Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Long Do You Walk?

Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.
John 11:9 NKJV

One of the pleasures I get out of studying the scriptures is thinking and trying to figure out just what God is trying to tell us in any particular passage. In many ways, God reminds me a little of my own father who rarely came out and said exactly what he was thinking, but rather made comments that made me have to think in order to know what it was he was trying to tell me. Many times I would walk away from a conversation with him wondering if I actually got an answer to my question or not. This passage from John is much the same because when I read it my first reaction was "huh"? At first glance I certainly did not understand what Jesus was trying to say, but as I thought about it more and more, this is what I came up with.

If we examine the context, we find this is the story of Lazarus, whom Jesus eventually raises from the dead. But as the story unfolds, we discover Jesus is not in the same vicinity as Bethany, and must travel to get there. Rather than leaving immediately to go when He gets the news, Jesus delays for two more days. Then, when He says He is going, the disciples question His decision to return to Judea where an attempt was made to stone Him. His reply was this verse, and then an explanation that Lazarus was dead and He had to go. So what does this all mean? I came up with two questions of my own, and came to realize they both had the same answer. Why delay, and why go? One, Jesus delayed because He had work to do, and wasn't going to leave until it was done. Two, why go? Same answer; because He had work to do and needed to get there to do it.

So why did Jesus answer with the statement that there are twelve hours of daylight in a day? Considering He was talking about the work He had to do, my first thought was to ask myself this question: "How many hours in a day do I serve the Lord doing His work?" Obviously we have to sleep sometime, so it seems God is dividing up the twenty four hours as work time and rest time, and the implied question is what are we doing during our work time? You see, I think what we are being told here is that we can choose to try and look for ways to serve every minute of every hour of every day, or simply passively wander through life waiting for an "opportunity" to do something. I see it as the difference between walking and running. No matter what your shape, you can only run so long, but most anyone can walk for hours and hours as long as they maintain a comfortable pace for themselves. With all the verses in the Bible using the word "walk", and this reference to twelve hours in a day, my thoughts were that Jesus would prefer we work long hours at a comfortable pace, rather than run explosively for a short period of time then spend the rest of the day "recovering". Let me try to illustrate this another way.

I was fortunate enough to retire a couple of years ago at an early age. Not content to just sit on the couch, I looked for things to do that would keep me active and healthy. Since sitting at a desk had not been kind to me physically, I decided to join a gym in order to see what might happen if I began to workout like I had when I was younger. Every day, for at least an hour, I would walk or ride my bike to the gym and subject myself to the many torture machines that have been invented while I was blissfully working at a desk unawares. I did actually enjoy it after awhile, and kept notes on what my progress was on different machines and how my strength and endurance was changing. After one full year of this, exactly what were the results? Well, truth be told I was rather disappointed to find that although I felt I was in much better shape, I had only managed to lose a grand total of 5 pounds. Certainly not what I was looking for.

It was about this time, however, an opportunity arose for me to return to the workplace in a much different capacity than before. I now have a job where I only work about five to six hours a day doing mildly physical labor, but always moving and on the go, rather than sitting behind a desk. I had to let my gym membership expire, which did in fact disappoint me as I had come to enjoy going every day. Imagine my surprise, though, to discover that after only six months at my new job I had somehow managed to lose 30 pounds! Now rather than focusing on the fact I had 30 pounds to lose, I prefer to look at this situation as an illustration of this passage. (Good move, right?) You see, even though I thought I was in good shape physically, it wasn't until I was busy all day that I discovered what kind of shape I really could be in.

As believers, how often do we do one or two things for God in a day and then feel like we have done our "part" for His work? I believe this passage speaks to the importance in God's eyes that we seek to be busy all day working for Him, and not be content to do only a few things for only a small part of the day. Why else would Jesus need to remind us that there are twelve hours of light in a day? I believe He wants us busy all those twelve hours. We also should not forget that just as I saw rewards for my work, there are rewards for doing God's work as well. As much as we have seen the signs that His return is near, consider this passage from Hebrews.

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Hebrews 10:36,37 NKJV

Are we busy doing His work all day long? The promise is, if we are, He will come and not tarry. Let's all work harder, longer, and see Him come.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Before 2011?

"The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!"
Jeremiah 8:20 NKJV

We talked a little a couple of weeks ago about the "Dog Days of Summer", and if you don't mind, I think we will revisit that subject once again. In ancient Israel, the calendar revolved around the harvest seasons of the major crops that were needed for their survival. Those crops are listed in the Old Testament where we find the following verses;

"For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; "a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey;
Deuteronomy 8:7-8 NKJV

In Old Testament times, the harvest season ran roughly from April to November beginning with the Barley harvest, and ending with the olive harvest. The three main harvests were considered to be the grain, grape, and olive harvests, with a celebration of the first two at the Feast of Tabernacles.

