Author: john

Another’s Shoes

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In one of my favorite parables, Jesus contrasts the humility of a corrupt tax collector who pleaded for mercy before God, with that of a self-righteousness religious leader who was so obsessed with his own virtue that he failed to recognize his own need for repentance. (Luke 18:9-14)  I have never had trouble seeing the hypocrisy of the self-righteous man in that parable, and yet I have often failed to recognize my own insensitivity to some very real trials faced by others born into or whom life’s circumstances have cast into a social and cultural maze.

The leadership of my local church often high-fives the breadth of the racial, ethnic, generational, sociological and cultural diversity displayed within our congregation. However, I’m convinced that the numbers are few, for those of us who could be fairly described as adequately prepared for, and understanding and accepting of the vast rainbow of traits and backgrounds and attitudes implicit in such a gathering of unique personalities.

God woke me to this reality during a recent men’s group meeting in which the conversation diverted from the spiritual to the social and political. In the past I’ve noted that whenever we keep the conversation to Biblical principles, we’re almost uniformly in agreement and peace reigns. But when we stray into social and political discussions, the air gets thick and the tension grows. On this particular occasion several men began to exuberantly share their personal and varied opinions and feelings – emotions and opinions and attitudes that clearly evolved from their widely diverse upbringing and skin color and associated negative experiences. As the temperature rose, a friend tried his best to defuse the situation with the phrase, “Everyone has their problems and trials;” instead it came close to triggering an explosion.

That was the moment the Lord chose to speak to my personal insensitivity. I knew I needed to repent and to ask forgiveness of my brothers. The atmosphere changed; and though the discussion continued, a calm settled over our group.

Some might insist that social and political discussions are distractions from the intent of a “prayer group.” I disagree. God is concerned and wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. The subjects that tend to drive wedges between the races, between ethnicities, between the generations, and the social levels and the various cultural communities, all need to be addressed in a respectful way. We’ll never be able to walk in the other’s shoes; but we must try to be sensitive to the stories and histories that define our brothers’ and sisters’ uniqueness. And when we fail in this area we need to be “man-enough” to ask their forgiveness.

You can’t handle the Truth

This past Saturday I attended a luncheon where a young friend spoke. His message began with a reference to a Jack Nicholson line from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. In response to the defense lawyer’s demand “I want the truth!” USMC Colonel Jessup shouts. “You can’t handle the truth!”

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Nearly twenty-nine centuries have passed since the Biblical events chosen as Dave’s reference point for the message, yet its veracity is in evidence every day. Men and women still have a problem with accepting truth when it doesn’t confirm their hopes and plans, doesn’t align with their personal beliefs and lifestyles and suggests an unwanted change in course.

In the 22nd chapter of 1 Kings we see the kings of Israel and Judah contemplating the wisdom of forming an alliance to retake Ramoth-Gilead from the Syrians who had conquered it a few years earlier. The evil King Ahab brings out his band of four hundred so-called prophets who he can always rely on to “foretell” exactly what he wants to hear – in this case, that the Lord would give them victory. The good King Jehoshaphat however senses something isn’t kosher and asks, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire.”

The king of Israel grumpily responds that there is just one other man, Micaiah by name, whom he hates, because he always prophesies evil against him. In other words, the man speaks the truth – the real word of the Lord. King Jehoshaphat insists that they bring Micaiah to Samaria so he can make inquiry of him. While a messenger is sent to bring back the true prophet, the others keep speaking words of encouragement and triumph, hoping to dissuade Jehoshaphat from listening to their rival when he arrives.

Even the messenger himself, when he reaches Micaiah and explains the situation to him, encourages the prophet to not create waves. Because he knows neither king can handle the truth, so it would be best for the prophet to just repeat the false prophets’ words that all will go well if they attacked the Syrians. And for some strange reason Micaiah goes along with this recommendation, and the first words out of his mouth are as the messenger suggested.

But Jehoshaphat sees through the man and demands the truth, just like Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee played by Tom Cruise. At which the prophet announces that the Lord’s command is that Judah should return to its land in peace – otherwise the results will be disastrous for them all. Not only will they get their butts whipped, but King Ahab will not return from the battle alive. He also cautions that the false prophets are actually agents of a lying spirit sent to deceive and destroy Ahab.

Nevertheless, both kings ignore the truth and proceed to advance on Ramoth-Gilead. And the battle turns out exactly as prophesied; for though Ahab and Jehoshaphat trade royal garments, the Syrians let Jehoshaphat survive, but slay Ahab. His blood flows into the chariot, and when his body is returned to Samaria for burial; even “the dogs lick up his blood while the harlots bathe,” in accordance with an earlier prophesy.

