Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Almond Tree: the promise and the beauty, a symbol of resurrection

Most of us aren't farmers. Many of us don't garden. Having lost our connection to the land, sometimes the biblical symbolism of certain agricultural meanings are lost to us. Let's look at the almond tree.

Flowering almond trees, Wiki CC, by Daniel Sancho
The almond tree is mentioned in scripture several times and always in interesting contexts. Almond tree twigs are mentioned as early as Genesis 30:37 and Genesis 43:11. In Exodus 25:33, God is describing how the Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle should look.

Source

Sweet almond tree branch with blossoms. Wiki CC

three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand.

Calyx is the collective name for sepals of a flower. Easton's Bible Dictionary explains,
"A native of Syria and Palestine. In form, blossoms, and fruit it resembles the peach tree. Its blossoms are of a very pale pink colour, and appear before its leaves. Its Hebrew name, shaked, signifying "wakeful, hastening," is given to it on account of its putting forth its blossoms so early, generally in February, and sometimes even in January"
The International Standard Bible encyclopedia says,
"The masses of almond trees in full bloom in some parts of Palestine make a very beautiful and striking sight. The bloom of some varieties is almost pure white, from a little distance, in other parts the delicate pink, always present at the inner part of the petals, is diffused enough to give a pink blush to the whole blossom."
Did you know that there are sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are toxic. It becomes cyanide when crushed and mixed with other enzymes inside the almond.
"Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote poetically about the scent of bitter almonds and the fate of unrequited love as a lead-in to murder by cyanide poisoning. And in bitter almond oil as in a tragic romance, the sweet and the toxic are inextricably entangled.
Benzaldehyde is made by the decomposition of amygdalin (named for Prunus amygdalus, and in turn responsible for the bitterness that gives bitter almonds their common name). The other decomposition products are glucose (sweet) and hydrogen cyanide (toxic). ... The utility of amygdalin to the plant is for defense, specifically as a deterrent to grazers from eating the valuable seed as well as the dispensable fruit. Inside the cells of the almond kernel, amygdalin is sequestered from the enzyme that breaks it down: amygdalin hydrolase. Crushing, as happens when the plant is grazed upon, brings the enzyme and amygdalin together, and cyanide is produced as a result–as much as 4-9mg per almond."
Aaron's rod famously budded almond leaves, blossoms, and fully ripe fruit. The LORD did this to prove that Aaron was His designated spokesman, with Moses.

On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)

As with Aaron's rod, Jeremiah 1:11 use of the almond as a symbol. Jeremiah 1:11-12:

"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.

Pulpit Commentary says of Verse 12. - I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond. The LORD will hasten to perform His judgments of Jerusalem which He proclaimed in His word to Jeremiah.

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 'Love in the Time of Cholera”.

In Genesis 43:11 one of the 'best gifts' of the land that Joseph's father Jacob urged his sons to bring to Egypt (unknowingly, to Joseph) were almonds.

In Plants of the Bible, it says, "The almond, Amygdalus communis, is a medium sized tree with narrow, light green leaves. Unlike the fig and olive, the almond does not live to a great age. The almond is a well-known symbol of resurrection because it is the first tree to flower. The white, five-parted flowers are up to two inches across and come in the late winter before the leaves of the tree develop. Because they may flower as early as late January or early February, it is sometimes possible to find almond flowers with snow."

Charles Spurgeon preached on the lessons of the Almond Tree. He says here,
"While I have felt compelled to speak of these solemn Truths, I am glad to turn to the other part of the subject which is this—that God is quick in performing His promises. They are like the almond tree—they blossom and bear fruit very quickly. “What sort of promises,” you ask, “are thus speedily fulfilled?” Well, first, the promise to give salvation to all these who believe in the Lo rd Jesus Christ. Listen— “The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives, Redemption in full thro’ His blood.” I see “a branch of an almond tree” here. The Psalmist says, “His word runs very swiftly,” and I am a witness that it does. Many years ago, I, a poor sinner, went into a place of worship to hear the Gospel preached. The preacher repeated the Lord’s command, “Look unto Me, and be you saved.” I looked to Christ and I was saved that very instant. It takes no longer to tell the story than it did to work the miracle of mercy. Swift as a lightning flash I looked to Christ, and the great deed was done! I was a pardoned and justified soul—in a word, I was saved! Why should not the same thing happen to you who are here? It will happen to everyone who shall now be led to believe in Jesus Christ."

On this most joyous of days, you who wonder at our joy, it is because we looked to Christ as our all in all, forgiver of sins, Lamb of God. You, also, look to Christ - and be saved. The almond tree blooms, quick with promises. The most wondrous promise of all is the resurrection of the Son of God.
Aaron's rod budded, sprouted, and offered fully formed fruit, all at the same time. "According to the law of nature, all living things have a beginning and an end. However, this was not the case with Aaron’s rod, for God gave it a new lease of life. This miracle hinted at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though death came to the world because of the actions of the first man, Adam, resurrection would come about on account of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:17–22). Hence, when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). ... the flowering rod served to quell Korah’s rebellion and re-affirmed Aaron’s position as high priest. Furthermore, this wondrous sign hinted at the future Messiah and His status as the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor 15:20)." (source)

He is risen!

