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Are the Saudis and Israelis making secret plans to hit Iran? Here’s what we know so far.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar/File/Times of Israel).

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar/File/Times of Israel).

(Jerusalem, Israel) — War clouds are building again in the epicenter. Talk of an Israeli-Iranian conflict is growing, not just here but among key Arab leaders, as well.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s happening:

These are fascinating developments, and ones that are impossible to independently verify at the moment. But I have to say they have the feel of truth to it, and many here are taking them very seriously.

Please join me in praying for peace. None of us want a war. Let us pray the Lord stops Iran from building nuclear weapons in some other way, and that war won’t be necessary. At the same, let us be praying for regional leaders to have the wisdom they need to know how best to proceed in a very dangerous time. James chapter one urges us to pray for wisdom when we need it, and to pray in faith, and the Lord will give us wisdom generously. So pray, too, that the leaders of the region come to know the Lord and see how He alone can give them insight into how to protect their people from the cruel and terrible evil of an apocalyptic, genocidal regime in Tehran actually building nuclear weapons and preparing to use them.

With regards to a secret Saudi-Israeli alliance, here is what is being reported so far.

According to the Jerusalem Post:

  • The Mossad is working with Saudi officials on contingency plans for a potential attack on Iran in the event that Tehran’s nuclear program is not sufficiently curbed in the deal that may be concluded between Iran and world powers in Geneva this week, The Sunday Times reported.
  • Both Jerusalem and Riyadh have expressed displeasure at the deal being formulated between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers that they see as doing little to stop Tehran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.
  • According to the Times, Riyadh has already given its consent for Israel to use Saudi airspace for a potential attack on Iran.
  • The paper quoted a diplomatic source as saying the Saudis were willing to assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.
  • “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” the Times quoted the source as saying. 
  • Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Saturday that there is a “meeting of the minds” between Israel and the “leading states in the Arab world” on the Iran issue – “one of the few cases in memory, if not the first case in modern times.
  • “We all think that Iran should not be allowed to have the capacities to make nuclear weapons,” he said. “We all think that a tougher stance should be taken by the international community. We all believe that if Iran were to have nuclear weapons, this could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, making the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox.”
  • Saying that an Iran with nuclear arms would be the most dangerous development for the world since the mid-20th century, and stressing that the “stakes are amazing,” Netanyahu urged the world’s leaders to pay attention “when Israel and the Arabs see eye-to-eye.”
  • “We live here,” he said. “We know something about this region. We know a great deal about Iran and its plans. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to what we say.”

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France is Israel’s new best friend when it comes to the Iran threat. Here’s why.

French President Hollande is suddenly Israel's new best friend.

French President Hollande is suddenly Israel’s new best friend.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — The French are suddenly Israel’s new best friend.

With P5+1 negotiations with Iran set to begin again on Wednesday, the Israelis are increasingly concerned the Obama administration is going to sell them out, accepting a disastrous deal with Tehran just for the sake of a deal.

That’s why top leaders here were thrilled that French President Francois Hollande arrived in Israel on Sunday and vowed to block any nuclear deal that did not require Iran to give up its capacities to build nuclear weapons. Israeli leaders rolled out the red carpet for the French leader at Ben Gurion International Airport, and publicly thanked Hollande for standing firm against a bad deal with Iran.

Indeed, a curious new alliance is emerging in the Middle East between Israel, the French, and the Arab states in the Gulf — most notably Saudi Arabia — all of whom are determined to stop Iran from getting The Bomb, and all of whom see President Obama as unable or unwilling to do the job.

Relations between France and Israel have been topsy-turvy over the years. Sometimes the French have been staunch allies, but not always, and not consistently. Anti-Semitism inside France is spiking so severely in recent years that many French Jews are emigrating to Israel.

