Paleo and Chronic Pain 

Isn’t it funny how our views of food can range from denial to idolatry? We can view food as an idol or we can view a diet, nutritional plan, or eating style as an idol. We make our bellies our gods in so many ways and, sometimes, it’s not necessarily by over indulging but by over emphasizing a way of eating. I’ve resisted all Paleo and elimination diets knowing my tendency to be whole hearted about all my efforts and fear of putting yet another thing before God, but here I go, starting a combination of both.
Tomorrow, I’m starting the Whole 30. I’ve struggled for several years with my health. Constant inflammation of the pleural lining around my lungs has made breathing so difficult and has caused me to draw into myself which in turn has caused poor posture which in turn has caused permanent knots all over my back which in turn has caused more pain and more drawing in and so on and so forth. I think you get the picture. I’m starting a course of treatment at a sports medicine clinic and the first thing prescribed was this diet change. I’ll also be getting physical therapy, massage therapy, training, etc., however, the thing that causes the most anxiety is this diet change. Isn’t that strange?

Reading and preparing to start this has brought many things into focus – I really do like my diet Dews and snacks. It concerns me that I’m afraid I can’t give those things up. Isn’t that crazy? Am I really so shallow as to put my desire of junk food and sodas above my health? Am I the only one who thinks several months without bread, grains, dairy, or sugar seems impossible? Should my focus not be on God and what He is calling me to do, taking good care of the things He has entrusted me with like my body and health, and trusting Him to help me?

So, tomorrow I start this new portion of my journey – looking to God for guidance and persistence – feeling very human and fallible. 

Micro Aggression and Victimhood

It seems that no matter what opinion we express, someone will become exceedingly fierce and take it as a personal attack.  The term micro aggression is becoming commonplace and is devaluing true aggressive behavior and speech.  When did we, as a society, lose our ability to value other thoughts, perceptions, viewpoints, and opinions?  When did we lose the ability and desire to value the refining of truth through the debate of other ideas and perceptions?  When did it become traumatizing for people to have opinions that differ from ours?

Micro aggression is a term created by a psychiatrist at Harvard University in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he witnessed non-black Americans inflict on Black Americans.  In 1973, an MIT economist, Mary Rowe, used the term to describe similar aggressions directed at women and other minorities.  (Yes, I’m a nerd and my minor was sociology. J)  It’s been used to help better understand the reality of many marginalized peoples such as those suffering from severe mental illness.  There is a legitimate time and place for this term; however, simply seeing a name of a political candidate or hearing a person espouse a different point of view is not one of those and dilutes the value of the term and devalues the claims of those who are true victims.

Victimhood culture has now been identified as a widening phenomenon by mainstream sociologists.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the obvious examples all around us.  We can laugh some off such as the argument that the design of a Starbucks cup is evidence of a secular war against Christmas.  Others, however, appear much more portentous.  On college campuses, activists are interpreting ordinary interactions as micro aggressions and have set up safe spaces to protect students from certain forms of speech.  And presidential candidates of both major parties are motivating supporters by declaring that they are under attack by immigrants or wealthy people.  Such a wide and diluted use of victimhood makes it so much more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts.  It feeds a mentality that rids us of a necessary give and take – the very concept of a good faith disagreement – turning every disagreement into a battle between good and evil.

There was a study in 2014 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which examined why opposing groups, such as Democrats and Republicans, found compromise so difficult.  The researchers concluded that there was a widespread political “motive attribution asymmetry,” in which both sides attributed their own group’s aggressive behavior to love, but the opposite sides’ to hatred.   Millions of Americans believe that their political side is basically benevolent while the other side is out to get them.

Victimhood makes for bad citizens of a society – people who are less helpful, more entitled, and more selfish.  In 2010, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published an article entitled “Victim Entitlement to Behave Selfishly.”   Four sociologists randomly assigned 104 people to  two different groups.  Members of one group were asked to write a short essay about a time when they were very bored.  The other group was asked to write about a time in their life that seemed unfair  – perhaps they were wronged or slighted by someone.  After writing the essays, each person was interviewed and asked if they wanted to help the sociologists in a simple task.  Those who wrote the essays about being wrong were 26% less likely to help the researchers and we rated by the researchers as feeling 13% more entitled.  In a separate experiment, the researchers found that members of the unfairness group were 11% more likely to express selfish attitudes – even to being more likely than the non-victims to leave trash behind and to steal the researchers’ pens.  Is this what we desire for our children and grandchildren?  Is this the character we wish to develop in our society?

