Discerning the Signs of the Times

                “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His power” (Acts 1:7). Not only does God have complete command over ‘times and seasons,’ but also over the specific ‘day and hour’ when the Son of Man will return. This knowledge is hid even from the angels (Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36, 25:13).

                When we travel signs give us direction as well as forewarn us of things ahead. God through His Word gives us instructions to guide our life. He has given us prophecies or signs—many that have already come to pass.  Some signs point further out such as those of Matthew 24. They give information regarding the ‘beginning’ of the end as the prophetic clock’s alarm is positioning to go off to awaken Israel for their conversion, restoration, and blessing.

“You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3).

                There are signs that believers today should discern (Matt. 16:2-3, 24:32-33). The word discernment in Greek is ‘diakrino’ and implies distinctions or differences.  It’s the exercise of judgment with special regard to ‘things that differ’ that balances pros and cons prior to reaching a conclusion (Phil. 1:10).  It’s sadly something we see very little of today where judgment is based on sound bites, partial information, emotions, and sensationalism.

Only through an all-knowing, infallible God can we have proper discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not rely on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will direct (rightly divide) our paths. 

                Only through God’s Word will one know what is profitable for instruction, reproof, and correction so that he or she may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has foreordained for them to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10).

                Only God’s Word can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

                Only through God’s Word (not the world) can one’s mind be renewed to discern what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:13-16).

                The believer’s responsibility is to be diligent in not only studying and knowing God’s Word, but in rightly dividing it (2 Tim. 2:15).  This means that although everything in the Bible is written for our learning, it’s not all written specifically to us (Rom. 15:4). The times when God spoke to “the fathers” is distinguished from the time in which He has “spoken to us.” The time in which “He spoke by the prophets” stands in contrast with the time in which He spoke by His “Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). And the “time past” is obviously distinguished from “these last days”. In order to “rightly divide” the word of truth, it’s essential to regard the times in which the words were spoken, as well as the times to which they refer. 

                Questions a Bible student must always ask when they’re reading God’s Word are:

(1) WHAT is spoken or written?, (2) WHO is it spoken or written TO?, (3) WHO is it spoken or written ABOUT?, (4) At what TIME?, (5) With what INTENT?, (6) With what WORDS?, (7) With what CIRCUMSTANCES?, (8) WHERE? 

Always consider what goes before and what comes after—taking all things in the context they were written in.

TIMES AND SEASONS

                The ‘latter times’, which are the subject of the Spirit’s ‘express’ words in 1 Timothy 4:1, are signs we should be aware of. They are a precursor to the things that pertain to Israel at the time of the end.  The only prophecies that pertain within the realm of this present dispensation are found in Paul’s epistles written since Acts 28:28 (These include: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). The first great prophetic pronouncement is found in 1 Timothy chapter 4 which opens with the words, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.”  If we view this passage in light of the context, it will be found that the central core of Paul’s first letter to Timothy reveals two things that are set against each other: the apostasy of the later times with the mystery of godliness. The mystery of godliness is explained as “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).  The apostasy (forsaking) of faith of the last days of this dispensation is vitally connected with seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, the forbidding of marriage, the abstention from meats, old wives tales, and bodily exercise (1 Tim. 4:1-8). This departure from the faith will have immediate and future consequences. The immediate consequences are reflected in the state of affairs depicted in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…” (2 Tim. 3:1).

This gives us a clue of the character that will be displayed during this time. The word perilous in Greek is Chalepos and is used of things that are hard to bear, severe, grievous, rough, rugged, and dangerous.  When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel, bad-tempered, nasty, and generally mean-spirited. This same Greek word is used to describe the mental condition of the men possessed with ’devils’, who were ‘exceeding fierce’ in Matthew 8:28.

“…For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:2-5)

At the same time this falling away from the faith will prepare the way for the greater apostasy that’s prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2 (belonging to the dispensation that follows after this one). Thus the apostasy of 1 Timothy 4 is the beginning opposition to the mystery of godliness, which resistance reaches its fullness in the manifestation of the man of sin. In order for the apostasy that’s foretold in 1 Timothy 4 to be carried out, two entities need to work together. One is spiritual and the other human. The spiritual entities’ responsibility is to seduce with their doctrines of demons, while the human agents, with their seared consciences, become ‘lie-speakers’. These pawns of the devil are similar to those that will be taken in and deceived in the future because they received not the love of the truth…and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Interesting to note that references to ‘The Truth’ and ‘the Word of God’ are positioned on either side of the departure in 1 Timothy 3:15 and 4:5. It’s ‘The Truth’ that sets the captive free (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and it’s away from ‘The Truth’ that the false teachers will redirect the ears of those who willingly become ensnared to do the devil’s bidding (2 Tim. 2:26, 3:6). 