So here we are, not in the 9th century BC, but in 2016 and the theme of the saga continues for all to witness across social media and in the news multiple times each day. Everyone claims they desire and are seeking the truth. Yet it’s human nature to shut one’s ears to the words of all but those who relieve the itching and who confirm that what one does and what one believes is well and good. So what such a self-deceived person claims they have is truth – is really just their own vile heart declaring their own righteousness through the words of confused and deceived friends and so-called “experts.”

The deceived turn the volume off to anyone who professes to have a word from God to help them. All too many just can’t handle the truth. When the truth demands an action that would require them to reverse course in their lifestyles and in their belief systems, they just get angry and continue to march forward toward their own demise.

It’s a sad destiny with an even unhappier eternal end. People are offered a chance to turn and walk toward God; instead they slink out of the room and head for home and their disillusioned belief that what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

Hate is a Heart Thing

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 Our society seems obsessed with hate and tries to legislate it away, with laws against hate speech, hate crimes, you name it. This tactic only fills up prisons and cemeteries, because it fails to address the root of the problem. Hate is a heart thing and the only One who can heal a hate-filled heart is the One who created that heart in the first place. God created each heart, intending that it be filled with His pure goodness; but in this messy world we have a tendency to fill it with whatever “seems right in our own eyes,” and that’s rarely goodness and right thinking.

People use a lot of excuses to justify hate: racial inequity, denial of rights, ethnic and nationalistic history of injustice, sexual, physical, verbal or emotional abuse, offensive words, unjust loss of property, position or reputation, even religious doctrine can become a justification for the hatred that creeps into or floods our hearts. But no human justification for hate will ever be validated by the One True God – for the simple reason that God sacrificed His Son and allowed His Blood to be spilled for each one of us – and He did it while we were pretty rotten individuals not worthy of His supreme sacrifice.

Some (especially “religious” people) try to cover up their hate-filled hearts with distractive behavior and deceptive appearances: like good works, false smiles, church attendance, or involvement in “causes.” But hate is such a destructive force that it cannot be covered up for very long. It will eventually show forth its serpent fangs. The Bible explains that whatever is in the heart will be displayed in our words and in our actions. It will even show forth in our eyes, which are the entrances to our soul.

Hate and Love cannot co-exist – for hate will distract from and ultimately destroy other relationships, both in the natural and spiritual realms. I see this every time I minister to a man whose marriage is struggling or whose children have abandoned him. More often than not we discover that at the core of his problem is a past hurt (be it a childhood molestation, a parental abandonment, a prior unfaithful spouse, or a physical beating by an authority figure such as a teacher or police officer) the memory of which continues to rip apart the man’s soul and every subsequent relationship.

Jesus correlated hatred with the physical act of murder and said the only cure for the hater was forgiveness of the offender. “For how can you say you love God who you do not see, when you hate your brother who you do see?” and told people to not even consider offering a gift to God until after they went to the other and reconciled with him. And it’s not just our spiritual relationship with the Almighty that suffers, but every relationship we have – until we are set free from hate.

Hate and Fear are kindred spirits. Most of the time we experience fear of a person or situation, we feel the need to either avoid or destroy the person(s) who we perceive as the source of our fear. And that’s where hate comes in. But the real source of both fear and hate is spiritual, not natural – it’s the kingdom of darkness – that simply manifests in and through a human’s bad behavior. The Word of God identifies each of these as spirits and He tells us “Your battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.” Regarding fear, we’re specifically told, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.” This principle applies to the spirit of hate as well.

And it’s not just our relationships that suffer – it’s everything good that we put our hands to. Hate destroys the hater physically, emotionally, attitudinally, and spiritually. Hate is counter-productive – it interferes with a person becoming the best we can be. It keeps us from producing something of value, from using our talents fully, and from accomplishing our goals and dreams.

Fortunately a hate-filled heart can be healed – but only by allowing God and godly people to intervene. It’s the rare individual who is being spiritually harassed by the enemy who will seek God’s help directly. More often than not, when they finally recognize that they’re in trouble and have nowhere else to turn, they will reach out to one who they perceive is a godly person or a Christian ministry or a church for help. Hopefully the one they reach out to will recognize their authority in Christ over the power of darkness, or is wise enough to redirect them to another who does. My local church in Sterling Heights, Michigan actually prays for “the hardest cases” to find their way to us – for we know our authority and have seen many broken people set free from this heart problem we call hate.

