Monday, June 22, 2009

Current Unrest, Ancient Origin

Tehran has exploded as thousands have taken to the streets to object to what they assume was a rigged presidential election in Iran. Although the two top contenders are close in philosophy, the 60% of the populace that is under age 30 has multiple grievances regarding religious and political oppression overall. In modern times, that part of the world has known little stability, and the American government is sometimes justifiably sluggish in backing friends or denouncing foes. An eight-year war between Iraq and Iran formerly put the U.S. on the side of Saddam Hussein only to later oppose and depose him in the Gulf Wars.

It is little wonder that there is continuing commotion in Iraq and Iran.

Iraq is home to Babylon, Ur and Nineveh. The Tigris River (called Hiddekel in Gen. 2:14) and Euphrates River, waters of great prophetic significance, flow through Iraq. These rivers’ termination evidently was in the Garden of Eden where Satan’s deception flourished in Adam and Eve’s fall. Eden’s presumed location at the northern end of the Persian Gulf is adjacent to Iran, the current focus of strife.

Iran is actually the heartland of ancient Persia, the second most mentioned land area in the Bible and the kingdom that displaced Babylon. In Daniel 5, the famed "handwriting on the wall" spelled out Babylonian King Belshazzar’s wretched end. Iran was called Persia until 1935, and its language and culture is more Persian than Arabic. About the time of its name change, Iranian ambassadors to Germany developed a fondness for Hitler. The theme of Hitler’s "Aryan Supremacy" actually found its way into the modern name. Iran is close to Aryan, a language of Indo-Europeans, which the Iranians really are.

Daniel’s four-kingdom prophecies found in Daniel 2 and 7 included that second kingdom of Media-Persia. Daniel 10:13 gives us insight into the territorial demon influence of the area. That is not surprising since Ur, which is Abraham’s birthplace, and the site of the Garden of Eden are nearby. Supernatural collision in that land area is revealed as "the Prince of Persia" contests the angel Gabriel, who is on a mission to share divine truth with a mortal prophet. This passage indicates that strong demon powers hover there, and, if there is no easy analysis of perpetual unrest, it may be the result of confusing supernatural evil activity.

Also consider that there are more Jews living in Iran than any other Middle Eastern country. In his book "Inside the Revolution," Joel Rosenberg says, "…the big untold story is that more Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus Christ than at any other time in human history." Further, quoting a mission leader, he writes, "… I personally believe that if every Iranian who secretly believes in Jesus could come forward right now and declare his or her faith publicly, the number would top one million."

We should be praying for the unrest to bring about a more favorable climate for Christian belief and evangelism. President Obama and his advisors on the Middle East need our fervent intercessory prayers. The area strife and confusion may never be resolved until Christ reigns in the Millenium. Until then, we hope and pray for at least a minimum of unrest so that God’s spiritual purposes may be realized.

Dave Virkler

Friday, June 19, 2009

Taking the Controls

During the flight from Brussels to Newark, no one outside the capable crew knew that 60-year old Continental Airlines Captain Craig Lenell had died at the controls of the huge airliner. At first, fellow crew members thought he was asleep since he’d had recent physicals and was believed to be in perfect physical condition.

With seamless transition, the two co-pilots took control, and no passengers were even aware of fruitless defibrillation efforts in the cabin by an on-board physician passenger. The flight crew went about their business without spreading the unrest that word of an in-flight death might cause.

Without missing a step, the crew flew on to a safe landing and the attendants cheerfully served the passengers. Passengers heard of the captain’s fate only after landing.

This astounding saga carries some profound spiritual lessons.

Death may strike anywhere, any time and anyone. As children of Adam, our mortality is a settled fact with uncertain timing. As Romans 5:12 promises, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Every human was riding with Adam when he sinned away his natural fellowship with God. Death was selective in Captain Lenell’s case but comprehensive in Adam’s descendants.

Death is a surprise to many unsuspecting souls who think they are immune from its ravages. James 1:11 likens us to shriveling vegetation. "For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits." Death was likened to a marching soldier without the order to halt in Ecclesiastes 8:8. "No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war …"

Someone once said, "When it comes time to die, make sure the only thing left to do is die." It can be said of the good captain that he died at his post doing his life’s work, which his wife reports was his abiding passion. The tombstone of a well-known mountaineer bears his finest commendation: "He died climbing."

