Fri, Oct 31st - 6:22AM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
In Daniel 11:13-16 we find a phrase “at the end of some years” which appears to refer to a historical incident when 14 years after his defeat, Antiochus III came against Ptolemy V, still a young boy. The Egyptian provinces were suffering turmoil because of the wretched rule of Ptolemy IV. Many of the people, including Jews, joined with Antiochus against their own king. The rebellion was eventually crushed by the Egyptian general Scopus (verse 14).
This general repelled the forces of Antiochus but Antiochus came with another invasion and captured the city of Sidon (a fortified city), where Scopus surrendered (verse 15). Antiochus at this time acquired complete control of the Holy Land, the “Glorious Land” (verse 16).
In verse 17 we read about how the king of the North will continue to be determined to advance his armies’ full might. He ends up agreeing to a treaty with Egypt’s Ptolemy, giving his young daughter in marriage to him, with the intent of destroying Egypt. Cleopatra is his daughter given in marriage to Ptolemy V. Antiochus desired his daughter to betray her husband but she chose instead to betray her father.
In verses 18-19 we read about how in his frustration to his schemes, Antiochus attacked islands and cities of Aegean area. He gave asylum to Rome’s enemy, Hannibal of Carthage, who aided him in landing in Greece. Rome responded by attacking Antiochus and defeating his forces. The Romans took away much of his acquired territory and took several hostages to Rome as well as requiring heavy tribute of him.
Unable to pay the heavy fees instituted by Rome, he tried to plunder a pagan temple. The local people were so enraged that they killed him, thus bringing his life to an inglorious end (verse 19).
Verse 20 relates to the way Antiochus’s other son, Seleucus IV, died. He couldn’t pay the Roman taxes either, and tried to rob the temple in Jerusalem. He eventually died from poisoning, “but not in anger or in battle.”
Next time, beloved, I will write about Antiochus Epiphanes and the next 14 verses of Daniel 11. Until then, peace and grace be with you all.
Wed, Oct 29th - 8:06PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
Daniel 11 gives us another phenomenal prophecy in which its chronological setting is given to us in Daniel 10:1. This prophecy is perhaps the most detailed one of the entire Bible. The third year of Cyrus was more than 500 years before Christ Jesus’ birth. But this prophecy foretells events that began to happen almost immediately in Daniel’s day and will continue until the day of Christ’s return to earth.
The first 35 verses of Daniel 11 give us an account of the political intrigues of two political entities; the king of the South and the king of the North. In history, the king of the South is normally referred to as Ptolemy. The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled from Alexandria in Egypt. The king of the north ruled from Antioch in Syria under the name of Seleucus, or Antiochus.
This point in history is important to our understanding for it reveals the political climate and tensions in the entire region preceding both the first and second appearances of Christ Jesus as the Messiah. Both times Jerusalem is at the center of the conflicts of the time.
I am not going to quote entire Scriptural passages but I recommend that you read them in your own Bible as I cite them, and try to remember that these details were foretold far, far in advance of their occurance.
Dan 11:2 And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
These three kings are Cambyses, the elder son of Cyrus; Smerdis who was an imposter passing himself off as Cyrus’s younger son who had been secretly killed; and Darius the Persian.
Verse three introduces us to the rise of Alexander the Great. His reign was short even though he quickly conquered all lands that he went up against. In 7-8 years he accomplished an amazing military conquest in human history. His kingdom was divided upon his early death:
Dan 11:4 And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those
Dan 11:3 And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. .
Alexander’s son was murdered in 310 and his illegitimate brother was killed in 317. He had no blood relatives to succeed himself. Thus his posterity did not receive his kingdom. It came down to his four generals fighting for control of the empire. These were Cassander who reigned in Greece and the West, Lysimachus in Thrace and Asia Minor, Ptolemy in Egypt and Seleucus in Syria. Ptolemy and Seleucus expanded their rule and territory while the other two did not. These two kings are referred to as “king of the South and king of the North” due to their locations relative to Jerusalem.
In verse five reference is made to the southern king being a prince of someone else. As strong as Ptolemy was, he still became a prince of Seleucus over time as Seleucus wielded more power than him. The dynasty of the Seleucid line lasted until 64 B.C.
In verse 6 we read about how the daughter of the king of the South should marry the son of the northern king to attempt a treaty of peaceful coexistence. In reality this happened, but the first wife of Antiochus II who had been banished schemed to have Berenice, his second wife from Ptolemy, assassinated. This woman then established herself as queen since her infant son was too young to rule. Berenice was indeed “given up” just as prophecy foretold. Some of those who had supported Berenice as their queen were also murdered by Laodice, Antiochus II’s first wife. The next several verses recount retaliations. A series of military actions ensued, known in history as the Laodicean War. Ptolemy II died soon after his daughter Berenice. Ptolemy III sought to avenge his sister’s death. He attacked Antiochus and captured the Syrian capital of Antioch. Peace was reached between the two warring parties in 240 and lasted until Ptolemy III’s death in 221.
In verses 10-12 we can then see that the sons of Seleucus II came for revenge and attacked the king of the South. One son reigned for only three years before being poisoned to death. Another son, Antiochus III (the Great), did in fact overwhelm and pass through Egypt. He conquered Judea.
Ptolemy IV came from the South, retaliated, and defeated the larger army of Seleucus III at the Battle of Raphia. Ptolemy turned to debauchery after this victory, slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews in Egypt. His kingdom became weak over time.
I will stop there, beloved. I hope that you will take time to read chapter 11 of Daniel in order to gain a more complete picture of history in this region. Until next time, peace and grace be yours.
Mon, Oct 27th - 8:43PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
Another prophecy of Daniel’s is his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two of Daniel. The Babylonian king had a dream that none of his magicians or wisemen could interpret, nor would they dare to guess at its solution. Due to cultural influences, dreams were relied upon greatly in Babylonian society. The king demanded an interpretation.
His dream gives us a blueprint of God’s plan for the ages till Christ Jesus’ triumphant return. It gives us the foreordained succession of world powers that are to dominate the Middle East.
Without being told what the dream was, Daniel gives the explanation of the dream to the king
Dan 2:28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
Dan 2:29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
Dan 2:30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.
Dan 2:31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.
Dan 2:32 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
Dan 2:33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
Dan 2:34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
Dan 2:35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
First, Daniel related to the king what was in his dream. This showed the king that his interpretation to follow would be unique. Daniel informed the king that the interpretation was not from him, but given to him from God. Here is the interpretation:
Dan 2:36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
Dan 2:37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
Dan 2:38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
Dan 2:39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
Dan 2:40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
Dan 2:41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
Dan 2:42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
Dan 2:43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
Dan 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Dan 2:45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Dan 2:46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
Dan 2:47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.
So the king of Babylon was the head of gold. The silver, bronze, and iron parts of the image represented three powerful empires that were still to come after Babylon.
This dream and its interpretation happened around 600 B.C. and represented symbolically the following empires. Silver was the Medo-Persian Empire that conquered Babylon. Cyrus the Great was its leader and took control of Babylon in 539. They ruled supreme for about two centuries. The bronze was the Greco-Macedonian Empire ruled by Alexander the Great. This empire ruled for about 260-300 years. The iron empire was the Roman Empire and it existed for many centuries. This empire was depicted as having ten toes. The feet and toes were said to be made up of clay and iron mixed together. This part of the image represents the future where the Roman system is represented by a confederation and not a single imperial ruler.
A later dream of Daniel’s revealed more details about these future empires.
Dan 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Dan 7:2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
Dan 7:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
Dan 7:4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
Dan 7:5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
Dan 7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
Dan 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
Dan 7:8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Dan 7:9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
Dan 7:10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Dan 7:11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
Dan 7:12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
Dan 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Dan 7:15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
Dan 7:16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
Dan 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
Dan 7:18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
Dan 7:19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
Dan 7:20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
Dan 7:21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
Dan 7:22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Dan 7:23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
Dan 7:24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
Dan 7:25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Dan 7:26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
Dan 7:27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
This time four beasts represent the four empires. The lion represented Babylon, the bear represented Medo-Persia, the leopard represented Greco-Macedonia, and the fourth beast represented Rome. The last beast is called dreadful and terrible, it was diverse, it broke everything in its path into pieces. It had iron teeth.
That fourth beast described Rome perfectly for they crushed those who opposed them. But in this dream the beast has ten horns rather than ten toes. And Daniel is given the interpretation of all of this. He is told that the ten horns represent ten rulers, kings, that will arise from out of the Roman Empire represented here. But then another horn, or ruler, arises from out of those ten original rulers. He shall subdue three of the rulers and exalt himself as ruler of all. He shall speak great words, be eloquent, charismatic even. He shall change times, and laws to suit his agenda. He shall seek to be worshipped worldwide. And, he shall be able to persecute the saints mightily for a short time.
So we see that the old Roman system has never totally gone away, even today. In the Vatican we can see the religious vestiges of the Roman religious institution. All of the European nations basically have derived themselves from out of the ruins of the Roman Empire.
So in this prophecy we are given history right through the return of Christ in the end times. We shall soon look at the third time that this last beast/empire is spoken of in the Bible. I would point out at this time the quizzical phrase found in verse 25: “and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. “ Here we are given a time frame for how long these days will last. It needs to be joined with other prophecy that deals with this same time frame in future history.
Until then, beloved, peace and grace be yours.
Sun, Oct 26th - 8:12AM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
Jer 29:14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
Jer 29:10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Jer 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
Jer 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
We resume today with these verses from Jeremiah. We discover this remarkable prophecy that was fulfilled to the letter. This 70-year period seemingly began with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple---center of Jewish worship---in 586 B.C. and ended with the completion of a new temple in Jerusalem in 516 B.C. The Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah record this return of many of the Jewish exiles from Babylon.
Among the Jewish captives led away from Judah to exile in Babylon was one young man whose Hebrew name was Daniel, renamed Belteshazzar by the Babylonians:
Dan 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
Dan 1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
Dan 1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
Dan 1:4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Dan 1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Dan 1:6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Dan 1:7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
These young men lived during the remarkable times of the downfall of both Judah and Babylon. Daniel served as a high official (sounds like Joseph?) in both the Babylonian government and that of its successor, the Medo-Persain Empire.
The book of Daniel prophesied events fulfilled many centuries ago as well as major events still to come today. His book reveals a history of the region, written in advance, from Daniel’s time right up to the return of Christ Jesus. Yet at the end of his book God instructed him to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase”(Daniel 12:4). This logically indicates that certain major prophecies that previously did not make any sense will be understandable as the last days approach.
Many of Daniel’s prophecies are so detailed and specific that their content is not challenged by skeptics, they simply attempt to label the entire book as a fraud. The skeptics claim that this book was not written in the sixth century B.C. but in the 160s B.C., after many of the events written about in the book had come to pass. It is to be expected, for do we not all participate, to some extent, in this same practice each day? Those things in which we are incredulous we tend to pass off as fraudulent, hoaxes.
Daniel’s testimony challenges all critics. Let’s first consider the nature of the critics’ approach. They dispute his authorship because he refers to himself in the early chapters in the third person, as if writing about someone else. However, as The Expostor’s Bible Commentary points out, this “was the custom among ancient authors of historical memoirs…” (1985, Vol. 7. P4). In relating some of his experiences Daniel did write in the first person (7:15, 8:15, 9:2, 10:2).
