Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV

As I sat in church last night watching our Christmas play, my attention was drawn to one of the young people playing the part of one of the wise men, and the fact that she was obviously very much into her part. Watching the story of Jesus' birth performed by young kids really reminds me not only of Christmas when I was young, but the fact that this story never gets old and should remain exciting to everyone no matter what age.

I am certainly excited to receive the gift that I know is coming for all who believe, and my prayer is that it comes as soon as I expect it to. To all of you who have written to wish me a Merry Christmas, I say thank you. My prayer is that all of you have a joyful holiday season remembering that Christmas is all about the most precious gift of all, the gift of God's Son to die for our sin so we may spend eternity with Him. I hope you have received that free gift by praying to our Father and accepting the salvation He has offered.

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

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Miracle of Hanukkah

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

As we fast approach Christmas, the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as our savior, there is another day of celebration which occurs that I believe all believers should have a working knowledge of. This week Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday known as Hanukkah. If you are not familiar with this holiday, or have always wondered why it is observed, I thought I would share again a study we did a few years ago on this celebration, and why it may be a very important one to be familiar with.

In Israel's history, after they had been released from captivity by the Babylonians, they returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple which had been destroyed when they were taken into captivity. A few hundred years later, around 175BC, Israel was under the rule of the Selucid Empire (Syria) and their king. This king, Antiochus IV, looted the temple, stopped the worship, and effectively outlawed the practice of Judaism. A revolt began and the end result was that in 165BC the king was overthrown and the Jews were able to resume worship in their temple. The trouble was, they discovered that when they went to relight the Menorrah, or lampstand in the temple, there was only enough oil to burn for one day. Since this oil was specially consecrated by the priests for use, it would take days to prepare more.

However, a miracle occurred in that the one day supply of oil burned for eight days allowing time for the priests to prepare more. Although not one of the seven feasts of Israel ordained by God in the Old Testament, it is a very important celebration in Israel and is even referred to in the New Testament. During Hanukkah, the people celebrate by lighting one light each night for eight nights using what is known as a Hanukkah Menorah with eight branches on a single main stem as opposed to the Menorah used in the Temple which has six branches off of the main stem.

So why do I bring this up? I suppose because I find so many interesting things associated with this celebration that we as believers can and should be aware of. So I want to take a little time examining some of these things just in case we can find something which will not only encourage us in our faith, but quite possibly give us a few clues to that all important day we are all looking forward to.

So first of all, lets talk about the Menorah. Of all the objects to be found in the Temple, I think the Menorah was probably the most impressive. A description of it is found in Exodus 25 where God instructs Moses on how to construct it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there I was thinking about Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Light, and the fact that John, as well as Jesus said He came into this world as a light, when something else crossed my mind. If you have followed me for a while, you know how much I don't believe in coincidences, so let me share another one with you. The following paragraphs are from a study in December of 2008 called “Christmas in September”.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus I know I am a sinner. I have sinned against you, but I know you loved me enough to send your Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and then rise from the dead so that I may live forever with You. Lord forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to begin to live for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011


Righteous [are] You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about [Your] judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? [Why] are those happy who deal so treacherously?
Jeremiah 12:1 NKJV

Have you ever asked this question of God? I know I certainly have, and I am willing to bet it was for the same reasons many of us do. This question, and the emotion that produces it, are most often the result of something called frustration. Now frustration is most often a combination of two other feelings we all can relate to and those are anger and discouragement. Now speaking for myself, anger and discouragement generally follow when plans don't work out the way I wanted or expected them to. One thing I have noticed as well is that it really doesn't matter if they are life changing plans or just every day living and working around the house plans, if I want something and it doesn't work out I get frustrated.

The key to all of this though, at least in my opinion, is contained in one little letter and that is the letter “I”. It has taken me quite a while to come to the understanding in my own life that these emotions are really a result of my failure to understand that “I” don't have nearly as much control over life as I wish I had. So often we make plans expecting certain results without acknowledging that we probably don't have the power to control the outcome. Then when circumstances occur which foil our best laid plans we get frustrated, angry and discouraged.

When this happens in the believers life, quite often the result is the question we find in Jeremiah. Why? Because it seems natural for us to look around in our frustration and see others who have what we want, and who possibly got it at our expense by obtaining it in a way that as believers we could never do. We then look to God and ask why, as if it's God's fault we are frustrated because we certainly deserve whatever it was we wanted. Something I noticed though in all of this, is a point made when we ask this question of God in the first place. You see, if we ask this question of God are we not then acknowledging that He is in control and has the power to affect the outcome? If so, then doesn't it follow that the result was according to His will?

There are three points I believe we need to understand in order to deal with the frustration we often experience as a result of the realization that we don't control our own circumstances, and that God does.

God knows us.

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My [sheep], and am known by My own.
John 10:14 NKJV

Now it's important to understand that this verse is not saying that God just knows who we are. It is much more than that. The word for know in the Greek is ginōskō; to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel, to become known, to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of, to understand, to know. You see, what we are being told here is that God knows us better than we know ourselves. That being the case, it follows that God knows what is best for us as well. As parents, how often do we say no to something our children really want because we know that it isn't the best thing for them. As they grow older, those circumstances might change, but we make those decisions based on our knowledge. God knows us, and if we acknowledge that He is in control, shouldn't we accept whatever comes without frustration, anger and discouragement?

God has a plan for us.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV

The word for “know” used here in the Hebrew has the same meaning as the one in John. So not only are we being told that God knows us, we are being told that He has a plan for our life that predated our birth! In His perfect knowledge, God has laid out the course of this world, and made a special place for you and me. Before He even created this world, He had a plan and knew exactly what part we were going to play in it. When we try to control our own lives, or argue with God when things don't go as we planned, in reality we are telling God He doesn't know what He is doing. In effect, we are telling God we need something to make us happy, and He is telling us that in order to be happy we need to go along with His plan.

