Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Time Is It?

Early in the morning on the first day of the Jewish holiday Sukkot, Jerusalem experienced the highly unusual appearance of the “Blood Moon”. It is interesting to note that the last four sightings were on major Jewish holidays, Passover and Sukkot. This is no coincidence! In the early morning hours on the first day of Sukkot Sept 28, 2015, the Blood moon appeared fully over Jerusalem. 
The total lunar eclipse made the moon appear reddish in color, as the moon passed through the earth’s shadow reflecting the sun and appeared red.
In the past year and a half, there have been four blood moons each one fell on a major Jewish holiday, Passover and Sukkot. This is extremely rare because prior to the twentieth century, there were no such multiple occurrences in over three hundred years.

The first blood moon eclipse coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover, a pivotal event that commemorates the ancient Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt when the first of the ten plagues was blood. Finally the Israelites were commanded by God to paint lamb’s blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death would pass over their homes and smite only the firstborn of the Egyptians.
Interestingly all four blood moons coincide with major Jewish holidays, first was Passover 2014, followed by the holiday of Sukkot 2014, then again on Passover 2015 and then again on Sukkot 2015. This has happened only eight times in all
of history! Major events significant to the Jewish people happened on each of the last three recorded times that these rare blood moons occurred. These were events that changed the course and direction of Jewish history for all time.
There was a blood moon in 1493, when Tomas de Torquemada, the first Spanish Inquisitor, began slaughtering Jews. There was a blood moon on the eve of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, following a bloody war that took place only a few years after the Holocaust. A blood moon coincided with the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel liberated Jerusalem and Jews were able to return to Jerusalem after 2000 years of Exile. (Thanks to insights of Rabbi Ari Enkin at United with Israel)

Anyone interested in things that have been foretold by the prophets of old should fix their sights on Israel and most especially Jerusalem which serves as God’s timepiece and the epicenter of coming world events. The entire world is quaking in anxious anticipation of something momentous that is about to happen. The nations are armed in fear and trembling, wondering who, when and how the greatest conflagration of all time will consume the planet. It’s no longer a matter of if, but when and how it all begins. Even now the enemies of Israel are surrounding God’s chosen people arrayed with incredible armaments, while Magog and Tubal (Moscow - Tobolsk Russia) is aligning itself with the military interests of Syria and the Arab states surrounding Israel as the nations of an unconcerned "free world" look away.

( Ezekiel 38: 1-9) The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; and I will turn you about, and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you forth, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords; Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togar′mah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes, many peoples are with you.
“Be ready and keep ready, you and all the hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them. After many days you will be mustered; in the latter years you will go against the land that is restored from war, the land where people were gathered from many nations upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste; its people were brought out from the nations and now dwell securely, all of them. You will advance, coming on like a storm, you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you.

Peter the Apostle of Christ spoke the words of the prophet Joel on Pentecost. 
(Acts 2: 17 - 21) following the resurrection of Jesus as the first half of Joel’s prophecy was taking place in verses 17 & 18. ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 
Verses 19 - 21 are soon to be fulfilled. ‘And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

(Ezekiel 38:18 - 23) “But on that day, when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, says the Lord God, my wrath will be roused. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. I will summon every kind of terror against Gog, says the Lord God; every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him, torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

We are living in the most tumultuous and exciting times on earth. I hope all who read this have considered that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and that you ask him into your life as Lord and Savior. The time is very short and your days are numbered!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Casting Pearls Before Swine

Frequently we hear the name of God used flippantly and in such a profane and disgusting manner that often times it feels almost as if we just received a slap in the face. I have to admit to having been on both sides of that fence and those old days I still regret so much!
There have been instances when talking with another about some remarkable bible story or some new personal spiritual revelation that suddenly a third party will interject their own unwanted two bits worth of ignorance, disbelief and hatred for God, the bible and for all believers Jews and Christians alike and I find it infuriating! Jesus offered this admonition in (Matthew 7: 6) “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.” I suppose there is a fine line that calls for some discernment when discussing the Lord in front of unbelievers. One might first consider if someone in the conversation circle has a history of this kind of behavior and consider excluding them from the conversation altogether. I’ve often been at a loss as to how to deal with situations like that and find that the burning anger it generates in me by their comments does nothing to promote the love of God in me for them. The following excellent and refreshing commentary about this same subject is based on ancient Jewish wisdom and was written by Rabbi Daniel Lapin founder of AAJC American Alliance of Jews and Christians, I felt constrained to reprint it here with his permission.

