the destruction of Damascus. These are also detailed extensively in the book "Isralestine" by Bill Salus which examines the prophecy of Psalms 83. I had just received an e-mail from him concerning the events outlined in my book when my system crashed. Coincidence? Who knows. But what I do know, and what many are seeing right now occur in the Middle East, is an acceleration of events which seem to be pointing to a very rapid fulfillment of these prophecies.

What I am going to do today is simply give you some links to follow to read what I and many others are seeing. I hope they will encourage you to be even more diligent to "scatter seed" and take advantage of the little time we have left. Remember, if you would like a copy of my book, they are free and I can send you a copy by e-mail as they are in an adobe pdf file. I'm sure there is probably a way to add it to this blog as a click and download feature, but I'm sure you have figured out by now I am not the most computer literate guy out here. So just e-mail me your request and I will send it along.

Keep watching.

http://www.rapturealert.com/2009/101609doomsday.asp

http://bible-prophecy-today.blogspot.com/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204574475111169141066.html

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1255694828871&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1254861887735&
pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

http://raptureready.com/featured/graham/g93.html

Monday, October 5, 2009

Celebrating the Harvest

Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that [are] within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Deuteronomy 16:13-16 KJV

Growing up in Southern California, I was only familiar with two seasons; warm and hot. It took a move to the Pacific Northwest to experience what four seasons was really all about, and actually having four choices as to which one I enjoyed the most. I don’t know about any of you, but my favorite has always been the fall. Just to experience the relief from the long, hot summer, feel the weather changing to cooler, and doing yard work as the leaves change color and then fall, and looking forward to taking it a little easier in the winter all bring me a sense of enjoyment. I suppose it also brings me a sense of anticipation too as I enjoy listening to it rain, then slowly turn to snow as I am big on winter recreation. (I traded my surfboard for skis)

The Feast of Tabernacles is the last of the seven feasts appointed by the Lord for the nation of Israel. It occurs in the fall between the 15th and the 21st of the month of Tishri, which usually occurs in late September and early October. It is also known by other names as well, some of these being Sukkot, The Season of Our Joy, and The Feast of Ingathering. It is the last of the three holidays in which all Jewish males were required to make the pilgrimage to the temple, yet as opposed to the others, the word joy (simchah) is used several times to describe it. I want to look at just a few reasons why this holiday is known as the “Season of Our Joy”, and consider the possibility it might prove to be a time we as believers need to “watch” with special anticipation.


Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35 KJV

Also known as the Feast of Ingathering, the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the last harvest in Israel for the year. Traditionally there are three harvests, these being the barley harvest, wheat harvest, and fruit harvest. In the fall, after these three were completed, you would celebrate the finish of your labors for the year. Obviously it was a time of celebration for your work was done, and you could look at the results sitting in your storehouse. How often did Jesus use the illustration of planting and harvesting in His teaching while on this earth? Could the Feast of Ingathering give us a clue as to when Jesus might return for His people?

In my Father's house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also. John 14:2-3 KJV

Known traditionally as the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, this feast also serves as a reminder of the time the children of Israel dwelt in the wilderness in “temporary” dwellings before they were delivered to the promised land. During this feast Jews will construct “Sukkahs” or temporary shelters and will stay in them to remind them of what the children of Israel went through during their wilderness wanderings. As believers, we know that our time on this earth and in these bodies is but temporary as well. Not only do we have the promise from Jesus that He is building us a new and eternally permanent home, but will at the rapture present us with new and eternal bodies as well. Could this feast again be a foreshadow of that coming time when our hope in Christ will be rewarded?


Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. John 7:2 KJV


In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. John 7:37, 38 KJV

One of the more interesting traditions associated with this feast was the drawing of water from the pool of Siloam. Every day a priest would fill a golden vase with water known as the living water (mayim hayim) and take it to the temple where it would be poured out on a corner of the altar. In these verses from John we see that Jesus used this time of celebration to announce to the world that He was, in fact, offering mankind the water of eternal life. John also makes it clear that this occurred on the “last great day” of the feast. This in fact is a reference to the eighth day which is known as Shmini Atzeret. It is not part of the Feast of Tabernacles, but is celebrated the day after and it is then that the people would begin to pray for rain for the coming year. Water has always been at a premium in Israel, and without it the land would become desert. Yet Jesus took this day as an opportunity to announce that He had come to save the world. Is it no wonder this celebration is also referred to as the "Season of Our Joy"?

This last feast seems to be both an end, and a beginning. A celebration of harvest and the end of the year's work, and the beginning of a time of rest to enjoy the fruits of labor. Jesus came to earth to do the "work" it required for us to obtain eternal life. How appropriate would it be for we as believers to experience the rest we so anxiously look forward to at this time of the year? The Feast of Tabernacles began this past Sunday, and will continue until this next Sunday. During this week why don't you join me in being "joyful" as we look back at the past year of hard work and pray for the coming of our Lord and Saviour to take us to our "permanent" home?

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Risky Investing

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. "For [the kingdom of heaven is] like a man traveling to a far country, [who] called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who [had received] two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them. 'His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. 'He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them. 'His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. '"Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, [there] you have [what is] yours.' "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give [it] to him who has ten talents. 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matthew 25:13-30 NKJV

It seems no matter how often I read this parable, I always discover something new when I revisit it. I want to share just a few of those things with you today, especially in light of the financial unrest many may be experiencing right now.
I suppose I could be best described as an extremely conservative investor. As far as my money goes, no risk is the best risk. Of course, with three daughters, I never really had any money to invest anyway, but that's another story. Your first thought when reading this parable could be that it's a story of different approaches to investing, but as we have come to learn, there is usually much more than the obvious to scripture.

As always, context is key to understanding any portion of scripture. Here, Jesus is teaching His disciples about the importance of watching for the coming of His kingdom. They thought that it was about to occur, not understanding Jesus had yet to die, so Jesus illustrates that fact by telling this story. The master was going on a journey which would require him to be absent for some time, and during his absence, his servants would be required to administer his estate. The first point we should consider here is that the servants were investing their masters talents, not their own.

Secondly, it is important to notice that the master knew his servants abilities, and as such, he only gave them what he knew they were equipped to handle. In other words, no task or responsibilities were asked of his servants that they would be unable to perform. He did not set them up to fail, but rather gave them everything they needed to succeed.

Eventually we find the master returns, and immediately he calls his servants to "settle accounts" with them. He was not content to just return to his estate and pick up where he left off, but rather wanted to examine the performance of his servants to see if they had fulfilled their responsibilities well. So I believe the third, and maybe the most important point is that if these servants knew their master well, they knew they would be held accountable for their performance. It was no surprise to them that he wanted to see how they had done in his absence.

Well, as we read, two of the servants performed up to their masters expectations. They "immediately" went to work with what they had been given, and were faithful to perform their duties. As a result, their investments produced results which according to their master, were not only acceptable, but worth a great reward. It is interesting to note as well that although the two were given different degrees of responsibility, their rewards were the same. All the master required was "faithfullness".

Now we look at the third servant. By his own admission, he was afraid to do anything but hide the talent. But what was he afraid of? His own master? It would appear that the master did not agree with this excuse for he certainly chooses to spell out what he thinks of his servant. "Wicked and lazy"! What a combination. These two words used together in the Greek describe someone who by his very nature, is unwilling to put forth the effort to complete a task. So we have someone who not only is lazy, but tries to excuse his lack of effort by blaming someone else and making excuses. Well, he gets his reward as well, having what he does possess taken away, and being cast out with others of his kind.