The identity of the critics is significant as well. The first person to question the authenticity of Daniel was the Greek scholar and historian Porphyry, who lived A.D. 233-304. He is considered a Neoplatonist, which means he believed in the doctrines of the Greek philosopher Plato rather than the Bible. He was known as a violent opponent of Christianity and a defender of Paganism. His objectivity is open to question due to his beliefs. He had no factual evidence to support his belief that Daniel did not author this book, and his view contradicted the direct testimony of Christ Jesus who referred to Daniel as the author of the book in Matthew 24:15.
Over time biblical scholars dismissed Porphyry’s opinion, that the man had allowed a naturalistic bias to warp his judgment. But then during the years of the Enlightenment in the 18th century, all supernatural elements in Scripture came under renewed suspicion. Some of today’s liberal scholars have recycled these very old arguments and now are questioning all supernatural elements of the Bible again. Some things never change.
But Daniel’s prophecies show amazing accuracy. In the “70 weeks” prophecy found in 9:24-27 he predicted the precise year of Christ’s appearance and the beginning of His ministry among us:
Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Dan 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
I will come back to this passage later in this study to examine it more closely, but for now notice how precisely the time frames are laid out by God to Daniel. God told Daniel exactly how long it would be between the time that the Jews were told they could go and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple and when it would be finished. God also told Daniel how long after that was completed it would be before their Messiah would come to save all mankind. God also gave Daniel a period of time during which a covenant would be confirmed and then broken, causing a time of wickedness and desolation until the end, or consummation. We can then combine what God told Jeremiah with what God told Daniel and see that God was speaking to them about the same historical time period. Seventy weeks of years covers the remainder of history. Seven weeks represents the seventy years of the Babylonian exile. Sixty-two more weeks of years covers the time from when Jerusalem was rebuilt until Christ appeared. Those time frames are pretty understandable, but what of those last seven weeks? It would appear that those last seven weeks of years are “the times of the Gentiles,” as the time since Christ’s ascension has been labeled.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I aim to look into chapter two of Daniel where the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar is found. This dream gives an accounting of what empires would be coming in the future and dominating the world during their reigns. Until then, peace and grace.
Fri, Oct 24th - 8:23PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
We also need to understand how Israel ended up going through the things that it did. These experiences of the nation fulfilled prophecy, prophecy spoken hundreds of years, in some instances, before coming true.
In Exodus 11 and 12 we can read about the prophecies concerning the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The coming of Moses fulfilled what God said back in Genesis. But due to unbelief in the promises of God caused the people to be forced to wander out in the desert wilderness for 40 years, long enough for all of the adult men to die. Except of course, for Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and one other. Several prophecies were given and fulfilled during this time and can be found in the books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges.
We can find the establishment of the Israeli monarchy spoken of back in Genesis 49:8, 10. Like many prophecies within Scriptures, this one was dual in nature. This means that it had more than one intended meaning or fulfillment; it foretold David becoming king and it also foretold the coming Messiah, Christ Jesus.
After righteous King David’s death, his son Solomon assumed the throne of Israel. He had it all; a powerful kingdom, humility, wisdom, and wealth granted to him by God (I Kings 3:11-13). Under Solomon’s reign the Israeli kingdom grew even more powerful, dominating the entire region.
But, while Solomon knew what he should do, he lacked the character and conviction to carry it out in his life. His heart was not centered solely upon God, and he allowed his heart to be pulled into serving the pagan gods and idols of the lands around him. Through the many concubines and wives that he accumulated he gave place to temptation and idolatry:
1Ki 11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;
1Ki 11:2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
1Ki 11:3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
1Ki 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
1Ki 11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
1Ki 11:6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
So through personal disobedience Solomon caused his entire nation to suffer judgment from God. Does this sound like it could apply to America today, beloved? If our leaders personally disobey the laws of God, could our entire nation now be at risk of facing judgment from God because of it?
At any rate, Solomon’s poorly chosen path set the kingdom on a road from which there would be no recovery. God announced that He would tear the kingdom away from Solomon and give it to one of his subjects (I Kings 11:11-13). Most of the kingdom tribes would split away to follow a rival; only a minority would remain to follow Solomon’s son and the kings of David’s lineage.
This prophecy got fulfilled a few years later at Solomon’s death; most of the tribes left to follow Jeroboam, leader of the northern kingdom, Israel. The rest of the tribes remained with Rehoboam, leader of the southern kingdom, Judah. The term Jew derived from this southern kingdom. This word first appears in the Bible in II Kings 16:5-6:
2Ki 16:6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day.
2Ki 16:5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him.
These two kingdoms would become rivals, and sometimes even enemies, over the next two centuries.
It is easy to assume that Jews and Israelites are one and the same people. But this is not true by what scriptures tell us. History and the Bible show that they were two separate kingdoms. Israel’s first king, Jeroboam, quickly established a pattern of idolatry and of mixing elements of true and false worship from which the northern kingdom would never depart (I Kings 12:26-33). Many God-sent prophets warned the Israelite kings of the destruction that would come if they did not return to worshipping the Living God, Jehovah.
The first was Ahijah:
1Ki 14:6 And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.
1Ki 14:7 Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel,
1Ki 14:8 And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes;
1Ki 14:9 But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:
1Ki 14:10 Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.
1Ki 14:11 Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.
1Ki 14:12 Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.
1Ki 14:13 And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.
1Ki 14:14 Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now.
1Ki 14:15 For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.
1Ki 14:16 And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.
The dual meaning here is that because of Jeroboam’s sins the entire kingdom of Israel would pay the consequences, and today America is paying the consequences of listening to its ungodly leaders and their rules on living.
Being taken “beyond the river” meant beyond the Eupharates, and this meant at the hands of the coming Assyrian Empire to the east. Among the prophets to come after Ahijah were Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. The warnings went unheeded and in the year 722 B.C. through a series of attacks, invasions, and deportations, the entire northern kingdom was crushed and its people carried away in slavery at the hands of the Assyrians.
One would only think that the southern kingdom would have taken notice and cleaned up their act, right? While they too abandoned worshipping God and sank into moral and spiritual depravity, they did have a handful of kings who turned back to God and reformed the kingdom with the goal of turning all of the people back to proper worship of God.
They were somewhat successful in achieving this, although it was only temporary. Judah outlasted Israel by more than a century, but they too finally paid a heavy price for rejecting God their Creator.
The prophet Isaiah spoke to king Hezekiah and revealed the specific enemy that would place Judah in bondage if the people refused to repent:
2Ki 20:16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD.
2Ki 20:17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
2Ki 20:18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
God sent more prophets over the years but Juday did not listen to them and in 586 B.C. the kingdom fell to none other than the Babylonians. Historical records of the Assyrians and Babylonians confirm this as fact. Now, whereas the fate of the northern ten tribes is ultimately unknown, the two tribes from the southern kingdom were given the opportunity to return to their homeland some 70 years later. This was prophesied by Jeremiah in chapter 29:10-14.
That is more than enough for tonight, beloved. I hope that this was not too long for you to follow along. I wish to get through the historical information of the past to get to our present and the future, which is what we are all so interested in these days. I would ask you to ponder the very real possibility that America is beginning to suffer the consequences of its leaders’ actions of the past 50 years, just as did the northern and southern kingdoms of former Israel. How long would God allow our leaders to continue to condone killing unborn infants, cheating people out of their money, and making money an idol of the entire nation? How long would God stand aside and allow our teenage daughters to become victims of pornography, our adult men and women to become victims of childhood abuse and then perpetuate this upon another generation of children? How long? How long would He allow our leaders to lie to the people, just to gain more money for themselves and their cronies? Or help create a situation where an entire economic system is crippled so that they can guarentee winning a national election? Mankind is not basically good at heart, beloved. We are a selfish, greedy bunch out to gain whatever we can at someone else’s expense. We will slander good peoples’ names to elevate our own; we will blame others of being intolerant even while exhibiting the same flaw ourselves.
I warn all of you to take a very careful look at who is running for President this fall. Look very carefully at who they represent, not just the individual who is actually running for the Oval Office. In my opinion, neither candidate has convinced me that they will put country before party needs. Neither candidate has stepped up to the plate and left party platform behind for the good of this nation. I am still waiting gentlemen…it is serving God, nation, and THEN worrying about your precious selves and party! Ron Paul, you never should have bowed out. You should have been even more forceful and gotten to debate these other people! Until next time, peace and grace be yours.
Thu, Oct 23rd - 8:28PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
Let’s continue onward with Abram and his family as they ventured out into the unknown country and journeyed toward their future home. God had told Abram that He would tell him when he had reached the promised land. And so Abram traveled along until he arrived in the new land that God had promised to him and his descendants in Genesis 12:
Gen 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Gen 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Gen 12:4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
Gen 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Gen 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.
Gen 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
Gen 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
Gen 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Gen 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
In these two passages from out of Genesis, we can see that a lot of real estate was promised to Abram and his physical descendants. This was to become their homeland as the People of God. These prophecies were hard to imagine for them since Sarah was barren. She had not given birth to any children and she was well aged by this time. In Genesis 15:4 God informed them that they would have an heir. Sarah, impatient and weak in faith, told her husband to go sleep with her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar. Sarah reasoned that this would guarentee her husband an heir as God had promised. God did not need her efforts to fulfill His promises. In Genesis 16:4 we can witness Abram and Hagar sleeping together and she conceiving a male child. Up to this time Hagar had not despised her mistress but upon conceiving a child she began to hate Sarah. Who would have ever thought such feelings could ever arise? Anyway, their relationship rapidly fell apart and Hagar fled from Sarah fearing for her life.
But God spoke to Hagar and told her to return for her son would have many descendants; they would have traits that would be evident throughout history.
Gen 16:12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
Gen 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
Gen 16:8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
Gen 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
Gen 16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
Gen 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
Many of today’s Arabs are Ishmaelites; descendants of this same Ishamael, whose father was Abraham. Muhammed, the founder and prophet of Islam, was descended from Kedar, one of the 12 sons of Ishmael (Ismail, in Arabic). Today 22 nations in the Middle East and North Africa are Arabic nations, most of whom are followers of Islam.
Those words God spoke to Hagar so long ago are not empty words in today’s world. The prophecy that Ishmael would be a wild man is not meant as an insult. This merely referred to how they would live, a free and noble existence in the desert. The independent lifestyle is foretold in verse 12. That he would be in conflict with his own kinfolk is foretold as well. So we should not be at all surprised that the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac fight all of the time. God prophesied that this was to be their way throughout history.
Once Isaac was born, Sarah requested of her husband to send Hagar and her son away for she did not wish the two boys to jointly inherit the promised land. God told Abraham to listen to his wife. God also told him that Ishmael would become a great nation as well. For fourteen years Ishmael had had his father all to himself and then Isaac was born and everything changed. Envy and rivalry entered the relationship and down through the long centuries these feelings have tribally survived and now affect the politics of the Middle East today.
But more family complications were still to come. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, twins by his beloved wife Rebekah. Before they were born God informed her that she had two nations in her womb. One would be stronger than the other, the older would serve the younger. As is seen in Genesis 25:22 both brothers fathered great nations, a blessing from God to Abraham’s grandsons.