God will take care of us.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:19 NKJV

It took me quite a while to understand that happiness was not getting what I wanted, but rather enjoying what God has given me. I always seem to find myself falling into the trap of deciding I need something and making plans to get it rather that just sharing with God what I think I would like and waiting to see if He gives it to me. If God has promised to take care of us, why do we constantly try to do it ourselves? I can't help but think of Eve in the Garden of Eden deciding she really needed what God told her she didn't need, and look at the result of that. If you think about it, how much sense does it make to disagree with a Holy God who knows the future?

Does this mean we are not supposed to have desires or make plans for our futures? Not at all, but what it does mean is that you give them to God with the acknowledgment that He is in control and if it is His will for them to work out, they will. On the other hand, if those plans do not work out you understand that in His perfect knowledge, God has other plans for you. Oh, and let's not forget those who might appear to have what we want because they are willing to do anything to get them. The wicked prosper because Satan wants it to appear that his way is better than God's. God calls them “wicked”, and while at first it appears they are happy because they have what they want, in the end we find they have nothing at all because God promises the wicked get what they deserve.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring [it] to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret--[it] only [causes] harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked [shall be] no [more]; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it [shall be] no [more]. But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:4-11 NKJV

How often do we try and tell God what He should do? Really? I constantly ask myself how dumb am I to try and argue with the God of the universe who knows the future! I may have a plan, but it is God alone who already knows if it will result in my happiness or sorrow. So let Him lead.

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.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if [there is any] wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our Primary Purpose

"The sower sows the word. “
Mark 4:14 NKJV

A question was put to me this week that really made me stop and think for a while about the subject I want to talk about today. I was part of a discussion that concerned the state of the body of Christ at this particular point in time, and if it was indeed fulfilling it's purpose as Jesus intended. As I thought about that, I began to remember many times in my life when the question of efficiency was raised while I was being instructed on how to do something.

One of my first jobs as a youth was working in the construction industry in southern California during the housing boom of the seventies. It was here that I first heard the phrase “time is money”. It was, of course, being told to me by a journeyman carpenter who was not at all impressed with the results I was producing. As I continued to work under him he began to show me how easily the results of my labor could be affected by distractions and a tendency to get caught up doing something I thought was important but in the end actually took away from the main job I was given.

During the discussion I had this week about the purpose of the body of Christ, I couldn't help but be reminded of this situation in my past because questions about the “efficiency” of the church were some of the first to be raised. You see, many believers who heed the call to watch as Jesus instructed have noticed a tendency of some to get sidetracked by their “watching” and the result of that appears to be neglect of the main purpose of the church which is sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world. The conclusion arrived at by the end of the discussion this week was that these believers are so busy focusing on certain dates for the rapture, arguing in support of doctrinal positions on the tribulation and other questions regarding eschatology that they completely forget what Jesus said we are here to do.

That in turn prompted me to think about our purpose here, and the first thing that came to mind was the first parable that Jesus shared with His followers, and the importance He placed on it. Not only was the parable of the sower the first to be shared, Jesus also makes it clear that it is the key to all that follows. It's also reasonable to conclude that Jesus begins by telling us what our primary purpose here on earth is, and just exactly how to go about it.

Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. "And it happened, as he sowed, [that] some [seed] fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. "Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. "Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. "But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. "And some [seed] fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. "But other [seed] fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." And He said to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Mark 4:3-9 NKJV

Just so there is no misunderstanding about what believers are supposed to do and what exactly we are to sow, Jesus makes it as clear as He can.

And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? "The sower sows the word.
Mark 4:13-14 NKJV

The purpose of the church, and all who choose to believe, is to sow the word of God. Do we all have different gifts? Certainly, but we should never get so caught up in exercising our individual gifts, or following what we might believe is our special “calling” that we forget our primary purpose is to share the gospel with an unbelieving world.

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
"For [the kingdom of heaven is] like a man traveling to a far country, [who] called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. "And likewise he who [had received] two gained two more also. "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, [there] you have [what is] yours.' "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
Matthew 25:13-27 NKJV

A few years back I attended a class where believers were discussing this parable and the question was raised about working while watching. An elderly man began to smile as he shared a story with the class that illustrated this question to perfection. The county fair was in full swing and he and his brothers and sisters were anxious and impatient to attend. Finally the day came and their parents promised them that they would all go just as soon as they (the parents) returned from a trip to the feed store which was a few hours away.

The kids were so excited to see their parents drive up the driveway that they ran out to meet them dressed and ready to go. Imagine their disappointment when they were told no one was going anywhere just yet. You see, they had been so excited and filled with anticipation while watching for their parents to return that they had neglected to do their chores. They had to go back in the house, change their clothes, go out and do all that was expected of them before they could go to the fair.

In this passage Jesus makes it clear that even though we are commanded to watch for His return, we are expected to “do our chores” so to speak. As believers we have already been told what is expected of us, and that is to sow the word of God. If our watching is causing us to be distracted from spreading the gospel, I suggest it's time to realign our priorities. We can watch as we work, so may we never forget to work at sharing the message of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to ask Jesus to come into your life and accept the gift of salvation He has offered you I urge you to do it right now. Simply pray to Him and confess that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and then ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Tell Him you believe that He died on the cross to take your place and because of that you want to turn your life over to Him. If you do that you have His promise that you are saved.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:12 NKJV

Keep watching. (and sowing)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Looking Closer To Home

Well if you thought it couldn't get worse, even more provocative talk and actions came out of the Middle East this week, with more direct threats to Israel's nuclear sites by Iran and the movement of aircraft carriers to the waters off Syria's coast by both Russia and the United States. Our government even went so far as to advise all U.S. citizens in Syria to leave immediately. While many focus on signs such as these to determine how close we are to the end, I believe there are other signs we need to look at as well, and some of those hit much closer to home.

