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Dry Bones

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

With the cross looming just days away, Jesus’ naïve apostles wondered about Jesus’ coming kingdom and what part they would play. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine) The question inaugurated Jesus’ end-times sermon known as the Olivet Discourse. The sermon, addressed to Jesus’ Jewish disciples, delineated the events that would take place in the Great Tribulation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel[1] and detailed by John the Apostle.[2] Now, in order to pinpoint the proximity of these events, Jesus offered the Parable of the Fig Tree (our passage above).

Israel is compared to a fig tree in the Old Testament,[3] and Jesus uses this imagery to signal the last days. Just as the budding of a fig tree singals the proximity of summer, so the “budding” of Israel singals the nearness of the Lord’s return. The generation that witnesses Israel bud, Jesus said, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).

Ezekiel was one of the Jewish priests taken to Babylon in the first group of captives.[4] He was contemporary with the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, and he ministered to the captives in Babylon. God gave the Prophet Ezekiel a preview of Israel’s rebirth. Ezekiel describes his experience as “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). “The spirit of the LORD” refers to the Holy Spirit who appears often in the Old Testament. Often we think of the Holy Spirit showing up at Pentcost[5] in the New Testament, and indeed He operates differently today than in Old Testament times, but He was no less active in those days. Today, the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer. In Old Testament time, He “came upon” individuals for specific purposes.

The Holy Spirit carried Ezekiel in a “vision” to a valley full of dry bones. We learn later that these dry bones represent the nation of Israel. “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). Dry bones indicate that these bodies died many years before, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years. We know by experience that when a body dies and is left unattended, it will decay. Scavengers will eat away at the flesh until nothing is left but the bones. The bones maintain their “boniness” for a long time, but eventually, the sun will bake them dry and they become brittle and eventually turn to dust.

The bones Ezekiel saw were disarticulated and scattered throughout the valley. The vision foretold of a time when Israel would be broken and scattered all over the world with no sign of life and no hope for revival. “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel saw no hope of life for these bones, but he trusted that with the Lord, nothing is impossible.[6]

God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. In his vision, Ezekiel witnessed the bones come together and tendons grow to hold the frame together. Then muscle and finally skin, but the bodies remained dead.[7] Then God told him to prophesy to the wind so that it would breathe life into the lifeless bodies. Ezekiel prophesied as instructed and the bodies came alive and stood to their feet and became a mighty army.[8]

After rejecting their Messiah, God punished Israel by destroying the nation and scattering the Jews all over the earth. This took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and razed the Temple to the ground. The nation of Israel died that day, and its bones were scattered among the Gentile nations. Everywhere they went, they were persecuted, often having to flee from one nation to another with no place they could call their own. Remarkably, they never lost their national identity, traditions, customs, and language, and at every Passover celebration they recited the incessant prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For nearly 2000 years, the land lay fallow. By all human reconning, the land became a barren desert wasteland. Jews throughout the world could only dream of returning once again to their beloved homeland. Then at the turn of the 20th Century, God started working on Israel’s behalf again. The dry bones started coming together, Then on May 14, 1948, the dry bones stood up “a mighty army.” Immediately, they faced a fight for their lives, but God intervened and the newborn nation survived. Then in 1967, another invasion by their hostile, more powerful neighbors ended in only six days by God’s help, and Israel regained control of their beloved Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Today, more than 70 years later, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world.[9] And we are that generation of which Jesus spoke that has witnessed the fig tree bud and the dry bones rise. This is the generation that will see the Lord’s return. Are you ready? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 9:24-27; 11:36-45

[2]  Revelation 6-19

[3]  Joel 1:7, 12

[4]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[5]  Acts 2:1-4

[6]  Jeremiah 32:27

[7]  Ezekiel 37:7-8

[8]  Ezekiel 37:9-10

[9]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

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Weeds

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30)

Many, many years ago, when I was between the ages of 10 and 16, my family used to “chop cotton”[1] in the Texas Panhandle. At that time, herbicides were unheard of, and the only way for farmers to rid their fields of invading weeds was to employ temporary workers to walk the long rows of cotton (or sorghum) with hoes to chop the weeds. Several farmers hired “bazeros” that came from Mexico on temporary work visas. A Quonset hut barracks next to our home in Cotton Center, Texas housed around 200 bazeros from planting season to harvest. Some of the farmers could afford to hire large crews of brazeros that could clean their fields in a day or two. Others had to rely on smaller crews, like us, to walk the fields. It took us a little longer, and by the time we had cleaned out a large field, it was time to start all over.