Your Life Matters

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Everyone wants to “make a difference” in their brief time on this earth. This is true of the intensely spiritual person – but it’s also true of the one who doesn’t acknowledge any form of supernatural realm. Every person who has ever come to me for counsel has exposed that, at the root of their problem is a delusion that their life doesn’t matter. Either they’ve been told this by an insensitive parent or other authority figure, or significant circumstances in life have driven them to that conclusion.

This weekend a young man in his late twenties shared with our church the challenges in his life that nearly destroyed him. Though he grew up in a home with a praying mama, there was so much turmoil in the household and an abusive father that he concluded early in life that he didn’t matter. His friends became people who had similar low self-esteem and they introduced him to the drug culture. It eventually led to a dark night in a vacant field in Detroit where two acquaintances put ten 45 caliber shells into his body and left him to die.

For the first time in a long time Gary called out to God for help. He was somehow able to muster enough strength to crawl out of the field, where a bystander found him and called 911. In spite of losing 83% of his blood (well beyond anything medically possible for a human being to live), and enduring several operations which removed or repaired vital organs, he would survive. Yet months later after he was released, he was still home-bound and emotionally worse off than ever – since he couldn’t see how he’d ever be able to improve his lot in life.

But through the personal ministry of some church friends and an associate pastor who led Gary to forgive those who had hurt him in the past and to renounce the spiritual forces that had deceived him into believing he was worthless, he was totally set free to understand that he could make a difference within his sphere of influence. It’s been a long haul, but now this young man has part-time employment, has recently returned from a mission trip to Rwanda and is sharing his story to encourage others whom life has likewise challenged and stepped all over.

It’s interesting, because this same message was given at our People for Jesus meeting this Saturday by Dr’s Jerry and Sherill. When the Holy Spirit reinforces a message it gets my attention. God clearly wants His people to know how He values each one of us and has included us in His grand plan. But sometimes we get so self-absorbed in the circumstances of life that often don’t play fair – that we lose sight of the big picture and our part in it.

The enemy of God of course wants to keep us down and distracted with our problems. Sometimes we need each other to get us out of these doldrums. God’s power and love and mercy and grace are not restricted by anything you’ve been through, whatever discouraging words you’ve been subjected to, whatever hurts you’ve experienced. It’s important, even necessary, to forgive those who have hurt you – and forgive yourself. And renounce the bad behaviors you’ve been subjected to or have been involved in – and declare them dead to you. You may even need special ministry like Gary received, to get fully set free to do God’s bidding – so don’t be ashamed to seek it. We’re here to help each other.

Whatever your age or physical or emotional state, know that God holds you in high esteem and has a job for you. You just need to find out what it is. Until you know for sure, just serve others as the opportunities present themselves – and you’ll be surprised as other doors open for you. This is an exciting life – and we live in an exciting time in history.

Are we to understand the mind of God?

Testing Religious Truth   I have a FaceBook friend who has a large diverse following which he constantly challenges with political, social and religious issues. The other day he shared a “testimony” in which someone claimed their child was healed from autism. He simply added “I think that was nice of God.” The faith crowd of course replied with “Amens” and confirmations of the goodness of God, while the unbelievers and even some Christian brethren responded with various degrees of cynicism and sarcasm, often asking hard questions like, “If this is true, then why doesn’t God heal all autistic people?”

Such questions are hard but still valid. The hard-to-understand issues never bothered Jesus. In fact, He raised many of these issues Himself to test the religious leaders of His time. Take for example His words early in His ministry: “many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

The implication of His words so enraged these men that they tried to throw Him off a cliff. Was their reaction based on a misunderstanding of why God hadn’t intervened on the part of their predecessors? No! They knew exactly what Jesus meant. He was drawing a comparison between that former rebellious time in their history and their current rejection of Jesus’ message. The inference was that “outsiders” would once again be the recipients of God’s blessings in lieu of His “chosen people” if they didn’t set down their pride and humbly turn back to Him.

But not every valid “God question” has such an obvious answer. We cannot even say that a rebellious person will never experience God’s blessings; for elsewhere the Bible says that God allows His rain to fall on the land of both the righteous and the unrighteous. If we fully understood the inner-workings of the mind of God we’d be gods ourselves, which we definitely are not. We are only called to seek out an understanding of the nature of God to the extent he has shared it with us in the Bible and in the world around us, for the purpose of relating that understanding to the ones He puts in our individual paths.

God has revealed to us His written promises, but He also has allowed us to experience His grace and mercy. That’s why He often puts those who have been set free from drugs and alcohol into the lives of those still struggling with addiction. That’s why He puts the former porn addict or prostitute in front of a person still dealing with sexual misbehaviors. That’s why God frequently puts me, who once had a strong religious spirit, into the path of another of like background; or praying for the healing of the person with spine or heart and blood issues, ailments I was once miraculously healed of.

