Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Is prophesy exciting, or what?! I get so “pumped” by reading about what God has planned for his servants. Praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel that he has made a way for us to become “sons of God” through Christ! [Galatians 3:26]. And I praise God that he is in control – we do not need to be afraid of the events that are unfolding.
One of the most important events in our day involves the nation of Israel. We should watch current events of the re-born nation of Israel very carefully as we wait for Christ’s inevitable return. An understanding of God’s plan for Israel is crucial to understanding our times.
God’s covenant promise to Jacob, to give his descendents the promised land is as true today as it was 4,000 years ago:
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." [emphasis mine]
In this passage we see that God’s original promise to Abraham of the land [see Genesis 12:1-3] was passed on through to Jacob. Muslims claim that the land of Israel is theirs because they claim to be descendents of Abraham through his first son Ishmael. Ishmael was born to Abraham through Hagar, Sarah’s maid-servant. However, God’s promise of the land did not flow through the lineage of Ishmael; it flows through the lineage of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob(later renamed Israel) as is confirmed by the above and other scripture verses.
In Genesis 28:15 God states to Jacob that he will bring Jacob’s descendants back into this land. After almost 4,000 years of punishment and banishment from the promised land, the return to the land occurred when the modern state of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948. The fact that the modern state of Israel was declared in one day is prophetic and significant:
8 Who has ever heard of such a thing?
Who has ever seen such things?
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
than she gives birth to her children.
The birth of Israel in 1948 is described in this verse. Zion in labor, or “travailing” as the King James version writes, is descriptive of the WWII holocaust, where 6 million Jews were exterminated. Three years after the most intense persecution in history of the Jews, the nation of Israel was born in one day.
A related prophesy to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel, is Christ’s “Olivet prophesy”, or Jesus’ prophesy given to his disciples on the Mount of Olives:
32"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. [emphasis mine]
The fig tree is used in the Bible to represent the nation of Israel. The twigs of the fig tree becoming tender and its leaves coming out is speaking of God’s fulfilled promise to Jacob and of the nation of Israel being re-established in the promised land. Israel does not currently possess most of the land that God promised to Abraham, for this land includes everything between the Nile and the Euphrates Rivers [Genesis 15:18]. The fight between the Muslim nations currently occupying this land and Israel will ignite the final battle of Armageddon. Indeed, since Israel’s re-establishment in 1948, there have been continuing military battles between Israel and its neighbours: 1948 War of Independence;1967 6-Day War; and the 1973 Yom Kippur War; to name some of the major ones. Today, it seems Israel is in the news every day. Can the end of this age be very far away?
Isn’t it, at the very least, perplexing that the whole world is so vexed over what to do with the little sliver of land we call Israel? Why can’t the nations simply follow Bush’s Two-State Solution and end the killing? The answer, as always, is in scripture. God said that people would be vexed over what to do with Israel:
Zechariah 12:2-3 (King James Version)
2Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
3And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
As I stated in the beginning of this post, this deserves repeating: praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel that he is in control. He has made these things known to us in advance, and we can know confidently that the world is simply following God’s predetermined plan to bring this age to a conclusion.
I gratefully acknowledge Dave Hunt’s book: “Judgment Day – Islam, Israel and the Nations” as a source of some of my information. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. You can get it through the Berean Call as an eBook or hard copy – and no, I am not associated with the Berean Call in any way, shape or form. I just love their ministry.
Monday, March 13, 2006
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. [I Thessalonians 4:16-18, NIV]
Praise the Lord! He is coming back! Simply by looking at the state of the world, I am inclined to think it will be sooner, rather than later and that’s as specific as I get about the timing of his return. As Christians, these verses should massively motivate us to confront every soul we can with the message of God’s free gift of mercy and salvation, before it is too late – and yes, there will come a time when it will be too late. There will be a reckoning.
These versus should NOT cause us to bury our talents, or spiritual gifts, in the ground [Matthew 25:14-28], in effect hibernate and idly wait for Christ’s return. Christ gave us the Great Commission to go and make disciples, and this charge does not end until: A) he comes, or B) we die. Either one of these two scenarios can happen at any moment. There is no prophetic event that needs to happen before Christ’s return. It can happen at any time.
Don’t Play the Timing Game:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. [Matthew 24:42-44]
Almost two thousand years ago, Christ stated that he will return “…at an hour when we do not expect him.” To me, this is somewhat of a rebuke – even though I think I’m actively watching for his return, he will come at an hour when I do not expect him. Even though I’m actively writing in this forum about Christ’s return, I should be certain that he will come at an hour when I do not expect him. Therefore, these verses tell me that I should not waste time and credibility guessing the day or hour of his return. Joseph Smith Jr, principal founder of Mormonism, fell into this trap and specifically named the date of Christ’s return (1891 in Smith’s case), only to be proven wrong. As a Christian, I should do my best to “stand at the ready” as though I was waiting for a thief to break into my house, and in the meantime do what God has called me to do, with the talents he has given me. The exact day and hour of Christ’s return will still be a surprise because Jesus said it would be in Matthew 24.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Epiphany: 1. A divine manifestation. 2. A moment of sudden understanding or revelation.
Sometimes it’s nothing less than funny how God works. I have just received a revelation of what God wants me to do. I have been very frustrated lately about not knowing God’s will – considering I’ve been praying fervently and consulting him regularly. It started last October, when I got a fantastic job offer from a great, reputable company in the energy industry. The job was a definite step up for me: it was a managerial job with a great salary, up to 20% annual bonus, and a signing bonus – it looked like a very busy position but it also looked awesome! BUT…for some reason I couldn’t get any peace about accepting the job offer. From an earthly point of view, it was absolutely the right thing to do. However, when the company sent me the offer letter and contract, I prayed about it, lost all sorts of sleep over it, told the company “yes”, then “no”, then “yes”, then “I have to think about it some more”, until the company finally got tired of my flip-flopping and revoked the offer. Rightfully, the company told me that “…it seemed like I wasn’t comfortable with making the commitment”. I think that was their kind way of saying: “you can’t make up your #^&% mind. My sincere apologies to them and my wife – I was driving both of them up the wall (across the ceiling and down the adjacent wall) with my indecision.
