Sunday, December 28, 2014

An Evil Plan

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,  “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,  and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.  I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.  Persia, Ethiopia,and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet;  Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you. “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them.  After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.  You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.” ‘Thus says the Lord God: “On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan:  You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’—  to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land.  Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’”’                Ezekiel 38:1-13  NKJV

The events we find here in Ezekiel 38-39 revealing the Gog/Magog conflict with Israel is possibly one of the most anticipated prophetic events on most peoples’ eschatological calendar as it is the conflict many believe immediately precedes the rapture of the Church.  It has been the subject of teaching, books, movies, and discussion since the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948, and the fever only seems to increase as we watch the evolution of events in the Middle East today.  The financial upheaval in Russia the past few weeks has many believing we are seeing the seeds sown which will usher in the reasons for this attempted invasion to occur.

If you read or have read this passage, I’m sure you have noticed that it specifically states that the reason for the aggression is the desire to take what is called in the New King James version “plunder and booty”.  It goes on to also mention “silver, gold, livestock, and goods” as to what exactly they are attempting to take away.  For the longest time I have personally wondered how a situation could evolve in Russia which would cause them to be so financially desperate that they consider an invasion of Israel as their only viable option.  Yet here we are today with many voicing the opinion that those times are upon Russia right now, and desperation is the emotion of the day in the Kremlin.

What the coming weeks will produce I certainly cannot say for certain, but I do know where all this will lead.  Not a day goes by now where there isn’t something occurring somewhere in the world which we can easily seem to recognize as a piece to be placed in the prophetic puzzle we are told to watch for.  Read the following articles and decide for yourself if we are indeed seeing these things “come to pass”.

Western Bankers Have Committed Two Acts of War Against Russia
Is Ruble Collapse Act of War?
Official: Russia plotting to start war on Israel
A Hook in the Jaw…
As recession looms, Russia acts to support ruble
Russia forecasts economic slump as bailed-out bank gets more funds
Expats eyeing the exits after Russian ruble plunges

“And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal;  and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel.  Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand.  You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.  You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken,” says the Lord God.  “And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.  Ezekiel 39:1-6  NKJV

The word used here translated “coastlands” is the Hebrew word “iy”, which is translated to mean,coast, island, shore, region.  What follows is an excerpt from an article by Chuck Missler where he discusses what this passage might be inferring.  

“The ultimate invasion of the Middle East by "Gog and Magog" is well known to most Biblically informed observers.1   The invading forces of Magog - recognized as referring to Russia by most authorities - are wiped out by "hailstones of fire" from the heavens, which also cause an earthquake felt around the world.2   A disturbing aspect of this encounter is that similar "hailstones of fire" also appear to fall on those "who dwell securely in the isles" or coastlands.3   Some suspect that this could be a hint of an intercontinental nuclear exchange as part of the confrontation with Magog and its allies.4

If the possibility of the United States being on the receiving end of a nuclear attack seems farfetched to you, I would suggest you consider the lengths to which Vladimir Putin might go if he believes the very survival of Russia is at stake.  Many might have, in the past, believed the possibility of this sort of scenario to be farfetched to say the least.  I for one think it might easily answer the question many have asked as to why the United States seems to be absent in the events revealed for the end times in scripture.  Is it possible we are busy trying to recover from a nuclear exchange with Russia?  

Keep watching.

US-Russia Nuclear Showdown Looms as Putin Greets Fresh Obama Sanctions with 80+ New ICBMs by 2015 – Reports

Russia tests 10-warhead ballistic missile

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Humble Beginnings

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.      
Luke 2:7  NKJV

Many times over the years I have seen or looked at many paintings which depict Biblical events and enjoyed seeing how the artists used their imagination to envision and portray scenes which the Bible tells us occurred.  Truth be told, most of them are quite elaborate and in truth probably stray just a bit from what the actual event might well have looked like.  While looking at scenes of the nativity, I came across this one whose history is completely unknown.   Which in a way I find very curious because although close to impossible, it looks to me like it could have been painted by an actual witness who was there. 

If you look closely you will see what I mean.  An inn, which would be large enough to accommodate one or more groups of travelers, would also need to have a stable big enough to hold all of their animals.  Most every nativity scene I have seen depicts a rather small, cramped building with just enough room to hold a manger.  This painting shows a large stable capable of holding many animals, and Mary and Joseph along with Jesus take up but a small corner of it.  I also like the expression on Joseph’s face because the artist seems to have captured a look that could mean just about anything.  My first impression is that he is relieved that the birth went well, but as he is looking at the shepherds I also think he could be wondering how they knew to come there in the first place.