Another encouraging lesson from the cross-Atlantic passing is the immediate action of the well-trained crew. Recalling the well-trained and capable crewmembers is a happy afterthought for the unaware passengers. They reacted superbly and will be remembered for grace under

It is a lesson for believers everywhere. None of us is indispensable, and we may be called Homeward at any moment. If our churches and families are trained for transition, life will continue as understudies take our place on a moment’s notice.

Joshua trained under Moses, fighting the enemy at his command (Exodus 17:9), going to Mt. Sinai with the great lawgiver (Ex. 24:13), and staying by Moses in troubled times (Ex. 33:11). Finally, the mantle was passed, and, as God prepared to take Moses, he was instructed to pass the baton of leadership to Joshua.

One of the greatest political, moral and military rites of passage in all history is found in Deuteronomy 31:6-8:

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed."

Moses had flown the national plane of Israel to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua took the controls and landed his people safely in Canaan.

Perhaps true leadership is knowing when to transfer authority to God’s appointed successors. In the heights over the Atlantic, that transition came quickly and without warning. Those waiting in the wings nobly took center stage, and the flight went on to a safe landing.

Good lessons for all of us.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NHL Cup = Battle of The Birds

People were standing 20 deep on some streets and throwing black and gold confetti. Others were dressed in the team jersey, with some clinging to handmade replicas of the most recognizable trophy in all of professional sports.

It was all about the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the highly coveted ‘holy grail’ of sports – the Stanley Cup! The memorable series came down to a game 7 and a narrow 2-1 final score. The last furious minutes saw a talented and desperate Detroit Red Wings hitting the goal post and then being denied a chance at overtime by a miraculous save by a young Pittsburgh goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury. The staggering save, with just precious seconds left on the clock, will be a haunting memory for the losers in red for years to come. The series was a rematch of last year’s final, but this time around the hungry and younger Pens prevailed.

The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. It was established in 1893, and winning it requires more than just physical skill or talent. It is also about pure survival. The vicious nature of the game and the intense grinding playoff stretch has been likened more to a war zone than a mere sporting event. And no single championship is more highly valued by or sought after by those who sacrifice everything to win it.

The reason is simple. To win the Stanley Cup is to also to have one’s name literally inscribed on the 35 pound piece of hardware. It is seen as almost becoming immortal. It is an exclusive fraternity and even many of the greatest have done everything imaginable in the sport, only to see the cup elude their grasp. And most everyone who has ever played the sport, at any level, has at some point dreamed of being honored in such a lasting and unique way.

Again, the inscribing of names into the rings of hockey’s grand trophy is every player’s fantasy. It certainly was the dream of this young fanatic. But the seeming permanence of the cup and its long history will not last forever – not according to the Bible. In 2 Peter 3:10 the apostle spoke about a future day that will see the physical creation literally and fully burn away. Verse 10 reads, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”

The Scriptures teach that material things are but temporary – all of them. That’s why the Savior stressed the point as He did in Matthew chapter six. Beginning in verse 19 He warned, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Then John wrote about a future day of judgement and revealed the existence of a literal book containing a list of literal names. It is also comprised of a very select group – namely who possess salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ. (Revelation 21:27) Paul also spoke of this exclusive book club in Philippians 4:3 and how it contained the names of his fellow workers in the ministry.

The vast majority will proceed through their brief and rather pointless lives seeking material security and comfort and often worldly fame and fortune. Some will achieve great things - humanly speaking, A select few may even experience mountain top sensations like seeing their name fastened on Lord Stanley’s unique trophy. But worldly glory will someday become eternally gloomy if, at life’s end, one’s name has been restricted from the book of Lord Jesus. An absence there will mean a presence elsewhere and in a place of unimaginable torment! (Mark 9: 43-48)

Ultimately, all must address and answer the question of all questions posed by Jesus himself in Matthew 16:26-27. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Certainly the obvious answer is nothing humanly or earthly speaking – including the likes of a Stanley Cup! To ignore the question is to remain spiritually lost. But for those found in Christ, that all-important question has been answered and forever settled. Their names forever reside in His special book.

