Sunday, August 13, 2017

Is the Earth Speaking?



The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder [was] in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. Your way [was] in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 77:16-20 NKJV
When I talk with people about the command to watch, the question naturally arises as to just exactly what are the sorts of things we should watch for?  That is a very good question, and one that I believe every one of us should ask ourselves in light of what the Word tells us about signs of the end of the age and the nearness of Christ’s return.

In this passage from the book of Psalms, the author is troubled and in despair so he thinks back to the past and the times that God manifested Himself in human history by actions man could only describe as supernatural. The verses above refer to the time that God led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt and through the Red Sea on their journey to the Promised Land. Now I think the important point to make here is that although Moses and Aaron were used by God to shepherd His people, it was God Himself who led them.

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, [from] before the people.
Exodus 13:21-22 NKJV
Now why do I think this is important? Look closely at the passage from Psalms and notice what the author says the reaction of the earth was to the presence of God. Do you see what I see? We are told the waters were afraid, the depths trembled, there was a downpour of rain, thunder along with lightning that lit up the entire world, and not to mention earthquakes that shook the earth. Yet to me, the most important part of this passage is the fact that it does not say God “caused” these things to happen, rather it was a response of the earth to actually “seeing” the presence of God.

Right about now some of you are probably thinking wait just a minute here; do you really believe the earth can “see”? Well, why not? Not only do these verses say it does, we are told elsewhere that the earth can talk too.
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 if we are to believe what the Bible tells us, the earth has and can react to the presence of God in physical ways, some of which might surprise us. Is that really so hard to believe? After all, the earth was created by God just as we were created, so who knows what physical reaction could be produced by the approach of the power which created it? This is the question that I would like you to think about in light of some of the things happening in the world right now.

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 8:22-23 NKJV

Why does the entire creation groan? No doubt because of the changes brought about by the fall in Genesis where even the shape of this world was altered by the introduction of sin. Notice that Paul is telling us here that both nature and man are waiting for the exact same event; the return of Christ! And the reason we groan? We as believers know what we will receive when Christ calls us home to be with Him forever. The anticipation of leaving this earth grows every day as we watch the events around us which give evidence that the world is, like in Noah's day, moving farther away from God rather than towards Him.

Most of us would agree the Bible clearly teaches that there will be signs that precede the return of Christ, many of which are physical in nature. Events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can explain many of the events described as occurring just before Christ returns. Many of these things are beginning to happen right now in various places in the world, and most of those who are watching and waiting for His appearing believe the time is very close. Jesus Himself said this about the signs that would appear just before His return.

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  2 Peter 3:5-7  NKJV

If you follow the news at all, I am sure you are aware of just how much of the world is on fire right now.  Almost the entire west coast is covered in smoke from wildfires which are burning out of control in Canada and parts of the west coast of the United States.  Another fact that has made the news is the number of earthquakes which have, and are, still occurring around Yellowstone National Park raising concerns of a volcanic eruption.   Of course, we can also throw in the coming total solar eclipse which is set to occur on the twenty-first of this month.  Could these be signs of the nearness of Christ’s return and of our deliverance from this world of sin?

"So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors!
Mark 13:29 NKJV
So here is my question for today; does God cause these things to happen, or just like the events in Exodus when God came to earth to lead His people away, is the earth reacting to His approach once again? Is it possible that the increase in frequency and intensity of physical events is because the closeness of Jesus returning for His church is causing a physical reaction by the earth?

"Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry.
2 Samuel 22:8 NKJV
Is the earth speaking?

Keep watching.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Perseverance



“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’   Revelation 3:7-13  NKJV

Approval, positive reinforcement, praise, all these are words that describe what most of us are looking for from parents, friends, and even the world. Generally speaking, most humans have a need to feel as if they are "doing it right", whatever that may be. It seems to be ingrained in us from the start when our parents would either praise us or correct us when we made our choices as a means to direct our behavior. In my own family, my father was the "administrator" of "corrective discipline", and there are a few incidents in my past where the expectations of my parents were made painfully clear. To be truthful, I never really can remember a time when I wasn't aware of just what my parents expected from me. Our Father in heaven has a few expectations as well, and I thought today we might look at the church in Revelation that got a "good" report card as a way to discover just what God expects from us.

