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Turkey in Chaos - What's Next? (Standing Watch) 15

How Can Worldwide Terror Be Stopped? (Standing Watch) 11

A Beauty to be Shared (Sabbath Meditations)

The other night my wife and I went on a walk in our country neighborhood. It was the first day the temperature had been under 90° for about a week, so we wanted to get out of the house and get some air that wasn’t recycled.
About half a mile from our house we came upon a scene that elicited both a chuckle and a feeling of sadness at the same time. It was a house whose owners had obviously put a great deal of work into a flower garden that lay to one side of their property. It wasn’t a large garden but it was exploding with beautiful color ... that is, what color you could see. It would have been the perfect scene of natural beauty, had it not been for a 4 foot tall metal fence that they had erected around the perimeter of the entire flower garden. It was as if the flowers had been placed in the state penitentiary. Much of the beauty of the garden had been horribly masked by the ugliness of cold steel.
It was obvious to us why they must have put up the fence. Given the mildness of the previous three winters, the critter population in the area had exploded. These well-meaning people had erected this barricade to defend their prize flowers from becoming critter salad. Flowers and shrubbery aren’t cheap, and rabbits in particular can take out quite a few flower plants in short order.
I couldn’t help but think that, had it been my garden, I would have tried to find some more unobtrusive way to protect my flowers. If, having found none, I think I would rather run the expense of occasionally replacing a few plants than hiding them away in Fort Knox.
Looking at the flower bed, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a casual acquaintance I had while in college. This person had qualities very similar to this garden. It took me quite a while to learn that this individual was a wonderful person on the inside. She was witty, thoughtful and enjoyable to be around. The problem was that she was terribly shy and closed up on the outside. Unless you were lucky enough to get behind the walled off exterior, you never would have the pleasure of getting to know much about her at all.
I never knew what circumstances in life caused her to shut herself off emotionally from much of the world. I have a hard time believing that she was simply born that way. Her emotional closure exceeded simple shyness. Perhaps, like the flowers in the flower bed, her leaves had been chewed on a few too many times in life. She might have been picked on or teased as a child, or perhaps rejected by peers too many times as a teenager. Whatever the circumstances, they led to her to pound in the stakes and erect a steel cage around her emotions.
Jesus gives some difficult instruction in Luke 6:27-31, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
I think if I were to summarize these words of Jesus, it would be “don't build fences.” Regardless of how people or events might hurt us, we as Christians are to continue to reach out, to open ourselves up, to others. We aren’t to close ourselves off from the world, regardless of how vulnerable we may feel.
I’ve long since lost contact with my acquaintance from college. Actually, it wasn’t till I saw that fenced in garden that she came to mind. I guess there wasn’t much to remember of someone who shared so little of herself. That, in itself, is sad. I pray that she gradually was able to let down her protective fencing and let others in to share her life. I pray that she learned that to risk having a few leaves chewed on is far preferable to the loneliness of hiding behind an iron curtain. The work that God is doing within us is simply much too beautiful not to be shared.

Will He Find Faith? (Children of God)

We have entered a time of alarming lawlessness in the USA. When the government tramples on the nations God given constitutional rights with impunity, how much longer do we have before our religious broadcast and internet services are suspended? These are dangerous times – not only for traditional American customs but also for our spiritual lives. Will the people of God be able to withstand the onslaught of chaos and disorder in government and society all about us and endure spiritually unto the end?

He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13:13).

Extremely trying days lie just ahead for those of us. 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 to remain faithful to the end.

Should we expect to find abundant faith just prior to the return of Jesus Christ, or should we anticipate finding very little faith among Gods people? Over the last few decades we have seen a terrible erosion of faith. It seems clear from the following Scripture that there will be a scarcity of faith. Jesus asked a very frightening and sobering question and stated a very grave comment about our day. He asked the question that probably shocked the original disciples:

When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Why would Jesus ask such a stern rhetorical question, if the great majority of the Church brethren would actually be growing in faith as we come to the end? Obviously, many will not continue until the end. Enduring to the end is not a matter of relying on our own strength and will-power. If we rely on ourselves, we will ultimately fail. We have the example of the Israelites, who had the faith to leave Egypt, but lacked the faith in God to give them a victorious entry into the Promised Land. They did not endure unto the end – the promised rest (Hebrews 4:1-2). Do we have the proper faith in God to deliver us in every trial and bring us securely to the Kingdom of God? Jesus indicated that conditions would worsen as the end approaches:

The night comes when no man can work.” (John 9:4)

Copious time will not continue indefinitely for the brethren. Will we be in good standing with God when He brings everything to an abrupt end?

