Sunday, August 25, 2013

Is It Time?

The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from [being] a city, And it will be a ruinous heap.  Isaiah 17:1  NKJV
Once again I find myself in a situation where I feel led to remind you of what we are told about the future of Damascus, capitol of Syria, in God’s Holy Word.  As with all prophecy, understanding the “what” is much easier than trying to understand the “when”.  Yet I believe that if we fulfill our responsibility to “watch”, it is certainly possible to see events unfold which could be a harbinger of biblical fulfillment.
For those of you who have requested a copy of my book, or have heard me teach on the subject of Isaiah 17, you are then familiar with the possible scenarios I explore which I believe could produce the fulfillment of this prophecy.  One of the most logical, and in the eyes of many the most justifiable, would be a response by Israel towards Damascus in response to the use of chemical weapons against the Jewish homeland.
This past week has produced evidence, which most observers believe is incontrovertible, that Syria has used chemical weapons against their own people.  This fact, along with Syria’s stated intention to set the Mideast on fire if anyone retaliates, certainly seems to set into place all the conditions necessary to see the events we find in the passage from Isaiah 17 unfold.
I have copied just two of the many articles from this past week about these events for you to read today.  I chose these two for the simple reason that they will give you insight into the mindset of the leadership in Israel today, if in fact you might be of the opinion that they would never use one of their own weapons of mass destruction against Damascus.  I have taken the liberty to highlight in bold type the comments I feel are important for you to consider when thinking about this possibility.
Western-Mid East military action prepared for Syria. Israel, Jordan, Turkey face up to Syrian counter-attack. Russia on war alert
DEBKAfile Special Report August 25, 2013, 7:12 AM (IDT)
Western and Middle East powers led by Washington began moving Saturday night and Sunday morning, Aug. 25, toward a first strike against Syria following the Assad regime’s large-scale chemical attack in eastern Damascus last Wednesday. The first targeted strike may well signal the start of a series of US-led attacks aimed at toppling the Assad regime, debkafile’s military sources report. They may consist of imposing a no-fly zone and the sealing off of sectors in northern and southern Syria against government forces.
Russian forces also went on war alert.  President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron spent 40 minutes on the phone Saturday night amid the strongest indications to date from Washington that direct military intervention by the West was approaching, following a change in the US president’s posture. He has become convinced that the strike would have to be conducted outside the United Nations.
Military commanders from Western and Muslim countries are meeting Sunday in the Jordanian capital of Amman to coordinate action in Syria, with the participation of the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, Italy and Canada. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff chairs the meeting. Saturday night, four American destroyers were moving closer to Syria, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which are capable of precision strikes. 
While Western media are reporting at length on Western, Arab and Muslim military preparations, Israel’s armed forces are moving ahead in secrecy. Its officials spread soothing statements asserting Israel’s non-involvement in the Syrian turmoil, as Israel’s military and intelligence agencies get ready for Syria to counter an attack by loosing missiles against their country as well as Jordan and Turkey. All three also expect an explosion of terrorism.
Saturday night, Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi, while denying his government was responsible for Wednesday’s poison gas attack, stated over state television that if Syria came under attack, “a mass of flames will ignite the Middle East.”
Debkafile’s military sources report that Moscow has placed on war alert Russia’s Mediterranean and Black Sea fleets as well as rapid deployment forces in southern and central Russia.

Three Syrian hospitals told the humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières Saturday that they had received around 3,600 patients suffering from symptoms related to a poison gas attack. Of these, 355 had reportedly died. 
According to debkafile’s sources, Western demands for proof of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons before taking action have been countered in the last few hours by the discovery that the forensic evidence will be all but impossible to obtain in view of the special mixture contained in the gas shells. Only tiny quantities of sarin were blended in with a large quantity of riot control agents, a formula developed by Iran to camouflage the use of chemical weapons.
PM: Israel's 'finger on the pulse' of Syria developments, if necessary will also be 'on the trigger'
Netanyahu says situation in Syria is "horrible tragedy, crime."
Israel's "finger is on the pulse" following the situation in Syria, and – if needed – will also be on the trigger, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday in his first public comments on reports that hundreds of Syrian were killed last week by chemical weapons.

