Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are the Times of the Gentiles being Fulfilled?

And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring . . . Luke 21:24-25

Last week, Don and I were excited to travel to Minneapolis for the weekend. Perry Stone, one of the major teachers impacting my life on the Hebraic roots of my faith and of the prophetic Word of God was the guest speaker at a church conference. During one of Perry’s teachings, the Lord quickened my heart to one specific area. It was a teaching on the Vine and the branches in light of the times of the Gentiles being fulfilled. Is the time of the Gentiles about to come to an end?

Jesus said, Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:4-5. Jesus is the Vine. It is in Him we must abide if we are to remain. Not religion, not education but in relationship and dependence upon the work and person of Jesus period. If we are connected to anything else, we cannot endure . . . we will wither and die.

Over the past several years, I have increasingly grieved “indifference” and/or a “dumbing down” of the Word. This is not a worldwide malady by any means, but appears rather to be a “Western Church” occurrence. How can that be? While the rest of the world is exploding in a mighty move of God with countless numbers of people embracing Jesus even to the point of death and torture, America and all of Europe seems to be sleeping. Are we not the nation responsible for sending the gospel to all other nations? Are we not the only nation in the world considered a Christian nation? Do we not abide in the vine? Have we not experienced supernatural blessing throughout our history? I would venture to say yes, but like ancient Israel, we have turned to our idols and worshipped them in the high places. We have become enamored by the spirit of “I am, and there is no one besides me.” We have lost our way and forgotten Jesus.

America’s roots to the God of the Bible and her inseparable spiritual link to Israel began in the 15th century, when a young Italian explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus prepared for a great journey to find the Indies. As Columbus awaited the blessing of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish Inquisition was in force, officially beginning on November 1, 1478. Unlike its predecessor, the Spanish Inquisition sought to punish Jews who had converted to Christianity but considered by others to be less than "sincere" in their conversions.

Rabbi Ken Spiro, in a crash course in history, says on, says, “In their blood-thirsty vengeance against the Muslims, the Spanish Christians included the Jews, whom they put in the category of infidels. In 14th century Barcelona, for example, the whole Jewish community was murdered by a rioting mob. First given shelter by some Christians, these Jews were pressured to convert. Those who did not were refused protection. Prime Minister (once professor) B. Netanyahu in his 1,400-page work, The Origins of the Inquisition, quoted an eyewitness account of the time: "Those of them who refused to accept baptism were immediately slain, and their corpses, stretched in the streets and the squares, offered a horrendous spectacle."

Rabbi Spiro further states:

“The year 1492 marked the fall of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, bringing to an end the Muslim domination of Spain which had lasted nearly 800 years. Spain returned to being a completely Christian country.
Shortly thereafter, Ferdinand and Isabella, decided to throw all the Jews out of Spain. This time, in the expulsion edict, the monarchs were not targeting Jewish converts to Christianity, rather they were targeting Jews who had never converted. Why? The main reason stated in the Edict of Expulsion, signed on March 31st 1492, was to keep Jews from re-Judaizing the converses. Another factor that certainly played a big role (besides anti-Semitism) was that Jewish money was now needed to rebuild the kingdom after the costly war against the Muslims. Rather than slowly squeezing the money out of the Jews through taxation, it was easier to expel them all at once and confiscate the wealth and property they would leave behind.

The day after the expulsion, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus left on his famed voyage of discovery. His diary begins:

"In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edit that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month, they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery of the Indies."

Many people speculate that Columbus was of Jewish ancestry, and there is a good case for it. (For those interested, there are a lot of fascinating tidbits about Columbus collected in a book called Christopher Columbus's Jewish Connection by Jane Francis Amler.) Here are some examples:

• Although he was born in Genoa, Italy, his first language was Castilian Spanish. Many Jews had been forced to leave Castile about hundred years before his birth and some went to Genoa. (Incidentally, 14th century Castilian Spanish is the "Yiddish" of Spanish Jewry known as "Ladino.")
• When he wrote, Columbus made funny little marks on the page that resembled the markings that religious Jews put on top of the written page even to this day - an abbreviation of besiyata d'ishmaya, which means "with God's help" in Aramaic.
• He talked a great deal about Zion in his writings.
• In his crew, he had five known Jews, including his doctor, navigator, and translator.
• Columbus hired the translator, Louis de Torres, (who had converted to Christianity the day before he set sail) because he spoke twelve languages including Hebrew. And Columbus was sure he was not going to bump into Hebrew-speakers. He thought he was going to go to the Far East and he expected to find at least one of the ten lost tribes there and needed a Hebrew speaker.