He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” (Romans 9:28)

Let’s not take it for granted that we will always be able to tune in to a plethora of literature and sermons.

Behold, the days come, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)

Not only will Sabbath services not be available, those who continue to express their faith will be persecuted. Even now, long time, well meaning brethren, are being singled out and persecuted. No one is taking a stand to defend them. Often it is the wayward ministry demanding that “their authority” be recognized. When the disfellowshipped brethren beg for reinstatement to their local congregation, they are made an example of, so that all the other brethren will learn to submit in fear. Jesus said:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever kills you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2)

The message is very clear; now is the time to draw near to God.

Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

These warning Scriptures show that it will be a small minority of the brethren who will be fully living up to Gods expectations of His people. It is not enough to be in a friendly congregation – there are many denominations that have pleasant services. It is not enough to be in a congregation that keeps the Sabbath – the Jews do that. It is not enough to be in a tithe paying congregation – there are Protestants who do that. Millions are missing the mark terribly. What kind of faith is Jesus looking for among His people? What makes a faithful Christian? Who is fully pleasing in His sight?

What is it that makes us Christians who live according to Godliness? How many attend Sabbath services for the purpose of provoking all the others to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)? How many could define Godly love – or good works for that matter (1John 5:3)? How many are actually laying their lives down daily as Jesus Christ gave us example (John 15:13)? How many even know what that means to lay down their lives (1John 3:16)? How many know how to overcome Satan (Revelation 12:11)?

Are we striving with every ounce of our being to imitate the life of Jesus Christ? Paul said:

We do not cease to pray for you that you will walk worthy of the Lord pleasing Him in all that you do, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Brethren, it is not safe to think that we are all doing just fine; having all the faith in the world. Should we not heed Gods warning to us and aim high, seeking to have that faith of which Jesus spoke?

Grace is not where you think it is (Morning Companion)

Take out a concordance and look. This word, at the center of Christian doctrine, is surprisingly sparse in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Here are the only places where the word grace appears in the King James Version of the Gospels:

Luke 2:40, where we are told that Jesus as a child waxed strong in the spirit and that the grace of God was upon him.

John 1:14-17, where John emphasizes that Jesus was filled with and came to give grace and truth.

(Note: Some translations use the word “grace” in Luke 2:52 in place of the the King James rendering of “favour”.)

One might say that grace is conspicuous by its absence from places where we might think it should be, for we never find the word grace in the red letters of your Bible. Put differently, the word never passes through Jesus's lips, and I would offer that this curious fact is by design. Jesus did not have to use this word that is so important to understanding God's nature, because he didn't have to. He didn't have to because he modeled what grace is through the way he lived his life. He lived it so perfectly that we can learn what grace is by looking to his example.

We're going to take a brief look at how Jesus lived grace by by taking a brief tour of John's Gospel. In the preamble to that Gospel (John 1:1-18) John lays out the main themes of the book. In verses 14-17 he says:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 

John tells us that, among the many things that he is going to address, two of his major themes will be “grace” and “truth”. In virtually every chapter of John's Gospel Jesus is either addressing some important point of doctrine (“truth”) or is showing some manner of grace, or he is doing both. In this piece we are going to focus on grace question and how Jesus lived it. If we are able to understand grace as Jesus lived it, we can better understand what it is and how it looks.

In John 1 Philip decides to follow Jesus, believing he might have found the Messiah. In his excitement he finds his friend Nathaniel, who promptly utters a slur about Jesus's home town. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Jesus overhears it, but rather than reacting in corrective mode, he jokes, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile!” (John 1: 43-51) That is showing grace.

In chapter 2 Jesus is attending a wedding celebration. They run out of wine. That could have been quite an embarrassment for the host of the wedding and the families of the bride and groom. Jesus could have done nothing, but instead he has some jars filled to the full with water and turns them into wine. The party continues, the guests continue to rejoice, and families are saved from public embarrassment. Grace.

In chapter 4 Jesus approaches a Samaritan, a woman from a despised ethnic group, who also happened to have a questionable lifestyle. Instead of condemning her, he shares the word of life to her and offers her a way to satisfy the unquenchable thirst in her heart.
In chapter 5 Jesus singles out an ailing man, who could not obtain healing from any source, and heals him, even though the man does not ask Jesus to heal him and does not even know who Jesus is. Grace.

