Saturday, July 31, 2010

Isaac Inherits the Covenant Promises

As the narrative continues, the LORD makes clear that it is a child born to Sarah and Abraham that will inherit the covenant promises. At this point in their lives, that seemed to be an impossibility since they were both too old to be able to physically reproduce. God, however, is very clear that it is through Isaac, a child birthed by Sarah, that the covenant would be established.

Genesis 17:19–21 “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”

Again the covenant is declared to be an everlasting covenant; one that will be inherited by Abraham’s descendants through Isaac—not Ishmael.

The next reference to God’s promise to bless Abraham comes after he shows his faith in God by intending to sacrifice Isaac according to the LORD’s command. As we know, God provided the lamb to be sacrificed in the place of Isaac. I do not believe God ever intended Isaac to be sacrificed. He was providing another faith-building lesson by allowing Abraham (and Isaac) to once again experience His provision when acting in obedience to His commands. He was also establishing a precedent showing that He would provide the sacrificial Lamb necessary to deliver all people who would choose to follow Him in faith and obedience. Once again He spoke to Abraham.

Genesis 22:16–18 “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”

Again the LORD promises to greatly multiply the seed of Abraham. More significant to this study, the LORD also promises that Abraham’s people will take possession of land now controlled by their enemies and will be a source of blessing to all the nations on earth. History shows that the Israelites conquered most of the land of Canaan and established their nation as led by the LORD. The blessing to the nations would come in the person of the Messiah Jesus Christ as the Savior to all who will accept Him. Yet future is the blessing all nations will experience by having Jesus on the throne in Jerusalem as King of kings.

Isaiah 9:6–7 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

Jeremiah 23:5–6 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Matthew 25:31–34 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Revelation 20:4 “and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

I am emphasizing this truth since it is important to understand that God is going to establish His Son as King over the nations from the throne of David in Jerusalem as stated by Isaiah. I think it is important to note from the prophecy in Jeremiah that Judah and Israel (the whole nation) will dwell safely during the rule of this King who will rule the whole world. Though designated by John in the book of Revelation as enduring for 1000 years initially, scripture is clear that this kingdom will be eternal and will endure after the final judgment of humanity has been completed. John is also clear in identifying “Christ” as the King.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Unconditional Everlasting Covenant

In Genesis 15 we have a narrative of God affirming His covenant with Abram.

Genesis 15:1-6 “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward….And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

At this point in time Abraham has no children, so he doesn’t understand how God can keep His promise. The Lord then instructs Abram to prepare a sacrifice by which God will confirm His promise.

Genesis 15:12–18 “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram….And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years….afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again….And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates….”

I almost left this section of scripture out except that it testifies to some important truths that apply to our study. God is basically building a foundation of faith for Abram. He assures him through an accepted ritual that He is going to keep His word. The ritual was to include both parties passing between the animal pieces. The LORD, however, arranged it so as to walk through the pieces alone, absolving Abram of any responsibility regarding the keeping of this covenant.

The LORD also prophesied to Abram concerning what history identifies as Israel’s captivity in Egypt, specifying the timeframe and declaring that they would eventually come out of Egypt with great substance. It is also interesting to note that Abram’s land inheritance is to stretch from “the river of Egypt,” the most obvious of which would be the Nile (though most commentaries do not agree with that understanding), and the Euphrates River. It’s interesting to note that Israel has never possessed that much land to date.

The prophecy concerning the captivity and deliverance from Egypt is important as another affirmation of the LORD as LORD. Only God can prophesy future events hundreds of years in advance. Also significant to note is that the LORD is stating that the promise of a homeland was that of a specific area of land, some of which comprises the nation of Israel today.

I believe God repeats this covenant several times in scripture to strengthen the faith of the patriarchs as they and their descendants waited for its complete fulfillment. The next mention of the covenant comes in chapter 17 when God changes Abram’s name to Abraham.

Genesis 17:3–8 “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

The most important truth in this restatement of God’s covenant is the fact that it is “an everlasting covenant.” In other words, this covenant will endure for perpetuity. This promise is to Abraham and “his seed,” his physical descendants “in their generations.” This brings up another interesting truth that I discovered in my study of Galatians.