- Theirs is a life characterized by exchange – an exchange of sinfulness for righteousness, of selfishness for godliness, and of carnality for spirituality. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

- Theirs is a life that has been saved through the sacrifice of Christ and not by some feeble, self-styled, extended effort to try to please, in vain, a holy God. (Hebrews 11:5-6, Ephesians 2:8-9)

- Theirs is a life filled with the blessings of God’s infinite power, love, hope and peace. (Philippians 4:6-7)

- Theirs is a life of responsibility and service to their Savior (Ephesians 2:10)

- And theirs is a life complete with the God-given promise of a glorious future that can never be tarnished or taken away. Eternal wrath has been replaced by eternal rewards for those things done in God’s name and in His strength. (Revelation 22:12-13)

Only a select few will ever appear on a silver ring on hockey’s great Stanley Cup. But any who are willing can make their way through faith into the pages of God’s eternal book.“For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sleeping on a Treasure

It’s bizarre. It’s absurd. It’s pathetic. But it’s true. A compassionate daughter has cost her mother a million dollars. Instead of living "high on the hog," mom is really "down in the dumps"—literally!

In Israel, a daughter bought a new mattress for her aging mother so she could sleep better. The old one was put out on the street, and garbage men hauled it away. But mom revealed she had hidden her life savings in the old mattress. At last report, mother and daughter and some helpers were scavenging the city dumps hoping to retrieve the lost fortune.

In these days of devaluing currency, stashing money in a mattress may at least maintain its face value, but sleeping on one’s fortune seems a poor investment policy. A misguided relative is no match for a reliable bank.

Substituting mindless caution for active investment is a focus of divine censure.

Christ warned against investing in commodities subject to moths, rust or thieves (Matthew 6:19 & 20).

He scolded hoarders, illustrating His displeasure in the parable of the talents, or pounds, in Luke 19:13-25. His scorching critique of the non-investor servant who hid his master’s money reads, "‘Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’" (verse 23). Jesus said the angry master took the servant’s paltry original gift away, and the better investor fell heir to the fearful man’s money, too.

The prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 could have waited for his portion of his father’s wealthy farming endeavor, which probably was appreciating in value, but he chose to take it in immediate liquid cast assets. Without a spiritual investment strategy, he wasted it all to come home years later to work his brother’s farm. Instead of farmhouse feasts, he ended up wolfing down pig food.

An interesting Old Testament story in II Kings 6:24-7:20 tells of the result of refused divine riches in Samaria. Enemy Syrian incursions into disobedient Israel caused a tragic famine in the land that resulted in people scavenging for bird droppings and horse meat and, ultimately, cannibalization. People eat strange things when there is a spiritual famine. Diet shifts from the Bread and Water of Life to junk foods and worse.

Later sieges of Jerusalem brought similar dysfunction as we were told some years ago while visiting the Burnt House in Jerusalem. As our stomachs churned, our tour guide went through his wrenching, dismal description of cannibalism in the capitol in the time of siege.

In Samaria, as the prophet predicted, the siege ended on God’s schedule. Four lepers ransacked the abandoned Syrian camp. Considering their windfall, they said "‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household." (2 Kings 7:9).

A woman in Israel is picking through tons of garbage to recover her lost hoard. If we do not use our spiritual treasure to feed the spiritually hungry, we may lose it and find ourselves rummaging for lost treasure. It is not wise to sleep on a treasure. Isn’t this the spiritual exercise God outlines in Isaiah 58:6-9?

"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’"

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hard Times For The Salvation Army?

Salvation Army Captain Steven Woodard put it this way. “People are coming and saying they were the ones who gave last year or adopted a family (for Christmas). Now they are coming to us for help.”

In Elkhart, Illinois, the economic downturn has brought unemployment in the nation’s RV capital to a staggering 20%. Today, many of these same stricken families find themselves standing in line at the local Salvation Army headquarters instead of making contributions to the organization. Unfortunately, at the same time, the famous faith-based group is also being stretched thin as donations have dropped off considerably.