I’m certainly not advocating for rejecting all claims that people are victims.  As a therapist with a lot of training and experience working with true victims, I can attest that there are people who are indeed victims and who have been traumatized.  We should extend all the empathy we can muster and demand justice.  We should also be careful to not water down our definition of what defines trauma and victimhood.  We should also be careful not to dilute the meaning of a term like micro aggression.  There is a line between advocating for true victims of aggressions and micro aggressions and promoting a culture of victimhood.  But how do we know where that line is?

I would suggest that first we look at free speech.  Victims and their advocates always rely on free speech to articulate unpopular truths.  They rely on free speech to assert their right to speak.  Victimhood culture, on the other hand, generally seeks to restrict free expression of speech in order to protect the sensibilities of its advocates.  Victimhood culture claims the right to say who is and who is not allowed to speak.

Then look at a movement’s leadership.  The fight for true victims is led by aspirational leaders who challenge us to cultivate higher values.  They insist that everyone is capable of earned success.  They speak of visions of human dignity.  But the organizations and people who move to positions of leadership in a victimhood culture are very different.  Some set themselves up as saviors; others focus on a common enemy.  In every case though, they treat people less as individuals and more as aggrieved masses.

In making everyone a victim, no one can truly be a victim.  In defining all things we find unpleasant as aggressive behavior, truly aggressive behavior can no longer be acknowledged.   In redefining and expanding the definition of a phrase designed to aid people who are marginalized, we can no longer speak of true marginalization.  Let’s agree to disagree.  Let’s agree to recognize that we have a right to our own opinions, views, and thoughts.  Let’s agree that the first amendment to our constitution affords us the right to free speech and also for our neighbors who hold a different point of view.  Let’s consider debate and articulate disagreements can refine truth and might help us grow as individuals.  Being a little less egocentric and a little less thin skinned would not hurt our society.  Who knows?  You might learn something.

Love and Language

When did it happen?  I realized this week, as I was reading different news articles, human interest stories, and basically surfing online, that words once considered rude and vulgar have now become a part of our everyday culture.  Wanting to appear sophisticated but reaching to the lowest common denominator, we have lost genuine respect and love for our society, our culture, and, worst of all, ourselves.  In lives spent watching YouTube videos, surfing the web, and playing video games, we’ve lost our feelings of purpose, authority, and power in our world and in our lives.  Our bored pseudo intellectualism drives us toward cultural vulgarity in the hopes that others may perceive us as superior and powerful.  Instead of aiming towards self actualization and authenticity, we wallow in self denigration and abuse.  And nothing is sacred, special, or set apart – no one feels special or genuinely loved.

I’m a counselor.  It’s not only what I do, it’s who I am – a part of my identity.  It’s hard to watch this decline and abuse of other people and to accept it for myself.  Many of the words used today have long been considered abusive, sexually harassing, discriminating, and verbally assaulting. People who claim to love us have a responsibility to help maintain an environment that protects and defends us and others around us.  If this environment is violated by negative attitudes and toxic language, the environment is no longer a safe place for living, learning, and beneficial development.   Certainly I’ve heard the arguments in favor of releasing tension, feelings of not having control in a situation, or somehow using expletives as a method of standing up for themselves or others, but each of those arguments all end up talking about how the person using the negative language must somehow be more important that the ones hearing these outbursts.  That way of thinking can be very self-preoccupied, self-absorbed, and narcissistic.  Temper tantrums, selfishness, and just plain inconsiderateness abounds; and I long for the days when it was unacceptable to be self absorbed instead of the days when we all strive to be the star in our own reality shows in which the entire world revolves around us and our desires as we demand love and respect but never truly feel it.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul tells us that the last days will be characterized by “terrible times.”  These times will be terrible because of the havoc brought about by the violent and wild rebellion of the ungodly – those who are set against God and His ways.  Paul describes people with a string of eighteen traits.  They are selfish, lovers of themselves, proud, socially destructive, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and their speech is slanderous.  The list goes on.  Many are even leading people astray with a form of godliness that is void of the gospel’s power and some of them prey on the vulnerable.  No wonder we aren’t feeling special and loved.