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

The reality is, that question is not a new one. How many times in the Old Testament can you recall someone asking God "why"? If one were to pick a theme that runs throughout the Old Testament you could certainly make the case for the subject of God's provision through trials as one of them. Much on this subject was written by the prophets around the time of Israel's captivity, and I want to share something with you today that Isaiah wrote about having questions about what God is doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking Up

The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from [being] a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer [are] forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make [them] afraid.
Isaiah 17:1-2 NKJV

One of the questions most people have when they consider the possibility that this prophecy from Isaiah seems to describe a future nuclear attack on Damascus is “why”? The use of nuclear arms is certainly abhorrent to most, yet most agree that this is exactly what is described in these passages. I believe that the clue to the answer to that question lies in the identification of the “cities of Aroer”.

In all of the research I have done up until now, the one consistent fact has been that most people who have studied and written about this prophecy place the location of Aroer in the country of Jordan. Unlike Damascus, Aroer no longer exists, so we are left to try to identify its location by studying past references, and looking for archaeological evidence that might support a conclusion as to its whereabouts.

Aroer is mentioned three times in the Bible, and all occur in the Old Testament. Unfortunately for us, however, each describes a different location, so we are left to examine what the Bible
says about each and see if we can decide which location Isaiah is attempting to describe. The first mention of Aroer is found in the book of Deuteronomy where it says;

“From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; the Lord our God delivered all unto us;”
Deuteronomy 2:36

This site has been identified as being on the northern bank of the Arnon ravine located in the modern country of Jordan, just east of the Dead Sea. The second mention of Aroer we find is in the book of Joshua, where Moses is allotting land to the twelve tribes and describing their boundaries. In this verse he describes;

“And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;”
Joshua 13:25

Joshua describes Aroer as being "before Rabbah". This city or any ruins of it have never been located, but by the description we know it would need to be situated be some twenty miles or so north of Jerusalem. The final time Aroer is mentioned before Isaiah’s prophecy is in the book of Samuel, where we find it listed among a group of cities that David is sharing spoil with from his defeat of the Amalekites. We find when we read that;

“And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoah,”
1 Samuel 30:28

This location has been identified as being in the Negev, twelve miles southeast of Beer-sheba. We also see from reading this passage that it was one of many cities located in the same area which helped and supported David in his battle with the Amalekites. Ruins of this city have been found, and you can even locate it on a map if your Bible has maps in the back. Simply look for a map of Israel in the time of David, and you should be able to see Aroer located in the south of Israel, southwest of Beer-sheba.

So we have three different locations to choose from, and no help from the Isaiah passage to identify which one he is referring to. Is it possible to find a way to know for sure exactly which one of these locations is the one that Isaiah describes as being "forsaken"?

First of all, I think it may be logical to assume that Isaiah is referring to the location southeast of Beer-sheba for several reasons. The first is that if you compare the dates that these three books were written, you find that the Samuel passage was written closest to the time of Isaiah, as opposed to the others which were written much earlier in Israel’s history. Also, if you look closely at these three locations, you see one of them is in Jordan, not Israel. Since Isaiah is describing a conflict between Syria and Israel, I think we can dismiss the Jordan location as a possibility. So we are left to choose between two locations, one which has never been positively located, and one which not only has been located, but may have some military significance as well.

If we look at a map of Israel during the time of the twelve tribes, we can easily see where Aroer is located. Now compare that map with a map of Israel today and you may be surprised to find that a very significant complex has been constructed in the same approximate location of ancient Aroer, and that is the nuclear research facility known as Dimona. Since Isaiah is describing a future conflict between Israel and Syria, obviously there must be a good reason that Israel chooses to completely destroy Damascus. Is it possible that it is in response to an attack of some sort on Dimona? I think it is not only possible, but logical as well if we examine the situation that exists today in the Middle East. One only has to remember what Iran has already threatened to do if they are attacked to see how this scenario might unfold.

Second Iranian threat to destroy Israel names its Dimona reactor.

What will happen if and when Israel attacks the nuclear ambitions of Iran? Well, according to Iran, they will attack Dimona in response. Where does Damascus fit in? Simply it is very questionable that Iran can respond directly from their own territory with rockets accurate enough, or with enough range to hit Dimona. There are, however, numerous Iranian rockets in Syria armed and aimed at Israel. Would Iran launch their response from Syria? Most experts have no doubt that Syria would do exactly what Iran tells them to do, considering the extent to which Syria is indebted to them. Are we seeing the clues to the beginning of the next Middle East War in the news today? Could it happen in the very near future?

In the past few months we have seen the unrest occurring in Syria, and most are familiar with the threats being made against Israel from the president of Syria. He seems to believe that the only way to save his own rule is to start a war with Israel. Will an attack on Iran give him reason to respond by launching his own missiles? Those missiles are believed to be armed with chemical warheads, which are also considered to be weapons of mass destruction. If they are launched in an attack on Dimona, it could easily explain why the cities of Aroer are described in Isaiah as “abandoned”, and not destroyed.

The use of WMD's against Israel would invite, if not justify a response using Israel's own WMD's, which are nuclear and not biological. I am constantly amazed at how the prophecies of the Bible written over two thousand years ago describe exactly what is occurring in the Middle East today. It certainly is beginning to look like the stage is set for the fulfillment of what the Bible describes as the “end of days”, and the completion of the prophecies concerning Israel's future written by the prophets so long ago,

There is one more thing I want to share with you today. Although not from the Bible, I believe it may have great significance for what we have been studying. If you study Bible prophecy, you are probably familiar with author Grant Jeffrey, who has authored many books on biblical prophecy. In his book, “The Next World War”, he makes the following statement;

There is an oral tradition recorded from the Vilna Gaon , a Jewish commentary, that points out the significance of the Russian navy (Magog) passing through the Bosporus straits on the way to the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles: “It is now time to put on your Sabbath clothes because the Messiah is coming.”

Grant Jeffrey, “The Next World War”; Chap. 12, pp 150.