In this passage we find what Jesus has to say about the church at Philadelphia. Now the name itself has a commendation, in that the meaning of the word “Philadelphia” is "Brotherly Love", and Jesus himself commanded in John 13:34 that we should "love one another; as I have loved you". So the first indication of why Jesus is pleased with this church is that it is apparently following His commandment. Another point that should be noted when looking at these seven letters is found in the words Jesus uses to describe Himself at the beginning of each letter. These descriptions relate not only to what Jesus expects from them, but what they are doing or not doing as well. Jesus uses the same word to describe Himself in both the letter to Philadelphia and the following letter to Laodicea, which is our clue as to what Philadelphia is doing right and what Laodicea is doing wrong.

The word Jesus uses in verse 7 is translated into English as "true", but has a much deeper meaning in the Greek. In Greek, it is the word “alēthinos”, which means "real, true and genuine in every respect, opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended".  It would appear that what Jesus is trying to show us here is a contrast between the Philadelphia church, which is genuine and true, and the church at Laodicea which is counterfeit and simply pretending to be true. Although both may appear on the outside to be the same, Jesus says He can tell the difference by simply doing one thing, and that is examining their "works".

What are the works that Jesus has observed that earn this church a good report card? One, in verse 8 Jesus tells them that He has seen them exhibit a "little strength", keep His "word", and they haven't "denied" His name. Now keeping His Word can be accomplished by obedience to His commandments, something I think we can all figure out for ourselves. But denying His name? Again, looking at the Greek, the word for deny is "contradict", so it appears Jesus is saying that the believers at Philadelphia are being careful that their "works" do not contradict the standards laid out in scripture. Unfortunately for all of us, Jesus also says that it only takes a "little strength" to accomplish this. Jesus, however, also mentions a second way in which this church is "doing it right".

In verse 10 Jesus makes a curious statement in which He commends the believers at Philadelphia for keeping "the word of my patience". This seems to be a strange phrase unless you look again at the Greek meaning of the words, and examine them in the context of what Jesus is saying here. The word for "kept" is “tēreō” which means to "attend carefully; keep in the state in which to observe", and the word for "patience" is “hypomonē” or "perseverance, enduring, not swayed by trials". So the believers in this church are making sure they are in a continual state of watching for something Jesus calls His patience. But what is Jesus being patient for?

If we step back and look at the context I believe we can see exactly what He means here. Remember these letters are addressed to the church as a whole, and what is the Church? Of course, it is the bride of Christ; and what is the current status of the bride and groom? Obviously they are betrothed, but waiting for the wedding day when God will tell Jesus "go get her" in something we know as the rapture. So I believe the picture here is of Jesus watching His bride, the Church, for close to 2000 years.  That is certainly being patient, especially if you consider what these seven letters describe as the state of His bride to be. So what the believers in Philadelphia were being commended for was first, being faithful to watch for the day of Jesus' return, and second, being steadfast even though they were tried and tempted. The reward for all of this is spelled out clearly in the latter part of verse 10 when Jesus tells them that because of their faithfulness they would be delivered “from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” This is a direct promise to His church that they will be removed from this earth in what we call the rapture, before the tribulation period begins.

We know what Jesus wants from us by reading this letter to Philadelphia. He wants us to strive to keep an attitude of watchfulness for His return, persevere when we suffer for our faith, and live in such a way that the world will see our works and know we are true to God's Word.Have you made the choice to become part of the Church, the body of Christ?  In the Bible, Romans 10:9 states that there are two conditions necessary for salvation. 1) confess with your mouth and 2) believe in your heart. Verse 10 continues, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:13 says that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  If you have never done this, I urge you to do it today, before it's too late.