Swine and Skeptics
By Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Generally speaking, notwithstanding my many flaws and failures, I am a good-natured rabbi. I try never to allow any fears or frustrations I may be feeling to spill over into my interpersonal relations. I try to communicate with everyone respectfully and politely. I do my best never to miss an opportunity to do favors for friends or strangers. I still have much work to do on myself; it's not always easy.
You see, there are certain provocations that come close to goading me to the very edge of rude response. For instance, when otherwise intelligent people proudly and loudly proclaim themselves to be quite free of irrational views and superstitious belief, yet nonetheless suspend all critical analysis and prostrate themselves before "experts say,""science has proven,"and "studies reveal." As if one can't find experts-for-hire who'll say whatever you pay them to say. As if there have never been bogus science and lying scientists. As if one can't locate studies to come up with absurd and false conclusions.  

Those same people who thoughtlessly genuflect with reverence at the feet of scientists, studies and experts often also unthinkingly swallow everything that politicians say with nary a glance at what they actually do. These very same people filled with mindless faith for those who so frequently betray them also seem to possess another characteristic.  They are dogmatically certain that the Bible is a primitive concoction of rules and rituals interspersed with anachronistic legends whose entire purpose is nothing other than obstructing human progress.
These are the folks that God sends to test me. Though I still do my best to respond kindly, I sometimes fail and fall back on rude retorts, even snarling cynicism or withering sarcasm. They exasperate me because they withhold their opinions on say, neurosurgery, happily confessing their ignorance of the field. Knowing nothing of nuclear physics, they seldom proffer their views on atomic decay. But despite their utter cluelessness of the Bible, they have much to say; none of it complimentary.
Though I seldom do, what I should calmly say to them is this: What sort of fool would author a book with predictions that he can't possibly know about? What sort of book would make claims that haven't been disproven in thousands of years?
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, these are the animals which you shall eat...whichever has a parted hoof, and is cloven-hoofed, and chews the shall eat, but these you shall not eat, those that chew the cud, or that divide the hoof like the camel because he chews the cud, but has no cloven hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the coney, because he chews the cud but has no cloven hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he chews the cud, but has no cloven hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the swine, though he be cloven-hoofed , but he does not chew the cud; he is unclean to you. 
(Leviticus 11:2-7)
I think that most readers would agree that once the Torah states the rule-eat only animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves-there is no reason to list the animals that have only one of the signs or the other. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the Hebrew word structure makes clear that these four exceptions are the only exceptions in the world. They are noted because the camel, coney, and hare are the only animals that chew the cud but are not cloven hoofed. And the pig is the only animal in the world that has cloven hooves but does not chew the cud.

Who but God could have known that in the years since Mt. Sinai and with thousands of new species discovered since then, nobody would ever encounter any exception other than these four? No human author would have taken the unnecessary risk to his credibility by listing the only exceptions.
This is but one of hundreds of instances where God, the Author of the Bible, inserted a security code as it were, to establish His identity. Years of Biblical study in the original Hebrew, learning from great rabbinical scholars who were part of the ancient transmission, acquainted me with many of these instances. One security code might have been a weird and improbably coincidence. Maybe two could have been an accident. But hundreds? No, I am as sure of God's authorship of the Bible as I am about the role of the brain in human anatomy and that uranium can radioactively decay into lead.

But why would people who know so little about the Bible have so much to say about it? See, it still bothers me!   

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gold, Silver And Precious Stones Or Wood, Hay And Straw?

Many years ago before I had acknowledged God in Christ, I was acting as armed security on a truck resupply convoy en-route to the docks of Saigon to pick up supplies for my Army unit based eighteen kilometers to the North. I had volunteered for this before as it afforded me time for a nice steak dinner at the Continental Palace Hotel, a rather ritzy place, rather than the usual army fare and C-rations. Following that, I always had time to kill as the trucks were being loaded and I’d make it a point to visit a bar close by where I had met a rather homely bar maid with a pocked marked face. She spoke good English and informed me right away that she was not a prostitute as some there were because she was a Catholic, I admired her for her convictions. She would help me wile away the time with a few games of 500 Rummy as we engaged in small chat. On this, my third and final trip as convoy security I discovered that my friend had been hospitalized with a stomach illness and so I paid the establishment owner to release one of the bar girls to accompany me to the hospital and help find my friend. 