Culturally the elder son would receive the birthright to inherit from his father, but here it was different. Esau, the elder son, sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob, for a bowl of lentil stew because he was so hungry. Jacob later tricks his father into bestowing the birthright blessing (chapter 27), and must flee for his life because Esau is furious at his deception. Again, should we be surprised? But once more, the consequences of these actions still haunt us today.
The descendants of Esau, or Edom (Genesis 25:30), intermarried with Ishmael’s descendants, their bitterness and resentment against Jacob’s descendants intensifying over the centuries. Esau’s grandson Amalek (Genesis 36:12)was the father of the Amalekites, who became bitter enemies of Jacob’s descendants, the 12 tribes of Israel. In Exodus 17:16 prophecy was given that foretold of endless conflict between them. There is some belief that today’s Palestinians are largely the descendants of the Amalekites.
So that gives us a little historical overview of how we have gotten to where we are currently in the Middle East. Next time I am going to write about what happened to the original kingdom of Israel and what that history might imply will happen sometime in our future. Until then, seek out God, listen for the voice of Christ Jesus in the quiet of the evening or of the early morning. Seek for Truth. The times are now here which will require much of all of us. Be prepared.
Wed, Oct 22nd - 8:45PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
I am trying to not jump around too much in this study of last days. But we must understand the various factors that bring the Middle East to such an important point of contention today. Less than a hundred years ago this region was not noteworthy in any respect. No one really cared what happened there. What changed all of that?
One obvious reason was the discovery of so much oil in that region. It has become the lifeblood of modern economies. Without oil, entire industries would grind to a halt, our homes would not be heated, transportation would come to an abrupt stop. The global economy would become depressed. So the existence of oil alone ensures that the Middle East will be of importance during our lifetimes at least.
But there’s more that keeps this entire region in the news today. It is the birthplace of the world’s three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Nowhere do the conflicts between the three religions become more obvious than in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem. And within Jerusalem the focal point is the Temple Mount, flash point for many conflicts over the past centuries.
The Temple Mount first came to the attention of Israel’s second king, King David, who bought a threshing floor and built an altar on it, intending it for the site of the Temple (I Chronicles 21-22). This site became so named because it is where David’s son, Solomon, built the first Temple. Later the replacement Temple was built here by Zerubbabel and then enlarged by Herod the Great.
It was here that Jesus of Nazareth worshipped, taught and confronted the money changers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious authorities. The birth of Christianity was born in the Temple’s shadow. In A.D. 70 Titus, a Roman general, razed the Temple and eventually most of Jerusalem itself. A later Jewish rebellion in 132-135led to a Roman decree that no Jew was to set foot in Jerusalem on pain of death.
In 638 Muslim Arabs took the city. In 691 Muslims built the Dome of the Rock on that very same Temple Mount due to their belief that Muhammed ascended to heaven from that spot. Several centuries later the Crusaders captured Jerusalem, slaughtered Muslim and Jew alike and converted the Dome of the Rock into a church. Less than a century later, the Muslims recaptured it. Jerusalem changed hands three more times before Muslims took control of the city and held on to it from 1244-1917, at which time the Ottoman Empire lost control over it in World War I. Jerusalem came under British control and stayed that way until 1948 when they decided that they could no longer afford to police this region of the world. The previous two wars had depleted their resources and finances and they were finished as a world empire.
In 1948 the modern state of Israel was born, and immediately the surrounding Arab nations attacked. Israel survived, and later on in 1967 another war broke out between them and the Arab nations. As a result of this war Israel gained control of all of Jerusalem, though leaving the Temple Mount under Islamic authority.
Today one can see Muslims praying at the Dome of the Rock, Jews praying at the Western Wall below them, and Christians praying along the Via Dolorosa and at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a few hundred yards to the northwest.
Who will write the next chapter in the history of this troubled city? Amazingly, the final chapters are already written; they were prophesied centuries ago in the pages of the Bible. I hope to open them up to all of us as this study continues.
I suppose we must begin to understand the present day Middle East mess by gaining some historical knowledge of the three religions that originate from this area. All three faiths trace their spiritual roots back to the same individual, Abraham. The immense historical figures behind these three religions: Moses, Christ Jesus, and Muhammed were all direct descendants of Abraham.
Abraham, born in the Mesopotamian city of Ur, was the son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, a son of Noah. Born almost 4,000 years ago, Abraham’s impact on our world is still with us today. As a descendant of Shem, Abraham and his descendants were all Semitic people. In Genesis 11 we see:
Gen 11:10 These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
Gen 11:11 And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:12 And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:
Gen 11:13 And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:14 And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber:
Gen 11:15 And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:16 And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg:
Gen 11:17 And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:18 And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu:
Gen 11:19 And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:20 And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug:
Gen 11:21 And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:22 And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor:
Gen 11:23 And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah:
Gen 11:25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters.
Gen 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
We can see in this passage that Eber was a direct ancestor of
Abraham and it is from Eber that the term Hebrew comes from.
Called “the father of the faithful” in Romans 4:11, Abraham obeyed God’s instruction to leave his native Ur and move to Haran. Both Ur and Haran were Mesopotamian cities which were located in an area between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. We read of this move in Genesis 12:1-4 which followed the death of his father, Terah. The book of Hebrews adds some background to this event also in chapter 11.
I will stop there for tonight, beloved. Next time I will continue with this line of history. Until then, place your trust in Christ Jesus and look forward to that city that shall descend from heaven.
Tue, Oct 21st - 4:42PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
In II Peter 3:3-4 we read that: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” So we can be assured that there will be people who are going to mock those of us who believe that God is coming back at the last days of this age. Beloved, if you and I do not know the Word of God we’re not going to understand the events of the days that are to tell us, “Hey! Look up, your redemption is drawing near.” The Lord is coming, it’s the last days!
Even though we hear people scoffing and mocking at the Word of God, where can we find in scripture what is said about where revelation originated from and did not originate from?
2Pe 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
2Pe 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Here we are told that prophecy does not come from anyone’s private interpretation of God’s Word. Too many individuals over the centuries have done just that and consequently created brand new groups of followers. Those followers were attracted, not to the Word of God, but to the individual leader who came up with his/her own thoughts on what God had said. We need to be very careful in interpreting God’s Word, comparing it to itself. No revelations have ever come strictly from any man at any time in history. The revelation of God’s Word has come to us through the “inspired” writing of men who were affected by the Holy Spirit. God gave men the intent of what He desired to have written down, allowing them freedom to write in their own styles. To this day it is the Holy Spirit of God that leads us, not men or women.
2Pe 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
2Pe 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
2Pe 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
Here in II Peter we find that the Lord is not hemmed in by time as are we. We are creatures tied to the passage of time, we cannot control it, we are helpless to alter it. So in verse 8 we are informed that we are not to remain ignorant of the fact that time does not constrain God. One day is just like a thousand years and vice versa. This does not necessarily mean anything related to the Creation account in Genesis. Verse 8 relates to verse 9 in that it is to show us how God is not slack in reckoning time, He waits in order to give everyone ample time to decide to repent of their wrongful ways and return to worshipping Him.
I show you these verses for they give us a snapshot of what is to come upon us all from out of the blue. Just to jump ahead, the “day of the Lord” is not referencing Sunday but instead it is referring to the last day of history as we now know it. This is the day when Christ Jesus physically returns to this planet and begins judgment of all inhabitants of this world. I am not getting into a detailed discussion of this now, it can wait until its appointed time of application within this study. Some ask, “How will I know that this day is here?” Look at verse 10 and read very carefully. It will be quite difficult to not realize that the world is ending as we know it. Verses 11-14 then proceed to point out to all of us that if we are not living our lives as determined saints of Christ, then we need to begin doing so now. We ought to be eagerly anticipating the coming of our Lord from heaven to begin His reign here on earth, and be doing all that we can to help others repent and turn away from their sin. The apostles fully expected that Christ Jesus could very well return within their lifetimes, so they lived out their lives accordingly. So should we.
1Th 5:1 "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
1Th 5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
1Th 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
1Th 5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
1Th 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
1Th 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
1Th 5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
1Th 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Th 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 1Th 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
Again, I am giving you an entire passage that will come back into mind throughout this study. For now, focus upon the fact that the Last Day will be as sudden as when a thief comes and breaks into your home in the middle of the night. So prepare yourselves now, begin getting yourselves ready spiritually for the coming times of spiritual darkness that will cover the entire globe. We are to prepare just as professional athletes condition and prepare themselves for the strenuous activity that will be required of them while competing in an event Just as a marathon runner cannot finish their race well, if at all, unless they train ahead of time, so to we cannot expect to withstand the spiritual attacks that will come against us like a tsunami during these last days. We are, therefore, to practice loving each other as Christ Jesus loved each of us. We are not to fight, but to turn the other cheek. We are to lift up and teach each other from out of God’s Word.
Well, I failed badly at keeping this post short! My sincere apologies, beloved. Next time I shall bring a synopsis of why the Middle East is the focal point of the last days, as well as of most of our history. Until then, peace and grace be with you all.
Sun, Oct 19th - 9:41PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
We continue studying some verses in relation to why Israel is at the center of God's judgments. If we turn to Isaiah we find this:
Isa 54:7 "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee."
We see that God may forsake Israel for awhile, but once they repent of their sinful ways God will gather them back to Himself with mercy. Just as He does with anyone else, so too, God shall welcome those Israelis who repent and accept Christ as their Savior. How many of them shall ultimately repent and accept their Messiah for who He is? That is a question for much later in this study.
Zec 2:9 For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.
Zec 2:10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
Zec 2:11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee."
God considers what is done to Israel to be done to Him. God takes this action quite personally. Israel is the apple of His eye, His darling, His chosen Nation. They may be sinning now but that does not mean that we can just treat them any way that we choose and not risk incurring God's wrath. Verse 11 informs us of the time when many nations shall be joined to God and shall be His people. Sounds to me like Christians, saints of God. Mentioning that "I will dwell in the midst of thee" sounds an awful lot like Christ Jesus to me, how about you? All of these verses are Christ speaking, prophesying of His coming.
Luk 13:35"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Every time Israel sins they become desolate, ruined. They are spiritually separated from God. But as soon as they repent and return to worshipping God they are forgiven. At this time they will not be blessed unless they shall say that blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord Christ Jesus. They must become born-again. As we shall see, a time is coming when large numbers of Israelis will indeed bow down to confess Jesus is the Son of the Living God.
Rom 11:25"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Rom 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Rom 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
Rom 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
Rom 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Rom 11:30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Rom 11:31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
Rom 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
These verses shed light upon the reality of what is to happen during the "last days." Here we begin to see that the Jew is the enemy of the Gentile until the time of the Gentiles' comes to an end. This has to be so for our sakes, that of the Gentiles, in that we may be granted access to Christ's saving grace. Once this time period is completed then the Jews shall become the focal point of God's grace once more. God desires mercy upon all of humanity, both Jew and Gentile. There is no room for any debate; verse 26 tells us that all Israel shall be saved one day. Thus we all ought to be thankful for the unbelief of the Israelites for it has provided us with the opportunity to accept Christ Jesus as our Lord.