Furthermore, there's no question that Columbus's voyage to America was spiritually linked to the expulsion. Just as one of the greatest Jewish communities of Medieval Europe is being destroyed, God was opening up the doors of what is going to eventually become the greatest Diaspora refuge for Jews in history -- America. This is another tremendous pattern we see in history: God making the cure before the disease.”

Instead of the Indies, Columbus would discover the Americas . . . Unknown to Columbus, but not to God, this land would become a sanctuary to unknown multitudes of Jews and would play a major role in stopping the atrocities and horrors of the Holocaust. But not without a move of God that intervened in the USA’s former decision to remain uninvolved. This would happen nearly 200 years after the founding of the colonies by British pilgrims willing to sacrifice life to face harsh realities and brutal beginnings to worship Jesus Christ as they desired. America would indeed become the world’s greatest catalyst in taking the message of salvation to every nation of the world. And God would bless her profoundly and abundantly, but like ancient Israel . . .

America would forget the roots of her blessing and rebel against the God who created her. In our worship of countless idols, we have entered into a season of captivity and oppression. Our love for God is growing lukewarm, indifferent. Like ancient Israel, The Western Church’s light is dimming and blindness fills her sanctuaries like a subtle mist. Unless revival visits our nation, our branches are in danger of removal. Revival has to begin in the hearts of God’s people. We desperately need a mighty move of Holy Spirit in our Churches and in our nation.

Any good study of scripture is similar to peeling the onion. The first layer, is always the visible layer. You see it, it makes sense, and you interpret it in its context. The second layer is an application layer. How does it apply to my life? The third layer is a prophetic layer. In that layer are hidden many mysteries and those intent on digging will find priceless treasure of revelation. Everything about Jesus: who He was/ why He was and when . . . everything Jesus did was in fulfillment of the Bible’s prophetic word and types and shadows of things to come.

Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” Isaiah 28:9-10

How does all this relate to the fullness of the Gentiles? In Israel’s unbelief, she was blinded to the truth of the Messiah who came as a suffering servant. She didn’t recognize Jesus who the prophets because he didn’t meet her expectations. As the Messiah was rejected, her blessing was removed. Through God’s original plan, the door to the Gentiles was opened. Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past. Romans 16:25 This road to salvation of the Gentiles was not a surprise to God. It was in His plan from the beginning, as is the door of the blessing to the Gentiles to be closed and the door to the salvation of the Jews to be reopened. Israel’s light is about to shine!

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 3:1-9

God’s ultimate plan is for Gentiles and Jewish believers to be equal, joint heirs through Christ, one new man, one new body comprised of natural and grafted branches that are intimately and securely abiding in the Vine and who are partakers of every covenant promise. Are there clues in the scriptures about the Lord’s teaching on the Vine and the Branches as to when this time of the Gentiles will be fulfilled? Yes.
Consider Isaiah 11 . . .

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist. “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.

“ And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.” It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, From Assyria and Egypt, From Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, From Hamath and the islands of the sea.

He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. says in a commentary on Zechariah, “There are two Hebrew words translated “branch” in Old Testament Messianic prophecies. It is obvious from reading them that they all refer to Messiah who shall be called the Branch. They confirm that the man Or “Branch’ would come from house of David, that He will be a judge, He will be a king, He will be a priest, He will be the Lord Our Righteousness, He will save Israel and Judah, He will build the Temple of God, in Him will the Gentiles trust. Attention given to the context of these Branch prophecies show that the Branch is the same person who will fulfill the David prophecies. They clearly refer to the Messiah and Jesus of Nazareth has astonishingly paralleled these predictions, especially the last;

