Sunday, June 24, 2012

God's Love or Your Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:7-12 NKJV

How do you love? Have you ever really examined yourself to see if you love the way that God intended and demonstrated towards us? So many of us simply believe that either you love someone or you don't and that's all there is to it when God's love is so much more than that. As you might expect, I had the opportunity to talk about love with each of my daughters when they grew to a certain age and one of the first things I tried to explain to them is that love is not a feeling, but rather a commitment. Now that is certainly different than the world's perspective so it is important to realize that we need to examine love from a biblical point of view to completely understand exactly what God thinks about love.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NKJV

This verse is one of my favorites simply because I think we all know what God thinks about sin. Yet God loves us so much He put into place a plan to deal with sin and to allow us the opportunity to stand in His presense forgiven of all our sin long before we had ever made the choice. The one thing I can't forget about this verse is the fact that God made the first move. He didn't wait for us to come to Him, He loved us enough to put the plan into place before we ever loved Him. He loved us while we were still sinners and didn't love Him. If that's not love what is?

We love him, because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19 NKJV

I think the best teaching on God's love comes from Jesus when He spoke to the multitudes in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.

"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. "And if you lend [to those] from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Luke 6:32-35 NKJV

I want to share with you just a few things I see when I look at this passage in the hope that it might help you as well to understand this whole idea of loving as God loves.

God's Love is different. In this passage Jesus tells the people that loving with God's love is the one thing that sets us apart from the world because His love in us allows us to love others in ways the world could never do. Notice the contrast Jesus makes between the love that sinners have and the love believers are expected to demonstrate. Loving those who hate us and doing good for those who hate us will certainly be noticed because it is the exact opposite of what the world teaches. Most of us try very hard to fit in and not be different, but to love as God loves will certainly make us stand out in the crowd. God's love is very different from the world's.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:12 NKJV

God's Love is unconditional. In the passage from Luke Jesus goes even further to tell us that we are to not only love our enemies, but even those who do not love us in return. The world says love those who love you, and if they don't you have reason enough to turn your back on them. Can you look at yourself honestly and say your love for others is not affected by how they love you, or how they treat you, or how they talk about you? I only have to look at my relationship with God to see His love is unconditional. How often I disappoint Him, offend Him, ignore Him, and yet He still loves me. I have given Him plenty of reasons to turn His back on me but He never has and never will.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34 NKJV

God's Love is fruitful. How often do we love with the expectation of what we will get in return? That is certainly the way the world loves, yet Jesus tells us that God's love gives no thought to what is given in return. In fact, the passage from Luke tells us to not even hope for anything in return. The point here is seems to be that what we get from God as a result of loving others with His love is far more rewarding than what we might get from the ones we love. Jesus makes the promise that “our reward will be great” if we love in this way and I think we would all agree that a reward from God is more to be desired than anything else we could possibly imagine.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Galatians 5:22 NKJV

We get to make a lot of choices in this life, but as believers, when it comes to loving others, it seems the choice is very clear. We either choose to love God's way or our way. I for one am so very glad God's love is different and there were no “preconditions” for Him to choose to love me. I love Him because He loved me long before I ever knew Him. If you have never told God you love Him, and have accepted His love and salvation in return I encourage you to do it today. God has made a way for you to enter into a relationship with Him by sending His Son to die for your sins. You can respond to His love for you by praying this simple prayer right now.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

There Is Power In The Name

God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect.
2 Samuel 22:33 NKJV 
For the past few months I have finally begun to get serious about learning Hebrew, which has always been something I wanted to do, but sadly lacked the motivation to make a serious attempt at. It must have something to do with my belief that our time is running out that I am finally trying to get a head start and learn this language before I get to Heaven.

I know I have mentioned before the number of people I hear from and about that are tired and hurting right now and trying to deal with all manner of things in their lives. I know we have talked in the past about how to cope with the struggles we encounter in our walk with God, but this week I learned a few things while studying the Hebrew name for God that really encouraged me, so I would like to share that with you today in the hope it will possibly be of help to you as well.

I couldn’t tell you how many times in my life I have made the mistake of trying to do or fix something under my own power without allowing God to do it for me. I call it a mistake because invariably I would mess up and discover it was beyond my ability to fix resulting in my having to call on Him anyway. In this passage from Samuel we are reminded that God is the one who has the strength and power to smooth the bumps in the road we are sure to encounter on our walk with Him. So what follows is a short summary of some of what I learned this week.

