Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors.          Mark 13:28-29 NKJV

I have had people ask me in the past if I consider myself to be a prophet because of my calling to teach prophecy and my response is always a very emphatic “no”.  Teaching about prophecy already given, and receiving a new one, is quite a different thing entirely.  Not to mention the fact that the Bible makes it clear what the punishment is for being a false prophet, I am content to just teach what has already been revealed by God.  That is not to say, however, that I don’t have certain beliefs based on all that I have studied over the years or that I have an opinion or two about certain events yet in our future.  One of these concerns the timing of the future wars we are told will occur, some of which we have recently discussed.  Today’s post is one which I wrote many years ago and regularly review and share again for the simple reason that I believe the season we are in is one in which many of these coming signs are going to be revealed.

I find it surprising when so many ask me why I choose to study and teach on prophecy when there are so many portions of scripture like this one from Mark that make it clear what Jesus expects from us. I try to explain to those who question that this is not merely a suggestion from God, but a command repeated over and over again. As such, I try to get the point across that if God commands us to watch, it is because He intends to show us signs that we will recognize as harbingers of the end of this age. One of the points I have often contemplated concerning this passage is if it is possible God is giving us a clue as to when the rapture might occur, as well as many of the other coming signs, when He chooses to use the season of summer in this passage.

As I considered that, I also was reminded of something I realized back in the day when I was a history major in college. Do you know the vast majority of conflicts and wars this world has seen have started during the summer months? My point? I just wonder if the conflict that God reveals in His Word concerning the future of Israel and the world, taken along with His command to watch with a reference to the season of summer, should be a major clue to those of us who choose to obey His command to watch?  Could it be that Jesus is suggesting to us through this passage in Mark that we should be especially watchful during the summer?

The term “dog days of summer” is probably familiar to most, yet many are probably not aware of what it means or of its origin. Actually, the answer to that question is hazy and debatable, while some believe it may date back as far as the Roman Empire. As to what it might mean, let me make a suggestion based solely on my own observations and experiences. One, like most people I have a dog. I also live in a part of the country which experiences summers which tend to occasionally receive triple digit heat late in the season. I have had occasion to notice my dog gets just a little testy during these days of excessive heat, exhibiting a marked lack of patience and a tendency to growl and lash out when disturbed. A funny thing though, I have also noticed here and there that people tend to do the same thing as well.

As I have watched and waited for the return of our Lord I have noticed that we as believers are not immune to the same feelings of impatience and irritability that are a common occurrence in this life. A large part of my watching revolves around research which necessitates visiting a large number of websites and reading commentaries, blogs, and letters by other believers who have answered the call to watch. In the past few years as seasons, watch days, prospective rapture dates, etc. come and go I would have to say it appears that the collective mood of the body displays an increasingly impatient, sometimes argumentative and discouraged appearance.

Now the upside to this is that it is obviously a sign that the body is anxiously awaiting the rapture and the longer we wait the greater the relief when it occurs, but we also need to guard our hearts from allowing the disappointment that we are still here from manifesting itself in actions which hurt our witness to others, as well as dividing the body according to positions we might hold because of our individual opinions on doctrinal issues. I think this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote the following verse.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,      Romans 15:5 NKJV

In this letter to the church at Rome, Paul gives instructions concerning how believers should relate to one another in chapters fourteen and fifteen. I think it's very instructive that when talking about this subject, of all the attributes Paul could choose to describe our Father he chooses “patience and comfort” to show us exactly what we need to imitate in order to achieve harmony with each other. Especially helpful to me is the definition of “like-minded” that we find mentioned here. It is the Greek word phroneō, which basically means that although we might have an opinion, it is more important to strive for harmony rather than arguing to the point of causing division.

