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Germany in Panic Mood (Standing Watch) 8

An Open Door (Children of God)

God in His infinite love and wisdom has provided a unique event for only a relative few of the end-time Church brethren to experience. I believe that the apostle Paul actually hoped to have a part in it. Everyone who has ever lived has eventually died – even Jesus Christ. But God has revealed that in these last days there will be a small number of faithful called out brethren who will never die, but enter the Kingdom of God without seeing death. That particular event will be spectacular in nature because as a rule, living human beings cannot cross the threshold into spiritual life. Paul explains:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die physically], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Corinthians 15:50-52)

We shall not all die! That is an incredible statement to make. God says to the Church brethren that He will set before those who have a true Godly love of the brethren an open door into the Kingdom of God. This promise is so revealing to the Church brethren – more so than a corporate opportunity to preach widely.

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” (Revelation 3:8)

The Bible speaks of this one act of transmutation where some people are changed from corruptible flesh into incorruptible spiritual beings. That is a change from man-kind into God-kind. What a breathtaking open door for Church brethren against whom Christ brings no admonition. Even Paul and all the faithful saints that have preceded us throughout the years have gone through the process of corruption in the grave. It is true, they will not miss out on anything because, in a flash, they too will be raised incorruptible at the exact same time when Death is swallowed up in victory (1Corinthians 15:54).

God is so very pleased with this small group of brethren that He will momentarily and miraculously suspend the laws governing life and death in order to literally save those brethren alive. They will have lived extraordinary lives while on earth. They will have overcome Satan. They will have been witnesses to those who at first failed to heed God’s warnings.

Many people see the time of horrendous breakdown of law and order looming on the horizon – it is the coming Great Tribulation. It is prophesied that at the close of his 6000-year rule, Satan’s great wrath will bring destruction on all the unprotected inhabitants of the earth. Jesus Christ tells us to watch and pray always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape the near annihilation of mankind. The devastation will be so great that there would not be a single survivor – except for Christ’s intervention to save an elect few. In God’s great providence, He will protect a small part of His Church from the horrors of the Great Tribulation. Most church members are slated to go into the Tribulation, but it is not too late to avoid it.

The Tribulation is God’s last great act of love and mercy on His end-time Church brethren to allow them to be made white in a blast furnace of refining. Those whom God has kept out of the Tribulation will be the impetus to inspire those caught in the Tribulation to finally overcome Satan as well. God will graciously present one last opportunity to those ensnared saints – Church brethren – who have not yet learned to lay down their lives for their brethren, to do so. There is only one way for those caught up in the Tribulation to be saved. Those caught in the tribulation will have to repent and then physically shed their blood for having neglected to be spiritual sacrifices prior to that time. They have not responded to God’s scolding:

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

(Revelation 3:19-21)

Moving Forward On Our Knees...Together (Sabbath Meditations)

