Saturday, February 25, 2012


Let me be clear from the outset—no one can truly know the relationship another person has with Jesus Christ.  There are some people whose lives seem to testify to the reality of their salvation more than others; still, only God truly knows what is in a person’s heart. 
I was recently listening to an interview—no, a grilling that Franklin Graham endured from the talking heads at MSNBC in which they attacked him because he was honest concerning his opinion regarding whether specific politicians were Christian based on personal experience with and/or observation of the subject individuals or his understanding of the belief system with which they identify.  It made me realize once again how so many people are confused about what makes a person a Christian.
According to the Bible, the term “Christian” was first used to identify the followers of Jesus Christ in the first century in a town called Antioch.  Again, let me be clear, the Bible is the only acceptable source for establishing what qualifies one as a Christian.  The term “Christian” is used today with a far broader application than that established in scripture.  So, what does the scripture say?
Isaiah 45:5 “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me:”
Psalms 68:20 “He that is our God is the God of salvation….”
Psalms 62:1 “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.”
The true Christian recognizes God as the One and Only God—not one among many—who is the source of our salvation.
Luke 1:26–35 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said…. Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest….Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
John 3:16 “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.”
A true Christian believes that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God; He has no brothers by birth through the flesh.  He was born of the virgin Mary through the supernatural seed of God by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.
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.”
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.”
A true Christian does not accept that salvation, spending eternity with God in heaven, can be obtained in any way other than by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  You cannot earn your salvation.  Your works, the way you live your life, only give evidence of your salvation.  ANY religion than includes works as necessary to one’s salvation is a false religion.
John 10:25–30 “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
Romans 10:9 & 13 “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…. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
1 Corinthians 15:1–4 “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…By which also ye are saved…unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
2 Peter 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.” 
A true Christian will publicly profess Jesus as Lord—God, the supreme authority; he/she recognizes Jesus as One with the Father.  A true Christian recognizes the authority of Jesus to command us how to live our lives and chooses to follow Him.  One isn’t born a Christian; you have to repent of your sins and ask God to save you.
A true Christian believes that Christ died on the cross for our sins and in His bodily resurrection from the dead.  
Romans 8:1, 9 & 14 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his…. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
Galatians 5:22–23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness [morals, kindness], goodness, faith [moral conviction of the truth of God’s word], Meekness [humility], temperance [self control]: against such there is no law.”
A true Christian will give evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit through his/her life.  The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives that will be manifest in our character as demonstrated by the traits listed in the verses in Galatians above.  The Holy Spirit never leads us into sin or to act in disobedience to the word of God.
Obviously, the true Christian does not live a perfect life; but it should be the desire of his/her heart to strive to live in obedience to God’s word.  If you claim to be a Christian and continually act in disobedience to the word of God, I would question your profession.  If you do not have that desire or knowingly act in disobedience to the word of God without guilt, you should question your profession.  Again, only God can know a person’s heart.
Psalms 44:21 “Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart.”
Luke 16:15 “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts:”
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.”
1 John 2:1–3 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous….And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”

The sad truth is that there are many who profess to be Christian, but are trusting in their works to get them to heaven; good works won’t get you to heaven—not even if done in the name of the Lord.  The Lord is clear in declaring that those who trust Him will choose to do His will.  The sad truth is that many will be damned for eternity because they refuse to accept God according to His will and His word.
Matthew 7:13–14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Even Franklin Graham can only give opinions regarding someone else’s faith. As he so clearly stated, one can only be sure of one’s personal relationship with God when measured against the word of God.  The verse above, however, is very clear in stating that few relative to the whole of humanity will gain eternal life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Psalm 83:1-2 ¶ Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God. For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.

The psalmist is writing a prayer to God on behalf of the people of Israel asking Him to take action against “His” enemies.  The enemies he references aren’t just harboring a spirit of ill-will, they are taking action as a result of their hatred.  The Hebrew for tumult indicates that they are making noises of war.

Psalm 83:3 They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.

The motivation for the prayer of the psalmist becomes even clearer at this point.  These enemies of God are enemies of the people of Israel.  They are identified as taking “crafty counsel” against them.  Webster tells us that crafty is a word that describes one that is skillful in deceiving others.  The Hebrew for counsel makes reference to their meeting in secret.  “Thy hidden ones” is a phrase that references Israel’s special position as God’s chosen people—those under His special protection.