Love – genuine love – is the exact opposite of all of these things.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love suffers long, bears annoyances and doesn’t lose its temper.  Love is kind and takes the initiative to be considerate and helpful.  It doesn’t envy but rejoices when others succeed.  It doesn’t parade itself and is not puffed up but instead draws others to it.  Love never behaves rudely or impolitely but acts in a manner worthy of Christ.  Love doesn’t seek its own but always seeks to benefit others.  Love is not provoked but will allow differences of opinion.  Love thinks no evil but makes allowances for people’s flaws. And love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in truth.

Real love, true love – for us and others – is bold.  It does not abuse others or ourselves. Bold love destroys evil by empathy, by hospitality.  It destroys evil by generously considering others and offering care for what is needed.  It is that very power we have from God not to succumb to the provocation of evil that surprises and shames those who harm us or others.  Their profound surprise that their evil has not been repaid with evil opens their hearts to redemption.  Love offers a taste of the character of God.  God is both strong and tender.  Our love is to be equal parts strength and tenderness.  Strength disarms false power; tenderness invites the heart to rest when it is defenseless.  Strength reveals that God is holy and hates sin; tenderness reveals God’s grace and reconciliation.  Are we strong enough to guard our tongues and speak truth in love? Are we tender enough to speak blessings even to those who have harmed us?

Genuine love seeks the best, offers the best, chooses the best.  This includes the very words that come from our lips.  What kind of environment do you wish to be in?  Do you wish for your loved ones to be in?  A toxic one, with the appearance of love that is never felt and in which real health can never flourish – or a loving one with genuine love that nourishes a deep love of others and thereby a genuine, healthy self esteem?   Words are powerful.  We can speak curses or blessings.  Which will it be today?

Consumed

I have been consumed…. I’m a task oriented/driven person. When I see a task or project, I grab it and do whatever it takes to complete it. I hunger for knowledge and I strive constantly to perfect my competence at all I do. I’ll admit I’m a perfectionist and hold an extremely high standard of performance for myself. These things are not necessarily good or bad. They’re just a part of how I was created. However, I so very easily become out of balance in my life. I can focus on tasks, knowledge, competence, performance and not pay enough attention to having the right priorities.

Many of you know that the past few years have seen me focusing on work to the detriment of my physical health, stress level and, most of all, my spiritual health. I’ve justified this in many ways and, as all things I do, I did even that well. Haha. You know you’re overly consumed with work when even your bosses try to set better boundaries for you and start giving directives to take time off and to relax. But even when I tried to relax, I found my thoughts constantly returning to work.

I have a God Who loves me so much He sent His Son to die for me. He has and is always there for me and the God of the Universe wants a relationship with me – a sinner who continually sins. I have a husband who loves me and has taught me the meaning of the word cherish. He is so kind and thoughtful; so sweet and generous. I have family who love me; friends who care for me; a beautiful home where I am loved and safe; a job that’s structured in a way that is tailored to my personality and strengths along with my passion and calling; and so many things every single day for which I’m thankful and which make my heart smile. Yet, with all of that, I still didn’t set good priorities.

For the past few months, I’ve been praying that God would help me seek Him more – that I would return to placing Him first in my life and that my passion for Him would grow. During that time, I heard sermons on setting better priorities and increasing time with God, read things that reminded me to set better priorities and increase time with God, heard songs that reminded me to set better priorities and increase time with God and…. You get the picture. Yet, no matter how convicted I was and no matter how much I told myself I would start tomorrow, I continued to allow my thoughts and passions to focus on work. Hard headed….

