Sunday, March 28, 2010

Using Your Gift (Part 2)

And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV

In part one we talked about the two divisions among the spiritual gifts; the first being what we called the equipping or support gifts, and the others which are what I have chosen to call the working gifts. We examined the first group two weeks ago, and now I would like to spend a little time on the second group.

There are several lists of gifts to be found in the New Testament, each not quite complete, so we will put them all together and see what we find. The gifts we find are as follows; wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, helps, administration, exhortation, and tongues. To help understand these each better, I thought I would list each seperately below with their Greek definitions and usages from the Strongs concordance.

wisdom-"sophia"... wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters

knowledge-"gnōsis"...knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding

faith-"pistis"...the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ

healing-"iama"...a means of healing, remedy, medicine

miracles-"dynamis"...strength power, ability

prophecy-"prophēteia"...a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events

discernment-"diakrisis"...a distinguishing, discerning, judging

helps-"antilēmpsis" NT, to aid, help

administration-"kybernēsis"...a governing, government

exhortation-"paraklēsis"...a calling near, summons, (esp. for help) importation, supplication, entreaty exhortation, admonition, encouragement

tongues-"glōssa"...the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations

Now I would not be surprised if some of these definitions surprise some of you, for when it comes to teaching about the gifts, there is plenty of disagreement within the body as to their meaning, uses, and even necessity! However, if we examine the context in which Paul writes about the gifts, we can see that controversy and misunderstanding is nothing new. In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul goes out of his way to say a lot about the gifts and their use and misuse within the body. He even takes the opportunity to list them in order of their importance! All this obviously in response to some in the church believing and teaching that certain gifts were more desireable than others, and could also be regarded as an indicator of personal status within the body.

Paul addresses these problems in the course of three whole chapters, which we find in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14. In these three chapters I believe Paul makes at least three main points which I want to mention today.

The first is that it is God who chooses what our spiritual gift is to be, not us.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:11 NKJV

All too often we find those in the body telling us what our gift should be, rather than looking for, and accepting what, gift that God has chosen for us. The point Paul makes here is that it is not we who choose our gift, but God who chooses to give us the gift He feels we need to perform the work He has chosen for us within the body.

The second is that the parts of the body, each with it's own gift, must work in harmony with the others.

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NKJV

Paul now has to spend the rest of chapter 12 explaining that the body is made up of many individuals, and all do not have the same gift yet each is just as important as the next. Paul makes the point that in order for the body to work effectively, each part must perform the function it was designed for if we are to accomplish the responsibility of reaching an unbelieving world for Christ.

Third Paul tells us we can desire the greater gifts.

But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:31 NKJV

Now there are two words in this verse that explain exactly what Paul is trying to tell us, and those are "desire" and "best". Desire in the Greek is "zēloō" which means "to desire earnestly, pursue", and best in the Greek is "kreittōn" which means "more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous". Now if we look at all the lists Paul gives us, it is the "equipping" gifts we talked about two weeks ago which are always listed first. What Paul is saying is that although we should not seek to have a gift which God has not given us, it is perfectly alright to "pursue" the equipping gifts. How is that you ask? It should be clear that the equipping gifts are given as a result of spiritual maturity, and come after a believer has proven himself worthy by study and application of his faith. New believers do not, and should not, try to teach other believers in the body the day after they make a decision for Christ. I believe what Paul is saying here is that if you apply yourself to attain growth and maturity, God may choose to give anyone with the serving gifts one of the greater gifts in order to equip other believers for their service for God.

The bottom line is this; are you using your gift? If so, are you striving to grow in order to receive one of the equipping gifts? As members of the body, Paul makes it clear that the life of a believer is a life of doing.

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Turning Against Israel

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Genesis 12:2-3 NKJV

Ask anyone who has taught on Bible Prophecy and they will tell you that the most often asked question is where is America in prophecy? I can say without question I have been asked that very thing every time I have lectured on the Middle East. This obviously raises another question and that is why are so many people interested? I believe this is because when one considers the important, and to many pre-eminent position of the United States in world politics, we should be mentioned.

