Born This Way

born this way-flattenedIt’s incredible how human beings can come up with excuses for sin. It says in the Bible, “There are many devices in a man’s heart, nevertheless the council of God stands assured”. (Proverbs 19:21) A popular phrase nowadays is “I was born this way.”

If that excuse would stand, then it should be the literal “get out of jail free” card for ever court case in the world. It reminds me of a popular phrase from a generation ago, “The devil made me do it.” Now folks don’t blame the devil; they say they are born with traits that the Bible has condemned from cover to cover.

Who knows? Maybe they are “born that way”? A lot of us are born with traits that perhaps have been handed down from generation to generation in our families, whether that’s done genetically or is something that has been the nature and atmosphere that has been in that family a long time.

But does that make it right? And does that make it inevitable that you’re preprogrammed, destined to be that way? Of course not. Here in America it’s popular to talk about “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But when it comes to sins enslaving individuals, then it quickly becomes “the land of the chained and the home of the fearful.” But the power of God is just as real today as it has always been. God’s strength and deliverance is just as real and close as ever for anyone who was “born that way.”

What prompted this post was when I was working on one before this, about pride and humility, “All You Meek Of The Earth”. Some people say the same thing about pride, “I’m just naturally that way, I was born like this.

Maybe so. But that doesn’t make it right. People nowadays are so “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18), so distant from basic “Judeo- Christian” teaching that they don’t even know the difference between right and wrong.

I like the way I am-flattenedThere are oodles of things we may have been born with. I’ve known people who were just compulsive liars and it ruined their lives. Some are obsessed with gambling and it ruined their lives and their families as well. Some truly enjoy inflicting pain on others. I’ve sat and listened to a friend give a glowing panegyric of sadism, how natural it is, how human it is, how necessary it is and what a thrill it is.

That’s why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3). Yes, maybe you were “born that way.” But you must be born again. Sadism, homosexuality, lying, gambling, gluttony, pride, fear, despair, violence and I could list 50 more are not the ways and the will of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22 & 23) If you love God and your neighbor as yourself, most of the time you won’t be having run-ins with the law, or the police in this case. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

So, “you’re born this way.” Everyone is. That’s why Jesus came, to give us “repentance to life“. (Acts 11:18) Maybe your sin is different from mine or someone else’s; but it’s still sin. I very nearly died in my sins. It was no joke, no time for some glib one-liners that thrill talk show hosts. I do sincerely hope that whatever it is that you were born with, that you will avail yourself of the power of God which can overcome any sin, any.

Of course the sad reality is that it’s not really that many folks were “born that way”, “They love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:21). They reject the urgings and the admonitions of the Spirit of God that “the way they were born” is not of God and that they should repent. Jesus said, “Everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20) It’s just the sinful nature of man and we all have that tendency. Some people have resisted the truth and the admonitions of friends and loved ones their entire lives. They go to the grave in their sins because they have loved them and claimed them as who they are.

nothing wrong with me-flattenedBut others say like the Apostle Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?!” (Romans 7:24) For those folks, there’s a deliverance, a miraculous change, a metenoia that God has been granting to the vilest sinners for thousands of years.

You may be born that way. But you don’t have to stay that way. “Sin shall not have dominion over you”. (Romans 6:14) “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) That verse is one of the most personal to me in the entire Bible. When I received Him, He gave me power against the sins that had overcome me and defeated me til then.

It’s free, it’s for everybody. You may be born that way. We all are. But you don’t have to stay that way. Unless you really like it and chose to. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God”. (John 3:3)

Just Did It

walk in the park full-flattenedDon’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor. As I’ve written about before, I usually go on at least one walk a day. It’s more of a prayer time than really exercise but I guess it’s that too. It’s just refreshing and invigorating to get out in nature and to see God’s creation. But also it somehow helps my prayer life to be out like that.

This morning I was a little bit burdened. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there were just a number of little things nagging at the edge of my mind and conscience. Things I need to do, things that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, responsibilities I have, folks who need my help, etc, etc.

park bench 1-fixedSo I was sitting on a park bench quietly pouring out my heart to the Lord about many of these things, not really feeling peace in my heart, not really feeling close to the Lord and somewhat unsure of where I stood with Him this morning.

Maybe it’s like the verse “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19) Somewhat suddenly, “in the multitude of my thoughts within me” I got a strong verse that punched through it all, “Faithful is He that calls you, Who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)

That really helped. It was like a theme or an overall message from the Lord and I know other promises along the same lines. So I quoted to myself, “He that has begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) “It is God that works in you, both to will and to do of His God pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) And others like that.

The feeling I was getting was that the Lord has done it this far. So many wonderful things in my life that have happened in the last few years have been things He orchestrated and did, not me. He’s “the author and finisher of my faith” (Hebrews 12:2) , “not of works lest any man should boast”. (Ephesians 2:9)

So the Lord was saying with that verse, “Relax, lean on Me, cease from your own works. I’ve been calling you and leading you in what’s been happening so I will be the One doing it, as I have been.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? So it was a relief to get that verse from Him. But there’s more.