1Th 2:14"For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
1Th 2:15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
1Th 2:16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
1Th 2:17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
1Th 2:18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
1Th 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? "For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
1Th 2:20 For ye are our glory and joy."
I have given you more verses than are probably necessary here. Verse 14-16 tell us that unrepentant Jews experience God's wrath in full. But the verses afterwards show us that Satan is real, and that he actively works to hinder what we would attempt to do in serving God. But no matter how frustrating our Christian walk may become we must always remember that Satan is working against us and God. He desires to thwart God's plans, he hopes to derail as many saints of Christ as he possibly can, and to mislead as many potential converts as possible. We are in a battle zone each and every day, beloved. We live in enemy territory and we are "Christian soldiers." That is what that lovely hymn is all about, "Onward Christian Soldiers." We must keep out focus on our hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing, who is Christ Jesus.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will write about the prevalent question of today: Where is He, where is God? Nothing is happening! We shall see if, in fact, nothing is happening. We shall see where God is. Until then, pray for forgiveness of unconscious sins, of unintentional sins. Pray for our federal governmental elections next month, pray for our political leaders to begin practicing wisdom in their decision making. Pray for someone to stand up and take an ethical and moral stand on the issues facing us and the next generation. Ask the Father for understanding of these difficult times that are now here. Ask Christ to embrace you ever the tighter, to keep you from Satan and his arrows. Ask Christ for the ability to discern spirits, thus enabling you to see those who would do you harm. Pray for all of the saints of Christ whereever they might be on this planet to have faith, hope, and perseverance.
Sat, Oct 18th - 10:43AM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
The question of whether or not God reveals the future must be asked, and answered. Let’s go back to Jeremiah:
Jer 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
We need to remember that in order to receive knowledge from God one must call upon God. Of course, if you do not believe God exists then you have cut yourself off from the source of all knowledge. You then are forced to deal with what other men claim is true, whether or not any of it is actually true. What men say is true today may become significantly altered with the passage of time and it usually is. What God says is true remains true no matter how much time passes. If we then turn to God and call to Him we are told that He will show us great and mighty things that we are unaware of.
Amo 3:7 “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
Some wish to claim that since there are no longer any prophets then there can be no revelation delivered to us today. That is false since each believer in Christ is considered to be a prophet each and every time that they tell someone else the scriptures. Each time God’s Word is preached or taught prophecy happens to a greater or lesser extent. Posting these messages creates prophecy as things that have not happened are spoken about and people are alerted to what will happen in the future. God says that His Word shall not go out and then come back without fruit. So we must pray and ask God’s Holy Spirit to com and reside in us (if we are unsaved), and then we also must ask Him to open up our minds to understand clearly what He has had written down in the Bible. That is extremely important. Christ Jesus told us that He was sending a Helper, a Comforter, once He ascended to heaven the first time; that was why Christ had to leave. That Comforter must be invited to help us understand what we are reading and experiencing.
Let’s move a bit closer to considering the last days of this age. Question: In what sense and why is Israel so often the epicenter of God’s judgments? Perhaps the primary reason comes to us from within Genesis:
Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
It would appear then, that Israel is God’s agent in this world. They were to be a blessing to all nations. God would bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Today, that places Iran directly into confrontation with God’s purposes. Another issue that arises from out of these two verses is that of perception. The Arab nations surrounding Israel today know Old Testament scriptures quite well and they are uneasy over God stating that He will make Israel a great nation. Yes, Israel already once was a great nation; will God make them great again? That is a question that the Arab nations have no answer to; unless they can figure out a way to eliminate the Israelis from the Middle East. There lies the rub, so to speak. Israel is just like a burr under the horse’s saddle. The burr pricks and pokes and irritates simply by its presence and its innate nature. Israel irritates people simply because it exists where it does.
I will stop there for now. Have a blessed seventh day of the week and begin to consider praying to God for guidance in this study of last days. Keep me in prayer as I continue to bring these posts to this site. God willing, we shall meet here again tomorrow! Amen.
~EricGen 12:2 “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Fri, Oct 17th - 10:01PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
Let us continue investigating God’s motives for His actions, shall we? In I Timothy 2:4 we find:
1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth1Ti 2:3 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; .”
I threw verse 3 in for good measure. This informs all of us that God wills that all men ought to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. This is a point at which our freedom of choice either moves us toward, or away from, God.
2Pe 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Again, we see that God remains true to His person and to His word. He is willing to wait so that the maximum number of people will repent of their sinful ways.
So, we now can ask ourselves what are some of the reasons why we can’t understand our lives without God. One reason is that God set the world in our hearts, so that we would be blinded by it and not be able to “see” His works. This is not so that He can set us up to fail but rather so that we are forced to choose to come to Him for true understanding. And this underdstanding does not come until we choose to repent of our sinful ways and turn our hearts toward Christ. A quick look at the following verse confirms this:
Ecc 3:11 “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
We must also remember that we cannot know the heart of any person. We are unable to look down into the depths of another person’s soul and discern their true motives and agenda. We must turn once again to God for guidance in this area:
Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jer 17:9 “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jeremiah also tells us that the Lord will execute judgment and carry out revenge, not us. Now we will see that we are not in control of our lives quite as we believe.
Pro 20:24 “Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?”
My steps are ordered by God, I only deceive myself into thinking that I am in complete control of my life. God guides us, not ourselves. If I struggle to make contrary choices to the will of God I only hurt myself and those around me. He desires the best for me, the sooner I accept that truth the sooner I can be a blessing to others.
1Co 1:20 “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”
I do not care how wise some men feel they are, God makes them look foolish. He has in the past, He does it in the present, and He really is going to do it in the future when He returns.
1Co 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Men who have not repented can not discern the things of God. God is a spiritual being and thus the things of God can only be discerned spiritually. This boils down to this: If you really want to know what the Bible says, you first must accept Christ as your Savior. It is at that time that His Spirit comes to live inside of you and so you are enabled to begin to understand the Bible and its truths.
So, I think I will stop right there for today, beloved. This is too long already. I will try harder in the days ahead to keep these posts shorter. God willing, I will post again tomorrow. Until then, may the God of us all keep you in His loving embrace against the trials and tribulations of this world.
Wed, Oct 15th - 8:21PM
UNDERSTANDING THE LAST DAYS
It would seem prudent in these turbulent times leading up to the American presidential elections to spend some more time studying scriptures that refer to history’s last days according to God. People have acted inappropriately within the American government for several decades, pushing the lending institutions to lend money to those people who cannot afford to pay it back with any sort of interest. High-risk loans require high interest rates and not extremely low rates of interest. High-risk loans require strict adherence to lending standards and not the opposite. People within Congress must be held accountable for their ill-advised legislation aimed at social reform. So, in this study I hope to show you things you did not know before.
As the existing order of our world continues to pinwheel out of control and seemingly is headed toward collapse, wouldn’t you like to understand the last days better? Like those intriguing scriptures in Ezekiel that describe a coalition of nations coming from the north to attack Israel? I will cover that and some other scriptures that speak about those coming end times.
Jer 33:3 “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Here is our reference text for this study. If we desire to know great and mighty things about the future, then we must turn to God who knows everything: past, present, and future.
Psa 103:19 “ The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.” Here is the verse that we can use to confirm in our minds the fact that God is sovereign over all of creation. God rules supremely in heaven and on earth. To Him we must turn to find answers to our questions. God is in complete control over all events, nothing that happens happens without Him knowing of it. No one dies without it being their appointed time to leave this world, and that appointed time is from God Himself. The current financial fiasco that is reverberating around the globe is not happening without God’s knowledge. He is allowing this event to run its course and will use it to do good in individuals lives according to His grace.
Who is going to receive such grace from God during these chaotic times, you ask? Let’s back up and read the two verses before verse 19 in Psalm 103:
Psa 103:17 “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
Psa 103:18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”
Ahhh! Those who respect God, keep His covenant through Christ Jesus, and remember His commandments and do them shall have the mercy of God upon them. I think that I really want to be included among that group of people, especially the way things have been going of late.
Okay, that answers a couple of questions you might have at the outset. God will give mercy to those who respect Him and follow what He asks of them. But how does this relate to entire nations? We have nations that do whatever they please, groups of nations that do what they please, and groups of people within nations that do what they please. They can be told to stop what they are doing but they ignore the requests and continue on their merry way. It does not appear that God controls them, does it? Turn with me to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.
Dan 4:35 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? “
This verse, which comes from a part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s speech after he regained his sanity upon lifting his gaze up to the heavens after 7 years of insanity, shows us the power and majesty of God. His hand stretches over our world and can touch any one of us at any time. So, no matter how big or small a nation might be they are all considered by God as nothing. None can stand against God, none can change God’s plans, and none can question what God has decided to do.
Isa 40:15 “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
Isa 40:16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
Isa 40:17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
Isa 40:18 To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? “
Isaiah also attests to the omniscience and omnipotence of God. How can we compare God to anything in our experience? We cannot. God is supernatural, in other words, He is outside of the natural world.
Of course, this leads us to ask this question: Whose motives will then prevail in history---man’s or God’s? Pro 19:21 “There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” This verse states that God’s motives will prevail over mankind’s. Think there were “many devices” at work to plunge all of us into this subprime mortgage mess? Yeah. Devices. Lots and lots of them. Well, we know real well what the motives of men are. Greed, self-gain of any kind, fame, status, and fear. But what are the motives of God? Let’s begin looking in Genesis:
Gen 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
God wishes to save people alive, inspite of what evil men may plan against Him and other men. Men plan evil, God changes it into good for those who respect Him and love His rules. I get it. Okay.
Eze 33:11 “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
I could see how the atheists would not want to read THAT particular verse. Where is their argument that God is an angry old man who takes pleasure in people going to hell? Here it states that He has no pleasure in the death of even the wicked. All that God has ever wanted from the wicked person is for them to repent their wicked, evil ways and gain life eternal. Ooh, bad God! How dare You want the best for me! Bad God! Right.
Well, we have covered some initial ground today in opening this new study, beloved. Next time we shall continue checking out God’s motives and then explore some reasons why we can’t understand our lives without God. All of this is needed before we leap off of the diving board into our study of the last days.
Until next time, grace and peace be with you all.
Tue, Oct 14th - 7:47PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here. Genesis 50:24-26
It is a pretty general feeling that children tend to become like their parents. Joseph mirrors father Jacob in one aspect at his father’s time of death. Like his father, Joseph is not content for his bones to rest in foreign soil. Unlike Jacob, Joseph does not insist that those bones be transported immediately after death. Instead, he ties their transport back to home property with hope in a future act of God’s deliverance. He obtains an oath that his descendants will take his bones with them when God comes to bring the people from Egypt to the promised land in covenant.
Joseph is not Ezekiel, picturing dry bones leaping to life at God’s word. But Joseph is a child of the covenant promises. Even in death, he is determined to bear witness to his trust in God’s fulfillment of those promises. Genesis ends without a clear-cut resolution of this matter. Joseph dies, but the final verse leaves everything up in the air; or better yet, deep in the ground. Joseph was embalmed and placed in a coffin. Period. End of chapter. End of book. Will the oath of the Israelites be kept? Will God bring the people out of bondage in Egypt to the land sworn to their patriarchs? Genesis does not say, that must wait for another day, another book.
