Sunday, October 30, 2016

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”             Revelation 3:14-19  NKJV

Sometime this past week the thought occurred to me that I have never actually put together a list of my personal “top ten” reasons to believe we are living in the end times.  I still haven’t but I will admit that I am thinking more and more about doing so because while it may or may not be the same as others, comparing notes on the subject can be very revealing.  One sign that I am sure, however, would make most peoples’ list is the current state of the Church.  Now this is a subject I have discussed before, and without a doubt will continue to cover as it would certainly rate very high on my own list of signs, as well as being one that Jesus told us specifically to watch for by virtue of His description of the Church at Laodicea.

Although the church at Laodicea believed it was rich and in need of nothing, it was in reality poor because the “riches” they were so confident in were of their own efforts, and not from God.  Rich in the eyes of the world, they were poor in the eyes of God as a result of the absence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their church.  The error of the Laodicean theology is that your eternal security can be assured by simply being a “follower” of Christ.  While this belief was obviously very popular by the size and success of the Laodicean church, unfortunately it is in direct opposition to the Word of God which states plainly that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to receive eternal life.  The end result of this mistaken teaching is an entertaining and apparently successful church full of followers, but no true believers.

As I studied and researched this subject anew this week, I happened to stumble across one of the most accurate and revealing commentaries on the current state of the Church that I have read in quite a long time.  The most surprising facet of this commentary was not the content itself, but rather the fact that it was written over one hundred years ago by one of the most influential preachers of his, and our own time.  I thought I would let you read his words on this subject today, and decide for yourself if it seems to be an accurate description of what we see in all too many of our own churches today.

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon  1834-1892

   “ An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

    From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

    My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church.  If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it?  "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)  That is clear enough  So it would have been if He had added,  "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.

    Then again, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers ... for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12). Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

    Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all his apostles. What was the attitude of the church to the world? Ye are the salt" (Matt. 5:13), not the sugar candy---something the world will spit out not swallow. He was in awful earnestness.

    Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into his mission, he would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear him say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick Peter, we must get the people somehow." Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them.

    In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of this gospel of amusement! Their message is, "Come out, keep out...!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

    After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the church had a prayer meeting but they did not pray, "Lord grant unto thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are."

    If they ceased not from preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). That is the only difference! Lord, clear the church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to the Bible.

    Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of the conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”      Revelation 3:20-21  NKJV

I learned this verse as a child in Sunday School, and like many of you, have never forgotten it.  It has long been used as a tool in witnessing and sharing the good news with those who have not yet accepted the gift of eternal life, and presents a beautiful picture of the love that Jesus has for all of His children.  Yet it was quite a long time before I personally understood the context of this verse, and exactly how Jesus was using it to send a message to a church empty of true believers.  Although seemingly unaware of their need, Jesus stands at the door knocking to come in and anyone who hears and invites Him in will receive the free gift of salvation.

Have you opened the door of your heart and invited Jesus to come in?  If not, you can do that right now wherever you are.  Simply pray a prayer like this and begin a new life with Jesus, and know you will spend eternity with Him.

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

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My God Can Do Anything

“So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”  Ezekiel 39:7  NKJV

Do you believe in miracles?  As believers, I’m pretty sure there is no doubt, but what about the rest of the world?  Do you think they believe as well?  Here is the definition of miracle by; “1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.  2.  such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.  So to answer my last question, I rather doubt the unbelieving world believes in miracles because they choose not to believe in God.  That said, it looks to me as if God will soon choose to use a miracle to prove to the world, and Israel, that He does indeed exist.

“And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.”   Zechariah 14:12  NKJV

I’m willing to wager that when these words were written around 520 BC, people had no idea what to make of them, and more than likely they were a source of animated discussion for quite some time.  While this passage was written some twenty five hundred years or so ago, the advance of technology has certainly offered up a more reasonable explanation of the possible source of these events than was available back in Zechariah’s time.  Yet, as I said, there certainly still is discussion on this and other passages which many believe are the result of the use of modern nuclear weaponry.

“It will come to pass in that day that I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude. Therefore they will call it the Valley of Hamon Gog. “For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. “They will set apart men regularly employed, with the help of a search party, to pass through the land and bury those bodies remaining on the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search. “The search party will pass through the land; and when anyone sees a man’s bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog. “The name of the city will also be Hamonah. Thus they shall cleanse the land.” ’  Ezekiel 39:11-16  NKJV

We talked a little last week about the possibility of a nuclear exchange between Gog and the “coastlands” as part of the attempted invasion of Israel by Gog and his allies.  While that premise might be an unacceptable one for some, it would appear that to most Biblical scholars and commentators I have researched, this conclusion is the most logical explanation for the words of these prophecies. This passage from Ezekiel 39 is one of the most curious descriptions of the aftermath of a battle to be found in the Bible.  It describes in great detail not only the importance of collecting the dead and burying them, but procedures for identifying and retrieving the pieces as well.  Jack Kelley put it this way in his commentary on this passage.