“France favors an interim agreement with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, French President Francois Hollande said Sunday in Israel, but such an agreement would only be signed if Tehran would abandon its ambition to acquire a nuclear weapon,” reports the Times of Israel. “Speaking at a joint press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Hollande said that as long as Iran does not prove it has taken serious steps toward curbing its nuclear program, sanctions would not be relieved.”

“Words are not deeds,” the French president stated. “We’re against proliferation, and in Iran there is a will to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level.”

“Hollande went on to lay out four points that his country deemed essential for the signing of an interim agreement,” noted the Times. “France, Hollande said, would demand that all Iranian nuclear facilities be put under international control immediately, that enrichment of uranium to 20 percent be suspended, that existing uranium stockpiles be reduced, and that construction at the Arak heavy water facility be immediately halted.”

“These are essential points that we require for an agreement,” he said. “France requires a serious, stable agreement, verifiable, with all guarantees, and we will stand strong in the face of pressure….”

Last week, “France apparently blocked what its foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, called’“a sucker’s deal,'” noted the Times, although US Secretary of State John Kerry later said it was the Iranians who had chosen not to sign the accord last Saturday. US officials say a deal on the terms presented at Geneva could be signed when the talks resume on Wednesday.”

What a joy to preach the Word in the Land of the Bible. Notes from the Book of James — Part 2

The people of the Middle East desperately need peace. The Bible makes it crystal clear that man can find true and lasting peace — “peace that passes all comprehension” — only when they know the Lord and the power of His Word. Thus, it is vitally important to teach the Bible, and to encourage and refresh pastors in the region as they study the Bible for themselves and teach the Word to others.

Thus, as I noted yesterday, The Joshua Fund team held a retreat for pastors and ministry leaders and their wives here in the epicenter this week called, “Preach The Word/Shepherd The Flock.” We gathered in the city of Netanya with leaders from Russian backgrounds and Ethiopian backgrounds, various European backgrounds, native Israelis, Arabs, as well as some evangelical Christians from the West.

It was a special time of encouraging, worshipping with, and praying with and for these dear saints who face many trials and tribulations. By God’s grace, we were able to bring along several solid pastors from the U.S. Together we have been teaching through the Book of James, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

I taught on James chapter three at the retreat. Here is a link to the first part of my notes.  

Today, I am posting the rest of my notes from James chapter three. I hope you find them helpful. God bless you.

——————–

James 3:2 – “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

  • James reminds us that:
  • we are all sinners
  • we all like sheep have gone astray
  • we all stumble
  • we all stumble in many ways
  • one of the many ways we all stumble is in saying things we shouldn’t, when we shouldn’t, in a tone we shouldn’t

James is picking up on a critically important theme of which Jesus spoke.

  • Matthew 12:33-37 – “[A] tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Luke 12:1-3 – “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

 Again and again, Jesus warns us to be careful with goes into our hearts, and what comes out of our mouths, and He warns us not be hypocrites like the Pharisees.

  • “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” – A man speaks what is in his heart. It has been said that the tongue has been “the tattletale of the heart.” This is true.
  • “Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” – The Lord is listening to every word we speak. He remembers every word we speak, and we will give an account.
  • “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light.” – Be extremely careful what you say and what you do. Don’t be a hypocrite. Nothing stays secret. Live as though everything you say and do will be on the front page of the Jerusalem Post

One of the most damaging and painful areas we all stumble in is in misusing our tongues. 

  • Teachers are not exempt.
  • Just because a person is appointed by God to be a teacher doesn’t mean he has truly learned how to communicate in a godly, Spirit-filled way.
  • Teachers are as susceptible as anyone else to the sin of misusing the tongue – and we will be judged more strictly because we ought to know better.

James notes that a perfect man would always be perfectly careful with his speech, and a perfect man was: the Lord Jesus Christ.