So why doesn’t God reverse the effects of autism throughout the world? Why doesn’t He do the same for every case of childhood cancer? I could hypothesize an answer based on scripture and verse – but I’d be wrong more times than not. And those few times I reasoned correctly, I’d still be stoned (metaphorically) by a large segment of the religious and non-religious world around me.

There are some things I don’t think we’re meant to know – because God alone is sovereign. We’re just to believe His promises, execute the action plan He’s set before us and trust that all things will ultimately work together for the good of those who love Him and who are called by Him.

Complaining about a depraved culture solves nothing

People use social media for a variety of purposes, from sharing family adventures, to selling products and ideas, to venting about politics and social issues. While each person has the freedom to do whatever they like with their personal FaceBook page, sometimes we need to be reminded that there’s a better way. One of the foolish things I see much too often are posts complaining about liberal bias in the media, our leftish education system, the depravity of society, you name it. Crying about unfairness or bad behavior solves nothing. I know, because I’ve been just as guilty in this regard as the next person.

I think the majority feels frustrated with the moral decline we witness every day, and our apparent ineffectiveness to slow it down, much less turn it around. Most of us have children and grandchildren and we have nightmares of them wending their way through the garbage pit that our post-modern culture is spewing out – so we cry foul – perhaps hoping some warrior will step forward to their and our rescue. But it ain’t gonna happen that way folks!

Each one of us has a part to play in the rescue of our culture and our kin. In spite of scriptural warnings that the world would “wax worse and worse,” my generation never anticipated how morally corrupt our society would become, and so soon – so we didn’t adequately prepare our offspring. Now we’re in catch-up mode. Fortunately, at the same time as we face a daily attack on our traditions and morals, God has raised up a number of wise men and women to help us. So we have at our technological fingertips a number of tools to combat those attacks and to prepare our young folks for the challenges they’re going to face as they proceed through each phase of their growth and education, into adulthood.

As a starter, let me recommend an article by Stand to Reason’s student impact director, Brett Kunkle entitled A Practical Plan to Equip the Next Generation. It’s at: http://www.str.org/publications/a-practical-plan-to-equip-the-next-generation-solid-ground-may-2016#.VzSrNfkrL7A

 As Kunkle explains in his intro, growing up in a Christian home, a family committed to the local church, coming to Christ at five and baptized at six, the model teenage youth group kid, a student leader and a ministry intern, even committing his life to full-time vocational ministry before graduating – none of this prepared him for the serious intellectual challenges awaiting him or the barrage of moral challenges from an increasingly secular culture. His freshman college Philosophy 101 instructor systematically dismantled the Christianity he grew up with, in class and in front of everyone. And sadly that’s the story for the majority of our Christian kids and explains why the Church continues to hemorrhage its youth out the doors once they experience the outside world.

So stop the complaining and start doing whatever is necessary to prepare your kids and grandkids and other people’s kids to defeat the enemy’s advances on their minds and spirits. Stop sulking about your own mistakes and failures – learn from those mistakes and share them honestly with the ones you most love. If you of the older generation blew it with your own kids, turn them over to God; then start anew with your grandkids – study and share what you learn. It’s never too late to turn things around.

How Credible is the Prophetic Today?

Tattered US Flag   How do you feel about the operation of the prophetic in the Church today? As a Biblical ministry I accept it; but I tend to be a bit more skeptical when I hear someone claim they’ve received a divine word foretelling a specific future event. Such was my attitude when a former co-worker friend emailed me an audio interview by a Christian website of a previously unknown “prophet” concerning a purported five-year-old revelation about the 2016 Election. While I felt I owed it to my friend to at least listen to the premise of the prophesy, I expected to reject it well before its conclusion. Instead, at about the fifteen minute mark of the interview, I was reminded of a “vision” that a church friend of mine claimed he received while attending a 1997 Promise Keepers conference on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

I heard my church friend describe his ’97 experience first in 2008 and a few times thereafter. In this “vision” (a term I use loosely) he described being transported into the spirit realm where the hubbub of the thousands of men around him was briefly blocked out so he could clearly hear the audible voice of God. And that voice said, in essence: “I have not forgotten the United States, neither its missionary works nor its global generosity. For this reason America’s best days are yet ahead.” As America’s economy, morality and global influence have steadily declined over the past decade, my propensity to accept such an incredible word as divine revelation has followed a similar path. Many times I’ve asked myself, “How could America’s best days ever be ahead? If anything, the signs seem to indicate that judgment of our nation is at hand.”