“Another reference is Ezekiel 39: 12-16 where the after battles clean up describes procedures remarkably similar to the way a modern army would clean up a contaminated battlefield. This suggests low power tactical nuclear weapons may be used against Israel’s attackers. If so then the damage to Israel would be confined to the actual battlefield rather than being a general destruction.” 

While I have heard objections from a few concerning the possibility that this passage and others describes the use of nuclear weapons, I have yet to hear any reasonable explanation from doubters on the cleanup process revealed in this passage.  One of the most often used objections to the possible use of this type of weaponry is the resulting fallout and contamination which would necessarily be the natural result.  That objection, however, might actually be the basis for the conclusion that God will in fact use a miracle to prove to the world that not only does He exist, but will defend His people and His land.  

“If the Lord was personally defeating Israel’s enemies, I don’t think He would contaminate His own land in the process.”  Jack Kelley

Israel has fought wars of survival since its’ inception in 1948 and any study of those conflicts will reveal stories of deliverance that, to those who believe, show the hand of God working on the side of His people.  Yet it has not been enough to convince the world of His existence, or the position He takes concerning Israel.  God makes it clear in this passage from Ezekiel that, “Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”  To those who would object to the possible use of the type of weaponry these verses seem to describe, I would simply ask a question that has already been asked in the Word of God.

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

 Imagine if you will a scenario where nuclear weapons are used in this battle, in the mountains of Israel, yet not only is it just Israel’s enemies who fall but Israel itself is protected from the contamination which accompanies the use of these weapons.  Would that not fit the definition of a miracle?  An event which is completely unexplainable?  My God can do anything, and He has made it clear from the description of the events in this prophecy that the day is coming where the entire world will witness a miracle which will defy any explanation other than God does indeed exist, and He fights on the side of Israel. 

If you are reading these words today and have wondered just what in the world is going on, you are not alone.  The truth is the world as we know it is rapidly approaching the end, and soon God will allow His Son, Jesus, to remove all those who have chosen to believe in Him and His sacrifice for our sins.  That removal is called the rapture and it is the event all believers have been watching and waiting for.  The situation this world finds itself in today has been written about by the prophets of old, and we have been told to expect the return of Christ when we see these things begin to occur.  If you have never made the decision to accept the free gift of salvation offered by the sacrifice Jesus made for us, I encourage you to do it today.  Simply pray a prayer like this;

Jesus I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Judgment is Coming

“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 39:6  NKJV

Anyone even casually aware of the news the past few weeks is sure to have noticed a sharp increase in the speculation of the possibility of World War 3 appearing on our horizon.  Tensions with Russia are at an all-time high with many voicing the opinion that recent moves by Russia indicate a strong desire and intent to alter the balance of power to a degree not seen in a very long time.  The unwillingness of our current administration to do anything at all to confront the aggressive moves of Vladimir Putin have allowed him to possibly position Russia as the preeminent power  in Europe as well as the Middle East.

If you are a student of biblical prophecy, I’m sure you have either heard or read that the most asked question concerning the end times is “Where is America?” in all of this?  What I have always believed is that if the United States were relevant, it would be mentioned in scripture.  The fact that it seems to be absent lends weight to the idea that for one reason or another, America as we know it is rendered irrelevant.  Many have taught that one reason might be found in the passage from Ezekiel which describes what some believe could be a future nuclear attack.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Chuck Missler of Koinonia House.

“The ultimate invasion of the Middle East by "Gog and Magog" is well known to most Biblically informed observers  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. 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. Some suspect that this could be a hint of an intercontinental nuclear exchange as part of the confrontation with Magog and its allies.”  

The most important idea in this observation, as well as what is described in the passage from Ezekiel, is the fact that what we are told occurs is quite possibly an “exchange” of nuclear missiles.  Ezekiel makes it clear that the “fire” falls on both Magog and the coastlands.  The word used here translated “coastlands” is the Hebrew word “iy”, which is translated to mean, coast, island, shore, region.  Many Bible scholars have voiced the opinion that this is most likely the word that one would use at the time the book of Ezekiel was written to describe an unknown land far away.

If we accept that premise then one must ask the question, what nation would fit that description which also possesses nuclear weapons?  The simple answer is only one.  While we can discuss at length all of the reasons and provocations which might result in a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States, the one point which should never be ignored or forgotten is that this passage tells us that it is God Himself who brings this all to pass.  Notice that we are told that “I will send fire”.  While there may be reasons why the decision is made by earthly leaders to push the button, it is God’s decision to bring it to pass, and as we have seen in previous studies, the use of “fire” is a strong indication of God’s judgment upon both Magog and the “coastlands”.