Psalm 83:4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

What is the purpose behind these clandestine meetings?  They want to destroy the nation of Israel. 

Does that scream at you from the headlines of today’s newspapers or what!  It’s interesting that there is direct connection between the enemies of Israel as identified by the psalmist in the following verses and the enemies of Israel today.

Psalm 83:5-8 For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah.

The psalmist is clear that these nations are acting in league with one another for a common goal—the destruction of Israel.  The league of enemy nations are identified as:
·      Edom – This is a name of those descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother from whom the Israelites descended, who settled in the area southeast of Israel. 

·      Ishmaelites – These are the descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid, who settled in the area of northern Arabia.

·      Moab – This nation descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot through his older daughter who settled in part of the land today known as Jordan.

·      Hagarenes – This identifies another group of people who lived east of Jordan and Gilead according to 1Chronicles 5.  The record shows they were defeated by Saul and again by a coalition of the sons of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.

·      Gebal – Appears to be same city called in Greek, Byblos, and was an important port city of the Phoenicians located about 20 miles north of what is today known as Beirut, Lebanon.

·      Ammon – This is another nation descended from Lot through his younger daughter and settled in another part of the land today known as Jordan.

·      Amalek – This would appear to reference the descendants of Esau’s grandson.  It is interesting to note that Haman the Agagite, the “Hitler” of the book of Esther, was one of these descendants.  Research indicates that they were south of Israel in the vicinity of the Sinai.

·      Philistines – The origin of this nation is considered by many to be from the island of Crete.  They lived in the land area on the west coast of Israel and included the area that is today known as the Gaza Strip.

·      Tyre – This was one of the major Phoenician port cities that was located in the area of South Lebanon today.

·      Assur – This was the name of the chief city of Assyria and would include reference to the land today called Syria, whose capital is Damascus.

Spurgeon in The Treasury of David makes the following observation:  “It may be observed that these were on all sides of the land of Israel; the Edomites, Ishmaelites, and Amalekites, were on the south; the Moabites, Ammonites, and Hagarenes, were on the east; the Assyrians on the north; and the Philistines, Gebalites, and Tyrians, on the west; so that Israel was surrounded on all sides with enemies….” 

The wording seems to indicate that Assyria (Syria) has joined the coalition specifically in support of the children of Lot, the Moabites and Ammonites (Jordan).  Considering the 

“Selah” – This is an instruction to take a pause in the music, an opportunity to reflect on the message of the song.   This strikes me as particularly appropriate as I read this psalm in light of possible future application and today’s news headlines.  Israel is once again surrounded by enemies, although Jordan and Egypt have signed agreements recognizing the state of Israel.  This, however, does not reflect the heart of their people.  Recent events have resulted in the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a group that vows it will never recognize the right of Israel to exist as a nation as evidenced by the following quote I found on the Anti-Defamation League website.  

"Both nations [Iran and Egypt] underline the necessity for Muslim nations to maintain solidarity and unity to annihilate this cancerous tumor (Israel)… Every night when I go to bed, I pray to wake up the next day to see Israel is wiped off the map." - Kamal al Halbawi, Brotherhood spokesman at the time, speaking during an official Brotherhood visit to Iran (July 13, 2011).

Recent headlines give evidence of a deterioration of Jordan’s relationship with Israel.

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — “King Abdullah II on Tuesday blamed Israel for deadlocked Mideast peacemaking in a meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders, the official Petra News Agency said.”

From an interview with King Abdullah by the Washington Post:  "This is the most frustrated I have ever been about the peace process. I think a lot of us have come to the conclusion that this particular [Israeli] government is not interested in a two-state solution.”

The “Palestinian” issue is at the root of the hatred of many toward Israel.  Others are motivated more by their fervor for the Islamic religion.  I couldn’t help but make another connection to verse 3 regarding the craftiness (the skillfulness in deceit) that has been evidenced as these enemies of Israel have cultivated world sympathy.  They have employed the use of lies so persistently that even the state of Israel has adopted their terminology of “occupation” in referencing land belonging to the sovereign state of Israel.  Their persistent declaration that the state of Israel has no right to exist eventually resulted in the public display of a map upon which there was no state of Israel when the UN commemorated the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" on November 29, 2005.