 Yet, as I listened to this ten-year-medically-homebound and previously unknown retired firefighter named Mark Taylor discuss with TRU News founder Rick Wiles the 2011 “revelation,” I sensed that God was connecting the dots between the various messages He’s been revealing to His people across this great nation – to give us hope in very trying times.  I encourage you to make the effort to listen with an open mind to at least the first half of this hour-long interview. https://youtu.be/tqwFWD_Htfo

As I reminded some FaceBook friends a couple days ago, I’m sure that the people of Israel were similarly skeptical when advised that the most likely candidates to be used by God for their nation’s restoration at their respective times in history were the worldly King Cyrus or the loud and boisterous King Nebuchadnezzar. And yet!!!

Let NO Offense determine YOUR Attitude

   One who is offended by another’s assessment of their life choices indicates a degree of insecurity in those choices. In contrast, anyone who is truly confident in their choices and beliefs, their conscience will insulate from even the harshest of words. A snapshot of my life reveals a series of career and life choices that many in modern culture, the media and even my old circle of friends today publicly revile: lawyer, government employee, executive in the military-industrial complex, political and social conservative and Christian. I’ve been unfriended occasionally on social media, but have never unfriended anyone. I feel that every individual deserves respect and a fair hearing on their beliefs, if they choose to share them.

But we live in a society that’s much different than the one I knew as a child and young man. My home was a safe place – but the outside world (my neighborhood, my school, my places of employment) all were jungles that I had to learn to deal with or be labeled a mama’s boy. Today society tries to over-protect young people (with the odd exception of the most innocent of all, the unborn child), and demands the creation of “safe zones,” castigating anyone who violates those zones. The result: a society of new entrants into the adult population easily offended and unable to deal with even the most basic of challenges that life will inevitably throw their way.

This is evidenced every day across social media. The adult world is not as nurturing as the one that protected these young people in the classroom, so when they freely express their views about life in the public domain, expecting others will agree with them, they get a rude awakening. Few know how to respectfully respond to those who hold contrary opinions nor how to deal with even the most modest critiques of their own life choices and beliefs.

Whatever a person’s beliefs and choices, if sincerely held, there’s no reason to be offended by another who professes a contrary opinion, and there’s no need to justify yours to them – though plenty of valid reasons to explain them.

The Scourge of the Double-minded

pushmi-pullyu    I’m intrigued by various approaches taken to seek the promises, the blessings and the help of The Almighty. Some use ritual prayer, repeating over and over again a string of words approved by their hierarchy, as if the phrases themselves have some magical influence on our Creator-Provider-Healer. Others cry out with heart-felt expressions laced with abundant scripture for whatever duration they feel is necessary to get their Lord’s attention. Then there’s the “prayer” of one who can’t seem to separate his or her appeal to the Kingdom from the realm of the superstitious. Some of these forward every chain letter that comes their way promising whatever; while others “claim” their blessings, as if Jehovah God is required to heed their commands. In contrast, those who seem to lack confidence in their personal relationship with the Father and His Son are more likely to make requests for community prayer support. Some even appear embarrassed by their appeal for supernatural intervention, so they incorporate a degree of lightness to the request: “Please pray for X, and toss in some pixie dust for good measure.”

Marvelous Grace overlooks our silliness

So what is the “best method” to submit our requests to the throne of God? Clearly the Bible publishes guidelines for successful prayer. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that our God’s mercy is so vast, His grace so marvelous that He overlooks a lot of the silly performance things His kids think they need to do to approach His throne. All He wants is for them to come to Him in whatever means is natural to them.

Barrier to answered prayer

But when I say silly performance things people do, in no way am I justifying sin; for His righteous and holy nature will never sanction such rebellious behavior with blessings. But besides sinful behavior, there are some attitudinal barriers to answered prayer: things like selfish motivation, an unforgiving and bitter spirit, pride, self-righteousness and something the Apostle James called “double-mindedness.”

The term “double-minded” comes from the Greek word dipsuchos, meaning “a person with two minds or souls.” It’s interesting that this word appears first in the book of James (James 1:8 and; 4:8). For this reason, some scholars conclude that James might have actually coined the word.

Jesus probably had such a person in mind when He spoke of the one who tries to serve two masters. See His teaching in Matthew 6 where Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Double-mindedness raises its ugly head when half of you knows you need God and desires to lean on Him, while the other half worries about what others think about what you stand for and believe in. We’re either going to be focused on God’s expressed desires or we’re going to be focused on what other people think.  These are at such opposite extremes that it is impossible to satisfy both. Those who try will become unstable in all their ways, which simply means unsteady and wavering in both character and feelings.