Galatians 3:16 “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

It is obvious from the Genesis passage that reference is being made to Abraham’s descendants, but Paul reveals that there is another hidden application. The reference to Abraham’s seed included a direct reference to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The LORD is making a promise of a future kingdom to His Son even as He affirms His covenant with Abraham. That revelation just helps this parent understand from the human viewpoint God's tremendous patience and mercy toward His chosen people—His promise was to His Son who was to come from this people.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

God’s Covenant with Abraham

Since so much of bible prophecy as I understand it from scripture hinges on God’s unconditional covenant with Abraham, I thought it was important to research that covenant and its implications as taught in scripture. So many people today have embraced “replacement theology,” the teaching that the church has replaced Israel; and I really don’t see how they can do that in light of scripture. Paul makes a powerful argument in Romans 9-11 that God has only set Israel aside for a time and fully intends to restore her to a position of blessing according to His covenant with Abraham. Old Testament scripture is full of prophecies regarding God’s preservation of a remnant of the nation of Israel that will one day enjoy a place of prominence among the nations when God establishes His kingdom on earth. Most important to the child of God today, God is a covenant-keeper; He embodies truth and cannot lie. If He is not faithful to keep His covenant with Israel, why should He be trusted to keep His promises to the church?

I have not done a study on this subject per se except as encountered in my verse by verse study through the scriptures. I will begin with what scripture tells us about God’s covenant with Abraham and His commitment to His word, followed up with a look at the Old Testament prophecies and closing with the study in Romans. I’m just a couple of posts ahead on this blog, so this will be a work in progress and may require some clarifications or backtracks etc. along the way.

We first encounter “Abram” in Genesis 11 as part of a listing of Shem’s descendants. We are told that Terah, Abram’s father, decides to uproot his family and take them out of Ur of the Chaldees. They got as far as Haran, and stayed there until Terah died. It would seem that Terah was aware of God’s proposal to his son according to the following verse.

Genesis 15:7 “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”

After his father’s death, Abram sets out for Canaan with his family.

Genesis 12:1–5 “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: 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: 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. 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. 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.”

I am only going to focus on the narrative as it relates to the God’s covenant with Abram. At this point the LORD has promised to make Abram, who was childless, the father of a great nation that would be greatly blessed and would prove to be a blessing to all people on earth. He also promised to bless those that blessed Abram’s family and curse those that cursed them. At this point the covenant is conditional; it is based upon Abram taking His family to Canaan as God had told him to do. The narrative is clear in stating that Abram obeyed God’s command.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Lamb’s Book of Life

The Book of Life is obviously the most important book in heaven’s library. One very important truth in connection with the Book of Life that stands out in the scriptures we have looked at is that one’s name can be blotted out of it. This tells me that every person’s name is there until the Lord has determined it is to be blotted out. It is called the Book of Life, so it stands to reason that every “life” be recorded there until they have rejected God and the eternal life that He has provided for each and every person. God has provided for our salvation, our eternal life; but He has sovereignly decided to allow us the choice of accepting His gift or not.

Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

I think it is worth reminding ourselves of those precious verses from John 3 at this point as well.

John 3:16–18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

God is not willing that any should perish. His desire is for every human being to accept His provision through His Son Jesus Christ and choose eternal life by placing their faith in Him. That is the whole reason He has waited as long as He has to send Jesus back to set up His kingdom.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Paul emphasizes the truth that God’s provision is for all in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 5:18–19 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
“one man’s disobedience” = Adam’s sin
“obedience of the One” = Jesus death on the cross

Jesus made a very important point to seventy of His disciples upon their return from the mission trip on which He had sent them. They came back all excited about the power they had been able to exert against the evil spirits.

Luke 10:20 “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

To have one’s name written in heaven, which seems to be an obvious reference to the Book of Life in light of all the scripture we have looked at, is a far greater reason for rejoicing than any power one might possess in this life.

One more interesting observation--the Book of Life is described as belonging to the Lamb at least three times in Revelation. That makes perfect sense to me. It is only through the willing sacrifice of the Lamb Jesus Christ that any of us can experience eternal life. He is the source of life as the Creator and the restorer and sustainer of life as the victorious Lamb of God.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Books of Judgment

Both Daniel and John refer to a set of books that are used in the final judgment. These books contain a record of the works of unbelievers, works that will give evidence to their sin and declare God’s righteousness in judging them to eternal condemnation. The Lord will then determine their eternal destiny based upon those works.