Bob Ottenhoff, president of GuideStar, a national organization that monitors non-profits and private foundations stated, “Many non-profits are faced with a terrible situation. As in every sector of our economy, non-profits are going to think about whether there are better ways to provide their services — more efficiently and more effectively.”

Times are tough – and may well get tougher! But even should the slumbering economy stabilize, things will likely be vastly different in the future. The rules of finance from the personal level, all the way to how the government operates, will be rewritten as the nation reflects the same basic plight as does the Salvation Army in Elkhart.

With that all said, the current economic times can provide unique opportunities for another ‘salvation army’. For those in the service of Jesus Christ, today’s fragile financial scene can plant and develop some fertile fields - spiritually speaking. Stressful times can awaken sleeping souls. Hardship can sometimes present hard decisions that would not otherwise be considered. A personal crisis can be a catalyst to personal faith! It is often in times of great need that people discover their greatest need. In short, they may be more willing to listen to God for answers and solutions when they realize that some problems are beyond their own ability to fix. And that is exactly where the soldiers of the cross can become a living GPS – ‘God’s Pointing System’.

If nothing else, the world’s financial problems has proven God’s word to be precise. Proverbs 23:4-5 warns, “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” And James 4:13-17 clearly defines a preoccupation with wealth, apart from any consideration of God and His will, as evil and sinful.

Matthew drives home the same point from a different angle. He writes, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“ (Matthew 6:19-21) Living for, or relying upon, material things can be discouraging and disappointing in this life but eternally devastating in the life to come!

During times of dire circumstances the greatest thing any believer can possess or offer to any unbeliever is peace. The Bible speaks at length about procuring peace ‘with’ God in Romans 5:1. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God means forgiveness and forgiveness brings eternal life. Being fully justified before a holy God who demands justice is a priceless commodity!

In addition to peace ‘with’ God, there is the accompanying peace ‘of’ God – one of the many glorious benefits of salvation through Christ. Paul shared the prerequisite for that form of peace, along with the promised results, in chapter four of his letter to the Philippian church. The Apostle wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-8) The peace 'of' God requires knowing Him on a personal basis and then spending quality personal time with Him on a continual basis.

Dwindling assets is forcing the Salvation Army to more efficiently and effectively carry out their great mission of compassion. But God’s ‘salvation army’ should always march tirelessly to their far greater ministry of reconciliation, knowing they are fully funded for the battle by their Savior's infinite and supernatural assets. (2 Corinthians 5:18, Colossians 2:9-10) And all who remain skeptical about God's ability to meet all of life’s needs should read and meditate upon the great words of comfort and victory found in 2 Peter 1:3-4.

“As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises…”

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Fate of Jon and Kate?

They had become wildly popular and seemed invincible – until, that is, the pressures of stardom turned their precious reality show into a prime-time nightmare.

Jon & Kate Gosselin have been sharing their personal lives in the TLC network ever since the birth of their now 5-year old sextuplets. Along with their 8-year old twin daughters, the couple has lived with lights and cameras nearly non-stop, in order to ‘document’ the joys and struggles of raising two sets of multiples.

The couple have become cultural icons and celebrated as models of wholesome family values. They have been pro-life, pro-family, and pro-marriage. The have from day one bickered back and forth some on air, but who wouldn’t under the pressure of their day to day lives. Despite that, the outspoken Christian couple said publicly that they would ‘stay together for the long haul’. They even renewed their marriage vows last season on a beach in Hawaii. So all seemed well and fairly stable in Gosselinville – until now.

Today America’s second first family stand on the brink of a total meltdown, as widely documented. Everything has changed. They live in a new sprawling estate in the country. They’ve had plastic surgery, hair repairs, and full dental overhauls. They dress differently, talk differently, and live the life more akin to jet setters than a normal, middle-class family. Kate has been transformed from a normal mom of eight in sweatpants to resemble more of a supermodel. In short, they have become media superstars, complete with all of the typical prime-time perks. And for scores of confused average Americans, all of the things that first endeared them to the TV couple's slice of ‘reality’ have been abruptly replaced by something ‘unreal’ – if not downright hypocritical.