  •  John 12:49 – Jesus said, “I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (NIV 84)
  • Jesus is our model:
  • We are to seek the Father earnestly and consistently not simply to tell us but to command us “what to say.”
  • The Father commanded Christ precisely what to say in all circumstances, and Christ obeyed precisely — this emphasizes substance, sound doctrine.
  • But the Father did not limit Himself to commanding Christ “what to say.” He also commanded His Son “how to say it.”
  • Not just substance but style.
  • Not just truth but tone.
  • The Father command Christ precisely how to speak in all circumstances, and Christ obeyed precisely.

John 7:16 – Jesus said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent me.” 

  • Jesus didn’t teach His own ideas – nor should we.
  • Jesus only taught what the Father gave Him – so should we.

 John 7:18 – Jesus said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory.”

  • When we say what we want to say – rather than what the Father commands us to say – we do so from pride.
  • We are seeking our own glory.

 How did you talk before you came to faith in the Lord Jesus? How did your speech change?

  •  How are you doing in this area today? In what ways are you stumbling?
  • How are you doing in the way you speak to your spouse?
  • How are you doing in the way you speak to your children?
  • Your parents?
  • Your team?
  • Your
    neighbors?
  • Your fellow brothers and sisters?
  • Your enemies?

James 3:3-8 – “Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

  • Here James explains quite vividly how difficult it is to control the tongue.
  • Bits control horses
  • Rudders control ships.
  • Small tools are used very effectively to tame, direct and control large animals and great ships.
  • But the tongue untamable by mere human efforts.
  • James uses powerful images and analogies, carefully chosen to help us understand.

James also points to the catastrophic destruction the tongue can do, even though it is so small — like a small spark, it can “set aflame” a great forest. Consider the language James uses here.

  • “The tongue is a fire”
  • “The tongue is…the very world of iniquity”
  • “The tongue…defiles the entire body”
  • “The tongue…sets on fire the course of our life.”
  • “The tongue…is set on fire by hell”
  • “The tongue…is a restless evil”
  • “The tongue…[is] full of deadly poison”
  • Again, powerful images and analogies to help us understand.

 James echoes the language of David in the Psalms:

  • Psalm 32:9 – “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.”
  • Psalm 39:1 – “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle while the wicked are before me.’”

James 3:9-12 – “With it [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.”

  • James points out how sinful and foolish we can be in how we communicate.
  • With our tongue, we bless our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in heaven.
  • Yet with that same tongue, we have the ability to curse men, even though they were made in the image and likeness of God.
  • This is wrong. This is not godly behavior.
  • “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

Yet again, James chooses powerful images and analogies to make his points.

  • Fountains down provide fresh water and bitter water.
  • Fig trees don’t produce olives.
  • Grape vines don’t produce figs.
  • Don’t expect a glass of salt water to suddenly produce fresh water.
  • Nature is “either/or” – why are we as followers of the Messiah “both/and”?

James is making the case that how we use our tongue is: 

  • First, a test of whether we really are true born again believers in Jesus the Messiah – because if we are, our speech will be radically different than before we were saved.
  • Second, a test of how faithfully and lovingly we are walking as believers – by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must continually be improving the control and direction of what we say and how we say it.
  •  Our tongue (and thus our faith/the quality and depth of our relationship with the Lord) is tested in various trials. (see James 1:2)
  • We need tremendous wisdom in how we use our tongue. (see James 1:5)
  • We must be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” for this is evidence of the righteousness that is developing within us. (see James 1:19-20)
  • We must not become arrogant about think we are truly godly, religious, righteous people if we cannot bridle our tongue, for we are simply deceiving ourselves. (see James 1:26).
  • We are to be guided in all things by the “royal law” of love for our neighbor, and speak and act as those who understand that we will be judged by how faithful we are to Christ’s standard and His “royal law.” (see James 2:8, 12)

James 3:13 – “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

  • NIV: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
  • Men of true wisdom and genuine understanding are humble, gentle, well-behaved, careful in how they live and in what they say.

“The gentleness of wisdom” is a very useful turn of phrase.