Weed control is important to the health of the cotton plant, especially in its younger stages. Weeds grow rapidly and they rob the young cotton plants of needed nutrition. Additionally, weeds can overshadow the young plants and block the sunlight that they need for photosynthesis. As the cotton plant matures, they are better able to hold their own against the weeds, and in fact, beat the weeds at their own game.

Chopping cotton was not fun work! We started at sunrise in the cool of the morning when the temperature was only 95° or so, and we worked a good 12-hour day. At $1.25 an hour, we were making a killing! By noon, the temperature approached 100°, and by midafternoon, it was well beyond that. I remember trudging through the long cotton rows – some of them a mile long – and the hot soil would fill our shoes. We stopped often to dump a load of dirt back onto the field where it belonged. Plenty of water and Mom’s refried bean tacos kept us going all day! Perhaps today, such work for a 10-year old boy might be considered a form of child abuse, but back then, we worked together as a family for a common goal. We were united. Yes, it was miserable work, but the family bonds drew us closer together. At the end of the season, the money we earned on the last job went to buy school clothes for the next year. I remember rolling up the cuffs of my jeans at the beginning of the school year, and by the start of the spring semester, they were an inch above my ankles.

One cotton field I will never forget brought dread to our souls as we drove up on it. As we stared at the sight, we urged Dad to take us back home. By the looks of it, it appeared that the farmer had planted weeds rather cotton. At the time, I was a little above five-foot tall, and the rows of weeds towered at least a foot above me. The trunks of the “quelite”[2] (“keli weeds”) were two to three inches in diameter at the base requiring four or five good chops with a sharp hoe to take them down. The rows on this field were one mile long with a solid wall of quelite from one end to the other. The cotton sprouts struggled to survive in this forest of weeds, and we had to be careful not to damage the cotton seedlings while felling the giant quelite.

Less than three hours into our day we stopped to sharpen our hoes. Experience taught us to carry a file in our back pocket for these occasions. As we had walked our rows, our focus remained on the ground taking careful aim at the weeds while avoiding the tender cotton plants. Now as we took a strategic respite and looked behind us, we could see that our advance was minimal. The end of the row ahead still stretched a mile away. By lunchtime, we were almost halfway down our rows. We ate our warm bean tacos on the ground in the shade of the tall keli weeds. By the end of the day, we finished one row. The farmer came and paid us our wages and told us not to bother coming back. The field was too far-gone to save and he decided it would be better to plow it under and start over.

As I reminisce about that weed-infested cotton field, I recall Jesus’ Parable of the Tares.[3] In the parable, Jesus tells of a farmer who planted good (wheat) seed in his field and an enemy came in by night and planted tares, i.e. weeds that resemble wheat. The point of Jesus’ parable explains an aspect of “the Kingdom” often applied to the Church. God seeds the church with “good seed,” i.e. genuine, born-again Christians, and later Satan infiltrates and introduces bad seed into the field, i.e. the Church. Both good and bad seed look pretty much alike, so the owner of the field (the Church), allows both to grow together to be separated at the end of time.

My recollection of the quelite field reminds me of the state of our nation. The weeds are gaining strength. They are spreading out and overshadowing the light to the point that many churches are losing any influence they once had. Worse, many churches are being influenced by the weeds and are beginning to look and sound much like the weeds.

