The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Is it of God?

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;

because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1


How do we determine if something is of God or not? This is an important question because we are in a spiritual war in which our adversary the devil is a master liar, deceiver and destroyer. The apostle John was inspired to warn his readers to “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). He wrote this in love.


The Last Days will be characterized by “deceiving spirits,” “doctrines of demons,” and lies spoken by psychopathic hypocrites (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Satan’s aim is to murder you spiritually and physically (John 8:44). His main tactic is appearing as something good and luring people into evil. Therefore, if we ignore or take this question lightly we risk being victimized by the enemy or worse, being manipulated into a position where we give the enemies of the Lord reason to blaspheme God (2 Samuel 12:14). Because of this God has given us clear precautions in His word to help us discern what is of Him and what is not of Him.


There are many scriptures in the Bible which help us discern whether or not something is of the Lord. Below we list these scriptures with questions we ought to be asking when we are seeking to discern whether or not something is of the Lord.


Is it scriptural? Just because someone uses scriptures does not mean they are of the Lord? Satan used scriptures (out of context) against Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Cults use scriptures, as do false teachers. How can we know if scripture is being used in the right way?


We need to see if the interpretation is correct based on the context, or the way it was used in the letter or book in which it is found. Usually you can determine this by reading before and after the scripture to see the proper interpretation of the verses. You may have to read the entire letter or book in which the verses are found. You should also ask whether or not the interpretation in question contradicts other parts of the Bible. God’s word does not contradict itself. We need to determine God’s truth based on the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).


Does it bring me closer to God? You should ask if this use of scripture or thing in question is drawing you closer to or pushing you further away from God. The Bible tells us to draw near to God and move away from the devil (James 4:7-8). This is a question that can be tricky because our hearts are deceitful and we can’t know them on our own (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We need to ask God to search our hearts and see the truth in us (Psalm 139:23-24). And the way we do this is to bring our hearts and thoughts prayerfully to the altar of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12).


There is an interesting scripture in this regard and it states,   “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).


Notice it is not the sign or wonder or impressiveness of something that determines whether or not it is of God. It is whether or not something draws us closer to God and moves us to love Him more and more that determines whether or not something is of God. Jesus said eternal life is to know the One true God and Him (John 17:3). That in a nutshell is the prime reason Jesus came to be with us (John 17:4). We should be asking, “Is what I’m doing bringing me closer to the Lord? Is it making me more spiritually sensitive to His voice? Is it helping me to know Him better? Can I see Jesus involved with what I’m doing?”


Is it causing me to worship the Lord? God is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Those who are trying to determine if the music they listen to is of God should be asking themselves, “Is this causing me to love God more? Is it causing me to worship the Lord in spirit and truth?”(John 4:23-24). Does the music put me in awe of the Lord and cause me to fall at His feet in worship?


Does it bring pleasure to God? Contrary to the popular philosophy of the day, we do not exist for our own pleasure. Humanity was created for the Lord and His pleasure! (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11 KJV). Christians have been purchased by God and redeemed from their sin by the precious blood of Jesus on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Christians should especially be asking questions like, “Is what I’m doing pleasing to God? Is it selfish? Does it risk displeasing God in some way?”


Is it really worth it? Is what I’m doing really worth the time? If I’m being tempted to do something that is questionable, is it worth risking my walk with the Lord in any way? Nothing is worth risking a single drop of closeness to the Lord.  Greg Laurie once shared some questions we could ask to help us make good sound spiritual decisions. When you come to something that is questionable or really in any situation you should ask yourself five evaluative questions. First, “Will it build me up spiritually?” We have great freedom in Christ, but we should use our freedom judiciously and wisely to assure what we do is edifying. It’s very easy to get entangled in things that will fuel the flesh rather than support the spirit (1 Corinthians 10:23; Galatians 5:13; Hebrews 12:1-2).


Second, we should ask, “Will it bring me under its power?” We have to guard against indulging things that will bring us into slavery. Jesus said he who sins is a slave to sin and that the truth of His word can free us (John 8:31-36). Again, are the things you do lead to sins’ dominion in your life? It should not be so! (1 Corinthians 6:12; Romans 6:14).


Third, “Do I have an uneasy feeling about it?” Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). We have an anointing from the Spirit to help us in discerning truth from falsehood (1 John 2:27). If you have an uneasy feeling about something or someone, it just may be the Spirit warning you.


Fourth, “Will it cause someone else to stumble?” We should always hold a person’s spiritual welfare as a top priority. We should be others oriented. We should restrict our own freedoms for the eternal welfare of others. This is what love is all about (Romans 14:15; 15:1).


