Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Come, O Come Immanuel

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

As I took time this week to reflect on the reason we celebrate Christmas, the thought occurred to me that what a wonderful time of the year it would be for God to share another gift with us. What gift would that be? The gift of sending His Son to take us home. Like many, more and more my thoughts are fixed on the hope that we soon will go to be with our Lord and Saviour and begin to enjoy the gift He has given us, the gift of eternal life with Him. O Come, O Come Immanuel.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2:1-16 NKJV

Keep Watching

Sunday, December 12, 2010

No Surprise

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

Once again the headlines this week inform us of yet another attempt at forging a "mideast peace agreement" ending in failure. If you are a student of Bible prophecy this should certainly come as no surprise. As this passage from Zechariah makes clear, any effort to bring peace between Israel and it's enemies is doomed to failure. Why is that? Because what we are seeing is the groundwork laid for the fulfillment of yet another well known prophecy in the Bible, this one from the book of Daniel.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."
Daniel 9:27 NKJV

As most know, this verse refers to the coming world leader referred to most often as the "antichrist". When he appears on the scene he will "confirm", (a word meaning "enforce"), a peace agreement between Israel and it's enemies. Why "enforce"? Simply because what we are being told is that it proves impossible for the parties to agree to any sort of peace on their own. As the passage from Zechariah tells us, anyone (other than the coming antichrist) who makes an attempt at forging a peace agreement will fail. The phrase translated to "be cut in pieces" also can be translated "tattooed", which I actually find very interesting. If you think about it, every president in recent memory who has tried to involve himself with the "peace process" comes away "tattooed" with his failure.

If you have never taken the time to read and study the book of Zechariah, I invite you to start today. Often overlooked, the book is one of the "Minor Prophets" of the Old Testament, a name given to twelve books because of their small size, not their importance. In fact, next to Isaiah, there are more prophecies concerning the coming Messiah in it than any other book in the Old Testament. There are also plenty of prophecies concerning the time in history in which we find ourselves today. Oftentimes this book is referred to as the "Apocalypse of the Old Testament" because of the prophecies it contains concerning the future of Israel.

The stage is being set for the appearance of the antichrist. No one has had any success at forging any type of peace between Israel and her enemies, and according to the Bible, no one will. Until of course, the "man of sin" enforces a treaty which ushers in the seven year period of time we know as the Tribulation. How close is it?

Keep watching.

US drops Palestinian-Israeli track, formulates new Turkey-Iran deal

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis December 11, 2010, 12:21 PM (GMT+02:00)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the thankless task of writing finis on the Obama administration's intense two-year effort to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to discuss peace. Her speech to the Saban Forum early Saturday, Dec. 11 was much awaited as Washington's first comment on the deadlock caused by Israel's refusal to meet the Palestinian demand for a second freeze on new settlement construction as their precondition for direct talks. The Secretary took care not to blame either side for the breakdown. "Palestinians must appreciate Israel's legitimate security concerns. And Israelis must accept the legitimate territorial aspirations of the Palestinians," she said, the closest she came to complaining about the obstacles which had defeated her government's efforts.
"We will not lose hope," she said. "Mr Obama has identified continued US engagement in peace talks as a key political goal." But she omitted the oft-repeated statement of the president's determination to achieve an accord within a year. Without setting out time tables or modes of action, she stressed it was time to "grapple with the core issues of this conflict" which she listed as borders, refugees, settlements, water and Jerusalem. "The land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea was finite," she said "and the people who live there need a clear border to map out their futures."
Clinton did not wait for analysts to define the scale of Washington's setback. She admitted frankly: "Like many of you, I am frustrated that we have not gotten farther, faster."
Obama clearly appreciates that like the presidents before him - Bill Clinton, who failed dramatically, and George W. Bush, who soon dropped out of US Middle East peacemaking - he had bitten off more than he can chew. It was time to pack up and abandon his ambitious bid to crack the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by direct action.
But Hillary Clinton's most intriguing comments was this: "The status quo is untenable. And we will redouble our regional diplomacy. When one way is blocked, we will seek another. "
debkafile's Washington sources disclose that what she had in mind was an alternative path which still remains to be marked out: It would move Middle East peacemaking out of the deadlocked US-Palestinian-Israeli track and introduce a new set of prime movers with the long-term goal of a regional peace settlement.
Washington has taken the first step of trying to resolve the Turkish-Israeli dispute over Ankara's maritime bid to bust the Gaza blockade in order to open the door to restoring the old dialogue and strategic relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem.
In a parallel step, the US has acted to bring Turkey into active mediation on the Iranian nuclear controversy. Washington will approve the talks with Iran the Six Powers (US, Russia, France, China, UK and Germany) embarked on this week ending in a deal for an enriched uranium swap to take place on Turkish soil under international supervision. Tehran has in the past demanded that this swap take place in Turkey. The Americans want to make sure that at no time, Iran holds enough enriched uranium for producing a nuclear bomb.
Once that accord goes through, the Erdogan government will be free to return to its interrupted role of 2007-2008 under the Olmert government as peace broker between Israel and Syria. An accommodation on that track, if achieved, would pave the way for Ankara taking over revived Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
Encouraged by Washington, Israeli diplomat Yosef Ciechanover and Turkey's deputy foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu held their first fence-mending talks in Geneva on Dec. 5. The ice was not broken.
Indeed, Friday, Dec. 10, Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said in Ankara: "There has been no change in Turkey's expectations from Israel. Israel has behaved unjustly against Turkey regarding aid ship Mavi Marmara and we are still expecting compensation and an apology."
debkafile: Israel regards the commandos who prevented the Turkish ship from reaching Gaza as having performed their duty to defend the blockade in the face of attacks by armed "peace activists" aboard the vessel.
At the same time, this week, the Israeli security cabinet approved the start of farm produce exports from Gaza to Europe, notwithstanding the rising level of Palestinian missile and mortar attacks from the territory on neighboring Israeli villages. The concession was intended to show Ankara that Jerusalem was willing to partially meet Turkey's demand to lift the Gaza blockade.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Enemy Within

"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Revelation 2:18-23 NKJV

Some time back I wrote an article in response to questions I was receiving concerning a movement called the “Emergent Church”. In that article I tried to explain my objections based on the deliberate attempt to misrepresent and outright change the doctrine of God clearly presented to us in the Bible. Sadly, since then this movement has continued to grow and gain popularity within the body of Christ.
In this passage from the book of Revelation, we find Jesus calling out the church at Thyatira for their toleration of apostasy. In this indictment, Jesus says that this evil is embodied in a woman named Jezebel. How appropriate is that considering what we know of the Jezebel of the Old Testament and her hatred of all things related to the worship of the One, True God of Israel. The Jezebel of the Old Testament attempted to combine the worship of God with the worship of idols, and killed many of the prophets. She also attempted to kill the prophet Elijah, resulting in the prophecy by Elijah of her death in 2 Kings.

'The dogs shall eat Jezebel on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her.'" And he opened the door and fled.
2 Kings 9:10 NKJV

Although many find it hard to believe that true believers could be deceived in this way, I think it is important to understand that God makes it clear that Satan's first, and most effective weapon is deception. Something I always like to point out is that when we are first introduced to Satan in the Garden of Eden, he attempts to deceive Eve by using something that looks, feels, and sounds attractive.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:6 NKJV

The theology of the Emergent Church, and others like it which teach a false gospel are fast becoming the most dangerous threat to the Church because it is an attack from within, not without. The following article goes far in explaining what is happening in the Church today, and hopefully will help you to better understand the position we find ourselves in as believers attempting to battle the apostasy prophesied to occur in the last days.