If God was going to give you a cake, do you think there would be icing on it? Of course there would.

So I was sitting there on the park bench, mulling over the verse I’d just gotten from the Lord and also the other ones I knew from memory that said something similar.

Then, almost immediately, along came someone walking along the path near the bench. As they walked past me, on the back of their T-shirt was the words, “JUST DID IT”.   Hmmm. just did it tshirtSo less than a minute earlier the Lord had spoken to me with the verse, “Faithful is He that calls you, Who also will do it.” Then almost the next thing that happens is that someone walks by me with a message on their T-Shirt, “JUST DID IT”.

Hmmm. Probably just a coincidence, no? Or was that a case of “confirming His Word with signs following”? (Mark 16:20) I’ll go for the later. To me, it was like the Lord adding some icing on the cake. It was like, “I will do it” (future tense) but also He was saying, “I am doing it now and I have done it in the past.” Whew, the Lord is spreading it on.

It’s like that verse, “Who has delivered, Who does deliver and Who will yet delver us.” (II Corinthians 1:10)  Past, present and future, He did it. He is doing it; and He will do it. Eternal.

I have done it-flattenedWell, I’ll tell you, I needed that. I guess we all do. For me though, I really need to have the Lord’s leading and presence and a fresh experience with Him pretty often. Doing these videos, writing these blog posts, I really feel a need to not just be doing my own thing, tooting my own horn and inadvertently getting tripped off into something that’s not of Him.

So I was really glad to have this little experience this morning. It is similar in some ways to other things I’ve had happen to me on my walks that I’ve written to you about before, things like “Hawks and Doves”, “Red Lights and the Sabbath” and “Everything Means Something”.  These all happened on my walks to the park.

We all have so much to do, so many responsibilities, folks who are depending on us or who need us. The world is in such a mess and it seems to be getting worse fast. There’s so much confusion and rancor, even among devout Christians. There are so many pointing out vehemently which way we should go or we’re doomed. Maybe for all of us it helps to get away to a garden, to pour out our hearts to the Lord and to get some personal message of comfort and direction from Him. It helped me this morning; I hope you’ll experience the same thing soon in whatever way He may lead.

“All You Meek Of The Earth”

pure or meek-flattenedSometimes it just strikes, you: the difference between the ways of God and the ways of Man. In Isaiah are the famous verses where the Lord says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isiah 55:8 & 9)

So it’s easy to think this could mean, “Sure, God is way up there in heaven and we are just here on earth, pretty distant from Him.” But it’s much more than that. It says that His ways are not our ways. What are His ways?

Well, for one, humility. Let’s be honest, who wants to be humble? It’s a rare bird indeed who is humble and is honored and acclaimed in this world. Pride rules in our world. Pride is the coinage of the realm, the language that is spoken everywhere. But not with God. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5) And the Bible is just full of that kind of admonition, from cover to cover. I heard a challenge one time; someone said, “You can’t find one single verse in the Bible that promotes pride.” I’ve never found one.

But Mark, everyone is proud! What’s wrong with pride?! Does God want us to just walk around with our tail between our legs and a “pardon-me-for-living” attitude?

Nope. But I can guarantee you that He doesn’t want us to be proud. King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon, who ended up having a marvelous change in his life after being an extremely proud man, said at the end of the chapter in the Bible which he wrote, “They that walk in pride He [God] is able to abase.” (Daniel 4:32) take My yoke-flattenedJesus said of Himself, “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest to your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) If ever a person could be considered worthy to be proud, it was Jesus. But He wasn’t.

It even says of Moses in the Old Testament, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And it seems this is the kind of person that God chooses to dwell with. In fact the Bible says so. In Isaiah 57:15 the Lord says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with those of a humble and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

The power of pride-flattenedA few years back, here in America, it was very common to see bumper stickers on cars that said, “The power of pride”. I just couldn’t believe people would actually place that on their cars. It’s the very opposite of the Will and Word of God.

But you could say,

Alright, alright, I see that God resists the proud and wants us to be humble. But Mark, I’m just naturally proud. It’s my nature. Like the old cowboy song, “I’m proud ‘bout everything.” So what can I do about it? I’m just born that way!

What can you do about it? First, like all of us have had to do, you can acknowledge that it’s not the way God wants us to be. It’s like having weeds in your garden. You may have them; but you can still recognize them as weeds and go about making an effort to get rid of them.

Here’s an obscure verse I read this morning that prompted my writing this. It’s really a good one, a real lesson to us all. “Seek ye the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have worked His judgment. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. It may be that you shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3) It says we are to seek meekness. If you are proud (and who isn’t?), we can at least acknowledge to ourselves that we have a problem with that and we can begin to make efforts towards seeking meekness. If you recognize you have a problem with pride, that really is a good start! Most people don’t even see that as a problem. But in God’s eyes it is, a big one.

if we confess-flattenedOne time the Lord exposed a problem in my life that was so big and seemingly impossible to overcome and change in that I really had no faith or strength to fight it. I knew it was there but I felt doomed by my sin. But the Lord gave me the verse, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) That was exactly what I needed to hear. It was like a deal or contract. The Lord was saying that if I would confess it, He would cleanse it. So I did, actually many times. And as time went on, I slowly got healed or at least better in the huge area I was having trouble with.