Regardless, I can’t look at this painting without thinking of the circumstances that put the birth of our Savior in such a humble location.  Although we understand the prophecies which foretold that He would be rejected by men, how often do we think about His rejection beginning at His very birth?  He was relegated to birth in a stable because the inn rejected His presence.  When He began His ministry on earth, he was, by all accounts, a homeless person.  He had no job, no money, no food, no home, and was dependent on the generosity of others for His very existence, and when He failed to live up to the Jews’ expectations of a King, He was rejected and killed.

It almost seems to me that the humble circumstances of Jesus entire life were orchestrated with the intent that others would focus on the message rather than the messenger.  After all, by looking at appearances, just what could this homeless son of a carpenter give anyone?  Unless of course, you believed He was the Son of God.  Those who did were rewarded for their faith, just as we can be today.  So today read the account of Jesus’ birth and consider the idea of His humility, and just how low the Son of God was willing to put Himself for us.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.          Luke 2:1-16 NKJV

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I hope we remember that He was born to die, so that we can live. While we celebrate His birth by giving gifts to one another, may we never forget that it was His gift to us, the ultimate sacrifice, which allows us to make the choice to accept Him as our Savior and become one of His own.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to allow Jesus Christ to come 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 simply praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered all of us by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

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

Keep watching.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reasonable Expectations

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”                                    1 Corinthians 2:9  NKJV

“What is Heaven like?”  Have you ever heard that question from someone and stumbled over the answer?  Did it cause you to think seriously about what you truly believe waits for us in the future?  Have you spent time in the Word looking for answers as to what is in store for all those who have made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?  I’m sure most of us who have made that choice did so knowing that we were choosing between eternity in the presence of God as opposed to eternity in Hell, yet exactly what does the Bible tell us about our heavenly home?  The answer to that question might surprise you.

Why?  Because the truth is that we are not told very much at all concerning what we can expect life to be like in our eternal state.  I look at it much like I do the presents under my Christmas tree; I know I’m going to like and enjoy them, but I don’t yet know exactly what they are.  Now I can try to guess what they might be based on clues dropped by my kids but at best these are just hints at what the reality might be.  If you study the subject of Heaven, you will soon find that there is a lot of wild speculation about what it will be like but the truth is that any ideas we might have must be based on what the Bible says and not wild speculation as a result of our personal desires.  

Of course, the first thing we can do is ask someone who has already been there such as Paul the Apostle.  In his second letter to the church at Corinth he had this to say about his trip;

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.                    2 Corinthians 12:2-4  NKJV

To be perfectly honest, my first reaction to reading these words was something along the line of “thanks for nothing Paul”,  yet it is here that we find our first clue as to what life will be like in Heaven.  Paul heard what he described as “inexpressible words”.  The Greek word used here is arrÄ“tos which translates as “unspeakable” with the idea that they are unspeakable due to their sacredness.  I think it interesting that the first thing Paul describes is what he heard and not what he saw.  I believe what Paul heard was all of the heavenly host giving praise and glory and honor to God.  Does that sound familiar as we approach the Christmas season?  Notice what occurred when the Son of God first appeared on earth.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”     Luke 2:11-14  NKJV

Let me ask you a question.  What do you think your reaction will be when you leave this earth, this body, this life, and instantaneously find yourself in the presence of God the Father?  I think it rather reasonable to assume that all of us will sing and shout praises to God in ways we can’t even imagine as a result of experiencing the emotions of gratitude, relief, joy, etc.  I can’t help but think of the phrase “words can’t describe” when thinking about what our reaction will be when we find ourselves standing before our Father in Heaven.  There is a famous quote from the author C.S. Lewis about heaven which goes like this; “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  I believe that what Paul heard, and what we will do when we arrive in Heaven, is shout for joy.

Although finding ourselves in the presence of our Father is reason enough to shout with joy, I think Paul also gives us another clue as to why we will be so happy when we arrive in Heaven and this is found in his first letter to Corinth.

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.          1 Corinthians 15:50-51  NKJV

If you are like me and have noticed the odometer on your body is about to roll over because of the high mileage, in this passage Paul gives us the best news we could ever want to hear about what to expect when we get to Heaven.  I think most of us would agree that this is found in the two words “changed” and “incorruptible”.  “Changed” in the Greek is the word allasso, which means “to change, to exchange one thing for another, to transform”.  The other word, “incorruptible”, is the Greek word aphthartos, which  is translated “uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable, immortal”.  