Is It Negative and Unbiblical to Name False Teachers?
By Brannon Howse

After our Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, Illinois on Sunday night November 21, 2010, we were informed that the church we had been renting for the past few years does not want us to return. What is really sad is this is the church in which my wife grew up and has included five generations of her family dating back to her great grandparents on both sides of her family. One set of great grandparents were two of the original 13 founders of this church.
At the conclusion of our November 21, 2010, Rockford Worldview Weekend we were told that three months before the rally the church staff had voted for Worldview Weekend not to return in 2011 because our 2009 rally was thought by some of the church staff to be too negative and that it was inappropriate to name the name of false teachers.
I asked what their senior pastor thought about that evening's Worldview Weekend Rally but was informed that the senior pastor had chosen not to attend the conference.
Please understand that I am not going to name the church because those that attended the conference and live in the area know the church of which I speak. I am not writing this article because of some kind of personal offense but to highlight how Biblical truth has become an offense to most of America's churches.
Many such churches would claim to love truth but what they really love is a man-centered Christianity that helps them obtain success in their marriage, finances, family, and a positive attitude that produces health and a successful personal life without the pain of dying to self, picking up the Cross of Christ and being persecuted for proclaiming Truth.
II Timothy 4:3 tells us that many Christians will only want to hear what makes them feel good and appeals to their flesh; "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears."

The 2009 speakers that joined me for the Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, Illinois included me, Dr. Erwin Lutzer and Dr. David Reagan.
In my 2009 presentation I spoke on the topic of my book Grave Influence and I did name such Emergent Church, false teachers as Pastor Brian McLaren who has said the cross and hell is false advertising for God. I named Pastor Bill Hybels that signed the Yale document that states that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Hybels has also had Brian McLaren at his church. I also mentioned Pastor Rick Warren who sits on the advisory board of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation that seeks to bring the religions of the world together. I also named Pastor Rob Bell who has proclaimed an abundance of heresy and who has also spoken as Bill Hybel's church. I spoke on why pagan spirituality was doubling in America every eighteen months and how many New Age practices had come into the churches of America such as "Christian" yoga and contemplative prayer. I explained how Christian could proclaim the Gospel to a postmodern culture that has become more interested in spirituality than theology. I also warned last year, as I did this year, that many churches are being compromised from within by church staff that do not adhere to the Biblical mandates and purposes of a New Testament church and are an inch deep and a mile wide in their doctrinal and theological understanding and commitment. I warned that the remnant should understand that our greatest opposition would not come from the government but from those that have the title "reverend" or "pastor" in front of their name. Click here to hear a few minutes of the presentation I presented at this church in 2009.
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In 2009, Dr. Lutzer spoke on seven lessons America should learn from Nazi Germany and Dr. Reagan spoke on 50 signs we are living in the last days. All three of us used a lot of scripture to equip those in attendance to understand the times and know what God would have them to respond.
Worldview Weekend is thankful for the churches that will allow us to rent their buildings but the increasing trend is that we are being forced to rent more and more hotel ballrooms because so few churches have leaders, staff, and pastors that have clear discernment, real courage under fire, and an unwavering commitment to Biblical truth in an age of non-judgmentalism, tolerance, and Christian happy talk.
No one ever said being a watchman on the wall that warns of impending danger was going to be a popular job but if popularity is what we seek then we are not seeking to be faithful to the One we serve and thus we have failed in our calling.
Warning the church of emerging dangerous, unbiblical trends, false teachers, a false gospel, and unbiblical theology and doctrine has now become negative in the eyes of many of today's hirelings. Jesus Himself told us that we would see those that claim to be shepherds/pastors that really have little concern for the sheep. In John 10:11-13 we read:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
Listen to this audio of Pastor John MacArthur as he explains how Jesus named the names of false teachers and how this is the job of all Biblically minded Christians and true shepherds. In this audio clip Pastor MacArthur calls out Rick Warren by name for teaching a false gospel.
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Worldview Weekend will not be deterred in speaking truth no matter how unpopular it becomes with individuals or members of a church staff.
Needless to say, I was concerned how my wife would respond to this criticism since she was raised in this church. Her response revealed to me, once again, how blessed I am that God gave Melissa to me as a helpmate. Melissa's response was "why are you surprised, you knew this church was becoming increasingly liberal over the past few years. I was shocked they let Worldview Weekend return for the 2010 rally."

Melissa encouraged me to shake the dust from my shoes and go out and find a hotel ballroom. She also encouraged me to continue to bring the Worldview Weekend to Rockford because of all the people, including life-long friends, that come up to her at the resource table to express their thankfulness that Worldview Weekend returns to Rockford, IL each year.
In fact, that night, while standing behind our resource table, a medical doctor, that is a member of this church, handed my wife a letter he had written to his children after last year's Worldview Weekend in Rockford. In his letter he wrote in part:
…I attended a Worldview Weekend Rally at [name of church removed] on Sunday evening, November 22nd, and found it to be very helpful, informative, stimulating and timely."
This father went on to recommend that his children read some of the books written by the speakers.
At this point in time, all three books impress me as being coherent, credible, plausible, relevant, responsible, strategic and timely. I believe that they qualify as priority reading for serous Christian believers and church leaders who need and want to be alert to the crucial times in which we and our families are living."
This letter reveals a common response and a common problem that I have seen all across America-lay leaders that are more Biblically grounded, discerning, and committed to Biblical truth than some of their own church staff.
The Worldview Weekend in Rockford was held at another location a few years ago and has consistently had a large attendance regardless of where it is held. Thus, if you live in or near Rockford please know we will return and have already secured a hotel ballroom for the November 2011 Worldview Weekend Rally in Rockford, IL.
Let me answer the question of our article. Is it negative and unbiblical to name false teachers? The Bible is filled with examples of Jesus and others naming false teachers by name. For example, the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy names numerous people by name.

2 Timothy 1:15: Phygellus and Hermogenes
2 Timothy 2:17: Mymenaeus and Philetus
2 Timothy 3:8: Jannes and Jambress
2 Timothy 4:10: Demas
2 Timothy 4:14: Alexander the coppersmith
In III John 9, John named Diotrephes.
Jesus called out the false teachers in Matthew 23 and Luke 11.
I truly believe that one reason why God allows false teachers is to provide believers with a test of whether they will be faithful in their Biblical mandate to expose false teachers and thus protect the sheep from the spiritual poison of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Ephesians 5:11 makes it clear we are to expose false teachers; "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
If a shepherd/pastor will not point out the wolves that are among the sheep then this should be a clear warning to the flock that the shepherd/pastor does not have their best interest in mind. Such a hireling is not called of God but is simply involved in an occupation for personal gain as revealed in I Timothy 6:5.
In addition, such non-shepherds are revealing that they are more interested in their reputation and being seen by the larger community as tolerant and non-judgmental as defined by the unsaved world.
False teachers also give the sheep the opportunity to test the commitment of their shepherds/pastors. If the pastors/shepherds on your church staff fail this Biblical test then it is time for the leaders of the church to replace such hirelings with real shepherds. If this Biblical action is not taken, then it is time for you to find a new flock that has a shepherd that will alert the sheep to the spirituality immature and even wolves in sheep's clothing that are on his own church staff.
Show me a shepherd/pastor that will not name false teachers and I will show you a false teacher.
Pastor Jim Bublitz gives further insight into the positive results that come when we name false teachers by name:
From those words it is clear that God allows teachers of error for the same reason as He does persecutors of His people: to test their love, to try their fidelity, to show that their loyalty to him is such that they will not give ear unto His enemies. Error has always been more popular than the Truth, for it lets down the bars and fosters fleshly indulgence, but for that very reason it is obnoxious to the godly.