-------------------------
Further Reading

The Sign of the Almond Tree

The Lesson of the Almond Tree

Daily Bible Study: Almonds


Resurrection Sunday



The Resurrection

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

~Matthew 28:1-10

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 
John 11:25

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Food prices rising dramatically, food scarcity affecting many

Revelation 6:8 in the KJV says that one of the judgments God will hurl at the earth is death by hunger. Just above that verse is one where it is seen that a purchase of enough wheat for the day costs a day's wage. (Revelation 6:6). Food will be an issue in the Tribulation.

It takes time for famine to set up. It begins with drought.

"The cause of droughts is easily understood, but hard to prevent. Depending on the location, crop failures, famine, high food prices, and deaths can occur. One of the scariest parts of a drought is the onset time. Unlike other forms of severe weather or natural disasters, droughts often develop slowly. Droughts are caused by a depletion of precipitation over time. Unlike a dry spell, prolonged lack of rain will cause regions around the world to slowly dry out. Because of the slow onset of droughts, their cost is often only estimated." (Source)

Drought in the Wheatlands, W. Australia, 2010,
Phillip Capper picture, CC
In the article below, a dramatic rise in beef prices is attributed to drought. How is beef tied in with water, one may wonder? The complex systems involved in food production are many, and they are delicately intertwined. For example, weather (atmospheric conditions), ground conditions, (soil, fertilizer, seed quality), breeding stock if raising animals, transportation systems, and consumer demand are just a very few. Oftentimes, one string of the intertwining system involved in food production isn't particularly visible but is being dramatically affected somewhere along the line, only to surface all of a sudden. But the set-up was years in the making. This article is from last week:

Beef prices hit all-time high in U.S.
Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock. Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren't expected to come down any time soon. Extreme weather has thinned the nation's beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America. ... Soaring beef prices are being blamed on years of drought throughout the western and southern U.S. The dry weather has driven up the price of feed such as corn and hay to record highs, forcing many ranchers to sell off their cattle. That briefly created a glut of beef cows for slaughter that has now run dry.

It's not only beef that is being affected. Pork is undergoing a dramatic rise in price at the consumer end, too. This Michigan farmer lost 5000 pigs.

Bacon, Pork Prices Rise As Deadly Diarrhea Virus Wipes Out Michigan Pigs
A virus that kills piglets at an alarming rate has been found on 93 farms in Michigan, according to the state agriculture department. Sam Hines, executive vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, said porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is not a human health concern, but is deadly to newborn pigs. “This is not a food safety issue,” Hines told WWJ’s Marie Osborne. “Most hogs do acquire the virus but bigger animals can recover from it. Pigs that are less than a month old will have such a severe diarrhea that they dehydrate. There’s nearly 100 percent mortality with pigs less than three-weeks of age.

Beef and pork are two sources of protein for the American consumer, as well as many others. I have a friend who runs a BBQ place. She has had to raise prices this week and revise the menus. They hate to do it but the rise in prices for the meat has to at least be partially passed on at some point. The problem is not just "out there," and the problem is not just facing you individually at the grocery store. It affects business owners too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports this month that "in March, retail food prices rose 0.4% from the preceding month, matching February’s increase. These marked the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011..." This is from an article titled 'The 10 Fastest Rising Food Prices'. As mentioned above, bacon and beef were the #1 and #2 fastest rising food price (no more inexpensive BLTs or hamburgers from the diner!). The rest are:

3. oranges
4. coffee
5. peanut butter
6. margarine
7. wine
8. turkey
9. chicken
10. grapefruit

You notice that 5 out of the 10 items listed ad having dramatic price increases are proteins (beef, bacon, turkey, chicken, peanut butter). As for the citrus, here is an article explaining the citrus crop failure. Sometimes it's not drought that causes it, but disease.

Wikimedia commons photo

US Orange production hit by disease, prices soar
"New York (AFP) - A citrus disease spread by a tiny insect has devastated Florida's orange crop, which is expected to be the worst in nearly 30 years, and sent juice prices soaring on New York markets. The culprit? The gnat-sized Asian citrus psyllid, which is infecting citrus trees across the Sunshine State with huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, which causes fruit to taste bitter and fall from trees too soon. ...Citrus greening disease has become such a problem this year that the US government has lowered its forecast for the upcoming harvest four times."

Citrus isn't the only produce item whose prices are leaving families in the dust. This Wall Street Journal article reports rising prices in many other produce areas too. In this case, the culprit is drought, After three years, the soil fatigue and lack of precipitation is finally taking its toll.

The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday. The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

And finally, it's not only beef, pork, citrus and other produce that are showing rising prices at the retail end, but seafood as well.

Wikimedia Commons, author Ramiroja
Prices for shrimp have jumped to a 14-year high in recent months, spurred by a disease that’s ravaging the crustacean’s population. At Noodles & Co., a chain with locations across the country, it costs 29 percent more to add the shellfish to pastas this year, and shrimp-heavy dishes at places like the Cheesecake Factory Inc. are going up as well...

Goodness, pretty soon we won't be able to afford anything except crackers! And probably not even that either! Friends have started keeping chickens (for the eggs). Some are taking up hunting. Others who never planted gardens before are doing so now. Most people I know have cut back on going to restaurants and are cooking at home. Prairie mother blogs are booming, and food co-ops are bustling.