We sped down the tree lined boulevards riding in a cycle-o, which is essentially a rickshaw pushed by a motorcycle where one’s own shinbones act as the front bumper in the event of an accident. The hospital was a French building with a few private rooms and large bays in the wings with patients two to a bed, head to toe. I located my friend and as I enquired about her health she began to sob. She was fearful that she wasn’t going to get well. She had indentured herself to the bar for a large sum of money following the death of her father in an effort to support her mother and younger siblings. I discovered that the Vietnamese doctor spoke English and I asked him to get her into a private room, then I gave him a large roll of cash in US dollars and told him that I expected him to take good care of her and not to spend the money on himself or in the black market or I would find him and kill him later. I bid my friend goodbye and assured her that she would be well cared for, the girl and I returned to the bar. I paid off my friend’s total indebtedness to the bar owner and proceeded to meet the truck convoy which was ready to head back north. 

Now I know that people reading this unusual story would think it was an act of righteousness but in retrospect that’s not the case at all. Since I didn’t know God or have any regard for His Son Jesus at the time, it was merely an act of self righteousness not done out of a love for God, but out of pity for the woman and the realization that I might die in some God forsaken jungle or rice paddy before my tour of duty was up and the money would rot away in my pockets. Besides there was yet another motive, if I died perhaps what I did for the woman would give me some good points in whatever afterlife there might be, I was simply hedging my bets.

The Apostle Paul makes a clear statement about such short sighted thinking. (Romans 10:3)  “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

True righteousness doesn’t come from ourselves but from God through faith. 
(Hebrews 11:7) By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.

And again, (James 2: 23) and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.

(1 Corinthians 3: 11 - 15) For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Like Paul I have come to the place where I count all former good deeds I had done before acknowledging God through Christ as so much dross based on various selfish motives and a total waste in terms of what may be considered the righteousness brought about by God which is lasting and is counted as “gold silver and precious stones” before the judgment seat of Christ.

Paul expresses these same thoughts in his letter to the church at Philippi.
(Philippians 3: 8 - 9) Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 

(1Corenthians 1: 26 - 31) For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” 

And we go on to no longer boast of ourselves but to boast in the Lord. 
(Ephesians 2: 8 -9) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Prayer The Ultimate Act Of Faith

(John 3: 16) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
This verse clearly indicates that God loves all of humanity and not just a select special class and that He has offered freely the gift of eternal life to anyone and everyone who believes in him so that they will not perish and live for eternity.
(John 1: 12) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Unfortunately there are many who refuse to believe in Him and receive him and although many seem like fine people, they are opting for eternal death over eternal life. This condition exists solely due to a total lack of faith, there is no sin black enough to keep anyone from the love of God and from receiving the free gift of eternal life other than one’s own stubborn willfulness and refusal to accept God’s grace.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples following his resurrection he spoke to Thomas who had believed that Jesus had died and was simply rotting in his grave.
(John 20: 29) Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

This identifies the basic reason why the heavens just don’t burst open in a sudden brilliant kaleidoscopic light event showing the Creator and all the glories of heaven, because God requires us to believe through faith which comes from a deep inner desire to know Him and not by way of some cheap quick acknowledgment by those whose hearts remain unchanged and who continue to rely on their own righteousness rather than the righteousness of God imparted through Christ. Herein lies the reason for prayer, because it is in and of itself an ultimate act of faith!

(James 5: 13 - 16) Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

So often people pray fervently for the total healing of a loved one who is dying with a cancer ridden body, or for someone who was horribly injured in an accident. When that person dies some who prayed fervently will become bitter, feeling that their prayers had been ignored or that God wasn’t listening, or even worse that God may not really exist. The sad truth is that we are only human with finite minds set primarily on the present, their prayers were actually answered and their loved one is with God, complete and whole just as requested. 
(Luke 18: 1 - 8) And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus made it a clear point that God will answer prayer but then asks if when He returns will He find faith on earth? (Will we still be praying or will we have faithlessly given up and quit?)