                The darkness only deepens as the end of the ages draws near.  Mind you, these warnings are for believers. Just as ‘faith comes by hearing’ so does deception. Either the believer holds fast to the mystery of godliness (and the Head of the body), or they start upon a downward path that leads via the doctrine of myths to the mystery of iniquity (a ‘form of godliness’ that’s devoid of power).  This should be enough to warn the believer to be vigilant and to make sure all the armor of God is in place. It’s vital that the believer’s focus is on the Lord and His Word no matter how it becomes attacked or ignored (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 4:2, Col. 2:8, 16-21).

                So hold fast to God’s faithful word and don’t be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17, Titus 1:9). And remember our true citizenship is in heaven where our blessed hope and our glorious and great God and Savior Jesus Christ await us (Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Laura

He Took a Lowly Position


•Even though He had connections He didn’t use them to gain special advantage or privilege to become socially mobile or to impress the ruling class, but chose to make Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:5-7).

•His first bed was a manger and His earthly family ordinary (Luke 2:12, Matt. 13:54-57).

•His own people did not receive Him (John 1:10-11, 5:43).

•His ministry was heralded in by a scruff, wild man who wore animal skins. (Mark 1:6, John 1:29-34).

•His disciples weren’t gathered from the most prestigious schools or curated from those who had the best resumes, but from the shores of Galilee, where there were fishermen (Matt. 4:18-22). 

•He was basically homeless as He traveled about (Matt. 8:20).

•He didn’t allow polls, ’fake news’, ‘what was trending’, or man’s opinions to affect the mission He was set out to accomplish. He didn’t give in to false praise, worldly temptations and taunting snares meant to entrap Him (John 2:24-25, 9:16, 10:20, Luke 4:1-12, 23, 11:53-54, 16:15).

•He made his triumphant entry, not on a noble steed, but on a donkey—a mark of lowliness (John 12:13-15, Matt. 21:1-22—prophesied in Zech. 9:9). 

•He was likened as a worm and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the People (Psalm 22:6).

I guess one could say that Jesus Christ was a PR nightmare.

                The only begotten Son of God humbled Himself, having no set agenda of His own, but obeyed only what His heavenly Father told Him to say and do, even to the point of death on a cross (John 5:30, 6:38-40, 8:28-29, 12:49, 14:10, 24, 17:8, 14, 19:30, Phil. 2:8).  Some have said of Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” that it was excessive and went ‘over the top’—exaggerating Christ’s humiliation. The Scriptures say otherwise:

•“…His visage was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men…” (Isaiah 52:14)

Prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:

• (vs 3) Despised and rejected by men…a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief

• (vs 5) Wounded for our transgressions—bruised for our iniquities—chastised for our peace

                Matthew records its fulfillment, showing Christ was: seized (26:57), falsely accused (26:59-60), spit on, cuffed, slapped (vs 26:67), scourged, surrounded by a cohort of 600 men, while He was stripped & redressed in a scarlet robe with a crown of thorns on His head and a reed placed in His right hand while they ’bowed before’ and mocked Him, spit on and then beat Him on the head with the reed. After they were done mocking Him, they took off the robe & put His other clothes back on and led Him away to be crucified (27:26-35). 

                While all this was going on He said nothing (as prophesied in Isaiah 53): 

• (v 7) Oppressed and afflicted (yet He opened not His mouth)——Led as a lamb to the slaughter —Christ the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 4:7, John 1:29, 1 Pet. 1:18-19, Rev. 5:9). His innocence was affirmed by 6 witnesses: (1) Judas (Matt. 27:4), (2) Pilate (Matt. 27:24), (3) Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27:19), (4) Herod (Luke 23:15), (5) the malefactor (Luke 23:41), (6) the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47).

                The true, pure, unblemished Lamb of God remained silent and submitted to the Father’s will and ultimate purpose (Phil. 2:8).  This all was part of God’s greater plan. It was necessary, not only that the Scriptures be fulfilled (John 19:28, Luke 24:6-7, 44, Matt. 26:53, 56), but of the long standing prophecy that God made in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed His Word, which allowed sin and death to enter the world (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:23, 5:12, 6:23). The 1st promise and prophecy of Genesis 3:15 foretold the temporary suffering of the Seed (Christ) and the complete destruction of Satan and his works (Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8). Until the promised Seed came and accomplished God’s will on the cross, the only way mankind could have peace with God was through the substitutionary sacrifice of a male, unblemished lamb who took their place to make atonement for their sins—for the life of flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22, 26, 1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22-23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 3:24-25, 5:1, Eph. 2:13).