Fifth and lastly, “Will it bring glory to God?” This is the bottom line and most important question to ask. Can you say that what you intend to do brings glory to the Lord? Would you be embarrassed to bring Him with you where you are thinking of going? Would you be embarrassed and ashamed if He were to return and find you doing what you are doing? (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17,23).

Satan is a brilliant enemy who is the master of deception. He disguises himself as something good when he is really the worst of the worst. Those he uses practice the same deception (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan does not usually try to sidetrack or victimize people with what is blatantly bad. No. His tactic is to rob people of God’s best by tempting them with what is second best. Unfortunately too many Christians have passed up God’s best because they were impatient and settled for something good, but not God’s best. The choice is not necessarily between good and bad as much as it is between God’s best and an alternative.  That tactic is as old as the Garden of Eden, but it is no less effective today (Genesis 3).  So beware, pray to the Lord and ask Him for help to discern. Go to God’s word and let His peace be your guide (Colossians 3:15-16). But above all, care whether or not something is or is not of God.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Watch Israel!
“And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’” - Isaiah 49:3

The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is a prophetic message that is directed at Israel in particular and the Church in a secondary fashion. In the discourse Jesus mentions the Abomination of Desolation and the budding of the fig tree, both of which are particularly linked symbolically to Israel. Don’t miss the point Jesus is making here. The important thing he is stating here is that the nation of Israel is an integral part of God’s prophetic plan and therefore a barometer of where we are on the prophetic calendar. Israel is an important sign for us to examine for a number of reasons.

First, the nation of Israel is God’s tool to make Himself known to the world. In the book of Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 43:10a – “"You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, . . .” (See also Isaiah 43:12; 44:8)

God has chosen to use the nation of Israel to prove His existence and reveal Himself to the world. One way He has done this is through the preservation of Israel and especially the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948.

Second, the nation of Israel is Gods’ tool to glorify Himself to the world. We see this in the following verses:

  • Isaiah 46:13 – “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.”
  • Isaiah 49:3 - “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’”

In describing the events of one End Times battle, the LORD explains how He will use Isreal when through the prophet Ezekiel He states:

  • Ezekiel 38:23 - “Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” ’

Third, the nation of Israel is God’s tool to reveal Himself via prophecy. One of the proofs of God’s existence is prophecy. In Isaiah it states:

  • Isaiah 46:9-10 – “ Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”

God proves he is real and true by speaking prophetically through prophets. God has used the nation of Israel in particular to reveal Himself prophetically. The following are a few examples of God’s prophecy regarding Israel:

  1. God promised a Land to Israel through their patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:15; 15:7; 26:3-5; 28:13; Leviticus 25:46; Joshua 14:9).
  2. God brought Israel as a “chosen people” into this Land (Exodus 6:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).
  3. God warned Israel if they practiced idolatry and immorality He would evict them from the Land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 28:63; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 7:19-20). They persisted in sinning in this way against God and His patient grace and He did indeed allow them to be overcome by their enemies and evicted from the Land.
  4. God declared Israel would be scattered throughout the earth and they were as a result of their sinfulness (Deuteronomy 28:64; 1 Kings 9:7; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 9:13-16; 44:2-17; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 7:14).
  5. God warned that when Israel was scattered that they would come to be a curse and byword because of their sinfulness in forsaking God (Deuteronomy 28:37; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 29:18; 44:8). This has come to pass throughout history as Jews are persistently maligned and the subject of slurs, jokes and hated and persecuted perpetually.
  6. Despite their being targeted by merciless persecution, God promised that His chosen people would not be utterly destroyed and would continue as an identifiable ethnic and national group (Jeremiah 30:11; 31:35-37). History has proven this to be true.
  7. God promised to bring Israel back to the Promised Land in the Last Days and He did this on May 14th, 1948 when Israel was reestablished as a nation  (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 30:10; 31:8-12; Ezekiel 36:8-10, 22, 24, 33-38).
  8. God promised that in the Last Days, Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel, would become a “cup of trembling” (KJV) and a burden to the people’s of the world (Zechariah 12:2-3, 6-8). Jerusalem and Israel a nation the size of Rhode Island, are the center of the International controversy and tension proving God’s word of prophecy to be true. [i]

On January 15th France is hosting a conference to discuss the two state “solution” to the problem of Palestinian statehood. The likelihood is that any arrangement will be based on the pre-1967 war borders and that any decision will be aimed at unilaterally pressuring Israel to comply to this decision by surrounding her and isolating her in the court of world public opinion. All this while Islamic Palestinian sourced terror attacks continue.