So, I fell. I actually, physically fell. Down the stairs. Hard. And I broke my pelvis. A little over four weeks ago, I’d just finished preparing for Wednesday night orchestra rehearsal during which time I prayed I would glorify Him and, as I was walking down the stairs to meet my husband to go to church, one of my little dogs accidentally tripped me and I fell.

Since that time, I’ve been sitting still. Being still. Not able to even shower by myself. Dependent for everything. Do I need a drink? I have to request one from someone. Am I hungry? Another request. I’ve been able to continue working during this time as I can telecommute as needed but everything else is out of reach.

My husband has been his normal self – loving, caring, thoughtful, kind, generous, and sweet. He has carried me to the shower and the restroom. He has helped me dress and helped me be as comfortable as possible. He has prepared my meals and has come home from work every day at lunch just to ensure I eat and that I’m ok. He has not once complained nor have I detected any unwillingness to help. He actually seems to take a lot of joy in serving me in this way. All of it has been given freely and lovingly. But here I sat, day after day, pouting… The pain has not been easy but the emotional toll of this has been so much harder.

As I’m prone to do, I finally began to research ways I could do this better – always performance driven. I was going to be the so very good at this healing process. I started air boxing from the chair to increase my fitness. I started counting calories again to help counteract the weight I’d put on over the past few weeks. And I started a structured Bible study. It was during one of those daily lessons that I heard Him clearly – Be still and know I am God and all else comes from that. Be still and trust I have you. Be still and focus on what I have given you. Be still and know what I have done and continue to do. Be still.

I hear you, Lord. So far, so good. I’m not grinding my teeth at night. I’m able to turn work off. Surely I’ve learning my lesson…. See how well I’m doing this…..

Today, I saw the doctor. I’m healing well but have another 2-4 weeks of this. What I realized at that moment is that I’m not yet ready to be still on my own. Not yet ready to set the right priorities on my own. Not yet ready to focus on the important things by myself. And then, I realized the next step– I will never be able to do those things on my own. It is not a task, a project, or something I can do. I’m not even sure it’s anywhere in my nature as those of you who know me can attest. However, the joy my husband seems to take in being able to help me, to show his love to me, during this time of necessary dependence, is a picture of how God wants to help me with being still, setting right priorities, and focusing on the right things always. I will always be dependent on God. I’ll always need Him to help me be still. I’ll always need Him to focus me on knowing Him and following Him as those things are not in my fleshly nature. But they are in His nature and He, Who began this work in me, will be so very faithful to continue this work and grow me to maturity. How awesome is that?

Please, Lord, may I be still. May I grow to know You more each day. Let me be consumed with You.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him, it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” Lamentation 3:22-26

To Know Him More

I have a new car.  Not just any car, but a Mustang convertible.  I’ve wanted one since I was 10 years old and, though it has taken me an entire Biblical generation of more than 40 years, I now have one.  Of course, the weather has not been conducive to driving a convertible over the past couple of weeks; however, I spent a good deal of time yesterday and today driving it.  Yesterday I drove to and from Nashville and today drove several hours going from one used furniture store to another in search of office furniture.

The Mustang drives very differently than my Saturn Vue.  The Saturn, a mid size SUV, has been, and continues to be, a very dependable utility vehicle.  I bought it right after my car accident several years ago.  It’s comfortable to drive.  I’ve driven it so much that I know when it sounds different, can tell when a tire is low by how it handles, can estimate how large a load can fit in the back, can fairly accurately guess how far I can go after the gas light comes on, know when to tap my brakes or when to just let off the gas.  It’s responsive for a utility vehicle.  But it is a utility vehicle and I’ve never paid much attention to how it felt when I drove.  It has done what I have required of it and accomplishes the purpose for which I bought it.

The Mustang, on the other hand, feels so different.  I sit lower in the car.  The hood is much longer.  It hugs the road.  It takes curves so differently – like it’s on rails.  It feels effortlessly more powerful.  It handles like a thoroughbred.  The steering radius is much sharper.  Driving this car is a visceral experience and it’s a noticeable difference from driving any other car I’ve owned.  I bought it simply for the joy of driving it.  In my job of supervising 12 mental health facilities/offices and all of the accompanying serious life issues that accompanies that, I need to consciously balance things out.

