Monday, May 26, 2008

Of Flesh and Spirit - May 26

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

Who's Your Daddy?

This may come as a shock to you, but you are not your own person. Consider carefully the above set of scriptures: You either have a sinful nature led by your ego or you have the Holy Spirit of God. Who has your ear? Whom do you trust more? Your ego or the spirit of God? If you have not been saved by the grace of God it is Satan (the Anti-Father) that dominates your thoughts and actions.

When A Man Loves A Woman

This is a big one for many of us. Is love performance-based or grace-based? Is it all about pumping up the love resume for us guys? An old movie line goes like this: First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get the women. I can tell you right now, that is not of God. Let's be honest here. There are some women out there who are impressed by the money and power that certain men yield. They are impressed by great exploits and fancy titles that confer importance. But I can assure you this kind of love is not Biblical. True love looks something like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:4-7)

How much of this do we really see? Not much. The simple fact of the matter is this: Performance-based love cannot last. It is impossible to maintain that level of intensity for a prolonged period. It might shine brightly for a time but when it starts to fade it does so quickly.

I think when we give without expectation of some kind of return we have a much better chance of standing the test of time. Naturally we want affirmation and a positive reaction from the object of our affection. Who doesn't? But an ongoing game of one-upmanship that drains the spontaneity and liberty of love is a surefire relationship killer.

Follow Your Heart

I love to drive and listen to the radio. I do notice though that sometimes the signal is strong and other times it is weak. The further away I am from Toronto (the signal is usually broadcast from the CN Tower) be it whether I go north or east, the less likely I'm going to hear that radio station loud and clear.

So it is when we do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. God desires nothing but the best for us. However, if we are not listening to Him either because we are distracted or we are not properly attuned, the signal is weak and we end up following foolish advice instead. Following our heart in this instance is the worst possible thing we could do. A person not tuned to the will of God and properly rooted in scripture is a disaster waiting to happen. Which leads me to my next question:

Check, Check, 1,2,3: Is Your Conscience Working?

Here's a second shocker: Struggling with your conscience is actually a good thing. Amoral people don't struggle with their conscience. Why? Because they don't have a conscience to struggle with. Dead people don't struggle. Therefore to struggle indicates that you are still alive and well. So take it as a compliment. If morals and ethics are important to you, you can expect anguish and hardship. Desiring to be a righteous man in an unrighteous world will not make you popular. Eternal life is far more important than that.

Johnny Cash

Faith and Obedience

I have just had a truly amazing experience that I simply had to share with you. On Sunday, my Pastor preached a message that has proven to be life altering for me. He spoke about Saul in the book of I Samuel, and how he was chosen by Samuel to be the first King of Israel. However, we go on to learn that he was chosen largely because of his physical size and good looks. God gave Saul a number of jobs to do, and in the beginning, Saul was successful. Over time, however, he rejected God by relying on his own abilities rather than on God’s power and promises. In the end, Saul’s rejection of God resulted in God’s rejection of Saul and Saul’s ultimate failure. God had called Saul to simply be faithful and obedient to God and trust God to fulfill His word, not to try to do it all with his own brains and muscle. Saul trusted his own abilities over God’s. The battle is not ours.

As I drove home, I thought about some of the doubts I had struggled with in terms of my own ability to be a good youth leader. A few years ago, I had stood in church praising God and seeking His will in my life when He spoke to me. He told me to teach His children to fear Him and to love Him. I knew then that my life of service would be in the form of teaching the young people in our church. I was (and am still) profoundly honored. Yet as I prepare for my youth group each week and pray and study the lessons I will teach, I am always bothered by a small voice nagging me, telling me that I am not good enough because I am not a ‘pastor’. True, I never attended Bible College, so each week I would worry and study and try to memorize in the attempt to give my best to God and my youth. But just as Saul had been appointed to a position by God and then tried to do it with his own strengths, so was I. That path will lead to failure. The story of Saul showed me that God will make up for my lacking. He doesn’t need me to be the most learned scholar in the world, nor do I need to be a world class public speaker. I simply need to be faithful and obedient to what God had called me to do. The battle is not mine.

