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America's Disastrous Policies (Standing Watch) 13 min video

Pray for the Peace of Israel? (First Century Christianity)

Since the modern nation of Israel is under constant rocket attack lately, there are a whole lot of folks expressing themselves publicly that they are praying for the peace of Israel. Of course, we desire peace, but I think there might be something else we ought to be praying for.
‘Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.’ Numbers 25:6-8
Doesn’t that just look brutal? Phinehas speared his own countryman and the man’s wife. By today’s standards, and really by most of history’s standards, that’s insane. But what happens next is even more notable.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore say, Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.” Numbers 25: 10-13
Phinehas was given the covenant of PEACE right after executing his countryman? WHAT? Now, I am in no way, shape, or form advocating executing Old Testament justice in our day and age, but take note that this man was blessed by the Most High for simply doing what was supposed to be done when nobody else would do it. We do not live in a society where justice is meted out like it was in the days of Moses. We do, however, live in a society that does reflect what happened in this scenario. The vast majority of the society absolutely refuses to do what needs to be done to bring peace, or solve any national problem at all for that matter.
In order to bring peace, we must first have victory. Harry Truman said, “Peace is not the absence of war.” He was willing to do what needed to be done to have peace. Today, I see a great many people pray for the peace of Israel. I choose instead to pray for Israel to do what needs to be done to achieve that peace. No country should live in constant fear of rocket bombardment. I also pray for the United States to do what needs to be done to solve its devastating problems. I pray for the leaders to stop weeping in the assembly and to show some leadership in order to bring peace through victory. In Israel’s case, Harry Truman’s quote is incredibly appropriate. Peace is surely not the absence of war.

It Will Happen (New Horizons)

Many Bible believers express concerns as to how to interpret the end-time prophecies or doctrinal issues. If they get it wrong—will that condemn me to ‘the great tribulation’? Even, will I lose out on salvation? What if, for example, they misplace the time of the resurrection? Will it coincide with the Day of Trumpets? Or, will it take place on the Day of Pentecost? Both scenarios have been proposed.
Then there’s the important issue of the nature of the Godhead—is God, as is generally believed within the Christian faith, a ‘trinity’, a ‘triune God’? Or have the Unitarians got it right—one God. Or, is God a Family?
Then there’s the interpretation of the prophecies. Who is ‘the Beast’ or the ‘False Prophet’ or the ‘man of sin’? Is the ‘King of the South’ an Islamic force, or a secular power? Or other? What if I’m not sure this truly is ‘the end time’, and it turns out it is? Will I be left behind? And what about Daniel’s much-discussed prophecies?
All genuine concerns! And yes—we should strive for a right understanding of the Scriptures. Take that ‘trinity’ question. No Christian, however they may understand ‘God’, means any disrespect. It’s how they understand the text—or, more likely, they have never studied the issue but have thoughtlessly accepted the word from the pulpit rather than God’s revelation in the Scriptures. God remains, whatever we may think or believe, exactly what He is, always was and always will be. No matter what I might think or been taught.
And prophecy? The interpretations are endless! Given enough time most human speculations—that’s what they are—fall by the wayside. I don’t need to know when Jesus will return; I must just stay in a state of preparedness. I needn’t know who might be the ‘two witnesses’; God will manifest them for all to see in His good time. I need not be concerned about world chaos—just be personally ready for when the end comes.
There is, however, one clear instruction direct from the lips of Jesus: ‘Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them ... and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Those of us privileged to be part of His divine Family are to share the good news of salvation, the Kingdom news, personally and through support of the work of our church affiliation.
And, in tandem with this directive, we are each to shape our life to that of the image of Jesus Christ, his character, as revealed through the Scriptures and informed by God’s Spirit in us. Nothing we believe or do will change God’s nature. We can’t change when Jesus will return. We can’t change God’s choice of the two witnesses. We can’t change the outcome of the prophecies. And, except in my small corner of influence by my example, I can’t help the world’s chaos.
God is compassionate, knows our frailties. He understands our limitations and doesn’t lay anything on us beyond those limitations. We do our best to understand His revelation—but failures of understanding do not affect our living relationship with Him and with our Saviour, Jesus HIs Messiah.