For many the disappointment of still being here can lead to discouragement which is an open door to the feelings we have talked about, yet we do have a reason to be encouraged about the situation we find ourselves in. In this passage from his letter to the Corinthian church Paul gives us some instructions we can use to combat the “dog days” we seem to be experiencing.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.                           2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV

Paul says we need not be discouraged because every day we are being “renewed” whether or not we realize it. The word for renewed means we are given new strength and the best way I can see to receive that is to keep looking ahead towards what we know is the promise of things to come. We are also told we are being prepared by enduring what is described as a “light affliction”. Now I'm sure many of us might not see it that way but notice also that Paul tells us that the affliction is for a “moment” and is not going to last forever. The end will eventually come and when it does, we will finally see that the eternal was worth what we endured while here. The best way I know to avoid discouragement is to focus on the finish, and not the race or we will stumble and lose heart.

When the time came for me to make the transition to running distance races instead of sprints I received some of the best practical advice from my coach that is extremely relevant to this passage. He told me before my very first race that I should concentrate on running my race and to ignore everybody else. The reason became clear at the start when everybody else disappeared in a cloud of dust and I was left alone running at the pace I had trained for. I could easily have become discouraged but I kept running my race and thinking about the finish. Imagine my surprise when at about the three mile point I came around a corner and saw all those runners I thought were long gone just in front of me.

As believers we are not immune to the emotions living in this world can produce, especially when someone turns up the heat. Impatience and discouragement are tools Satan uses to cause us to stumble, but by focusing on the promises from God which we have concerning what lies ahead we can overcome the emotions that come when we feel the heat.  I believe we can also expect to see a sharp increase in the signs we are told to watch for in the coming weeks and months as the time for our release from this world draws near.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Getting Ready

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ.                                               2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV

We have often talked about the rapture of the Church, and just how close to occurring many seem to believe that it is. The picture we are given in the New Testament of Christ returning for His Church is one of a bridegroom coming to receive his bride. In this passage from his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us the Church is “betrothed” to Christ just as a bride to her future husband, and in other places in scripture this analogy of the Church as a bride waiting for her husband is repeated.  This past week as I thought of the Church as a bride, and also thinking of the state of the Church as it is today, I recalled some thoughts I have shared in the past concerning our future wedding with Christ.

Now I may have mentioned a time or two that I was blessed with three daughters, so as you might imagine, I know a thing or two about a wedding, and all that goes into preparing for one. Especially noteworthy, however, is just what is involved in the bride preparing herself to meet her future husband on the day of the wedding. Although I thought I had some idea of what went on, it was enlightening to see just how many hours are expended in the process of taking a shower, getting the hair done, having the makeup applied, putting on the wedding dress, and finally arriving at the point where the bride is ready to meet her groom.

As I thought about the subject of Christ returning for His bride, I couldn’t help but think back to my daughters’ weddings and wonder if maybe we as members of the body of Christ should be a little more concerned with the state of our spiritual appearance than we possibly are? Could we honestly say we are as prepared to meet the bridegroom as we should be, or is there room for improvement? If Jesus were to return for His Church today, could we honestly say we personally were as spiritually attractive as we could be?  As I thought about these things, I remembered that Paul uses an interesting word in this passage from his letter toTitus and it is the word translated “adorn”.

[Exhort] bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all [things], not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.   Titus 2:9-10 NKJV

In the Greek, the word for adorn is “kosmeo” which means to put in order, arrange, make ready, prepare, to ornament, adore, to embellish with honor, gain honor. If the word sounds familiar, it is because this is where we get our English word cosmetic. So knowing this, when we look more closely at this passage, it would appear Paul is telling Titus, as well as all other believers, that we have a responsibility to examine ourselves closely to see if we are reflecting the doctrine of God in our personal lives so that others might see and find attractive the relationship we have with Jesus Christ.

Now I can honestly say that I have looked in the mirror often enough to realize I have, appearance wise, good days and bad days. I also can’t help but recall occasional articles that regularly appear in the media showing famous people with and without their makeup on, and noticing just how obvious the difference is. To me, this gives this passage of scripture, and this particular verse, a whole new meaning. Yet there is another part of this admonition we need to notice, and that is what we are told that we need to adorn ourselves with is the “doctrine of God”.