I am a vegetarian so I am not affected by any loss of meat or seafood in my diet, but I do rely on eggs, peanut butter and tofu, all of which have increased in price. I also use a lot of quinoa, a super-grain that is a complete protein. I bought a can of salmon (the first one in half a year, and ouch, the price has gone up so much! And it wasn't the fancy kind but the kind that takes a long time to clean because it is full of skin and fish bones). Anyway, I made salmon-quinoa patties today, they are great.

EPrata photo
Quinoa is good for hot cereal in the morning with apples and raisins, and it is a very filling salad accompaniment at lunch with a sandwich.

Another complete protein is hummus and pita bread, and amazingly my local mom and pop grocery store has started carrying hummus, and blessedly at a reasonable price, too. They also carry tofu,  something of a miracle in my redneck, pig-hunting, BBQ eating county. Tofu is an always-difficult food item to work with but it's a must for vegetarians looking for protein and at a good price. Beans and rice are another complete protein as well.

So the above were some suggestions for alternatives to the ever-expensive meat. You can always raise chickens or rabbits for meat and learn to pluck and cook them. The time of squeamishness and picky eating appears to be at an end. Hunger will do that to a person.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the biggest blessing to me that has come along in decades. It is a produce co-op called Bountiful Baskets. For a low price of $21.50 you will receive a basket of fruit and a basket of vegetables. The charge is broken down in the following manner:

$15.00 for the food, and $6.50 for the fee; 1.50 is processing and administration and the other $5 is for fuel for the truck. If you order with a friend you can split the $6.50. You can order up to three baskets in one order and so three friends split it, bringing my cost down to $17.20.

Bountiful Baskets is described this way: "BBFC is a group of people who work together for mutual benefit. This is a grassroots, all volunteer, no contracts, no catch co-operative. Since there are no employees at Bountiful Baskets, we as a group pay rock bottom prices on your food."

I know what you're thinking, but there really is no catch, and the produce is the best I've ever seen. I have been a life-long vegetarian and this basket of produce I get every two weeks is the pot of gold at the end of my vegetarian rainbow. The amount received exceeds what I'd be able to duplicate at the store in cost and in quality. It is healthy, lasts a long time, and is of excellent quality. You do not have to sign a contract and you're not committed in any way. Here is a photo of some recent Baskets. The only catch is that you get what you get, you can't order what you want. But it's always so good that it takes a small adjustment in attitude toward food preparation and you're set. We are all undergoing attitude adjustments to our approach to food these days anyway, so please keep an open mind.


Facebook Danielsville Co-op (Bountiful Basket chapter)
Go to the BB link above and click on locations to see if a local co-op exists in your area. If it doesn't, it is very easy to join and set one up for your town. If you google Bountiful Baskets you will find a plethora of articles exclaiming over its popularity and explosive growth. The only problem is that as the program catches on in each area, and there is a limit of 95 baskets for each co-op chapter, the competition to get a basket grows. When the pay-window for that week's basket opens, some sites sell out in minutes, unfortunately.

We are all being pinched by food inflation. In my county, a Federal program grants money for a summer lunch program. Our School Nutrition Program workers were hoping to feed at least 5000 children last summer, they fed 12,000. Blessedly, we received the grant again and the summer 'feed the children' summer lunch program will continue.

I've written about food several times over the years. In the past, when I've written about it or mentioned it, some have scoffed, not seeing a difference in their local area. By 2014, most people see great changes, and are experiencing adjustments in either minor or major ways. The pain at the grocery check out is no longer spotty or local or "elsewhere". It's everywhere.

Man-made global warming is a crock but the climate IS changing. Extreme weather is a fact, and this affects food production on all fronts (farming, animals, and fishing). In 2012, this article from the UK Guardian said that food scarcity is a timebomb waiting to go off. In my opinion, recent events have shown that the fuse is very short.

This situation is not going to go away,” says Lester Brown, an environmental analyst and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington. In a new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates, he predicts ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food. “Food is the new oil and land is the new gold,” he says. We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves. The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself.

What do you think is going to happen after the rapture, when the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit ceases, food becomes scarce-to-non-existent as the verses from Revelation show us, and sin is rampant? I shudder to even think! I believe it is clear that the LORD's work in setting up the coming Tribulation famine is well underway. The iceberg has finally poked through the surface of the water and the existence of a mountain of conditions for massive food failure is here.

Meanwhile we Christians continue to adjust our pocketbooks and attitudes, keep lowering our expectations for the meal time, keep sharing what we have, and keep looking up. Only God knows how tight He will draw the tension we will experience before we fly up to Him in the rapture, but it is to His glory that until the moment we do, we always glorify Him in every circumstance. So whether it's dandelion weeds on our plate or Kobe steak, we say, thank you Jesus for Your provision and may your glory be ever bright in our hearts and praise continually on our lips.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday, the world's most important days

Can you imagine the pit of despair the Disciples felt on Good Friday? To them it was a hellish and confusing Friday. Jesus' separation from the Father while on the cross (Matthew 27:46) is the loneliest and most poignant moment any person ever felt in the history of the universe, bar none.

But the disciples' sudden and unexpected separation on Friday from their spiritual Father they'd been following so hopefully for three years came upon them cruelly and brutally, throwing them all into states of panic, despair, and spiritual depression. Even though Jesus had told them ahead of time, and even though they had studied the scriptures, they didn't understand. To them, it wasn't Good Friday. It was just bad Friday and the seeming end of the long trail of hopes and highs they'd been experiencing for three years with Jesus in discipleship to Him. They did not know as we do, Friday's here, but Sunday's coming!