  • What does it mean to be “gentle”?
  • mild in temperament or behavior; kind or tender; meek
  • moderate in action, effect, or degree; not harsh or severe:
  • “Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will,” says one commentary.

 Meekness/gentleness isn’t a trait much-talked about by the world, or by the Church. But….

  • It is a trait of our Savior
  • Paul speaks of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:1)
  • Jesus Himself said, “Matthew 11:29 (Jesus speaking) – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
  • Did Jesus ever get angry? Yes, but He never sinned in His anger.
  • It is a trait praised by our Savior – “Blessed are the meek/gentle for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5)
  • It is a fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22)
  • It is a trait required of spiritual leaders.
  • Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”
  • Colossians 3:12 – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”

3:14-18 – “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

 Here James draws a distinction between earthly wisdom and godly wisdom or “wisdom from above.”

  • Earthly “wisdom”
    • Natural
    • Demonic
    • Produces bitter jealousy
    • Produces selfish ambition
    • Produces arrogance
    • Leads to lying
    • Leads to disorder, confusion, and “every evil thing”
  • Wisdom from above:
    • Pure – divine, holy, unselfish
    • Peaceable – seeks to make peace
    • Gentle – kind, humble
    • Reasonable – easy to entreat, willing to yield, courteous
    • Full of mercy – kind, gracious, not defensive
    • Produces good fruit – fruit of the Spirit
    • Unwavering – not double-minded, not waffling
    • Without hypocrisy – does not “claim to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform”
    • Is characterized by peace and leads to a fruitful harvest of righteousness
  • NIV: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
  • The Message: “Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”
  • The Living Bible: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.”

Closing Thoughts

  • This chapter is important for all believers – all of us in the Body of Christ are to love one another, to be kind and gentle with one another, to be careful is what we say to each other, and how we say it.
  • This chapter is important for all leaders – James begins this chapter by drawing special attention to those who teach (pastors, teachers, elders and others in the ministry) because we are called to follow the model of Christ and be the model for others. This is a high and hard calling. We ought to do better because we ought to know better. We must be very careful not to be hypocrites, telling others to speak and behave in a godly way, but failing to lead the way in our own personal lives. And James tells us we will be judged more strictly.

The Bible is filled with wisdom for us in how we speak.

  • Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • Proverbs 15:23 – “A man has joy in an apt answer and how delightful is a timely word!”
  • Proverbs 16:23-24 – “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
  • Proverbs 19:22 – “What is desirable in a man is his kindness.”
  • Proverbs 21:23 – “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.”
  • The Lord Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
  • The Apostle James wrote in James 1:19, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
  • The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15 that we are to be “speaking the truth in love.”
  • Indeed, Paul gives much emphasis both to what we say and how we say it:
  • Ephesians 4:25 – “laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor…”
  • Ephesians 4:26 – “be angry, but do not sin…”
  • Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word  is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will grace to those who hear it. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit [by disobeying this point]….”
  • Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
  • Ephesians 5:4 – “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
  • See Colossians 3:8-9 – “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth [and] do not lie to one another…”

How are we doing in this area? Is it possible we think we are doing just fine in this area, but that not everyone around us agrees?

  • If I’m stumbling – and James says we all stumble – am I willing to honestly assess the problems I’m causing with my tongue?
  • Am I willing to repent and make things right with the people I’ve hurt?

May the Lord lead you and encourage and help you do better in what you say and how you say it, that you may reflect the love and gentleness and wisdom of Christ.

www.joshuafund.net

Encouraging pastors: Teaching the Book of James in the epicenter — Part 1.