Daniel 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.”

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

It seems that the Book of Life is used in conjunction with these books. It also indicates that the Book of Life provides testimony against them because their name is missing. Only those whose names are missing will be judged based upon their own works. Those who have placed their faith in the Savior are judged based upon His work on their behalf.

Romans 5:1–2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

Through Christ the believer is justified—declared righteous, innocent—just as if I’d never sinned.

John goes on to declare that after judgment is determined, those not found in the Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

You would tend to think that the lake of fire would mean that the eternal future of every unbeliever will involve suffering of the same scale or intensity. Jesus however made a statement that makes me think this “lake of fire” must have sections that are worse than others.

Matthew 11:21–24 “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”

In my opinion, the worst part of the unbeliever’s eternity is that it will be spent outside the presence of God. John emphasizes this truth when talking about the New Jerusalem on the new heavens and the new earth.

Revelation 21:27 “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Book of the Living

“God’s book” is identified in Exodus. This appears to be the same as the “book of the living,” the “book of life” and the “Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Exodus 32:32–33 “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.”

Moses understood that God had a book from which those who were unforgiven would have their name blotted out. God was clear that the individual was accountable regarding the status of his/her name in God’s book. Job also knew that there was a record in heaven that could serve to witness to his testimony of himself.

Job 16:19 “Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.”

I can’t help but wonder how Moses and Job knew about “the book” and “his record” respectively?

Philippians 4:3 “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”

Paul identifies those who co-labor with him in the ministry of the gospel as those whose names are written in the Book of Life. This would seem to go hand in hand with the declaration of the psalmist that the “book of the living” contains the names of the righteous.

Psalms 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous.”

From both the Old and New Testaments, we are told that sinners, the unrighteous and those who are not overcomers will be blotted out of the Book of Life.

Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

Sinners and the unrighteous are easily understood. But who are overcomers?

1 John 5:4–5 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Overcomers are those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God. John goes on to tell us that the names of those who choose to worship the Antichrist/Satan during the last seven years on earth before Christ returns will not be found in the Book of Life. These people are obviously not overcomers.

Revelation 13:4 & 8 “And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?...All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Daniel makes reference to “the book” which also seems to be a reference to the Book of Life. The implication is that the Jewish people whose names are written in this book will eventually be delivered from Jacob’s trouble, the last seven years of tribulation before Jesus returns as King.

Daniel 12:1 ““At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heaven’s Library

When researching “The Book of Life” as part of my study of prophecy, I remember being surprised at how many books were identified as being recorded in heaven. I thought you might enjoy sharing what I learned in that study and plan to share in the next several posts.

The Psalmist tells us that a special book is set aside just to keep an accounting of our tears. God loves us and makes note of what brings us tears of sorrow and joy.

Psalms 56:8 “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?”

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms since it records the thought and care that God personally invests in creating each one of us. In fact, our physical attributes and the days allotted to us are recorded in a book at or before conception.

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.”

The prophet Malachi tells us that a Book of Remembrance exists that records the names of those who fear the Lord and esteem Him. You would think that the names in this book would mirror those recorded in the Book of Life, but the implication seems to be that they are different.

Malachi 3:16-17 “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.”

Both Ezekiel and John make reference to a couple of books that originated in heaven but were to be consumed by the prophets. This appears to be a unique method used by God to impart to them the prophecies they were to declare.

Ezekiel 2:8–10 “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.”

Revelation 10:8–9 “Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.

I can’t help but wonder if, based on God’s omniscience, there already exists in heaven a set of prerecorded “history” books of events on planet earth from original creation to the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sharing God's Truth with Loved Ones (final)

This is the message that was on my heart to express at this time. I truly feel that the Lord is coming soon!

