Sunday, March 30, 2014

When Did the Clock Stop?

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.     Matthew 16:1-3  NKJV

How would you take being called a hypocrite?  Personally, I cannot imagine a greater insult to my profession of faith than to hear someone say that to me.  So imagine if you will what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought when they heard Him tell them to their faces that they were hypocrites.  Especially so when He made it clear that the signs they were expected to recognize were as plain as the color of the sky!  For us today, however, this begs the question will the second coming of Christ be accompanied by signs as obvious as those that were present at His first coming?

By now many are familiar with the work of Sir Robert Anderson in his book The Coming Prince, which deals with the seventy weeks prophecy which we find in the book of Daniel.  In his book he shows how the very day of Christ’s presentation as King was prophesied by Daniel to occur sixty nine weeks of years, or 173,880 days after the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem which was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 B.C.  Is it then any wonder why Jesus called out the Pharisees and the Sadducees for not knowing the time was at hand and recognizing it?

Unfortunately, not only did they not recognize the time of His appearing, they went further by rejecting Jesus as their prophesied Messiah, and condemning Him to die on a cross by crucifixion.  In doing so, they willfully ignored the myriad of prophecies that He fulfilled about the coming Messiah which were written by the prophets of old.  Of course, this too was prophesied many years before by both Daniel and Isaiah.

“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;     Daniel 9:25-26a  NKJV

Who has believed our report?  And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.                  Isaiah 53:1-3  NKJV

Yet there is something else which has caught my attention that I would like to pass on to you.  There is an old Jewish saying which you may have heard of which states, “coincidence isn’t kosher”.  I have always enjoyed quoting that phrase because I have often taught studies exploring the possibility that in a world created by an omnipotent God, there is no room for coincidence since He has foreordained all that is to occur.  With that in mind, let us return to the subject of the coming Tetrads which we discussed a couple of weeks ago.

The first lunar eclipse, or blood moon, is going to occur on Passover next month.  If we truly believe that God has set the Heavens in their place and all that they contain, and that He also instituted the Jewish feasts to be celebrated on their appointed days, it follows then that He was well aware that this eclipse and those that follow are going to happen exactly on the feast days.  I also find it interesting that the first eclipse is set to occur on Passover, the very day that Jesus was rejected as the prophesied Messiah, the King of the Jews.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”             John 19:13-15  NKJV

Acknowledging that Jesus held the religious leaders accountable to know and recognize the time of His appearing, I believe it goes without saying that He also holds us as believers today accountable to see and understand the season of His return for His church.  

“And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”                 Mark 13:37  NKJV

Will the time of Jacob’s trouble, Daniels Seventieth Week, begin on God’s clock exactly where it stopped?  I believe that is a fair question to ask, and considering the situation Israel finds itself in today along with the coming eclipses, it seems to be a distinct possibility.  Am I predicting that this will definitely occur? No, however it would not surprise me at all if it did.  It is also my firm belief that just as Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah as a sign to Israel, I believe He will provide signs of His coming for the church that any who choose to watch for will see and recognize for what they are.

The next few weeks may prove to be some of the most exciting the church has ever seen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Are We Like Sheep?

I am away this weekend so I thought I would share a post from a couple of years ago with a few new insights that came to me this week.

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
Isaiah 53:6-7 NKJV

I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers on the radio this week when he said something that at first startled me, and then really made me begin to think.  He was talking about how often we are referred to as sheep in the Bible and then made this observation; “why compare us with sheep when most would agree sheep are one of the dumbest animals around?”  After laughing and agreeing that in my case, the comparison is probably accurate, I began to think about all the times the Bible uses the illustrations of sheep, and the lessons I have learned from them. So I spent most of the rest of the week thinking about sheep, (yes, many would think that strange) and wondered why God would chose to use them to teach us so many lessons.

Now my conclusions on the nature of sheep might not be entirely accurate, as I have never owned or been around too many sheep. We do, however, have quite a large population raised in the valley where I live, so I have had occasion to observe. One of the first things I have noticed is that sheep seem to have a pretty passive personality. You can walk right up to them and pet them or feed them and they really don't seem to be easily alarmed by anything. I guess "trusting" would be a good way to describe them. 

Of course, once you make friends with them by scratching their ears and feeding them, they will begin to follow you everywhere like you have become their best friend. They also appear to be rather quiet while going about their business. Having worked on a ranch with many different kinds of stock, I can tell you each makes considerable noise when they want to. Yet a herd of sheep in a pasture tend to be the quietest group of animals around. We used to have a "processing" plant here in town, and although when brought there for the inevitable end and placed in the yards, when the time came they just meekly walked through the doors without making a sound.