For those of you expecting to find part two of my blog on spiritual gifts, I must dissappoint you today. I do apologize, but remember one of the verses I tend to quote a lot.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.' Ezekiel 33:6 NKJV

We are called to watch, and when we something we feel needs to be warned of, we are obligated to fulfill our call to warn. My answer to the question of the United States in prophecy has for the most part always been this; since we are not specifically mentioned, we either do not exist as a nation, or we choose to sit on the sidelines and not support Israel during their "time of trouble" which refers to the tribulation period, and most probably a period of time immediately preceeding it.

So much has happened in the last two weeks that has directly affected the political relationship between the United States and Israel, that amazingly enough there are many in the secular news media wondering the same things that those of us who are watching for the return of Christ are wondering. To put it bluntly, is our president turning his back on Israel? I am going to share a number of links to articles on the web which will address what is going on, and which also provide possible reasons for the events of the past few weeks. I will also share a possible explanation from a chapter in my book which I wrote in 2007 about what I believe is in store for Israel in the very near future and our decision to abandon Israel.

From The Doomsday Oracle

.....We see that there is a list of nations that join to attack Israel, but
what is even more interesting is the fact that God tells us of a few nations that don't. Ezekiel tells us in verse 13;

"Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young
lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou
gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to
take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?"
Ezekiel 38:13

Obviously these people question the motives of Gog and the alliance, but they don't participate, or for that matter, interfere with what occurs. So who are these people, and does their identification really matter? I think it does for I believe it will give us a more accurate picture of the possible timing of this event if we can figure out who they are and examine their foreign policy positions with Israel today. Fortunately, as always, we can look to the Bible to answer our questions, and to do this we go to Genesis to find our first clue. There we are told;

"Then Again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she
bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Medan, and Midian, and
Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons
of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of
Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah. All
these were the children of Keturah. And Abraham gave all that he had to
Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham
gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived,
eastward, unto the east country."
Genesis 25:1-6

We mentioned the story of Abraham in the first chapter while exploring the roots of the conflict in the Middle East, but here we get a little more information about the many descendants Abraham had. Here we find that the sons of Keturah, which included his grandsons Sheba and Dedan, relocated from Israel to the east. If you look closely at a map, you find there is only one thing east of Israel, and that is the deserts of Arabia. Two very famous and well-respected archaeologists, Wendell Phillips and W.F. Albright have identified Sheba as being on the southwestern part of the Arabian Desert, and Dedan being located in the northern part. In fact, the capitol of Saudi Arabia has, and still is called Dedan on many maps.

So if we can support the premise that Sheba and Dedan is in fact the present nation of Saudi Arabia, what about "the merchants of Tarshish"? Again, we can find references in the Bible that will help us figure this out. There are several verses in the Bible that mention Tarshish, but I want to use just one to try to explain the position many scholars take on what the Bible is referring to here. The most well known reference is found in the book of Jonah, where in opposition to God's instructions, Jonah decides to flee. We find when we read in the very first chapter;

"Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their
wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish
from the presence of the lord, and went down to Joppa, and he found a
ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it,
to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Jonah 1:1-3

Now most who have studied this story understand that it is all about choosing to do the opposite of what God instructs us to do, which is exactly what Jonah chose to do. God told him to go to Ninevah, which was located in what would be present day Iraq, and instead, he chose to go the opposite direction to Tarshish, which required the use of a ship to travel over the sea. The obvious picture here is that God told him to go east, and he went west! Although many have tried over the years to identify a specific city as being the ancient city of Tarshish, no attempt has ever produced enough evidence to gain popular support. However, if you look at all the passages in the Bible that refer to Tarshish, it becomes apparent that it seems that rather than trying to pinpoint a specific location, God is trying to show us a direction, and that direction is west.

Another point that might seem to support this conclusion is the reference in the Ezekiel passage which also tells us of the "young lions" that are a part of Tarshish. The word in the Hebrew for "lions" is "kephiyr", and can also be translated "villages", which gives us the idea that there are numerous partners being described here, as well as the reference to "merchants" which is describing trade. So let's consider these conclusions in light of what we know for sure. The "merchants of Tarshish", which includes the "young lions" are engaged in trading or commerce with Sheba and Dedan, and choose to not get involved in, or interfere with, the attempted invasion of Israel.

If Sheba and Dedan is an ancient reference to Saudi Arabia, and they are engaged with commerce with Tarshish and the young lions, which we believe to be the "west", is it just a coincidence that this perfectly describes the situation we have today with the west, including the United States, trading in oil with Saudi Arabia? It seems to fit perfectly even if we don't mention that this also describes the "coalition" of nations that supported the invasion of Iraq when Saddam Hussein was considered a threat to peace in the Middle East.