If you’re having problems with pride, first acknowledge that it is not the ways of God. Like that verse says, you can even confess it to the Lord and ask Him to begin to cleanse you of it. And keep that mindset, the one that seeks meekness and is repulsed by pride. That’s the path of life and the direction in which the Lord dwells. He dwells with the meek and lowly. His ways are ways of meekness, humility and love.

Text for “The 69 Weeks” video

[This is the text version of the video, “Daniel Chapter 9-a ‘The 69 Weeks’.]

the commandment to rebuild-flattenedHi again, I’m Mark. For years I’ve been looking forward to this moment when I can be doing what I’m doing right now, sharing Daniel chapter 9 with you.

Because it changed my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I was an unbeliever but then, through a series of experiences, I came to faith in God. Later, when someone shared Daniel chapter 9 with me, I’d never seen anything like that. There’s nothing in this world can tell you, in advance, specifically, “This is going to happen and this is going to happen” and then it happens. But we have a God like that, the God of Abraham.

The first part of Daniel chapter 9 can be called “the 69 weeks” or perhaps more accurately, “the 69 sevens”. This chapter is concentrated. There’s a tremendous amount of information conveyed in very few words. In fact, there are really only 4 prophetic verses in the chapter and we’re going to look at the first 3 of those in this class. To start with, we need to know where we are in Daniel’s life and in the history of the Jews.

Daniel, as a young teenager, had been led away with some of the first captives that had been taken to Babylon from Jerusalem around 604 BC. Dan & Neb for D9 postThen, though a miraculous series of events, Daniel ended up telling Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, his dream, when the king couldn’t remember it.

But Daniel chapter 9 is near the end of Daniel’s life. In his 80’s now and has been working as a government official throughout his life. By this time, it’s not Babylon anymore; it’s the Medes and the Persians. So we’re looking at around 539 BC; the Jews are still in captivity, now under the Persians. Daniel chapter 9 starts like this.

Daniel at desk for D9 blog post“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years which came by the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” (Daniel 9:1 & 2)

In our times, we look back to the prophecies of Daniel to see our future. But Daniel is looking back to a prophet before him.  We’re finding Daniel reading the prophecies of Jeremiah. Here are the verses Daniel was reading, Jeremiah 29:10 through 13.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.” And then the next verse says,For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

That’s a beautiful, comforting verse. God has their best interests in mind. So He’s thinking thoughts of peace and not of evil. Then verse 13 says,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”

The prophet Jeremiah was perhaps around the age of Daniel’s parents. God had told Jeremiah many years before that Israel was going to be taken captive and carried away to Babylon. And they were going to be there for 70 years. That’s what it says in Jeremiah 29:10, the verse that Daniel was reading. Let’s look at that verse again.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

So Daniel understood by reading Jeremiah, “Our captivity is going to be for 70 years.” And do you know how long it had been? It had been around 68 years. So the same way we read Daniel and we go, “Oh my gosh! We’re in the endtime!” Daniel read Jeremiah and he felt almost the same way. “Oh my gosh! Two more years and that 70 year period is up!” So Daniel starts praying. God had told them,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Daniel kneeling for D9 blog postSo Daniel begins to seek God with all his heart. And he’s going to pour out his heart to God, in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and desperation. He’s praying for his people, he’s praying for his country, prophecy is just about to be fulfilled. This prayer is actually 16 verses long so maybe we can read the first three and last three verses.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.  And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession and said, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your commandments and Your judgments.'”  (Daniel 9:3-5)

And the last 3 verses of the prayer were

Daniel hands raised for D9  blog post“Now, O our God, hear the prayer of Your servant and his requests, and for the Lord’s sake, cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our ruins and the city which is called by Your name. For we do not present our prayers before You because of our righteousness but because of Your great mercies.O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, hear and act. Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”   (Daniel 9:17-19)

Daniel was seeking God with all his heart. He was confessing his sins and the sins of his people. He was desperate for God to forgive, to heal, to answer the prayers of His people and to fulfill His prophetic Word. So we can go to verses 20 & 21.

Daniel smiling with Gabriel for D9 blog post“And while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my cry before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yea, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening sacrifice. And he informed me and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your prayers the commandment went forth and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved.'”

There are not too many times in the Bible where an angel says that to someone, “You are greatly beloved”. In fact, this was said twice more to Daniel in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel must have been a really special person. He was greatly loved because he greatly loved the Lord.

“Therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”

This has been our preparation for those 3 prophetic verses we’re going to be looking at in this class. There aren’t going to be any visions of beasts here, like in the earlier chapters. The angel Gabriel is going to give Daniel the straight Word of God. What if you tried to get the most important things in the history of the world for the next 2 or 3 thousand years into 3 or 4 verses? That’s what we’re going to have right here.