So as I do often, I began thinking random thoughts on my way home today. Both cars live up to their names and purposes and I fully expect them to continue to do so.  I will be giving the Saturn (which has a 5 star safety rating) to my teenaged stepdaughter and will trust that car to keep her safe and to continue to take her reliably from one place to another.  I expect to continue to utilize the Mustang to balance my life with joy as I go from one facility to another and deal with those serious issues of life.  Then I began to wonder – am I fulfilling the purpose for which I was created as well as each of those cars are doing? What is my purpose in life? What have I set forth to accomplish above all else? If my purpose in life is to serve God, it’s imperative I stop and think about the types of decisions I will make in life.

Paul’s purpose and mission in life was to live according to the will of God. Everything in Paul’s life was surrounded around his purpose. Paul says: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8).  As a Christian, I must continue to strive to be cognizant of my purpose in life. Acts 11:23 tells me that Barnabas encouraged Christians in Antioch “that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”  If I desire to continue to grow in the Lord, I must make this my primary goal in life. Everything else must come second to my relationship with the Lord. Jesus teaches this lesson saying: “So Likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Does it matter if I’m a sports car or a SUV?  Not really.  What matters is – am I living out the purpose for which I was called and for which Christ paid with his blood on the cross?  Am I consistently and dependably responding to His driving of my life? Paul said, “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]” (Philippians 3:10, amp). Paul knew where he was going. And if I don’t know where I’m going, then I won’t know whether I get there. Paul was essentially saying, “My purpose in life is to know Him. Yes, there are other things that I do, but my primary purpose is to intimately, deeply, and personally know God.” My prayer is that He will help me make His purpose my purpose – that I may know Him more and more every day.

Content

Over the past couple of months I have come to the realization that I am beginning to learn to be content. It’s been a difficult journey so far and, I expect, it will continue to be so. But I’m learning. I still have deep sorrows, but I’m learning.

Contentment is an illusive commodity today. The problem with this mentality is that we are never satisfied. And if we are never satisfied, then we are unable to enjoy life fully because we feel deprived. However, contentment is not about what we don’t have. Contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored to our confidence in God that results in a joyful celebration of life.

Contentment is not something that comes naturally for me. Paul said that he had to “learn to be content”. I’m more prone to compare myself with others and to complain.  You don’t have to teach me any of these things. They come naturally to me. Not so with contentment. Contentment is not natural. It is something that I must learn over time. Paul moved from a state of not being content to a state of knowing contentment. I suspect that Paul learned contentment gradually. In the same way I will not just wake up one day feeling content.

I’m very much a doer but I’m learning that I can’t DO something to be content. I must learn some things in order to be content. I need to have a new perspective, a new attitude, a deepened faith. These things must be developed . . . they cannot be bought and they are not the result of marking completed tasks off a list.

Paul says that he had learned how to be content in good times as well as hard times. His contentment was not anchored to the circumstances of life.   Contentment is not about what I have. It is an attitude. Paul told Timothy,

godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. [1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NIV)]

It is hard to feel satisfied, confident and joyful when,

others ridicule me
when I am falsely accused
when my plans are suddenly changed
when loss comes barging into my life
when a loved one tells me they are walking away

It’s tough to feel content when life is not going the way I want it to be going.

However, Paul says, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” I believe Paul is saying that he can face and know joy in any and every circumstance because of the strength he finds in Christ.

My contentment is anchored to my relationship with Christ. No matter what the circumstance I know that I’m getting better than I deserve. I deserve eternal punishment but am given eternal life in Christ. I deserve to be cast from God’s presence but I’m declared to be part of His family. Do you understand what a treasure this is? There is nothing . . . . nothing . . . that compares in value to what I have been given by God’s grace. I am one of the richest of people because of His mercy.

I’m beginning to realize that contentment is predicated on being completely present in the present. Discontent comes from focusing on what might have been or on what could be. Contentment comes when I look for that which is enjoyable in the present. I will learn to be content as I enjoy each day for what it is rather than moan about what I imagine it could have been. I don’t want to miss the joy of the present by whining about what might have been. I want to stop looking beyond the moment and enjoy the moment!