Jesus name can be translated as the Branch. The two Hebrew words for Branch are obviously interchanged. One is "tsemach", (transliterated zemach) used in all the above verses for branch except Isaiah 11:1 where "natser,", (transliterated Nazer) is found. Jesus is called this latter word literally. The hometown of Jesus is Nazareth (Fem. plural of Nazer is Nazeroth). Many religious Jews will not mention Jesus' name. They certainly will not call him Christ (Messiah). He is most often referred to as The Nazarene. Some Jews call him the Notsri and Christians the Notsriym. [One of the first names for the church after our Lord’s ascension and the infilling of Holy Spirit] Consequently they are calling him by his name, "The Branch," and literally fulfilling prophecy. Thus he is so called by those who believe in him least. "He shall build the Temple of the LORD." The Branch refers to the Messiah. The Temple is the kingdom of the Messiah. It is clear that Gentiles have trusted in the LORD since the time of the Nazarene (Branch) through the building of the church done by Jesus the Nazarene.

Isaiah prophecies both the first and second coming of the Lord.” Romans 11 gives additional insight as Paul teaches . . .

I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: “ God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.” And David says: “ Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.”

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.

For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “ For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” “ Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

We foolishly discount the fact that the New Testament Church was a Jewish Church. It’s roots were in Jesus. Saul, had he not been converted to Paul, would have become the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. Though Paul’s commission was to the Gentiles, he never failed to visit the synagogue and remained an observant Jew, as did Jesus. As the revelation of Christ was cut off from Israel through her unbelief, a new nation was birthed. This nation was first called “Notsriym” and “the followers of The Way”. Later in Antioch, the followers of Christ would be called Christians. And for the first few centuries, they understood “the way” in a way that we have missed in large measure. It is no accident that God is raising an army of teachers throughout the world today who are equipping the saints with knowledge and understanding about the foundations of the Church in her purest form. To truly understand the scriptures, we must study them in their Jewishness and take off our American glasses.

The people of the way understood that everything God had revealed through the books and the prophets was essential to God’s overall plan. They understood that Jesus would return in the same way He departed, and they watched for the signs of His return: Anxiously and yearningly. How it breaks my heart to see how often offense rises in the church of this day when we talk about Jesus returning. Congregations avoid mention of sin, of blood, and of judgment at all costs to avoid offending anyone.

In the 4th century, King Constantine made the Church a State Religion, and separated it from its Jewish roots. Throughout history, we find evidence in various places and eras where the “Church” stopped abiding in the Vine. Without relationship to the branch Jesus – it was cut off from and entered into blindness. Religion became predominant, and where religion smothers relationship, the Word of God is corrupted and used in ways that have surely made God weep. Without Jesus in us, we are capable of terrible atrocities.

In every generation, however, there has also been a remnant who embraced Jesus Christ in His fullness. Throughout the span of time itself, they have been watchmen who waited and worshiped and yielded to a work of Holy Spirit in themselves which consummated the character of Christ within their hearts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” That “remnant” is all that God ever needed to complete His work for each time of divine purpose.

Do we see the miracle of the living Word manifesting today? The greatest fulfillment of “second coming” prophecy happened on May 14, 1948 when Israel became a nation again in a day. The desert has bloomed. For the first time in history, there are more Jews living in Israel than outside of it. Isaiah 11:14 says, ”But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west.” In this generation, millions of returning Jews have flown down upon the shoulder of the Philistines, which is today the area from Gaza to Tel Aviv. Ben Gurion Airport sits on the shoulder of the Philistines!

The Jews are provoked with jealousy today by Christians who are blowing shofars and wearing tallits (prayer shawls). But the most amazing thing that is happening is that a Church is being birthed within Israel of young Jewish men and women who have embraced Yeshua as Messiah. This is a terrible affront to the Jews. The Messianic Church is a persecuted Church. Can you see it?? Vision and revelation of Holy Spirit is returning to the nation of Israel . . . EVEN as the eyes of the lukewarm church is being dimmed and blindness is coming to those who are not securely abiding in the Vine.

The prophetic word says that during that time of great tribulation . . . there will be an apostate church. As Paul writes to Timothy, But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power.