Isn't it interesting then to note that just this past week that Russia has sent warships from their base in the Black Sea to the waters off of Syria.

When I read this my first thought was what Jesus said in Luke when He was talking to His disciples about the end of days;

"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
Luke 21:28 NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Isolating Israel

On Tuesday of this past week the IAEA released it's long awaited report which confirmed what many had already believed, and that is that there is no other explanation of the steps Iran has taken in it's nuclear research except that they are aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapon. That conclusion was not a surprise to many people, myself included, but what did surprise me as well as anger me was the response of our government to that news.

When our current president assumed office, one of his first promises was that he would “never” allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. So what was the official response from our government to the IAEA report? Why to do nothing, of course! The following is an excerpt from an article from, an intelligence and security internet news source.

US President Barack Obama is backing away from crippling sanctions on Iran's central bank and an embargo on its oil trade. This was decided shortly before the International Atomic Energy Agency was due to confirm Tuesday or Wednesday, Nov. 8-9 that Iran's clandestine military nuclear program had reached the point of no-return, and after Israel intelligence experts found that Iran could build a weapon as soon as it so decided.

Four considerations persuaded the Obama administration to backtrack on new sanctions, thereby letting Tehran prevail in this round of the nuclear controversy:

1. Because it is too late. Even the harshest sanctions would not alter the fact that Iran has arrived at a position whereby it is capable of building a bomb or warhead any time it chooses.

2. Severe penalties against Iran's central bank and its fuel exports would exacerbate the turmoil on international financial markets.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, Nov. 8, "Though US officials had declared they would hold 'Iran accountable' for a purported plot [to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington], they now have decided that a proposed move against Iran's central bank could disrupt international oil markets and further damage the reeling American and world economies."
Instead, say those officials, Washington will seek to persuade some of Tehran's key trading partners, including the Persian Gulf states, South Korea and Japan, to join existing sanctions.

3. For the first time in American history, Washington has admitted its military capabilities are constrained by economic concerns.
This constraint was also reflected in the Washington Post of Tuesday: "The possibility of a US strike is considered remote, however. That is partly because there is no certainty it would successfully stop Iran and partly because of the diplomatic and political repercussions for a cash-strapped nation emerging from two wars."

4. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday in a radio interview that he was not optimistic about tough sanctions because there was no international consensus to support them.

Many who lecture and teach on the subject of prophecy and the end times will tell you that the first and most often asked question concerns the role that the United States might play in the end times since it appears that we are not mentioned in scripture. My response to that question has always been that there are only two options. One, we are not mentioned because we don't exist, or two, we choose not to get involved.The possibility that the United States comes under attack is certainly plausible, however I find it hard to believe we would completely cease to exist. Unfortunately, choosing to abandon Israel and sit on the sidelines, especially considering the current administration, seems a much more likely scenario.

As I watched these events this past week and saw the United States begin to pull back even farther from our “ally” Israel, I must confess there were feelings towards our administration that might not have been entirely a result of the fruits of the Spirit. It was then that the Spirit began to talk to me and explain something I should have already realized, but had forgotten, and that is that God is in charge of everything including the isolation of Israel from the rest of the world. This includes placing certain men in positions of power to accomplish His purposes.

He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry, And sets others in their place. Job 34:24 NKJV

Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.
Daniel 2:20-21 NKJV

While I considered these things the Spirit also brought something to mind that I had not previously considered, and that is the necessity of isolating Israel in order to demonstrate His power to the world. The Bible makes it clear that God not only intends to use the tribulation period to judge Israel, but to also make it perfectly clear to the world that it is He who is in charge. Without any friends to come to their aid and help them defend themselves, both Israel and the world will know God exists when He chooses to defend Israel by His own power, and not by any other means.

So much has happened this week that at times I found myself checking for news every hour just to keep up. The frequency of events is increasing rapidly, to the degree that many believe war is not only imminent, but could even begin today. On Saturday there was an explosion in Iran that some sources report was the result of a failed attempt to mount a nuclear warhead to a Shahab-3 missile. Tensions are rising to unprecedented levels and as we all know, when it gets hot enough, the pot will boil over.

As we see these things taking place, what an opportunity we have to share the gospel with others by telling them that all these things are foretold in scripture, and this world is held in God's hand with salvation available to all who choose to believe. If by chance you are reading this and never made the decision to accept the salvation God has offered, I pray you do that today. The way you do that is to simply pray a prayer like this;

Jesus I know I am a sinner. I have sinned against you, but I know you loved me enough to send your Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and then rise from the dead so that I may live forever with You. Lord forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to begin to live for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Keep watching.,2506,L-4147550,00.html,2506,L-4146973,00.html

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's In A Sign?

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, '[It will be] fair weather, for the sky is red'; "and in the morning, '[It will be] foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot [discern] the signs of the times. "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed.
Matthew 16:1-4 NKJV

I have always found this to be an interesting passage because it really gives us some insight into the person of Jesus and his thoughts about the religious leaders of that day. Now at first glance, you might wonder what was so bad about asking for a sign? I'm sure many believers today probably ask God for signs all the time for one reason or another, and the Bible has many examples of people doing the same thing. Yet in this instance Jesus was upset at the religious leaders for asking, and I think it is important for us to understand why, especially considering many believe we are right now in much the same circumstance.

The first thing Jesus does here is to explain to them just how easy it is to see the signs. He uses the example many of us have heard before as “red sky in the morning, sailors warning; red sky at night, sailors delight.” Obviously it has been around for a couple of thousand years or so because Jesus uses it too. Yet obviously it isn't too difficult to simply look up and observe the color of the sky in the morning and at night, and it would appear that Jesus was making the point to them that in order to see the signs of the times all they had to do was observe because the signs they wanted to see were all around them.