There is a saying that the work of God moves forward on its knees. No more true was that statement than in the early first century Church. Those first Christians shared all things in common. Not only did they break bread together, worship together, study the scripture together, fellowship together, but they also shared in something powerful, for which we in the modern day churches of God have, I believe, lost some appreciation.
The early church prayed together. In fact, the very first recorded action of the early church is that they bowed their heads together in prayer.
In Acts 1:13 we read, “And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
Prayers of this nature were more than just a one time occurrence in the early church. Examples of group prayer are peppered throughout the book of Acts.
Acts 2 tells us that “they (the brethren) continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
In Acts 4 the church prayed together at the release of Peter and John. (Acts 4:23-31) In Acts 12 the congregation prayed together for Peter when Herod had him arrested and thrown into prison. (Acts 12:5-6)
Acts 16 refers to Paul and the others who accompanied him praying and singing hymns together. (Acts 16:13-16;25) Acts 20 tells of Paul and the Ephesian elders praying and weeping together. (Acts 20:36)
Sadly, group prayer, which had been such an important part of the shared life and worship of the early church, gradually, over the course of only a couple of centuries, turned into something that would have been unrecognizable to those early believers. It became a function relegated to the role of the priesthood, part of a vast system of formal liturgy, institutionalized and formulaic.
I recall many years ago now, when our family was meeting with a small independent Sabbath fellowship, that the power of group prayer was brought home to me personally. One of our brethren, the wife and mother of a family in our congregation, had been admitted to the hospital the previous week to give birth to their fourth child. During labor, complications had arisen that potentially could threaten her life and the life of the baby. We had all been receiving updates and individually praying for her and the baby during the course of that week, but things had, as yet, not improved. That Sabbath, somewhere within the first hour of services, one of the members announced that they had just received a message from the woman’s husband requesting urgent prayer, as the doctors had informed him that his wife’s situation had become critical and she might not make it through the next few hours. At that moment, we stopped the service and bowed our heads together in group prayer, each member who wished to do so adding their fervent requests and supplication to the Father for this young woman and her newborn baby.
How long the prayer lasted I don’t recall, perhaps 10 or 20 minutes. But at the end of that prayer, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Needless to say, there was no need for a sermon that day. I don’t even remember if we still had one, or, if there was one, who gave it or the topic. That time in prayer is all that I remember. We had never felt as close and as bonded to each other, to God and to the urgent need of that family, as we did that day. You can imagine how we were all affected when, not long after the conclusion of our services, we received the joyful news that the woman’s vital signs had stabilized and it appeared that she, and her baby, would make it. It was the kind of faith strengthening moment that no sermon could have ever accomplished.
Having experienced the power of group prayer on that, and on many other occasions over the last 15 years, it pains me to say that what we shared during that service would have most likely been viewed with disapproval by some, if not many, in our tradition today.
I suppose there is some justification for that view. Group prayer conjures up images, for many in our tradition, of people swaying and swooning in the isles, emotional outbursts and vain displays of sanctimony. In essence, it’s just too protestant. The understandable reaction against these obvious abuses is to label praying with other believers as unscriptural.
Matthew 6:5-6 reads, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
While clearly public displays of personal prayer, motivated by a desire to appear righteous to hearers, is here condemned by Jesus, the examples we’ve seen in Acts demonstrate that this same passage cannot be interpreted as a prohibition against members of a congregation or groups of believers coming together in prayer. The former is for the self, motivated by selfishness. The latter is for others, motivated by love.
As members of His body, we are joined and knit together through His Spirit. Like those early Christians, we sing together, we study His Word together, we discuss His plan and purpose together. What could be more natural and instinctive for us in this one body to do together? Why wouldn’t we, just as did they, bow our heads, with one accord, together in prayer and supplication to our Father?
I believe that much of the power and vibrancy that existed among the members in the early church would again be realized if we, as His people, only discarded some of our protestant paranoia and rediscovered the power of praying together.
Prayer in the early Church sustained, strengthened and bonded it together through times of terrible persecution. As the end approaches, and the world becomes ever more hostile, God's people today need to return to our roots with regard to prayer. We need to rediscover this powerful tool for bonding and connecting us to one another and to our God and for resisting the power of the enemy as darkness and persecution spread.
We need to remember that, as the churches of God, the work of God, and the people of God, we move forward on our knees, not only knees bent in private, but those bent together in supplication to our Father.

A Time to Stop Praying? (Morning Companion)

One time God told Moses to stop praying. If we accept that prayer is a good thing, why would God tell someone to stop?
God to Moses: “Why are you crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15). Given the circumstances, I would think the question should be, “Why not?”
Here’s the story. Moses had just led Israel out of Egypt. Through his hand God had turned the Nile into blood, brought many plagues on the Egyptians, and with boldness he had led the nation to freedom. Now, shortly after this triumphant march from slavery, Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides to chase down the fleeing masses with his infantry and chariots in order to drive them back to their former state.
Why shouldn’t Moses cry out to God? Why would God object?
In this is a lesson about prayer. The newly freed Israelites had already cried out to God (verse 10), after which Moses tells them to do something: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (verse 13). There are indeed times when all we can do is stand still and wait. As the old saying goes, “Let go, and let God.” But in spite of appearances this was not one of those times.
Thus God says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” And then he says, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (verse 15).  It is time to get off your knees and into your hiking boots. Tell the people the time for standing still is over. Now is the time to do something about your situation.
We can make two grave mistakes regarding prayer. One is to think that we can get along just fine without God’s help. If we just work hard enough, sweat hard enough, and think clearly enough, we can make all the right things happen. I can put on my boots and fight my own way through the wilderness.
Or we can make the other mistake. There is something to be said for waiting on God, “standing still”, shall we say. It’s true that in some circumstances God’s strength is revealed through our weaknesses. But simply sitting still while waiting for God can be just as bad as thinking we can do it all on our own. Most of the time God expects us to be actively involved in carrying out his will. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”
God could not have led them through the Red Sea, had they had just stood still and waited.