In the Greek, the word for doctrine is didaskalia, which is translated as teaching, instruction, that which is taught, doctrine, teachings, precepts. Now how do we as believers “adorn” ourselves with the “doctrine” of God? Well I believe the obvious first step is to study and learn what God has revealed to us in His Word.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.    2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV

Just as a bride is “diligent” to apply her makeup correctly and attractively, so we too should be diligent to study the Word.  When believers begin to study the Word of God and commit to memory the “teachings and precepts” that we find there, we begin the process of putting on our spiritual makeup. Why a process? Because it appears that what Paul is telling us here is that when we take the first step of learning what God has revealed to us through His Word, it has an effect on our outward appearance. How so? The obvious answer from this passage is that our actions, what others see us do and say, begins to change.

One thing I have noticed after raising three daughters is that no one ever puts on their makeup without looking in the mirror to see if it is being applied in such a way as to be attractive. If we look back at the first chapter of Titus, we see that Paul has written this letter to him because there are obvious problems in the Church. How obvious? Read how Paul chooses to describe them to Titus.

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. They profess to know God, but in works they deny [Him], being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.        Titus 1:10-11,16 NKJV

Sadly it would appear that many were not examining themselves to be sure they were putting on their makeup the right way! How do you know if your makeup is on right? Your actions, what others see you do and say, will reveal your understanding and application of His teachings. Paul makes it pretty clear, however, that we can put our makeup on wrong. Just as you can look at someone and tell if they are wearing makeup or not, you can also look at someone’s actions and tell if they are “adorning” the doctrine of God. Paul’s advice to Titus concerning those who were having a little trouble with their “kosmeo” was this;

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,       Titus 3:1-6 NKJV

The bridegroom is coming. How does your spiritual makeup look? Could your appearance use a little touch-up?  How often do you look in the mirror of the Word to see if you are adorned with the doctrine of God correctly and attractively?  When others look at your actions and listen to your words, do they see a reflection of the Father?  The bridegroom could return for His Church today!  Examine yourself to see if you are truly ready for the wedding.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Killing Ground

“And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: “Assemble yourselves and come; Gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal Which I am sacrificing for you, A great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, That you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, Drink the blood of the princes of the earth, Of rams and lambs, Of goats and bulls, All of them fatlings of Bashan.  Ezekiel 39:17-18  NKJV

I suppose it would be fair to say that the majority of those believers who choose to be watchmen are without a doubt watching closely for the prophesied war of Ezekiel 38-39 which is also known as the Gog Magog War.  While many may be familiar with what the Word has to say about it, I’m willing to bet that while most know it takes place in ”the mountains of Israel”, what they may not know is where those mountains are.  The key is found when God describes the bodies left over from the slaughter as a “sacrificial meal” and then as the “fatlings of Bashan”.  You see, the bodies’ litter the ground at Bashan, which today in Israel is known as the Golan Heights.

Rather than explain the importance of this piece of ground in Israel, I am going to let you read the words of Grant Jeffery from his book Armageddon concerning the Golan, and Russia’s coming day of destruction. 