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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Day for Mourning



"The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
Isaiah 61:1-2 NKJV

Tisha B' Av, or the ninth of Av which is the fast of the fifth month begins this year at sundown, Monday July 31st. Much has been written about this day in Israel’s history, and I am sure many of you are familiar with it.  Events unfolding today in the Middle East and the situation which exists on the ground, especially the current violence at the Temple Mount, makes this day especially poignant this year.  Will something happen which will change the dynamic in Israel?  I am not sure but I thought it prudent to share this column with you today.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth [month], The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.' Zecharaiah 8:19 NKJV

Zechariah goes on to say that when the Messiah comes, these fast days will become days of celebration and feasting, but for now they are still days of mourning. The fast of the fourth month remembers the day that Moses came down from the mountain to find the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf and then broke the tablets God had given him. The seventh commemorates the assassination of the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to govern the Jews left behind in Israel after the destruction of the temple. The tenth recalls the day that Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. But it is the fifth fast, which occurs on the ninth of Av that I would like to explore today.

The first passage we looked at this morning comes from the book of Isaiah, and is noteworthy because it was also quoted by Jesus during His ministry here on earth. If you look in the fourth chapter of Luke you find this account;

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
Luke 4:16-17 NKJV

Jesus then reads the passage from Isaiah 61 but does an interesting thing; He stops reading in the middle of verse two where it begins to talk about the day of vengeance. Then Jesus explains to the people;

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Luke 4:21 NKJV

Almost every commentator I have read agrees that this is because the day of vengeance that Jesus does not talk about is the future tribulation period that will come upon Israel because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. It is during this time of tribulation that the rest of verse two comes into play because it describes that period of time as a time of mourning in Israel. If you are at all familiar with the events described in the book of Revelation concerning this coming time of judgment you might think that there will be plenty of reasons to mourn, yet the Bible makes it clear that God intends for the world and the nation of Israel to know the real reason to mourn;

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:30 NKJV

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for [his] only [son], and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10 NKJV

As I thought about the subject of mourning this week, and the fact that we are approaching the period of time in Israel's history where they have historically been given reason to mourn, I couldn't help but wonder what future event might occur which would remind Israel that there is a reason to mourn.  What immediately crossed my mind was something which applies to everyone and not just Israel. You see, the next time Jesus returns will be the rapture when He comes in the clouds to take His bride, the Church, made up of all who believe in Him back to Heaven. That being the case, while it will be a time of celebration for those who go, don't you think it will be a reason to mourn for those who don't? Of all the events which have occurred throughout history during the three weeks of mourning in Israel, they would all pale in comparison to being left behind when the rapture happens.


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. All you need to do is pray 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 for you from now on. In Jesus' name, Amen.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:12 NKJV

If you have prayed that prayer, or one just like it, you can rejoice that you will spend eternity with God. If not, I'm sorry to say that very soon you might just have a reason to mourn.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tu B' Av



Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who remain, since the women of Benjamin have been destroyed?” And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe may not be destroyed from Israel. “However, we cannot give them wives from our daughters, for the children of Israel have sworn an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the one who gives a wife to Benjamin.’ ”Then they said, “In fact, there is a yearly feast of the LORD in Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, “and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. “Then it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them, ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath.’ ”And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught. Then they went and returned to their inheritance, and they rebuilt the cities and dwelt in them.      Judges 21:16-23  NKJV

I think most believers would agree that our hope, the event for which we are all watching and waiting is the rapture of the Church. I'm sure most of us too, are familiar with the Church being referred to as the “bride” of Christ. Many of you are also probably aware of how the events surrounding the rapture follow precisely the pattern of a Jewish wedding. Since Jesus is Jewish, it is expected that His wedding to His bride, the Church, will follow the pattern and traditions associated with Jewish weddings. But there is one question I personally have always had with this idea and it is this; does it matter at all to this picture that we the Church are not, strictly speaking, Jewish?