The term unstable is analogous to a drunken man unable to walk a straight line. He sways one way, then another. He has no defined direction and as a result goes nowhere. A double-minded person is restless and confused in his thoughts, his actions, and his behavior. He’s always in conflict with himself. One torn by such inner conflict can never lean with confidence on God and His gracious promises; which is why many of his prayers will never be answered as he desires. According to James, a doubter is one such double-minded person.

A doubter just doesn’t have the faith spoken of in Hebrews 11:1, 3. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It’s impossible to be both certain and doubting. A person’s words may declare he believes the promises of God, while his thoughts and his actions say otherwise. Most of us carry some degree of doubt into every serious trial we face. It’s human nature that only God can help us overcome. But the “doubter” spoken of by James has a more serious case of lack of trust in our Lord’s promises. All the while he asks for God’s intervention he’s checking around for a second opinion. He’s double-minded.

As a minister of body, soul and spirit healing, nothing grieves me more than a person in need refusing to let loose of double-mindedness. I’ve prayed for numerous people, and seen many healings and miracles. But all too often I’ve left a session with a confidence and trust that God was intervening in their specific circumstance, only to later learn that they subsequently opened the door to another minister or priest to counter my message of hope with one of doubt and expectation of the worst. One of the fruit of double-mindedness is – when you expect the worst you’ll never be disappointed.

Trust in God and God alone

Deep within the soul of every believer is the desire to live fully for God. That desire was planted inside us when we were converted through faith in Christ. At that moment, the Holy Spirit took up residence within our body. And we immediately began to experience the desire to do things God’s way. That desire will always be there within the soul of a Christian, even the one who is double-minded. But the only way to experience the complete joy and peace God intends is to enter into a single-minded approach to our thought life.

Until we settle our relationship with God we’ll continually find ourselves in a state of inner turmoil. A double-minded life will circumvent much of the good which the Holy Spirit wants to work in us and through us. What every believer desperately needs is to fully surrender their heart and mind to the Lord. Only then can God work miracles in his or her life. We either do or we do not fully trust God and God alone. Once we settle this we’ll be confident, at peace, in power and our prayers will have a purpose that lines up with the will of God.

From Signs to Signals: an End-of-Days Alert

Universe-1Delving into the patchwork of messages hidden within thousands of verses of Biblical prophesy to arrive at a composite End-of-Days picture is akin to assembling one of the complex puzzles that many of my pre-smart-phone generation once relied upon to get us through a boring rainy day. The more pieces and the more complex the better. There was something about dumping a thousand seemingly disassociated puzzle pieces into a pile in the center of a kitchen table then accepting the challenge of making them come together to resemble the well-known landscape or man-made wonder displayed on the front of the box. Each stand-alone piece wasn’t much to look at and yielded little information; for in a tiny fragment of a scene, the corner of a man’s elbow looks about the same as a crag on a mountaintop or a pebble on a beach. But when properly matched with its adjacent brethren the image, feelings and message that the artist or photographer intended to convey begins to rise to the surface.

Like the picture on the box cover, we too have Biblical snapshots to guide our efforts, prophetic images of wars to be initiated by the enemies of Israel, the return of the Son of God to gather His flock, times of tribulation for those left behind on the earth, wondrous acts of God in the heavens and a white throne judgment of the lost. For centuries theologians struggled to assemble the fragments of prophesy, many of which didn’t seem to be either plausible or possible. And those who attempted to make sense out of them and to assemble the puzzle often faced severe ridicule for their efforts.

Yet recent decades have favored those who put their trust in the Word of God. Archaeological finds and the ongoing march of modern world events have unveiled much of that cover image painted by our Creator ages ago. Mysteries once hidden within His holy book’s pages have been gradually revealed to faithful believers. Like a grandiose chess game, world powers are maneuvered around the board in a series of interactions that will usher in the Lord’s return. Prophetic images that once appeared unrelated and unlikely now seem quite feasible, even probable.

Scriptures that foretold earth-shaking changes that would catapult Biblically-cited nations from obscurity back to the center of the world stage seemed unrealistic a couple decades ago. Yet recent events, highlighted by the meteoric rise of an Islamic Caliphate and a nuclear Iran, have refocused the entire world’s attention on the Middle East. And one tiny plot called the Land of Promise is in the crosshairs of every nation on the planet.

