For Zion’s Sake – January 2019

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Do you have New Year’s resolutions? I’m not big on making resolutions, as most do not last more than a couple weeks. However, I am a goal-setter, as goals seem to motivate me throughout the year to press on in following the Lord’s guidance. For me, goals may change and new ones definitely arise during the year.

I’m motivated this year to run the race to win! (1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1-2) Time is urgent as we await the return of our Lord, and I want to finish well.

One thing of which I am convinced: we are to be a people of prayer. The Bible exhorts us over and over to pray, and prayer takes on many forms and many different focuses. One such focus is prayer for Israel.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

~Psalm 122:6-9

I highly encourage you to participate in ICEJ’s Isaiah 62 Prayer Initiative. On the first Wednesday of every month, believers worldwide join together in prayer to fulfill the Lord’s command to pray for Israel. Using Isaiah 62 as a template for prayer, we enter into intercessory prayer for God’s chosen land and God’s chosen people.

Why not join the global movement here: Isaiah 62 Prayer Initiative

If you are in the Phoenix area, come pray with our Isaiah 62 prayer group at 6:00pm the first Wednesday of every month (including tonight!) in Room 301 at Calvary PHX (Central campus). You will be blessed!

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet,
Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness,
And her salvation like a torch that is burning.

~Isaiah 62:1

Yom Kippur: Shadow or Substance?

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Sundown this evening will mark the beginning of the most solemn day on the Hebrew calendar: Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  Ten days of awe follow the recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah (Jewish civil new year) and lead into Yom Kippur.  These have been days in which the Jewish people have prayed, fasted and examined their lives, ahead of the Day of Atonement.  They know repentance is necessary, but trust in the rituals of their feasts (and other things) to bring atonement.

Leviticus 23:27-28 provides Biblical foundation for this important Jewish commemoration:

On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God.

The King James Version translates “humble your souls” as “affliction of souls.” Rabbis have interpreted that to mean observant Jews should afflict their souls by fasting.  But is it the soul or the body that is afflicted by fasting?

Perhaps the greatest affliction of soul is brought about when one realizes they are sinful and have absolutely no means of becoming holy on their own.  There is no chance!  To be eternally hopeless is the greatest possible affliction of soul (mind, will and emotions)!

Furthermore, what are the offerings by fire to be offered?  Not only are sinful humans hopeless in affliction, but we are also hopeless in offering the perfect sacrifice (offering).

As a Jewish person commemorates the feasts of Israel, they view only a shadow rather than the substance, and the shadow leaves them hopeless.

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
~Hebrews 10:1 [Emphasis mine]

things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
~Colossians 2:17 [Emphasis mine]

You see, the feasts so faithfully commemorated by practicing Jews, are simply shadows.  Christ, the fulfillment of the feasts, is the substance!

As Christians, we understand the Passover Lamb (Jesus) was offered as the perfect sacrifice for us!  In so doing, His holiness was imparted to us, thereby forgiving our transgressions and covering our sin!  The blood of Jesus did what we cannot do on our own: it atoned for our sin.  It will atone for theirs as well!

However, before our Jewish friends can see the substance, they must come to the place of affliction by understanding their own strength and deeds will not atone for sin.  Their eyes must gaze upon Jesus, the fulfillment of each feast, rather than the rituals that are merely shadows of Christ.

Believers, we are not perfect, so we must not lord salvation over our Jewish friends.  However, we must pray for the Substance (Yeshua…Jesus) to become recognized and trusted by the Jewish people.

This Yom Kippur, will you faithfully pray for the Jewish people?  They have brought us salvation through Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray they will claim Jesus the Messiah as their own.  May there be a great awakening on this Day of Atonement!

Signs and Instructions

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Pull up a chair and get your Bible ready, study friends!  We’re diving into it today.

We have spent almost 11 weeks studying Israel, the covenants, end times and Jesus’ return.  But I want to make one thing clear before we make practical application today.  Roughly 25-35% of the Bible is prophetic (depending upon what Bible expert you ask!)  But we must not focus there while ignoring the rest.  All of God’s Word teaches us how to live, and that is critical.  If Israel and/or prophecy become the only focus, we will be lop-sided Christians!  Know and understand the place of Israel and prophecy in the context of all of Scripture.

Now, let’s make our way toward practical application of that idea!  We’ll consider the signs of the end, then look to “non-prophetic” passages to help us understand how to live.