What Would Jesus Eat? (New Horizons)

Artists’ versions of the ‘Last Supper’ have mushroomed over the centuries, most notably that by Leonardo Da Vinci, reproduced by the thousand. What is curious in the different versions is what is placed on the table!
Leonardo’s masterpiece, for example (recently restored), has placed a dish of eels garnished with oranges. Others have depicted leavened (yeasted) bread. crayfish, pretzels, roasted guinea pig - even a suckling pig. The artist, presumably, making some form of symbolic statement or reflecting contemporary culinary tastes.
The Reality
The ‘Last Supper’ of course, is the final meal shared by Jesus and his disciples the night before his crucifixion. It was the evening before the annual Passover festival, and might have included those foods appropriate to that observance. (Jesus makes clear that he would never change those observances as recorded in the Scriptures, Matthew 5:17-18.)
For the annual Passover the central dish would be roasted lamb together with unleavened bread - i.e. bread made without a raising element, yeast. Various herbs accompanied them, each symbolic. They commemorated the events surrounding the nation’s freedom from enslavement in Egypt, a time to rejoice. Jesus would have participated in this. For Christians, too, the Passover symbols have special significance (e.g. I Corinthians 5 and 11).
There are, however, other fundamental reasons for the portrayal of the Last Supper as described above to be in error. Certainly no suckling pig on the table! What would Jesus have eaten?
Eat to Live
Our physical health and mental well-being are influenced by what we eat - witness the endless stream of dietary advice (which changes from day to day!). Mankind didn’t materialize from thin air, but from the hand of the Creator as He organized the elements of the earth to produce a living creature that is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. In our beginnings mankind was ‘perfect’, and provided with a diet perfectly adapted to the needs of the body as then constituted.
The Creator instructed: ‘I have given you every plant seeding seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree (Genesis 1:29).
God made clear that, by following His instructions, they would continue endlessly in their physical existence. One tree, however, was forbidden to them, and clear warning was given as to the awesome consequences of eating its fruit: ‘in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die’ (Genesis 2:17). Death was twofold: they ‘died’ spiritually, and the physical death process that moment invaded their bodies.
In Transition
Sin had enveloped mankind, and God introduced His remedy - sacrifice. Abel, on God’s instructions, brought a lamb to sacrifice. and as part of the ceremonial he would participate in eating a portion (Leviticus 8:31). Their ‘new’ changed and decaying bodies - and the increased work-load - now required to be nourished by the inclusion of animal flesh. The weakened bodily constitution is also testified to by the shortened life-span of the patriarchs.
It’s clear from the record that the patriarchs had been taught which of the diversity of animals were suitable for consumption: ‘Of every clean beast you shalt take to you by sevens’ (Genesis 7:2). They already understood, by tradition, that there is a difference between clean (edible) animals and unclean. The LORD included this guidance in Israel’s national Constitution, given under Moses, clearly defining for them in their written code of Law which animal flesh is suitable for food (e.g. Leviticus, 11, Deuteronomy 14). Jesus, himself of the House of Judah, fully conformed
to this code. As he explained to John the Baptist, who had questioned Jesus’s desire for baptism: ‘Allow it now, for it is becoming to us this way to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15).
The Middle Eastern diet (and, of course, that of Israel) included the consumption of animal flesh within the confines of the ’clean and unclean’ restrictions. Indeed we note that Jesus ate fish in the company of his disciples (Luke 24:41-42). Meat was a valued feature of their diet, especially at times of festival. And, of course portions of some animal sacrifices were eaten by the offerer, and by the priests. (Not all were sin sacrifices.)
As stated Moses: ‘you are free to kill and eat your animals wherever you live. You may eat as many as the LORD gives you. All of you, whether ritually clean or unclean [i.e. not a ‘religious’ matter], may eat them, just as you would eat the meat of deer or antelope [i.e. ‘clean’]. But you must not eat their blood (Deuteronomy 12:15-16).
This latter reflects the guidance given to Noah (Genesis 9:4).
What Jesus ate conformed fully with custom and with God’s instructions concerning food suitable for consumption. Christians - and indeed all of mankind - would do well to follow his example. Surely the Creator’s guidance on the ‘stuff of life’, our food, should be heeded. As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, edible foods are ‘sanctified [set apart, identified] by the Word of God’ (I Timothy 4:5).

Science Catches Up! (OzWitness)

Have you noticed that scientists recently have begun to discover that more long held ‘unscientific’ beliefs which they had scoffed at, have been discovered to be true after all? Today in one newspaper was the news that ‘mother was right after all’. You’ll catch a cold if you don’t put on a coat in winter! Scientists have long claimed that coughs and colds are not caused by a drop in temperature but more likely by warm stuffy rooms where he cold virus can spread more easily, though now thy have recognized that our immune systems work better when we are kept warm with coat and scarf!