Dear Friends and Family,

With the exponential speed at which things seem to be coming together according to biblical prophecy, I am again feeling the urgency to remind you of the nearness of the return of the Lord to planet earth as King of kings. Obviously, the fulfillment of one key prophecy was necessary to setting the stage for the fulfillment of all the rest of the prophecies concerning end times—the reestablishment of the state of Israel as foretold by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 37. Since that time events have slowly but surely evolved to set the stage for “end times” as declared in scripture. It seems, however, that the pace has accelerated in the last year. Worldwide economics and technological advances are quickly setting the stage for a one-world government to be established by a man with the ability to utilize “lying wonders” and the powerful technological tools now available to enable him to maintain authority and control.

2 Thessalonians 2:8–10 “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

One of the most amazing turns of events in recent months has been the emerging alliance of Turkey with Iran, a necessary prerequisite to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 38. I have discussed these prophecies with you in previous letters and do not intend to go into them again. I just want to point out that events are continuing to fall into place just as God declared through His prophets that they would.

Frankly, there are other things happening that convince me that the Lord will not delay His coming much longer. Though not specifically spelled out in scripture, these activities are typified in biblical history and mesh with the signs of the times as foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24. I am amazed at the “advances” scientists are making in genetic experimentation regarding humans and animals. Of course, their stated purposes are for the good of mankind; but they are obviously not considering the will of the Creator as they attempt to improve on His creation.

There are some verses in Matthew that seem to be more pregnant with meaning than is obvious at first read.

Matthew 24:37–39 “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

The obvious meaning is that people were continuing on with their wicked lives as usual in spite of Noah’s testimony and were totally surprised when the flood was upon them. Scripture is also clear in declaring that the flood was a necessary judgment to prevent the human race from becoming tainted to the point that there would have been no purely human bloodline left through which Messiah could have been birthed. The fallen angels had reproduced through the “daughters of men” in a clever attempt to do just that.

Whether Satan is adding to his army through similar means today, I don’t know; scripture does indicate that the practice was not totally eliminated after the flood. Though being accomplished in a different manner, creating chimeras, human/animal hybrids, are essentially doing the same thing--creating creatures that aren’t fully human. Discussion is already underway as to establishing the “rights” of these creatures as they become more numerous. As I continue to read the “advances” that scientists are making in this area of research, I can’t help but think that this is another sign of the times. How much further will the Lord allow man to “advance” in these endeavors? I personally don’t think very long.

Scripture is clear that no one can know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, but the signs of the times are present and are becoming more frequent and more intense as the Lord prophesied they would in Matthew. The Lord gave us signs for a reason. Just as He expected the spiritual leaders of His day to recognize Him based on the prophecies presented in Old Testament scripture, I believe He expects us to be just as aware of the signs of His second coming.

I think we can benefit from reminding ourselves of the truth the Holy Spirit declared through Paul to Timothy. I am using the NLT since the language is clearly understood.

1 Timothy 4:1–2 “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe; they will follow lying spirits and teachings that come from demons. These teachers are hypocrites and liars. They pretend to be religious, but their consciences are dead.”

2 Timothy 3:1–5 “You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.”

2 Timothy 3:12–17 “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will go on deceiving others, and they themselves will be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.”

My prayer is for your heart to be tender and receptive to the word of the Lord (not my word) and that you will be ready for Him when He comes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sharing God's Truth with Loved Ones cont.

The most recent letter to date was sent in August 2007.

Dear Family & Friends,

You are receiving this letter because you have a special place in our heart. We wanted to share with you some truths from the Bible with which you might not be familiar.

Did you know that……….

• The prophet Isaiah recorded the truth that the earth is round hundreds of years before that fact was established? Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth….

• The prophet Jeremiah predicted that Israel would be held captive in Babylon for 70 years? (And history records that it was.) Jeremiah 25:11-12 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

• The angel Gabriel told Daniel the exact number of years after the Jews were sent home to rebuild Jerusalem that Jesus the Messiah would be crucified? (It was 69 weeks of years or 483 years, and history again affirms that truth.)

• The prophet Ezekiel foretold that Israel would die as a nation and then be reborn again? He was given a vision of Israel as a valley full of old dry bones that came together and formed skeletons that were then covered with muscles, tendons and flesh and finally given the breath of life to live again (Ezekiel 37). In 70 AD the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and dispersed the Jewish people all across the earth. Israel disappeared as a nation at that time, but once again became a nation on May 14, 1948 (almost 2000 years later).