It is also no secret that the House of Saud is afraid of aggression from Iran for many reasons, including the fact that two of the three most holy places to Islam, Mecca and Medina, are located in Saudi Arabia. Iran's president has made no secret of his devotion to Islam, his anticipation of the arrival of the Islamic messiah called the Mahdi, and the creation of an Islamic nation that will rule the world. Control of the holy places of Islam is certainly high on his list, and Saudi Arabia is well aware of this, so we have a very good reason why Saudi Arabia will not interfere, but what about the west?

What reasons could the United States, especially as an ally of Israel, decide to sit this one out and not come to Israel's defense? The answer to that question, in the minds of many, could be answered by one word and one word only; oil. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the United States spends more than $13 million dollars per hour on foreign oil. We spend more than $25 billion dollars per year on oil imports from the Persian Gulf with most of that going to Saudi Arabia.

We all have experienced some level of discomfort when the price of gasoline goes up, or supply goes down, and the effect of any sort of disruption in the oil market is felt by the consumer almost immediately. Our dependence on foreign oil is not a one way street, however, as Saudi Arabia alone has spent millions of dollars in lobbying efforts in Washington for the express purpose of frustrating efforts to pass laws that would require our government to depend less on foreign oil. Simply put, they need us just as much as we need them. This then, is the conundrum which both Saudi Arabia and the west face; support for Israel and Zionism, or protecting the dependency of the oil market? It may just be that Ezekiel is telling us that when this conflict arises, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States along with other western powers must make a choice, they choose to abandon Israel.

The future of Israel looks bleak indeed, especially if you consider the distinct possibility that their only friend and ally in the world turns their back on them in their time of need. Is this the last major sign before the "time of the end"? It well could be.

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Using Your Gift

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." Ephesians 4:7,8 NKJV

As often as we probably hear the message to be "busy" doing Gods' work, the logical question for many might be "what should I be doing?" That question is, in fact, a very good one for it should be obvious that for the health of the body, we can"t all be doing the same thing. Fortunately for us, God has personally taken care of the confusion that could arise by giving to each of us a special gift, or gifts, that He intends for us to use while fulfilling the responsibilities of our service to Him.

Now experience has taught me that the subject of spiritual gifts can be confusing to many, and occasionally even the source of some controversy. Our God, however, is not a God of confusion so I want to spend some time discussing what the Bible has to say about the gifts He has chosen to bestow on us, and the purpose behind His decision on how to go about that.

No surprise, especially considering how long we have been talking about the body and spiritual fitness, the best way to look at the subject of spiritual gifts is to look at them in light of a picture of a human body and how it works. It may be an oversimplification, but let's imagine our physical body made up of four distinct divisions. One would be the structural system made up of the bones and muscles which support the entire body. Without it, our bodies would just collapse, and we would be nothing but a pile of jello, so obviously it's quite important. Two would be the nervous system, by which the muscles and bones are told what to do, and what direction to do it. Third would be the digestive system by which we take in the nourishment we need in order to grow, and receive the energy needed to fuel the body. Last would be the circulatory system which takes the fuel we consume to the rest of the body in order to sustain life.

When we look at these verses in Ephesians we see that Paul divides the gifts of the body of Christ into two distinct ministries. The first we could call the support ministries, and the second would be the working ministries. Look closely at the following verses.

And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ Ephesians 4:11,12 NKJV

You can see that Paul states there are four specific gifts given to some individuals solely for the purpose of "equipping" other saints for their specific work of ministry. It is this first group I want to discuss today, and next week we will look at the second group. Let's look at these four gifts in light of the four "systems" of the body we have already mentioned.

I think it is no coincidence that with all of the examples of the physical body used in scripture, these verses describing gifts seem to correspond directly the picture of the body we have already painted with it's four distinct divisions. The first gift listed is the apostles, whose job was to lay the foundations, or the support structure which the body of Christ would be built. This gift would be similar to the structural system we have previously mentioned. Second are the prophets, who were individuals who spoke by inspiration of God, revealing His words to men. You could compare this to the nervous system of the body which tells the structural system what to do. The third gift Paul tells us is the gift of evangelism, which is how the body of Christ grows larger. You could look at this as the digestive system in our bodies where all that we need in order to grow is stored for distribution resulting in the growth of the body. Last is the gift of pastor-teachers. In the Greek, this is a phrase and not two separate gifts, so Paul is using two words to describe one gift. We can see where this gift is like our circulatory system which we have already described as giving life to the body by circulating the nourishment we need in order to remain healthy.