The one who by grace can say "I have chosen the way of Truth" will be able to add "I have stuck unto Thy testimonies" (Psalm 119:30, 31), none being able to move him therefrom.
"For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized." (1 Corinthians 11:19).
Committed Christians must publically name false teachers because it is impossible to privately correct public false teaching.
This fall I received an e-mail from a young lady that is a junior in high school near Atlanta, Georgia. In her e-mail she stated that because she had attended two Worldview Weekend Rallies in Atlanta and heard me expose the false teaching of emergent Pastor Rob Bell, she had been equipped to reject his false teaching when a Bible study group at her Christian school decided to read one of his books. She informed me that she immediately recognized the name of Rob Bell and remembered what I had spoken. This young lady had the courage and conviction to politely hand the book back to the group and to warn them of Bell's false teaching.

This young ladies testimony has come to my mind many times this fall and has been a real source of encouragement to me to continue to speak truth no matter how negative or offensive it may be to the non-discerning.
If I had not named the name of Rob Bell, how would this student had known to reject his book and false doctrine? If I had not named the name of Rob Bell would this student now be spiritually deceived? If I had not named Rob Bell by name would she have been able to warn her peers to this spiritual poison?

The late Pastor Vance Havner wrote, "We live what we believe; the rest is religious talk." Living what we believe includes our willingness to name the name of false teachers and to endure the criticism and persecution that will surely follow. To do any less would be treason to our calling, to our mandate, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When we expose false teaching and false teachers we are proclaiming and defending the authority, accuracy, and application of God's Word; the very thing that false teachers seek to undermine.
Living what we believe requires speaking Biblical truth and Biblical warnings no matter how negative or offensive it may be to the spiritually immature, non-discerning or wolves that crept in among the sheep.
Jude 3:1-4 commands all believers to contend for the faith that is under attack from false teachers.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Truth is never negative to those who seek to serve The Truth.

Distributed by


The most effective way to spot anything you suspect of being counterfeit, is to compare it side by side with what you know to be genuine. The same rule applies to this problem we face as a body of believers. Satan will use people who appear to be believers to introduce a deceptive theology which does not save. Our responsibility is to compare what is being taught with the original, which we do by searching the scriptures just like the Bereans of Paul's day.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Acts 17:11 NKJV

Never be afraid to examine closely what is being presented as coming from God, and neither be afraid to speak out when you suspect it of being false.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Will We Know When We Go?

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV

One of the things I enjoyed most when teaching young people were the questions I often got from them concerning the things we were studying in the scriptures. One of my favorites, and one I got repeatedly when teaching the rapture of the Church is if we will know or be aware that we are being raptured, or do we simply find ourselves suddenly in heaven without a clue that it was about to happen? That really is a great question and one I think many of us have thought about at one time or another, so I thought we might take a little time this morning to look closer at the event we call the rapture.

This verse in Thessalonians is probably the best one we can use in describing exactly what God says will happen on that day. If we look closely at what it says, we find that we are told there are actually three distinct things which will occur in sequence when Jesus returns for His Church. These are a shout by the Lord Himself, the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the trumpet of God. So let's look closer at each of these three and see if there is a clue to the answer to our question “will we know”?

The Shout. In this verse we are told this shout is from the Lord Jesus Himself. Now at first, it would seem understandable that Jesus might want to shout since He has been waiting over two thousand years to come get His bride, yet there may be more to it than that. We are also told here that “the dead in Christ will rise first”. So there is a sequence of events, and the first is the resurrection of the bodies of those believers who have already died to be reunited with their souls which went to be with Lord at the time of their death.

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV

When a believer dies, his soul goes to be with the Lord in Heaven while his body is left behind. At the time of the rapture, the Lord apparently commands their bodies to rise from the grave just as He did with Lazarus.

Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"
John 11:43 NKJV

So the first thing to happen at the time of the rapture is the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Like one of my kids said during Sunday School, “dude, would it be cool to be in a cemetery when that happens?” We laugh, but I just wonder if he is right?

The Voice. The only angel in the Bible to receive the title of archangel is the angel Michael, so I think it is safe to assume that is who is being talked about here. As opposed to the Lord's “shout”, we are told that we only hear the “voice” of Michael, so we are left to wonder exactly what his role here is. If you have studied this passage, or study it further, you will find there are a few opinions as to what might be going on. Although any of them might be right, I am going to go as far as to suggest a new one which may or may not be accurate, but feels the most comfortable to me. As I sat and thought about why Michael might be involved, I decided to look at the other occasions where he is mentioned in the Bible. A very interesting place I found is in the book of Jude where we are told this;

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Jude 1:9 NKJV

Now I certainly found it curious that here we find a situation involving Michael that, along with the account of the rapture, is concerned with a body belonging to a believer. In this account in Jude, the only explanation that makes any sense is that Satan was disputing “possession” of the dead body of Moses. We can find an account of this in the non-canonical Book of Enoch, which Jude is obviously referring to. In that account Satan laid claim to the body for two reasons. The first was that Moses was a murderer because he took the life of an Egyptian, and the second was that Moses body was buried on earth, and he, Satan, is the lord over the things of this world. So my thoughts are these; if Satan has in the past disputed over the ownership of the body of one believer, just what will his reaction to the resurrection of all dead believers bodies be? If in fact this is what happens, doesn't it make sense that the same scenario will repeat itself and the voice of the archangel is Michael again saying “The Lord rebuke you” to Satan? As I said, there are other ideas concerning this portion of the verse, but since both of these accounts of Michael concern the ownership of believers bodies, to me this seems to be a logical conclusion.

The Trumpet. Actually, we are told here that what we hear is the "trumpet of God". Just what exactly is this trumpet sound and what if anything makes it special? In another account of the rapture, Paul tells us this;

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:52 NKJV

Here Paul refers to this trumpet as the "last trump". This helps us identify it for from studying rabbinical sources we see that this use of the term "last trump" means it is the shofar, or ram's horn which is being used. The shofar is related to the account of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and rabbinical tradition regards the left horn as the "first trump" and the right horn as the "last trump". There are two ways to blow the shofar, with the first being a series of short blasts which signify an alarm or bad news, and the second being one long blast which is meant to signal victory or good news. It is this last long blast which is identified as the "last trump". According to rabbinical sources the "last trump" or "tekiah gedolah" lasts as long as the blower has the lung capacity to blow. In this case, where the "trumpet of God"is being blown, one has to wonder just how long the blast will be? My personal opinion is very, very long.

The shout of Jesus calling for the resurrection of all dead believers bodies to rise, Michael rebuking Satan in the Lord's name for possession of the bodies, and the tekiah gedolah which lasts as long as the blower has breath, certainly gives rise to the thought that the answer to our original question might well be; yes! Yes we will know that the rapture is occurring because there is a sequence of three events which must take place before we go. I suspect the last trump will last long enough for all believers to know and understand that the time has come for the bride to go with the bridegroom and to rise and meet Him in the air. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Keep watching. (and listening)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don't Look Back

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 3:13-14 NKJV

One of the fringe benefits of my job for a large automobile dealership is the occasional opportunity to either deliver, or pick up vehicles from other dealerships across the state. I consider it a benefit because rather than driving my fifteen year old pickup truck, I have the opportunity to drive some very expensive cars that I would never be able to afford. Now I am usually so afraid of these cars that I just drive without touching anything, but I will admit that on my last delivery I gathered the courage to use the radio and was pleasantly introduced to something called XM satellite radio.