Next step: I prayed, “God, what do you want me to do to prepare? What is the next step?” I felt led to read the Bible. (I had really hoped He wouldn’t ask me to do that. Sometimes, I find the Bible a little overwhelming and confusing.) But where do I start? How do I know if I am understanding it properly without years of Theology? So many questions. Again and again, doubting my ability.
A spiritual hush.
Just be obedient. Have faith in Me.
So, I picked up my bible.
Where do I begin?
I Peter.
I began at the beginning. As I read my mind kept asking me, “Are you sure this is where God wants you to read? Why start at I Peter? Why not start at the beginning?” I kept reading. I read all of Chapter 1, and moved on to the reading of the notes on the bottom of the page. That is when I saw it. My notes for 1:17 began “Reverent Fear” and went on to discuss its meaning. Further on my notes for 1:22 began “Sincere Love” and continued to talk about its meaning. There it was in black and white. All those years ago I was told to teach His children two things, to fear and to love Him. I put my Bible down and wept. I felt like God was giving me a pat on the back telling me I’d finally figured it out. This isn’t my job I am doing, it is His. I am simply meant to be obedient and faithful to Him. If I do those things, God’s Will will be done. The battle is not mine, the job is not mine, the glory is not mine, it is His. Our job is not to figure it out and make it work. If we are faithful and obedient the battle will be won by God’s power and for His glory. Hallelujah!

Praise you Father God for Your faithfulness to us. Thank you that never expect more from us than we are able to provide. Thank you for Your word which is both Holy and trustworthy. You never fail to give help to those who ask for it and your love in unfailing. You do not grow tired of hearing from us and you will never leave of forsake us. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Amen.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israel: An Appointment with Destiny - May 18

In the twentieth century, two massive events occurred in May. In 1945, the fall of Nazi Germany ended one of the most destructive wars in all of human history. Three years later on May, 14, 1948, the re-birth of the state of Israel shook the world and foreign governments.

Before we look at Israel's modern day rebirth, we must first look at the three captivities that Israel endured. The first two were regional in nature, the third captivity was worldwide.

The First Captivity: Egypt

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41)

Here's the best part:

The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:35-36)

To the very day the Israelites were driven out by the Egyptians. There was no escape here, they were pushed out! Moreover, they actually plundered the Egyptians prior to leaving and were laden with gold, silver and clothing. I don't know about you, but this absolutely blows my mind. The exodus happened to the very day that God promised to Abraham and were made rich with parting gifts in the process.

The Second Captivity: Babylon

This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. "But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt," declares the LORD, "and will make it desolate forever." (Jeremiah 25:11-12)

Notice the seventy year cycle. As I mentioned in 'Pentecost 2017', seventy years was often used to purify and sanctify God's people from sin. After King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jewish people to leave and go back to Jerusalem, a partial return in unbelief was the result.

The Third Captivity: Worldwide

The prophet Ezekiel was given an odd task setting the stage for the rebirth of modern Israel in May of 1948:

"Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel. "After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. (Ezekiel 4:4-6)

So 390 days plus 40 days equals 430 years, seeing as one day symbolizes a year. Of those 430 years, 70 years was subtracted due to Israel's captivity in Babylon. That leaves us with 360 years of judgement. However, these years were multiplied by seven due to their unbelief:

If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. (Leviticus 26:18)

If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. (Leviticus 26:21)

Those 360 years is now multiplied by a factor of seven. 360 x 7 = 2520 Biblical years (comprised of 360 days each). Divide 907, 200 days (2520 x 360 = 907,200) by 365.25 (the solar year to which we are accustomed) and you get 2,483.778 calendar years. So from 606 B.C. to the spring of 536 B.C. was seventy years of captivity under Babylonian rule. God's people then partially return in unbelief according to Cyrus' decree.