Jesus gave us an example of how we should pray when he said “Our Father who is in heaven, holy is your name…” And sadly the intent and meaning of what Jesus had prayed has been rendered into something of a mantra that is mindlessly rattled off by many church members. Then there are those who love to lead others in prayer with flowery and pious renditions of their own which leaves one wondering if perhaps they want to be admired by others for their piety and eloquence at praying. But here then is what the Lord has no regard for and then also yet another example of how we should pray.

(Luke 18: 9 - 14) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I do my most fervent praying while I’m in the shower with my exhaust fan running so that there is no one who can hear me other than God Himself and often times those prayers come with tears and an admission of what a pathetic human being I am. My family doesn’t need to hear these things as they lean on me to be the head of their household and strong for them. Little do they know that my strength doesn’t come from within but emanates directly from God in answer to my prayers.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Is The Significance Of Baptism?

“Baptidzo,” a Greek word used in New Testament writings is translated and commonly pronounced baptize which literally means to dip, to immerse, to submerge, to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to overwhelm completely.

(Mark 1: 4 - 5) John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Matthew 3:11) John said,“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Peter was preaching to the throngs he said the following: (Acts 2:38) And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

I was “baptized” as an infant many years ago by well meaning parents, however baptizing is a misnomer for what is more rightly called a “christening," a rite of claiming an infant for Christ and his church. This was advocated by Pope Innocent lll in the twelfth century, a practice later strongly disputed by Protestants as a deviation from the will of Christ. Note: from Pope Innocent III AD 1201, “The baptism of young children is not profitless, as circumcision made men members of the people of Israel, so baptism gives them entry to the kingdom of heaven.” This of course is preposterous because an infant cannot possibly hear and understand the gospel and make a conscious decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then wish to be baptized as an outward sign of that decision. Having made that decision later in life after having heard and understanding the gospel and with a sense of remorse for the sinfulness of life, I asked for God’s forgiveness and for Jesus to enter my heart and make me a new creation. Following that decision I was immersed in believer’s baptism as an outward sign of my decision before God and the congregation. 

New testament baptism corresponds with and relates us to the death and resurrection of Christ as we are immersed to signify a death to our old self and then raised to start a new life in Christ. The apostle Paul puts it most succinctly in the following: (Romans 6: 1 - 11) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

This commentary is based solely on bible scripture as it is written.
(2 Timothy 3: 16) All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
And not on any church dogma! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Believing + Repentance + Obedience + Trust = True Faith

True faith is a package deal which entails more then just a mental ascent to the existence of God and His Son Jesus Christ.
(Matthew 16: 13 - 17) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare′a Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Here is where Peter stated his belief in Jesus.

Even today many say, “Oh I believe in God!” But so what? Belief for many is merely just a head knowledge based on a record of biblical history. 
(Matthew 8: 28 - 29) “And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” The demons that spoke out through these two unfortunates knew who Jesus is but they were no better off because of their belief because they were evil, unrepentant to the core and had been consigned to the netherworld for eternity. 
(James 2: 18 - 20)  “But someone will say, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?” 
So then faith, that is believing in our heart then requires some evidence, an outflowing of obedience.
The first step is repentance. When we come to a mental understanding of who Christ is and how God arranged for his suffering and death on the cross instead of us and for the sins of our lives, then the next step entails repentance as we begin to understand how repugnant the acts and motives behind some of the things we do and say are in the eyes of God. We should then have a desire to turn away from our previous ways, this then becomes an act of obedience. That is not to say that we will ever become perfect in this life, but because of our response to Christ we are imbued positionally and sealed forever with His righteousness for salvation.
Finally with that comes trust, we have shifted our trust from ourselves and our own faulty brand of righteousness to that of the righteousness of Christ himself being totally sufficient as the expiation for all of our shortcomings in this life. Not that we are in any way perfect, we are always subject to shortfalls and sins in this world. However God understands our nature and has provided for our shortcomings.
(1 John 2: 1 - 3) “My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”

These commandments aren’t something cast in stone but is that which becomes written on our hearts in knowing Jesus and as we begin to live out what we know to be right, then we are really experiencing true faith.