The message Jesus is giving us here is not too difficult to understand. Jesus is our master, and He has gone away to "prepare a place for us" and will soon return. In His absence, we have all, as believers, been entrusted with administering His estate. How do we do that? Most scholars agree that the "talents" are opportunities to share the gospel with an unbelieving world. Some of us are given more, some less according to our abilities, but the one thing He makes clear in this parable is that the only thing He requires of us is to be "faithful". We are expected to take every opportunity He gives us to share the good news, and when He returns, there will be an "accounting".

The only "risk" involved with this kind of "investing" is the failure to try. The results are up to God, not us. God will not put us in a position to fail by asking us to do more than we are able. The opportunities we experience are given by God, and well within our capabilities. If Jesus' return is as close as we think, maybe we should pay even more attention to the opportunities we find as we watch for His coming. When He returns and calls us for our accounting, will we hear the words "well done thou good and faithful servant"? That's my prayer, and I sincerely hope it is yours.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Being Faithful to the End

I have been asked many times why I do what I do. To be sure, there have been times when teaching, especially on the subject of prophecy, has seemed to be a thankless pursuit. I can recall, though, one specific event many years ago which has affected my outlook, and been a source of encouragement for my ministry since it happened. I was teaching a Sunday school class on Daniel and had felt for some time that the interest of those attending was mediocre at best. On one particular Sunday following an opportunity to lecture at the local high school on the situation in the Middle East from a biblical perspective, I was surprised to see a student had brought his mother with him to my class. When the class was over, she came forward to thank me for speaking at the high school, and told me of the effect it had on her son. I thanked her for her kind words, and as we continued to talk shared some of the frustration I was feeling trying to teach what I considered to be so important, yet observing a somewhat lukewarm reception. I will never forget what she said to me then. Her words went something like this; "don't be discouraged for this is what God wants you to do at this particular time". It was the very next week that I noticed Matthew 24:45 and how it applied not only to me, but to all who are watching for the return of Christ. It's not that I had not read it before, but at that particular time it certainly stood out and took on a new significance for my ministry. I have never forgotten that day, nor this verse. As we who watch see the day approach, I thought I would share with you a sermon by Ray Stedman that covers these verses, and has been a source of encouragement to me.


IN THE MEAN TIME

Chapter Ten. Matthew 24:45-51

by Ray C. Stedman

In a small country store in a southern state a Negro lady came to do her shopping. Two or three young Negro men were standing around passing the time of day, and knowing that she was a Christian, they began to taunt her. "We hear you're expecting Jesus to come back," they said. "I sure am," she replied brightly. "Do you really believe he's coming?" they asked. "Sure as you're born," she answered. They said, "Well you'd better hurry home and get ready, he might be on the way!" She turned and fixed her tormentors with a look. "I don't have to get ready," she said, "I keep ready!"

That is exactly the attitude the Lord meant to engender when he said to his disciples, "Watch!" He does not mean, "Keep staring at the sky." He means "Keep ready at all times." Now to make it perfectly clear what that would involve he goes on to give them three parables, each of which is an exposition of that one word, "Watch!" The first is the parable of the household which tells us that watching means a mutual concern and ministry of the Word to one another. The second is the parable of the ten maidens which makes clear that watching means a dependence on deeper things than mere human resources. And the third is the parable of the talents where we learn that watching means a deliberate investment of life.

Three Illustrative Parables

It is evident that the Lord now finished, for the most part, the predictive part of his discourse. Except for a few details concerning the final scene of the nations, there are no new events described in the rest of his message. But it is extremely important that we understand these parables, for if we do not understand them we will not watch in the way he expects. And if we do not watch we will be deceived and miss much, if not all, of the exciting possibilities of the present hour. So let us listen carefully to his parable of the household, verses 45-47:

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions."