I want to grow to love Christ more completely. Less of me and more of Him leads to that abundant life of contentment and joy no matter the circumstances. I still have a very long way to go but I’m working on learning to run with patience, step by step, keeping my eyes on Jesus. And as I turn my eyes upon Jesus, I will find “that the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” And when that happens, I will begin to enjoy the “moments of life”. I will be able to leave worries about tomorrow with the Lord and I will be more able to accept every situation as God’s wise classroom for my growth and development.

I’m still such a work in progress but also thankful that the Author of the race is also the Finisher. What an awesome thought!

I feel as if the whole world has gone crazy.  A man burned to death and the video sent to the world.  A young woman, who spent her short life giving to others, killed in the name of religion.  A world leader using deeds committed 800-1000 years ago to justify these acts.  However, the question continues to arise – Why????  My sons began asking that question as soon as they were old enough to speak.  As I get older, the question continues to nag me as I encounter “why” questions as every turn.  When I see evil, pain, and suffering in the world, I ask, “why?”

Several years ago, I read Tim LaHaye’s book, Revelation Unveiled.  It was so helpful in putting things in context.   It’s no surprise to me that Jordan, though a Moslem nation, is rising against the current atrocities.  Isaiah 16 tells us that, in the last days, Jordan will harbor Jews and Christians, protecting them from the anti-Christ. LeHaye stressed the following verses: “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”   I hear teachings I’ve had over the years.  I know that all of these things must come to pass for Jesus to return.  And so I continue to pray – Come, Lord Jesus!

There are some prophecies, as I see, that have to be fulfilled before Jesus returns.