The Strategic Importance of the West Bank and the Golan Heights

“If Israel's present government under Prime Minister Netanyahu continues the disastrous policies of former prime ministers Rabin and Peres and surrenders the vital strategic territory in the West Bank and the Golan Heights in its "Land for Peace" negotiations with the PLO and its Arab neighbours, Israel will face military disaster in the next war. The tragic four-thousand-year history of the Middle East indicates clearly that another Arab-Israeli war will occur. It is only a question of timing. Israel requires military control of the land on the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the West Bank in order to provide the strategic depth to defend itself against the overwhelming military force of twenty-one enemy Arab nations. The Arab nations possess territory that is five hundred times the size of tiny Israel. Why do the Arabs need the small strategic territory of the Golan Heights and the West Bank? The real reason that the Arabs need this territory is so they can destroy the Jewish state of Israel. Every single European or American military study in the last thirty years has concluded that Israel cannot be defended by conventional weapons if it surrenders military control over these vital strategic territories. The 1992 study by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed that Israel can not surrender the Golan, Gaza, or the West Bank and expect to survive the next Arab invasion.
History shows that victorious nations have never returned land captured from their enemies following a defensive war in which they were forced to defend themselves against their attackers. The Golan Heights represents less than 1 percent of the territory of the large nation of Syria. The Golan Heights was only controlled by Syria for a few decades after World War I. They lost it to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. The only reason Syria needs this small territory is to use it to attack Israel. However, Israel desperately needs the Golan Heights to resist Syria's tanks. Moreover, 30 percent of Israel's water comes from the Golan Heights. If they surrender control of the West Bank territory, Israel will be less than nine miles wide at its center near Tel Aviv, where almost 80 percent of its population lives. In a future conflict Arab armies could easily cut Israel in two by attacking from the PLO-controlled high ground of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The Jewish state could then be overrun in a matter of days. Unlike other conflicts in which defeat leads to a loss of territory and political freedom, an Arab conquest of Israel would lead to a massive slaughter of the Jewish population.
In a future war Israel may be quickly forced to resort to nuclear weapons when they find their small diminished territory about to be overcome by Arab armies. The Israeli army describes this desperate scenario as "the Samson Option" because it would lead to the destruction of the whole Middle East; Samson, too, brought down the temple on his enemies and on himself. Despite this grim reality, the Israeli government has agreed to relinquish much of the strategic area of the West Bank and all of Gaza while continuing negotiations with Syria about the Golan Heights. Military and intelligence sources have informed me that if this "Oslo II" peace process continues, for the first time since its creation in 1948, Israel's conventional army and air force will soon be unable to successfully defend its vital territory and population from an overwhelming Arab armed invasion.”

One of the more fascinating conclusions Grant Jeffery comes to concerns when he believes the Bible tells us this war will occur.  If he is right, then the current moves we see happening today in Syria above the Golan should be a warning sign no one should ignore, especially considering how close we are to Hanukkah.

“Although Scripture does not indicate the year in which this future invasion and defeat of Russia will occur, the prophet Haggai gives us a strong indication of what the actual day may be. Haggai reveals that on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Chisleu) of the Jewish calendar, the day before Hanukkah, God will deliver Israel as He did twice before on this day: (1) the defeat of the Syrian army and recapture of the Temple in 165 b.c. and (2) the British capture of Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917 during the closing battles of WWI.
The prophet Haggai declares: "The Word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month [Chisleu], saying, Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother" (Haggai 2:20­22).
This description by Haggai, and the exact language of his prophecy, is uncannily like the language of Ezekiel 38 and 39 that describes Russia's defeat. The interesting point is that Haggai names the exact day of the year on which this will occur. Since so many other prophecies have been so precisely fulfilled to the day, there is a strong probability that this prophetic event will also occur on its appointed anniversary date of the biblical calendar. "Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord God; this is the day whereof I have spoken" (Ezekiel 39:8). God's appointment with Russia is set; it will not be postponed.”

If one might wonder if Israel considers this piece of ground to be that strategically important, we can listen to what the current leader of Israel has to say on the subject.

“Speaking at the first ever Cabinet meeting to be held in the territory, Netanyahu stated on April 17, 2016, that Israel will never give up the Golan Heights. “It’s time that the international community finally recognize that the Golan will remain forever under Israel's sovereignty,” said Netanyahu to a crowd of supporters gathered around the Israeli officials.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear people ask questions concerning how to know just what is going on in the world today and how to make sense of it all.  My response, and yours as well should always be, read your Bible!