This parable is clearly for the instruction of those who are awaiting the Lord's return. The master of the household is gone but he has entrusted certain work to his steward until he returns. That work is primarily a ministry to the rest of the household, and notably, "to give them their food at the proper time." It is clearly addressed to the disciples and to those who will follow in their steps in the ministry of feeding and shepherding the church of Jesus Christ. Doubtless it includes any who have a ministry of teaching: pastors, evangelists, prophets, elders, Sunday School teachers, children's workers and Bible class leaders. It takes in any who have gifts of teaching, whether exercised in a church building or in homes. It includes theological professors, editors of magazines, radio teachers, missionaries, youth workers, and many others.

Give Them Food!

Since this is the first parable in the series it probably points up the most essential element in the matter of watching. The wise servant is given one major and primary responsibility: to feed the household at the proper time. If this is rightly done, the household will keep watching; if it is neglected, the household will languish and starve, and will not be ready when the Lord returns.

The task, therefore, of any leader within the church is to unfold the message of the Bible. Every pastor should set a loaded table before his congregation, not only that they might eat and grow, but also that they might learn from him how to draw from the Scriptures for themselves the spiritual nourishment they need. The Bible is wonderfully adapted to this purpose: there is milk for the beginner, bread for the more advanced, and strong meat to challenge and feed the mature. It is so designed that when books of the Bible are taught through consecutively they will cover a wide variety of subjects and yet keep truth marvelously in balance.

It is clearly evident, therefore, that the supreme need of the church during this time of waiting for its Lord is Bible study and knowledge. From this all else will flow. The Bible is the revelation of things as they really are. It represents the only truly realistic look at life that is available to man today. It is the only instrument provided by God that is adequate to the task of producing mature, well-adjusted, whole persons. That is the clear claim of 2 Timothy 3:16,17: "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

I am the Bread of Life

Be careful that you do not conclude from this that the Bible itself is the food for believers. It is not the book but the Lord which the book reveals that is our food. Christ is found in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. But Bible study alone can be most dull and uninteresting if one does not expect the Spirit to take the words and from them cause the living Christ to emerge. That explains why some Bible students are such dull and dry people; they have concentrated on the Word alone, without the Spirit. And yet it is impossible to know the Lord Jesus in the fullness of his being without the revelation of the Word. We cannot neglect the Bible and grow in Christ; but we can grow in the knowledge of Scripture and never feed upon a risen Lord.

The Incredible Reward

Imagine the joy of that servant when his lord returns and finds him faithfully at the task he assigned him. "Blessed is that servant," says Jesus. The Greek word for "blessed" can also be translated "happy." What a satisfying feeling it will be to know that he did his work well in the eyes of the only one who counts. What shall be done for such a man? What the Lord says next is truly amazing. Listen to it: "Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions." In another place Jesus said, "You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much" (Matthew 25:21). This is the invariable rule of the kingdom of God.

When you consider who this master really is, it becomes almost incredible that he should reward this servant by setting him over all his possessions. How much is that? Well, Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:21-23: "For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's."

There is a staggering thought in Paul's letter to the Ephesians which sums all this up in the phrase, "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Who can tell what boundless opportunities, what indescribable adventures of service, what fabulous vistas of challenge, are involved in a phrase like that? Surely one thing is clear: the commitment and labor required to fulfill the ministry of teaching which the Lord has left for us to do will not be worthy to be compared with what shall belong to a "faithful and wise servant" when the Lord returns.

The Unfaithful Servant

But unfortunately not every servant of the Lord proves to be wise and faithful. With the utter candor that characterizes him, Jesus gives the negative side of the picture in verses 48-51:

"But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."

It is evident that this servant has the same ministry committed to him as the first one. He, too, is expected "to give them their food at the proper time." Thesame storehouse of the Word is at his disposal so that he too can feed the hungry of the household whenever they need it. The health and welfare of the household is his responsibility and depends upon his faithful ministry.