In chapter 6 Jesus multiplies the fish and loaves in order to feed thousands who would otherwise go hungry. Grace.

In chapter 8 Jesus saves the life of a woman caught in adultery, but also tells her not to do it again. Grace.

In chapter 9 he sees a blind man who has been in that condition from birth. Jesus reaches out and heals him. Grace.

I could go on about how Jesus comforts Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, and of his servant's attitude that he shows when he washes his disciples feet, even the feet of Judas. I could explain how Jesus treats Pilate with respect and dignity. And I can tell you about how he maintains his own dignity in the face of unspeakable indignities, but I think I have made my point. Grace is much more than just the dictionary definition of “unmerited pardon”.
That little English word “grace”, if Jesus's example is any guide, should maybe be replaced by a more encompassing word. Maybe it would be better to use the word “gracious”. If we use that, we'll see it for what it is and maybe be motivated to live grace the way Jesus did.

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.

Battle for Sovereignty - Can Britain Survive? (New Horizons)

The print and the broadcast media are increasingly focused on this weeks in-out UK referendum: stay—or leave our association with the European Union. The future of the United Kingdom hangs in the balance, the core question being the vital one of national sovereignty.
The recent attempt to reform the EU was a failure, and the Prime Minister walked away empty-handed. As is so often the case, the public is now drowning in a torrent of misleading statistics designed to persuade, and the date chosen (June 23) avoids angry public reaction to the expected summer influx of immigrants.
The Prime Minister has brokered a deal, which he claims secures our sovereignty as part of the Union, while those who wish to leave our political association with Europe believe little has been achieved. Big political and business ‘guns’ have lined up on opposite sides of the increasingly acrimonious argument.
The concept of a ‘United States of Europe’ was conceived centuries ago—the ‘European dream’—and took more concrete form over the last sixty years, now with twenty-eight nation members. That ‘dream’ was conceived in the early Christian centuries, and has since been pursued by emperor after emperor, dictator after dictator, Pope after Pope.
Napoleon, for example wanted to see ‘ people throughout Europe’. Mussolini and Hitler, too, had their dreams of a United Europe. In 1965 Pope Paul VI said: ‘...The Holy See hopes to see the day when a new Europe will arise, rich with the fullness of its rich [Catholic] traditions’. And a decade later he said that the Church alone can ‘ Europe’s Christian soul where its unity is rooted’. In Austria (1983) the Pope stated: ‘...Europeans should overcome the menacing international confrontations of states and alliances and create a new united Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals’.
Europe was consecrated to Mary by the Vatican in 1309. The European Union is the latest reincarnation of the dream. Indeed the EU flag has the twelve stars—not one per nation— and blue colour associated with the Virgin Mary.
The British people were deceived by the then Establishment led by Prime Minister Heath into joining the Union (under the guise of a free trade area) in the mid-70s, via a misrepresented referendum.
The nation state is a divine institution. Nations develop from original family units that have grown large, each developing its unique language, culture, traditions (see Genesis 11). Each has a unique treasure house of God-given intellectual and economic resources and an assigned (by God) geographical territory.
The sixth century BC prophet, Daniel, explains: ‘…the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of men, and He gives it to whomever He desires’ (Daniel 4:25).
The apostle Paul adds: ’...He made every nation of men of one blood, to live on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling’ (Acts 17:26).
The ground rules for successful nationhood are patterned on the ancient nation of Israel—a nation selected by God to fulfil a promise to a faithful (to the LORD) forebear, Abraham. What set them apart from other nations was their covenant with God: ‘...Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine’ (Exodus 19:5). That covenant included their readiness to abide by the divine Law, the foundation of which is the Ten Commandments and the statutes and judgments based on it (ch 20f).