God. (El ) The one we need to call on is God, no one or nothing else. We are introduced to the name of God in the very first verse in the Bible which I am sure all of us are familiar with. There we are told God, Elohim, created the heavens and the earth. Elohim is a three part word in Hebrew with El meaning might, strength, and power, Oh which means to keep an oath, and Im, which makes the word plural. So in the very first verse in the Bible we learn that our God is all powerful, all faithful, and as explained later exists as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

is my strength (maowz) This word means a place of safety, or a stronghold that can be defended. This certainly wasn’t what I expected when I read the word strength, because like most of us I figured it simply meant power or the strength to defend myself. What it really means is that rather than trying to somehow do it ourselves, we need to go straight to God and let Him defend us. How often do we go to God last rather than going to Him first?

and power (chayil) Now we get to the real power that helps us cope with what comes against us. This word means more than just power and strength, but also the ability to force the powers that come against us to retreat. God has whatever it takes to defeat any problem that we may encounter in our walk with Him. Have you ever had a problem you thought God could not fix? Ever struggle with a problem you thought God might not have an answer to? There is nothing in this world that God does not have the ability to overcome.

And he maketh (nathar) This is the word in this verse I just love. It literally means to make something leap or jump, and shake or tremble with fear. Have you ever watched a movie where the bad guys are chasing the good guys and they turn the corner and come face to face with the hero? You name it, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Arnold the Terminator, when the bad guys come face to face with them  they just lose it and jump and run the other way. The picture here is that when we encounter anything in our lives that would give us trouble, if we but run to God and hide behind Him whatever it is that is chasing us will literally jump and run the other way when faced with the power of our God.

My way (derek) This word describes our way as a road, or journey through the course of our lives. The idea I get here is that although we often feel like we are wandering aimlessly or made a serious wrong turn that results in our encountering troubles, the truth is that God not only knows where we are, He also has the power to smooth the bumps and point us in the direction we should go. Have you ever thought about how often the word follow is used in the Bible? You see, if we follow God we will find the journey is a whole lot smoother than when we try to run on ahead.

Perfect (tamiym) The word perfect here is used in the sense of being complete or whole, not perfect as we often think of it as nothing bad or just exactly as we want it. So often we look at our lives from the perspective of what will make me happy rather than what might make God happy. If we allow God to lay out the path we follow then our lives will be perfect in the sense of being complete according to the purpose God has for us to accomplish His purpose. My personal feeling is that the perfect life is one where we can stand before the Father and hear Him say “well done my good and faithful servant”.

So after all of this, here is what this verse says to me;

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all powerful and faithful, is where I should run when troubled because He has the strength and ability to make whatever is persecuting me to jump and run the other way allowing me to get on with walking the path God has set before me in order to finish the work He has for me.

It's easy to become discouraged and tired when this life seems to pile up on us, but the one thing we can always depend on is a God who already knows what we are struggling with and has provided just what we need to move past it. If you find yourself in that position today I encourage you to think about this verse, and especially about the power in His name.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV

"Behold, I [am] the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
Jeremiah 32:27 NKJV

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Sunday, June 10, 2012


The oracle concerning Damascus. "Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city And will become a fallen ruin. "The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks to lie down in, And there will be no one to frighten them."The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, And sovereignty from Damascus And the remnant of Aram; They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel," Declares the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah 17:1-3 NASB

If you have followed this blog for awhile, you are probably aware that I began it years ago to address numerous questions I received from my lectures on the situation in the Middle East and especially my thoughts on what was next in Israel's prophetic future. My conclusion then, and now, is that the next major prophetic event will be Israel's destruction of the city of Damascus, and that the destruction described is most likely the result of the use of a nuclear device.

While that scenario seems abhorrent to most, it is my firmly held belief that the decision to use such a weapon comes only after Israel is first attacked by Syria with it's own WMD's, in this case almost certainly with their stockpiles of chemical warheads. The current situation in Syria is such that it comes as no surprise that this past week has seen the emergence of accusations that these weapons are in fact starting to be used. 
President Assad of Syria has threatened to attack Israel if he feels his position as ruler is threatened, and it is the opinion of many that his days are in fact numbered. Russia is Assad's staunchest supporter but even they have begun to back away with the news recently that they would not hinder an “orderly” transition of power. It is the opinion of many that this scenario will never take place because President Assad will never relinquish his rule over the country.