As I scrolled the offerings I soon found stations that played music from different decades, and as you might expect, I settled on one playing music from my high school years. I won't tell you which decade that was, but to be honest I was soon caught up in a flood of memories that at times really made me wish I could go back and live those days all over again.

As I began to think about that though, I wondered why I or anybody else would want to? The obvious answer would most often be so that we could do things different. However if that is our answer, it raises another question and that is why do we not forget the things we might want to change or do different? Is it wrong that we remember mistakes we may have made, or recall hurts and maybe emotional trauma which might have an effect on the decisions we make today?

If this passage from Paul is any indication, it would seem that if our focus is on the past and not the future, the answer to that question is yes. The Greek word for forgetting is epilanthanomai, which is a verb meaning 1) to forget 2) neglecting, no longer caring for 3) forgotten, given over to oblivion, i.e. uncared for. I think what Paul is telling us here is that as a believer, He too, like most of us, recognized he had made mistakes in the past. But as he reflects on his present life, he understands that his focus, and ours, needs to be on the future and not the past. In this chapter Paul is describing what is called a “faith based righteousness”, or in other words, the fact that in God's eyes our “righteousness”, or becoming acceptable in His eyes is based on our faith, and not our works. Since it is impossible for us to live this life without making mistakes, Paul tells us that we need to forget what is in the past, which we certainly can't change and focus on the future which we can.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Phillipians 3:12 NKJV

Something else I noticed about this passage, and something that I find reassuring is Paul's use of the phrase “press on” twice when referring to this life. It is actually a rather interesting word because if you look closely at it's meaning, it's not as simple as it might first appear. My first thought was we are being told to “grind it out' but if you examine it, it's something quite different. In the Greek, the word for “press on” is diōkō, which means 1) to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away. So actually Paul is instructing believers to do two things at the same time. When we are told to press on towards the “goal of the prize” which comes at the end of race, in essence Paul is saying we need to run FROM the things that might hold us back and TOWARDS the finish line where we will receive our reward.

Is there a danger in looking back? Well obviously, I'm sure most of us have experienced being distracted by something while driving and then looking back ahead only to find we are in the wrong lane. Not focusing on what is ahead of us has it's dangers, and I can't help thinking of one Biblical example of looking back in the Old Testament.

So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."
Genesis 19:17 NKJV

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26 NKJV

In this instance, there was obviously a punishment for looking back and I am not saying if we don't attempt to forget the past we will suffer the same fate. Yet if we consider what happened here, it seems what God is saying is that if we do in fact look back, we are of no use to Him now. I truly believe that is what the Apostle Paul is telling us here as well. Consider how most believers look at Paul and the effect he had on the world and the evolution of the Church as we know it. Then recognize that he is willing to admit he was just as bad of a sinner as we are, and had plenty of things in his past which he would probably like to do over. Yet his advice to us is to forget the past and focus on the finish line ahead of us in order that God can use us to accomplish what He has called us to do right now.

Is it easy? Of course not, yet that is exactly what God inspired Paul to write to us today. Focus on what's ahead, and forget the things in the past that would serve to distract us from our goal. Don't look back.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finding Grace

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
Genesis 6:8 NKJV

In the world we live in today, how often do you hear someone take the position that we "deserve" many of the things we have? I often hear many people say that we have a right to obtain or experience certain things in this life, and by now I am sure you are familiar with the fact that many so called preachers of the Word tell their followers the same thing. Yet anyone who studies the Word of God with an open mind soon finds that we as sinners deserve only one thing, and that is God's judgment. Yet the possibility to escape that which we deserve is a manifestation of what is called "grace", given to us by God despite the fact we are undeserving.

The first time the word grace is used in the Bible is here in Genesis where God tells us that "Noah found grace". One of the often quoted verses believers use when discussing the possibility we are living in the last days, and again when talking about the rapture is something Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse.

"But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:37 NKJV

But while most of the time the discussion centers around what people were like in Noah's day, one subject we usually find ignored is what made Noah different? What was it about Noah that helped him find “grace in the eyes of the Lord”? I believe if we look closely at what other men were like as opposed to Noah, we will see just what it is that God is looking for in order to bestow His grace on the undeserving.

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Genesis 6:5 NKJV

The first thing I think we are told in this verse about finding grace is that God has given us all a choice; a choice in whom we will serve. One of the things we know for certain is that all throughout Noah's age, as well as ours, God was and is calling out to men and pleading with them not to be deceived by Satan's lies. Yet the Bible makes it clear that men had made their choice, and it was to reject what God had to offer in exchange for the lie that Satan presents. So what was the first thing that set Noah and his family apart? They had made a choice to follow God, and the result was the chance to experience God's grace. All men must make a choice of whom they will serve, and that choice determines whether or not we experience God's grace, or His judgment.

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15 NKJV

Second, in order for man to obtain grace, something I believe God is looking for is obedience. If we look at this verse we find that the result of man making the wrong choice was “wickedness”. From the context it seems evident what is being described are the actions of men after making their choice. When talking about the actions we take in this life, I believe they can be best described in only one of two ways; obedience to God, or disobedience. Those who choose to serve God, also choose to be obedient to Him and His commands. Obviously from this verse, it would seem that the result of making the wrong choice and serving Satan, results in only one thing and that is disobedience which leads to wickedness. Noah not only made the right choice in choosing to serve God, the result was also obedience, which was the second reason he found grace.

Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
Genesis 6:22 NKJV

The third thing I believe we find in this verse is that in order to find grace we must have a heart for God. Notice that after talking about man's wickedness, we are told that “every intent” of man's heart was “evil continually”. How depraved is that? What we are being told is that absolutely nothing in man's heart was considered good, but only evil. The Hebrew word for heart here means man's inner will, thoughts, determination, and conscience. Basically, every waking moment was centered around thinking about doing evil. So if Noah “found grace”, what was in his heart? The logical answer would be just the opposite. Apparently Noah and his family had not only made a choice to serve God, and be obedient to His will, but to also spend their waking moments seeking to find ways to love Him and serve Him. Their desire was to please God by seeking to do good, rather than evil.

So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"
Luke 10:27 NKJV

If we look closely at where we are today, it would appear that the world is indeed much like the days of Noah. If we were to get all that we deserve in this life, we would find ourselves in the same position the men of Noah's day did; waiting to receive God's judgment. Yet because God loves us, we are offered a choice in order to experience God's grace and escape His judgment. How do we as sinners find grace in the eyes of God? Simply make the choice to follow Him, be obedient to His will, and seek to show your love for Him by committing your every waking moment to be used to further the kingdom.

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Period of Silence

If you have never taken the opportunity to visit the following web site, I highly recommend that you do. It is filled with insight from many highly respected teachers and commentators, as well as a news page which keeps abreast of world events with Biblical ramifications. The following is an article by one of the founders which I think you will not only enjoy, but find useful as we watch to see what God has planned for this world.