Jesus told His followers to wait and watch for various signs that the time was near. And we are the generation chosen to witness and alert others that the time is at hand. Only the willfully blind can ignore the twists and turns in world events that have become so frequent and glaring – for they now are more akin to signals than signs that we are on the very precipice of the last days. No one can afford to ignore the direction in which world events are moving. To the unbeliever it should be worrisome.  But to the Christian, it’s exciting to be living in this age. It’s imperative that those of us in-the-know seek to understand and communicate to others not only what is going to happen, but why.

Modern Nations in Prophesy

To understand Bible prophecy modern nations must be correlated with their ancient names – develop sort of a “Who’s Who.” National borders have changed multiple times over the centuries. For the most part what is now Iran was once called Persia. What is now Iraq, in ancient times was composed of several different kingdoms. Southern Iraq was comprised of the peoples of Shinar, Chaldea, and Babylon, while northern Iraq was part of Assyria, and today’s Kurdish portion was inhabited by the Medes. Assyria also extended into what is currently Turkey. What are now Russia and parts of China were referred to as Gog and Magog. And what formerly was Tyre is modern Lebanon. Only a few nations have retained their names over the centuries: Israel, Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia. Since the Bible is focused on Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors, distant nations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia are not even cited; rather they are referred to only in general terms as to whether or not they are righteous, treat their own people and strangers with compassion, serve God and support Israel.

The Prophets tell us that in the end of days most nations will be aligned against Israel and will go to war with and invade it.  There have been a number of invasions by Israel’s Middle-Eastern neighbors since its founding on May 14, 1948, and Israel has successfully repelled each, gaining land and expanding closer toward its ancient borders each time. Israel has been unsuccessful in its attempts to make peace with most of her neighbors, and Islamic terrorist organizations situated on her borders have gotten more and more aggressive and murderous. But the prophet Ezekiel warns of one especially violent war with Persia and her allies. This prophetic war has never taken place. In fact, the only time in history Persia/Iran has ever gone to war inside the borders of what is now Israel was in 614 AD (prior to Islam) when the Persian Emperor sent his troops to take Jerusalem and overthrow the Byzantines who were persecuting the Jews and Samaritans of the land.

Iran today has two chief allies, Russia and China, and as permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council these two have enabled much of Iran’s terrorist support activities against Israel. Together they stand in opposition to the United States and Western Europe as they vie for world domination.  The rest of the world’s prophetic nations are aligning themselves with one or the other of these two global forces.

Ezekiel 38 is a prophecy not only about Persia, but also about people groups referred to as Gog and Magog. These and all their distant “cousins” will form an alliance in the End-of-Days to try to destroy Israel. Gog and Magog and their invasion are also mentioned in Revelation 20. Few theologians doubt that this is a reference to modern Russia and China. Other prophesies speak of these forming a global economic partnership along with other nations of the world to exclude Israel.

In a prophecy recorded in Daniel 11, a clash is foretold between “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” Emerging victorious, the king of the north’s army is then prophesied to conquer the tiny Jewish nation. At that point, the prophesy foretells, “tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble” this king. This event is further expounded in Revelation 16 where it is prophesied that the “kings of the east” will gather a vast army. There are many possibilities for these various north, south and east “kings,” based on their geographical location to Jerusalem, so we’ll just have to wait for more information. But most theologians see Russia, China, an Islamic Iran and Turkey, as well as some European nations fitting in those roles.

In addition to Magog and Persia, Ezekiel 38 references several of the people groups that will comprise the army that attacks Israel in this great war: Put, Cush, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-Togarmah.  Ancient Put was the land just west of Egypt, or what is today Libya, a sponsor of terrorism, and one which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The ancient kingdom of Cush was the land just south of Egypt on the Nile River. Today this land is occupied by Sudan, home to the National Islamic Front. The country which harbors countless Islamic terrorist groups has already a close alliance with Iran, trading military supplies for docking rights on the Red Sea shipping routes.

The remaining four names relate to lands that make up modern Turkey. As the 6th and 5th sons of Japheth, the son of Noah, Meshech and Tubal refer to peoples who dwelled in the area south of the Black and Caspian Sea which today is Turkey as well as parts of Southern Russia and Northern Iran. Gomer was the first son of Japheth and the Gomerites were the ancient Cimmerians who occupied territory from the southern steppes of Russia into Turkey. And Togarmah was the third son of Gomer, and in Ezekiel’s time there was a city in Cappodocia (modern Turkey) with a similar name. “Beth” at the beginning of the name is just the Hebrew word for “house” or “place of.”  Turkey is linked both ethnically and linguistically to Central Asia (Magog) and since the break-up of the Soviet Union, it’s seen a growing number of political parties that support opposition to Israel, establishment of a Turkish Islamic Republic, and the worldwide rule of Islam.