Next Jesus calls them “hypocrites” for their inability to recognize the signs that were right in front of them. The word for hypocrite that Jesus uses here means “pretender”, which makes one wonder what they were “pretending” to be? I believe the point Jesus is making by using this term is that they were not really believers at all, but just pretending to be. Consider the fact that anyone with a knowledge of the prophecies of Daniel would know that he prophesied that after the Jews were released from their captivity in Babylon and told to return to rebuild Jerusalem it would only be sixty two weeks of years, or 173,880 days before the Messiah would come. That time was now, yet those who were responsible for knowing were ignorant of that prophecy. It would seem that Jesus' point was that there wasn't a lot of difference between looking at the sky, and looking at the calendar. The religious leaders of that day should have known, and recognized the signs.

"Know therefore and understand, [That] from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it [shall be] with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Daniel 9:25-26 NKJV

Not only were these two groups responsible to know what Daniel had prophesied, they were also responsible to teach the Jews about it, and to be sure they were ready for the Messiah's appearing. Because of their failure Jesus rebukes them by saying that there would be no more signs except for one, and that was His death and resurrection which would parallel the three days and nights that Jonah spent in the belly of the great fish. If we look closely at this passage I think we can see three things Jesus wanted from those leaders, and from us as well, and we will call them preparation, recognition, and action. Preparation can be described best as a knowledge of not only the Bible, but the prophecies of the future yet unfulfilled that we should be watching for. Recognition comes from watching intently and faithfully for things God has commanded us to watch for, then recognizing them when they appear. Finally action in the sense that we have a responsibility as watchers to sound the alarm about what we observe.

If it hasn't become evident by now if you follow this blog, I strongly believe we have all been called to be watchmen. It is the reason I do what I do, and why I encourage you to do the same. As we see the day approaching where we will be called home, the responsibility to shout out a warning of what is to come has never been greater. Consider these words as a source of encouragement, because as we all know it is so very easy to relax our guard, or become complacent as we wait impatiently for our Lord to return for His bride.

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

Did you notice how many times we are told to watch? Did you also notice the last verse says we ALL are being commanded to watch? It would seem that the answer to our first question about when to watch is “always” because we haven't been told exactly “when” Jesus will return. Yet Jesus also makes it clear that although we have not been given a specific date, we will be given signs to help us know His return is near. When Jesus was telling His disciples about His future return, He also told them this;

"So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors!
Mark 13:29 NKJV

Just like the illustration of the color of the sky, Jesus makes the point that if we are watching the world around us, we will recognize the time is near by the things which will be occurring. But we do have the responsibility to know what to watch for, and it is here where the problem may occur. It is no secret that within the body, many pastors avoid teaching prophecy, or the imminent return of our Lord for His church. They actually believe it is something to be ignored while focusing more on the “works” responsibilities of the body. Now I just wonder if unknowingly or even purposely they are committing the same mistake the Pharasees and Sadducees of Jesus' time did? By not studying and teaching others of prophecy, do they set themselves up to be considered “hypocrites” by Jesus in much the same way as what happened at His first appearing?

So why is watching such an important responsibility? Consider the following passage from the Old Testament concerning watchmen and what was expected from them.

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

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

I believe God has the expectation for all who believe to be aware of what to watch for, look for the signs He has foretold would precede the rapture of His church, and shout out a warning as we see the day approaching. May we all have the courage to do as God expects from those who truly believe.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

For Such A Time As This

"For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for [such] a time as this?"
Esther 4:14 NKJV

We have talked the past couple of weeks about the days of Noah, and the fact that the anniversary of the flood is going to occur two weeks or so from now. We have also explored the possibility that God might again choose to intervene in the world’s history at this time. While studying this week the Holy Spirit reminded me of this passage from the Old Testament which we find in the story of Esther, a Jewish girl who becomes Queen during the reign of Ahasuerus.

While she was the Queen, a plot to destroy the Jews is discovered by Esther’s cousin Mordecai who informs her of it, and counsels her as to what she could do to foil it. It is during this conversation that we find this passage where Mordecai in essence tells Esther that this single event might be the reason behind all that has happened to her up to this point in her life. The fact that a Jewish girl taken captive by a foreign ruler somehow becomes the Queen certainly gives her reason to consider this possibility. She then decides that she was indeed placed in this position by God, and fulfills her destiny by putting in motion a plan that results in the salvation of the Jewish nation.

So why did the Holy Spirit remind me of this story, and this verse in particular this week? Since we have been talking about the days of Noah, I believe it is a message for those who truly believe we are living in those days right now, and some insight into just what God expects from us.

Let me try to explain my thinking here. Most of us are familiar with some form of sporting event, whether it be football, baseball, basketball or hockey just to name a few. As you watch these games, it becomes apparent that one of the strategies most all have in common is some sort of manipulation of personnel during the game that insures the best possible lineup of players is available at the end.

Now this might seem odd to you, but what the Holy Spirit told me this week is that for those of us who truly believe we are approaching the end of this age, the logical conclusion is that God chose to place us here as His best “lineup” to accomplish His goals before the end.

My next thought was that thanks to me, we may be in a little trouble. I had to step back and look in the mirror and ask myself if I was doing everything I possibly could to further the Kingdom! The fact is, if we are indeed as close to the end of time as many of us think, we have an awesome responsibility to fulfil. God is counting on us to do His work as time is running out.

Now a natural response to that idea might be many asking themselves “what more can I do”? If I may, I would like to suggest that this late in the game, it might not be a question of what more can I do, but am I doing what I can?

For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body [were] an eye, where [would be] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [would be] the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
1 Corinthians 12:14-18 NKJV

One of the most important lessons I learned while participating in sports was that while you spent time away from the game in learning and practicing, when it came to game time you just concentrated on doing what you could do the very best that you could. In other words, during the game is not when you want to try something new that you haven’t practiced. In the life of the believer, we early on try to identify the gifts God has presented us with and develop them in order to put them to good use serving Him.