"You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress.
Deuteronomy 16:13 NKJV

Now why do I bring all this up? Well by now you should realize that God and I discuss what I am going to talk about each week, and this week was no exception. As we have been discussing the season of summer, and the fact that Jesus refers to it, I was interested in when summer ends in Israel. So what did I find? Well, in the western world, the seasons are calculated by the solstices, but in Israel it is a different matter. In ancient Israel, the seasons were determined by the harvests, so when I looked into summer in Israel, I found that traditionally summer ends at the end of the grape harvest. So when I asked God the question about when is the grape harvest and when does summer end in Israel He replied "no man knows". Can you see where I am going with this?

When talking with His disciples about the end of this age, and in referring to the rapture, Jesus said this;

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Matthew 24:36 NKJV

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, many believers get excited as it has traditionally been thought to be a strong possibility for a day for the rapture of the church. Since the calendar in Israel is lunar rather than solar, the beginning of the month is determined by the sighting of the new moon which may or may not occur on the day you determine to be the first of the month. That is why Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days rather than just one since there is a possibility the moon won't be sighted when you would expect it. Like many, I have always thought it no coincidence that this holiday is described as one where "no man knows", so I certainly found it curious to discover that there could also be another day that can be described in the same terms.

I began this post with a verse from Jeremiah where the cry in Israel is a lament over the fact that summer is over and they are not saved. The question that came to mind is if the summer is over, it should be a time of rejoicing and celebration for the harvest. If indeed God is trying to tell us that the rapture may come at the end of summer, is the cry of Israel a response to that event? We know the tribulation is the time where God turns Israel back to Him by means of judgment so is it possible we find here another clue as to when that might occur? Summer ends with the completion of the grape harvest, and no one knows exactly when that will be. It is supposed to be a time of rejoicing, but the Bible tells us there will be a future time where it won't be.

Now after considering all of that, there is one more thing I want to share with you. If you have followed my posts for any length of time, I'm sure you have figured out by now I am a conservative, fundamental kind of believer. I'm not out there looking for anything strange or unusual to keep me going, while acknowledging that God does on occasion use supernatural means to make a point or two. I guess some of my Dad rubbed off on me seeing as he was from Missouri, if you know what that means.

So imagine my surprise this past week when something happened, not to someone else, but to me. My job sends me on the road a lot, so naturally I have plenty of time to talk with God about what He wants me to write about each week. On Friday afternoon I was parked and talking with God about all these things while wondering as always just how much longer we were going to have to wait. Suddenly a car pulls up in front of me and my attention for some reason was drawn to his license plate. Know what it was? B42011. People I kid you not! B42011. I almost fell out of my van. I even read it three times wondering if I was having a senior moment. Nope. B42011.

Now am I going to stand up and say the rapture is definitely going to happen this year? Nope. Am I going to say it could? Absolutely! With everything that has been happening in the world lately could there be a chance the Church will be taken before the summer is over? You bet your life. And that my friends is the point. You just might be betting your life. My prayer is that you have made the decision to accept the gift of eternal life offered by God with the sacrifice of His Son Jesus for our sins. By simply asking Jesus to come into your life you can be assured that whenever He chooses to take us home to be with Him, you won't be left behind. But don't wait too long. Summer is almost over.

Keep watching.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tensions Rising

As believers, those who eagerly await the coming of our Lord for His church can't help but get excited when something happens that appears to be a sign of His imminent return. As I have often said, the fact that Jesus told us to watch for the signs of His return is proof enough that He intended to give us warning if we would but watch. As such, the developments in the Middle East continue to provide us with signs that are hard to ignore. My personal feeling is that since I believe so strongly that we could leave here any day, I have to acknowledge that my perspective can be biased when looking at the situation in the Middle East. Yet I have come to know that when the world begins to notice and get concerned, the chances are that what we see might be very significant indeed.

The following links to commentaries will convey the concern the world has for the evolving situation in that part of the world which God has spoken so much about, and where the future of this age will be prophetically fulfilled.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
Mark 13:28-37 NKJV

I find it surprising when so many ask me why I choose to study and teach on prophecy when there are so many portions of scripture like this one from Mark that make it clear what Jesus expects from us. I try to explain to those who question that this is not merely a suggestion from God, but a command repeated over and over again. As such, I try to get the point across that if God commands us to watch, it is because He intends to show us signs that we will recognize as harbingers of the end of this age. One of the points I have often contemplated concerning this passage is if it is possible God is giving us a clue as to when the rapture would occur when He chooses to use the season of summer as an illustrative tool.