I am sure that there was specific application to the time in which the psalmist was writing, but as far as I can find, this coalition of nations never joined as a whole in an attack against Israel.  Both the 6-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973 included many of the identified enemies, but not all.  I can’t help but think that this Psalm is a prophecy regarding events to come that will find fulfillment in the not so distant future.  Personally, I believe it is a war that will result in the destruction of Damascus as prophesied in Isaiah 17 and render Israel’s attackers unable to participate in the coalition that will be led by Gog as described in Ezekiel 38-39.  The only logical reason for their absence from that coalition can only be due to their inability to take part.  I think Israel’s victory will result in their feeling a false sense of security that Gog will determine he can use to his advantage.

The only part that still puzzles me is regarding Syria joining to aid Jordan.  As of right now, Syria does not seem positioned to give help—it needs help.  Then again, King Abdullah of Jordan is feeling threatened due to the Arab spring.

From the Jerusalem Post of February 12, 2012:  “Playing politics” is exactly what Abdullah was doing when he labeled Israel as a country moving towards apartheid. Abdullah is worried his disenfranchised and angry Palestinian majority will end up toppling him into the stream of the Arab Spring, and therefore he is doing what most Arab governments have been doing best for years: blaming their failures and shortcoming on Israel to distract their own people.”

We know that Syria is being supported by Russia, China and Iran, and I guess it isn’t inconceivable that the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” could come into play.  As late as December 2011 Jordan did not want to participate in sanctions on Syria.  Events are moving so rapidly in the Middle East that it wouldn’t surprise me for Syria to once again ally with Jordan in attacking Israel in hopes of redirecting the focus of his people toward rescuing occupied Palestinian territory.  This would, of course, draw in the other neighboring players listed in this Psalm in light of their desire to destroy Israel.

I also read recently in Arutz Sheva that there is talk of dividing the temple mount into Arab and Jewish sections.  This news provoked attacks by Arabs on Christian tourists and police just this past Sunday.  After gaining control of the temple mount in the 6-Day War, Israel basically ceded control of the temple mount back to the Muslim Waqf that is closely aligned with Jordan.  It has also been reported in recent years that Jordan has been buying up land around the mount in order to be able to control access to the mount.  Maybe this will be the rallying point for a new attack on Israel to turn attention away from these rulers in light of a greater Muslim issue. 
Psalm 83:9-12 ¶ Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth. Make their nobles like Oreb, and like Zeeb: yea, all their princes as Zebah, and as Zalmunna: Who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.

In this section the psalmist is making reference to past enemies that were destroyed and praying that God will ensure that their current enemies will experience the same complete destruction.

The Midianites were destroyed by Gideon and his band of 300 as recorded in Judges 7.  Sisera was the leader of the armies of the Canaanite King Jabin.  They were defeated by Israel’s army led by Barak, but Sisera escaped and was eventually killed by a courageous woman, Jael, as recorded in Judges 5; verse 24 ends with a note that King Jabin was also destroyed.  The general area of this defeat was close to Endor, infamous for Saul’s clandestine trip there to get the advice of a witch. 

“they became as dung for the earth” – The bodies of the dead became as manure or waste to return to dust.

Oreb and Zeeb were two princes of Midian that were killed by Gideon.

Judges 7:25 And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb; and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.

Zebah and Zalmunna were kings of Midian that were killed by Gideon.

Judges 8:21 …And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna….

They, too, had burned with the desire to destroy God’s people and take the land as their own.

Psalm 83:13-14 O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire;

The psalmist continues his petition asking the Lord to make them like a whirlwind or blowing thing (from the Hebrew) or as straw before the wind.  In other words, may they be easy to push aside and squash underfoot.  As one who loved to paint pictures with words, he goes on to emphasize his request by picturing the enemy burning like a chunk of wood in the fire, in fact, burning in the heat of a powerful, raging fire that engulfs the mountains. 

Psalm 83:15-18 So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD. Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

The psalmist is clear in declaring his heart, but is also confident that YHWH will act in honor of His name.  As he continues to pray, his heart is moved to hope that these enemies will respond to God’s judgment by seeking His salvation.  I believe that is how the Holy Spirit will always move in the heart of people of faith.  God’s desire is that all men everywhere come to know Him as Lord and Savior.

1Timothy 2:3-4 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

If we accept God as our Lord and Savior, our heart should mirror his heart as He looks at those who have rejected Him.  Those who refuse to repent and continue to reject Him will die ashamed and in fear.  Our desire should be that YHWH is honored and served as “the most high” over all the earth.  He has no equal.

Isaiah 45:5-6 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.