(Netanya, Israel) — Several of my colleagues with The Joshua Fund and I have had the joy this week of hosting a retreat for pastors and ministry leaders and their wives here in the epicenter. It’s been a special time of encouraging, worshipping with, and praying with and for these dear saints — both Jews and Arabs — who face so many trials and tribulations, along with their fellow believers throughout the Middle East. By God’s grace, we were able to bring along several solid pastors from the U.S. Together we have been teaching through the Book of James, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

Over the next few days, I’d like to share some of my own personal notes from James. May I encourage you to begin reading through James? It’s such a fascinating and challenging book, filled with wisdom about how to truly walk and serve like Jesus did. It deals with how to handle troubles and afflictions. It deals with how to not just read the Bible, but actually obey it. It deals with treating all people fairly and without favoritism. It deals with the importance of loving and caring for the poor, and being careful in what we say and how we say it, and how to handle conflicts as believers, and the importance of walking humbly and not arrogantly, and keeping our eyes on the Lord as we await His return. It also encourages us to pray, pray, pray.

First, some context on the book.

  • The author of this epistle is James, the half-brother of Jesus.
  • Note: James in an English version of the Hebrew name, Jacob.
  • James was not a believer while Jesus lived on earth — rather, he was a critic of Jesus actually thought Jesus was insane to present Himself as the Messiah.
  • But the Lord had mercy on James, specially appearing to him after the resurrection (see I Corinthians 15:7).
  • As we see in the Book of Acts, the Lord then raises James up to become the pastor of the Church in Jerusalem.
  • This letter is written by the heart of a shepherd for believers who love the Lord but are going through many trials and tribulations and temptations and need to be comforted, encouraged, and challenged to walk in Scriptural truth and in loving-kindness towards fellow believers.
  • “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (patience). And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Now, some specifics.

I taught chapter three. Today, therefore, let’s start with James 3:1.

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” 

Teaching the Word of God is a spiritual gift.

  • See  Romans 12:7; I Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11
  • “….for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13)
  • “…as a result, we are no longer children….but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up….” (Ephesians 4:14, 15)
  • Some people with this spiritual gift are appointed by God to a specific office in the Church, that of a “teacher” or a “pastor-teacher.” (Ephesians 4:11).
  • Many others become teachers in a lay capacity, whether they are teaching a small group Bible study, or a home fellowship group, or a Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School, etc.

Teaching the Word of God is also a skill.

  • One required of every elder.
  • “able to teach” (I Timothy 3:2)
  • “holding fast the faithful word, which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he is able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9)
  • The Scriptures do not indicate that every elder has to have the spiritual gift of teaching the Word, but he does have to be “able to teach.”

We teach not just by what we say, but what we model for others.

  • Jesus was our ultimate model.
  • How are we doing in following His example?

James begins chapter three by making a very sobering statement, that the gift – and skill – of teaching the Word of God must be used very, very carefully because anyone who teaches the Scriptures “will incur a stricter judgment.”

  • Teachers will be held to a higher standard than other Christians. Why?
  • Because the Lord Jesus is the Word (John chapter one)
  • People who teach the Word are teaching about Him, they are teaching His very words, His very nature and character and essence and commands.
  • Thus, teachers will be judged by the Lord Jesus as to how carefully and humbly and precisely we teach the Word.
  • This is why the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

When it comes to teaching God’s Word, therefore:

  • we must be diligent
  • we must work hard
  • we must be accurate
  • for the blessing of those who hear
  • but also so that we will be bless, and so that we will not be ashamed
  • Paul says there is shame in mishandling the Scriptures.

James also says there is judgment in mishandling the Scriptures.

  • Heretics and other false teachers will, of course, face judgment.
  • 2 Peter 2:1-4 — “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves….their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment….”

But James is also saying that teachers who are truly born again believers yet mishandle the Word of God will also face judgment. Not a judgment that affects our eternal salvation, but rather a judgment that affects our standing in the Kingdom and our eternal rewards. 

  • Jesus said in Matthew 5:19, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (KJV)
  • Amplified translation: “Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least [important] of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven, but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

 James 3:1, therefore, is a sober word of caution.