Keep Watching

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Babylon's Magillah Gorilla

“Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll. And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.” “I will send out the curse,” says the LORD of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief And the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house And consume it, with its timber and stones.”   Zechariah 5:1-4  NKJV

I hope at least a few of you remember the cartoon from the sixties called Magilla Gorilla.  If not, I am definitely showing my age, but I recall watching it as a kid and one of the lines used repeatedly by a little girl in the show was “how much is the gorilla in the window”?  Funny as it may sound, this cartoon was the first thing that came to mind years ago when I first discovered this vision of Zechariah and began to study it.  Now if that sounds strange, stay with me as I explain this portion of the Word, which unfortunately, although strangely relevant to our times seems to have been ignored completely by most of the “experts” discussing eschatology today.

The word in the Hebrew for scroll is “megillah”, which obviously is where I came up with the connection to an old memory of my youth.  When I read this, my first vision was of Magillah Gorilla flying through the air with his ever present banana.  The reality though, is that we are told it is a scroll, which is a long sheet of parchment that is rolled up and placed in an ornate cylinder for safekeeping. Then of course, I looked closer at the dimensions of the scroll Zechariah saw and was surprised to find that the size he describes, if rolled up and put in its container would be approximately 30 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter, which is very comparable to many ICBM’s around the world today.  

Now if you are starting to believe this is a stretch, stay with me a little longer as we examine this text a little closer with that possibility in mind.  Zechariah goes on to call it a “curse”, which is present throughout the whole earth, and tells us it will not only enter a house, but completely consume it, “timber and stones”.  So now we have to consider just what the nature of this curse could be if it is able to do exactly what Zechariah describes.  Since a normal detonation of a typical explosion only produces power capable of destroying a structure, we have to ask the question what sort of payload is capable of actually consuming it.  Believe it or not, Zechariah tells us what it is.

Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, “Lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth.” So I asked, “What is it?” And he said, “It is a basket that is going forth.” He also said, “This is their resemblance throughout the earth: “Here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket”; then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he thrust her down into the basket, and threw the lead cover over its mouth.  Zechariah 5:5-8 NKJV

Now before some of you decide to have some fun explaining how a woman could be a curse, there is something about Hebrew you need to know.  In the Hebrew, the word for woman is ish·shä' , but the word used for fire, especially a sacrificial burnt offering, is ish·shä'.  Confused?  I as well, but this is one of those times when the meaning is determined by the context, and most of the Hebrew scholars I found believe the meaning here is of fire.  I think too, you will agree, that fire seems to be a better explanation for the type of destruction described.  And, as they say on those infomercials, wait, there’s more.

The word for basket used here is “ephah”, which typically describes the baskets commonly used at that time to carry a measure of grain or other commodities.  What is different here is that Zechariah tells us that not only does it carry the fire, it is made of lead.  In the Hebrew Masoretic text, we are told the lead disk lifted up is a “talent” of lead which would be approximately one hundred pounds.  Now if just the lid is that heavy, how heavy is the rest of the container?  Not to mention the most intriguing question of all; what sort of “fire” needs to be shielded by lead in this day and age?

Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. So I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they carrying the basket?” And he said to me, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.”  Zechariah 5:9-11  NKJV

Of course, although these “megillahs” are said to go forth to all the earth, Zechariah goes on to tell us that the base of operations in the future will be in the land of Shinar, which is translated as the country of two rivers, or what later became known as Babylonia.  Of course, as we have already seen, the rebuilt Babylon will be the center of the coming anti-Christ’s power so it seems to make perfect sense he will have this sort of weaponry to unleash upon the whole earth.  Would he actually use nuclear weapons to advance his cause?  If you look closely at what is described to occur during that period of time soon to come, I believe the answer is self-evident.

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 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 2:30-31  NKJV

We can see the signs of the end all around us today, but believe it or not, 3000 years ago Zechariah saw it too.  Imagine how it must have appeared to him to watch what will unfold in our time, in the very near future.

Keep watching.

Iran could have an operational nuke by 2017 end