• The prophet Ezekiel foretold an alliance of nations that has never existed in recorded history, but is forming today (Ezekiel 38)? It’s an interesting alliance between Russia, Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia (in reference to the area today known as black Africa, especially Sudan), and Libya (in probable reference to what is known today as Somalia). The thing that stands out to us is that this alliance headed by Russia is basically a Moslem coalition. This alliance will eventually attack Israel, but God will miraculously intervene to deliver Israel.

• The prophet Isaiah also predicts that Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth, will one day be completely destroyed (chapter 17)? This seems to tie in with the above alliance of nations, since Russia is currently supplying Syria’s military and negotiating to establish naval bases in their territorial waters. This quote was taken from Ynet “For the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia plans to re-operate the Tartus and Latakia ports in Syria as permanent bases for the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean basin, according to recent western media reports.”

There are many more evidences of the truth of God’s prophetic Word; these are just a thought-provoking few. The first three prophecies listed above have been fulfilled. The last two could happen any time in the future. God declared to Israel that prophecy is His unique way of affirming the truth of His sovereignty in the universe.

Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.

Isaiah 44:6-8 “This is what the LORD, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty, says: I am the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who else can tell you what is going to happen in the days ahead? Let them tell you if they can and thus prove their power. Let them do as I have done since ancient times. Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Have I not proclaimed from ages past what my purposes are for you? You are my witnesses—is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

There are many arguments for the existence of God, and prophecy is one of the most amazing because who can know the past and future with such accuracy other than the Creator. Statistics of probability only strengthen that proof when you consider the amazing number of fulfilled prophecies in scripture. For example, if you asked a crowd of 1000 people of all ages how many had a birthday on July 1, several people might stand who were born on July 1. Of those standing, you might then ask how many were born in Chicago. Many of those standing would probably sit down. Of those remaining, you ask how many like green as their favorite color. Three questions and you are down to a small number of people. This is a rough illustration of how statistical probability is developed.

Critical evaluations of the Bible (by foes and fans alike) have been done for a long time, and the amazing statistics of probability related to the prophecies in the Bible are a great validation of its truth. Are these prophecies that impressive? Dig in and take a look for yourself…we believe they are and more. There are over 300 prophecies in the Bible regarding the Messiah.

The heart with which we come to you is that we are not perfect or great examples of anything, but we are both convinced of the wonderful God who has done so much to declare His existence, His love and His interest in us as individuals that we just want you to know the message that He has given us in His Word--the Bible. The Old Testament prophecies are many, and most point to One who was coming to save the world. The Jews were expecting the Messiah, and He came in the form of a man called Jesus, God in the flesh. He lived a life like no other religious leader has ever or could ever live, and then gave His life so that all who believe could have eternal life.

God states in His Word that only by faith in Jesus Christ can one hope to enter His presence in heaven.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

You can’t earn your way to heaven; you have to accept it by faith.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Notice it says, “Lord” Jesus. In other words, you are accepting Him as the authority in your life. That acceptance is proved by how you live. The sad truth is that many that claim to be saved are not.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

They may be doing good works—even in the name of Jesus—but they aren’t living according to God’s will as recorded in His Word—the Bible. His Word is very clear that if we love Him, we will obey Him.

John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words.

The Apostle Paul urges us to “examine” ourselves.

2Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.

We believe that time is short and that Jesus is coming again soon. What soon is—we don’t know. We do know that we want everyone that is dear to us to be with us in heaven. You are in our prayers often.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sharing God's Truth with Loved Ones cont.

The next letter I wrote was prompted by my experience with Hurricane Wilma in November of 2005.

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello from South Florida. I am sitting here with my feet up and my keyboard in my lap with a desire to share God’s love and His truth. I believe the Lord has truly been teaching me much in the past few years through the opportunity to get into His Word more in depth. I am convinced that He is in control of all that happens in the life of His children in order to accomplish His purposes in their lives.

