Sunday, December 31, 2017

Get in Shape

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.Isaiah 40:31  NKJV

If we were to be perfectly honest, I expect no one would admit to liking to wait for anything.  When it comes to something we desire, immediate gratification is usually the expectation for most of us.  Yet how often have you experienced greater joy by waiting, rather than the satisfaction which results from not having to?  There is a reason God has chosen to delay His appearing to take His bride, the Church, home to be with Him forever.  If I were to give this past year a name, it would definitely be the year of signs.  Yet we still wait, and our expectation grows as well as our disappointment at still being here.

I am aware of so many who are struggling right now with this disappointment, and questioning what the response of the body should be.  As we begin a new year, allow me to make a suggestion.  Get in shape!  Now I admit that might not be what you expected, yet many choose the New Year to commit to doing exactly that.  As believers, we too are admonished by the Word to get in shape.  This post is one which I have used before, but thought appropriate today, especially while most of us are wrestling with our current situation.  My prayer is that you find it helpful as we wait upon the Lord.

Lose 10 pounds in 10 days!  Truthfully, how many times have you seen an ad like that and looked to see just what it was they were trying to sell?  I’m willing to wager that most, if not all of us would have to confess we have looked at one time or another.  Have you ever noticed that more and more of these promises seem to appear right after the holidays?  The overindulgence of the season, plus the arrival of the New Year always makes it appear to be a wonderfully appropriate time to make a resolution to get into shape.  I can’t help but wonder though, if it’s the season that makes us want to get into shape, should not the realization that we are in the season of God’s return make us desire to be in spiritual shape as well?

I have posted this study a couple of times in the past, and truthfully have taught it often during my ministry because it contains what I believe to be the basic principles of spiritual growth necessary for all of us.  Any exercise program that promises to transform your look will contain certain steps that they believe are necessary to insure you get the results you are looking for.  Believe it or not, the Word of God does the exact same thing by teaching us the steps we need to follow to transform our bodies into the shape God has intended them to be.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."     Romans 12:1-2  NKJV

So we choose to give our bodies to God as a gift, and as Paul tells us, it needs to be holy and acceptable. But just how do we accomplish that? Well according to Paul, it is by transforming. The Greek word for "transformed" used here is "metamorphoĊ", from where we get the word "metamorphosis", which means “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure” Now since the New Year is where many choose to make a resolution to change their physical appearance by going on a diet or committing to an exercise program, I thought we might look at how transforming our spiritual bodies could follow some of the same principles as the physical.

One of my favorite memories of raising daughters was the time one of them looked at some pictures of me taken when I was an athlete in college. Rather than saying how good I looked or what a fine example of physical fitness I was, her comment was; "why don't you look like that anymore?" So it was at that tender moment I decided maybe I should pay a little more attention to my personal exercise and fitness program. Of course, at the same time I was busy teaching about Paul's advice to new believers and as I began to lay out my own fitness program, I couldn't help but notice that the rules I came up with for physical fitness were very applicable for spiritual fitness. So let me share with you my three steps to getting in shape, spiritually first of course, but then the physical as well.

Desire. Now I know this might seem to be at first glance a simple, if not entirely logical first step, but I would like to make the point that it depends entirely on how you define desire. I rather like the biblical definition myself.

"as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,"       1 Peter 2:2  NKJV

The word used here for "desire" is "epipotheo" which is translated “to long for, or to pursue with love”. Most importantly, however, is the fact that it is a verb. Now I would be the first to admit I have forgotten most of what I learned in English class, but I do remember what a verb is. It means action, doing something. To desire something in the biblical sense is not to just sit on the couch and wish for it, but to act upon that desire and pursue it. You have to make the effort. This is our first step to spiritual fitness; to truly desire to transform ourselves. What is it that we should desire? Paul says it is the "milk of the word", which to us as believers is knowledge of the scriptures, the word of God. This brings us to the second step.