I encourage you brothers and sisters to abide in Jesus. Our Lord is coming again, and fulfillment of the prophetic word indicates that the time is short. If you find yourself “stale” in your faith . . if church has become an event rather than a celebration of worship . . . if church has become a business or a performance art to you . . . if you are coming for social reasons or reasons of any kind of personal elevation. . . call upon the throne of grace in Jesus name. If wisdom or knowledge has resulted in a sense of pride, remember that “you do not support the root, but the root supports you”. Aside from Jesus, we are capable of no good works. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Light.

Need fruit in your life? Call upon the name of Jesus. Ask the Lord to restore your heart and fan the flames of passion in your love for Jesus. Pray that you are part and parcel of a fruit bearing Church. Ask God to give you His burden for the lost and the captive. Ask Him to give you new enthusiasm and revelation for His will for you and His purpose in you today. Don’t let apathy lead to dimness and loss of vision that results in a withered dead branch.

Pray for the Church in America today. Pray for our Church home and our leaders. Pray for the City-Wide, the Nation-Wide, the Persecuted Church. Pray for God’s Kingdom Vision!

In Jesus name.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How would we stand . . .

Don and I were able to travel to Minneapolis this weekend for a church conference with one of my favorite teachers on the signs of the times. After an incredible weekend with the Lord, I found myself sick yesterday. As a result, I was late getting Heart to Heart distributed. Each week, before I write, I pray and ask the Lord to direct my thoughts and use me as an empty vessel to bring encouragement for the week to someone. I just wasn’t getting anything, and then I read the following article. I cried . . . God spoke . . . Who was it for?

Brothers and sisters, we are so blind. We spend time debating Arminianism vs. Calvinism while the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t matter. It is a non-essential doctrine, and we cannot understand completely. In the West, the Body of Christ has divided itself into many different denominations – most of them based, generally, on one or more non-essential doctrines they are divided in. More and more the church blurs the lines of truth as God gives it in His Word. Many who say they love God are oblivious of the fact that until the denominations come together on the essential doctrines, i.e. the triune nature of God, the virgin birth, the atoning death, the bodily resurrection and ascension, the fact that Jesus is coming again to receive his bride . . . we will never become a city-wide, a nation-wide, a world-wide . . . yea a Bride/Church ready to receive her bridegroom. Our opinions don’t matter. It is only what God says that matters. God’s word hasn’t changed. This time in history does not require a revised gospel or a new way of presenting it. Like God Himself, His Word is eternal! Unshakable! Unstoppable! Undefeatable! And we are warned not to add or take away.

All over the world, God is pouring out His Spirit in awe and wonder. Each month in China, 1.3 million people are added to the kingdom. In India, the number is about 1 million. For the first time in history, Jewish eyes are being opened to Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, and daily new believers are added to the Church in Israel, while the eyes of the Western Church appear to be growing dim. Young Arab men and women are being visited by Jesus in dreams and visions. In the midst of radical Islam, a Church is being birthed. Like natural birth, spiritual birthing involves pain. While in America . . . the Church overall is sleeping. Why? What happened to our passion? How far would we be willing to go for Jesus? How bold would we be willing to stand? How deep is our love? All over the world, a persecuted Church is willing to die for their faith, yet in America, we refuse to even be inconvenienced. How many times do we say in a time of need, I’m sorry but . . .

Oh God, that you would forgive us and restore us to the passion that once called us to the cross! Make us a Church ready to receive the harvest . . . ready to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. Stir us, Lord. Ignite us, Lord. Bring Your Spirit in its fullness to shake us out of our complacency. Pursue us and do not let us rest until we remember Your faithfulness and stand in the gap for our lost, our cities, and those who endure persecution in Your name throughout the earth. As Francis Frangipane says, “Victory begins with the name of Jesus on our lips; but it will not be consummated until the nature of Jesus is in our heart.” Oh, Lord . . . give us unrelenting desire for the nature of Jesus to be completed in our hearts. Amen.

Stop, pause and consider this wonderful story . . .

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Two Christian women who were arrested for their faith have been amazingly acquitted and freed from Tehran's notorious Evin prison and are now in a country outside Iran. Fourteen months after being arrested for their Christian faith and activities, Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh have been acquitted of all charges by the Iranian judicial authorities. However, they were warned that any future Christian activity in Iran will be seriously dealt with. On Saturday May 22, 2010, they left Iran and arrived safely in another country.