According to our logic, we add 2,483.8 calendar years to the year 536 B.C. (keeping in mind there was no year between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.) we get:

May 14, 1948.

Israel's third captivity comes to a close and modern day Israel is reborn, exactly right on time.

Kudos to Grant Jeffrey

You didn't think I could come up with this all by myself did you? My research is based on Grant Jeffrey's book Armageddon: Appointment With Destiny. To be precise, Chapter 3: Ezekiel's Vision of the Rebirth of Israel in 1948 is where all this information is found.

So is Israel's Rebirth Really an al-Naqba/Disaster?

It is for those that oppose the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the star of Bethlehem heralded the First Advent, the Star of David on Israel's flag heralds the Second Advent. No wonder the unbelievers are terrified! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Johnny Cash

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sharkwater - May 12

I just saw Sharkwater. The official website can be found here. Wow! I love documentaries, especially ones dealing with nature. Here's the trailer:

Exploitation and Greed

It is nothing short of folly that the shark fin trade is still in operation despite laws being put into place outlawing the practice. As this film notes, what good is a law, no matter how well intentioned, if there is no enforcement? You have to physically put human bodies in harm's way to prevent criminal activity. Or boats in the case.

Tastes Like Chicken, Strong Like Ox!

I was surprised to learn that the shark fins in shark fin soup actually add little or no flavor. Most of the time, chicken or pork is added to give the soup some substance. The shark fins in the soup simply add texture. There's no hard evidence either that consuming shark fins makes you stronger. Herbal medicine is a wonderful thing but shark fins have absolutely no medicinal value. Just another man-made myth that has created an illicit multi-million dollar industry.

Government Activism? Not Bloody Likely!

I like what Paul Watson said. Paraphrasing here, he said that it has always been the individual, not government, that have spawned positive social change. No mass movement has ever gotten off the ground of it's own accord. It's been small groups passionate about their cause, usually operating on a shoestring budget, that have lit the fire. If anything, history has proven us that government is in cahoots with the crooks either by turning a blind eye to the problem or outright corruption. So don't hold your breath thinking that big gov't will step in because they won't. Taking a stand and making a difference is not an easy task. But it's the only chance we have of making this world a better place.

Johnny Cash

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost 2017 - May 10

May - A Month to Celebrate

Not only does yours truly celebrate a birthday this month, Israel was also born in May sixty years ago. Ezekiel, a servant of God, gives us a prophecy of the rebirth of modern Israel:

They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.' " (Ezekiel 37:25-28)

Jesus Himself taught that when things start happening quickly the generation that sees all these things will be the one to usher in the millenial reign (aka the sabbath):

"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

Does the Fig Tree Represent Modern Israel's Rebirth?

This one is a real mystery. Some will say yes, some no. I do not believe Jesus was talking specifically about the modern-day resurrection of Israel in the above passage. I do however believe that Israel's rebirth signifies the beginnings of the close of the church age. Now the age of grace did not end when Israel came into being in 1948. But (and this is a big but), I believe it commenced the countdown to the end of this age. If seventy years is the average human life span (knowing that all generations overlap with one another), then 25,200 days (70 prophetic years each comprised of 360 days) from May 15, 1948 to the year 2017/5777 strikes me as a very reasonable timetable.

Why the Number Seventy? A Top Ten List to Ponder

In 1988, some Bible scholars believed that Jesus (the bridegroom) would come for His church (the bride). That was based on the forty years that the Jews spent wandering in the desert. The year 1988 came and went and we're still waiting. I think these well-meaning individuals were half-right. The start point was right but the period of time was too short. So why 70 years instead? Consider the following:

1) The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all. (Exodus 1:5)

2) It was seventy elders of Israel along with Moses who confirmed the covenant with God (Exodus 24)

3) The offerings given for the dedication of the tabernacle had one silver plate weighing 130 shekels (fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering). The other silver plate weighed seventy shekels. Each one of the twelve tribes of Israel gave this offering.