In the passage from Corinthians, Paul is making the point that first and most importantly we must realize that we are placed in the body according to God’s will. In the context of this passage, Paul is referring to the gifts God gives each of us to accomplish His work. Yet in the bigger picture, God also places us where we can do the most good with those gifts He has given us. Have you ever really considered that you are where you are because God wanted you there? So often we tend to think we have some sort of control of our circumstances, when in fact, in the life of the believer God puts us where He wants.

When I thought about all of these things this week I came to the realization that I personally need to understand how much God expects from me right now. Since I do believe we are at the end of this age, and the rapture of the church could happen today, do I really understand God placed me here for a reason, and He expects the very best I have performed at the highest level I can produce? Just like Esther, God has placed all of us here right now “for such a time as this”. We are the people God chose to put on the field at the end of the game. We need to be giving the maximum effort we can before time runs out and the game is over.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NKJV

Keep watching.

Update; The Middle East is growing even more explosive with even harsher warnings from Assad of Syria, and new missle attacks on Israel. Many believe these events will culminate in war within the next month or two. Here are two links you can use to read about the escalation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Soon?

"But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:37-39 NKJV

Last week we discussed the possibility that it could be possible to identify the day when the tribulation would begin by looking at when the world was judged by God at the time of the flood of Noah. The Bible tells us clearly that the flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month, which is Cheshvan 17 on the Jewish civil calendar. Now assuming that the tribulation will begin on this same day at some point in the future, is there any way we can speculate on when the rapture will occur?

Now as we have already said, there are all sorts of ideas about when the rapture might occur depending on who you talk to. Many believe it is a number specific event based on the total number of believers in the body, some believe it must occur on a feast day of Israel, and there are even those who believe it occurs during the tribulation, which a few believe has already begun. As always, I want us to look at what the Bible says to see if it sheds any light on this question.

As we see in the passage from Matthew, when Jesus was talking to the disciples about His return He specifically mentions the time of Noah and the flood and tells them that the two events will be similar. The question is; “how similar”? Jesus does go on to describe the lifestyle of the world at the time of the flood, but could there be other similarities as well? Some may not know that this was not the only time Jesus talked about the flood of Noah during His ministry, so why not look to the other?

During His ministry, and some time before the Olivet Discourse, Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and was asked a question by the Pharisees concerning the coming kingdom. In the course of discussing that subject, He looked to His disciples and used the flood of Noah as an illustration much the same as He would later do in the Garden.

"And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:26-27 NKJV

But what I want you to notice is this; Jesus did not stop there, but went on to use another illustration of God’s judgment falling on mankind.

"Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; "but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed [them] all. "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Luke 17:28-30 NKJV

Now why is this important? Well, one thing that stood out to me when I compared these two passages looking for similarities was this; not only do they describe God’s judgment on a sinful world, but both accounts state that judgment began the very same day Noah went in and Lot went out. In fact, look at this passage from Genesis concerning the story of Lot leaving Sodom and Gommorah.

"Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there." Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.
Genesis 19:22-24 NKJV

When discussing the city where he and his family were going to escape to, the angels told Lot that they could not do anything until he and his family were safe in Zoar! Now I think many could easily make the argument that these two accounts suggest that not only is the pre-tribulational rapture of the church the correct one, it is entirely possible that the tribulation will begin on the very day that the church is raptured. While that may indeed be a possibility, I believe there is one more thing we need to consider before we begin to think we could identify a particular day for the beginning of the tribulation. If we look again at the passage in Daniel where he is given the prophecy of the seventy weeks, we find this verse concerning the beginning of that final seventieth week.

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

Now the “he” in this verse refers to the coming one world leader who is also known as the Antichrist, which is only the best known of the many names given to him throughout scripture. In this verse we are told without question that the coming tribulation, the seventieth week of Daniel, begins with the man of sin “confirming” a covenant with the “many”. Most scholars agree that an examination of the original language reveals that what we are being told here is that the Antichrist will enforce an existing treaty between the nation of Israel and it's enemies which most likely will concern their territorial boundaries, with the result being a temporary peace with their neighbors.

Now a point I have always tried to make about this scenario, which is most likely a result of my background as a history major, is that in order to enforce a peace you must have had a war! History shows that treaties of this nature are almost always a result of a conflict between peoples or nations, and I believe this one is no exception. If we assume this to be the case, does the Bible tell us of any conflicts yet unfulfilled in Israel’s future? If you are at all familiar with the future of Israel you know that there is a coming conflict with the entire world revealed to us in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 38-39.

The account given to us here tells of a time when the entire world will turn against Israel, with the result being the positioning of massive army on their borders with the intent of destroying them. It is on this occasion that God will once again come to their aid and reveal Himself by defeating this army by His own power and might. If this is the conflict that results in the confirming of a covenant by the Antichrist, which also begins the tribulation period, does the Bible give us any clues as to when it might occur?

And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: 'I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.
Haggai 2:20-22 NKJV

If we look at the first verse of this chapter, it identifies the seventh month as the time this prophecy was given. The Jewish calendar was changed in the time of the Exodus, so on the old civil calendar this would be the third month which corresponds to somewhere around December on our calendar. Many scholars believe that God is identifying this day as the day this conflict will occur, and if you compare the wording of this passage with the description given in Ezekiel 38-39 you will find they are almost identical. This has led many to believe that the events in Ezekiel, which might possibly usher in the tribulation, will occur during the month of December. This year the twenty fourth day of Kislev, also known as the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, begins at sundown on December 20.

Of course, while many believe the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy occurs before the tribulation begins, there are also those who think it happens during the tribulation. So can we draw any conclusions from everything we have covered in the past two weeks ? I think we can, but if you were thinking we could identify a particular date for either the rapture or the beginning of the tribulation I’m afraid I am going to disappoint you. Do we have clues? Certainly, and I think God deliberately put them in His word so that we would seek them out and increase our knowledge of this period in world history of which the Bible says so much. We are commanded to watch, and God has told us much of what we are to watch for.