Strange Prophetic Silence
by Terry James

Todd Strandberg often makes the observation these days that there seems to be a strange lack of prophetic activity; nothing in the news rivets the observer in the dramatic way, say, that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities might grab one’s attention.
This Strandberg perception of a lull in prophetic progression, as he calls it, might seem at first nonsensical, considering the tremendous procession of probable end-times issues and events that we at Rapture Ready address each week.
Geopolitically, there are many signals of biblically prophetic significance. The European Union (EU) continues to consolidate power while remaining at the same time loosely confederated. Certainly, we legitimately can and do make the case for this strange entity being the likely candidate for producing revived Rome–the ten toes of iron and miry clay given in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-vision of the final world empire (Daniel 2).
Russia is a brooding giant to Israel’s north, and at every opportunity, Iran threatens the Jewish state with oblivion. These nations combine with Turkey and others to constitute a coalescing agglomerate that has the characteristics of the foretold Gog-Magog military machine of Ezekiel 38 and 39.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin openly displays ambition that easily qualifies him as one who might aspire to be the Gog of the Ezekiel prophecies. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spouts the kind of hatred for God’s chosen people that the prince of Persia no doubt will use to inspire Iran’s (Persia’s) leader to join with Gog in raging against Israel in that satanic attack (Daniel 10:20).
Recently, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has brought his nation into the Iranian and Arab world’s mantra for Israel to, in effect, be neutralized–be eradicated as an entity in the Middle East. Thus, Ezekiel’s prophecy about the Gog-Magog forces continues to congeal, with the ancient area of Togarmah now firmly within the foretold mix of peoples that will storm over the mountains of Israel to meet their God-ordained doom.
So, again, it seems nonsensical to say that there is a lack of prophetic progression, based upon such spectacular developments. Yet, clearly sees the strange disconnect, and, I must say, I have agreed with his assessment during our conversations. And, still the signals of this being the very end of the age continue to accrue.
Socioeconomically, the end-times signals are prolific, with the whole world in economic distress. The 2008-2009 U.S. and international monetary crises were nothing short of earth-shaking. With the global financial structure intricately linked to the U.S. dollar and its economy, America’s banking meltdown and all attendant to it suddenly had the western nations in panic. The panic is unabated, despite America throwing trillions of dollars that don’t really exist into the fiscal fiasco.
Rioting in Greece, Spain, Italy, and other so-called “civilized” countries displayed in blatant fashion the economic turmoil. Rage over government-provided social services being withdrawn and jobs cut from government, along with unions losing their funding, caused--and continue to cause--withdrawal spasms like those suffered by addicts needing their heroin fixes.
The nations are in distress with perplexity, just as Jesus prophesied as recorded in Luke 21:25. There is a call for a rearrangement of the economic order. It is just such an order that will serve Antichrist’s dastardly regime as he sets about to enslave the world. His 666 numbers-and-mark system as found in Revelation 13:16-18 can be seen in the making in these very days in which we live.
The electronic means to produce such a system exists, too. The computer-satellite capabilities and linkages–with Internet connecting practically every place on earth--doubtless will be all brought together in some spectacular way to produce the Beast’s system of economic gulag.
Ironically, about the only area of the world that seems to be progressing economically is part of Asia–particularly one specific nation that almost certainly has a prophetic destiny. While the economic and technological apex nation of the world–the United States of America—is suffering, causing the other industrial nations and socialist countries to suffer, that great prophetic Oriental region of the world benefits mightily from the distress and perplexity. China holds much of the debt owed by the most economically powerful nation ever to exist!
China will almost certainly be the "king" of the "kings" of the east mentioned in Revelation chapters 9 and 16. It is even now apparently acquiring the level of wealth that will assure the accumulation of military strength with which to (along with demonic assistance of major magnitude) kill one-third of the world’s population (Revelation 9:15-16, 16:12).
It seems beyond irony that it is the U.S. that is funding most of the Sino-monster. It is the American technological/wealth base that has been primarily instrumental also in providing the financial wherewithal for paving Antichrist’s future kingdom. It is perhaps within these fiscal facts that can be found America’s own ultimate judgment for straying so far from the godly founding principles upon which it was based. Yet there is this strange silence of prophetic progression that bugs Todd and me. Let us further examine the matter.
So, again, we come to the seeming disconnect–the tremendous number of biblically prophetic indicators from a strange prophetic silence that surrounds these signals.
and I analyze these matters without ceasing. The signs are everywhere that we are at the end times as given by Jesus when He foretold, for example, that it will be like the days of Noah’s pre-Flood time and Lot’s days in Sodom at the moment He will break in like a thief in the night on an unsuspecting world. And, yet, we are both amazed that the “prophetic progression” seems strangely slow–even to the point of causing us to constantly ask why things seem at a standstill.
How can we ask that question when every one of the apostle Paul’s 2 Timothy 3 perilous-times characteristics of end-times man is observably on the front burner of society today? People are lovers of themselves, boasters, proud. Children are disobedient to parents, with the assisted rebellion built in to the public school systems of America. We are a people–worldwide—who are unthankful and, certainly, unholy. The government-backed--even church-organization-backed--homosexual agenda, with hate crimes being legislated and implemented to punish those who dare to say God’s Word teaches homosexuality is a sin, shows the perilous-times characteristic “without natural affection” is in our face today.
Abortion takes the lives of more than four thousand babies per day in America. This, too, speaks to the characteristic Paul prophesied would mark the end-times generation, “without natural affection.” We only have to look at the divorce rate today to see that the characteristics Paul gave in prophecy are exhibited within marriage. Infidelity is rampant. People are traitorous to their marriage partners, they are false accusers and truce-breakers. We are an incontinent or addictive generation, whether thinking on illicit or prescription drugs, or on pornography that sears the minds of those who spend hours before computer screens. Also, we are addicted to spending money to satisfy ever-increasing and insatiable material desires.
People love pleasures more than they love God. Mankind is fierce, while at the same time many have a form of godliness, but deny Jesus Christ–who is the power of godliness. This is a blasphemous generation, like the one Paul predicted. The holy name of Jesus is used far more as invective than as a term of reverence and praise in this end-of-the-age hour. That name that God says is above every other isn’t even allowed in many of America’s workplaces, public schools, or government facilities–another panoply of reasons the nation’s judgment is certain.
Why do Todd and I see this as a time of slow prophetic progression, considering this avalanche of prophetic markers? How can we say this when Israel is in position precisely as biblical prophets foretold that nation would be as history draws to a close and Armageddon nears?
Isaiah and Daniel the prophets foretold that Israel would be involved in a peace process at the very end of things to come. Zechariah, many other prophets, and the Lord Jesus himself prophesied that Israel would be surrounded by and hated by all nations of earth at the time of the end. All of those developing prophecies regarding God’s chosen people are front and center right now!
There is a prophetic silence at present. But it is a perceived rather than an actual silence, I think. It is part of the strange cognitive malady with which we all suffer, perhaps.
Overload of day-to-day human activity causes desensitization to even the most traumatic of injuries. “Time heals all wounds” is one common explanation of this cognitive condition. We lose a loved one, and while we will often recall memories of him or her and suffer anew, the overloads of life continue to cause the scar to thicken. The pain fades, to some extent.
So it is in the matter of being watchful in the sense of Mark 13:37. We are so saturated with issues and events of our time that look like prophecy in stage-setting for fulfillment that we develop a malaise. We become desensitized to the phenomenal crush of end-times exigencies.
This is so disconcerting to those who work within prophecy ministries such as Rapture Ready, I think, because it is a solitary feeling at times that comes from such lack of interest among true believers. One finds oneself almost hoping something dramatic will happen to shake those believers into understanding exactly how late is the prophetic hour.
Come to think of it…Jesus foretold a strange prophetic silence. He said it would be just at such an hour that He would break in upon a world in darkness. Because our time is so saturated with indicators of Christ’s Second Coming, the apathy-ending event isn’t in the offing. Or maybe it will be the most lethargy-ending event possible that will do the shaking up. Maybe the next prophetic indicator that will end this strange prophetic silence will be the Rapture itself.
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24: 42-44).