We are but seven weeks or so from Tisha b' Av, or the ninth of Av on the Jewish calendar, which many know to be the day of fasting in Israel where they remember not only the destruction of their temple, but many other national tragedies which have occurred on the very same day throughout history. The account in Isaiah certainly makes it clear that the world will respond with anger against Israel for their destruction of Damascus, so it seems logical to at least consider the possibility that the events described in Isaiah could occur around this time.

Am I making predictions here? No, but as a watcher it certainly seems as if events in that part of the world are rapidly approaching a critical point where the prophecy revealed by Isaiah could certainly occur. Synchronicity can be defined as a coincidental occurrence of events that seem related but cannot be easily explained by normal causality, or in other words, too many coincidences are not a coincidence. That so many events are taking place at this point in time, in that part of the world, fitting into a scenario described more than two thousand years ago, seems much to much to be a coincidence.

Chemical warfare feared raising its head in the Syrian civil war 

DEBKAfile Special Report June 10, 2012, 7:50 AM (GMT+02:00)
Tehran pumped out a report Early Sunday June 10 accusing Syrian rebels of arming themselves with chemical weapons originating in Libya and acquiring training in their use from an unknown source in their use. The report sent shudders of alarm through Western capitals and Israel and fears that Tehran and Damascus were preparing the ground for the Assad regime to resort to chemical warfare to finally crush its foes.
Iran claimed, “Any report released on the Syrian Army’s alleged use of the chemical weapons is meant to pave the ground for the terrorists to use these weapons against the people and accuse the Syrian army and government of that crime.”
Three days earlier, on June 7, Syrian rebel sources charged that the Syrian air force planes had dropped poisonous substances over Deraa, Hama and Idlib which knocked people unconscious. This later proved unfounded.
Western military sources watching Syria’s flashpoint areas warn that the fact that both sides of the conflict are now talking openly about chemical warfare attests to their seriously getting ready for this deadly escalation - and the ultimate game-changer. If they indeed go through with it, say sources Washington, European capitals, Riyadh and Jerusalem, US President Barack Obama cannot possibly stick to his refusal to take military steps in Syria and will have to step in with limited force to stop the escalating horror.
In that case, the US would almost certainly be joined by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and possibly other Arab nations.
Official spokesmen in the West, Moscow and the UN are still warning that Syria is on the verge of civil war, refusing to admit that a sectarian war which they failed to avert is already fully fledged – certainly between Sunni Muslims and Assad’s Allawite minority.
The Christians are also involved because some members of that community occupy high-ranking positions in the military command. Defense minister Dawoud Rajiha, who manages government action against the revolt, is a Christian.
The conflict is no longer clear-cut between the Syrian army and the various armed rebel groups. The al Houla massacre in the last week of May was a tragic turning-point:  Armed groups of Alawites and Sunnis living in the same neighborhoods are now turning on each other. Their battles go largely unreported. One of the most disastrous episodes of this kind erupted last week between Sunni and Alawite neighbors in Latakia. Many parts of southern, eastern and northern Syria had consequently spiraled out of control of military and security forces. Western and Israeli military sources report that regional commanders and the general staff in Damascus have lost track of the violence plaguing those regions and more massacres on the scale of al-Houla and Al Qubeir are feared.
The rebel Syrian National Council’s choice of a Kurdish exile Abdel Basset Sayda Saturday as its new head is a bad omen: More than a step toward resolving the differences among the various factions and unifying ranks, the appointment brings the Kurdish community, one-fifth of the Syrian population, squarely into the revolt. Syrian Kurds have stayed out of it until now.

A major concern for Jerusalem was sparked by recent comments in Iranian Revolutionary Guards publications. Friday and Saturday, the official IRGC mouthpiece Mashregh quoted a warning by Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazaeri that in the event of any Western or Arab force interfering in Syria, Assad’s allies in the resistance “would ensure that aggressors do not survive the conflict. The Zionist regime and the interests of the enemies of Syria are all within range of resistance fire.”
Saturday night, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined Moscow’s hard line on Syria: “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad, but only if Syrians agreed to it,” he stressed. He ruled out outside force and sanctions against the regime and proposed another international conference.
Moscow has now ranged itself solidly behind Assad and the pyramid that keeps him in power – family, Alawites and the top military echelon. Even if the ruler was himself ousted in a coup by his own army, the general who seized power could count on Russian backing.
Syria endured another day of slaughter Saturday with the numbers of dead in double digits and the Red Cross warning that more than a million Syrians are in dire need of aid. The Syrian tragedy is more intractable than ever.