Christians that are paying attention and see the decline of our nation (and the world) encourage other Christians to be bolder in their witness and work harder to turn our nation back to its Christian roots and to do whatever we can to get rid of the weeds. However, that is not happening, much to the chagrin of many well-intentioned Christians. Like that farmer with the weed-infested field, it may be time to plow everything under and start all over. Farmer Jesus may be getting ready to do just that! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The misnomer, “chop cotton,” referred to ridding the cotton fields of undesirable weeds by chopping them out with a hoe. The intent was to chop the weeds and leave the cotton standing.

[2]  “Quelite” [keh-lee-teh] is the Spanish name of the plant. Locals “Englishized” the word and called them “keli weeds.” The leaves of the plant are edible and cooked up like turnip greens. As boys, we loved eating them as much as spinach!

[3]  Matthew 13:24-43

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Harbinger Of Demise

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. (Ezekiel 23:37)

Ezekiel prophesied to the Jewish captives in Babylon. These were the first carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.[1] Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiakim’s brother, Mattaniah (a.k.a. Zedekiah), as “king,” i.e., figurehead, over the remnants of Judah. [2] It is to these that the words of our verse above were addressed.

God compared Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, capital of Judah, to a couple of adulterous sisters, Aholah and Aholibah.[3] The text does not say whether these were two actual women; however, the name Aholah means “her tent” as in a place of worship. Aholibah (Jerusalem) means “my tent is in her.”

The Northern Kingdom had long abandoned the worship of Yahweh for pagan gods like Baal and Molech, and established their place of worship as Mount Gerizim. Jesus encountered this when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mount Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). So, Mount Gerizim was where Aholah (Samaria) had pitched “her tent,” but God had placed “His tent,” i.e., the Temple, in Jerusalem.

God places Himself in the position of a jilted husband whose wives persistently commit adultery against Him. This adultery comes in the form of idolatry with pagan gods. The idolatry included the live sacrifice of their babies – they had “caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them” (Ezekiel 23:37). For this, God “put away,” i.e. “divorced,” His wives. Both Israel and Judah went into captivity, and even though Judah returned to the land after 70 years, they never again enjoyed the same relationship they previously had with God.[4]

If God did that with His “chosen” people, what makes us think that the United States of America will fare better in her idolatry? America may not worship the grotesque idols of the ancients, but we do have our idols. Our greatest idol is egocentrism. We worship self. We offer up to self our time, our efforts, our money, and yes, even our babies. Babies are a major inconvenience to our own desires. They can cramp our style, so mothers can “choose” at any time to sacrifice their babies to the god of self. Just as the ancients placed their live babies onto the firey hands of Molech, modern mothers can place their live babies into the murderous and greedy hands of Planned Parenthood abortionists.

That is not all the ancients did. The worship of their gods included ritual sex with temple prostitutes – male and female prostitutes. These were not only for heterosexual sex; the practice included homosexual sex. God considers such acts as abominable.[5] Today, our god of self allows for this practice even to the point of assigning your preferred gender to yourself. This perversion is not only acceptable; it is encouraged. As the decline of social mores rapidly accelerates in decay, the words of Paul to the Romans ring ever truer.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools … Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves … For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:22, 24, 26-32, emphasis mine).

That is the true state of our union. I was proud of our President Trump in his State of the Union address. His message was positive, encouraging and hopeful. However, in the gallery sat those who applauded only when their selfish interests were addressed. When the President spoke for the sanctity of life, for religious freedom, and against socialism, those same white-clad egotists sat grimacing on their hands. Sadly, these are the ones in power who will thwart every well-intentioned effort by our President.

The light shines brightest when it’s darkest I’ve been told. However, if the dark is a black hole, no light will ever penetrate. If God turned His back on His chosen people, for, arguably, less than our national sin, why should we expect to fare any better? Our only hope is for Jesus to return to reign on earth. From the “signs of the times,” that event can happen any time.

I hope, as you read this, that you are ready for that moment. If you are not sure, please read my page on Securing Eternal Life.