Forsake All That You Have (Children of God)

Are we disciples of Jesus Christ? We are told that we are to come out of the world and be separate. One of the behavioral traits that has become pervasive in modern society is that of self indulgence. We hear people say, “You only go around once – so get all you can get.” Are we in it for the short-term, or are we in it for the duration? Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God cannot be acquired by seeking power and wealth, or control and politics, or luxury and extravagance—but by laying those things aside:
“Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.  For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye [first] the Kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Luke 12:29-31, Matthew 6:33)
As Christians, we realize that our temporary lives are not our own—we have been purchased by Christ. Jesus goes on to explain that those people who are His will make a conscious decision to make God’s way of life their total priority.
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
God requires our full and complete loyalty and commitment. From God’s perspective – why would God the Father and Jesus Christ want us to be around in their Kingdom? Without us they were perfect and complete. Why did they come up with a plan to bring us into their God family? What do they see in us that we cannot even imagine of ourselves? God is a creator and a producer – not a user and a taker. Jesus was a carpenter—but He did not build a wooden church building. He is building His Church—an eternal spiritual entity. If we have the eyes to see, there is a picture there of our future.
Mankind has tremendous creative ability—just look at the scientific inventions and building accomplishments that have been achieved when men have set their minds to it. God tells us that our ability is only limited by our imagination. Man can achieve anything that he is able to conceive of in his mind. God said of man:
“Nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6)
And, that is in the flesh! God’s promise to us goes well beyond this temporal life. His plan is that we attain to eternal spiritual life as children of God. Notice how our capability and potential will increase as spirit beings:
“As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
We cannot now imagine what will be within our grasp as creative spirit-born members of the God family with an eternity of time and the vast limitless universe at our disposal.  But to be a part of what God has in store for us we must now become like God is. We must love His law and His people as He does—without competition or strife. Do we really want God’s way of life with every fiber of our being, or do we resent having to do things the ‘hard way?’
We are warned in the Scriptures that it is possible to fall away from the truth of God and His good graces, and lose out on salvation. That thought is horrifying to consider.  Extremely trying days lie just ahead for those of us in the Church of God. Everything that we hold sacred will soon be overthrown – everything, that is, except our faith, which must continue until the very end.
Over and over in the Bible the brethren are admonished to live lives of overcoming, and remain faithful to the end. We are to live exemplary lives as witnesses to those in the world. But, is there a possibility that we could fall away?
“It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Christianity, in spite of what some believe, is no bed of roses. There is no way that a novice in the Faith can reasonably envision all the trials and tribulations he will experience during his course of conversion. We do not know everything that the future holds – only God knows. What is clear is that Jesus warned that the last Church era before His return would let down and be in severe need of repentance.

Can we skip to the part where I care? (Sabbath Meditations)
A few days ago, I passed a guy wearing a t-shirt with the message, ‘Can we skip to the part where I care?’ My first reaction was to snicker, just a little. My second reaction was to think, “What a selfish jerk!” However, my third reaction was, “Hey, he's kind of got a point.” Let me explain.
This past Sunday, I returned from a full and rewarding weekend in Big Sandy, Texas. I visited with church brethren, was treated to some amazing southern hospitality, and took in the very hot but beautiful East Texas countryside. Consequently, that Monday when I returned to work, I was excited to share my adventure. So, I did the one thing we humans do when we want attention - feign momentary interest in someone else and then quickly switch the spotlight to myself. I asked a colleague, “How was your weekend?” Of course, I was hoping for a brief, “ahhh, it was good, how about yours?” Unfortunately, my plan backfired. He launched into a minute by minute recounting of everything he, his wife, children and the family dog had experienced that weekend. Apparently, I had made the mistake of picking someone who had a life.
I wasn't about to give up though. Seeing my opening somewhere after his third paragraph, I dove in with, “Well, at least you stayed cool. You wouldn't believe the weather in Texas...whew was it...” “Yeah, it wasn't too bad here,” he butted in, “but you should have seen the...” and off he went again.
I listened politely for a few agonizing minutes until, catching a lucky break, his phone rang and he was forced to break off the conversation. Off I went, searching for someone else with whom I might share my experience. Ideally, someone who hopefully wouldn't have their own story to tell.
Okay, I realize I’m exposing a bit of personal carnality here. But, c’mon, you've all been there, right? Each of us, at times, gets so focused on our little corner of existence that we forget there are other people out there. People who have lives and experiences they care about just as much as we care about ours. Sometimes we forget that the earth doesn’t stop spinning for other people when we leave the room. It’s those times that being confronted by a message on a t-shirt that plainly, albeit rudely, tells it like it is from the perspective of those having to put up with our self-centered attitude, might actually do us a service.
Paul, writing to the Philippians tells them, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
It’s a great idea in theory. Most of us can manage to look out for other people’s interests at least some of the time. But seriously, “esteem others better than myself?!” That's a pretty tall order, isn’t it? That would require not only showing interest in the lives of others, but actually caring more about their lives than mine. How many of us really do that? Well, come to think of it, there is one person who did.
Of all men who have lived, I’m sure we'd all agree that Jesus had the most amazing story to tell. Trip to Texas? Huh? Try a first class seat at the helm of the universe! Yet, with so much that He had to share with others, that’s not what He led with. He came first and foremost ministering to the needs of others. He sacrificed His own needs, His own comfort, and ultimately His own life so that others could find meaning and purpose in theirs. It's an attitude I wish I displayed more often than I do.
Wait a minute. I can.
Paul continues in Philippians 2:5-7, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
That mind, that heart towards the needs of others can and should be in me. His mind in me should cause me to care about the things that He cared about. His primary care was directed, not inward toward the self, but outward toward others.
Our Lord's example is pointing us to a life lived outside the self, isn’t it?
We live that life in a million little ways; sacrificing something we want, so that we can contribute to someone who needs it more; directing our energy, skills, and our precious time to further other people’s goals rather than our own.
Paul also tells us here that caring for the needs of others above our own needs is not something we can force. Forcing ourselves to love and care for others, when our heart isn’t really invested, is an exercise in futility and a recipe for resentment. As Paul says here, we have to “let this mind be in (us)...” It’s not something we force, it’s something we allow. We have to allow His Spirit to work in us, filling us with His love so that we can share it freely with others.
Just imagine the day when His love will fill this earth and the hearts and minds all who inhabit it. There will certainly be much less taking and a lot more giving. Folks will be less focused on serving the self and more focused on serving others. And I’m not sure - it’s just a hunch - but I’m guessing we won’t see too many of those t-shirts around either.