Signals via current events

  1. We’re all aware of the daily rocket barrages and suicide bomber attacks into Israel from both Hezbollah on the Lebanon border and Hamas on the eastern Gaza strip; but recently an ISIS-associated terror group of 600 fighters massed in Syria’s Golan Heights border. Incursions by terrorists are even taking place from the southern Egyptian border. For the most part, these are all financed and supplied by Iran. Also the Palestinian people are encouraged and paid to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
  2. Iran has tested missiles capable of reaching inside Israel – and its nuclear program is nearly complete – with the help of the current U.S. Administration.
  3. 2015 and 16 have been marked by Islamic terrorist attacks inside of historically-Christian nations such as France, Belgium, Australia, the U.S., etc. And the numbers of massacres of Christians across Africa and the Middle East have multiplied exponentially.
  4. China has published the coordinates for their bid to take complete military control of the East China Sea, claiming that the disputed and uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku and the Diaoyu are within their realm of international control, giving them territorial dominion over these islands. China also published a warning that any aircraft flying over this region could provoke “defensive emergency measures” against the aircraft that failed to identify itself.
  5. The United States, in an act of defiance to China’s changing the international rules controlling this region, dispatched two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers to fly over the disputed islands accepted by the international community as belonging to Japan. This was done while doing training maneuvers in the East China Sea. Japan followed suit as their planes continued to fly through this new airspace zone.
  6. Russia likewise has reasserted control over much of the region it once possessed through the USSR. We’ve seen this in the Ukraine and elsewhere. And they’ve gained footholds militarily in Syria and Iraq.
  7. Germany’s and France’s military efforts against ISIS have developed gradually over the course of the last 15 months—spreading from limited sorties in Iraq to include missions over Syria and the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Following the Paris terrorism attack, in December French planes began bombarding the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. France and Germany have even opened the door to cooperation with the Syrian army in the fight against Islamic State, while Germany has made political moves to send 1,200 troops to the Middle East in a departure from its usual non-intervention stance.
  8. The United States, France and Germany have increased their cooperation on intelligence in Syria since the Paris attacks. And the U.S. is expanding intelligence sharing with her European allies and has agreed to speed the delivery of detailed targeting information in support of possible French retaliatory strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
  9. And just last week we saw ISIS-supported terrorists attack at the very heart of NATO headquarters in Belgium, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent civilians.
  10. While many people seem confused and obsessed with this year’s Presidential nomination process, I view it as simply one more piece in the puzzle.

The Great Coming War

Both Ezekiel 38 and 39 and the Book of Revelation speak of a great war that will be unlike any other war in history. It will unleash a series of irreversible events which will change the world forever. According to the Bible, Israel must stand alone – with God.  For when this coming war does finally start, even the United States will be unwilling (or unable) to help Israel defend herself.  Even though the Bible warns that the invading armies will be ultimately destroyed by God, it will be a devastating war for both Israel and the whole world.

We are not exactly sure when this attack will take place, but from current news headlines, it looks as though it is getting very close.  Iran is constantly threatening Israel with annihilation and this month test fired two 2000 km ballistic missiles with the words “Israel must be wiped out” emblazoned on their sides in Hebrew.  Russia is fully backing Iran, and Turkey is quickly turning against Israel, as are most other nations with the exception of America. And many of these are, or soon will be armed with nuclear weapons.

The Bible goes on to declare that the invading armies will be utterly destroyed by God with the aftermath of this invasion very gruesome. There are hints this coming war may go nuclear: the Bible says Israel will wait months to enter the battlefield after the battle; that they will “set apart men regularly employed” to bury the dead; and later if a bone is spotted it is to be “marked” for the professionals to bury. These are the same procedures found in nuclear/biological/chemical battlefield cleanup manuals today.

We aren’t sure if this coming war is part of the prophetic battle of Armageddon or will just precede Armageddon in order to prepare a path for a coming World Leader who will enforce a Peace Plan upon Israel. But it will trigger the final prophetic 7-Year period of time which is called the “Tribulation.” That’s when the coming Antichrist will rise up to command the 10 nations which were once a part of the Roman Empire, filling the world power vacuum that will be left after the war.

Our Hope

The Bible promises that believing Christians who are alive at that time and who have endured in their faith in God’s Word will not be “appointed” to this coming time of “God’s wrath” that will be poured out upon the whole world. As a result, many believe the prophetic event called the Rapture of the Church must take place sometime before God intervenes in this coming battle. Regardless, all Christians are told to “examine” themselves in the Word and in their faith to insure they are not “lukewarm” in their relationship to Jesus and God’s Word.