And this is why we end this study here, at the end of Genesis. The Israelites prospered and kept vigil for a sign from God of a deliverer. Today the church keeps vigil for the signs from God that the deliverer is returning.
Times of waiting vary. From Joseph’s death to the Exodus, 400 years pushed hope to its breaking point. From 1500 hours on Good Friday until sometime after midnight on the Sabbath, all creation balanced between life’s power and death’s hold. Even today, beloved, you and I live in the period of time where life unfolds on the side of the grave that requires hope, that requires grace.
Throughout this study we have traveled with our spiritual ancestors in Genesis. Why? They understood what it meant to live by hope. They understood what it meant to receive grace. Whether in creations’s making or Adam and Eve’s clothing, whether in Cain’s marking or Noah’s remembering, whether in Abraham’s traveling or Isaac’s loving, whether in Jacob’s choosing or Joseph’s providing: The story remains the same. God favors the most common and unlikely of persons with the most uncommon and surprising grace. And through these persons, Genesis reveals the beginnings of God’s love for you and me and all of creation.
God’s love will not let us go forgotten any more than it left Joseph forgotten in an Egyptian coffin, any more than it left Jesus forgotten in a garden tomb. With God graciously remembering we find our life and hope and home for all time to come.
Father God, You are the Alpha and Omega, Your grace stretches from creations’s beginning to hope’s completion. Please remember me with grace and keep me in love. Amen.
Mon, Oct 13th - 6:56PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good. Genesis 50:15-21
We should make no mistake about this. The brothers of Joseph intended, and succeeded, in doing great harm. They sold their brother into slavery. Then, to hide their crime, they led their father to believe that his favorite son was dead. This was no childish prank, this was no “gotcha!” This was nothing that could easily, quickly, be undone. Years of slavery, imprisonment, and grief resulted from the harm done by Joseph’s brothers’ sin.
His brothers spent years of guilt and fear, hoping that their father would not discover their deceit. Their dismay at learning their brother still lived became apparent at Joseph’s initial self-disclosure. Joseph’s gracious words and his following provision for them in Egypt did not eliminate all their fear for what they had previously done to him. Jacob’s death triggers lingering guilt and anxiety. Forgiven once, they cry for forgiveness once again---even if it means slavery (50:15-18).
Once more finding himself in a position to unleash revenge for evil done, Joseph graciously chooses to do good. He declares to them that their intended evil became God’s opportunity to do extreme good. He refuses to play “God” in terms of revenge. Instead, he emulates God’s own way with him by promising to provide for his brothers. Good not only comes from evil in this story; good embraces those who did evil.
You may refuse to accept the application of this story; you might say that Joseph’s graciousness is convenient due to his current prosperity. What if Joseph still hung from a wall by chains? What if he had died in the pit into which his brothers first had thrown him? Would the author of Genesis still be telling us that good comes from evil?
Such questions are natural in a world where evil often seems to hold the upper hand while good goes unrewarded. For instance, one inner-city youth makes minimum wage flipping burgers while another rakes in an amazing amount of money by selling drugs to users. Those who strive to live honest, ethical lives make modest livings while others who devise deceptive schemes to gain peoples’ money in shady investment funds become wealthy beyond imagination. So is Joseph’s story of good from evil a pipe dream, just wishful thinking on our part? Doesn’t the real world grind up such grace, reducing its hope to ashes and cinders?
Today we remember another child upon whom others intended, and succeeded in doing, great harm. He too was a child sold for silver, though the price in flesh had gone from twenty to thirty pieces over the years. His robe was not returned to a grieving father, having been carefully splattered with the blood of a slaughtered goat to conceal the crime. Instead, his robe was gambled among executioners, whose very public work that day involved shedding the blood of the One whom John the Baptist had called God’s Lamb.
Jesus, like Joseph, offered words of forgiveness to those who intended and succeeded in doing Him harm. Unlike Joseph’s words, however, those words did not come from the graciousness of power restrained from taking revenge but from the graciousness of power made vulnerable through the application of unconditional love. In both cases, the offered words of forgiveness also came from obedience to God the Father.
The cross of Christ embodies Joseph’s affirmation of good from evil. When the crucifiers have done their worst, when life has been stripped, when no more evil can be done, Joseph’s ancient words begin to softly whisper in the shadows of Golgotha and a garden tomb: “Even though you intended to do harm to Me, God intended it for good.” The most evil of human intentions have been fulfilled: the killing of God’s beloved Son. And yet through that evil action, God will bring grace’s greatest good: our forgiveness, our healing, our new life. All from a Friday grace made Good.
Father God, make me a seeker and doer of the good, even when the seeking and the doing seem without hope or without reward, for You are good and You will reward the seeking in due time. Amen.
Sun, Oct 12th - 8:51PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
Bury me with my ancestors…in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. Genesis 49:28-33
After learning that Joseph lived, Jacob packed up his entire family and all of their possessions to go live with his important son. Egypt, however, was not home ground. Upon his deathbed, Jacob requested to be buried on home ground. All in his family clearly understood his request, most likely would have been shocked if he had not made it at all. Joseph swears to return his father’s body to the tomb in Canaan, an oath revealed to Pharaoh in order to obtain permission to go there(50:5-6).
The journey from Egypt to Hebron did not represent an idyllic trip completed in a single day. The most direct route was close to 300 hundred miles, much of it through the rocky wilderness of Shur. It had proven to be a major effort to provide food for a large company of men. Wouldn’t a grave in Egypt be sufficient?
If it was just for bones, yes; but for hope, no. We are talking about Jacob, recipient of his father Isaac’s blessing: a blessing whose covenant promises involved not only descendants but land. Yes, descendants surrounded his deathbed. But the land of promise remained afar. If life went well in the land of Egypt, Jacob’s heirs might forget about the land of promise, forget the way home. Thus Jacob plots his course’s final leg; and that of his family back to the land of promise.
Their land. Jacob has been quite specific about where he wants to be buried: “the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site.” He designated his burial in the one tiny parcel of ground that the promise-bearers owned. Perhaps God had given him a vision as to how to force his descendants to never forget about the promised land.
His burial provided the seeds for hope in future generations of Israelites. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus Christ provided all of us? Seeds of hope in His death, burial, and resurrection? Strange how God recycles these basic themes throughout history, isn’t it? Christ’s promise will be kept, hope that the children of the promise will see and remember the grace that leads to home. I thank God for the burial of Jacob and its testimony to hope in the future!
Father God, do I hope as strongly as Your grace gives me reason, even in the face of imminent death? Help me to have hope; help me to give hope. Amen.
Sun, Oct 12th - 9:44AM
WILDFIRE MENS RETREAT 2008!!!! What an awesome experience to worship and fellowship with close to 4000 men at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA!. This men's retreat is why I did not post at all the past two days. It was phenomonal to listen to professional atheletes give their personal testimony and to preach God's Word to us. They challenged all of the men attending to make a stand in these last days of this Age. From Nascar, to football, to baseball, to sports in general, the message was crystal clear: focus your faith in Christ, keep your total trust in Christ, and open yourself up to allow God's purpose to work through your life.
I want to give one example of the messages that were brought forth from out of Scripture this weekend. Rocket Ishmail, ex-NFL player, preached from Jeremiah. His message was triggered by his exposure this past year to the earthquakes that have rocked the financial systems globally. An investor whom Rocket was bringing a concept before for investment considerations was initially very confident over the proposed project. Two months later the man was anything but confident. Rocket pointed out that this man's confidence, and trust, had been falsely placed in his investment portfolio. In one month after their initial talks over the phone the investment specialist had lost alot of money. In the second month he lost even more value in his portfolio. By the time in March of this year when Rocket came to present his project this investment specialist no longer was confident of anything. The concept presented did not receive any backing.
Now, what was happening spiritually here? For that we must go to Jeremiah 17:5, "This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord." This describes all of the investment bankers who are depending upon their own schemes to become wealthy at everyone else's expense. What does God call this current time of financial crisis? "He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives"(17:6). Christ calls this financial crisis a time of drought, creating a desert. These money lenders, brokers, and investment specialists are seeing their hard work drying up before their eyes. Of course, if we have been relying too much upon the "expertise" of such individuals we also will be sucked into this desert.
What are the benefits of trusting in Christ instead in this specific instance? Let's read on in Jeremiah: "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit"(17:7-8). Beloved, do not be afraid of what is happening all around us. Trust in Christ and be confident! We are to be like this tree, our roots should be growing deeply into the Word of God to keep us strong and alive. We ought to continue to bear fruit of the Spirit even during these turbulent times. Perhaps it is even more important to bear fruit during these times, it is an effective witness to the unsaved around us each day.
Here are the four questions that were put to all 4000 men attending this retreat:
(1) Who am I?
(2) What am I fighting for?
(3) What does God want from me?
(4) What legacy am I leaving when I am gone?
I leave these questions with all who read this posting. Do you really know who you are? Or do you believe what others say? Do you have a clue about what you are fighting for, or against? Do you have a clear perception of what Christ wants you to be doing with your life today? Better yet, do you know what He does not want you to be wasting your time with? What are priorities? And finally, are you leaving footprints that others will be able to follow into a mature Christian lifestyle? Are you erecting signposts during your lifetime that those who follow in the coming years will be able to see and will not remain lost on this magnificent journey?
That is all for this particular post, beloved. Know this, our Lord works behind the scenes in so many different facets of our society. Just because we cannot physically see it happening does not mean that it is absent. I will hopefully post my regular message later today. God be with all of you this wonderful day!
Thu, Oct 9th - 8:39PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the youner, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands, for Manasseh was the firstborn. Genesis 48:8-20
Every detail has to be in precise order. Every movement has to be exactly as choreographed. Every face has to have the right look. Every posture has to be aligned just so.
Whether planning for the perfect holiday gathering of family or arranging he ideal wedding or posing for the family portrait photographer or staging the Broadway production, we sometimes like to have things in order and under control. We go to great lengths, whether through rehearsal or explicit instruction, to make sure that all understand what is expected of them---and what is not allowed.
Joseph had years to practice such precise planning. The discipline of not squandering resources during years of plenty, the discipline of careful allotment during years of fiamine: obviously these responsibilities made Joseph a careful and precise manager. Now, as he stands before the deathbed of his father to seek blessing for his two sons, Joseph choreographs one more scene. Knowing his father can no longer trust his own eyes, Joseph moves his sons like pawns on a chessboard to insure that elder and younger receive the appropriate blessing. All Israel/Jacob has to do is stretch out his arms.
But just like the child in the family picture who won't stand still, or the relative whose unexpected behavior raises eyebrows at the family reunion, Israel strays from the cultural script. Israel crosses Joseph up; as he prepares to give his blessing he crosses his arms: right hand upon the younger, left upon the elder. And thus he gives his blessing to the younger child and not to the firstborn.
Is this a story of an old man who didn't know his right from his left? Or his elder grandson from his younger grandson? No, this is about a man who fully understood that Jehovah worked contrary to social conventions. He knew all too well the assumptions of sons who would handle all the arrangements ahead of time so as to leave nothing to chance---or grace. Remember, Israel used to be Jacob. He knew from personal experience how God might choose the one without birthright.