We worship Jesus every day. We worship and praise Jesus collectively in services on Sunday. We exalt Him once a year on Resurrection Sunday. We know Him as Resurrected King triumphant over sin and death!

His ultimate moment will be His return, when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10, Isaiah 45:23).

"The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9)

Everyone will know that Jesus is MESSIAH! Not their spouse, not their work, not their own self. They will finally know the Resurrected Jesus is the only name. He is all names. He is the beginning and the end!

And it started with the cross on Friday.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Donetsk leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation; Russia, Ukraine, and prophecy

This is a summary of what has been going on in the Crimea and Ukraine with Russia this past month. Russia and the Baltics have some prophetic significance in the upcoming Ezekiel 38/Gog Magog war and the Tribulation wars. I don't know much about that area of the world so I haven't been covering it from the geo-political angle. But something came to light today that must be addressed, because it is of high and clear prophetic significance.

[UPDATE: flier accepted as authentic now seen as a possible fake. But still, even that someone would think to do this as a prank, OR as a real incident, bespeaks prophecy. Like Putin joking he won't annex Alaska because it's too cold...]

[UPDATE 2, Joel Rosenberg weighs in: Leaflets ordering Jews to register in east Ukraine city or be deported creating fear. Threat evocative of 1930s. Pro-Russian separatists say order isn’t real. But someone is trying to scare Ukrainian Jews. The question is: Who?

First, the news,

April 15, 2014: First deaths in Ukraine; Putin admits Crimea invaded
A clash outside a military base ended with the first deaths so far in a Ukraine anti-militant operation as Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted Thursday in a radio interview that Russian soldiers did secretly invade Crimea to help pro-Russian Ukrainians take over the province by force. Meanwhile, high-level talks aimed at calming soaring tensions over the crisis in Ukraine were being held in Geneva between representatives of the United States, European Union and Russia. Three pro-Russian militants were killed in a skirmish outside a Ukrainian National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol in an attack Ukraine’s interior ministry called the bloodiest to date by militants who want the entire East Ukraine to go the way of Crimea. Crimea was annexed by Putin after Ukraine militants took over the province with the help of mysterious well-armed squads of masked soldiers who sealed off the province to prevent Ukraine from bringing in troops. Ukraine said Putin is doing the same thing in East Ukraine, but he denied it.

April 15, 2014: The UK Telegraph reports that the Ukraine is “on the brink” of civil war as the government launched an “antiterrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

The Washington Post editorialized about Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions. Keep in mind that by the time the antichrist comes to the fore and he is revealed, the world will have been divided into ten geo-political regions led by ten kings. (Dan 2:31-35, 40-45; 7:7-8, 19-24 ; Rev 13:1-2; 17:3, 7, 12-16.) These kings will be the most ambitious of the most ambitious, and the most ruthlessly successful, if they end up as one of only ten leaders of the entire globe. The Gog Magog war is sparked by a Russian leader who invades Israel under the influence of demonic Gog. The leaders of the last of the last days will have huge ambitions and will not be afraid to put their tanks where their mouths are.

Of geo-political realignments:
Al Arabiya.net has recently described the current standoff between the West and Moscow concerning Ukraine as potentially the gravest instance of tension in the post-Cold War era. The tensions between Russia and the West seem to be causing some significant geopolitical re-alignments following Russia’s recent political aggressions in relation to Ukraine and Crimea. (Source)

Of dictatorship ambitions:
The Obama administration is underestimating Putin’s ambitions
President Obama has dismissed Russia as a “regional” power that “leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.” But the Obama administration has consistently underestimated Vladimir Putin and continues to do so by asserting that Russia is isolated. Putin has laid the groundwork to assemble a powerful alternative to the transatlantic alliance.

Russia stands at the center of dozens of nations uncomfortable with or unsuited to the Western principles that President Obama described as “self-evident.” They chafe at Western control of global institutions and norms. Putin aims to offer them alternatives and is strengthening key relationships that will allow him to do so — with disgruntled mid-powers such as India, with regimes that have been kept at arm’s length for their behavior and with certain European political elites. t is wrong to think that Crimea is Moscow’s only strategic objective. As Putin’s stock at home soars, he is likely to methodically challenge the European Union and, especially, NATO. Russia’s willingness to use overwhelming force and the West’s inability to effectively respond give him two key advantages.

I believe those news excerpts bring us up to general speed on the Russian involvement in Ukraine and Crimea. Here is a map of Russia and the Baltics. The 'A' Pin is on Crimea with Ukraine just to the north. Click to enlarge.
There are two main reasons God will enact the Tribulation. The Tribulation is a hellish 7 years on earth that precede Jesus' bodily return. One reason is to deliver His long-promised stored-up wrath on an unbelieving world. The other main reason is to punish the Israelites, today's Jews. He never finished His punishment of them and paused His prophetic plan 7 years short of the decree. The Tribulation is the resumption of the prophetic clock of the Jews in God's timetable.

What has He been doing since the pause, you might ask? He has been building His church. (Matthew 16:18). When the Jews rejected Jesus, and refused to share Him with the world through the Good News, He founded His church and allowed the Gentile nations to be His light. (Acts 13:44-47; Romans 11:11-12).