The Gosselin’s marriage appears on the verge of total collapse. Their former regular church attendance has become less and less while their time apart from each other is more and more. They often take turns watching the kids. Extended family members are out of the loop and some are speaking out about the family they consider to be “out of control”. To make matters even worse, constant rumors fly about extra-marital affairs on both sides. There may even be an investigation over the possible violation of child labor laws by both the parents and the show’s producer. And then there is the timing of the scandal. The drama was played out while Kate was on tour promoting her new book ‘Multiple Blessings’– one that clearly shares their deep commitment to Jesus Christ. There is little wonder today why the family once looked up to by Christians, pro-life supporters, and everyday decent moral Americans has begun a steady ‘fall from grace’ - one that may not be recoverable.

Julie Vermeer Elliott, is a faculty member at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA. She holds a master of theological studies degree from Duke Divinity School and is a professor of Christian ethics. And in an article in Christianity Today she offered some rather harsh, but honest and accurate words about the Gosselin’s demise.

“As fellow Christians, we should have reminded the Gosselins that life is a gift to be received in gratitude, not something to be grasped, purchased, or sold. In many ways, the last four seasons of Jon & Kate Plus Eight is the story of a family that seemed to progressively lose sight of this truth. When the network and the couple were not satisfied with the money generated through high ratings and book sales, the Gosselin home was filled with product placements and the children were filmed for long hours each week. All the while many (though not all) evangelicals watched with undiscerning eyes. Somewhere along the line we, like Jon and Kate, seemed to forget the warnings of 1 Timothy 6:9-10. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Professor Elliot then adds, “As such, the breakdown of Jon and Kate's marriage is but a symptom of the larger weaknesses of ethics in the evangelical community. We are easily seduced by wealth and fame. We are easily contented by the shallow rhetoric of hot-button issues. In short, we are easily deceived by cultural values painted in Christian veneers.”

When approaching the fragile and tragic scene that has become the new reality for the Gosselin family, there are a few things that are certain. While no longer in economic trouble, it seems that most everything else in their lives is. What is certain is that they may have lost their “first love’. (Revelation 2:4) It appears certain that financial gain has impacted family and marital stability. And it is certain that, apart from repentance and especially divine intervention from the Lord they claim to know and love, there is little real hope.

In light of all that has gone on, loyal fans of ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8’ should do at least three things:

First, they should stop watching and supporting the show until the couple awakens and attempts to repair their broken relationship to each other and perhaps to their Lord as well. To continue viewing keeps sponsor’s money flowing, thus enabling the tragedy to go on.

Secondly, Christian fans should pray for this couple and their children, They should pray that their eyes might be opened to real ‘reality’. Pray they might re-consider the marriage vows renewed just a year ago – vows made to each other and more importantly, to God.

Lastly, followers of Christ should use this whole sad scene to become freshly aware of the warning of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Israel and the Promised Land

It is a tale of two nations—one clearly God-ordained, the other artificially invented on demand. Ethnic Israel dates back thousands of years to the call of Abraham when he was in what is modern Iraq. The Palestinian State is somewhere in the birth process.

Major world figures contribute their support for either or both, and the tension persists. The Pope visited the area and suggested that passions would be soothed by the formation of a new Palestinian State. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. President Obama, who clearly assured Abbas of support and pressured Israel to be like-minded. In today’s speech in Cairo, President Obama again reiterated his support of a Palestinian State. Meanwhile rabbis in Israel meet in defiance of surrendering the West Bank, which is the area of biblical Judea and Samaria, in view of God’s assignment of this area to Israel.

While I am a supporter of Israel, I have a biblical ambivalence regarding Israel’s present unconditional land rights in all areas of the original land grant. Israel’s land rights were conditional upon obedience, as Deuteronomy 27 & 28 outline—blessings if they were faithful, curses if the were unfaithful. Specifically, regarding other ethnic peoples in their land grant area, which stretched from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea (Gen. 15:18), disobedience would mean sharing the land with these other groups.