Many also have shared with me that there does indeed seem to be a “lull in the storm” occuring right now. Yet I think there may indeed be a reason for that, and it is one which we can see not only from a Biblical perspective, but an historical one as well. Anyone who has studied the past wars in our world's history can tell you that a common occurrence is a period of silence, or inaction preceeding a major conflict or offensive.

Now you can see this principle in as small a thing as stopping to get your breath while working out, a coach calling a timeout before sending in a play, or in a larger sense by an army gathering it's forces together, positioning them in the most advantageous places, and stockpiling weapons before a major offensive.

There is another great example of this to be found in the Bible if we look at what is told to us in the book of Revelation about what is to occur during the Tribulation.

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.
Revelation 8:1-4 NKJV

This silence preceeds the beginning of the Trumpet judgments that occur during the Tribulation. Why?
I'm not sure, but if you look closely you will find that during this time God calls His angels before the throne to give them their instructions, and their trumpets.

Could it be that this is what is happening in Heaven right now? Is God calling His angels to the throne to give them their instructions and inform them of His plans for what is about to happen? I would not be surprised at all. Is this period of seeming silence also a sign for Christians that God is about to begin His judgment? Many are predicting events in the immediate future which will profoundly affect the course of world history. But while the world waits and wonders, those who believe know full well what is about to occur. As always,

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Does Jesus Return?

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 1:17-19 NKJV

Now I admit this must seem like a strange question to ask, but as usual, if you follow along for awhile you will understand where I am going with this. As you know if you read my last study, I took a week off to visit my daughter and her husband in North Carolina. Having never been farther east than Colorado, suffice it to say I was introduced to a very different pace of life than I am used to. One of the things I enjoyed, and could certainly get used to, is the notion you should spend a good part of your day sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair watching the world go by. (I'm also now a fan of SEC football but we will save that for another time) So every morning I would get up early, as is my usual habit, and sit on the porch and read my Bible.

Now most of us by now are familiar with the rule of thumb that if you want to make a point, you keep repeating it until it is firmly embedded in someone's mind to the point they couldn't forget it if they wanted to. It sort of seems that the Holy Spirit has been doing that to me lately, for no matter where I go in my study, I end up in the same place; the state of the Church at the end of the age. Last week I even tried to deliberately do something different by choosing a book I am ashamed to admit I knew very little about, and that was the book of Jude.

Now maybe some of you are in the same boat I was in. I knew it was only one chapter long, and found just before the book of Revelation, but that was about it. So imagine my surprise when I sat down and began to read only to find out it was a warning to believers in the last days about those in the church who profess to be Christians yet live according to the standards of the world. Now as you can see, this is not a new subject, but one that I have been writing about for some time. So as I sat on the porch and thought about why the Spirit kept returning to this subject, the question I will pose to you occurred. Since Jesus Himself raised the comparison between our times and the Days of Noah, and we know the flood occurred because only Noah and his family were left untouched by the evil around them, what if God sees the same circumstances evolving as He looks at the Church today? That is, because those who profess to be Christians corrupt the witness of His Church, does God decide to send His Son to take the Church away before it becomes completely ineffective to accomplish the purpose for which it was created?

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3 NKJV

The Greek word for “contend” in this verse is epagōnizomai, a mouthfull I agree, yet why do I bring it up? Mainly because this word only occurs once in the entire New Testament, and if it only occurs once, I strongly believe it is one we need to look especially close at. It comes from the root word agōnizomai, which means to “strive, fight, and labor fervently”. So Jude is not describing a simple discussion of theological differences, but a serious conflict where believers are admonished to “strive, fight, and labor” for our faith. The feeling I get from reading this is one of a fight for our very survival, which, if compared to the day in which Noah lived and the fact he and his family were the only "uncorrupted" ones left, seems to make perfect sense.

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:15-16 NKJV

So my question for you to consider this week is this; is one of the reasons Jesus returns for the Church the fact that we are slowly losing this fight? I think the passage in Revelation addressed to the Laodician church might well answer that. Can you imagine God being so disappointed with His Church that all He can do is “spit” them out of His mouth? If so, does that mean that the majority of us are not “contending” for the faith as God intended? Are we leaning more towards “tolerance” rather than accountability?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4 NKJV

as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude 1:7,8 NKJV

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
Jude 1:16 NKJV

Let's not forget that Jude is describing “believers” in the local church, not the unbelievers outside the church. Can you believe that Jude tells us these people would even dare to "mock" the Gospel? It certainly doesn't take a lot of imagination to see why the witness of the Church could become ineffective by the presence of these people. When unbelievers see no difference between how they live and how those who claim to be believers live, why believe? If you then consider the law of diminishing returns, doesn't it make some sort of sense that God might consider this one of the reasons He decides to send His Son to take away His bride?

Of course, I am not suggesting this is the only possible reason God chooses to act, rather that it may be one of many. Many suggest the rapture is a "number specific" event or something else, and it may well be. Yet I certainly feel more comfortable considering the possibility it is a result of many different reasons and not just one. Our God is a God of infinite patience, yet the time will come when even He says enough is enough and calls us home. The question I am asking myself is will I be able to stand before God and say I fought for the faith, or be embarrassed because I know I could have fought harder?

As always, this is not intended to be an exhaustive study of this subject, but rather to stimulate you to study more on your own. I pose these questions to you for your own personal consideration in the hope that you will listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you about it, and then share what you learn with others in the body. By doing so may we “contend earnestly for the faith” which was presented to us in His Word, even more so as we see the day approaching. Never be afraid to fight for the gospel of Christ.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unreasonable Christians

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

Something I slowly figured out as I started to study scripture as a young believer is something I like to call the rule of opposites. I suppose it goes something like this; in the Christian life there is no middle ground, or gray areas where we can “negotiate” with God. Either we do as God desires, or we do the complete opposite. Now I suppose there are many examples in life we could use to illustrate this principle such as black and white, up and down, or simply good and evil. I think you begin to get the picture. Yet as a believer I find myself looking at things in what many might consider a rather simplistic sort of way. What way is that? Well, how about God's way or Satan's way?

Now I think it entirely possible that statement might offend some, yet if you think about it, isn't it a logical conclusion? The Bible tells us, and certainly illustrates by many examples, that God looks at our behavior in just this way. Either we do as He commands, or we follow “you know who”. Thinking that way kind of makes you wonder about that old classic song “I Did It My Way”. Guess what? It wasn't your way, it was Satan's way if it didn't follow God's way. I have always been troubled by believers who seem to think there is nothing wrong with ignoring God's commands if they can somehow “justify” their behavior in their own minds, as if it is possible to negotiate with God! Notice how your kids try to negotiate with you? Did it work? Ever try that with your own parents? How far did you get with that? Unfortunately, God has a message for those who think they can get Him to change His mind.

"For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:6 NKJV

The above passage from Romans is one of my all time favorites because it seems to state plainly everything God expects from us as believers in just one verse. What I want to share with you today is what we can expect to find if someone who claims to be a believer choses to ignore what we are told in this verse, by applying the rule of opposites.

The first thing Paul tells us is that if we make a decision to follow Christ, it is "reasonable" to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Simply put, we begin to live God's way, and not the worlds' (Satan's) way. The word for reasonable in the Greek is "logikos", which not surprisingly is where we get the word logic. The definition is, "pertaining to the reason or logic; spiritual, pertaining to the soul; agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable, logical". I would presume then that it seems pretty clear what God expects from those who say they are believers. It is "logical" to begin to live your life as He expects, and to follow His rules. Yet considering the rule of opposites, what would we expect to see if someone who claims to be a believer chooses not to do as God requests?

