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

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.