  • Has God really called me to teach His Word?
  • How hard and diligently and carefully am I  being to teach the Word accurately?
  • Have I truly realized the higher standard that is applied to those who teach the Word and processed the implications of that standard?
  • Am I prepared to face a stricter judgment as I teach the Word?
  • If not, what would the Lord have me do, and not do?
  • If so, am I helping others understand this high standard and strict judgment as I equip them to teach the Word, as well?

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll post some notes on the next few verses — dealing with how we can sin in what we say and how we say it.

May God bless you as you study the Book of James.

www.joshuafund.net

Updated: French President Hollande coming to epicenter. Here’s why. Here’s the schedule.

Netanyahu meets with Hollande on a previous state visit to Paris.

Netanyahu meets with Hollande on a previous state visit to Paris.

French President Francois Hollande is making a three day visit to the epicenter next week. He will arrive on Sunday and depart Tuesday. During that time, he will meet with top Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He will also meet top Palestinian leaders in Ramallah.

The Arab-Israeli peace talks will be a key part of his agenda. The top priority will be discussing the on-going nuclear negotiations with Iran which restart on November 20th. Last week France played a crucial role in stopping what it called a “sucker’s deal,” and urging the P5+1 group (U.S., UK, Russia, China and France, plus Germany) to slow down and be more careful with the negotiations.

Here is Hollande’s schedule, according to local media reports.

  • Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres will greet the French dignitaries at Ben Gurion Airport at around 1 pm on Sunday. As in the visit of US President Barack Obama in March, the three leaders will hold a ceremony on the tarmac before heading for the capital.
  • In Jerusalem, Hollande will plant a tree in the garden of the President’s Residence and hold a first meeting with Peres.
  • The French president’s next stop will be Mt. Herzl, where he will lay a wreath at the grave of Theodor Herzl and place a stone on the grave of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and his late wife Leah.
  • Accompanied by Peres and Netanyahu, Hollande will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.
  • At around 6 pm, Hollande will arrive at the Prime Minister’s Office for a tête-à-tête with Netanyahu, which is scheduled to last for about an hour and a half. On the agenda: Iran, Iran and yet more Iran.
  • Netanyahu, who has been adamant in his opposition to the interim deal the international community is considering signing with Tehran, will try his utmost to convince Hollande to stand his ground during upcoming rounds of negotiations.
  • After their meeting, the two leaders will hold a joint press conference and then proceed to dine together.
  • Not far from the Prime Minister’s Residence, the French ministers, including Fabius and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, will have dinner with their Israeli counterparts at the King David Hotel.
  • On Monday morning, Hollande will meet with French clergymen in the Church of St. Anne, in Jerusalem’s Old City, which the Ottomans donated to France in 1856.
  • From there, Hollande and Fabius will continue to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
  • The French president is also expected to lay a wreath at the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004 in a French hospital and whose remains were recently examined for traces of poisoning.
  • In the late afternoon, Hollande will address the Knesset plenum, which will convene for a special session in his honor. Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich are also scheduled to speak.
  • Later on Tuesday, Hollande will hold another meeting with Peres before attending a state dinner at the President’s Residence, in the company of the prime minister, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
  • On Tuesday morning, Hollande will lay stones on the graves of the victims of the March 2012 attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse — Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, his two children Gavriel and Arieh, ages 5 and 4, and Miriam Monsonego, age 7.
  • From Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuchot cemetery, where the Sandlers are buried, the guests from Paris will drive to Tel Aviv for business-related events. Peres, Holland and Netanyahu will give speeches related to bilateral trade, economic cooperation and innovation.
  • Hollande will then meet with members of the French community in Israel at Tel Aviv University at an event which will mark the conclusion of his visit.

Iran’s top ally warns war could be coming. White House and Netanyahu issue ominously similar warnings.

(Netanya, Israel) — Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization — Iran’s top ally in the Middle East — warned today that a major regional war could be coming soon if Iran and world leaders don’t make a deal. His warnings were ominously echoed by the White House and by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. It’s hard to remember when these three agreed on anything.