When the church is complete in quota containing all the names He set down since before the beginning of time, (Revelation 13:8) He will rapture us and resume His plan with the Jews. (Romans 11:25). This link explains the prophetic clock and God's ever unfolding but differing plans for His different peoples (Jews, Church, unsaved).

One of the events prophesied to take place during this time is a Holocaust of Jews. The Tribulation holocaust will take 2/3 of Israel's Jews, demonic hatred of them will be so fervent and evil. (Revelation 12:13, Zechariah 13:8-9).

The German Holocaust of WWII began seemingly innocently enough. Jews were told to register. In 1937 and 1938, Jews in Germany were told to register all property. All Jews were obliged to carry identity cards that indicated their Jewish heritage, and, in the autumn of 1938, all Jewish passports were stamped with an identifying letter “J.” In January 1940, Polish Jews were ordered to register all property. The Holocaust Encyclopedia explains that of the order to register, it was "a prelude to the gradual expropriation of their material wealth by the state." 

Well, it's happening again.

Donetsk leaflet: Jews must register or face deportation
Fear replaced communal atmosphere in Donetsk's Jewish community as armed men handed out a leaflet Passover eve calling on Jews register their religion and property with the interim pro-Russian government or face deportation and loss of citizenship. A leaflet distributed in Donetsk, Ukraine calling for all Jews over 16 years old to register as Jews marred the Jewish community's Passover festivities Monday (Passover eve), replacing them with feelings of concern. The leaflet demanded the city's Jews supply a detailed list of all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated. Donetsk, a Ukraine province with 4.3 million people - 10 percent of Ukraine's population - and 17,000 Jews, is home to much of the country's heavy industry, and is thus the biggest prize of the eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have captured government buildings in the past week." [HT to The Sovereign]

These events I've related to you may or may not have direct prophetic implications. In my opinion, they do. Jan Markell of Olive Tree Views listed 16 converging end of days signs, and my goodness, seeing them listed out like that does give one pause for thought of the times in which we are living.

Christian persecution is rising exponentially. This headline from the Christin Post mentions China, but it's emblematic of worldwide persecution of Christians. "Gov't Persecution of Christians in China Worsens Significantly: Persecution rose by 38.82 percent since 2012. It's the same in most places for Christians, and Jews are experiencing it too. Attacks on synagogues are up, and the Kansas City Jewish Center shootings this week are just one example of similar attacks and killings worldwide against Jews. And now the order for Jews to register their religion in the Ukraine city...is another highly significant sign of converging prophecy.

Tomorrow I'll write about the horrific rise in food prices. That is another sign.

Please understand the Good News. When Adam sinned, he separated humankind from intimate fellowship with God, and this barred our unholy selves from entering heaven. God had a plan though, and that was to send Jesus, His Son, to earth to preach reconciliation, repentance, and holiness to first the Jews and the world. He died as the sinless lamb upon the cross as bloody sacrifice for us with God unleashing His wrath upon Jesus' broken body. Jesus was sinless and thus lived the perfectly holy life God requires for entry to heaven. Satisfied, and with His wrath exhausted, He raised Jesus from the dead and brought Him to heaven and sat Him at His right hand.

Now, any person believing in Jesus as resurrected Messiah and having repented of their sins can enter heaven through Jesus as the door. Any person rejecting Jesus will have to endure God's wrath for their sins for all eternity.

Death seals the choice. If you die in your sins it is too late. Please don't leave resolving these questions until it is too late. As it is written in Dante Alighieri's famous medieval Italian literary masterpiece, The Inferno, here is hell's gate, and the plaque above it says, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Jesus is all hope. He is the only hope. Apart from Him, there is none.
Illustration by Gustave Dore, wikimedia commons
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15)

I pray your name be found in the Lamb's Book of Life, and then you have this hope to look forward to:

"But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:16)

Putin with dictator ambitions desires a better country, but he will find that his country won't last. Please be reconciled to Jesus and live in a better country, the eternal one. The city is New Jerusalem, and Jesus is there.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Heaven is for Real" is Unreal. What near death experiences tell us, and what they don't tell us

In 2010 a book was released called "Heaven is for Real". A wikipedia page describes the plot thus:
"The book documents the report of a near-death experience by Burpo's then-four-year-old son, Colton. The book tells how the boy began saying he had visited heaven."

And at the end of the page it says, "See Also":
23 Minutes in Hell
90 Minutes in Heaven
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven
Proof of Heaven

The book was immediately optioned to be made into a movie, which is being released this month, April 2014.

Heaven Is for Real
"A small-town father must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world."

I used the word 'immediately' because the book was a runaway bestseller. It spent eight weeks at No. 1 in 2011. It's been on the NY Times bestseller list for a total of 138 weeks.

This is incredible to me. That people in the first place would seek any information about God's dwelling apart from God's word is amazingly undiscerning. And to be attracted to such information from a four-year-old-boy is just beyond comprehension.

But I understand. I understand the attraction to wanting to see peeks of the other side. As Christians, we resist such thoughts and desires, because they aren't profitable. When I was an unsaved person, though, I was intrigued by near-death experiences (NDEs).

Besides near-death experiences, there are now post-death experiences. Science and medicine has advanced to the point currently where doctors can put a person to death for a long period of time in order to operate or repair a body, and then bring them back to life in controlled circumstances.