Judges 1 traces the incomplete displacement by Israel of native peoples. Judges 2:21, 22, outlines the consequence. "‘I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.’ Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua."

Of the several indigenous peoples Israel was unable to displace, Judges 3:3 specifies the Philistines, from whom we get the term "Palestinians." They lived in the present Gaza Strip area, the hotbed of current tension. Another people they failed to drive out were the Jebusites (Joshua 3:5) who lived in Jebus, actually modern Jerusalem. Today, the Philistines of Gaza and the Muslims of East Jerusalem are constant problems to Israel.

Modern Israel is still disobedient in rejecting Christ as Messiah. The original land grant can only be totally theirs when national repentance occurs and Messiah is accepted as Zechariah 12:10 anticipates. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."

According to Isaiah 11:14, during a period of a second restoration of Israel to the land in the future (Is. 11:11), Israel will retake the land of the Philistines to the west along with Moab, Edom and Ammon to the east. This end-time verse presupposes the existence of the modern kingdom of Jordan. It further indicates that Israel has none of these areas before the attack, although they are part of the original land grant. Israel recently gave up Gaza, and it lost the areas of western Jordan centuries ago.

Another problem with advocating full land grant rights to present Israel is that it means former Egyptian territory and present Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese territories would have to given back to Israel. Such demands are a formula for raging Middle East war.

One day Israel will recognize her Messiah as He returns to the Mount of Olives, and then in obedience she will fall heir to all her Promised Land. Israel can no more have it all now than any Christian could have God’s full blessing while living in disobedience.

Repentance and confession are prerequisites for experiencing God’s best.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Home Bible Study Shut Down

For Pastor David Jones of San Diego, California, Good Friday was not business as usual. A county employee came to the front door of his home and announced that his home Bible study was in violation of the county’s code. Despite stating to the official that their activity was simply a low key study with a few friends, the pastor and his wife Mary received a written warning days later citing them for "unlawful use of land". They were ordered to cease the activity or apply for a major use permit – something that could cost the couple thousands of dollars.

The Jones’ lawyer said, "The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Ibelieve that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home." Mary Jones commented, "The implications are great because it’s not only us that are involved. There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future." The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week. In fact, the majority of the founders would likely cringe in their graves if presented with what pastor David Jones faced and continues to contend with.

How very ironic is it to consider that the very Christian foundations and philosophies that built the greatest nation on earth are today viewed as one of its major stumbling blocks? How ironic is it that those who seek to know and live out the Bible’s highest ethical, moral, and spiritual precepts, have become the enemy and the targets of the culture? And how ironic that so many tend to fear godly people more than those who make their own rules and thereby adversely affect others' lives in the process.

Although unpleasant for the individual Christian, attacks on the faith are to be expected – if one is living out his or her faith in an outward dedicated fashion. That theme was made crystal clear to a young pastor in a letter from his spiritual father back in the days of the early church. In 2 Timothy 3 in verse 12, Paul writes, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." Again for any faithful and outspoken follower of Christ, resistance to their beliefs and lifestyles should not be unexpected but accepted and even seen as a compliment.

Paul continues on with words of explanation and assurance, beginning in the very next verse. In verse 13 he writes, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” And then in verse 16 he shares that absolute necessity and ultimate value of a biblically based life. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

The persecution of those who truly follow the God of the Bible is nothing new. The Bible informs that the cross of Jesus Christ is an ‘offense’ because it forces man to deal with his own sin and only through the Savior’s own way. The Gospel is offensive and it is exclusive! (Galatians 5:11, Acts 4:12)

But beyond the issue of any individual’s desperate need for personal salvation, those who resist God and bring grief to those who serve Him, are missing an important principle in their rush to remove God’s influence from the culture. This persecution affects them personally but also their nation collectively. It does not take a great theologian to grasp the great truth found in just two Old Testament verses as they ‘say it all’.

“For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish,And those nations shall be utterly ruined.” (Isaiah. 60:12)

“The counsel of the LORD stands forever,The plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD." (Psalm 33:11-12)

Bill Breckenridge