What is happening in Syria is both a horrible tragedy and crime, he said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.

"Our heart goes out to the women, children, babies and citizens killed in such a cruel way through the use of weapons of mass destruction," he added.

Netanyahu said that Israel drew three conclusions from this episode.

"First, this situation cannot continue. Second, it is forbidden for the world's most dangerous regimes to have the most dangerous weapons in the world. And thirdly, we expect this to end, but we remember the ancient adage of our sages: 'If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us' – that is to say, our finger, our hand, will always be on the pulse. Our finger is responsible, and when needed it is also on the trigger."

Netanyahu said that Israel knows how, and will continue to know how, to defend itself against those who want to do it harm.
President Shimon Peres, meeting Sunday morning with visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said the cries in Syria of a girl "begging her father to come and save her is a cry to which we cannot remain indifferent."

Peres said that the "time has come for a joint effort to remove all the chemical weapons from Syria. They cannot remain there either in the hands of Assad or of others."

He said that while he could "understand the problems and doubts" about intervening in Syria, "the moral call is superior to any strategic considerations." He praised Fabius for speaking out on this issue, and said his voice "has been the clearest in recent days concerning the situation in Syria."

"In addition to everything else needed to stop this massacre there must be an international attempt to take out the weapons. It is very complicated and it is very expensive but it is more dangerous and more expensive to leave it there. It must be done," he said.
What we see here is very clear.  Israel believes that these weapons must be destroyed, and they are more than willing to respond if they are used against them.  How will they respond?  It is a tenant of international law that you can justifiably respond “in kind” to an attack by another country.  The world, and Israel, considers chemical weapons to be a weapon of mass destruction.  To many, their use would then justify a response in kind, and would certainly come as no surprise.  As far as we know or suspect, the only country in the Middle East, other than Syria, which has weapons of mass destruction is Israel with their nuclear capability.
Will the nations of the world respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons by force?  Will that response provoke Syria to launch those weapons into Israel?  Will Damascus be destroyed by a nuclear weapon?  It seems increasinly possible that the answers to those questions are about to be revealed.
Keep watching.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Happy

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty [man] glory in his might, Nor let the rich [man] glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I [am] the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.  Jeremiah 9:23-24  NKJV
I’m sure that I am not alone in occasionally watching a show on television called “Duck Dynasty”, and if you have you have also probably heard the expression “happy happy” used once or twice.  Of course, there are probably quite a few people who would say it’s easy to be happy happy if you have the money they have, yet in all seriousness, is that really true?  Many spend their whole lives chasing after things that they believe might make them happy, yet if we really want to be happy as believers, should we not look to our Heavenly Father for an answer on how best to do that?

If you have ever questioned whether or not God is interested in our happiness, you need look no further than the very first teaching Jesus did when He began His ministry here on earth. If we examine that occasion revealed to us in the book of Matthew, we find the subject of Jesus’ very first teaching was in fact how to be truly happy.  His teaching about true happiness can be found in the portion of scripture which we call the Beatitudes. I also found it very interesting that the answer He gives us is not about what we are expected to do, but rather what we are expected to be. If you look closely at what Jesus teaches here you will find that the very first thing He requires from us is the proper “attitudes” in order to “be” a follower of Christ. In other words, He lists for us the “Be-attitudes”.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed [are] the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.         Matthew 5:1-3  NKJV

“Blessed” is the Greek word makario, which simply means happy. When I saw this my first thought was “how appropriate”. At that time in Israel's history, they were under the rule of Caesar and suffering because of it.  I think it goes without saying that most if not all of them were very unhappy with life under Roman rule and would have welcomed hearing someone talk about how to be happy. If you took a poll and asked the question “what do you want most in this life”, how many of us would answer “happiness”?  Nine times in this teaching Jesus tells us how to find happiness in this life and each time we find that true happiness is rooted in our attitudes.