Blood Moons (Morning Companion)

The Blood Moon Prophecies have become somewhat of a topic in many prophetic circles. The main biblical text used to explain this astronomical phenomenon can be found in Joel 2:30-31:
    “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fires and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome Day of the Lord.”
Commentators read this and conclude, not without reason, that this passage refers to solar and lunar eclipses. They then refer to astronomical charts and look for unusual alignments of solar and lunar eclipses while lining up those arrangements to significant events in the history of Israel. They then postulate, based on the wording in Joel, that one such future alignment of eclipses will presage the return of Christ.
Thus was born the discussion around what is known as ‘the tetrad’. A tetrad is a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses, each with six full moons in between. The tetrad which occurs in 2014-2015 is unusual because all four of those lunar eclipses occur on annual High Days (first days of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles) and the period also coincides with solar eclipses (“the sun turned to darkness”).
To those interested in prophecy, the coinciding of eclipses with Holy Days suggests a portent of some kind of divine intervention, and they note that the founding of the State of Israel and the Spanish Inquisition seem to coincide with similar line-ups of the sun, moon, and Earth.
But as some researchers have pointed out, many of the purported events prefigured by High Day blood moons actually occurred before the sighting of the blood moons. Are we to conclude that the events were precursors of the blood moons instead of the other way around? And should we not ask whether the biblical phrases “sun turned to darkness“ and moon into blood” are in fact the same things as eclipses of the sun and moon?
Let’s take a look at a specific event in the New Testament where the Scripture mentions a unique astronomical event that was associated with a turning point in history. It’s in Luke 23:44-45, and it refers to the moment of Jesus’s death:
    “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”
The “sixth hour” refers to the sixth hour of daylight (noon), and the “ninth hour” refers to three in the afternoon. Question: Was this three hour period the time of a solar eclipse?
We can be 100% confident that it was not. Remember that Jesus’s death occurred just before the onset of a High Day, specifically the first Day of Unleavened Bread, which always occurred on the 15th day of the first month, the time of month of the full moon. The only eclipse that could possibly happen at a full moon is a lunar eclipse. There can never be a solar eclipse at that time of the month.
What, then, can we make of an apparent solar eclipse at the time Jesus died? The easiest explanation would be to conclude that this was not a solar eclipse but some other phenomenon, and if that’s true, then there is reason to question whether the darkening of the sun and blood moons really refer to eclipses at all.
The astronomical signs we read about in scripture have more to them than simple, predictable revolutions of heavenly bodies. Here is how Revelation 16:12-13 describes it:
    “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.”
Jesus describes it this way (Matthew 24:29):
    “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
Finally, in the context of the passage in Joel (Joel 2:10):
     “The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness.”
Earthquakes, stars growing dark and even falling from heaven, all apparently at the same time: more than phenomena caused by predictable conjunctions of heavenly bodies. I don’t know exactly how all this will unfold, but the lesson to take from this is one that so many need to learn over and over again. Prophetic interpretations are many. Don’t order your life around the latest New York Times bestseller.