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[2]  2 Kings 24:17-19; 2 Chronicles 36:10-12

[3]  Ezekiel 23:4

[4]  The final prophet to speak for God after Judah’s return to the land was Malachi. For 400 years after that, the voice of a prophet was not heard in Israel until “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23) John the Baptist. He announced the coming of Messiah whom the Jews rejected. That rejection resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora that lasted almost 2000 years until the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948.

[5]  Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

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The Immorality of a Wall

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. (Nehemiah 4:10)

The partial government shutdown continues beyond the third week. Some say that this is the longest shutdown in government history, yet, outside of a small percentage of government employees, the shutdown fails to have the chaotic effect that the main-stream media (MSM) purport. Many conscientious government employees remain at their posts even though they have not received a paycheck. (That is what I call dedication, and they ought to be commended for it.) While their pay may be temporarily delayed, they will receive their full back-pay eventually when this government impasse is breached.

The cause of the impasse is absurd. The House of Representatives wants to submit a spending plan for President Trump sign. President Trump will not sign the spending plan because it does not include the $5.6 billion he has requested to build a wall on our southern border. Democrats and Republicans both agree that a wall is needed; however, Democrats, because it is Donald Trump making the request, refuse to allocate the money for wall construction to deny Trump from keeping a campaign promise. It has nothing to do with the right or wrong of the matter. It has everything to with who wins the argument, and the Democrats (I call them Demoncrats for a reason) want to win, regardless of whether the border wall is good for the nation or whether thousands of government employees get paid or not. (Note: Congressmen have not missed a paycheck. If any wall is immoral, it is this one erected by the Demoncrats.)

Democrats stoke up the media to incite sympathy for unpaid government employees while they take off on vacations to exotic places, and meet with lobbyists in Puerto Rico rather than sit with the President to hammer out this impasse. They accuse President Trump of inflexibility, yet they have refused any offer of compromise by the President. In his last meeting with Democrat leadership, President Trump asked Speaker Pelosi, “Okay, Nancy, if I open up the government in 30 days, could we have border security?” She said, “Not at all.”[1]

President Trump will not budge on his demand for border security that includes a solid barrier of some kind. He has offered concessions such as legalizing so-called “dreamers,” whom Democrats claim to champion. However, because yielding on the wall gives President Trump an optical victory, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, refuses to give sway on the matter regardless of the shutdown, regardless of the unpaid government employees, regardless that she has favored the wall in the past, regardless that it is a matter of national security and sovereignty, and regardless that it is the right thing to do. She defends her obstinate stance by claiming that “the wall is an immorality.”

The wall is an immorality! How so? On what, other than the imaginations of a deluded mind, does she base that claim? In a world of relativism, morality amounts to individual preference. It becomes subjective so that “your truth is not my truth” and in a nation of over 300 million people that makes for mass confusion and anarchy. I prefer the objective truth of God’s Word.

Since morality comes from God, and because God created humans in His image,[2] humans are naturally moral creatures. However, that morality has been corrupted,[3] and what is true for Nancy Pelosi may not be true at all. We need an objective standard for morality. God, as our Creator, provided us with His operating manual as the standard of morality – the Bible. Does the Bible address the question of the morality or immorality of a wall? Indeed it does.

Before getting into the Word, what is the purpose of a wall, barrier or fence? One of the definitions for a wall is a “rampart” or a “bulwark,” which is any protection against external danger, injury or annoyance. A wall or bulwark protects those within from danger from without. Walls prevent invasion from outside forces that would harm those behind the wall.

I have a seven-foot fence in my back yard. It may not prevent an intruder climbing over, but it will certainly cost him (I assume intruders will be male) great effort and hopefully alert the dogs before he can break into my house. Otherwise, I hope the fence will discourage the attempt in the first place. The front of my house is open to the street. Without a fence to protect my front door, I feel vulnerable to attack from that side. (I speak from a human perspective; however, I place my trust in God for our protection. I do my part and let Him take care of those things which are out of my control.)