But this servant is different. When his lord does not come as soon as he expects, he says to himself, "My master is delayed." There is more than a hint here that the return of the Lord Jesus will be delayed far beyond the expectations of men. The apostles expected him in the first century, but he did not come. Now many centuries have gone by, and the effect of that long delay has been what the Lord here predicts. Many who claim to be his servants have given up hope of his return. The former bishop of the Episcopal Church, James Pike, himself one who had given up such a hope, stated that "only 24% of Episcopalians, by survey, believe it."* The effect of that lost hope is immediately apparent. The servant, says the Lord, begins to beat his fellow servants, mistreat them, criticize and complain continually, neglect his ministry, and indulge his appetites to the full. It is a vivid picture of what happens, in one degree or another, when the expectation of the Lord's return is abandoned. There is a precise sequence of failure that can be traced. First, the hope of the Lord's return grows weak and eventually is lost. Because of this there is little motivation to the ministry of feeding the household, and therefore it is neglected. When the Word is not taught the people grow spiritually weak, and therefore full of weakness and carnality. This then manifests itself in quarreling, injustices, and excesses of every sort, in which the servant responsible for the feeding also joins.

It should be obvious from this that the fact of Christ's return is more important as a doctrine of the church than may at first appear. As we have already seen, it is an indicator of the degree to which the Lord's present indwelling life is being experienced. If there is little desire for his appearing, there is little concern to walk in the strength of his life. When the hope of the Lord's return crumbles, then it is already apparent that the experience of his life has largely ceased, if it existed at all. That is why the Lord lays such stress upon this and underscores it as the primary cause for the neglect of Bible teaching and the subsequent weakness of the church.

But though the servant has given up on the Lord's return, that does not prevent the Lord from returning. Suddenly he appears at an hour which the servant does not know and at a time when he does not expect him. Undoubtedly this will be one of those occasions when the servant will say, "Lord, Lord, have I not done mighty works in your name?" There may indeed be other things he has done which he felt would be impressive to the Lord if he returned. But it is all to no avail. He has specifically not done the one thing the Lord required of him. He has been faithless to his commission. Therefore he shall be punished and put where he belongs-with the hypocrites! He is himself a hypocrite, for he has assumed the name of a faithful servant of the Lord, but has proved false to his trust.

It is obvious from what our Lord says of this man, that he has never been a true servant at all. His destiny is to be put in the place where men will weep and gnash their teeth. Further on, in chapter 25, verse 30, the Lord describes that place as "outer darkness." It is a place of frustration and defiance. Men weep because of their lost opportunities; they gnash their teeth out of bitter rage and defiance. It is not a pleasant picture, but let us remember, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who thus describes it to us.

A Demoralized Household

The Lord has made crystal clear by this parable that it is a very serious thing to fail in feeding the household of God. It is not because the man's personal failure has a demoralizing effect upon the household. This has been most apparent in the church. One of the haunting problems in the church today is its identity crisis. In many places it seems to have lost the sense of what it was intended to be. Instead of a body, with each one "members one of another" and ministering to one another in love and concern, it has become an organization operating various programs. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). But today's Christians often touch each others' lives on only the most superficial basis, and do not want to hear another's problems because they "don't want to get involved."

This widespread ignorance of the church's true nature is directly traceable to a lack of systematic Bible teaching. Many passages in the New Testament epistles plainly detail the true nature of the church. Its "body life" is clearly described and illustrated from actual experience. Its supernatural endowment with spiritual gifts as the basis for all its ministry is described in half a dozen places. Its unique power, deriving from the presence of an indwelling and active Lord, is set before us again and again. The way to the consistent exercise of spiritual power, making its impact upon a decadent society, is detailed in many places.

Results of Biblical Ignorance

But how much does the average Christian know of this? The blunt answer is: scarcely anything! The degree of biblical illiteracy, prevalent in American churches, is beyond belief. And the widespread effect, visible everywhere, is a powerless, quarreling, materialistic church whose knowledge of its Lord's living presence is almost nil, and whose hope of his soon return has long ago burned out into gray embers.