So what? What do the placement of hands, or even the words, of an old dying man have to do with the future of other generations? Genesis is a book of blessing and wonder. It is where the right hand of an aged man can be the instrument of blessing. It is where God chooses almost without fail the unexpected. Promise is extended to the cheating Jacob, and refuge given to the murdering Cain.
Joseph does nothing wrong in bringing his two sons before Israel in their proper order. He merely was trying to eliminate mistakes. But this encounter reveals to us the freedom of God's grace to move where it will, when it will.
Sometimes grace will confirm our plans and directions in life; but not always. Not always. Sometimes grace will cross its hands and bless what and whom we did not expect. Sometimes, as this string of texts has shown, grace demonstrates its power for life by revealing its willingness to endure suffering and death. For the God of Jacob, whose arms cross to bless, is the God of Jesus Christ---whose cross unfolds to bless.
Father God, keep me open to Your unexpected ways, Your unconsidered choices, and Your unforeseen grace. Amen.
Wed, Oct 8th - 4:48PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves,…for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:1-15
Afghan forces took two English colonial officers prisoner. Throughout their imprisonment, the officers kept a diary of their experiences in the margins of a prayer book. A third prisoner wrote the final entry in the book, stating the two officers had been led out, flogged, and then forced to dig two graves; never to be seen again.
Twenty-one years passed before a remarkable set of circumstances resulted in that prayer book’s coming into the hands of the sister of one of the slain officers. Reading the entries convinced her that revenge was needed---Christian revenge. And the method settled upon? Taking all the money she could spare, she sent it to a British hospital in India. She enclosed instructions for its use: to keep a bed free for a sick or wounded Afghan and to care for him until health returned. This was to be done in memory of her brother: An opportunity for revenge met by the commitment to forgive.
We see this exact same surprising and powerful theme with Joseph. He who was sold by his brothers, framed by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten by Pharaoh’s cupbearer now stands in an enviable position to repay old debts, old scores. At no time is that potential to enact reprisal more clear than when those same brothers come begging for food.
As this story reveals, Joseph holds an even greater advantage: He recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him as he has grown up. Now, Joseph does scheme and plot in a way that would have made his father Jacob proud, putting his brothers through a series of setup embarrassments. But throughout all of it Joseph is never far away from crying. In the end, he arranges the private audience where he reveals that the one they thought to be dead now stands before them. Not only does he reveal himself to them, but he declares that God has used the worst of their intentions to create goodness and preserve life.
Joseph used his power to enact forgiveness. And from forgiveness came reconciliation and reunion.
It is this aspect of the story that is so surprising and unexpected. Once success and privilege come into our lives, settling scores and exacting revenge prove tempting options for many of us. “Don’t get mad, get even!” is a common refrain heard and also enacted. To forgive a person over whom you have power---a person you can demote, control, coerce, or even fire---is truly an act of grace, an act in keeping with Joseph’s character.
Maybe that character of forgiveness traces its way back to Joseph the dreamer, where dreams oriented him to the potential of his future. In many ways, forgiveness provides the only sure path into the future. Without forgiveness, we all are tied to the past and its wrongs. Without forgiveness, either we will never get revenge on all who have hurt us or we will never make amends for all the times we have done the hurting. Forgiveness makes it possible to leave those wrongs and faults behind us, even as it opens the way to fresh starts and renewed relationships.
For Joseph, forgiveness was the only way to put his family back together. He exercised forgiveness for the same reason he earlier exercised wisdom: to accomplish what he understood to be God’s purpose for his life. Life preserved through famine by wisdom. Life preserved through guilt by forgiveness: opportunity for revenge met by a commitment to forgive. May we all learn from Joseph.
Father God, when I have the power and cause to punish, help me to have the grace and spirit to forgive. Amen.
Tue, Oct 7th - 7:03PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my faults today.” Genesis 41:9-46
It is said that confession is good for the soul. The chief cupbearer’s confession arises from remembrance of a fault; a case of long forgetting of a person. Pharaoh’s dream defying interpretation triggers the servant’s memory of his prison experience, something that he obviously had wanted to forget about. But it had been a time when a dream also had baffled him. Baffled him until a young Hebrew man offered an interpretation that had in fact come to pass. Now, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph, the one who interprets dreams. Joseph, whom he has forgotten for years, comes back into his remembrance and forces the cupbearer to confess his faults.
It is easy to remember and confess sin that weighs down upon us in its consequences. But what about our sin, our “faults”, that seem to leave us unaffected while devastating others? A thoughtless word of gossip smears another person’s reputation needlessly. A cutting word of hatred belittles someone’s esteem. Does confession of sin that forgets the victims of sin count? Perhaps Jesus’ command about leaving our gift at the altar in order first to be reconciled with our brother or sister (Matthew 5:23-24) hints that remembrance of persons takes precedence.
To be sure, Pharaoh’s servant links confession of his fault with remembering Joseph. And this was all that Joseph had asked for after all. Now that Joseph has been remembered before Pharaoh, providence works to bring him into the king’s presence to interpret the dream. When Pharaoh declares his understanding that Joseph can interpret dreams, Joseph qualifies that by saying, “It is not I; god will give Pharaoh a favorable answer”(41:16). So Joseph is in remembrance of the One from whom his gift of interpretation comes, setting the stage for eventual renewal.
The story of the dream and its interpretation unfolds before us as we read: seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. As we reach verse 33 there is transition from interpretation to proposed strategy for dealing with the future crisis. With this proposal Pharaoh sees Joseph as being filled with the spirit of God---an extraordinary confession of faith from someone whom Egyptian tradition considered to be deity himself. Joseph ends up, as a thirty old man, rising from prisoner to having no equal in Egypt except Pharaoh himself. Incredible!
Now the potential of God’s grace and providence to renew human life finds testimony in Joseph’s ascent. He who was once forgotten is now the one empowered. The pit in which we may find ourselves at times does not have the final word over us.
God still will find ways, and persons, in which to raise us and others up. And the ability of grace to use people, even forgetful ones, reminds us of our own potential as instruments of God’s grace to others. We need to remember the forgotten, not to mention remembering those who have suffered because of our “faults.” This can then become the means through which God brings renewal to their lives; and forgiveness to our own.
The chief cupbearer told Pharaoh that he remembered. Whom do we need to remember today? And by whose remembrance have we been lifted to newness of life?
Father God, whether in confession or thanksgiving help me to remember You and help me to remember others. And by Your grace, please remember me. Amen.
Mon, Oct 6th - 7:34PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
The chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Genesis 40:1-23
Forgotten. Ever felt that way? A child left behind or left out when choosing sides for a game, a friend overlooked in a time of need, a spouse neglected at a birthday or anniversary. Have you ever been in such a situation? Each of us move among others who do not seem to notice us; or in noticing, they do not care.“Take care that you do not forget the Lord”(Deuteronomy 6:12, 8:11) forms a common theme in the Hebrew scriptures. The reverse anxiety is that God might forget us. “Will You forget me forever?”(Psalm 13:1). “Why have You forgotten me?”(Psalm 42:9) Jesus’ own cry of God-forsakenness on the cross echoes these human cries.
To be forgotten, whether by God or another human, creates a spiritual crisis. This point is vital to our understanding of what confronts Joseph. Joseph remained unjustly imprisoned, though God’s steadfast love (hesed) for him resulted in Joseph’s finding favor with the chief jailor. As a result, Joseph prospered even in these trying circumstances(Genesis 39:21-23).
When two new prisoners appear, the jailor entrusts them to Joseph. He apparently takes his commission seriously, asking them the cause for their troubled looks one morning. Dreams, they reply, are bothering us. The dreams and their interpretations are as different as night and day. One indicates success and restoration to position, the other judgment and death.
Joseph asks nothing of the baker whose dream is about personal doom. But the cupbearer’s dream indicates his return to Pharaoh’s trust and service. The position of cupbearer was a vital one in those times. Pharaoh could, and did, keep numerous armed men to protect him from physical attack. But he had to be able to trust the cupbearer, along with those who served him his meals each day, absolutely. Poisoning was an indirect method of attack that risked little to no exposure of the attacker. Thus held in such confidence, the cupbearer would naturally have the ear of the king in other matters as well.
In Joseph’s case, the hearing of such matters might lead to his freedom. “But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place” (40:14). Joseph does not operate under wishful thinking in this matter. Joseph is striking a bargain with the king’s servant, hoping to secure his freedom from imprisonment. The providence of God has placed him in contact with the soon-to-be intimate of Pharaoh.
We would say that things are looking up for Joseph, except for one thing: “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Forgotten. For two years! That is according to the time frame set by 41:1. Two whole years. Have you ever been forgotten for that long a time period? Perhaps it was your entire time through high school? Forgotten, not just as in left alone but as in left in jail, in a dungeon as Joseph finds himself in?
Consider times when you have sat by the phone waiting for a promised call. Time moves by ponderously slow, seconds ticking by into minutes, minutes into hours. Impatience rises and hope fades. Multiply the anxiety of not hearing with not being free while you wait. And what if you could not resume your life until you were no longer forgotten? That is where we find Joseph at story’s end today; forgotten, imprisoned. This will not change until the former is reversed. Due to human forgetfulness, grace must wait on the sidelines. Then and now.
Father God, do not forget me and do not let me forget You or others. Amen.
Sun, Oct 5th - 5:08PM
PARABLE OF THE UNJUST JUDGE
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
Saying, there was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man,
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man:
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? Luke 18:1-8
When Jesus told them this parable I imagine everyone knew what city and what judge He was talking about. This judge was not a nice man by the description given of him. He did not fear God nor any man. He had no respect for this widow who came before him either.
This poor widow was apparantly being harassed and probably was being forced out of her home even. So she went to this prominent judge and asked him to avenge her of her adversaries. She did this more than once, as is implied in verse 4. But due to her determination he reconsidered his initial response to her request.
The judge was not considering the merits of her request but was only thinking of himself at this point in time. Perhaps he had known that her request was legitimate, but he did not act on that persuasion. He tired of her persistence in his court. So the judge gave her legal protection. That is the parable.
What is this parable all about then? Is it about being persistent? Is it about unjust judges? Is this about our needing to press God with our prayers until He relents and gives us what we ask for? Hhhmm. I say that it is a parable by contrast, and not by comparison.
Jesus Christ our Lord gave parables to illustrate divine truths that He desired all of us to understand. The word itself means "to throw beside." Christ did this two ways, comparison and contrast.
In this parable our Lord is saying, "When you come to God in prayer, do you think that God is an unjust judge? When you come to Him in prayer, do you think He is a cheap politician? Do you think God is doing things just for political reasons?" Beloved, if you happen to think this, you are dead wrong. God is not an unjust judge.
Consider: if this unjust judge would hear a poor widow because she kept coming continually, then why do you get discouraged going before God who is not an unjust judge, but who actually wants to hear and answer prayer? God begs each of us to pray to Him with our needs so that we will not want for anything. Why then are God's people today so discouraged in their prayer life? You don't have to hang onto His coattail and beg Him and plead with Him. You do not have to wrap yourself around His legs to force Him to stop and listen to you! God wants to act in your behalf! If each of us had that attitude, knowing that He wants to hear us, it would dramatically change our prayer life. We too often act as if He is an unjust judge, and we have to hold onto Him or He will not hear us at all. Too often we listen to those who paint Jesus Christ as an angry father-figure who requires a softening influence from a mother-figure. These people then place Mary inbetween us and Jesus as a mediator. They say she is the one who prevents God the Father from taking out His divine anger upon His children. This is one of those man-made concepts that seems to make sense to them but it is not biblical at all. It paints a false picture of who God is. This parable is meant to remind us of God's love for us and that He listens for our prayers constantly. He is saddened when we refuse to pray to Him for our needs and concerns daily.