The term “dog days of summer” is probably familiar to most, yet many are probably not aware of what it means or of it's origin. Actually, the answer to that question is hazy and debatable, while some believe it may date back as far as the Roman Empire. As to what it might mean, let me make a suggestion based solely on my own observations and educational experiences. One, like most people I have a dog. I also live in a part of the country which experiences summers which tend to occasionally receive triple digit heat late in the season. Just like people, I have noticed my dog gets just a little testy during these days of excessive heat, exhibiting a marked lack of patience and a tendency to growl and lash out when disturbed.

As I considered that, I also was reminded of something I realized back in the day when I was a history major in college. Do you know the vast majority of conflicts in the history of the world have started during the summer months? My point? I just wonder if the conflict that God reveals in His Word concerning the future of Israel and the world, taken along with His command to watch with a reference to the season of summer, should be a major clue to those of us who choose to obey the command to watch?

Consider the following events of just the past two weeks, and follow the links to read more about them.

Death toll rises as Russian wildfires spread

Russia fires pose nuclear threat

Putin bans Russia grain exports due to drought

Moscow deaths double amid smog to 700 people a day

Villagers Missing, Injured as Volcano Erupts in Indonesia

Pakistan floods seen worsening as heavy rains loom

From Fires in Russia to Flooding in Asia, Extreme Weather Taking Its Toll

North Korea Floods Destroy Thousands of Homes, Factories Near China Border

Wave of fires breaks out across Israel

Dozens killed in landslides in China's Gansu province

Huge ice sheet breaks from Greenland glacier

Weather service: Up to 7 tornadoes hit ND, Minn.

Is war in the offing?

On the Brink

All this, and we still have one more month of summer. How hot is this world going to get, and what will be the result? Which dogs will strike out, and will Israel be the recipient of that aggression?

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's Always Israel's Fault

As most students of prophecy understand, the future of the nation of Israel is bleak indeed. God takes pains to make it perfectly clear that as we approach the end of this age, the conflicts in and around Israel increase in scope and intensity until the whole world is against them. This week saw an attack on Israel where the terrorist organization Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, launched a new missile obtained from Iran into Israel. The response from Israel was both predictable and justified as they in turn destroyed targets in Gaza. What was also predictable was the response from the world to this event. The following paragraph was taken from the intelligence website You can read the entire article by following the link provided, but I wanted to direct your attention to just one paragraph which comes at the very end of the article.

Early Saturday, July 31, the Israeli defense minister met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York to discuss the rising threat from Gaza. Ban responded by calling on Israel to remove all further restrictions on the Hamas-ruled territory.
( )

When I speak on the subject of the Middle East and Israel, I am often asked what I see as major signs we are approaching the end as predicted in the Bible. Rather than the obvious signs God has told us to watch for, and there are many being fulfilled before our very eyes, the one I like to mention is the feeling of hatred towards Israel from not just it's enemies, but from what we at best could describe as countries or organizations which we would assume to be neutral.
If we look closely we can see that no matter how justified Israel might be, they always seem to come out on the short end of the sympathy vote.

In the Olivet Discourse where Jesus' disciples question Him about the end of this age, Jesus says the following;

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
Matthew 24:9 NKJV

Two things are apparent in Jesus' answer here. One, the hatred for Israel is universal. Note that Jesus says "all nations". Not some, many, or even most. All. Second, this hatred is not a result of Israel's actions, but rather ordained by God for His "sake". In other words, God has a plan to reveal Himself to the world, and He intends to use Israel as a means to accomplish that. Consider the following verse from Isaiah;

Do not fear nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.'"
Isaiah 44:8 NKJV

You see, now, just as in the Old Testament, God will use the nation of Israel as His witness to the world.

If you are familiar with the Ezekiel prophecy concerning the Gog/Magog war found in chapters 38 and 39, you begin to understand then that God uses this opportunity to show the entire world that He alone is all the protection Israel needs, and nothing the world can do will change that. Even though Israel will be attacked by overwhelming forces, it won't be enough to overcome the protection God will provide. We are told by the prophet Zechariah that anyone foolish enough to try their hand against Israel is doomed.

The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah [and] against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
Zechariah 12:1-3 NKJV

The day is fast approaching where the entire world will rise against Israel. Signs of that universal hatred are already making themselves manifest today, and all that is left is the conflict that begins the process revealed in scripture. Every missile launched, every bomb exploded, every attack made, brings us that much closer to the event that starts it all.

Keep watching.