X plus Y underlined flattenedSometimes when I teach this, I use the analogy of Algebra, where you have things like “X” plus “Y” equals 5. So “X” and “Y” are unknowns. At the beginning of this, there are going to be some “unknowns”. The challenge for you is going to be to try to not figure it out right away. Because we’re going to have to wait for it and we’re going to have to put it together. So if you don’t understand this right away, just wrap it up in a bundle of faith and put it on the shelf for the moment. Because we’re going to work on it and we’re going to find it out. So Gabriel was telling Daniel,

Daniel leaned back on stool for D9 blog post“…therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”  Verse 24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.”

Now if you don’t watch out, you’re going to go, “Seventy weeks? Let’s see; 52 weeks in a year…” So you do your math and you get “a year and a half…that doesn’t make sense!”  And you’d be right.English week Hebrew shabua flattened But here’s the first thing you need to know. The English word week in the Hebrew is “shabua”.

That’s the Hebrew word for week. And in Hebrew that didn’t always mean 7 days. We have the word in English “a dozen”. It could be a dozen eggs, a dozen houses; it means 12. I’ll give you another example of this word shabua in the Bible. The most important verse in this chapter for people in our times is Daniel 9:27.

Genesis 2927 and Daniel 927 flattenedOur next class is mainly based around that verse. But an interesting cross reference is Genesis 29:27. Daniel 9:27 connecting with Genesis 29:27, interesting coincidence. It’s talking about Jacob, nearly 1500 years before Daniel. Jacob had to work 7 years for one wife, then 7 for the other wife; then 7 more years for the other things. Genesis 29:27 says, “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you shall serve with me still another seven years.”

70 Sevens of Years flattenedThat’s another place in the Bible where the Hebrew word “shabau”, “a week”, is used as 7 years. So when it says “70 weeks”, it’s not talking about a year and a half. It’s talking about 70 sevens of years. If you do your math, you go 70 times 7 equals 490. Gabriel is telling Daniel that “70 weeks”, 490 years, are determined  “To make an end of sins”, “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)

Do we have an end of sins right now in our world? No. Do we have everlasting righteousness right now in our world? No. Maybe in our hearts, we have the kingdom of God within us. But in this world we do not have an end of sins and we do not have everlasting righteousness. So already, from what we can tell so far, this 490 year period has not come to its conclusion, even up to our modern times.

But, we were reading about Daniel praying desperately because that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah was just about due to be fulfilled. It was just about time for the Jews to be allowed to begin to return to the land they’d been driven from so many years before. But then, the angel Gabriel here seems to start talking about something different. Nothing about that prophecy but about a 490 year period  “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” (Daniel 9:24)

return1final for D9 blog postWhat about that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah, did it get fulfilled? Yes it did. Two years after this prophecy of Daniel 9, King Cyrus of Persia signed a proclamation allowing the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. And they began to do that in fulfillment of the 70 years prophecy which had been given to Jeremiah.

But it seems God had something else on His mind. Gabriel’s message here to Daniel was about something far, far greater and more important. Gabriel’s message was at the heart of God’s overall plan for all nations, the salvation of all peoples and the bringing in of God’s rule and reign on our very earth.

One thing about these verses, they’re so packed with significance that it’s difficult to make this into a somewhat brief class, especially for those studying this for the first time. There’s much here that could be explored and looked into which I’ll need to pass over for now in order to focus on the most important elements of this message from Gabriel to Daniel.

490 years for D9 blog postSo Gabriel first gave the big picture “Seventy weeks are determined… to make an end of sins to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)  We’re told of “seventy weeks”, a period of 490 years. But then in the next verses, he begins to break those seventy 7’s of years into smaller periods. Verse 25 says

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.”

The angel Gabriel is talking to Daniel somewhere in Persia, around 539 BC. At this time none of the Jews had even gone back to their homeland yet; they were all still captives. But as I was saying earlier, two years later, they were allowed to begin to return to Jerusalem. But that’s not what this “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”  (Daniel 9:25) is talking about.

return2final-fixed-for D9 blog postThe Jews who returned to Jerusalem back then went back to a city that was ruins. They were allowed to go back but they couldn’t really rebuild. Because in those days, to fortify a city, you had to get permission to do that. Because if you have built up a city, you can begin to defend yourself, you could be independent from the Persians.

reworked Throne Room 1 for D9 blog postSo it was actually nearly 100 years after this time,  when Nehemiah poured out his heart to king Artaxerxes of Persia about the sad condition of the Jews who’d returned to Jerusalem, that this commandment to restore and build Jerusalem took place, around 444 BC. That’s what Nehemiah 2:5 records when Nehemiah said,

And I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I pray that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, so that I may build it.”

the commandment to rebuild for D9 blog postThe next verses in Nehemiah are about where Artaxerxes gave a decree to Nehemiah to go back and build. And that’s when the commandment went forth to restore and to build Jerusalem.