Father God, help me to remember to include You each day by praying to You. Help me to speak out loud the things that are bothering me, that are weighing me down spiritually, that are in need of Your grace to change for the better. Amen.
Sun, Oct 5th - 11:51AM
FINDING GRACE WITIN GENESIS
How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? Genesis 39:1-23
I have read that Dr. Robert Bertram taught Christian ethics at eden Seminary in St. Louis Missouri. In that course he offered a concise and yet telling definition: "Ethics is what you do in a strange city where no one knows who you are." When the fear of public disclosure is eliminated, how one chooses to act depends upon one's inner character. Even if others do not know who you are, you know who you are. Loyalty to oneself provides a key to integrity of character.
Joseph was a stranger in a strange land, sold into slavery by his own brothers. The grace of God clearly show itself in the story's opening, God's presence with Joseph results in his rise among the household servants of Potiphar, his Egyptian owner. The more responsibility Potiphar heaps upon Joseph, the more God brings blessings upon the Egyptian's household. Three times we can read that Potiphar entrusted Joseph with charge over "all that he had." So when Potiphar's wife makes sexual advances with her husband's favored servant, poor Joseph is faced with an ethical dilemma.
An ethic of situation/convenience would pose no problem with such an affair. The pleasure of the moment would possibly secure Joseph some future favor from someone else able to advance his career/interests. An ethic based upon duty or social obligation would also offer an excuse for the proposed liason. As a servant, Joseph was compelled to heed his master's wishes. Joseph could have rationalized this course of action, saying he had no real choice given his position; I must do what my master's wife suggests. Joseph could also have invoked an ethics of "what others don't know can't hurt you" for what you do in a strange city where no one knows you is different.
Joseph rejects the sexual offer out of hand due to his loyalty, not only to Potiphar but to God. This entire decision of Joseph's traces back to the relationship of trust that exists between him and his master and to Joseph's understanding that such an act would be a sin against God. Joseph acts out of an ethic of loyalty: loyalty to Potiphar, loyalty to God. From loyalty to oneself comes loyalty to others. How can one be consistent in relationships with others if one's own self-image and standards are of two minds: one for public consumption and one for private indulgences? Joseph's actions derive from Joseph as person of integrity.
Rage, however, overlooks reality and ignores loyalty. Joseph finds himself unfairly accused and unjustly imprisoned because of his faithfulness. We need to remember that fact, beloved. Our text today does state that God continued to support Joseph in prison. Consider this point: If we learned no more of Joseph after his being thrown into prison, how would we judge his loyalty to God, to Potiphar, and to self? Would we see Joseph as naive, not understanding that "to get along you have to go along?" Would we judge Joseph as tragic for not realizing that one cannot fight the powers that be? The answer depends on where we locate the working of grace in this story.
Grace emerges not only in the ultimate unfolding of good in this narrative, but in Joseph's initial choice to act with loyalty. Our loyalty to God today finds its beginning in God's loyalty to us: God's steadfast love stands by us through changing fortunes. May we find our strength in grace that empowers our integrity, as shown with Joseph. And when our loyalty to God and self proves less than that shown by Joseph, may we also find our hope in grace that forgives human failure.
Father God, we pray for loyalty and integrity of heart and mind, through word and deed, in public and private, to You and neighbor. We also pray that our political leaders at all levels of government will exhibit loyalty and integrity of heart and mind, in public and private, to You and neighbors. If ever this was shown to be needed it is in this day and age of ours. Amen.
Sat, Oct 4th - 10:25AM
FINDING GRACE WITIN GENESIS
Here comes this dreamer: Come now, let us kill him...and we shall see what will become of his dreams. Gensis 37:12-36
Isn't it strange, weird, the way we dismiss those people we judge to be powerless or ineffective by calling them dreamers. This narrative about Joseph reveals that dreams can bear great power, even as those who receive the dreams may incite great hostility. Dreams can have that ability when they are affirmed.
Joseph could have avoided the situation by dismissing his dream as childish imagining, never sharing it with anyone. He could also have told it to his brothers differently for no harm comes from dreams so long as those to whom they are given consider them to not be a threat to them.
In 1963, seems so long ago, one man addressed hundreds of thousands of people with a different sort of dream. Yet it was a dream that stirred hostility, just as Joseph's dream had done. Had Martin Luther King, Jr. been content to dream in the quiet of his bedroom, or in the quiet of his study, his dream would have remained eloquent perhaps; but it would have been impotent. Instead, Mr. King took his dream out into the streets. Belief in the dream led to the dream's enacting. Unlike Joseph, King's father did not receive a tattered remnant of cloth. He received a casket bearing his dreamer son's body.
It would have caused much less trouble, much less anxiety, much less grief, had Martin dismissed his dream as just another fantasy. Instead, his dream became the beacon toward which he lived. If only all of us could live such lives!
From both of these men we learn that the task of the dreamer is that of maintaining integrity; maintaining integrity to the dream, to its Giver, to holding faith and action in balance. Sustaining the dream requires patient trust in the providence of God. Evidence of fulfillment is nice but it is not always readily apparant. The dreamer must deal with comments and observations about the dream's reality and practicality. It is in those times of waiting and testing that the dreams of God for the people of God prove their worth, and our own. Joseph's dream offers its greatest potential for change when he sits alone and abandoned and forgotten. Martin's dream offers its greatest hope for reconciliation not when blacks and whites and browns and reds sit down together at tables of fellowship, but when we stand alienated from and at odds with one another.
When God's providence is the hardest to see, faith comes to centerstage; faith that keeps integrity to the dreams God entrusts with us; faith that determines to enact those dreams; faith that understands, by hope in God's providence, its dreams will not be lost in slavery or prison or perish with bullets or crosses. For faith trusts that its dreams, even when given up for dead, will rise again.
The tomb of Martin Luther King gives testimony to such faith. Engraved there for all who come to see is the witness of Genesis 37:19-20: Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him...and we shall see what will become of his dreams
We will see in future text-readings what became of the dream given to Joseph. We shall also see through our further living what becomes of Martin's dream. What becomes of dreams is not only what we make of them but most importantly what God makes of us through them!
Father God, do I set aside Your dreams when others object to them? Steady me when dreams delay; anchor me firmly when objections hurt. Amen.
Fri, Oct 3rd - 9:53PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than all his brothers, they hated him...And when Joseph told his dream to his brothers, they hated him even more. Genesis 37:1-11
Didn't some of you just know that we would end up talking about Joseph? There are a couple of Yiddish words that are quite expressive. There is a schlemiel who is the kind of person who, at public gathrings, inevitably spills his or her drink. Then there is a shlimazel who is the kind of person at those same public gatherings upon whom the drink is spilled. Through no fault of their own, they are the inevitable victims of the bumbling persons who spill their drinks upon them.
At first glance, we might identify Joseph as the Genesis version of the shlimazel. Through no fault of his own, Joseph is preferred by Jacob to all of his other brothers. Yet Joseph bears all the brunt of his brothers outrage. As a sign of his paternal favor, Jacob gives Joseph a long, multicolored, robe with sleeves. Joseph's brothers bring home the tattered and bloodstained remains of that very same robe as evidence that wild beasts have slain Jacob's favorite son. Through their mutual deception, they seek to conceal the ugly, wicked truth: They have sold their brother to slave traders.
Even after arriving in Egypt, Joseph finds himself covered in somebody else's soup. His honorable refusal of seduction by Potiphar's wife lands him deep in Potiphar's prison. His interpreting of a fellow prisoner's dream that comes to pass does not lead to Joseph's release but to his continued confinement. Joseph always seems to be the innocent victim, the shlimazel. But is he really?
A common thread weaving its way through this entire story comes from verse 5 of chapter 37: Once Joseph had a dream..." Joseph, first and foremost, is a dreamer. He has been shown that he shall rule but not the reasons why. And he believes in the dream.
What is really at work here? It is not Jacob's favor or the robe with sleeves that eventually turns everything upside down. It is the grace of God: a grace that selects Joseph, a grace that works through dreams, and a dreamer.
Dreams do not always speak of current reality; dreams take persons out of the ordinary realms of life and grant them a vision of new places. And consider dreamers: they are very apt to take those things and those new places seriously. Dreamers are liable to see connections between the routine and the possible, between what everyone understands to be a given and what may yet be given.
So God pokes His providence into this story and into Joseph's life via a dream. The victimization of Joseph does not take place but the providential care of Joseph the dreamer.
Father God, what dreams do You give me? And how, by Your grace, do I keep faith with those dreams when they, and I, are severly tested? I pray, Father God, that You continue to give me magnificent dreams, great soaring dreams that will require great faith from me. Test me Lord and help me to broaden my horizons. Amen.
Thu, Oct 2nd - 8:11PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
To see your face is like seeing the face of God. Genesis 33:1-11
In whom do we see the face of God? Many may glimpse God in the face of the one we love. For some, the sight might come in the face of one of the least of our brothers and sisters, generated by serving in Christ's place and living out Christ's admonition to all of us. Others, because of their conception of the world without God cannot see God. Some who are striving under rigid piety that excludes the possibility of ever looking upon the face of God also cannot see God.
As the account makes clear here and earlier (32:1-21), Jacob takes extraordinary precautions. He has no illusions about a sentimental reunion awaiting him, especially when he hears that Esau approaches with four hundred men. To seek Esau's favor, Jacob sends presents. To prepare for Esau's anger, Jacob twice divides his family group into separate pieces. But Jacob stands at the head of his wives and children to meet his brother.
See if the chain of events remind you of another story whose theme is grace. Jacob returns to his brother, bowing in humility. But Esau---Esau runs and embraces him, kissing him and weeping. Sound familiar? Jacob the prodigal returns home, not to the expected vengeance or retribution of an enemy but to the unexpected love and embrace of his estranged brother.
Twice Jacob connects his sending of presents as an attempt to find favor with Esau. The Hebrew word for "favor" is chen; it can also mean "grace." The same grace that Noah and Abraham found with God is the grace Jacob sought through gifts to his brother. Yet Esau tells him he has enough. Esau's grace toward Jacob is not a transaction: It is a gift. Grace tucked away in the quiet but revealing fact of Esau's calling Jacob "my brother."
Can you imagine what Esau could have called Jacob: my supplanter, my deceiver, my Lord. But Esau doesn't, he calls him "my brother" and restores their relationship. Grace restores. And this is why Jacob says, "To see your face is like seeing the face of God---since you have received me with such favor(chen)." God worked through Esau to show Jacob grace in practice.
And so we are brought back to where we began: In whom do we see the face of God? The unlikely answer is anyone. Anyone from whom we find ourselves encountering grace: grace in unmerited forgiveness, grace in unexpected reconciliation, grace in unconditional love. Hopefully, like Jacob, we will recognize the face of God among us. And like Esau, hopefully, we will serve as the face of God for those in need of grace.