The day is fast approaching where God will allow His Son to return for His bride in an event we know as the rapture. Once this occurs, God will again turn His attention to Israel and show the world who is really in charge. The stage is set for all these things to come to pass, so the question we as believers should all be asking ourselves is “are we ready”?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
1 Peter 3:15 NKJV

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

It's Our Fault We're Still Here

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Romans 11:25 NKJV

Have you ever been “called out” as the saying goes? Have you ever been in a situation where for one reason or another your shortcomings or mistakes have been pointed out to you by another? I think most of us have experienced this at one time or another and I'm sure we would all agree it's not that pleasant of an experience. So why do I bring this up? Many have expressed their disappointment lately that the rapture of the Church has not occurred according to the “timing” many have put forth as suggesting that it should have. A question I have heard more than once in the past few weeks is “what is God waiting for?” Might I suggest an answer to that question that most of us will probably find uncomfortable?

In the passage from Romans, most scholars agree that Paul is referring to God's plan for Israel when he says that the blindness of Israel will only last for a period of time, and will change once the “fullness of the Gentiles” has been achieved. The interpretation of the passage seems to rest on the meaning of the word fullness, which is the Greek word plērōma, which refers to the filling of something to completeness. It is often used to refer to a ship being filled, but it is also used in Acts to describe the filling of believers with the Holy Spirit. As such, many scholars believe what we are being told here is that the rapture of the Church is a “number specific” event which cannot occur until the desired number of believers is achieved.

If indeed this is a proper interpretation of this passage, and if God is in fact waiting for the specific number of believers to be reached in order for the body to be complete, my question to all of us today (myself included) is simply this; “whose fault is it we are still here?” God's? Not hardly! Speaking for myself, this passage from Romans is a personal “calling out” pointing out to me the importance of making sure I am fulfilling the primary responsibility of a believer which is to share the Gospel of Christ with those around me. Notice I said share the Gospel? Not be “active in my church”, “exercising my spiritual gift”, or “living my life as a witness to others”, and otherwise being “busy” doing.

Does that sound harsh? I don't mean it to be, but if it makes us uncomfortable I think we need only look as far as the church at Ephesus, and the letter addressed to it by our Lord Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation to understand what Jesus expects from us.

"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. "Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.
Revelation 2:2-4 NKJV

What was their “first love”? Virtually every commentator or teacher I have ever read or heard speak interprets this to mean that they had forgotten the excitement which resulted in making sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world their primary goal. They were busy doing everything else that makes for a healthy body, yet they had lost the initial excitement of first love that made them want to share Christ with others. Do you remember what is was like when you first became a believer? Didn't we all want to shout out and share the joy with everyone we met? That is our “first love”, and one we should never forget. In the book of Acts, Paul shares with us his perspective on what he sees as his, and our purpose in this life.

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 20:24 NKJV

The simple fact is that God uses His believers to share the message of Christ with an unbelieving world, and if we don't do it, it doesn't get done. Is it possible we as a body are making the same mistake as the church in Ephesus? Are we so busy “doing” what we think is important that we forget to do what God says is important?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
1 Peter 3:15 NKJV

I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to hear God tell me “well done” when I finally stand before Him. Years ago I decided that the following passage from Jesus' teaching in Matthew should be my personal motivation for sharing the Gospel in order to hear those words from the Father.

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? "Blessed [is] that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
Matthew 24:45-46 NKJV

If the rapture of the church is indeed based on the number of members in the body of Christ, then it is logical to assume that the rapture will occur at the moment the last person makes his or her decision to accept Christ into their heart. That said, it is entirely possible any one of us could be the person sharing the Gospel with that individual at that particular time. Many of us are disappointed to still be here given all the signs that the rapture is indeed imminent, yet if Paul is telling us that there is a number that has to be reached for the “fullness of the Gentiles” to “come in”, it is reasonable to conclude that it's our fault we are still here. As a body of believers, we need to remember our first love and share the Gospel with everyone we meet so God can “fill the boat” to completeness.

If you are reading this and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ into your heart and accept the free gift of eternal life He has offered you, I urge you to do so right now. You can do that by praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Romans 1:16 NKJV

May Jesus find us all “so doing” when He comes.

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