Now like I said, this verse means more to me now than it did when I was in my twenties, but the fact remains that the body we now inhabit will never see the light of Heaven.  “In the twinkling of an eye,” which is the same as instantaneous to my way of thinking, we will exchange the body we now have for a completely new body suitable for life in Heaven.  Suitable how you ask?  Well, perfect for one thing, which will finally answer the question we all have wondered at one time or another, “what does the perfect body look like?”  When we get to Heaven, everyone will have one.  Isaiah has this to say about Heaven;

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.                    Isaiah 35:5-6a  NKJV

None of the physical problems we experience here on earth because of the fall will have any place in Heaven.  Also we see we won’t ever get sick, “no corruption or decay”, and as a result, we will never grow old, “imperishable and immortal”.  Best of all, because our new bodies will be perfect, and because it is impossible for sin to be in the presence of God, it follows our new bodies will not have a sin nature.  In Heaven, we will never again be tempted to sin, and because Satan and his angels will be banished from Heaven for good, we will finally be free from the burden of temptation.  For me, this is one of the things I simply can’t imagine as we have all been born with a sin nature and have no idea at all what it might be like to not have one.  All I can say is that I am sure that one of the biggest reasons there will be so much joy in Heaven is a result of experiencing the reality of finally being free from sin.

To be continued.

Keep watching.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Earnest Expectations

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. 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.         Romans 8:18  NKJV

Do you have good memories of Christmas’ past as I do?  The feelings of expectation as the days counted down to Christmas morning when you could finally see just what was inside all of those wrapped packages with your name on them?  Or maybe as I do, you can also remember other times in your life where you experienced the emotion of expectation while waiting for something you wanted very much to finally occur.  While most of us have, in one way or another, experienced the joy of expectation, I have to ask another question which is related to the first.  Have you ever experienced disappointment when the reality failed to live up to your expectations?

Truth be told, I think many of us would have to agree that we have been disappointed far more than not when something fails to live up to our expectations.  In fact, in our family as my three daughters were growing up, their favorite saying was “reality bites”.  As much as we might have tried to alleviate it, they experienced their fair share of disappointment as the realities of life failed to live up to their expectations.  If you are like me, it’s possible that you have never escaped the habit of asking “why?” when considering the complexities of life and the disappointments we often are called to endure. 

As I thought about the subject of expectations this week, the Spirit led me to this passage from Romans that I have to admit, caused me to pause and consider carefully exactly what the apostle Paul was trying to tell us.  I must admit, the idea that creation itself has feelings causes me to take a step back and raise my eyebrows, yet that is exactly what Paul tells us here.  Just as we are living with the expectation of being delivered from the bondage of sin at the rapture of the Church, so creation itself is waiting for the return of Christ to this world.  The unfortunate result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was that this earth, and all of nature was punished along with man through no fault of its’ own.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Romans 8:22  NKJV

Now let me ask you a question here.  If, as Paul tells us, creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed”, and  the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs”, is it not logical to conclude that what the world describes as “natural disasters”, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought, floods, fires, etc. is just creations’ way of revealing its’ own expectation of deliverance just as we do?  Now at first that might sound a little strange, but consider how often we are told much the same thing throughout the scriptures.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.         Psalms 96:11-13  NKJV

The heavens will rejoice, the earth itself will be glad, the sea will roar, the fields will be joyful, and even the trees will rejoice when Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation to judge the world.  Jesus Himself said that the stones He created could cry out with rejoicing and praise in this passage from Luke describing His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:37-40  NKJV

So my thoughts were that if creation itself feels much as we do, and is waiting patiently (or impatiently) for the return of Christ, it seems logical to assume our expectations are the same.  We are waiting for the promise of His return and the expectation of deliverance from the effects of sin.  As I grow older I find myself appreciating more and more the promise of a new body that will never grow old, and a life free from my sin nature and the temptations to do wrong.  I’m sure many of you would agree with me, and have given thought as I have as to just what we can expect when we finally meet our Savior in the air.

Although I highly doubt that any true believer feels that there is a possibility of being disappointed when we finally get to Heaven, I think it is reasonable to assume that the reality of what we find when we do go home might be somewhat different from some of our expectations as to what life might be like.  I recall one time listening to a pastor from California talking about his expectations of surfing on the perfect endless wave in Heaven and wondering if he missed the description in Revelation which says there will be no more seas.   What exactly are our expectations and what does the Bible tell us we will find when we arrive?  

The passage from Romans uses the phrase "earnest expectation" to describe what creation is feeling.  In the Greek, this phrase means "anxious and persistent".  Are you anxiously and persistently looking for the return of Christ?   What are your expectations of what we will find when we get to heaven?   Next week we will talk about the joy of heavenly expectations.

Keep watching.