I heard someone say, “I have a fence not because I hate the people outside, but because I love the people inside.” Fences, and walls, while not perfect, give us a measure of protection. Nancy Pelosi’s estate has a wall around it. Barack Obama, the Clintons, Bernie Sanders as well as most other Democrats live behind tall barriers to keep out the riffraff. Are their walls an “immorality”? No sane person would make such a claim; therefore, Nancy Pelosi’s claim is either delusional or hypocritical.

The Bible talks about walls. In Bible times, walls presented the first line of defense for the city (they do today also). Entry into a walled city was through the city gates. Anyone having business within the city walls entered through the massive, heavy gates (the “ports of entry”). When the gates were closed, no one entered or left the city. When invading armies came against the city, they would have either to scale the heavily defended walls, break down the gates, or lay siege to the city. Conquering a walled city often took several years to accomplish. Those living in the unwalled villages were easy prey. If they could not escape to the protection of a nearby, fortified city, they fell victim to the enemy. Walls, for those protected by them, were moral, not immoral.

The Bible has 247 occurrences in 223 verses of “wall” or “walls.” When Israel entered the Promised Land, “All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many” (Deuteronomy 3:5). The first walled city they faced was Jericho, and it took an act of God to breach that wall.[4] David conquered the walled city of Jebus (Jerusalem)[5] by entering the city through a water conduit (“gutter”).[6], [7] Later, his son Solomon reinforced and expanded the walls of Jerusalem.[8] During his reign, Solomon fortified other cities throughout Israel.[9]

We have already seen that walls are not 100% effective; they can be penetrated,[10] and when a wall is broken down, it must be repaired.[11] Broken walls are distressing for those depending on them for protection,[12] and their restoration is cause for celebration.[13] For those inside, walls provide security.[14] For those outside, walls present an obstacle to overcome, and they are not appreciated.[15]

God approves of walls.[16] The idea of borders and nations was His in the first place.[17] God created the nations[18] and established their boundaries.[19] Borders are not offensive to God; neither is the defense of those borders; therefore walls are not “an immorality” as Speaker Pelosi proclaims. If anything, breaching a wall is immoral and cause for war – a war initiated by the invader. In the world in which we live, we need walls, and those walls must be respected.

One day soon, the need for walls will cease,[20] except for the wall around the New Jerusalem whose walls will exclude no one. That wall will serve to set that city apart as a very special place.[21] However, for the present, for everyone who names the name of Christ, no matter what national or ethnic origin, “… he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14). Outside of that, “Build the Wall!”

Notes:


[1]  “House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy reacts to President Trump’s latest comments on fixing the border crisis

[2]  Genesis 1:26-27

[3]  Genesis 3

[4]  Joshua 6

[5]  1 Chronicles 11:4

[6]  2 Samuel 5:8

[7]Did King David Conquer Jerusalem Using This Tunnel?

[8]  1 Kings 3:1

[9] 1 Kings 9:15; 2 Chronicles 8:5; 14:7

[10]  2 Chronicles 25:23; 26:6; 36:19

[11]  2 Chronicles 32:5; Jeremiah 52:14

[12]  Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17

[13]  Nehemiah 12:27, 30

[14] Psalm 122:7; Proverbs 18:11; 25:28; Ezekiel 38:11

[15]  Ezra 4:12-16; Nehemiah 4:3

[16]  Ezra 9:9; Psalm 51:18

[17]  Genesis 11:8-9

[18]  Genesis 10

[19]  Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26

[20]  Isaiah 26:1; 60:18; Zechariah 2:4-5

[21]  Revelation 21

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Faith, Hope, & Love

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Since my car accident at the end of November, I have been faithfully attending therapy sessions to realign my neck and spine. If you have to go, it is a blessing to have friendly people to work with you. Where I go, the therapist’s ages are all about mid-thirties and younger, and they are all very friendly and caring.