  1. The human race would have the capacity to exterminate itself.  In Matthew 24:22, describing world conditions prior to His second coming, Jesus said that “if that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God’s chosen it will be cut short.”   The main message that Jesus brought was of the coming Kingdom of God.  While some of the prophecies concerning events prior to the establishment of the Kingdom can seem negative or scary, I have to remember to keep in mind that the central focus of the Bible prophecy is the good news or gospel of the coming Kingdom of God.  Matthew 24.22 tells me that if Jesus does not intervene in world affairs, the human race will be faced with extinction.  The good news in all of today’s news is that Christians have the assurance that Jesus Christ will return to save mankind from annihilation.
  2. A Jewish Homeland is to be established in the Middle East. Geopolitically, the central focus of end time events is Jerusalem and its environs.   Luke 21 is a parallel chapter to Matthew 24.  Notice Luke’s account of Christ’s long prophecy that answered the disciples’ questions.  Jesus showed that Jerusalem would be the central focus of the political and military upheavals that would immediately precede His return. Anyone living a century ago would have found these words nearly impossible to comprehend. Jerusalem in ancient times had been fought over countless times, but for four centuries from 1517 the city had been at peace within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. Jews lived there as a minority under Turkish rule. But this was going to change dramatically during the course of the 20th century. It had to change for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy to take place. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah was used by God to reveal a great deal about end-time events and the second coming of the Messiah. Zechariah lived and prophesied more than 500 years before Christ’s first coming, yet his prophetic book tells us a great deal about our world of today. In Zechariah:12:2-3  God says: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah [the Jews inhabiting the land of Israel] and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all natons of the earth are gathered against it.”  In verse 9 He adds, “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”  Reading these verses, it is possible to think that they apply to ancient events, as Jerusalem has been fought over repeatedly down through the ages. However, chapter 14 makes clear that this is talking about future, not past, events. The time setting is immediately before Jesus Christ’s return. “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming . . . For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity . . . Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah:14:1-4 ). Clearly the last few lines of this prophecy remain to be fulfilled.  Further in this same chapter we read of how those nations that came against Jerusalem will have to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Jesus Christ (verse 16). These chapters of Zechariah are a prophecy about the events that precede and include the second coming of Jesus. A Jewish-controlled Jerusalem is noticeably the central focus. Shortly before Zechariah, another Jewish prophet named Daniel lived during the time of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. His book speaks of the Jews’ daily sacrifices being cut off in the end time (Daniel:12:11; see verses 1-13)—an event that had a forerunner in the temple defilement under Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. However, Jesus Christ confirmed this as a future event to precede His return (compareDaniel:11:31; Matthew:24:15). This means that these sacrifices must first be reinstituted in Jerusalem—requiring Jewish rule over the city. After rebelling against the Romans in A.D. 66 and again in 132, Judea was crushed and most of the remaining Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. No Jewish homeland existed again until 1948 when the modern nation of Israel was established.  An independent Jewish homeland was merely a dream for a small group of zealots a century ago. It moved a step nearer during World War I, when forces of the British Commonwealth took control of Jerusalem from the Turks in December 1916. A few months later, the British government pledged itself to the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland in the ancient lands the Jews had inhabited for centuries.  It was to be another 30 years before the dream was realized in 1948. Yet since then tiny Israel has had to fight wars for survival in 1948, 1967 and 1973 and has suffered countless terrorist attacks and threats of annihilation from hostile neighbors determined to eliminate the Jewish state.
  3. The end-time king of the North and king of the South In Daniel 11 we find an amazing prophecy about two leaders, the kings of the North and South, the heads of regions that were geographically north and south of the Holy Land. To understand this prophecy we have to go to the time of Alexander the Great, who lived near the end of the fourth century B.C., 200 years after Daniel. Alexander figures prominently throughout the book of Daniel, even though Daniel did not know his name and never knew him personally. He couldn’t have, since he died almost two centuries before Alexander appeared on the world stage. But God revealed to Daniel that after Babylon, Persia would arise as the greatest power of the region, to be followed in turn by Greece. Not surprisingly, the prophecies regarding the rise of Greece are centered on Alexander the Great, one of the greatest conquerors in history. Daniel 8 gives a vivid account of the coming clash between Persia and Greece. As you read it, remember that a horn symbolizes royal power and authority. Persia had “two horns and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last.” This refers to the Medo-Persian Empire, the coming together of two nations or peoples. As foretold here in verse 3, the Persians rose to greatness after the Medes. In verse 5 we read of Persia’s later defeat by Alexander the Great: “And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes” (verse 5). The “notable horn” or royal leader was Alexander the Great. The prophecy about his army not even touching the ground is a reference to the incredible speed with which he conquered the known world. All this was achieved in a very short time. Alexander died in 323 B.C. when he was only about 33 years old. Even his sudden, unexpected death was prophesied: “The male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven” (verse 8). When Alexander died, his empire was eventually divided between four of his generals—the four “notable horns” mentioned here. Two of these established dynasties would have a profound effect on the Jewish people, caught in the middle between them. These two dynasties were the descendants of Seleucus, who ruled a vast empire from Antioch in Syria, north of Jerusalem, and Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt from Alexandria. Daniel 11 is a long and detailed prophecy about the dynastic conflicts between these two powers, their respective leaders being referred to as “the king of the North” and “the king of the South.” Of great significance is that whenever they went to battle against each other, the Jews got trampled on. This was to continue from the time of Alexander until the middle of the second century B.C., a period of almost two centuries. Then, suddenly, the prophecy jumps down to the end time. In verse 40 we read: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land [the Holy Land], and many countries shall be overthrown” (Daniel:11:40-41). The latter part of Daniel’s prophecy of the North-South conflict describes a clash of civilizations between the leader of a soon-coming European superpower—a revived Roman Empire (successor to Seleucid Syrian rule)—and a leader who is the successor to the Ptolemaic rule of Egypt, which is now part of the Islamic world.

All has now become possible. This, in turn, makes it much more likely that our generation will live to see Jesus Christ return and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. After all, Jesus Himself said that once these things begin, the generation alive at that time “will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew:24:34).

It’s both sobering and encouraging to think that we appear to be living in the generation that will ultimately witness the most important event in the history of mankind. As Jesus Christ tells His followers in Luke:21:28, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Instead of asking “why,” I think I will lift my head and look up.  My redemption draws near.  :)