The cause for this sterile mediocrity is, says Jesus, faithless and wicked servants who have never assumed or have given up the task of feeding the household at the proper time. He views this failure with the greatest solemnity. There is a sobering word from Paul in I Corinthians 3:17: "If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." Consequently we should not be surprised to hear Jesus say that when the master of the house returns he will confront the faithless servant and "will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."

The Secrets of the Heart

In both of these cases, that of the faithful and that of the faithless servant, it is evident that the return of Jesus Christ simply reveals what men have been all the time. "Each man's work will become manifest," says Paul, "for the Day will disclose it" (1 Corinthians 3:13). The truly shocking thing about that is that what we are proved to be in that Day, we must continue to be forever! What we have been in the secret places of the heart through life must now be displayed as our true self through eternity.

Thus the Lord desires to emphasize to us that the present time is an exceedingly precious commodity. It is given to us to redeem. Helmut Thielicke,* a noted German author, points out that on New Year's Eve we learn something about time we can never learn in any other way. Then we look at our watch or clock quite differently from any other day of our lives. Usually we glance at our watch in order to see what time we should be at a certain place, or whether we are going to make an appointment on time. But on New Year's Eve we suddenly, look at it, not in order to move ourselves, but because we become aware of the fact that time itself is moving.

Our Personal Time Line

Dr. Thielicke says that then we can almost hear the stream of time beginning to murmur as it drops over the dam of that strange midnight hour. We become aware of the fact that we are not living an endless repetitive cycle, but we are moving on a straight line of time and we can never retrace it. The reason we do not experience this more frequently is because our clocks are round; that is, if we haven't finished something by six o'clock this morning we know that the hands of the clock will come around to six o'clock tonight, and we can get it done by then. Or by six o'clock tomorrow night. We suffer, therefore, from the illusion that time is repeating itself.

But on New Year's Eve, we discover otherwise. We become quite aware, as the midnight hour approaches, that time is moving continually on and that we can never go back, that what we have been will unalterably remain, forever. It can never be changed. We can never retrace our steps nor refill the contents of the past with something either better or worse. It remains exactly what it was. Perhaps last year we made a wrong decision or got married (the two are not necessarily linked) or entered into some new project or achieved some goal. Whatever it was, that has now become an unchangeable part of our destiny, our lot. It is irrevocably the same, it can never be changed. God's grace has moved him to bear certain effects of our misdeeds himself, but they remain for him to bear and are never dissipated into nothingness. If that grace is rejected, there is no escape.

A Final New Year's Eve

This is what the sudden intervention of Jesus Christ into human affairs seems to be: a final New Year's Eve midnight hour when men will become aware that life has been lived, and it is whatever it is and will never be any different. No one can go back and change it. That leaves us facing an inevitable question: How long have you lived? "Oh," you say, "I am (so many) years old." No, you cannot answer in those terms. The only part of life that can be called living is the time you have been watching for your Lord's return in the strength of his abiding life. All else is death.

The great missionary to Africa, C. T. Studd, summed up the truth in a little couplet:

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last."

Now let us ask it again: How long have you lived? How much of your life will abide the day of his coming? Whatever is not gold, silver or precious stones, coming from the activity of his life in you, is nothing more than hay, wood, and stubble. When are you going to start living? You only have today!

Prayer

Father, keep us from the folly of dreaming away our days in a fruitless endeavor to satisfy only the fancies of our spirit and the appetites of our bodies. Deliver us from the bondage of things. Teach us how to feed upon the Word of truth, and to walk continually in that truth, manifesting the splendor of your life in us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

I hope as we see a new year begin on God's calendar that our time on this earth can be measured in days rather than months or years. If our Lord should decide to tarry, however, may we who watch not grow discouraged but remain faithful to feed the hungry their food as best we can so that when Jesus does return, we will be counted "faithful and wise servants".

Happy Rosh Hashanah. Keep watching.