If you choose not to act "reasonably", your only choice is to be "unreasonable"


1. not reasonable or rational; acting at variance with or contrary to reason; not guided by reason or sound judgment; irrational: an unreasonable person.
2. not in accordance with practical realities, as attitude or behavior; inappropriate: His Bohemianism was an unreasonable way of life for one so rich.
3. excessive, immoderate, or exorbitant; unconscionable: an unreasonable price; unreasonable demands.
4. not having the faculty of

Take note of some of the descriptions in that definition. Irrational, unreasonable and inappropriate attitudes, resulting in excessive and immoderate behavior. From that description, it would seem almost impossible for someone who claims to be a Christian to act in such a way, yet unfortunately, as we approach the return of Christ for His Church, it would appear this sort of behavior becomes common. How is this possible? Note what Paul says in verse two; "be not conformed to this world". The word conformed means to "fashion" oneself after another, so what Paul is saying is that believers have a choice to either "dress, look, act," acceptably to God, or the complete opposite.

How many people do you know claim to be believers yet are obviously "conformed" to this world? They hardly ever go to church, but rather spend their time enjoying what the world calls "fun". They talk and dress inappropriately, following the example of what the world considers acceptable, and unfortunately for those who might observe them, would never be confused as a Christian. This is the point Paul is trying to make here; it is "illogical", and "unreasonable" for someone to claim to be a Christian, yet be conformed to this world. Unfortunately though, we see these kind of believers all around us.

There is, however, one more unfortunate result of a believer unwilling to do the reasonable thing by sacrificing his or her life to God, and we find that in the book of Peter.

knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2 Peter 3:3-6 NKJV

I personally find this to be one of the most depressing passages in the Bible. Why? Because if you study the context of the entire book, you find that Peter is describing the problems that will arise in the Church in the last days, and the "scoffers" he is talking about are believers! How is it possible that someone who says their hope is in God and claims to be a believer, could doubt the very promise we have been given concerning His return? For the very same reason Paul told us about in Romans. They choose to do the 'unreasonable" thing by letting their actions be controlled by "their own lusts", and as we know by now if your actions aren't controlled by God, they are obviously controlled by Satan. To some that might sound harsh, but the reality is that the rule of opposites applies. Either we put our lives under God's control as a "reasonable" (logical) decision, or we go the other way.

Peter also makes it clear that the unfortunate result for those who choose the wrong way is God's terrible judgment. God may delay, but He never changes His mind. Those who choose the wrong path will pay, and pay dearly. Peter makes that point by recalling the story of Noah and the flood, and reminding us of just how far God is willing to go in order to judge His creation. The single biggest mistake those who choose not to sacrifice their life to God make is believing they are going to get away with it. If there is one thing the Bible makes perfectly clear, it is that God will always judge disobedience.

Have you made the "logical" choice to present your body to Christ? Are you living your life according to His standards rather than Satan's? As Paul says, it's your "reasonable" service.
As we approach the anniversary of the flood, may we be reminded that God expects us to live for Him, and will judge those who don't. Please don't be unreasonable.

Keep watching.

PS I will be traveling to North Carolina later today to visit my daughter and son in law for a week. Please pray for our safety as we travel, and hopefully I will not be too late with next weeks post. It might prove to be an eventful week. Keep watching.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Possibility of an October Rapture

Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:7,8 NKJV

In the past few months there has been an upsurge in conversations among believers concerning the conviction that the rapture of the Church is going to occur during the month of October. This conclusion is based on the fact that many different people, from very diverse backgrounds, using different schools of research, have all arrived at the same approximate point in time as a window for the rapture to occur. I have been asked for my thoughts on this, so for better or worse, what follows is my opinion on the possibility of an October rapture.

Time and space do not allow me to examine all the many ways those much smarter than I have arrived at their conclusions for the timing of the rapture. Some of these include numerology, Bible codes, astronomy, visions and dreams, and even the Great Pyramid in Egypt. I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no reservations whatever about the convictions or the research by believers who hold to these positions, for I am familiar with most and am impressed not only by the scholarship, but by their commitment to serve the body of Christ by their willingness to share the results of their studies, research and experiences.

Regardless of the method used to arrive at their conclusions, those who believe the rapture will occur this month connect those conclusions directly to the events of the flood of Noah, and the fact that the Bible tells us clearly when that occurred. The flood began on Cheshvan 17, or what on our calendar will be October 25. Much of the research used to point to this day as the day of the rapture stems from day counts working backwards from the Holy days of Israel that will occur approximately seven years from now using the length of the Tribulation given to us by the prophet Daniel.

Now, while not having any disagreement with the scholarship, I do have a question concerning using the anniversary of the flood as a day for the rapture of the Church. Why? It's because of a little thing called “typology”. If you are not familiar with this term, let me try to explain it in a way that makes sense. In essence what this term means is that many of the events in the Old Testament were actually pictures of what was to occur in the future, and the study of these events is called typology. Some examples that may help would be the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and God providing a lamb as a substitute. Joseph, sent by his father to visit his brothers and being “killed” in a sense by his imprisonment in Egypt only to reappear as second only to Pharaoh as ruler in Egypt. Jonah, being thrown overboard allowing the others to survive while he suffers the punishment of God's wrath in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. There are many more, but hopefully
these are enough for you to begin to see what is meant by the study of typology.

So exactly what is the point I'm trying to make here? Simply this; if typology is an accurate method to predict future events, (and as a teacher of mine used to say, “pattern is prologue”), Noah and his family were not “raptured” but preserved “through” the flood which was the “judgment” by water mentioned in this passage from Peter. In the book of Revelation we read that there are those who are preserved “through” the tribulation as well. As this passage also says that another judgment is coming, this time by fire, which we know to be a reference to the coming tribulation, it would seem to me that the anniversary of the flood is better suited to be an indicator of the beginning of the tribulation period and not necessarily the rapture of the Church.

Now rather than being depressing, that conclusion should actually excite us since the rapture of the church (if you hold to the pretribulation rapture view) occurs before the tribulation begins. So if the prevailing opinions that the rapture is this month are accurate, that being the case, a whole lot has to happen in just the next couple of weeks. Now many of you thinking, “so when is the rapture”? Well, I certainly don't profess to know the day or the hour, but considering our little diversion into typology, notice something often overlooked in the story of Noah.

..two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.
Genesis 7:9,10 NKJV

So I just wonder; God had everyone and everything get on board and then waited seven days before executing His judgment, so does this possibly mean that God might use the rapture of the Church as a seven day warning of His coming judgment on the earth? Personally I believe that it makes sense that there will be a little time between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation since there are obviously events that need to occur to prepare the world to accept the reign of the anti-christ. Many scholars believe the destruction of Damascus which we find in the book of Isaiah, and the Gog Magog War found in Ezekiel, will take place immediately before the Tribulation begins. The belief is, in fact, those very events produce the “enforced peace” brokered by the anti-christ.

With that thought in mind, let me create a work of fiction that might help explain my thinking. Part of this will be conclusions I came to when writing my book concerning the coming conflict in Israel, but I think you will agree that most of it makes sense even if it doesn't occur exactly as I lay it out. After reading it, I think you will then understand my statement that a whole lot must happen in a very short time if the Tribulation is to start this month. Again, what follows is not prophecy, just an educated guess as to what might happen in the time between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation.

IF....the rapture occurs only seven days before the start of the tribulation;

Day One; Total World Upheaval as millions disappear without a trace. Society begins to fall apart as governments, institutions, military and law enforcement agencies, all are crippled.