                 Re: Jesus’ burial, His enemies went to the governor, Pilate to make sure the tomb was sealed tightly and guarded so that Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t come in and steal His body and claim that He’d risen from the dead as Jesus proclaimed earlier in His ministry (John 2:19-22, Matt. 27:62-66, Luke 9:22).

                The stone was rolled away and Christ Jesus had risen, just as He’d foretold His disciples and it wasn’t by any trickery, but by the omnipotent power of God.  Only God’s almighty power could be worked in Christ to raise Him from the dead and then seat Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Matt. 16:21, 17:22-23, John 2:19-22, Eph. 1:20-21).                

                The bedrock of the Christian faith (and what sets it apart from other religions) is tied up with Christ Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And there were many that were witnesses to it (1 Cor. 15:3-8). As Paul preached to the Corinthians in his first letter to them, ”And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:17-22).

                Jesus was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, but now crowned with glory and honor so that He, by the grace of God, would taste death for everyone.  “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10).

                Philippians 2:9-11 says this, “…God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

                                                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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-19).

                                God loves us so much that even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ Jesus, and raised us up to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in ages to come He might display the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  We are saved by grace through faith. There is nothing that we can do to earn it on our own—it is the gift of God. It’s not related to our works so that no one can boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).

 “O Death, where is your sting?”

“O Grave, where is your victory?”

…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

“For our citizenship is in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

Laura

Good Tidings of Comfort & Joy

IMG_4261One of the earliest and most beloved Christmas carols, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” has appealed to many over the years due to its light, lively style and upbeat tempo. Not only does the music reflect the joy in the ‘good tidings’ (or good news) of the birth of Christ, but the lyrics as well. Christ’s birth, after all, is something to be celebrated and this enduring carol is a reminder of that. Interestingly the old English meaning of the word “rest” in the title of the song meant to “keep” or “make”, encouraging those of the time period it was written to allow God to “keep” or “make” them merry and then went on to tell the reasons why.

Even though the day we celebrate Christmas is not when Christ was actually born, it’s a day we set aside to celebrate God’s goodness & promises fulfilled of the coming Savior. God’s written prophecy is important. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Here are some of the prophecies fulfilled when Christ was born:                                 •He would be born of the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15)—fulfilled: Luke 2:7, Gal. 4:4; •He would come from the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2)—fulfilled: Matt. 1:1-3, Heb. 7:14, Rev. 5:5; •He would be born in the town of Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2-5) —fulfilled: Matt. 2:1-6; •He would be born a king of the line of David (Isaiah 9:6-7) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:1, Luke 1:32, Acts 13:22-23; •He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-35; •He would be a rod out of the stem of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2) —fulfilled: Matt. 1:6, Acts 13:22-23; •He would have an eternal existence, “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2) —confirmed: John 1:1-2, 8:58, Col. 1:15-19.

Christmas is about God’s faithfulness now and the hope (for those that believe in Christ) for what God has promised in His Word. This is what brings one comfort & joy in the midst of loss, trying times, and the hardships of living in this present fallen world.

As we understand and embrace these good tidings of joy, we’re also encouraged to share them with those around us—shining God’s love and hope to our dark world (Rom. 15:5, 2 Cor. 1:3-4, Phil. 2:1-2).

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember, Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray,

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our Heav’nly Father a blessed Angel came,
And unto certain Shepherds brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by Name,

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

“Fear not then, “said the Angel, “Let nothing you afright,
This day is born a Savior a blessed holy sight,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s pow’r and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Now to the Lord sing praises, all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This Holy Child of Christmas shall fill our hearts with grace:

O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Have a Merry Christmas with Good Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Laura

Ordinary Extraordinary

Mary: Expecting the SaviorOrdinary Extraordinary
By Laura Kestly

The Extraordinary came in an ordinary way—
in human flesh to redeem and restore.
In an ordinary woman, an Extraordinary birth
would fulfill the prophecies of yore.

Through Divine intervention
and human conception
the Savior came into the world.
Wrapped in swaddling cloth
and laid in a trough
ancient prophecy was unfurled.

The shepherds were told
by an angel on high
while they were watching
their flock by night
where the Savior would be
so they hastened to see
the newborn King—what a wonderful sight.

Wise men came from a far
being led by His star
much later to praise and behold
They fell to their knees
presenting Him with these
gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold.

The Extraordinary came in an ordinary way—
in human flesh to redeem and restore
When ordinary believe
and His gift they receive
they’ll have extraordinary life evermore.

Isaiah 7:14, Matt. 1:18, 23, Luke 1:26-38, 46-56.
The hour came when the Seed of the woman entered the world
(Gen. 3:15, Rom. 1:3, John 1:14, 2 Tim. 2:8, Gal. 3:16).
Luke 1:31, 2:11-20, Matt. 2:1-2, 9-11;, Col. 1:20, Eph. 1:7, John 3:16.