Why was I so undecided?! I was praying for a definite answer, but I still couldn’t get a definite ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I just got an undefined, uneasy feeling and nothing else. Well, this whole thing was emotionally draining for me and I was really disappointed that God wasn’t showing me explicitly what he wanted. This disappointment was compounded by the fact that my current job is not very interesting, not very challenging and not going anywhere - so why could I not get peace about accepting the other, seemingly much better, job? Answer: Because God was saying to me: “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”. [Matthew 6:20]. That job would have made me incredibly busy. My spiritual life, my family, and my ability to provide greater Christian service would have suffered due to the time commitment that was demanded by that job.
BINGO! Thank God he was indeed speaking to me. He is telling me to focus less on the material aspects of life and focus on the things that have lasting value. Duh! Sometimes I’m sure God thinks I’m completely dense. God isn’t interested in me buying a bigger house, nicer car, and having a more prestigious job title. He is interested in my unyielding desire to serve him – key word here is “serve”. God isn’t interested in giving us the most luxurious life possible regardless of our spiritual condition and priorities. He is interested in us being 100% yielded to him AND then, as an added bonus “…all these things (material blessings) will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). I should mention that there were two things that (finally) led me to this epiphany:
- I have been bothered, over the last number of months, by how little eschatology (the study of end times and of heaven and hell) is discussed in the church. It’s estimated that twenty-five percent (25%) of the bible is dedicated to future and, as of yet, unfulfilled prophesy and nobody is actively talking about it – at least in the churches I have attended. I have been greatly troubled by this. I have been casually reading about eschatology for a few years and just finished another excellent book entitled “From Iraq to Armageddon” by Keith Intrater. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but the ending especially made an impact on me (and hopefully it will be a profound impact). The book ends with a discussion on heavenly rewards for the Christian. Intrater quotes the following verses:
"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:47-48, NIV)
These verses are not talking about punishment for unbelievers, because punishment for unbelievers is eternal damnation in the lake of fire. This punishment, limited to “few” or “many” blows, is referring to believers who chose to act or not act on their knowledge of God’s will.
These verses are telling me personally that if I feel uneasy or uncomfortable about the lack of eschatological sermons in the church today, I should do what I can about it. God has pointed this lack of discussion out to me; now it is my responsibility to do something about it, lest I be guilty and deserving of “many blows”.
- I began this post by saying how funny God works sometimes. Well the second reason leading to my epiphany was just such a funny and remote possibility. I was reading an article in a magazine about how a church was having incredible political strife within it’s ranks. A long-serving couple had been excommunicated from the church and things soon got ugly within the church after that. Well, this story intrigued me, so I searched out this church on the internet. I surfed to the church’s home page and immediately noticed that two past friends of mine were mentioned as workers in the church.
I tried to email this couple to try and give them some encouragement and say hi, but I didn't have their current email address. However, what I think may have been just as important is that somehow I stumbled upon their blog. This is amazing in itself because blogs by their very nature are normally quite anonymous, and this blog was no exception. But somehow I found their blog, through the anonymous blog of another long lost friend, which details their recent departure for a six month missions trip to South Africa. What an inspiring (and actually quite hilarious) blog it is turning out to be. This couple has left their comfortable existence in a major City, their home, and their friends and are being obedient to God’s calling and pursuing his will. Some of their stories are absolutely comical and can be found at http://gowellstaywell.blogspot.com.
This couple has inspired me to “get to work for the Lord”. The blog talks about their hardships in an entirely different and primitive culture. It caused me to think that if they can go all the way to South Africa to follow their convictions, certainly I should act on what the Lord is telling me. End result is I need to get to work. As Luke 12 states, I need to get to work because I think God has been talking to me, and will hold me accountable for focusing on an end times ministry. God help me to be obedient to what he has been telling me these last five months. Honestly, I’m psyched to do it, but it isn't without a little fear - eschatology is an overwhelming subject. Thanks Cathy and Dan, even though you don’t know it, you’ve given me a profound example, inspiration and a much needed “kick in the pants” to get moving on what God has asked me to do.
"If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!" [Mark 13:36-37, NIV]
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
As an update to my posting yesterday, an interesting story was published in the Globe&Mail today. According to the article, Canada Customs has started using dogs at international airports to sniff for bird feathers and bird feces on the shoes of inbound passengers from select European countries. I guess since Canada had the SARS crisis in Ontario, it is trying to be vigilant with avian flu. This is a good precaution, however it will be difficult (read: impossible) to stop avian flu coming into Canada via migrating birds. Also a bit alarming was the report out of Germany yesterday that a cat was found infected with the virus – this marks the first time that the flu has jumped species in Europe.
I joined a short discussion in my company’s lunchroom yesterday about our healthcare system. The discussion was about how our health system is facing unprecedented pressures due to the aging population and escalating healthcare costs. I unintentionally ended the discussion when I mentioned that an avian flu outbreak would likely bring our already stressed healthcare system to a halt. That promptly brought the discussion to an end and people seemed to get up and leave the lunchroom soon after I brought up my concern about avian flu. People don’t seem to want to talk about things they can’t control. I think it is considered Canadian politeness not to talk about potentially catastrophic events. Granted, if I was a non-Christian I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. To a Christian, these end time events are a call to “…look up, for [our] redemption draws nigh.”