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.                                Isaiah 46:9-13  NKJV

While this judgment by fire falls on two different nations, it is important to remember that as we have discovered a few weeks ago, Magog receives this judgment as they attempt to invade Israel through the Golan Heights.  Yet although this occurs in such close proximity to the nation of Israel, God protects them from any harm or “fallout” from His judgment.  The reason for this miracle is made clear as we are told that this is the time where God will reveal Himself to not only Israel, but the entire world in such a way as that there is no mistake as to who is in charge.

“So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.  Ezekiel 39:7  NKJV

If all of this sounds just a little farfetched to some, I would simply point out that while the possibility that this passage describes the use of nuclear missiles is purely conjecture, the fact remains that there will be a battle that affects both Magog and another land, and it is at this time that God will somehow make it clear to the entire world that He not only exists, but has His protective hand upon the nation of Israel.

“Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord GOD. “This is the day of which I have spoken.                    Ezekiel 39:8  NKJV

This will happen, and if current events are any indication,it is going to happen very soon.  I have included a small sample of some links for you to follow which point out the rising tensions between Russia and the United States.  Take them with a grain of salt but please remember that God has spoken and His plan is going forward until its’ completion.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Here's Your Sign

Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.  Daniel 2:20-22  NKJV

Of many things I look forward to every fall season is the return of old favorites on television that I remember from my youth, especially those of the gang from “Peanuts” written by Charles Schultz.  Not only are they entertaining, but especially in this day and age, remarkably clean and wholesome.  While some might see them as cartoons for children, they also contain some very philosophical content that often only an adult can appreciate.  The following quote is a perfect example, and one which I have remembered over the years and actually used on more than one occasion.

“There are three things that I've learned never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”   Linus Van Pelt, from “It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”

At this point in our political season, I’m sure many would agree with this sentiment as we can observe the strong emotions many are exhibiting concerning the upcoming election.  While I have always endorsed the position of supporting the political process, and exercising an individual’s right to vote, I personally have always had in the back of my mind the part that God plays in the final outcome according to His power and wisdom.  Why is that?  Because, as you can see from this passage, the final decision is God’s to make and the history of this world conforms to His will and plan.

With the caveat that what follows is simply my opinion, as I look at the decision we are faced with this election between two individuals wanting to lead this country for the next four years, I can’t help but feel that there is a stark contrast between the motivations of both candidates.  It seems to me that there is one who desires to lead because of a genuine concern for the direction this country is going, and one who desires to lead solely for the power that comes with the position.  As I considered this, I could not help but recall what Daniel had to say about the motivations of the coming world leader who will attempt to become the king of this world.

“Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. “He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. “But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. “Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain.   Daniel 11:36-39  NKJV

I believe anyone who reads this passage can readily see that this coming leader is in it solely for himself, and the acquisition of power and wealth is all consuming.  His motivation is not for the betterment of the world in which we live, but personal gain.  Although he likely begins his rise to power by promising peace and prosperity for all, the truth is that he is in it for himself and the pursuit of power and wealth is his only consideration.  Many of you are familiar with at least part of the following quote by Lord Acton, but I have included the entire quote for you to read.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

Letter to Mandell Creighton (5 April 1887), published in Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1907), edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, Appendix, p. 504; also in Essays on Freedom and Power (1972)

I found the use of the word corrupt especially telling considering how often I have heard it used lately in reference to the current cast of characters in our political arena.  Although I thought I had a pretty good idea what the word corrupt meant, I was surprised to read the following definition when I looked it up in the dictionary.


1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.
2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.
3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.
4. infected; tainted.
5. decayed; putrid.

It is an understatement to say I was surprised by some of the adjectives used in this definition.  It most certainly calls into question the moral standard of an individual as well as defining their selfish motivations.  Yet if this indeed describes so many leaders in the world today, and the passage we read makes it clear that God appoints these leaders, one has to ask the question what in the world is going on?  The only answer that makes any sense to me is that these leaders are in fact, representative of society as a whole, and reflective of the state of the world we live in.  If you look at it this way, should that be any surprise considering the words of Jesus concerning the times we find ourselves in today?

“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:”  Luke 17:26  NKJV

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  Genesis 6:5-6  NKJV

I am asked many times about the signs we should be watching for, and most of the times those questions refer to natural disasters or wars among nations.  Yet the most overlooked one is right in front of us, and is being played out on our very own political stage for the world to see.  The past administrations have promised change, and they certainly delivered on that promise.  Unfortunately the change in direction of our moral compass not only reflects the corruption one would expect from a world under the spell of the evil one, but spells doom for those who would support it.  How can we know we are living in the end times?  Well, here’s your sign.

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.   Psalms 33:10-11  NKJV

He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry, And sets others in their place. Job 34:24 NKJV

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.             Isaiah 46:9-13  NKJV

Now more than ever, this world needs Jesus.  The time of our departure, the rapture of the Church to be with Him for eternity, could happen at any moment.  If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do it right now. Simply admit to God that you need His forgiveness because you are a sinner,  be willing to turn away from your sins, believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and invite Him to come in and control  your life through the Holy Spirit by praying a simple prayer like this;

Jesus I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Keep watching.