So let’s look at verse 25 again in that light. “Know therefore and understand that, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince,…”

I didn’t believe in God until I was nearly 21 years old. And the first time I read this and saw that it’s speaking specifically about “Messiah the Prince”  in the Old Testament, I’ll tell you, I was really stunned. And I found that there are so many places, in the Old Testament, that specifically foretell a Messiah who would come. This is one of the most amazing ones right here.

new 483 years box for D9 blog post“From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks…”  (a week is seven years) 7 times 7 is 49 so 49 years  “and 62 weeks”. Seven weeks plus 62 weeks equals 69 weeks which would amount to 483 years between “the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince.”

It’s almost hard to believe that the angel Gabriel, over 500 years before the birth of Jesus, gave an exceedingly specific prophecy to the prophet Daniel about a 483 year length of time before the arrival of “Messiah, the Prince.” But, you probably wonder, “Was it really exactly that length of time, 483 years?

Let’s look at that. First, it’s beyond the scope of this video to present to you the many historical details of all this. There have been some amazing studies to find the exact year of “the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem”.The Coming Prince photo

A book that has helped me in the study of all this was published in 1894,  “The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson. Through much study, Robert Anderson found that the king that Nehemiah served, Artaxerxes, gave the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem in 444 BC.

476 years flattenedAnd since Jesus’ years of ministry looks to be between 30 and 33 AD, this would at first glance not fit, since the amount of time from 444 BC to 33 AD equals 476 years, not 483.

But here’s a factor that changes that. Throughout the Bible and in ancient societies, a year was calculated as 360 days, not 365¼ as we know now. Here’s something Sir Isaac Newton, who was an ardent student of the prophecies of Daniel, wrote about this fact

“All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn. In making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year. From this comes the division of the path of the sun’s annual rotation into 360 degrees.”    

Here’s a chart to show this.

69 weeks main chart -11-flattenedThe angel Gabriel said there would be “7 weeks” and “62 weeks”, 69 weeks or 483 years between “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince”. Historically between 444 BC and 33 AD there are 476 years. (Just to note: we go from 1 BC to 1 AD since there’s no year “0”.)

173880 days-flattenedSo it seems to not quite fit. But let’s do the math. The 483 Jewish years of this prophecy, each having the 360 day year of ancient times, would amount to 173,880 days.

173859 days-flattenedHistory says that 476 of our modern years past between these two periods. 476 years multiplied by 365¼ equals 173,859 days. So 483 years in the ancient world would equal the 476 years that modern history computes between these two key points in this prophecy.

Revelation 11 3D-d for D9 blog postThis same thing can be seen in the book of Revelation. Talking about a future period in the endtime of 3½ years, the length of time is called “42 monthsin chapters 11 and 13. But in several other places in Revelation, the same period is called “a thousand, two hundred and sixty days”.

A period of 42 months, mentioned twice between Revelation 11 and 13 and a similar period of 1260 days, also mentioned twice in those chapters. 42 months divided by 12 months equals 3½ years. And 1260 days, divided by a 360 day year equals 3½ years. These references in Revelation are talking about the same length of time reckoned with years being 360 days.

Let’s look at this all again from a larger view.second main chart for 69 weeks -13-flattenedFirst we are told of “70 weeks”, 490 years, “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Then within the 70 weeks, a period of 69 weeks, 483 years, from the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince. The 69 weeks are then broken down into periods of 49 years and 434 years. And it says, “the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.” And the beginning of verse 26 says,And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…”

History shows that it took the Jews 49 years to complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In fact, around the time of that completion, about 400 BC, was when the last Jewish prophet, Malachi, received God’s Word for the people. After that, for the next 400 years, there were no more prophets.  For believers back then, this part of the prophecy may have been a real beacon and light to their future. It could almost have been like a road sign, during a long desert crossing, that from the completion of the building of Jerusalem, there would be “62 weeks”, 434 years before the Messiah.

You can read the historical and prophetic books in the Bible from the time after the Jews had come back to Jerusalem and you never hear them saying that they were expecting the Messiah at any moment. But then, in New Testament times, there are repeated references to people who were expecting to see the Messiah in their lifetimes. Perhaps these verses from Daniel chapter 9 were talked about during that time. The Living Bible, says this in Luke chapter 3 verse 15  Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and eager to know whether or not John [the Baptist] was He. This was the question of the hour and was being discussed everywhere.

Wisemen2-fixedMany of us have heard about “the 3 kings of the east”, also called “the 3 wise men” who saw His star in the east at the time of Jesus’ birth and came to worship Him. These wise men, “the magi” or magicians of the east may have known of this prophecy in Daniel 9. We read in Daniel 2 that after Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar his dream, “Then the king promoted Daniel, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men [the magicians] of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) So it’s quite possible the 3 wise men from the east knew the time had come for the birth of the Messiah from this prophecy of the ancient chief of the wise men of Babylon, Daniel himself. They didn’t ask when the king of the Jews was to be born, just where.