Father God, give me eyes and spirit to perceive Your grace among persons in my daily life, and give me life and faith to embody your grace for others around me. Amen.
Thu, Oct 2nd - 10:03AM
CONCEDING CREATION TO EVOLUTION
The number of Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian universities that have abandoned the plain-sense reading of Scripture is increasing at mind-boggling rates as more and more academicains in Christian higher education give in to hybrid theories that seek to conform Scripture with evolutionary processes/theory.
This is also happening in local churches where members challenge their pastors/elders and teachers regarding the literal reading of Genesis 1-2. And should we be surprised at this chain of events? Inundated with the beautiful images of National Geographic, Discovery Channel programs, and PBS's Nature, who should be surprised at the insidious attacks against the faithful children of God. They all imply that the Bible is "unscientific."
What is even more disturbing to me are the Christian leaders who allow science to govern their interpretation of Scripture, conceding ground every day to evolutionary theory which is not scientifically proven to be true. They treat the Genesis account as something less than what it says it is. I ask, do they believe God or don't they?
Can there be unity between Creation and evolution? Did God simply start life here on earth and then go off and let mutation and natural selection take over from there? Six days or six billion years, does it really matter?
There are those who claim that it does not matter, that this is not an essential of being faithful to God. There are, in fact, born again believers who do not believe in a literal reading of the creation account in Genesis. Should we question their faith?
Not necessarily. But the forced contradictions that these people must live with on a daily basis should rattle them into coming to terms with whether they believe in the accuracy and authority of God's Word. Otherwise they must decide which parts are accurate and authoritative and which are not. That is not an attractive prospect to me, personally. If the Bible is in fact authored by none other than God, the Creator of all life, then those who doubt God's writings are under the burden of proving that science, based upon human theories, explains the origin of life better than Scripture.
What is at stake if I give up fighting for the literalness of Genesis 1-2? By conceding this point I am then forced to defend the rest of the Bible AND explain why I gave up on the first point! I am also forced to concede that other parts may be inaccurate also, if one is why not others?
I feel that the majority of people accept evolution simply because they are not sufficiently informed about what is "genuine" science and what is not. If they are not taught in school about what comprises scientific method, how can they determine later on in life what is false and what is true science? They can't, and the professionals can then lead them around wherever they wish to take them for they will not know any better. This is the end result of "dumming down the American public." No longer able to think for ourselves we will believe what we are told by the "professionals" who simply must know more than us. Wrong! They are merely manipulating the system that is in place in our culture. They use their credentials to intimidate everyone into submission, and that is wrong.
To give up on God's Word at its very starting point boggles my imagination. Give up before ever starting! That is putting oneself on a path of never-ending compromise. What is equally troubling is that the Genesis compromise is creeping into homeschooling materials. Sunday school and Bible study materials are becoming increasingly laced with teachings that favor the Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creation, and other hybrid attempts to fuse God and evolution within the boundaries of the holy church. God commanded us to separate ourselves from the doctrines of man and cleave ourselves to His precepts and promises.
I am not claiming that the majority of God's church has fallen into this trap conceived by Satan, far from it. But pressure is increasing each day for church leaders to allow science more and more influence within its teachings. The line must be drawn at the doorways of our homes, the doorways of our schools, and the doorways of our meeting places of worship. To do anything less invites Satan to come and set up shop in the intimacy of all of those places.
Consider this statistic: since 2004 almost 12,000 pastors in the United States have signed a statement rejecting the biblical doctrine of creation. Many of these individuals devote one weekend every February to proclaim and celebrate the person and work of Charles Darwin, whose birthday falls on the 12th. Perhaps it is high time to find out whether the book in your church pew is the Holy Bible or The Origin of Species?
The choice is clear: manmade traditions or God's truth. Lean unto our own understanding or lean on God's unchanging truths. Man changes as frequently as does the direction of the wind. God never changes. As for me and my family, we shall continue to honor, praise, trust, and believe in God and in what He authored in the Bible. What choice shall you make? As the old crusader in Indiana Jones's movie once said, "Choose wisely, choose wisely."
Grace, peace be with all of you today.
Wed, Oct 1st - 9:41PM
FINDING GRACE WITHIN GENESIS
You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. Genesis 32:22-32
A man receives new name and a new identity. The story of Jacob's wrestling match provides an event whose supernatural elements are uncommon to the biblica materials. Some people would tame the wildness of the text by passing it off as a legendary tale of Canaanite demons that found its way into the Jacob cycle of stories. Others would rationalize it by approaching it as a psychological study of Jacob's inner turmoils generated by the imminence of reunion with Esau. But why can't we simply allow the story to speak for itself?
The text never absolutely discloses the man's identity. He could be an angel sent of the Lord, or he could be the pre-incarnate Christ in angelic form, or he could be God the Father in spiritual form. It is formidable to think it was an angel, but it is even more disquieting to consider that it is God Himself. Jacob calls this place where he wrestled Peniel, "the face of God: For I have seen God face to face." Is Jacob mistaken? If he is not mistaken, how could he possibly wrestle God to a draw? Questions that require thought.
After wrestling throughout the night, at daybreak it is the mortal man who seeks an end to the match. At that point in time, the old Jacob reappears: "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Wounded Jacob can still see an opportunity to extract blessing, this time by force rather than by deceit. But, as was the case with his father's blessing, Jacob gets more than he anticipated. This time he gets not only a blessing, but a new name---Israel, "one who strives with God" or "God strives." The night of wrestling showed Jacob to be capable of contending with God. It also showed God to be capable of striving to see the promises fulfilled, even in the likes of Jacob-now-Israel.
Names played a crucial role among the Hebrews and other peoples of the Near and Middle East. Names often bestowed or anticipated something of that person's identity. Jacob began life as "one who supplants" or "heel," and ended up as "the one who strives with God."
The identity switch is a result of Jacob's willingness to trust God. The wrestling match comes after Jacob's decision to return home. This was the last promise that God had made to him, to bring Jacob back to his homeland. Even though Jacob still feared reprisal from Esau (32:11), he made the difficult decision of setting out for home. He had changed over the years so God graced Jacob with a new name.
Have you ever wrestled with God? We might be hard pressed to say that we have had an encounter akin to what transpired in Genesis. Yet is it possible to come to maturity of faith without some contention with God? Maybe the struggle is over injustice in the world and why God allows it or suffering or confusion over directions to go and choices to make. Perhaps the wrestling issues from the tension between the risk of trusting God and our tendency toward self-reliance. What do we do when we encounter situations that can only be resolved through something beyond our power to manipulate or control? What can we do? We can trust completely in Christ.
Jacob's wrestling with God resulted in grace entering his life. What of our wrestling with God? Do we fear the very idea of contending with God, thinking it an impious act? Or do we discover in such striving that God still brings blessing, gracing us with new identities through faith strengthened in such contending.
Father God, grant me persistence as I struggle to see Your ways. Grace me with endurance as I struggle to follow Your ways each and every day. Amen.
Wed, Oct 1st - 12:51PM
WHAT ARE THE LIMITS OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD?
In our society of iPods, cell phones, laptops, internet, WiFi, and other technological fruits of modern science most of us have some awareness of this concept of scientific methodology. When it comes to just what this methodology entails, a widening gap of understanding is made manifestly evident.
Perhaps Professor Frank Wolfs, who teaches Physics at the University of Rochester, gives a good definition of the scientific method: "the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate(that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of our world."
The professor, who is a research scientist himself, points out some of the limitations of the method: "Recognizing that personal and cultural beliefs influence both our perceptions and our interpretations of natural phenomena, we aim through the use of standard procedures and criteria to minimize those influences when developing a theory. As a famous scientist once said, 'Smart people (like smart lawyers) can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view.' In summary, the scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of bias or prejudice in the experimenter when testing a hypothesis or a theory."
Professor Wolf boils down the essentials of scientific method to the following four items:
1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
2. Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena. (In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a
3. Use of the hypothesis to predict other phenomena or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters.
If the experiments bear out the hypothesis, it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature. If they do not, the hypothesis must be rejected or modified. No matter how elegant a hypothesis may be, its predictions must agree with experimental results if we are to believe that it is a valid description of nature. Experiment is supreme and experimental verification of hypothetical predictions is absolutely necessary. Has that occurred with this so-called theory of evolution?
Theories that are untestable do not qualify as scientific theories. It is that simple, beloved. And if a theory is untestable then it becomes more of a conjecture or speculation, and scientific method can say little about it. So why can't science test the theory of evolution? For one thing, when it comes to origins many of the crucial processes happened in the distant past and are difficult, if not impossible, to test in the present; another thing is personal biases are especially strong on topics related to origins because of the wider implications.
For example, the hypothesis that mutation and natural selection produce continuous genetic improvement in a population of higher plants or animals. The work of R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and Sewall Wright between 1918 and 1932 put down the foundation for the field of population genetics. In turn over the next decade, this work led to the formulation of the neo-Darwinian, or modern evolutionary synthesis as we now know it. This concept merged the ideas of natural selection with Medelian genetics to produce the unified theory of evolution that has been accepted by most professional biologists.
But does this work that was done some 60 years ago stand up in light of what we now know of how living organisms operate at the molecular level? The answer is no! The proteins that make up living systems require such precise levels of specification to be functional that a search based on random mutation can never succeed. No experiments today can show us repeatable results to support the theory's claims in this area. Where are the papers in professional literature that demonstrate that proteins have been produced in a random fashion?
Natural selection does not produce the type of upward, improving, genetic changes that is generally believed and claimed in this theory. Why? Natural selection is "blind" to most mutations and does not act upon favorable mutations to accentuate them nor a deleterious mutation to eliminate it unless the mutation has a large enough effect upon the fitness of the organism in its current environment. Thus most mutations fall under the "radar" of natural selection and accumulate unhindered by the selection process, which results in a general decline in fitness from one generation to the next. This we see in populations of organisms in our natural world today. Bad mutations outnumber the good mutations by a vast majority and so negate any beneficial results of the good mutations.
For 30 years population geneticists have been aware of these difficulties that are prersented to the theory of evolution. They have generally been treated as "trade secrets" and has resulted in the crucial step of hypothesis testing to be postponed rather than dealt with professionally.
This has led most professional biologists to be misled into believing that the theoretical foundation of evolution is secure when the reality is that their foundational work is a sham scientifically. The reasons for this current state of affairs is due to the scientists involved have allowed their personal biases to interfere with and to short-circuit the usual hypothesis-testing step of the scientific method.
What of the Big Bang Theory? Again, until it can be tested it is outside of scientific methodology and thus is more conjecture and speculation than true science. That is the bottom line when it comes to authentic science. Is it testable and observable? If not, then it can not be authentic science at this time.
So in summary, science is a social enterprise. Scientists are human and share the same weaknesses as all members of the human race. The scientific method fails to give us an accurate representation of the world, not because of the method, but because of those who are attempting to apply it. The method fails when scientists themselves allow their own biases and personal preferences to short-circuit the hypothesis testing part of the process.
I acknowledge that large amounts of this post come from an article by John Baumgardner. I do fully agree with all that I have posted above. Scientific method fails when it is not implemented properly, and is not strictly adhered to. I hope that this will provide you with some food for further thought. God be with you today.
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