Last week a new one showed up at the clinic, and she fit in perfectly with the rest of the crew. One day as I picked up my chart to check out, I noticed an interesting tattoo on the posterior side of her left wrist. Personally, I dislike tattoos, but this one caught my attention. It was an anchor with an unfinished heart above the stock of the anchor. I asked her what it signified, and she said it stood for faith (the anchor), hope (the cross), and love (the heart). I picked up my chart, smiled, and said, “Nice,” and left to start the rest of my day.

At my next appointment, I saw her again, pointed to her tattoo and asked, “And the greatest of these is ______?” She looked at me as if I had two heads, so I clarified. “Your tattoo stands for faith, hope, and love. Of the three, which is the greatest?” She looked at me and then looked at her tattoo and then answered with a question in her voice, “Love?” I asked why, and she said, “because it’s bigger?” I told her that it was from a passage in the Bible, and I quoted, “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). She smiled, took out a pen and scribbled “1 Cor 13 13” inside the heart, and said, “I’ll have to look that up.”

At my next session, I asked her if she had looked up the verse. She confessed that she had been too busy. I pulled out my cell phone that has my favorite Bible app on it. I looked up 1 Corinthians 13:13 for her and let her read it for herself. She was a little confused when she read “charity” instead of “love.” I explained that the Greek word translated “charity” is agapē which is translated as “love” in other parts of the New Testament. The reason the KJV translators used “charity” here is that “charity” explains the nature of agapē more clearly. Charity is a kind of giving or expressing of love that is offered freely without expectation of receiving anything in return. She seemed to appreciate the brief lesson, and I think she gained a better appreciation for her tattoo. (I still dislike tattoos.)

As I left the clinic, I thought about that verse. Why is love the greatest of these three? The verse begins, “And now abideth…” Currently, right now, exist faith, hope, and charity. We need “faith” because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine). John’s Gospel records, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The word translated “believeth” is the Greek word, pisteuō, and it means “to have faith in.” We must have “faith” in Jesus in order to be saved.

Once we have trusted in Jesus for our eternal salvation, then we have “hope” that one day He will return to take us to be with Him as He promised. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). All of this is future, and we have no “hard” evidence that it will come true, but in Hebrews, we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Our “faith” is “substantive,” and we have the evidence of the Holy Spirit within us to confirm the truth of those “things not seen.” That same Spirit assures us that our hope is real.

Then there is “charity” (love). The pages of the Bible are replete with demonstrations of God’s love. John reminds us, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine). Paul tells us that “charity” (love) never fails. It stands to reason that if “God is love,” then love will never fail. Paul makes it clear that all things will fail, but love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8).

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). On the day we enter into our Lord’s presence, there will be no need for faith because our faith will be transformed into reality. There will be no need for hope, for our hope will be realized. However, love will remain as eternal as God Himself. Now remain faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest, because it will outlast the other two, is love.

P.S.

I searched the internet for a picture of a tattoo like the one this young lady had and could not find an exact match. The one I selected for this post was a close match, but I had to do a little “photoshopping” to get it to look right. Notice the unfinished heart. That made me think that the love – even God’s love – that we experience in this life is incomplete. Not until we are in His presence will we experience the completeness of His love. That is something for which to look forward!

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Another One Gone!

But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (Genesis 17:21)

It seems like yesterday that we faced the prospect of 2018, and here we stand on the threshold of 2019. The truth of the adage, “time flies,” manifests itself more conspicuously each year that goes by. It is said that once one reaches middle age (whenever that is), it’s all downhill from there. What is not said is also true. The closer one gets to the bottom of the hill the faster the slide goes. I can confirm that from experience!

As I approach the foot of the hill and the skid velocity increases, it’s the big scenes rushing by that captures my attention. I know what awaits at the bottom of the hill, and it is not the sudden stop that most people would suspect. No. At the bottom of my hill is a beautiful warm eternal ocean, and the events that lead to that peaceful place are the things that capture my attention.