Don’t think God will stand by as the world tries to carve up His Land. There are battles in the near future. I would encourage you to examine such portions of scripture as Psalm 83, Isaiah 17, Ezekiel 38 and 39. But more importantly, I would encourage you to watch and pray and look up! For our redemption is drawing nigh!


[i] A good book on the role of Israel in prophecy is A Cup of Trembling by Dave Hunt, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1995.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hands off God’s Land!

“The land is Mine” Leviticus 25:23
President Barack Obama has repeatedly voiced his support for limiting Israel to the pre-1967 war borders. He has repeatedly declared his opinion that Jerusalem is up for “negotiations.”  He most recently supported the UN Resolution 2234 to criminalize what he and others see as a Jewish “occupation” of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In instructing our UN ambassador to not veto this resolution he has broken with decades of support of our nation to Israel. And on top of all of this there is a scheduled European meeting set for January 15th wherein it may be declared that Palestine is a State and a “two-state solution” is to be enforced. All of this does not bode well for the nation of Israel. But to Israel, those who support Israel and those who have a love for the Jewish people I encourage you not to worry. History has demonstrated how the God of Israel has a way of protecting His people and His Land.  

But those of us outside Israel need to consider something. If God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel (Genesis 12), where does that leave this President? Where does that leave the US of A who elected this president and whom this president represents? Yes he is on the way out, but there is still time to do a lot of damage. Yes we elected Mr. Trump to be the next president and he has unequivocally expressed his support of Israel and a desire to rightfully put the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, the rightful capital of Israel. But as it stands right now, President Obama has steered out country further and further away from supporting our democratic “ally” Israel. We are moving closer to cursing than blessing. And that is not good. Maybe we should run for cover.

There were some things that President Obama has said and done that are supportive of Israel. He has affirmed this nation’s military support of Israel and has followed through on that with arms deals. But any good mentioned by President Obama is overshadowed by the presumptuous declaration about land swapping and Holy City swapping to form a Palestinian state. This is the height of folly. It is based on an ignorance of the true borders of the land. It is based on an atheistic world philosophy and historical perspective.   

The Promised Land according to scripture stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18; Num. 34:1-15). Go to a map and check out those borders. Rather than decreasing Israel’s borders we should be talking about increasing them.  With all the commotion over the very existence of Israel can you imagine what would happen if a discussion was brought up about giving Israel that body of land that truly belongs to her? Can you imagine the reaction if President Trump follows through on his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? I can hear the war drums already! The thought of the international problems that would arise from giving Israel her Land tempts people to ignore God’s originally promised boundaries of land. When politicians for political expediency talk about forcing Israel to give up land, (even land for peace; indeed, especially land for peace), they are making a huge mistake. Let me tell you why?

First of all, the Land doesn’t belong to Israel. What? Wait a minute, I thought you were pro Israel and this was a pro Israel article. I am supportive of Israel. Hear me out. The Land doesn’t belong to Israel. It doesn’t belong to any other nation either. All land belongs to God! In His Word God says, “The land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). And God loves His land. God is agrarian at heart. Scripture tells us He cares for the land and, “the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it” (Deut. 11:12). It all belongs to the Lord! “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1).

Israel was given the Land by God but there were limitations on what they could do with the Land. They were never allowed to permanently sell the Land. Israel was to oversee the Land, live in the Land, cultivate and defend the Land, but they were still to have a sojourners attitude (Lev. 25:23). God gave them a Land, and it’s a blessed Land, but His greater purpose was that they and we look forward to an Eternal Land (Heb. 11:13-16).

Second, the Owner is able to give the land to whoever He wants to. God did not give the Land to the Palestinians (who in truth have no historical basis) or any other Middle Eastern group ancient or contemporary. He did not give the Land to the Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians or the descendents of Ishmael (Gen. 17:18-19; Heb. 11:18). He didn’t give the Land to the United States, the Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Germans, or any other Gentile nation or group. God has given the plot of Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to the descendents of Abraham (Gen. 12:7, 15:18). He gave the Land to Isaac and his descendents not to Ishmael and his descendents (Gen. 25:5-6; 26:3). He gave the Land to Jacob and his descendents not to Esau and his descendents (Gen. 25:23; 28:13-15; 35:11-12; Rom. 9:10-13). And when God gave this Land to Abraham and his descendents he gave it to them “forever” (Gen. 13:15). Did you read that? FOREVER. That is God’s prerogative alone.