4) Gideon had seventy sons in all. All seventy died as a result of the sins of Abimelech. (Judges 8,9)

5) Seventy men of Beth Shemesh were killed by God because they looked into the Ark of the Covenant. (1 Samuel 6:19)

6) Seventy sons of the house of Ahab were killed by Jehu (2 Kings 10)

7) King Hezekiah purified the temple with seventy bulls (and rams and male lambs) as a burnt offering. (2 Chronicles 29:32)

8) The Babylonians conquered the Israelites and left Jerusalem desolate for seventy years according to Jeremiah's prophecy. (Jer 25:11)

9) The length of our days is seventy years. (Psalm 90)

10) Daniel was given the the prophecy of Seventy 'Sevens'. (Daniel 9)

The number seventy is better associated with God's judgement than forty. What we see here is a theme of sanctification and purification from sin. Seven is the perfect number, ten (or five) is the complete number. God's perfection is multiplyed by His completeness (7 x 10 = 70). If ever there was a finite number to describe Him, seventy would be it.

So why Pentecost?

The church was born on Pentecost (see Acts 2). The Law was handed to Moses on Pentecost (also known as Shavuot). It is the very day (on two separate occasions) where Jewish ethics and the Christian faith were married. If God wanted to get our attention by removing His church, there's no better day to do it than on Pentecost/Shavuot. The year 2017 is also the Hebrew year of 5777. If both the Lord and the church are represented by the number 777, does not the year 5777 strike us as terribly important?

Mind you, I have been wrong before. Only time will tell if I am wise or foolish.

Johnny Cash

(Added Jan 29, 2009)
Postscript: Shavuot or the day of Pentecost in the year 5777/2017 falls on the 6th of Sivan/31st of May. Just thought I'd let you know!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Fear Not - May 7

Two weeks ago, I went for my physical. I had avoided it for 3 years and knew I really should go. So I booked my appointment and by the time I walked out of my doctor's office I had been informed that I would need to wear a heart monitor for two weeks to monitor what seemed to be an irregular heartbeat, an ultrasound of an abnormal thyroid and an ultrasound of a suspicious breast lump. I walked out of the office feeling a little old, and a little scared. We have a rather extensive history of cancer in my family, particularly breast cancer. As I made my way down to the lab for a roster of blood work and an ECG it hit me. The doctor thinks I might have cancer. Now, I am not one for crying in public, but the reality of it brought to mind thoughts of my three little girls growing up without a mom and the tears just came. I couldn't hold them back. I got my blood work and other assorted tests done and sought refuge in the car. I called my husband who offered some supportive responses and then I took a few deep breaths and pulled myself together. The other things I'd heard about didn't scare me like the chance of battling cancer. I sat in my car feeling small and alone and began to pray. God is the only One who is in charge anyways, so I figured I'd cry out to Him. As I sat there just thinking on Him, some words came to me. "Fear not, only believe." God was telling me not to be afraid. I took comfort in that and as I drove home, I thought about those four simple words. "Fear not, only believe." Did that mean I didn't have cancer? Maybe. That longer I thought on it the more I realized that it really held no clue as to my diagnosis. No promises that I would live to see 100. It simply meant that no matter what the outcome is, I don't need to be afraid. No matter what happens, God will be with me and ultimately, I will be with Him in eternal glory. Our God is a God of love, not fear. He loves my children even more than I do. His plan is perfect, and however this turns out, God will take care of His children, whether here, or in the eternity that follows. "Fear not, only believe. " will be alright...I am with you. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. I will have more results in a few weeks, but God has filled me with peace and joy. I am no longer afraid of what lies ahead of me. God is in charge and He loves me and He holds all things in His hands. FEAR NOT, ONLY BELIEVE. Who am I to argue? I choose faith over fear.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Negotiating with the Taliban - May 3

Negotiate with the Taliban? Only if Jack Layton is leading the charge. That way if anything happens to him it won't be considered a huge loss. Just kidding Jack! I once met Mr. Layton and shook his hand. He sure knows how to charm the Danforth locals. On a more serious side this really reflects unfavorably upon NATO. I sure hope PM Stephen Harper is playing close attention to this.