Day Two; Israel's enemies attack believing the disappearance of the “infidel” , and the crippling of the west is a sign that their cause is just. Unfortunately, they choose to use chemical weapons. Israel responds by using nuclear weapons to defend themselves, resulting in the complete and total destruction of Damascus. (Isaiah 17)

Day Three; What is left of world government, UN, EU, individual countries, condemn Israel's response (naturally) and seek a solution. The nations of Ezekiel 38 agree to combine efforts and come up with a solution of their own.

Day Four; While the debate rages among what is left of world government, the Ezekiel 38 coalition of countries moves their forces by a massive airlift to position themselves for an attack on Israel making no attempt to hide their intentions.

Day Five; A massive attack by the Ezekiel 38 coalition using their combined air assets is attempted and destroyed by God's intervention.

Day Six; A highly respected, powerful individual proposes a solution to the conflict between Israel and it's enemies which guarantees an “enforced” peace.

Day Seven; The government of Israel and the combined governments of their enemies agree to the proposed peace agreement and sign the “covenant with death”. (Isaiah 28:15) The seven year Tribulation begins.

So do you begin to understand what I mean when I say a lot has to happen in a very short time? If the conclusions of many that this is the month of the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, many events must transpire in just the next few weeks. Again, I have no idea if events will occur in the order or in the time frame I used here, but I think it will give you an idea of how things just may work out to bring about the time of God's judgment on this earth.

Of course, the question I have often asked in my articles when discussing the rapture of the Church, and our responsibility as watchers, is this; what are you doing about what we are seeing? Are you just sitting there getting all excited or are you looking and searching for ways to share the gospel of Christ with those around you who do not yet believe? As we see the day approaching we need more than ever to be bold when opportunities present themselves to share our faith.

If you are reading this blog and have never made a decision to accept the free gift of salvation offered by our God I encourage you to do that right now. Simply pray to God and confess you are a sinner, ask Him to come into your life and take control, turn away from your old life and seek to live your new life according to His instructions given to us in His word, the Bible. Hopefully we will all meet together very, very soon.

Keep watching.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Isaiah 17 Warning?

Many have questioned the idea that the Bible predicts that Damascus, the capitol of Syria, will be destroyed by Israel sometime in the future. They also question the idea that this destruction will be caused by the use of nuclear weapons, as apparently implied by the account in Isaiah 17. The following link reveals that Israel today has released a report concerning the possibility of bombing Damascus during the Yom Kippur War. Is this a sign of things to come, and a warning to Damascus that all options are still on the table? Read it yourself and decide.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Man After God's Own Heart

"And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'
Acts 13:22 NKJV

I think I mentioned last week how much I have enjoyed studying the life of David, and the many lessons I have learned as a result. I remember as if it were yesterday, sitting in Sunday School and hearing about David and Goliath as well as many other stories about his life. Yet it was many years later when I first encountered this verse in Acts, and began to consider just what God meant when He described David as “a man after My own heart”.

You see, along with the stories of his many victories, many of us are well aware of the stories about his failures and shortcomings. So how is it that a man who was guilty of the things David was, be described by God in such a flattering way? Exactly what did God mean, and, considering David's failures, is it possible for us to follow in his footsteps and be seen by God in the same light? How can we as believers follow after God's own heart?

I believe our first clue is in the phrase which follows the compliment, where God also says “who will do all My will”. This passage in Acts is actually a quote of the words God spoke back in the Old Testament when Samuel was informing Saul that his reign as King of Israel was about to end.

"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."
1 Samuel 13:14 NKJV

From these two verses it would seem pretty clear that in order to follow after God's own heart, one of the most important things expected of us is to do His will, and follow His commandments. That should come as no surprise considering how often the scriptures speak on that subject.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3,4 NKJV

To know God is to obey God, so the first question we must ask ourselves if we want to follow after God's own heart is "am I following all of His commandments"? Do we question our actions constantly in light of His revealed word to make sure we are not violating any of His laws? The Bible is our guidebook to knowing what God wants from us. Are we reading it daily and seeking to know what God expects from us? That is the first thing we need to do if we want to know the heart of God.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV

How easy has it become for us to try to solve our own problems or to follow the advise of the world when it comes to dealing with life's difficulties? I think the second thing we need to do to follow after God's own heart is to seek to do His will in everything we do, and not try to come up with our own answers. I can remember each of my daughters arriving at the point in their lives where they felt that they were perfectly capable of making their own decisions without the help or "interference" of parental advice. I certainly remember that happening in my own life as well, but it would seem that God tells us here that as believers we never come to that point, rather we should always look to Him for advice on what to do.

The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart,

The third thing I saw when looking closely at this verse was the word "after". Now I may not have been the smartest kid in school, but I do remember my English class and diagramming sentences. The word "after" is the Greek word "kata" which is a preposition. Now if you are like me, the only thing I remember about prepositions is that they mean action. So what God is saying here is that in order to be seen as following after God's heart, we must be actively doing what He expects from us. So to be known as seeking after God's heart we must be actively pursuing the life of doing His will.

Is it possible for God to look at us today and give us the same compliment He gave David? Certainly. It is up to us, however, to do the things necessary to be seen by God in that light. Do we know His commandments, do we know His will for our lives, and are we actively following and doing those very things? If so, we too can be people after God's own heart.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comfort Food

The term "comfort food" (added to the Webster's Dictionary in 1972) refers to foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive.[1] More generally, comfort food can be defined as food that brings some form or measure of comfort..... Wickipedia

Now like most people, I have a certain dish or two that I like more than others, but I'm not all that sure they help my emotional state or feelings of well being. On the other hand, when it's cold and rainy I like to make a big pot of stew following a recipe I learned from my Dad. My kids always knew they could expect that stew when the weather turned gloomy, and they even began to ask for it as they got older. The need for comfort, however, is something we all need from time to time, and as believers I think it's only fair to ask "what is our spiritual comfort food"? Is there really such a thing, and if so, where do we find it?

For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; They are in trouble because there is no shepherd.
Zechariah 10:2 NKJV

I think this verse speaks volumes about where we go to looking for comfort, and the hazards of looking in the wrong place. When Zechariah wrote these words, the children of Israel had stopped looking to God for their comfort, and as a result were left "hungry" because what the world has to offer will never supply the comfort we need. It seems to me that the delusion of the world is that we can be happy with what it has to offer. The lies and false dreams are the assurances of the "experts" that the world is where we need to look in order to get what we want, but in the end we find there is no truth in what they say, and as a result, no comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

You have to love a verse that uses the word comfort five times. In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul begins by stressing the source of our comfort as believers is God the Father. Not only that, but he makes it clear that He is the God of "all comfort", (not just some) and will comfort us in "all our tribulation"(whenever we need it). We all should realize by now that as believers we will have troubles. It is part of the life we are asked to live, and as we said last week, there are reasons for it. However the Bible makes it clear that we are to go to God for the comfort we need, and not to anything the world (Satan) would use as a substitute for the real thing.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.
Psalms 119:50 NKJV

I often find myself relating to David and some of the many trials he went through. Yet as I have studied his life one of the things that stands out to me is that he always turned to God for his comfort. As often as he messed up and needed help, he always knew where to turn for the comfort he needed, and that was to God's word. I really enjoy reading and studying the Old Testament stories because I find that those people were human just like me and made some of the same mistakes. The stories of the people serve a purpose though, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4 NKJV

You see, we can find comfort and hope for whatever situation we find ourselves in by reading stories about how others had their troubles but God always took care of them and delivered them.
When faced with the need for comfort, do you look to the world for what the Bible says will never satisfy, or do you turn to the Bible for the comfort God the Father says will always satisfy? Do you need comfort today? Let God's Word provide it.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV

Keep watching.