As you know, we all recently experienced the power of nature unleashed in the name of Hurricane Wilma. We decided to leave our 9th floor apartment and stay with family in their 2d floor apartment. During that stay I decided to sleep on the top bunk in the girls’ room. In an effort to stop one of the girls from waking up Mom and Dad in the middle of the night, I scurried down the ladder the wrong way only to slip and severely sprain my foot at minimum. In the last two weeks I have had much time to sit and contemplate life in general and God’s working in my life specifically.

We were quite blessed compared to what so many others have experienced through this time. We were prepared with plenty of food and ice for the first few days.

I am firmly convinced that things don’t happen without purpose. I believe that God is ever at work trying to draw sinners to repentance and salvation and in providing opportunities for spiritual growth and to glorify Him in the lives of His children—those who claim His salvation through the gift of His Son, Jesus.

I am currently doing a study of the book of Romans, and Romans 8:28 is very clear: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

This scripture states that ALL things work together for good in the lives of His children. This leads me to ponder what “good” God is working in my life through my experiences in Wilma.

I know that I take my many blessings for granted more often than not. At times like this I am reminded of that truth and again given the opportunity to recognize what represents true wealth. In that regard, I feel I am one of the wealthiest people on planet earth. I am truly blessed to have a family that loves the Lord (though we each have many areas in need of improvement and spiritual growth).

The priorities in life also seem to be clarified when I consider this life and its uncertainty regarding what may impact us from day to day…..whether we will even live to see tomorrow. I have no fear of death, because I believe absent from the body means present with the Lord (2Corinthians 5:8). I do, however, have a desire to earn crowns to present to the Lord and to hear Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” My understanding of scripture makes me think that my window of opportunity to earn those blessings is quickly closing.

I’ve learned to recognize that everything that happens is according to God’s sovereign will. What others call a normal event in the course of nature, I see as God working to accomplish His will on planet earth. He is the One that set the laws of nature in motion. Sometimes He allows those laws to operate naturally and sometimes He intervenes in judgment (according to the scriptures). At all times nature is a display of His power and authority. If we would but pay attention, nature always points us to thoughts of the √áreator.

There is a very thought-provoking verse in the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 14:21 For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?

The sword is a reference to warfare, but its first reference in the Hebrew is to “drought, to parch,” or lack of water provision with intent to destroy. Famine is a reference to hunger or lack of food and nourishment; this again goes back to the work of nature. The Hebrew for “noisome beast” references “bad, evil, harmful living thing (with reference to flesh and plant).” The Hebrew for pestilence references plague, and the root word references “to arrange, to speak, pronounce.” This makes great sense in context of this verse since it is speaking of judgments that God pronounces in judgment to accomplish His purposes.

The big thing in the news right now is the concern about a bird flu pandemic. Isn’t that a pestilence? Do we really think we write it off as just another act of nature that God allows with no purpose? I don’t think so. God is a God of love. He wants people to turn to Him in faith and repentance. He ever lovingly puts us in a position to admit that we are helpless without Him and to turn to Him in faith. For His children it is an opportunity to give a testimony of faith in the light of trouble and testing. We can reflect peace and joy in our lives when the world sees only reason for worry and distress. We know our future. The privilege of suffering to honor Him is another opportunity to earn those future rewards and be better prepared to enjoy eternity. I can make similar observations in reference to any “natural” disaster that happens on planet earth.

God’s sovereign hand is at work in the actions of men just as surely as the forces of nature. Scripture also tells us that God has given man the ability to make choices. He has established governmental authorities and is the One that appoints those authorities according to His will.

Daniel 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?

Daniel 5:21….till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

I have determined to take God at His word. I may not understand how His will and our choice operate from a human perspective when so many of our choices are wrong/unwise, but that’s OK; the scripture states that we can’t know, reason and understand like God.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In my mind, all of this goes to prove the power and authority of GOD. If I could understand everything about Him, He wouldn’t be GOD. Only GOD could give man the freedom to choose and before ever creating the first piece of our universe establish a plan that would utilize those choices in the accomplishing of that plan. Only GOD could establish the laws of science and nature and intervene in them as necessary to accomplish His purposes.

I think the truth that keeps pounding its way into my head is that GOD is in control. He is everything the scripture says He is----love, truth, all powerful, the one and only, righteous in judgment, with ways past finding out, and sovereign in the universe. This truth is a comfort to this child of God. It gives me the desire to stay the course and look for opportunities to honor Him in the process as I look forward to eternity with Him. It gives me peace when the flesh would respond with worry and distress. It gives me confidence when the flesh would doubt.