My personal feeling is that the prophecy of Isaiah 17, which I have mentioned before, results in the Ezekiel 38 events and these in turn bring about the covenant by the man of sin enforced between Israel and it’s enemies. If the Ezekiel conflict occurs in December, the Isaiah 17 event must take place shortly. With the statements made recently by the leader of Syria concerning attacking Israel, and the unrest going on within his own country, that event seems more and more a strong possibility in the near future. I have also come to the conclusion that there is a very strong possibility the rapture of the church might be the event which lights the fuse to ignite these conflicts in the Middle East.

I, and many others, believe the church could be raptured at any time. The events we see occuring in the Middle East are clearly the precursors to the final conflict which ushers in the tribulation. Since the Bible plainly tells us that God’s judgment has fallen before at this particular time of the year, and His future judgment will most likely happen at this time, don’t you think we should be watching even closer to what is happening all around us? I believe there are going to be some very, very significant events in the coming months and there are many others who believe as I do that our time on this earth is rapidly drawing to a close.
With these things in mind, don’t you think it’s a good idea to…

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Season of Judgment?

As always at this time of the year, there has been a lot of speculation concerning the rapture of the church, and if it might occur on one of the Feast Days celebrated in Israel. This week will see the end of the feasts with the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, and many are wondering if we again will pass by this season without seeing the return of Jesus for His church.

Now if you have followed my thoughts for any length of time, I’m sure you understand that I am a believer in what is called the doctrine of imminency, or the belief that Jesus could return for us at any time and not necessarily on one of the Jewish Holy Days. There is, however, something I would like to share with you for your consideration that might just give us a clue as to just how close we might be to our time of departure.

One of the reasons many look to the feast days is the amazing occurrence of numerous major events in Israel’s history which have taken place on those particular days over the past 5000 years. It would seem that God, by intent, has chosen to reveal Himself by orchestrating events to occur on the anniversary of many special days throughout Israel’s calendar. Since these occurences are, according to the odds, almost impossible it would seem that we are faced with the inescapable conclusion that not only is God at work, but He uses certain days to do certain things. Does this seem hard to believe? If so, we might look at that question in light of the following passage.

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

If we consider that God Himself tells us that He does not change, and we know He has chosen to act throughout history on the anniversary of certain events, is it logical to assume that He will again do so in the future? I think we can, and I want to share a thought with you today concerning the endtime events many of us see, and the possibility that the time of Jacobs’ Trouble might be just around the corner.

Rather than discuss the rapture of the church as so many have, I want to draw your attention to the period of time we know as the Tribulation. In the Old Testament we find that God gave a prophecy to his servant Daniel concerning the future of Israel which is known as the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. In it God predicts that following the release of the nation of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, a period of seventy “weeks of years” would occur. The word for “weeks” literally means a period of seven years, so what was being said was that Israel’s future history would be contained in a period of four hundred and ninety years.

He also foretold that after the first sixty nine weeks the Messiah would come but be rejected, and an indeterminate period of time would occur between the sixty ninth week and the seventieth week. Not surprising, the length of time between the release of the Jews from Babylon, and the entry into Jerusalem by Jesus of Nazareth on Palm Sunday was exactly four hundred and eighty three years. So where we are today is waiting for the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel, also known as the Tribulation, when God will judge the unbelieving world along with unbelieving Israel for a period of seven years.

The question I want you to think about though is this; based on what we have already seen, is it possible we might already have a clue as to when the Tribulation might begin?

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. But the heavens and the earth [which] are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:5-7 NKJV

What Peter tells us here is simple enough; the world will experience the judgment of God twice. The first was by water, which was as we know the flood of Noah, and a second time by fire which will be during the period known as the Tribulation. In light of what we are discussing, the next question is do we know when the flood of Noah occurred? If we look closely at the Genesis account we find this;

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
Genesis 7:11 NKJV

This passage tells us that the flood began precisely on the seventeenth of Cheshvan, the second month of the Jewish civil calendar. Many of you know the fall feasts occur during the first month, Tishri, beginning with Rosh Hashanah which began September 29 this year. As the Jewish calendar is lunar rather than solar, each month begins with the first sighting of the new moon. If the new moon is sighted as it should be on October 28, then the seventeenth day of the second month, the anniversary of the flood, should be on November 13 this year.

Now considering the fact we know that God has allowed many events to occur on the same day of the year throughout history, and He has clearly stated that He does not change, is it possible that by knowing the exact day the flood began we can assume the next judgment of the world could begin on the anniversary of the first judgment? I believe our answer to that could certainly be “why not”? It would follow the pattern that God has already established, and might, in light of other passages of scripture, be logical when we know that Jesus talked of His return at the end of the age by referring to the time of Noah and the flood.

In light of the state of the world right now, and the events which many believe are building up to an "apocalyptical" type of event, is it possible we are fast approaching the beginning of that period of time which the Bible tells us so much about? It would probably not surprise anyone who makes it a point to study current events with regards to biblical prophecy, yet as we have seen in the past, the patience of God towards His people could best be described as longsuffering. Yet even God has foreordained a point in time when His judgment will fall on an unbelieving world, and as many believe, it could be very close.

An obvious question that follows from this discussion would then be, if you subscribe to the pretribulational rapture of the church, how close to the beginning of the Tribulation could the rapture occur? I will save the answer to that for next week, along with even more evidence from scripture that would appear to support the position that we are indeed entering the season of judgment.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Business As Usual?

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

I'm sure this passage is familiar to most of you, for it is almost always referred to when the subject of the return of Christ is discussed at any length. This week as I was studying and researching as is my habit, I ran across another commentary where this passage was discussed. As is most often the case, the discussion centered around the state of the world at the time that Jesus returns for His church. Yet as I read and thought about what was being said, the Spirit made a point to me that I had not previously considered.