Sam and Lin Yeghnazar, founders of Elam Ministries, met them at the airport. It was a tearful reunion. “It was very emotional when we first saw them,” said Lin Yeghnazar, “Now, we want to see them rest and recover.” Maryam and Marzieh are eager to thank Christians who have been praying for them. “We are most grateful to everyone who prayed for us,” Marzieh said, “I have no doubt that God heard the prayers of His people.” Maryam added, “I believe our arrest, imprisonment and subsequent release were in the timing and plan of God, and it was all for His glory. But the prayers of people encouraged and sustained us throughout this ordeal.” Elam Ministries says: "Both young women have shown exceptional courage, daring to tell an Islamic judge that they would never deny their faith in Christ."

According to a media update from Elam, when Sam Yeghnazar told them their example had encouraged countless people around the world, they were quick to respond, “We are frail human beings with many weaknesses. The honor and glory go to God who has kept and used us, although we don’t know why He has chosen us. All the glory goes to Him.” Maryam and Marzieh were arrested in March 2009 because of their Christian faith and were repeatedly placed under great pressure to recant and deny Jesus Christ.

They faced repeated interrogations, weeks in solitary confinement, and unhealthy prison conditions. Both became seriously sick during their imprisonment and did not receive the treatment they needed which greatly increased their suffering. Senior judges and officials also intimidated them. Despite this, they remained faithful to Jesus Christ and did not deny Him. After their conditional release from prison in November 2009, they have had a very trying six months waiting for their case to be heard in an Islamic court where they could have been sentenced to prison again. “We have seen the Lord do miracles over and over again. He kept us and gave us favor in prison, and sustained us during a very difficult period of waiting for our final trial,” said Marzieh.

Maryam and Marzieh have lived through many experiences during the last fourteen months. The days ahead are not certain. However, they are determined to serve the Lord and the Iranian church. “We hope to eventually share some of what the Lord allowed us to go through to highlight the need and the opportunity for the church in Iran, but right now we will take time to pray and seek the Lord for His will,” said Maryam. Please continue to pray for Maryam and Marzieh to fully recover and continue in fruitful ministry.

Used with permission by ASSIST News Service (ANS) - PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA
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And how would I . . . How would you . . . stand????????????

Monday, May 17, 2010


To Give or Not to Give. . .

If we gaze at the affects on our economy today through the lens of the world we live in, times are uncertain at best. Most people are concerned about rising costs and lowered incomes. Many churches and missions are reporting decreased contributions, even as need increases. It is a time for good discernment and wise decision making for families . . . such times also give rise to wonderful opportunities to examine the Word of God in the context of our circumstances and take a fearless inventory of in whom and where our security resides. My marching orders are quite simple . . . They are . . . Back to the book!!

The Bible is filled with principals, perspectives and examples of giving. The truth is that we have nothing apart from God. He owns it all! Psalms 24:1 tells us that The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. By God’s design, we are His stewards and His managers. 1 Corinthians 4:2 cautions us, Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

By example, our God is a faithful, giving God who expects the same from His children. His ultimate gift came in the Son, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16. Yet, He also made ample provision for our practical needs. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19.

Riches, like life itself are fleeting. In the end, only those seeds that we have sown into the kingdom of God will accompany us as we stand face to face with our Lord. 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. 1 Timothy 6:9-10. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Timothy 6:6-7. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Even the poorest in the United States today are uncomprehensively rich by third world standards.

In every area of the word, we are called to trust God. It is only in the area of giving where God says, “Test Me”. Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:8-10. We cannot know on earth the number of tragedies diverted, or the fullness of the blessings imparted to us because of faithfulness.

On a side note: those tithes were “first fruits”. The Lord asks that we give our best in terms of time and talents, as well as a portion of earnings. It is not enough to give our money, God wants the best we have to offer in every area of our lives. Every gift you have has been given to you for one reason: that you might grow in righteousness and bless others. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11. Those worthy of hire in paid service to the Lord and those who have been ordained to support the Church through outside vocations are called to go beyond “job descriptions” in giving to the Lord. Each of us will offer account of the way we have used the gifts the Lord has given. If money is a commodity you don’t have, what is the gift you do have to bring before the Lord? What can you do for Jesus?