I don’t recall exactly when I first began studying the Jewish feast days, but I do know it was quite some time ago.  Yet it wasn’t until 2010 that I first became aware of the holiday in Israel called Tu B’ Av, and wrote my first article about it. Quite often it is referred to as an unknown holiday because most have never even heard of it; much less understand the traditional beliefs associated with it.  It isn't even listed on my Jewish calendar along with all of their other holidays, which makes me wonder why it is so "forgotten"? If you look it up on the internet, you will find that most sites call it a "minor" holiday in Jewish culture, but for reasons I want to share with you, I think it's entirely possible this might be the most important holiday for the Church that you've never heard of.

First of all, Tu B'Av was declared a celebration by the first generation after the forty year wilderness wandering from Egypt during the Exodus. If you recall, God commanded that an entire generation must die because of their sin before a new generation could enter the Promised Land. After forty years, seeing the full moon told the new generation that the appointed time had passed, and they were able to enter the land that God had led them to. Remember the Jewish calendar is lunar, so the months are calculated by observing the phases of the moon, and the full moon always occurs on the night of the 14th (don't forget the new day starts at sunset). So this new generation declared this day a new day of celebration.

Secondly, the Jewish Talmud, which is a collection of ancient Rabbinic writings, teaches that on this day, Tu B' Av, the tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry. The rest of the year, it was required that you marry only within your tribe, but on this one day every year, women were free to marry whomever they wished from any tribe. For this reason, and because it also marks the end of the wheat harvest in Israel, many believe this is the day that Ruth married Boaz. If you recall the story, Ruth was not a Jew, but a Gentile. Yet as a distant relation, she and Boaz, who was Jewish, were allowed to marry. Their marriage occurred at the end of the harvest, and since on this day, marriages to others were allowed, it follows that this must have been the day of their wedding.

Third, as a result of a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel, only 600 males survived the conflict. The leaders of Israel decided they would allow these men to take wives from "the daughters from Shiloh". It seems there was a celebration at the beginning of the grape harvest at Shiloh where the daughters would go into the vineyards and dance. The surviving men were told they were to hide in the vineyards and catch themselves a wife from the girls who came out to dance. In later years this day became known as a traditional day of love and courtship, where girls would exchange white clothing so that prospective husbands would not know who was rich or who was poor.

Fourthly, Tu B' Av is the last holiday of the year in Israel. Since the New Year begins on Rosh Ha Shanah, which is just a month and a half away, this is the last holiday, as well as the last harvest of their calendar year. Being the last of the holidays, it is a time of celebration both in looking back, and looking forward to the new year that is approaching. This day is also considered to be the time where planting of crops or trees was to end for the year. During the time of the Second Temple, Tu B' Av was proclaimed as the beginning of the grape harvest which continues until Yom Kippur.

Fifth, prophetically speaking, Tu B' Av pictures the future marriage of Christ with His church.

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.               John 14:2-3 NKJV

In the Jewish culture, after the engagement the groom goes to prepare the home in which he and his wife will reside, and it is up to his father to decide when the home is ready and the son is allowed to return for his bride.

So in review, we find there is a holiday in Israel that many are unfamiliar with which is a traditional day celebrating love. It is a day many choose as their wedding day, and historically is the only day that Jews were allowed to marry outside their own tribes. It comes at the conclusion of the wheat harvest at the end of summer, and along with being the last celebration of the year, because of the allowance to intermarry it also perfectly pictures the future marriage of Christ with His Church.

Many look at this day as a perfect time for the rapture of the Church to occur, and in all honesty, I would have to agree. But as we all know, God has His own timetable and as far as we know, He hasn't made it crystal clear. Yet with all the clues we do have, and all that has been happening lately in the world, many are convinced that this truly could be the day. Who knows, but since Tu B' Av starts the evening of the fourteenth of Av at sunset, which this year occurs on Sunday, August 6, I would be lying if I said I wasn't going to be watching the skies more than usual. The day is approaching when we will be taken to be with our Lord forever. I'm praying it will be soon.

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;

 Father, 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.

 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:   John 1:12 NKJV

If you have prayed this prayer you are part of the body of Christ, a member of His Church, and like the rest of us are now waiting for the call to join Him in Heaven for the wedding soon to come.


Keep watching.