Third, God gave the land to Israel regardless of their obedience or cooperation. He gave the Land to Abraham and his descendents, to Israel, as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 14:7-8). God is omniscient. He knows all things all the time. The eventual and repeated sinfulness of Abraham’s descendents did not surprise God. In His foreknowledge God knew very well what the history of Israel would entail (Lev. 26:40-45; Deut. 30:3-5; Jer. 31:10; Amos 9:14-15). He knew this and He still committed the Land to Israel forever. This is because the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents which gave them the land depended and depends on God’s faithfulness, not Israel’s. Read what it says in Psalm 89 in this regard: “If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, 31  If they break My statutes And do not keep My commandments, 32  Then I will punish their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. 35 Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: 36  His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; 37  It shall be established forever like the moon,  Even like the faithful witness in the sky.” Selah (Psalm 89:30-37).

Sin has a consequence and God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12). Israel was removed from the Land for 70 years as a consequence of their sin (Jer. 25). But God also restored the people to the Land He had given them. Again in 70 AD the people were removed from the Land. But again on May 14th, 1948 God restored them miraculously to the Land. And in 1967 He even gave them Jerusalem! In light of such miracles how can anyone dare to blaspheme God by bartering His Land or His holy City?   Atrocious!

The point here is that the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendents giving them a certain Land is based on and is a testament to God’s faithfulness and character. That Israel is back in the Land God gave them should be a rich encouragement to us all because it testifies to the faithfulness and true character of God. It is a testimony to God’s love for the small and the oppressed (Deut. 7:7-9). Because God’s giving of the Land to Israel depends on His faithfulness, it is as certain as the order of the universe (Jer. 31:35-37).

Fourth, God has gone out of His way to make sure that Abraham’s descendents are in the land He ordained for them. In Genesis 46 there is an account of a severe famine. Jacob takes his entire family and brings them to Egypt. As he is contemplating this decision God speaks to him and tells him not to fear assuring him that, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again . . .” (Gen. 46:4). Later while in Egypt Jacob shares the words he received from God with his son Joseph saying God told him, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendents after you as an everlasting possession” (Gen. 48:4). God multiplied Israel and God brought them back into the Promised Land (Joshua 3).

When Abraham’s descendents came under the oppression of Pharaoh Scripture records God heard their groans. He then delivered them from that oppression and set them on a journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 2:24; 3:8, 15-17; 6:4). The hope of oppressed Israel was God’s promise to bring them into the Land He had set aside for them, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 13:11). Once delivered and on their way Moses even wrote a song for the people to sing which said in part, “You will bring them in and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. ‘The Lord shall reign forever and ever.’” (Exodus 15:17-18). There’s something special about that Land. It is a place where God has his eye and a place where he makes His presence known. Anyone who has been there can testify to that. And God has given that Land to Israel to oversee (Deut. 1:8). 

Lastly, the only way Israel will ever find peace in all the Land God has ordained for them is through Messiah Jesus. God put Israel in the Land and told them to rid it of the wicked (Deut. 9:3-5). That has never completely or enduringly happened. Israel has always been plagued by various pagan peoples. It isn’t any different today. It’s only going to get worse.

A day is coming when the entire world will come against Israel. We see this happening right before our eyes! That day is soon approaching, (if not already here given President Obama’s actions.) Things will go from bad to worse and become apparently hopeless for Israel. But when all seems lost, Jesus, Yeshua, will break through the clouds in glory and descend to the Mount of Olives and destroy the enemies of God who have gathered against Israel (Zech 14). Jesus, Yeshua, is the only true and eternal hope for Israel. When Jesus returns to the earth, God promises to pour out His Spirit on Israel saying:

·         Zechariah 12:10 - “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

There is a great revival coming to Israel and her people. It’s at this time that all the pieces of the prophetic puzzle will fall into place for Israel. It’s at this time that the most hardened resister to Yeshua Jesus as Messiah will grieve over their hardheartedness, repent, and turn to Jesus as Savior. Paul spoke prophetically of this time proclaiming, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Oh what a day that will be! God will have demonstrated and revealed Himself in an incredibly holy unique way. And God will pour out His Spirit on Israel (Ezek. 39:25-29). When the Spirit is poured out He convicts people of their sin and saves their soul (John 16:8-11; John 3; Titus 3:5). It’s at this time that Jesus, God in the flesh, Messiah, YESHUA will dwell in Jerusalem amongst all His people and the Land. The Promised Land will be His dwelling place in an incredible way.

All land belongs to the Lord. He gives it to whomever He pleases. He has given the Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates to Israel. It would be best for those who casually barter a land they do not own to let the Owner apportion the Land as He sees fit.  It’s God’s land. He has given it to Israel. Hands off! Hands off Mr. President and anyone else who wants to divvy up the Land!