Johnny Cash

Geopolitical Diary: Negotiating With the Taliban in Afghanistan
May 2, 2008 0201 GMT

Canadian troops in Afghanistan are looking for opportunities to carry out tactical-level talks with Taliban insurgents, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reported on Thursday. The paper added that discussions are under way in Afghan government circles regarding strategic negotiations with the Taliban, including some controversial suggestions that Taliban leaders could receive political appointments or provincial governing posts. Furthermore, international stakeholders in the Policy Action Group reportedly are discussing “red lines” to set boundaries for what the talks could include.

The West has come to the realization that “solving” Afghanistan is not something that can be done militarily. The country, with its size and geographic complexity, is — at best — an artificial state held together by nothing more than an occupying force and neighbors who think that imposing direct control is more trouble than it is worth. Put another way, if the Soviets — with as many troops in Afghanistan as the United States now has in Iraq and with the will to kill anyone, anywhere — could not handle the country, NATO will certainly not be able to handle it with Western rules of engagement.

Yet that is how the war has been fought since 2002. Note we say 2002, not 2001. In 2001, the war was a different creature: The operation entailed overthrowing the then-Taliban government, and not imposing some flavor of stability. Overthrowing a manpower-light, geographically dispersed military proved rather simple. But then again, most of the Taliban chose not to stand still and let themselves be bombed from 20,000 feet; they melted away into the countryside. They began their resurgence in 2002 — which, six years later, has taken the form of a full-fledged insurgency.

The state of war that has existed since the Taliban began their comeback is what has defined the “country” for the past six years. And that war is what the U.S. administration is now attempting to redefine. The first step in that process is the installment of Gen. David Petraeus as chief of U.S. Central Command.

Petraeus’ most impressive claim to fame so far was turning the Iraqi war of occupation around. Instead of using military force to make Iraq look like a sandy Wisconsin, he instead engaged select foes and turned them into allies, adding American firepower to their own. This not only whittled down the number of militants fighting U.S. forces, but it allowed those forces to concentrate their efforts on the foes that they had to fight, instead of needing to patrol regions that — with the right deals cut — could patrol themselves.

The war in Iraq is hardly “over,” but Petraeus’ strategy has proven sufficient to make the task manageable. Perhaps there are lessons from Iraq that can be put to work in Afghanistan such that the United States and its NATO allies can reach a point where the chaos there can be managed as well. If re-Baathification worked and the Americans are working with Islamist actors in Iraq (both Sunni and Shiite), perhaps they can do the same in Afghanistan. In other words, if there is a need to bring back the Taliban, then that has to be managed.

Petraeus has juggled a complex situation in Iraq, consisting of multiple groups divided along ethno-sectarian, ideological, political and tribal lines. Dealing with a much less complex militancy landscape involving (more or less) a singular trend — that of the Taliban — is therefore not an unreasonable expectation. That said, there is one major difference: Unlike the Iraqi actors Washington has dealt with, the Taliban could be the first jihadist group with which the United States engages in talks.

The operating assumption in any negotiations is that an armed nonstate actor is willing to be pragmatic — something very difficult for religious ideologues. What this means is that initial talks will be about gaining a clear understanding of the nebulous nature of the Taliban phenomenon such that pragmatic elements can be identified among what appears to be a collection of armed Pashtun mullahs. Separating those who are willing to do business from those who are engaged in a zero-sum game could help transform the belligerents into a much more manageable entity.

The West’s goal in Iraq is to re-create a buffer state that can contain an Iran with regional ambitions, whereas the objective in Afghanistan is far more modest. In Afghanistan, the West is not even looking to create a state in the normal sense of the word. An arrangement that can keep chaos within tolerable parameters would suffice.