Jesus on Cross for D9 blog postBut it even says, And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off,  but not for himself…”  (Daniel 9:26)  We can look back at this and truly be at a loss for words. The prophecy says  “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself“. The Messiah would be killed, but not for Himself.  And for those of you who know the message of Christianity, you know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus of Nazareth willingly went to his crucifixion. He was cut off, not for Himself or his sins (He didn’t have any) but to give His life as an offering and a ransom for many. You may not believe that. Certainly I didn’t at all. But then, what can we do with this prophecy? We can doubt it, we can dismiss it, we can wish it wasn’t there. But it is. Not in the Christian writings of the New Testament but in the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament.

But there’s still another equally amazing part to verse 26. Let’s read the full verse and focus on the last part, “And after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself, and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood. And unto the end of the war desolations shall be determined.”

Most of you watching this are not Jewish and this may not stand out to you. But for a Jewish person, especially one from those times back then, this would shock them very much. What they would notice is that Gabriel says here, that, after the Messiah shall be cut off, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…” (Daniel 9:26)

At the time Gabriel gave this message in, 539 BC, Daniel and his people were in prayer and expectation that they’d be allowed to return to Jerusalem and hopefully to rebuild the city and even the Temple. But Gabriel is telling them that, at a future date, Jerusalem would be destroyed again. And the future Temple.  “The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…”(Daniel 9:26)

Jerusalem-fixedDid this actually occur in history? Yes it did. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem in 33 AD. In 70 AD, the Roman legions of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. Israel was effectively ended; over 1 million were killed and the Jews were scattered among all nations for nearly 1900 years. But when does the angel Gabriel say that this will happen? “After Messiah shall be cut off. (Daniel 9:26)

So, God has a foreknowledge of events in our world. God has a destiny foreordained for mankind and it’s going to be fulfilled. We individually have free choice and we’re responsible for our choices. But God has an overall design for mankind.

I’m going to go over this once more.

third chart tenFrom 444 BC till 33 AD, from “the Commandment to build JerusalemuntilMessiah shall be cut offshall be7 weeks” (49 prophetic years)  and62 weeks” (434 prophetic years) which make a total of 483 prophetic years. And it says, after the Messiah is cut off “the people of the prince who shall come [the Romans] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

We can look back and say, “Oh, yeah”. But who can do what we’ve just seen here? Nobody can do that, nobody. No religion, no philosopher, no scientist. Only the God of Abraham can so clearly and explicitly tell us the future. And He did it. It’s so powerful. It’s just unique. But you know what?

That’s only 69 weeks. The angel said, “70 Weeks

fourth main chart for 69 weeks 9-flattenedSeventy weeks are determined …to bring in everlasting righteousness.69 weeks were fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. So, there’s one “week” left. One last 7 year period is yet to be fulfilled in this prophecy in order to bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.

That’s what’s called “the 70th week” or “the Last 7 years” and that hasn’t happened yet. You could think, “Well, maybe 7 years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, that would be the other 7 years and that would be the fulfillment, wouldn’t it?” But then, is that when there was  an end of sins? A bringing in of everlasting righteousness.

One of the most famous things Jesus of Nazareth ever taught was when His disciples asked Him how they should pray. His answer to His disciples has come to be called, “the Lord’s prayer”. One of the first things taught in that prayer is that we should pray to God, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

We only have to look at history and our own times to know that isn’t how it has been or is now. We don’t have God’s Kingdom on earth right now. That last “week”, the last seven years of this prophecy is yet to come, yet to be fulfilled. That’s what the final verse in this chapter is about, verse 27

When He was asked by His disciples about His return to the earth, Jesus referred to things mentioned in Daniel 9:27 and other verses we’ve not yet read in Daniel. Our next class is going to be centered around Daniel 9:27 and those other verses. We’ll find that this verse is the crux, the keystone, fitting together so much of what we’ve read already in Daniel and what can be found in the book of Revelation. I’ve already started on the next video on this subject and I’m eagerly looking forward to sharing that with you soon, God bless you.

Daniel Chapter 9-a Video: “The 69 Weeks”

This is the first of two videos on Daniel chapter 9. It focuses on the parts of the “70 Weeks” prophecy, revealed by the angel Gabriel, which have already been fulfilled, focusing mainly on verses 24 to 26. An incredibly specific 483 year length of time was revealed to Daniel that would pass between “the commandment to restore Jerusalem” and Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25). Daniel leaned back on stool-updated-flattenedAdding to that, the angel Gabriel told Daniel that “after… Messiah shall be cut off”, the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple would again be destroyed again (Daniel 9:26). This all came to pass precisely as this prophecy said it would, in the centuries to come.

It’s always seemed to me that the two most significant, important prophetic chapters in the Old Testament are Isaiah 53 and Daniel chapter 9. Chapters 2, 7 and 8 in Daniel lay the groundwork for and lead up to the truth revealed in Daniel 9. The rest of the book of Daniel builds upon the foundation made plain in chapter 9.

It would almost be difficult to overstate the importance of this chapter. Jesus of Nazareth, when asked by His disciples when He would return said, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the Holy place, whoever reads it, let him understand.” (Matthew 24:15) It’s in Daniel 9 and later chapters in Daniel that this reference to the mysterious “abomination of desolation” is found.

But this is not an easy chapter to understand. I’ve tried, therefore, to make this as simple as I could in order to reach people who’ve never before read or understood this chapter.