Thinking of these things and looking at Isaiah's passage about Jesus being tried and put to death really made me consider how much like a sheep Jesus was when facing His accusers. He refused to argue, make a fuss, or resist, and went along with them all the way to the cross. And why? Because, according to Isaiah, all of us have "gone astray". Jesus had to die because we, just as sheep do, willingly followed another in a direction we were not supposed to go.

In the book of John, we are told that Jesus was teaching in the temple and debating with the Pharisees. One of the stories He tells uses an illustration about sheep, and has become known as the discourse on The Good Shepherd. There are at least four promises I see in this story that I want to share with you today.

To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.     John 10:3 NKJV

Promise number one is that when we become believers, we know His voice. We can distinguish between the voice of God, and voices of darkness that would try to take us in another direction. God's voice is different, and this removes any thought we might have about confusion or ambiguity in what we are expected to do. If we truly listen for God's voice, we will recognize it.

And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.   John 10:4 NKJV

The second promise is that God will lead us. We don't make a decision to follow Christ, then get turned out to "pasture" and be left to our own devices. He will lead us in the direction He wants us to go. Our responsibility is to "look" for Him, and then follow where He leads. How often do we go astray by going where "we" think we are to go, rather than looking to God to see where He wants to lead? He will always be there if we but look for Him and follow.

Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who [ever] came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.       John 10:7-9 NKJV

The third promise is to protect us from all harm. Have you ever felt like God has abandoned you, or is busy on the other side of the pasture while you are struggling? Not a chance. No matter what may come, God promises to protect us and deliver us from all harm. Certainly we will have troubles, this too is promised, but we also have the assurance that God has promised to protect us.

I am the good shepherd; and I know My [sheep], and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.   John 10:14-15 NKJV

The last promise is also the greatest for we are saved because He has died for us. Ever been jealous of sheep in the field because it appears they have no worries? Anything they need is given to them by the shepherd, so they want for nothing. Here Jesus tells us that He will (and has) given His very own life for His sheep. We were bought with a price, and now we have no reason for worry because all we need has been provided by His sacrifice.

Maybe this sounds too much like a Sunday School lesson for kids, but I think all too often we try and make the simple lessons more complex than God intended. After all, this is the story Jesus taught to the Pharisees, his followers, and His disciples. So take what we have discussed here and do one more thing; read the following passage that I'm sure all of us are familiar with and see if you can find these four promises from God.

A Psalm of David.

The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.    Psalm 23 NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is Something About To Happen?

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.      Luke 21:25-26  NKJV

 I am sure from the questions I have received that many of you are familiar with the subject of the coming “blood moons”.  Because of the attention they seem to be getting,   I thought I would share a little about my thoughts on them today.  First and foremost, the question we should all consider as believers is do they have some significance that we should be aware of and if so, just what might that be?  Since we have been called to watch for the return of our Lord, is it possible these celestial events in the coming months are a sign that His return is near, and a sign of impending judgment on an unbelieving world?
“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—“lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”      Mark 13:35-37  NKJV

First of all, let’s consider why the coming events in the sky are so unusual.  Eclipses of the sun and moon are nothing new, and happen with enough frequency that most people are aware that they are a natural occurrence in our galaxy.  These events have been recorded throughout history, and while in ancient times were observed with fear and trembling, they are now understood to be a predictable natural event.  So if this is the case, what is it about the coming eclipses that has generated so much interest and authored so many articles and books within the community of believers?
Although eclipses are common, what is about to take place in the next two years is not.  What we are about to witness is a group of eclipses which are known by astronomers as a “tetrad”.  You see, when four lunar eclipses occur which are both consecutive and total, they are called a tetrad.  While eclipses may be common, tetrads are not.  More significantly to us, I believe, is that the coming eclipses will not only be a tetrad, but they will all occur on Jewish feast days.  This is what has caught my attention and many others to be sure, simply because I have a hard time believing this is just a coincidence.

The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.      Joel 2:31  NKJV
We are told many times in scripture of signs in the heavens being used to announce or reveal prophetic events.  The question we need to consider is if the coming tetrad has been ordained by God with the purpose of warning those who watch that something prophetic is about to occur.  We as believers have been commanded to watch, and the Word is very clear about the responsibility that falls on those who have been appointed as watchmen. 

“Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, ‘when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, ‘then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.                 Ezekiel 33:2-4  NKJV
So are the coming tetrads a sign from God telling us something prophetic is about to occur and should we be warning people of them?  Well, yes, no, and maybe.  I suppose that is not the answer many of you wanted to hear, but truthfully it is the best that I can do under the circumstances.  Are the tetrads a sign from God?  Considering that God put this universe together and placed everything in it exactly where He wanted, and that He commanded Moses when to observe His feast days, I believe the fact these eclipses occur on feast days is certainly not a coincidence. 

However if you ask me if they are a sign that something prophetic is going to happen I can only reply maybe.  We know for certain that there are unfulfilled prophecies yet to occur in regards to this world in general and Israel specifically, but to say that the tetrads are a sign something is going to happen is just not supported by what little we know.  Now that is definitely not to say that something will not happen during the coming year.  On the contrary, I personally believe we are about to see this world turned upside down the likes of which has not been seen in history.  Are these tetrads a sign of this?  Well, quite possibly they are but I cannot say for certain that this is the case.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.                                         2 Timothy 4:1-2  NKJV
So should we be telling others about these coming tetrads?  I personally do not have a problem with that but the one thing we need to be careful of is making them the focus, rather than the Gospel we have been commanded to share.  The Word of God is full of specific future prophetic events that I believe we should be watching for, especially in the coming months.  Fulfilled prophecy is one of the most useful tools we have for sharing the Gospel, and I believe the coming year is going to give us plenty of ammunition to use in our task as witnesses for Christ.

Is something about to happen?  Of that I am sure.  Just what it will be I have no idea, but the one thing I do know is that it will present us all with opportunities to share with others the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  Whatever might happen in the coming months, we know for certain that it has been arranged by God, and we as believers have nothing to fear.
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.        Romans 8:37-39  NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Are You Groaning?

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.            1 Corinthians 5:1-5  NKJV

The truth be told, I have been doing a lot of groaning lately.  You see a few weeks ago I was participating in some winter recreation when suddenly I was reminded that my body is not twenty something anymore.  Unfortunately it has been a somewhat prolonged reminder which has on more than one occasion elicited groaning on my part as I experience the proverbial pain in the neck.  The dictionary defines groaning as a mournful sound uttered in pain or grief, due to a sudden or continuing overburden.  O how I can relate.

Yet we find that the Bible tells us that there is another reason that we groan, and as funny as it may sound, it is usually a result of similar circumstances.  You see, we all recognize the fact that this body is just a temporary home for us until that day in which we will receive our new bodies as we enter into God’s presence.  Notice if you will that Paul uses the word tent to describe the bodies we now possess.  A tent is considered a temporary dwelling rather than a permanent one, and it is for this reason Paul describes our present bodies as such.  I think given a choice, most of us would prefer to live in a house rather than a tent and enjoy the permanence and protection a house affords.

Paul also mentions the fact that we groan because of our burdens.  I think most all of us have had occasion to be reminded of the physical limitations of the bodies we now have, and have longed for a stronger or more durable one.  Paul groaned under the weight of his own troubles, and he put it this way;

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18  NKJV

The promise we find here is that the glory of our new bodies will completely overshadow whatever we have endured while waiting for them.  Something that occurred to me while reading this passage was the statement that the future glory will be revealed in us, and not to us.  Ray Stedman put it this way; “The word literally means “into us”.  This glory is not going to be a spectator sport, where we will sit up in some cosmic grandstand and watch an amusing or beautiful performance in which we have no part.  We are to be on the stage.  We are going to be involved in it.  It is a glory that will be “revealed into us” and we are part of it.”  

Yet if that wasn’t enough, Paul also goes on to tell us this;

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  Romans 8:19-23  NKJV

Paul says that creation itself groans for the same reasons that we do.  At the fall, when sin entered this world, creation was corrupted just as we were and suffers because of it.  Have you ever considered that all of the natural disasters that occur around the world is nature’s way of “groaning”?  Hard as it might be to believe, Paul tells us here that creation finds itself in much the same position that we do. When we are revealed in our new bodies, so too will creation receive its newness and this is what it is waiting for just as we are.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Revelation 21:1  NKJV

I have given quite a lot of thought lately to just how much I will enjoy my new body when the rapture occurs.  Obviously my present physical predicament is the main reason but I can’t help but wonder if the troubles we face because of our physical predicaments are God’s way of helping us realize and look forward to the gift of an immortal, incorruptible body which will be ours for all of eternity?  After all, how could we enjoy fully all that Heaven has to offer if we still were walking around in an earthly body with all of the limitations it has?

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.”       1 Corinthians 15:50-54  NKJV

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Keep watching.