I wasn't saved until I was 43 years old. That is a lot of years as a teen and an adult to ponder the mysteries of the other side. And ponder I did. There is a certain logic to Christianity that the unsaved mind suppresses. (Romans 1:18). Intuitively it seemed that evolution would not have gone to all the trouble to evolve us bodily AND in addition, give us a mind, a conscience, and self-awareness. I wondered, what was the point of living 40, 50, 70 years and then...poof, nada? Obliteration? It didn't seem likely.

Secondly, it seemed that every culture in the world since recorded time and history began has celebrated or worshiped a deity or deities. I often wondered, why are we all wired to worship? And which deity is the right one? There must be something to religion, if every culture from north to south, east to west, has worshiped someone or something.

Third, I always wondered why so many people reported having a near death experience, and why those experiences seemed so similar.

It was more than reasonable that religion was real, the other side was real, that heaven was real.

Then I became a Christian by God's grace and the drawing of the Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 2:8, John 6:44). I learned through the bible that heaven IS real. I read what it looks like. I read who will go there. I read about worship there. All about heaven, it's in the bible. How great and glorious God is to provide us this glimpse.

Four men went to heaven in visions and three came back authorized to tell about it. (Paul said he heard things he was forbidden to tell. 2 Corinthians 12:2. John also was told not to tell of one of the things he'd heard, the Seven Thunders, Revelation 10:1-7). Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John went to heaven in visions and were shown wonderful things. How glorious the Lord is to give us these peeks that are now recorded in His word! We can trust them.

And if you think about it, ONLY FOUR men were given visions of heaven. Job, who was called righteous by God, wasn't escorted around heaven on a personal tour. King David, a man after God's own heart, wasn't given an individual advance visit. John the Baptist, whom Jesus said no other man born of woman had risen greater than, wasn't given an opportunity to stroll around and take in the sights.

But four year old Colton Burpo was. He and his dad wrote "Heaven is for Real." In Colton's version, people had bodies. In the bible version, people haven't been given their glorified body yet. That won't happen until the rapture. And we're supposed to believe the boy?

Dr Eben Alexander was given a tour. He wrote "Proof of Heaven." Dr Alexander, a former surgeon, has been fired from multiple hospitals, is the subject of several malpractice suits, and is charged by doctors with lying in his book about the events leading up to his NDE, and others found discrepancies in his book on other matters. He is a Christ-rejecting pagan who believes in reincarnation. And HE was given a tour of heaven?

What near death experiences don't tell us is, what heaven is like, because NONE of the people who claim to have gone there, really went there. The details of their trip contradict not only the bible, but they contradict each other. Any detail, glimpse, peek, or curiosity you have about heaven will not be satisfied in these books or movies. Though they may indeed have had some sort of experience, the details related to heaven are all untrue imaginings.

What NDEs do tell us is what we already know from the bible: the conscious mind continues.

There is no doubt that near death experiences happen. They are consistently reported by millions of people. Eight million people in the US alone have reported having such an experience. And most of them have similar elements. The NDE FAQ page defines those elements this way:

No two NDEs are exactly identical, but within a number of experiences a pattern becomes evident. Researchers have identified the common elements that define near-death experiences. Bruce Greyson argues that the general features of the experience include impressions of being outside one's physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of egotic and spatiotemporal boundaries. (source)

There is no doubt that in some of the NDEs, spiritual forces are at play. However, the fact of having a near death experience does not by default make the experience true. Here is the Stand to Reason blog explaining this very concept in their discussion of "Heaven is For Real".

"What we can't conclude from these experiences that appear to be real is that what they heard and learned during these experiences are necessarily true. An experience can be real without the conclusions of the experience being accurate. That happens to us all the time even in this life. We have an experience, but we're mistaken about what we think about it. It can happen in death, too. After all, once we have evidence for a non-physical world, we have reason to believe from the Bible, which tells us about this world, that there are beings there that deceive us. There are also beings who tell us the truth. But which do people encounter in their near death experiences? It's hard to tell."

Yes, it's hard to tell. And why would we even want to pursue such rabbit trails that lead only to the Valley of Humiliation and the Cliffs of Insanity? (apologies to John Bunyan and William Goldman)

All that NDEs can tell us is that the conscious mind continues (we already knew that) and people experience things after death (we already knew that too). Anything other than that are fanciful thoughts and images that have no place in biblical mind and a Jesus-loving heart.

As far as the movie Heaven is For Real goes, avoid it. Though 'Christian' movies that are made with Hollywood production values are rare these days, movies about the afterlife, the soul and angels are common. Interest in the topic of the afterlife among the unsaved (and unfortunately the saved) is what's real. Look at this small list I gathered in just a short time:

Heaven Can Wait/remake of Here Comes Mr Jordan, Warren Beatty,
A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an over-anxious angel before he was supposed to die, comes back to life in the body of a recently-murdered millionaire. (God messes up, that wacky deity! Hijinks from heaven ensue)

All of Me, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin
A dying millionaire has her soul transferred into a younger, willing woman. But something goes wrong, and she finds herself in her lawyer's body - together with the lawyer. (This movie presents God as a mess-up and violates John 10:12).