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy [is] he.
Proverbs 16:20 NKJV
Now I'm the sort of person that always asks the question “why”? Although I know there is always a reason for something, I have always wanted to know what it was in order to better understand. I'm sure many of us as believers can remember back to the time when we first decided we wanted to serve Christ and do whatever we could to be a witness for Him. I'm also fairly certain that at that point we were all thinking about service, or the “doing” part of ministry. Yet here Jesus tells us that the very first thing we need to concern ourselves with is our character. Why? I believe what He is trying to tell us is that conduct is a result of our character, and not the other way around.

“Poor in spirit”. These two words used together give the idea of someone who is completely destitute spiritually. In other words, this phrase describes someone who recognizes their spiritual deficiencies, understands that by their own efforts they can accomplish nothing, and is willing to admit they need the spiritual assets that only God can provide. While the world would have us concentrate on our material deficiencies and spend our time and efforts chasing after those, Jesus shows us our priority should be the spiritual and not the material.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but [how] to perform what is good I do not find.
Romans 7:18 NKJV

“Theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. To me, this is the most exciting part of this verse, and that is because of the promise it makes. Often this is understood to be simply a promise of salvation, yet if you examine it in light of the context, what we are being promised here is much more than that. This is a promise from Jesus that if we believe and are “poor in spirit” we will be “blessed” with all that is available to us in this life which comes from the kingdom of Heaven. As believers we have access to things from the kingdom provided to us from God not only for our benefit, but to help us serve Him in sharing the message of the Kingdom of God with an unbelieving world.

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

The first thing Jesus teaches us is that our attitudes will determine what we do. As believers our character must conform to the example we have been given by the life of the Son of God. The character of a believer is what determines their conduct, and our conduct is the biggest witness we have for Jesus. Is your time spent trying to obtain the riches the world dangles in front of us, or do you cultivate the attitudes God tells us will bring true happiness? 

Acknowledging that our spiritual needs are far more important than our material needs is the first step to being happy in this life.  By spending time in the Word and pursuing a relationship with our Heavenly Father we allow Him the opportunity to provide for our needs as He has promised He would.  Everybody wants to be “happy happy”, and Jesus began His ministry by telling us all how we can do just that.  Check your “be-attitudes” and find out how happy this life can really be.
Keep watching.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Double Minded

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; [he is] a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.  James 1:2-11  NKJV
Have you ever heard the expression “being of two minds” concerning one thing or another?  I think most of us have, and have also probably used it on occasion.  Yet when I look a little closer at that expression, I certainly begin to wonder if it isn’t a rather illogical statement.  As I thought more about it, I began to wonder if what it really means is that we can’t make up our minds and decide to compromise by trying to hold two different opinions.

We spoke last week about the subject of what true riches are to the believer, and the importance of pursuing those things which will result in a heavenly reward rather than an earthly one.  Obviously, the temptation which would follow a decision to try and do that would be some sort of compromise; why can’t I do both?  In this passage from James, the message to us seems rather clear and that is if we attempt to do such a thing, God will consider us to be “double minded”.
The word in the Greek for double minded is dipsychos which translates as wavering or doubting.  Looking closely at the passage from James also shows us what it is that we are doubting, and that is the power of God to provide.  When you think about it, the obvious question is what could possibly cause us to doubt the promise of God to take care of His own and to provide our every need?  I think the simple answer is that it is not that we have been denied what we need, but rather what we want.  Of course, we don’t necessarily see it that way but I can recall in my own life having a discussion or two with the Lord about what I thought was a need and finding out that He did not. 

So when that situation occurs, the individual who chooses to pursue what he wants becomes a double minded man and the result of that decision is very clear. In verse seven we are told; “For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;”.  This statement alone should give many pause for thought.  Have you wondered why it seems you are lacking something you need?  Ask yourself if you are resting in the Lord and waiting on Him, or trying to “help” Him out by attempting to provide by your own efforts.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Matthew 6:24-25  NKJV

'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This [is] the first commandment. Mark 12:30  NKJV
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2  NKJV

What I believe it really comes down to is what our response is when we don’t feel our needs are being met.  Trust in God or trust in self?  It took me a while to notice the answer we are given when faced with this situation which is found in the beginning of the passage in verse five. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  Have you asked God for wisdom to understand the situation or simply make the decision to try and provide what you feel you need because you doubt His ability to do so?
The world demands we pursue the things which would exalt us in the eyes of others, but God makes it clear what He regards as a life which deserves reward.  Look closely at verse nine where James tells us; “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation”.  Would you rather look like a success in the eyes of the world, or accept what God provides and wish for nothing more?  God makes it clear who He will reward.