Acquire. In order to begin to grow spiritually, we need the raw material which will make us strong. Just as our physical bodies need protein as part of our diet, our spiritual muscles need the protein we get from the word of God.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding."   Proverbs 4:7  NKJV

Solomon tells us that as believers we need to "acquire" wisdom and "understanding". The Hebrew word used here for "get" is the verb "qanah", which means “to get, acquire, obtain”. Anyone who has ever tried to get in better physical shape understands the need to carefully monitor what we take in for nutrition. Certain things will help us grow the way we want, just as certain foods will help us grow as we don't want. The Bible makes it clear that in order to get in spiritual shape we need to acquire the knowledge and wisdom to be found in the word of God in order to become stronger believers.

Taking in the right spiritual food, though, won't help us accomplish our goal without the third and most important part of our program.

Perspire. Unfortunately this is the part of the program most people fail at when trying to transform their appearance. It starts out with exercise every day, then three days a week, then one, then "I just don't have the time". Exercise is an absolute when trying to get into shape, and it is no different when it comes to spiritual fitness.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;"     Philippians 2:12  NKJV

You will never guess just how hard I had to look to find the words "work" and "out" used together in the Bible, not to mention the fact that they are two words and not one? Believe it or not, in the Bible it is one word translated as two and it is the Greek word "katergazomai", which means “to work out”, or “to do that from which something results.” When Paul tells the Philippians they need to "workout" their salvation, he is simply telling them that as believers, it is time for them to stop relying on his (Paul's) help since he has left them, and to begin to rely on God's help through the power of the Holy Spirit to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God. And, as you should have expected by now, the word “workout” in the Greek is also a verb.

In order to transform our lives into a gift to God which He will find pleasing, we must embrace the concept of action. The Christian life is a life of doing, not wishing. Desire, acquire, and perspire. Three verbs, three steps to becoming the believer God expects us to be. If you feel the need to make a New Years resolution, may it be to become the child of God He wants you to be. But don't wait too long, who knows how long we have left to get into shape?

Keep watching.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Greatest Sign of All

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

“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

Keep watching.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is Rebuilding the Temple Next?

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; “and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.     Matthew 16:1-3  NKJV

I think most of us who believe in the imminent rapture of the Church would agree that we are living in what could accurately be called the times of the signs.  A quote I am sure that most of you have heard concerning the times we are living in goes something like this; “when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near”.  So too, we as the Church are seeing the preparations for the events which we are told will occur during the seven year period called the tribulation, which follows the removal of the Church to be with our Father in heaven.

In the passage from the book of Matthew, the religious leaders were asking for a sign from Jesus.  I have always found this amusing considering Jesus had just fed the four thousand with seven loaves and fishes.  My question has always been, just what would it take to convince them?  I believe the obvious answer is that there was nothing Jesus could have done, and Jesus Himself believed it as well because He told them that the only other sign they would receive was His resurrection.  Just as in Jesus’ day, we find today that there are many who still are not convinced we are not living in the end times in spite of what we see happening all around us.

While some might wonder about where the actions of our current government place us in the scheme of end times events, I think it very telling that the position and support our President has towards the nation of Israel seems to be so overwhelmingly positive.  One cannot help but wonder just what moves might the nation of Israel make now that they have such positive support from our administration?  If you recall, one of the first things the reestablished Sanhedrin did after the election of President Trump was to ask both President elect Trump and Russian President Putin to facilitate the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  When I first read that my immediate reaction was to remember the question from the passage above and wonder, “How’s this for a sign?”  Then, this past week the following article appears in response to President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Christians and Jews Now Compare Trump to Persian King Cyrus – Will He Build the Third Temple?

Of course, most would hold the opinion that the odds of rebuilding a temple for the Jews would be astronomical.  However, if you know your Bible, then you know that we are told there will in fact be one in the near future. 