What Dreams May Come, Robin Williams
After dying in a car crash a man searches the afterlife for his wife. Chris Robin Williams) dies and awakens in Heaven, and learns that his immediate surroundings can be controlled by his imagination. He meets a man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) he recognizes as Albert, his friend and mentor from his medical residency, and the presence from his time as a "ghost" on Earth. Albert will guide and help in this new afterlife. Albert teaches Chris about his existence in Heaven, and how to shape his little corner, and to travel to others' "dreams". Meanwhile, Annie is unable to cope with the loss of her husband and decides to commit suicide. Chris, who is initially relieved that her suffering is done, grows angry when he learns that those who commit suicide go to Hell; this is not the result of a judgment made against them, but rather their own tendency to create "nightmare" afterlife worlds based on their pain. Chris is adamant that he will rescue Annie from Hell, despite Albert's insistence that no one has ever succeeded in doing so. Albert agrees to find Chris a "tracker" to help search for Annie's soul. (This movie teaches we are little gods and we create heaven and hell ourselves AND that we can re-write the rules of heaven. Additionally there is no marriage in heaven and our focus will be on Jesus, not our earthly wife).

Defending Your Life, Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep
In an afterlife resembling the present-day US, people must prove their worth by showing in court how they have demonstrated courage. (A works related salvation, and one which defendants argue with God, no less. Presenting God as less than the Holy and Righteous Judge).

Wings of Desire, Peter Falk
An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal. (Presented as a romantic, sensitive story, this one is right out of Genesis 6 with the unholy angels mating with women.)

It's A Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart
An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed. (A person given visions of the future like John of Patmos was??)

Michael, John Travolta, Andie MacDowell
Frank Quinlan and Huey Driscoll, two reporters from a Chicago-based tabloid, along with Dorothy Winters, an 'angel expert', are asked to travel to rural Iowa to investigate a claim from an old woman that she shares her house with a real, live archangel named Michael. Upon arrival, they see that her claims are true - but Michael is not what they expected: he smokes, drinks beer, has a very active libido and has a rather colourful vocabulary. In fact, they would never believe it were it not for the two feathery wings protruding from his back. (This is obviously an unholy angel, presented as holy. What a blot on the name of Jesus and His heaven!)

In 2004 John Hagee Ministries put together a movie called "Escape From Hell." In it, a psychiatrist who counsels people who have had near death experiences becomes consumed with learning whether there is an afterlife for real or not. He induces a medical death for himself and calls a friend to come revive him before it is too late. With that, he passes out and begins his tour. The doctrinal errors in this film are too numerous to mention, but a movie reviewer called CBC Pastor wrote this:

When we seek to add error to increase the scare effect, we deny the power of God's Spirit to work through truth... Movies that stretch the truth to this level only hurt evangelism through those that will laugh themselves right out of our churches and ignore the truth of genuine warning.

That is exactly what these heaven tourism books and movies do. They deny the power of the Spirit to work through truth, and isn't that how the Spirit promised to work? Through truth? Not through lies.

Here are some credible reviews and essays on heaven tourism. I'll tell you ahead of time, they are all negative. I am purposely listing these in order to help you or to help you help a family member or friend who insists that these visions and trips to heaven are real. Heaven IS for real. I know this because Jesus told me so, not a little boy, or a disgraced doctor or a well-intentioned pastor or any man in the flesh. As Pastor Tim Challies succinctly said of Heaven is for Real,

"The point of it all is to encourage you that heaven is a real place. Colton went there and his experience now validates its existence".

Ridiculous in the extreme, isn't it?!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further Reading

Heaven is For Real, book review by Tim Challies

Heaven Tourism, essay by Tim Challies

The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine , essay by Phil Johnson

To Heaven and Back, review by Randy Alcorn

Justin Peters explains why trips to heaven don't line up with the biblevideo

The Berean Library, Heaven is for Real

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How satan twisted Moses' brazen serpent into the rod of Asclepius

In around 1400 BC, Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness. They had been released from slavery by powerful acts of God, including ten plagues and parting the Red Sea to aid their escape. (Exodus 1-15)

However, it wasn't long before the Israelites grumbled. They were sick of manna, they wanted an easier life, they wanted to get there. (Numbers 20:4). So they grumbled some more, against Moses and against God.

God heard their grumbles.

Wiki CC, Moses and the Brazen Serpent, Sebastien Bourdon
"Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." (Numbers 21:6-9)

As with everything, God had a purpose. Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15).

And as with everything, satan is busy, too.

By 700BC or so, satan had encouraged the Israelites to worship the brazen idol, rather than worship the God to whom it pointed. Worse, the Israelites had actually named the idol! They called it 'Neshutan.'

"He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).” 2 Kings 18:4

Hezekiah removed them, which pleased God, but it was too late. The idol worship had taken root. By ~460 BC Cult of Asclepius was well underway. To the Greeks, and then the Romans and finally Europe, Asclepius became a god, represented as a man holding a rod with a serpent twined around it. This is actually the pale memory of the actual brazen serpent curled around the rod Moses held, where the Israelites were to look at the serpent lifted high and be healed, but since the world hates the bible, the truth, and anything to do with Jesus, they easily fell into the myth that it was Asclepius. He became known as “Asclepius savior,” in a brazen attempt to remove the righteous place of Jesus in saving souls and bodies.
The serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument)
atop Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.
It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness
(Numbers 21:4–9) and the cross upon which
Jesus was crucified (John 3:14). Wiki CC photo
The Greek Island of Kos seems to be ground zero for the largest of the Asclepius cult followers, with a close second a HUGE cult temple at Pergamum. Remember the church at Pergamum? That Pergamum.

