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.