If I were to try and describe my thoughts on this passage I would have to say that these verses tell us that at the time of Jesus' return the prevailing mood of the world will be “business as usual”. Although the people of Noah's day could see him building the ark, they dismissed what they could see with their own eyes and continued on with their daily lives with no change in either attitude or practice. Now I understand that this is how most of us see this passage, and this is how it is most often taught. Yet as I considered the subject the Spirit asked me this question; “do you think this attitude refers just to the “world” and not “believers” as well?

The more I thought about this, the more I began to realize that there really is no reason to think that the prevailing mood described here should not apply to believers too. Those who consider themselves to be “watchers” are well aware of the events happening all over the world right now that seem to scream that the rapture could happen at any time. Even unbelievers acknowledge that the world is standing on the brink of what many have described as an “apocalyptic” event. Yet life goes on as usual in most of the world as people get up every day and go about their business.

So I think the point the Spirit was making to me was that I should look in the mirror and ask myself if I was changing the what and how of my daily life as I see these things, or am I living “business as usual”? I believe this is a question we should all ask ourselves especially if we consider another passage that concerns the church at the time Jesus returns. I'm sure this passage is familiar to you as well, but I think we should all look at it in a different light with the question we have just asked ourselves in mind.

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "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 3:14-16 NKJV

Now most of us might look at these verses and recoil at the thought that we might be described as a “Laodicean”, but let me ask you this; could we not say that “business as usual” is the same as being “lukewarm”? I don't know about you but to me, that is indeed a scary thought. As I have prepared to share these thoughts with you today I have begun to make a mental list of things I can do or change in order to show God that my life is “not” business as usual. I want Him to look at me and see changes and new ways of trying to share, and a visual acknowledgement that I do indeed recognize that His return is near.

Interestingly enough, as I came to these conclusions this week, yet another sign appeared which I believe has ominous ramifications for the nation of Israel. Some of you know that while in college as a History major, I became interested in prophecy and the Middle East. This eventually led me to study the geopolitical nature of the unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel. A few years ago I put a few of my thoughts about the prophecy of the destruction of Damascus, which is found in Isaiah 17, in book form and voiced my opinions on the how and why it may occur.

This week a very big piece of that puzzle may have been applied by the statement of intent by the President of Syria when he stated that he would have no hesitation to attack and destroy Tel Aviv given the proper excuse. You can read his statement here;
(,7340,L-4131259,00.html ). What follows is a short part of the chapter from my book where I discuss the possibility that an attack on Tel Aviv is one of the reasons Israel destroys Damascus.

In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough And an uppermost branch, Which they left because of the children of Israel; And there will be desolation.
Isaiah 17:9 NKJV

...Most people are more familiar with Jerusalem than any other city in Israel; however it can be argued that it is not necessarily the most important one. Tel Aviv, located in the northwest part of the state is arguably the most important city in Israel today. Although smaller in population than Jerusalem, if you include all of the outlying metropolitan areas or "suburbs", it is by far much larger.

It is as well considered to be the "economic capitol" of Israel. It is home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Tel Aviv University, most of Israel’s national sports teams, and is considered by Newsweek magazine to be one of the world's top ten most "technologically influential" cities. The outlying metropolitan area of Tel Aviv is home to what could be considered the equivalent of our "silicon valley". Tel Aviv has best been described as the Israeli equivalent to New York City in regards to its importance to the nation.

So what does this have to do with verse 9? Notice that verse 9 states that Israel's "strong cities" will resemble a "forsaken bough". So what can this picture possibly mean you ask? I think I can help with that from my own personal experience. I will freely admit to not possessing a green thumb, but that doesn't mean I don't try my hand at growing things. I have an apple tree in my back yard that produces some of the best tasting apples I have ever eaten, and I like nothing better than watching it fill up with fruit every year, providing I do what I have to do to insure that happens.

Unfortunately learning how to take care of a fruit tree by proper pruning has been personally challenging. I can still remember when we first bought our house and found that it came with an apple tree, how excited I was to watch it grow. Not knowing anything but that the Bible teaches that a tree needs to be pruned, I just went out when I saw neighbors pruning their trees and had at it. When I was done pruning, and stood back to admire my work, it can best be described as an apple tree with a "buzz cut"; round on the sides and flat on the top! So when time came for apples to grow, I had plenty of apples on the highest reaches of the tree, and virtually none on the sides. My ladder wasn't long enough to reach the top of the tree so most of the very best apples that year were left for the birds to enjoy, while I could only watch.

Now when I read this verse in Isaiah, I can't help but remember that experience and wonder if this is exactly what Isaiah is trying to tell us? Is it possible that Tel Aviv, made up of many individual metropolitan areas, yet the largest and most important cities in Israel, will be attacked in such a way as having to be abandoned and left as indefensible because it is so far away from Jerusalem? It might not be as unbelievable as you think if we look at the rhetoric coming from Hezbollah and their leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Most remember the Lebanon War of 2006, and that the main weapons of choice by Hezbollah were rockets, but most don't know that a war that lasted only about thirty days, more than 4000 rockets were launched at Israel. On October 31, 2007, a United Nations report stated that Israel was reporting that Hezbollah was rearming with "hundreds" of Zilzal and Fajr rockets with a range of 155 miles, which will put Tel Aviv well within their range. In the past, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has said that under "certain circumstances", they would have no hesitation to attack Tel Aviv with rockets, and it now appears they have the capability to do so. Is this what Isaiah is predicting here when he says that Israel must forsake its strong cities that are like an "uppermost branch"?

Although the actual "pushing of the button" might come from several different sources, the reaction by Israel to retaliate by destroying Damascus certainly tells us that they believe the decision and command to attack came from there.

With all that we see which causes us to believe the rapture of the church is imminent, should we live our lives as "business as usual"? I think you will agree we need to step out of our comfort zones and look for ways to make a difference by sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world in ways we may not have previously considered. Join me in praying that God will present us all with opportunities to serve Him differently than in the past.

Keep watching.