He sets on high those who are lowly, And those who mourn are lifted to safety.          Job 5:11 NKJV
Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy [endures] forever;                Psalm 136:23  NKJV

Though the LORD [is] on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.  Psalm 138:6  NKJV
Better [to be] of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.  Proverbs 16:19  NKJV

He has put down the mighty from [their] thrones, And exalted [the] lowly.                  Luke 1:52  NKJV
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.  Romans 12:3  NKJV

[Let] nothing [be done] through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  Phillipians 2:3-5  NKJV
Believers cannot be of “two minds” about God’s provision.  Accept what He has given and when you think you need something more ask Him for wisdom to understand the situation you find yourself in.  Never doubt that God promises to provide.

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

True Riches

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all [kinds of] evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.                       1 Timothy 6:6-10  NKJV
How many of us are really content with our circumstances in this life?  Do you, or someone you know, feel like there is nothing more worth pursuing in this life?  It seems to me that it is almost a universal desire to want more which motivates us to work to achieve that which we do not have.  It may seem funny, but I thought about this just recently while playing with my new grandchildren. 

They are about six months apart in age, and like most parents, the first milestone everyone wants to see achieved (after sleeping through the night) is to learn how to crawl.  So it was interesting to me to notice that we all were doing the same thing in order to try and get them to do that.  How so?  We would all take one of their favorite toys and set it in front of them, but just out of reach, as a motivation for them to try and crawl to it.
In this passage, Paul is instructing Timothy on the subject of just what we as believers should be pursuing, and I think it should come as no surprise to any of us that Paul makes it clear that chasing after riches is simply a bad idea.  Now most of us would certainly wonder what could be so bad in trying to improve our lot in life, especially if what we are pursuing falls in that category we all know and love called “necessities”.  Paul’s answer to that is made clear in verse seven where he tells us; For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out.”  As often as I had heard this verse as a young believer, it wasn’t until much later that I began to understand just what Paul was trying to tell us.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  Matthew 6:19-20  NKJV
The principle is really very simple.  We as believers are going to spend eternity with our Father in Heaven.  The question is what makes more sense to you?  Spending your time and effort acquiring what you can’t take with you or depositing assets in the Bank of Heaven where you will have them for eternity?  The danger Paul is warning us about is that by focusing our efforts on acquiring things we do not have, we begin to drift away from our responsibilities as believers.

So what are we to do?  Paul says to spend our time pursuing “godliness with contentment” as something worthy of our efforts.  What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks of “godliness”?
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.     1 Timothy 6:11-12  NKJV

It seems to me Paul is saying we should be focusing on the internal rather than the external.  Do we really spend as much time trying to become the person of God we are supposed to be as we do trying to acquire the material possessions which the world considers a sign of success?  Paul tells us the best way to avoid that trap is to also learn to be content with what God provides for us.
[Let your] conduct [be] without covetousness; [be] content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5  NKJV

Contentment comes from the knowledge that God is the one in charge of providing for us, and He has promised that He will supply us with all our needs.  Paul tells us this in his letter to the Phillipians.
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Phillipians 4:19  NKJV

If we accept the promise that God will in fact provide us with what we need, then desiring what we do not have is telling God He has made a mistake in not understanding our needs as we see them.  Truthfully I believe contentment is accepting what God has given us and believing He has lived up to His promise to provide us with what we need, and not wanting more.  Paul puts it this way;
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  Phillipians 4:11  NKJV

Convincing ourselves we do not need what we do not have is made easier by pursuing godliness, and living righteously in God’s eyes.  In so doing, we have God’s promise that He will provide us with all that we need.  True riches are those we bank in our heavenly account, while leaving our earthly needs in God’s hands.

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'"For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33  NKJV
Keep watching.