I hope these thoughts are an encouragement to you. Our God is in control……and our Savior is coming soon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sharing God's Truth with Loved Ones

A few times in the last several years I have felt the need to write letters encouraging friends and family to examine themselves with regard to the truth declared in scripture or just think about the times in which we live in light of scripture. These letters haven’t always been appreciated, but they have been sent from a heart of love and concern. I’ve been thinking it is time for another letter considering the accelerated pace at which I believe events are coming together according to bible prophecy.

I thought it might be helpful and/or encouraging to somebody else to read the letters I have sent to my family. As I read back over them, I would have made some revisions; but I am going to let you see them as originally written and sent. The first letter was sent in November 2000.

Dear Family,

I just want to take an opportunity to tell you all how much I love you. Since I am so far away from you, I don't get the opportunity to do the kinds of little things that can show you that love.

My biggest concern is knowing that I'll get to spend eternity with each and everyone of you. I decided that if I wrote a letter to the whole family, no one would feel that I am making a judgment on an individual person, even though I can't help but have my own thoughts about where some of you may be spiritually. I can't help but have these thoughts because of all the Scriptures that paint a picture of a person that loves the Lord.

I'm certainly not talking about perfection in life or even consistency. I fail in both areas. The key seems to be in our attitude toward His Word and striving to be a reflection of Jesus so that others may see Him at work in our lives.

Can you imagine being in love with someone and never showing them that you love them? Better yet, can you imagine believing someone loved you who often told you they loved you, but never showed you?

All I am asking you to do is to examine yourself according to the Scripture. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says - "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test." NIV (By the way, all of the scriptures I use will come from the New International Version--just because I think it puts the thought in language that is more easily understood.)

Do you read the Word of God? Do you desire to understand the Word?
Do you consider what God would have you do when it comes time to make decisions in life? Do you talk to God in prayer? Do your prayers include the welfare of others, or are they just centered on your own needs? Do you ever take time to praise God for being God and thinking about what that means? (I love to read Job 38-41 and Isaiah 40-46 to help me focus on who God is.) Do the people you spend time with at work and/or fellowship know that you believe in Jesus? Would you be comfortable to have Jesus sitting on your sofa during your TV time? Do you give back to the Lord part of what He has given you? Do you think about laying up treasures in heaven more than about earning treasures on this earth? Do you think about eternity with excitement and expectation? Are you looking for His return?

I've printed out some verses to help you as you look inward.

I Peter 2:2 says - "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation."

James 1:22 - "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

James 2: 14-17 - "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Galatians 5:19-22 - "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Matthew 7:17-21 - "Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven."

Matthew 7:24 - "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Matthew 6:19-21 - "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I Thessalonians 5:17-22 - "Pray continually."

Matthew 6:44 - "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

John 15:5 - "And WHEN you pray….." (Not if. Then He goes on to tell us how not to pray and how to pray. Our prayer should be filled with worship, petitions and intercessions. We never forget the petitions; we often include intercessions; but how often do we worship and adore?)

Romans 12:9-13 - "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

Well, if you have made it this far, hopefully you are hearing my heart. I want you to know that I continually examine myself in light of the Word and continually find areas of sin and need in my life. But I am striving to become more like Him and I do love His Word and I do look forward to His return.

We all go thru stages of growth in our lives. As I look back over my life, I am amazed at how patient God has been with me in light of all the truth He has allowed me to be privileged to know. I can remember times when I was very focused on pleasing Him and other times when I was more or less going thru the motions and doing what I thought was expected of me. There are many areas in which I wish I could go back and do things differently. The key thing I have learned is that God has been totally consistent in spite of my inconsistencies. He has never let me just continue in sin without being convicted. The Spirit has been very quick to point out the areas that need changed; I'm just sometimes quite slow in responding--but He never gives up on me. His grace and mercy have always been there. He's always willing to let me make a fresh start; His love for me never changes.

I truly believe that the signs of the times show that Jesus is coming soon for His own. I just don't want any of my loved ones left behind. My prayers are with you often.