As I mention in the video, this chapter is another one in Daniel which is personal to me. Reading and understanding the remarkable truths in this chapter had a profound impact on my life, my view of reality and the world we live in. I hope this video will be a blessing to you and that you’ll be able to see and grasp the astounding truth that’s revealed in Daniel chapter 9.

Acts Chapter 11 live class audio

What will they say-flattenedAs I’ve mentioned before, it’s seemed to me from time to time that some rather humorous situations happen in the Bible. I’m not sure there was much laughter during the events of Acts 11. But perhaps if a movie was made of Acts 10 and 11, then things happening in both chapters at some points could really bring a smile. [The next class in our series on Acts was on this chapter and you can hear an edited version of that class here.]

It’s not a chapter full of doctrinal disputes… well, I take that back. That’s exactly what the first half of Acts 11 is about. In Acts 10, Peter had had the mind-blowing experience of witnessing to the Gentile group that the centurion Cornelius had gathered at his house to hear Peter. It was “bad enough” that the Lord had led him there in the first place. But “to make matters worse”, the whole group of Gentiles was filled with the Holy Ghost! And the brethren “heard them speak in tongues and glorify God” (Acts 10:46). Uh-oh. Now Peter had to go back and “face the music” so to speak. And it really seems like he knew what was coming.

Peter you ate

Acts chapter 11, verse 3

When Peter got back to Jerusalem, “they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men  and did eat with them!'” (Acts 11:3). Some people in my classes have asked me if this was the Pharisees contending with Peter about this. No, folks, this was the Christian body of Christ in Jerusalem at that time. And it just shows how deeply entrenched old mindsets and “old wine” can stay with us.

But Peter had seen this coming. He’d “rehearsed the mater from the beginning” (Acts 11:4) which means he’d thought it over in advance how he was going to explain this “big mistake” to all the brethren who were still thinking that they were still obligated to keep all the Mosaic Law and traditions that they had before the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Who was I-flattened

Peter back in Jerusalem

The whole first half of the chapter is Peter just giving a personal testimony of what happened. Basically he was saying, “You can’t blame me, guys; I was just obeying God!” He ended it by saying, “Who was I to try to stop God?” (Acts 11:17)

God is pretty smart, isn’t He. He knew He had to do something like this through Peter as he was the head disciple. So the reaction of the disciples when they heard Peter’s testimony? “They held their peace.” (Acts 11:18) Ha! It sounds like many of them would have liked to say something but, under the circumstances, “They held their peace.”

There’s just so much here that’s going on, the almost struggle of God to bring His people further into the fuller understanding of His Will and His grace. And a parallel struggle of the weakness of human nature and frailties, to hold on to legalism, “old wine”, the past and traditions of the past. Thank God for the brave pioneers of history who’ve dared to obey God, usually against the onslaughts of, not intentionally evil people, but often “religious” people who just can’t accept that God is moving a new direction and calling for a change from how things have always been.

Weve always-flattenedWe went over a lot of this in the class we had and pondered the implications of it all for our own times, how we instinctively resist change and are highly suspicious of anything that might be a new move of the Lord or a better way to do His will that He is leading us toward.

The second half of the chapter is about the continuing move to more missionary work as Barnabus, who we first heard of in Acts 4, headed up to Antioch where he went to search for Saul (Paul) who was not far away in his hometown of Tarsus. It was their teaming up in the chapters ahead of us that produced Paul’s first missionary journeys in chapters 13 and 14.

One other seemingly insignificant thing in this chapter, it says “And in these days prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch” (Acts 11:27).  The early church had prophets? It says so there. Does your church have prophets? That’s ok; hardly any churches have prophets anymore unless they are of the Charismatic persuasion. I could go off on a very big discussion about that but won’t do it here and now.

But it’s a little like a movie where some character is introduced who, as it turns out later, is very important. So a specific prophet is named, Agabus, who prophesied that there would come a famine in their times. And the Bible says this happened. So the brethren in Antioch took up a collection to send to the brethren still in Jerusalem. We’ll hear more about Agabus.

I hope you’re studying along with us as we go through Acts and are listening to the classes on line. The edited version of the Acts 11 class that we had can be heard here.

I love to read history because there’s often so much to learn about people and about life. Certainly this is true of the book of Acts, where we can read about the founding of our faith and its progressive advancement in the first years after the Lord’s resurrection. It’s thrilling, inspiring and feeding. I hope you are enjoying it too.

New Wine and Old Bottles

Cant put old wine-flattened-againA common phrase or term on the mission field was “old bottles and new bottles” and “old wine and new wine” (Luke 5:37-39). But it seems that most Christians I meet here are unfamiliar with these terms. They come directly from Jesus and really contain some amazing, important truths. The goal for each believer is to be a “new bottle” who can take the “new wine”. I’ll bet you’ve never heard that taught in church. But it’s in three of the four Gospels.