There were several such events in 2018. The nation of Israel celebrated its 70th year as a nation. Students of the Bible recognize the significance of the number 70; 7 represents perfection, and 10 represents completeness. Together (7×10), “it symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all power. It can also represent a period of judgment.”[1] Twenty-eighteen was a Jubilee year for Israel.[2] Not only that, but it was the 70th Jubilee since the Law was given to Moses.

At the celebration of Israel’s “re-birth” day in Jerusalem, the United States, at the direction of our President Donald J. Trump, opened the US Embassy in Jerusalem confirming our country’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

With all of these milestone events converging with other “signs of the times,” I sincerely expected the Rapture to take place sometime around the Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShanah – that transpired between September 10-30. Obviously, because I am still here along with all my brothers and sisters whom the Lord has not taken home, the Rapture did not take place.

End-times prophecy focuses mainly on Israel. While many “signs of the times” have general application like, signs in the sun, moon, and stars,[3] wars and rumors of wars,[4] famines, pestilences, and earthquakes,[5] days like those of Noah,[6] and the general decline in “common” decency,[7] (we see these things occurring all over the world), the true indicator of the proximity of our Lord’s return is the nation of Israel and those things pertaining particularly to her.

The greatest of these signs was Israel’s rebirth as predicted by several of the Major Prophets, but particularly by the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel described the re-gathering of the Jews from the four corners of the globe to their ancient homeland given to them by God. Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones come together and rise to be a mighty army.[8] His vision came true on May 14, 1948, and indeed, Israel has become a “mighty army,” who, even for its tiny size, boasts the eighth strongest military in the world. Jesus compared Israel to a fig tree. He said that the generation that sees the fig tree bud would see all these prophecies come to pass.[9]

Ezekiel also prophesied a confederation of nations that would attack Israel from the north.[10] The names of those nations, translated from their ancient biblical names, are Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Twenty-eighteen has seen the strengthening of these nations within the borders of Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria.

Interestingly, Syria is not part of the prophesied coalition. The Prophet Isaiah provides insight as to why Syria is not counted among Israel’s attackers. “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1, emphasis mine). Damascus, Syria’s capital, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. However, the prophet predicts that it will be a “ruinous heap.” Current pictures of the city suggest that it is almost there. When Damascus is completely destroyed, Syria will functionally cease from being a nation, which explains why she is not mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The players are in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Very recently, President Trump announced that the US will rapidly pull all of its troops out of Syria within the next few months. Needless to say, this announcement for Israel is cause for grave concern. Without the US in Syria, there is nothing to stop Iran (whose whole purpose in life is to eradicate Israel), Russia, and Turkey from setting up shop in Syria. Who is to stop them? So far, Israel has managed to keep Iran at bay by bombing Iranian military installations in Syria. Russia has “allowed” this probably due to US presence, but with the US pullout, things may change. Iran’s buildup of arms in and around Damascus could bring about the complete destruction of the city by Israel as prophesied by Isaiah and could prompt the invasion of Israel by the coalition. Israel’s misplaced concern about an attack from the north will subside when God comes to her rescue.[11]

For those who are watching and paying attention, 2018 has been an exciting year. When the Rapture did not take place as I anticipated, I was a little disappointed, but not disheartened. Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride to keep her from “the hour of temptation.”[12] However, that event is imminent; it could happen at any moment. There are no “signs” to alert us to its proximity. Based on the seven Feasts of the Lord,[13] and knowing that Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts at His first coming, I reasoned that He would fulfill the fall feasts at His Second Coming. That conclusion is still correct. However, His Second Coming takes place at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.

Some suggest that the Second Coming takes place in two phases. In the first phase, Jesus comes for His church, and we meet Him in the air;[14] He does not come to earth at that time. In the second phase, He returns with His Bride (His “armies”),[15] and the touch of His foot on the Mount of Olives will cause the mountain to split.[16] At that point, He will establish His 1000-year reign on earth.