Our giving is but one reflection of the content of our heart. Do we trust the Lord to meet our needs or do we depend on the dynamics of the world? But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work. As it is written: “ He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” The Bible says we cannot serve two masters. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24

Finally, we give because we are obedient and desire to build and enhance the Kingdom of God. In our local church, to the missionaries on domestic and foreign fields, to the widow and the orphan, to the poor and those in need yes . . .but we give because . . . Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

Fear (lack of faith) is sin. To live the Christian life, we must determine (consciously choose to) believe by faith. Do we really believe what we say we believe? In what ways do we put wheels to our faith? What are the determinations we make that give revelation to the state of our hearts? Give!! Your time . . . Your talents . . . Your treasure!!!! Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38.

Monday, May 10, 2010


My morning devotional today was on ‘entitlements’. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Os Hillman addressed the ‘the world owes us’ attitude prevalent in today’s society – in a way that really made me stop, pause, and consider. People in our country ‘expect’ the best. Those things may come in the form of expensive homes and cars, educational opportunities abundant to all, jobs that pay well, spouses that adore us, kids that appreciate us, and health that will not fail. We expect fulfillment of our desires and instant gratification of our whims. Increasingly, we expect others (i.e., employers, family members, church, government) to be responsible parties in meeting all our needs.

Even the church can be a pleasure-focused, me-based institution. Many expect delightful music, great preaching and strict adherence to ‘the one-hour rule’. Those who don’t know the Lord and have never given of themselves to the church or to cultivating a relationship with Jesus sadly ‘expect’ to be embraced by ‘God’ and ushered into heaven’s gates. Even our prayers can be so ‘me’ focused that we miss the bigger picture the Lord has for us. How many of us really spend time asking our Father what we can do for Him instead of what He can do for us?

How unlike Jesus . . . "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!" - Philippians 2:8

While Christ clearly encouraged the significance of maintaining a balance between work and rest, mission and refreshing; He also promised that if we would follow Him and put Him first, He would meet every need and grant us our heart’s desire . . . Nonetheless; His expectations, His desires and His mind were always centered, grounded, and focused upon His Father. He gave no Biblical principal for retirement, but rather gave us a life-long commission. He practiced what He preached. The Word says, He came . . .

1. To reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27) "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

2. To serve and to be a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

3. To save the world (John 3:17; Luke 19:10) "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

4. To preach the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43) "But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."5. To bring division (Luke 12:51) "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

6. To do the will of the Father (John 6:38) "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."

7. To give the Father's words (John 17:8) "For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me."

8. To testify to the truth (John 18:37) "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

9. To die and destroy Satan's power (Heb. 2:14) "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil."

10. To destroy the devil's works (1 John 3:8) "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."

11. To fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17) "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

12. To give life (John 10:10,28) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full . . . I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."

13. To taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

14. To become a high priest (Heb. 2:17) "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people."

15. To atone for sin (Heb. 2:17) "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people."

16. To proclaim freedom for believers (Luke 4:18) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”

17. To bring judgment (John 9:39) "Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

18. To take away sin (1 John 3:5) "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin."

19. To preach (Mark 1:38) "Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

20. To call sinners (Mark 2:17) "On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

21. To know who is true (1 John 5:20) "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."

How does my life emulate the character of Jesus? He said that if I tried to save my life, I would lose it; but if I lost my life for His sake and the gospels, I would save it. He taught that to experience the fullness of life, I had to learn to give it away. He taught that if I would receive the child, the outcast, the unlovely in His name, I would receive Him. An entitlement mentality was simply foreign to Jesus. Let my prayer be . . .

Father, free us from the spirit of Babylon that says there is no one besides me. Give us your heart. Infuse us with your character. Fill us with your Spirit. Give us spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears that hear. Give us greater vision of the purpose and plan you have for us. Help us surrender. Help us humble ourselves and be obedient so that our selfishness and our entitlement attitudes can be put to death and we can offer ourselves selflessly to the work that you have uniquely gifted us to do. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.