Here are some signs of the times:

  • Re-birth of Israel.  (Ezekiel 36-37)  Israel cannot invite their King home if there is no home to invite Him to! This is the key prophecy of Jesus’ return, and it occurred May 14, 1948.
  • Godlessness around the world.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)  In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul provided a very long list of moral failures that would occur in the last days.  Take a look at that list and decide for yourself whether or not those verses describe today’s culture.
  • Related imageTremendous increase in natural disasters. (Matthew 24:7)  Worldwide natural disasters have more than doubled since 1980.  Moreover, the intensity of storms and the resulting damage has increased far more.
  • Wars and rumors of war.  (Matthew 24:6)  War has been constant in our world for decades, but nuclear capabilities have risen to a level making those threats of war much more apocalyptic.
  • Russia, Iran, Turkey in coalition.  (Ezekiel 38)  The stage is set for the war of Gog and Magog as described by Ezekiel.  Russia, Iran and Turkey are undeniably identified as the primary players (along with other minor players) in the northern invasion.  Each of those nations now hold military positions on Israel’s border with Syria.
  • Signs of the rise of the false prophet and Antichrist are all over.  Though we (Christians) will be raptured prior to the Antichrist being revealed, we see false prophet and Antichrist-like figures in the world today.

The signs are everywhere! So, what instructions are we given?  Now is the time to open God’s Word, so crack open the Book and let’s take a look!

  • 1 John 2:15-18.  We are not to love this world or the things of it.  Those who please God will live forever.  The last hour is here and the Antichrist is coming.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  We are all running a race, and we must run to win.  To compete, we must persevere and not give up.  We discipline ourselves so we will not be disqualified.
  • Hebrews 12:1-2.  We must lay aside every encumbrance (sin) that entangles us and keeps us from running the race to win.  When we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we are guided rightly.

Finally, let’s consider Luke 19:11-13:

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’”

Friends, the kingdom of God is about to appear.  Jesus told a parable that mirrored Himself when He described a nobleman going to a distant country.  He has gone to the heavenly kingdom to prepare a place for us!  But, just as the nobleman in the parable, Jesus left us here, with His resources, to do His business until He returns!

Again, I say: We must be about our Father’s business in these days until He returns.  The time is now…we have no time to delay.  Are you doing business with the resources He left you?

That is my prayer for all of us (myself included!)  As we do His business, let’s be faithful watchmen who shout the warnings to those around us!

We’re nearing the end of the study, but we’re not there yet!  So, I’ll see you tomorrow!

Week 11 – Looking for the Blessed Hope

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Welcome to our last week of Why Israel Matters, study friends!  You probably noticed this week’s session is entitled Looking for the Blessed Hope.  For me, it seems it always comes back to that!  So, not only is that the name of this blog, but our study culminates with the same thought: we are to live well as we look for the return of our Blessed Hope…King Jesus.

Over the past two weeks our focus was on bringing the King home (though we know this world is not our home!)  Indeed, Jesus will return to culminate each of the three great covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic and New), initiating the Davidic Covenant.  Let’s begin this week’s study with a look at Hebrew 8, where the writer describes a “better ministry/covenant.”  Primarily, that “better covenant” refers to the New Covenant, which was better than the Mosaic covenant of law.  Consider these things:

  • According to verse 1, where is the High Priest seated now?  Given that, who do you believe the High Priest is?
  • Verses 4-5 indicate that priests on earth “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.”  I think of the covenants and of the Jewish feasts…all are copies and shadows of the heavenly things.  Jesus left this earth to go prepare a place for us.  A place filled with SUBSTANCE, not SHADOW!
  • Take careful note of the promises of God in verses 7-12.  What are some of those promises?

Now, while thinking of those promises, consider what the prophet wrote in Ezekiel 36:24-27:

For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

God is serious about His covenants with His people!  Today, the Jews are restored physically to their land (though many have yet to return home).  But one day, they will be restored spiritually.  Oh what a day it will be!  That will happen when the eyes of the Jewish people are finally opened, they recognize their Messiah, all Israel is saved and they invite their King to return!

I want to share a new release from Aaron Shust, who debuted this song at an ICEJ celebration of the opening of the US Embassy in May.  I think it will set the tone for us to close out our study this week.  Please listen carefully to the words, and perhaps even go back an look up the verses at a later time.  Enjoy!