What I learned in 2018 is that the Feasts of the Lord, like the prophecies of last days, are meant for Israel, not the church. Jesus wants His Bride to be ready at all times, as we learn from the Parable of the Ten Virgins.[17] The Bride Groom may come at any hour when we least expect it. He will not come at the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement or the Feast of Tabernacles. Those feasts are for Israel, not the Church. However, as we discern the signs of the times, and keep an eye on God’s timepiece, Israel, we can be sure that our Bride Groom will come for us very soon. So, be ready. Keep plenty of oil so that your lamp won’t go out. Jesus may come to take us home in 2019 – or not. Regardless, we need to be ready at all times!


[1]  Meaning of Numbers in the Bible: http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/70.html

[2]  Leviticus 25:8-13

[3]  Luke 21:25

[4]  Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9

[5]  Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11

[6]  Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26

[7]  2 Timothy 3:1-7

[8]  Ezekiel 37:1-14

[9]  Matthew 24:32-35

[10]  Ezekiel 38-39

[11]  Ezekiel 38:17-39:4

[12]  Revelation 3:10

[13]  “Rosh HaShanah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

[14]  1 Thessalonians 4:17

[15]  Revelation 19:14

[16]  Zechariah 14:4

[17]  Matthew 25:1-13

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Why Christmas?

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)

It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” One need look no further than the season of Christmas to see the truth of this axiom. Forget about the lost world that has no concept of the true meaning of Christmas. Christians, who should possess at least a rudimentary understanding of the significance of the season, too often get caught up in the madness associated with “the holidays” right along with those who know no better.

In all the cacophony of TV and radio commercials, traffic noise, buzzing shopping malls, clanging Salvation Army bells, and “holiday” music at every turn, does the question even come up? Why Christmas? Why all the fuss? In spite of all the warm sentiments intoned by joyful holiday songs, the season carries with it an increase in stress, depression and even suicide. So much for “Happy Holidays!” Why bother?

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

I remember visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlem, Israel last year. We stood for two and a half painful hours on hard, uneven limestone floors waiting to see the supposed place of Jesus’ birth. When we finally crouched through the constricted cave opening, we found a small alcove adorned with a plethora of lighted candles illuminating a gold 14-pointed star in the center of a polished marble floor. A hole in the center of the star marked the very spot where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. The garish display rendered the prolonged anticipation anticlimactic. Perhaps in a similar fashion, the significance of Christmas has been long lost to the millennia of ostentatious trappings and traditions we have attached to it.

So, why Christmas? Stop! Silence the noise! Trash the shiny paper and bright bows and ribbons! Douse the twinkling lights! Be still and think!

We, humans, suffer from a terminal condition called death. We inherited this terminal condition from our original parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). They were originally created to live forever, but their disobedience to God’s only command brought upon them the death penalty. Did I mention that they were created to live forever? The death penalty, therefore, comes in two phases: physical death and spiritual death. Because of Adam’s sin, we all die physically. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, the spirit continues through eternity. Spiritual death is eternal separation from the Creator; the Bible calls that the “second death.” “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).

Because of Adam’s sin, all humans suffer the same fate. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). No one is excluded from the death sentence, and all must pay the price. “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23).

However, God made a temporary provision for covering the sins of man. It was the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, but that was not a permanent fix. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The fact remains that sin is humanity’s problem. Animals do not sin; they are innocent. Therefore, the “wages of sin” must be paid by man, not animals, but that is the problem. No human is innocent, i.e., sinless. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Bible teaches God loves us, even though we are all sinners. However, God is holy and just, and He cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). God does not want us to be eternally separated from Him, but the sin debt must be paid.

Therefore God became a man born of a virgin untouched by any man so that He could be born completely free from the curse of sin. He grew up like any other man but without sin. “For we have not an high priest [Jesus Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Why Christmas? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). There’s your Christmas present! God became a man to be the perfect sacrifice to pay the wages of sin in our stead so that we will not have to be eternally separated from Him. He offers us our redemption as a gift if we choose to accept it. That’s why Christmas.

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