“And beside the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side, shall be the allotment which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in width, and in length like one of the portions, from the east side to the west side; and the sanctuary shall be in the middle of it. “The allotment that you shall set apart to the LORD shall be 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in width. “The holy allotment shall be for these, namely for the priests, toward the north 25,000 cubits in length, toward the west 10,000 in width, toward the east 10,000 in width, and toward the south 25,000 in length; and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in its midst.             Ezekiel 48:8-10  NASB

Could it be that with the support of President Trump and Putin, the Temple could actually be rebuilt as predicted in the scriptures?  I believe it is entirely possible, especially if they can come up with a solution which would somehow mollify the Muslim community with regards to the Temple Mount.  The generally accepted school of thought is that this temple will be built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, sharing space with the existing Muslim shrines.  It will be defiled by the antichrist after three and one half years, and eventually be destroyed at the end of the Great Tribulation when the Temple Mount is split in two by a great earthquake.

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.                   Zechariah 14:4  NKJV

This destruction will naturally require a fourth temple to be built, which is the one we find described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 which scholars refer to as the “Millennial Temple”.  It is a massive structure much larger than the original temple, and according to the description given in the passage above, is located not in Jerusalem but north of the city “beside the border of Judah”.  By studying scripture and comparing the geographical descriptions of the different areas revealed in this passage, many believe that the location of the temple will be where the ancient city of Shiloh was located.  There is historical precedent for this location because this is where the Tabernacle stood for close to 400 years before the Israelites made Jerusalem their capital.

As I studied the subject of the temple, and began to search the scripture for passages relating to temples past and present, I noticed a few things that made me wonder if there was something we might be missing if we follow the accepted school of thought concerning four temples.  First of all, the Bible only speaks of three temples, not four.  Nowhere are we told of a third temple being built on the Temple Mount, rather it has simply been assumed that one will be.  The only temples revealed in scripture are Solomon’s temple, Zerubbabel’s or Herod’s temple, and the Millennial temple.

Now you might think that in itself may not be enough to cause those who advocate for four temples to rethink their position, and I would agree.  So let’s look at something else that might be cause to reconsider.  Most understand that the antichrist will defile the temple three and a half years after the peace agreement which begins the seven year tribulation, in an event referred to as the “abomination of desolation”.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”          Daniel 9:27  NKJV

We also know that this has happened once before in 167 BC by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  This resulted in a revolt by the Jews and eventually to a cleansing and rededication of the temple which is celebrated to this day by the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.  So what is my point?  There is a saying by biblical scholars which states; “pattern is prologue”.  The study of typology in the scripture has shown that much of what has happened throughout the Bible was setting a pattern that would be repeated at a later date.  My question is this; if the antichrist defiling the temple is a repeat of the first “abomination of desolation”, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the future temple will be cleansed and rededicated rather than destroyed?

I want you to look closely at a verse from this same chapter from Daniel, which contains a phrase that I believe may be overlooked by many.

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.                    Daniel 9:24  NASB

This verse relates what has come to be known as the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks.  It reveals God’s plan for the nation of Israel from that time until the end when He will return to earth.  It also lists six things which will be accomplished at the end of those seventy weeks.  Did you catch that last phrase?  “and to anoint the most holy  place”.  This phrase in the Hebrew is “mashach qodesh qodesh” , which is translated “to Anoint; to smear, anoint, spread a liquid”.   Anoint what?   Scholars and commentators agree that the most holy (place) is the temple.  If this is the case, doesn’t it seem logical to assume that it is not destroyed, but rather consecrated for millennial worship?   Are we being told here that there are just three temples, not four?  This phrase was used in the book of Exodus as well and was also referring to anointing the Tabernacle.

And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint (mashach) the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.    Exodus 40:9  KJV

Again, this might not be enough for some to change their belief in how many temples there will be, but I want to suggest that this scenario is a very believable one in light of the current situation that exists between the Muslims and the Jewish people.  It seems much more believable that the Islamic world would allow a temple to be built in Shiloh rather than on the Temple Mount.  With the authority of the prophecy of Ezekiel, it seems reasonable that the Jewish people would agree as well.  As I have studied this subject, I have found that there are others who have asked this same question and agree that this scenario is a distinct possibility.

Whatever God’s plans for the temple mount are, it appears that we will know very, very soon just what they are.  Of course, let’s not forget that as believers in Jesus Christ and having accepted His sacrifice for our sins, if the Temple is rebuilt during the first half of the seven year tribulation as many believe, we will watch these events from the comfort of our heavenly home.

Keep watching.