This, though neglected, is the gold standard for every sovereign Constitution—throughout the ages.
The fusion of disparate nations—different in language, heritage, culture—in a union flies in the face of God’s wise decision to establish mankind in sovereign nations. It is noteworthy that the prophets predict the survival of nation states even during the millennial reign of the Messiah: ‘…He will settle arguments between nations’ - Isaiah 2:4.
The resurrected King David, for example, will under Christ then head the Israelite nations, the House (government) of Judah and the House of Israel (Jeremiah 31:33, 30:9). Isaiah, too: ’...He [Messiah] shall judge among the nations’ (2:4). But it will be a time of co-operation and not conflict among the nations, old enmities buried: ‘…In that day Israel shall be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth’ (19-24).
[Note. This results from the direct intervention of Jesus the Messiah and not from the gradual evangelization of mankind by the Christian church.]
Sovereignty—’not being subject to the authority of another State’—is the argument wielded by both sides, and surely must be at the heart of the discussion. The ‘ins’ claim we won’t lose it, nor do we need it. The ‘outs’ claim we have already lost it. But the ‘S’ word hasn’t really been at the heart of the discussion, the focus instead being on the economy and the relatively small welfare benefits factor.
There is, however, a transcending factor that eclipses such factors as sovereignty, economy or benefits. It’s the God-factor: ‘…righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a shame to any people’ (Proverbs 14:34). Sin, of course, is any behaviour that conflicts with God’s revealed will, and that includes His Law, His guidelines for a successful civilization.
‘Righteousness’: in the context of nationhood that’s the application of divinely–revealed law. Begin to tamper with that foundation and—whether the United Kingdom chooses ‘in’ or ‘out’ there will be an on-going deterioration in all aspects of life. The economy. Health and well-being. Financial management both public and private. Law and order. The integrity of the family. Security of our borders.
Citizens of the United Kingdom have, via the referendum, been given the challenge of determining the nation’s future. A referendum will provide the opportunity to determine whether we remain subject to European Union laws or to again become a sovereign nation.
The nation votes—but it is God who determines! He ‘...changes the times and the seasons; He causes kings to pass away, and sets up kings’ (Daniel 2:21).
As notes the recovering (and repentant) King of Babylon: ‘...He does according to His will among the army of Heaven, and among those living in the earth. And no one is able to strike His hand or say to Him, What are You doing?’ (ch 4:35).
Historically, God, the all-powerful Creator, has manipulated kings and nations to choose to conform to His pre-determined scenario for the ‘times and seasons’.
One hundred and fifty years before his accession as king, Cyrus was predicted through the prophet Isaiah to ‘...complete all my [God’s] pleasure’ (Isaiah 44:28). Foreseeing Israel’s future captivity in Babylon, God chose Cyrus to provide the means to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.
Earlier (c.720BC), the northern House of Israel had sunk into idolatry and civil disorder. By way of correction God stirred up the King of Assyria to remove them from the Land: ‘...Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger! And My fury is the staff in their hand. I will send him against an ungodly nation [Judah]’ (Isaiah 10:5-6).
Babylon, too, exceeded common decency norms and came under condemnation. God contained them by manipulating the ancient Persian nation: ‘...I stir up the Medes against them’ (Isaiah 13:17).
It is gross error to imagine that God has taken ‘hands off’! He remains in control of world affairs, and is especially concerned with those nations descended from His nation of Israel—several of which are now associated with the European Union.
The LORD, however, is patient, long-suffering. All these nations have strayed far from His prescribed path and are ripe for His correction, long delayed. But it is inevitable, if we are to survive. ‘Israel’ will, unless we turn back to God and His ways, experience a time of severe privation. God’s protective hedge—His Law—has been systematically uprooted from our national polity—how we conduct our affairs.
[God’s correction, note, is focused on our ultimate restoration.]
Towards the end of the first century, the apostle John was presented with a vision of the end of man’s rule. It envisaged a union of ten nations in Europe, bent on forging the continent into one sovereign nation, a ‘Holy Roman Empire’. This ‘beast’ has, as predicted, raised its head several times over the centuries under a string of dictators from Charlemagne through to Hitler and Mussolini. The task of harmoniously welding disparate nations, cultures and religions into one by democratic means is impossible. As said a modern proponent, former Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak, ‘...we don’t want a Committee but a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people. Send us such a man, and, be he god or devil, we will receive him’.
In view of the present parlous financial state and the democratic deficit of the European Union, such an individual will indeed be the catalyst for full union.
But it won’t be a ‘god’ (except in his own mind)!
Most of the current 28 members will pull out, or be forced out. A letter to the European Journal (1996) wrote of ‘a European super-state from which there will be no escape short of civil war, bloodier even than the [Balkans] fracas’.
Such a leader, however, won’t be content with a ‘United States of Europe’. A Resolution of the Congress of Europe in 1948 states: ‘The creation of a United Europe must be seen as an essential step towards the creation of a United World’.
That’s what the Christian Scriptures have predicted. And that’s why Jesus Christ must intervene to prevent His precious creation from destruction.