The "supporting" gifts are the foundation of the heath and effectiveness of the body of Christ. Without them, the body would collapse and be unable to perform the work for which it was intended. Paul makes it clear that God chooses which gifts to bestow on certain people, therefore He chooses those to whom He wishes to place the responsibilities of gifts supporting the body.

Unfortunately, many might look at this picture and ask "what more is needed"? But remember I said there are two divisions in the body. There are the "support" ministries which we have discussed here, and then there are the 'working" ministries. In order for the body to perform effectively, there is a division of responsibilities that many seem to miss when discussing spiritual gifts. You could look at the support ministries and think they would be able to do everything necessary, but this is not what Paul has described. Look closely at verse 12.

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

The support gifts are for the purpose of preparing the "saints" for their work. Next week we will look at the "working" gifts and examine what they are and what the saints are expected to do as their "work of ministry" which is very different from those we discussed today.,

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Indeed I will make [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And [I will write on him] My new name. Revelation 3:9-12 NKJV

We looked last week at what Jesus had to say to the church at Philadelphia, the only church of the seven Jesus had no issues with. We examined what they were doing right in Gods' eyes, and considered how we might imitate those things in our own lives. Jesus' letter to Philadelphia consists of two parts, however, the first telling them what they were doing right and the second telling them what rewards they could expect. It is those rewards that I want to focus our attention on this morning, especially as they relate to the time in which we find ourselves today. Here Jesus tells us of three rewards that we can expect to receive if we follow the example of the believers at Philadelphia.

"I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you"

One of the subjects we have spent time examining in the past has to do with the struggle we as believers face today in a world that seems to be increasingly hostile towards the message of God's love. Many find themselves the object of not only rejection, but often scorn, derision, and even physical abuse. The phrase "synagogue of Satan" is used to describe those who claimed to be "spiritual" descendants of Abraham but in reality were only "physical" ones. Their attitude towards the truth of the message of Jesus was openly hostile. In today's world we often find many who claim to have a "belief" in God, but reject the truth found in the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Yet Jesus tells us that if we persevere, the time will come where even those who have persecuted us will come to the point where they acknowledge that the message of Jesus was true, and His blessings were upon us.

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Now this promise is one every believer should get exited about, and certainly be used as great motivation to try and live out the example of the Philadelphia church. The only "hour of trial" that is promised to "the whole world" is obviously the tribulation period referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24. In that passage Jesus tells us the this time will be like no other in all of the earth's history, and unless He chose to "shorten" the time, "no flesh", that is nobody would survive. Can you even imagine a time when the situation on earth became so bad that all human life on earth would end? Yet Jesus says without question that this time will indeed come, and only by divine intervention will the human race survive. Yet His promise to us is that we get to miss it! The Greek word translated here as "from" is "ek", which really means "out of", or "away from". This verse is His promise to us of the rapture of the church, and the taking away of believers into Heaven so as to escape the coming judgment of this unbelieving world.

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

What a comfort it is to know we will be spared the trials of the tribulation.

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Jesus finishes with a word of encouragement to us by not only telling us He is coming soon, but what we can expect if we hold on until He does. The "overcomers" not only receive a crown, but are made a "pillar" in Gods' new temple. A pillar is the main support for a building, and as such, a building cannot stand without it. They exhibit strength and permanence, and here Jesus is saying that believers who overcome will reflect the strength and permanence of the promise of God throughout eternity. In ancient times, it was common to inscribe names on pillars as a way of bestowing honor. In Heaven, those who have overcome will be honored in exactly the same way, but we will receive the names of God the Father, the New city, and Jesus in place of our own.

The word "overcomer" is especially appropriate considering the days in which we live. Social, political, and economic unrest along with wars and rumors of wars and even earthquakes are signalling the approaching return of Christ for His church. In these days it has become increasingly difficult to keep His word and not deny His name. Yet the promises to those who "overcome" are there for all to see. Now more than ever, as we approach the finish line, take heart in the promises of God. His strength will see us through if we but ask Him for the help we need, and be faithful to give Him the glory.

Keep watching.