Another ‘new’ discovery mentioned in today’s news is that whole milk may actually help to reduce blood pressure because it apparently contains high levels of nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels, and this improves blood flow to the heart. That information joins other recent news that full cream milk is better for us than half cream milk, and even that butter may be better for us than vegetable oil margarine.

Actually, I would not be surprised if that were true. Years ago I had a recurring problem like King Henry the Eighth. Gout in my big toe! Every year I would get an attack and have to hobble about with an unbending toe until someone told me about cherries. OK, so it was unscientific, but apparently several cherries each day keeps the gout away (By the way, I don’t drink much wine or alcohol!). I tried it, and the gout disappeared, never to return. Any cherries will do – tinned, fresh or bottled – only a few each day and goodbye gout!

That information can point us to another source of ‘unscientific’ information that we can refer to for even more authoritative health guidance. The Bible. The Bible is the handbook the Creator provided with His product – us. You may not realize it but it contains a great deal of advice on how to live long, and stay healthy.

Sometimes, it is simply promises – keep this commandment and you will live long e.g. Exodus 20:12“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Sometimes it is guidance on which foods are designed to be good for us to eat, and which bad, and elsewhere we are advised on which behavior and attitude will help our mental state to remain healthy and avoid psychosomatic illness. Also, God incidentally mentions things that His people eat, and food which some shared with God Himself, when He has appeared on earth. Food like fish, whole grains, meat, milk, butter, honey, which in that way gain God’s stamp of approval.

So, yes, as the years go by, more and more of the Bible’s teaching is being shown to be true after all. You can be in there in advance of science, and enjoy the health benefits before science catches up. Just study the Bible! Joshua 1:8  ‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.’

God Means It For Good (First Century Christianity)

Have you ever been through any trials in your life? Sure, we all have. Oftentimes we think the trials we face may be due to something we are doing wrong; that God is trying to show us correction or discipline us. The examples of people and even nations in the Bible having to be brought low before they receive correction are extensive. But the nature of trials is not so cut and dry.

Perhaps the clearest example of this is with Paul. Acts 7:58 - 8:3 shows Paul before his conversion actually holding the cloaks for those who stoned Stephen to martyrdom. Paul was energetically persecuting the Church of God for years after this, going from town to down and dragging believers in Messiah back to Jerusalem to be jailed and punished for their faith. Paul had to be stricken blind and visited by the risen Yeshua in order for him to be converted. He had to be brought incredibly low before he, an incredibly educated Jew and Roman citizen, could admit his errors and convert.

However, being brought low was just the beginning. Paul had to publicly and repeatedly repent. He had to prove to the brethren that he was no longer a threat. Surely they must have been scared to be in the same room as the guy who delivered so many to the Jews. Then Paul had to go on to be punished in the same manner that he punished others. Beaten, whipped, stoned and left for dead. But the lesson was not just for Paul! It was for the brethren as well. They had to trust God to believe that they would be protected and they had to forgive the very man that had persecuted them. This is a very hard thing to do my friends.

Forgiving and trusting someone who has a history of violence or destructive behavior is one of the hardest psychological hurdles for people to cross - despite Yeshua telling us we must do so 7 X 70 times.

It’s also very easy to see other people’s trials as punishment by God. This is a trap that has existed for a very long time. When we see people begging on the side of the road for coins, our reflex action is to assume they are charlatans. When we see people who have made bad decisions suffering for their poor judgment, thoughts like “well, that’ll teach ‘em” creep in to even the most compassionate among us.

But what does Yeshua say about these things?

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered,“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3

Do you see the accusatory attitude in the disciples? They assumed, because the man was blind, that it had to be because of his sin or his parent’s sins. But the man was born blind, perhaps in excess of 30 years prior, for this one moment in time. God had a plan. How many eyes do you think were opened on the day that this man received his sight? Those disciples had their eyes opened much more than the blind man. His disability was put on him so that many would be able to see righteousness working.

This attitude check about those who are less fortunate is part of the judgment of Matthew 25:31-46. In fact, it’s the ENTIRE basis for the judgment! What do we see about the character of the righteous when Yeshua sits on His throne and starts separating the sheep from the goats? The righteous are the ones who ministered to those less fortunate. The trials of the infirm, the malnourished, the poor, and the prisoners are a test for those more fortunate.

Yes, brethren, God has a plan for each and every person on planet earth. These plans are intertwined with others and their relationships. When we see someone in a trial, our reactions are recorded in the books. When we are in a trial, we also must give glory to the Most High. Because, like Joseph said so long ago, God meant it for good.