After 400BC or so, Asclepion complexes sprung up, monumental temples with a sanctuary, spas, baths, dormitories, patient intake, and a hall of records. (I.e., scrolls and marble carvings of patients who were served and who got healed)

Hippocrates is said to have received his medical training at an asclepieion on the isle of Kos. Prior to becoming the personal physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Galen treated and studied at the famed asclepieion at Pergamon. (source)

Asclepius was HUGE in the ancient world. Worship of Asclepius was such a part of Greek life that the false god remained on the Greek currency until 2001 when Greek money was replaced by the Euro.

The reverse side of the 10,000-drachma note, showing Asklepios,
the god of healing, with his symbol, the staff with a serpent coiled around it.
Beside him, a healing scene depicts a sacred snake licking or biting
the right shoulder of a sleeping patient. Source
Here is how the Asclepius worship went:

In honor of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals, and these snakes – the Aesculapian Snakes – crawled around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. These snakes were introduced at the founding of each new temple of Asclepius throughout the classical world. From about 300 BC onwards, the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples (Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. Ritual purification would be followed by offerings or sacrifices to the god (according to means), and the supplicant would then spend the night in the holiest part of the sanctuary – the abaton (or adyton). Any dreams or visions would be reported to a priest who would prescribe the appropriate therapy by a process of interpretation.

Satan sure can twist things, and make them seem complicated and spiritual at the same time. The Gospel is so simple. Moses' directions from God as to what to do to be saved was so simple. (Look at the lifted up serpent and be saved).

I mentioned Hippocrates a moment ago. You might know the Hippocratic Oath, an oath doctors swear by to this day. It first appeared around 400BC at the time the Asclepius worship got going. The Oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history. In its original version it read:

"I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:"

Today, the modified Hippocratic oath doesn't make the speaker swear allegiance to Asclepius but instead worships science.

"I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow."

I also said a moment ago that Pergamon is mentioned in the bible, and that the largest mainland Asclepion hospital-temple sanctuaries were located there. It is thought by bible scholars that one reason Jesus called the city of Pergamos in the book of Revelation, the place where satan's throne is located, could be because of the Asclepion there. Wikipedia describes the main feature of Pergamos:

Three kilometers south of the Acropolis at , down in the valley, there was the Sanctuary of Asclepius (also known as the Asclepium), the god of healing. The Ascelpium was approached along a 820 meter colonnaded sacred way. In this place people with health problems could bathe in the water of the sacred spring, and in the patients' dreams Asclepius would appear in a vision to tell them how to cure their illness. Archeology has found lots of gifts and dedications that people would make afterwards, such as small terracotta body parts, no doubt representing what had been healed. Galen, the most famous doctor in the ancient Roman Empire and personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, worked in the Ascelpium for many years. Notable extant structures in the Asclepium include:
  • the Roman theater
  • the North Stoa
  • the South Stoa
  • the Temple of Asclepius
  • a circular treatment center (sometimes known as the Temple of Telesphorus)
  • a healing spring
  • an underground passageway
  • a library
  • the Via Tecta (or the Sacred Way, which is a colonnaded street leading to the sanctuary) and
  • a propylon


Wikipedia Rod of Asclepius

"I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is..." (Revelation 2:13)

Rod of Asclepius is used by 62% of all medical professionals. As I drove home today, thinking about how to write this blog essay, I pass by my town's fire department and an emergency vehicle was parked in the lot. The side of the vehicle was emblazoned with this symbol.

We are grateful to know Jesus, the only deity one should look to in order to be saved. Asclepius might be everywhere today, but Jesus soon will return to erase all the false gods, AND worshiped rightly.

Charles Spurgeon preached about the rod of Moses in a sermon called "The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent". He said,

But the picture blackens; we must have deeper shades to paint it. Behold the people after they were bitten! Can you picture their writhings and contortions when the poison of the serpent had infected their veins? We are told by the old writers that these serpents when they bit caused vehement heat, so that there was a pain throughout the body, as if a hot iron had been sent along the veins. Those who had been bitten had a great thirst; they drank incessantly, and still cried for water to quench the burnings within. It was a hot fire which was lit in the fountain, and which ran through every nerve and every sinew of the man; they were racked in pain, and died in most fearful convulsions.

Now my brethren, we cannot say that sin instantly produces such an effect as this upon the men who are the subjects of it; but we do affirm, that, let sin alone, and it will develop itself in miseries far more extreme than ever the bite of the serpent could have caused. ...

And now comes THE REMEDY. The remedy of the bitten Israelites was a brazen serpent; and the remedy for sinners is Christ crucified. 

But remember, that much as those who heard of the brazen serpent might have despised it, yet there was no other means of cure. And, now hear me for one moment, while I tell the whole story of salvation. Men, brethren, and fathers, we are born of a sinful generation, and we have ourselves increased our guilt, for us there is no hope; do what we may, we cannot save ourselves.


"Could our zeal no respite know,
Could our tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone."

But brethren, Christ Jesus, God's eternal Son, came into this world, and was born of the virgin Mary, he lived a doleful life of misery, and at last he died a death accompanied by unutterable pangs—that was the punishment of the sins of those who, as penitents, come to Christ. If you this day so repent, and put your trust in Jesus, you have in your trust and repentance a sure proof that Christ was punished for you.