Jesus was responding to a jibe from the Pharisees. They said to Jesus “Why do John the Baptist’s disciples often fast but yours don’t?” (Luke 5:33) This was another of their less-than-veiled criticism. But the Lord answered them “Can the children of the bride chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days come when the bridegroom shall be taken away. Then shall they fast in those days.” (Luke 5:34 & 35) While Jesus was with them, His disciples didn’t need to fast because the Lord was right there. But Jesus was saying that when He was gone to be with the Father, His disciples would fast in those days.

Then He went on to say a very interesting, deep analogy or parable which might have been a lot easier for them to understand back then than it is for us now. He said, “No man puts new wine into old bottles or the new wine will break the bottles and be spilled and the bottles will perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles and both are preserved.” (Luke 5:37-39) What in the world is that talking about? I can tell you, it’s pretty important and I’ll bet your church is not telling you about it.

Kahlenberg grape fields; Vienna, Austria

Kahlenberg grape fields; Vienna, Austria

I lived in Vienna, Austria for 6 years as a missionary to eastern Europe when it was still under Communism. And wine making in Vienna is like beer in Germany: it’s just happening everywhere and it’s part of life. Here’s something I learned. Wine, when it’s first put into kegs, expands. And some of the wine with the most “kick” to it is wine that’s only around 3 months old. But the word used there is “bottles” so that throws us modern people. When we hear “bottles”, we think of glass. But the actually meaning of “bottles” is wine skins, the leather vessels into which wine was put in the times of Jesus.

An old wine skin. An “old bottle”.

An old wine skin. An “old bottle”.

Here’s what happens. When they press the grapes and put the results into wine skins, as the weeks go by the wine begins to expand inside the wineskins. If the “bottle”, the wine skin is relatively new, then the leather is still supple and it can expand with the wine and not break. But if the “bottle” (the wine skin) is “old”, then the leather is dry and cracks easily. Then the “new wine” will break the “old bottles”. So Jesus taught that new wine must be put into new bottles and both will be preserved. If you still don’t get it, no problem. Very many people don’t.

no new wine please-flattenedWhat Jesus taught was “new wine”. He didn’t spend much time going back to the traditions and shibboleths of the Pharisees and traditionalist. He taught the pure and true Word of God, which even included some “new” things, like when He healed on the Sabbath or forgave men their sins or His many parables. His disciples were, for the most part “new bottles”. They were strong believers but they weren’t polluted by the “old wine” that had so perverted the religious teachings of those days.

Then new wine-flattenedBut the Pharisees and most of the religious leaders were “old bottles” and Jesus’ “new wine” almost continually “broke their bottles”. He didn’t show respect to the many traditions of the day, He fellowshipped with publicans, sinners and harlots, His whole manner and way was completely different from the religious leaders of the time. “But the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Because many of them were dissatisfied with the “old wine” that was coming from the oppressive, rigid religious establishment back then.

breaking my bottle-flattened

Peter, Acts chapter 10

But none of this could still happen today, could it? There couldn’t be anything like “new wine” today, could there? God stopped speaking over 2000 years ago, didn’t He? Could there be any “old bottles” today?  Jesus told His disciples, on the night before He was arrested and crucified, “I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12 & 13)

What will they say-flattened

Peter, Acts chapter 10

More truth after Jesus? “No way!” you say. Then check out Acts chapter 10. The truth revealed to the Apostle Peter was so radical and so very nearly “broke his bottle” that he just barely was able to take it. But he did and he went on to obey what God showed him. That’s why Christianity has included non-Jews for the last 2000 years. The truth revealed in Acts 10 was so radical and potent that it very nearly broke the bottles of even the early Christians at that time. In Acts 11, the whole chapter is about Peter trying to explain it all to the brethren back in Jerusalem. The thing about the Gentiles being filled with the Holy Ghost, like what had happened in Acts 10, seriously broke their bottles.

God said one time, “My ways are not your ways and My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isiah 58:10 & 11). Often, if God really shows you something personally, it can sometimes at least be pretty much “new wine” and even hard to take. But if you’re a new bottle, you can take the new wine and you receive and obey what the Lord has given, like Peter did. Then, like a real wine skin, you’ll keep expanding and contracting and you’ll stay supple and fresh as you continue to receive and pour out, expand and contract.

But more often what happens is that folks become “old bottles”. They stop receiving and they don’t pour out; they just keep their wine which gets old and they become like old, brittle leather wine skins. Jesus even said, “No man, having drunk old wine, immediately desires the new, for he says, ‘the old is better’’” (Luke 5:39). If anyone tries to put new wine into them, it just “breaks their bottle”. Have you ever tried to put new wine into old bottles? Often they say “the old is better”, just like Jesus said would happen 2000 years ago.

thats radical-flattenedBut if you can take the new wine, God can continue to lead and guide you with really fresh new inspirations and leadings straight from Him. It can be tough at times because new wine is often pretty strong. But it’s worth it. I hope you’re a new bottle and can take the new wine. It’s the only way to go with Him and His will, the progress and path up the mountain of His will that He wants each of us to take.

Therefore every scribe who is instructed unto the Kingdom of God is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both old and new.” (Matthew 13:52)