“To all Arab peoples in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Oman: What is the alternative to an understanding between Iran and world leaders? It is regional war,” Nasrallah warned.

“The Obama administration Tuesday stepped up lobbying against congressional action for new sanctions on Iran, with the White House warning such a move would lead to war,” reported the Times of Israel.

“The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The alternative is military action.”

“Carney told reporters that Americans did not want a ‘march to war,’ which is what new sanctions would bring, indicating that lawmakers could pay politically if diplomacy with Iran failed,” the Times noted.

“The currently discussed deal between six world powers and Iran could lead to war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, intensifying his campaign against a possible interim agreement on Tehran’s rogue nuclear program,” reports the Times of Israel, in a separate article.

“There are not just two possibilities on the Iranian issue: A bad deal — or war. This is incorrect. There is a third possibility — and that is continuing the pressure of sanctions,” Netanyahu said in the Knesset. “I would even say that a bad deal is liable to lead to the second, undesired, result.”

“There is no reason to submit to Iranian diktats; neither is there any reason to be hasty,” Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum. “Iran is under very harsh economic pressure and the advantage is with those applying the pressure. It is possible to reach a good deal to dismantle Iran’s military nuclear capability. This cannot be achieved by the proposal now being discussed in Geneva. That proposal would make a gaping hole… through which the air could escape from the pressure of the sanctions.”

Advisors to Netanyahu say the Prime Minister isn’t opposed to a deal with Iran — just a bad deal. The premier believes the key is:

  • stopping Iran from enriching uranium
  • forcing Iran to dismantle its centrifuges
  • requiring Iran to give its already enriched uranium to another country (or countries) and simply purchase the nuclear fuel its needs to run its civilian power plants, not build weapons
  • and forcing Iran to shut down its plutonium facilities

Iran and the P5+1 powers (U.S., Russia, China, U.K. and France, plus Germany) are scheduled to meet again on November 20th in Geneva.

Let’s not cease to pray for peace, even as we prepare for the possibility of war.

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Rocket fire against Israel down 98% since last year. “Gaza has been calmer than any time in the past decade.”

(Netanya, Israel) — How secure are Israelis these days? The bad news is that tension is rising with Iran and Syria and a major war could be brewing. The good news is that overall violence against Israel is down dramatically since the war with Hamas last November.

“Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, there has been a 98 percent drop in the volume of ballistic fire out of Gaza at Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, indicating that deterrence had been achieved against Hamas and other Palestinian organizations in the Strip,” reports the Times of Israel.

“There is no doubt that significant deterrence has been achieved,” Netanyahu said, adding that there had only been 35 incidents of rocket fire since the operation ended. “We are not deluding ourselves. We know that Hamas and the other terror organizations are continuing to arm themselves in various ways. They are also trying to develop the underground track, i.e., tunnels, and we are called upon to find a response to all of these threats and, at the same time, keep up the strong deterrence that we have achieved and which we have been maintaining.”

“It has been one year since Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza engaged in an eight-day exchange of bombings and rocket attacks in which about 180 people were killed and 1,000 wounded,” reports Voice of America. “Since then, analysts say, Gaza has been calmer than at any time in the past decade, but neither side has lowered its guard.”

VOA adds:

  • A year later, the rubble has been cleared from the air strikes that Israelis called Operation Pillar of Defense; for eight days, Israeli planes and artillery pounded 1,500 targets in Gaza. More than 170 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians, and more than 800 were wounded.
  • During the same period, Hamas militants fired 1,500 rockets into Israel, reaching the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time. Six Israelis were killed and 200 wounded.
  • Israeli officials say the past year has been the calmest in more than a decade, and indeed the calmest since the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising, which ran from 2000 to 2005. The violence since then peaked with a three-week incursion by Israeli ground troops nearly five years ago, in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Palestinian terrorist kills Israeli soldier at a bus station.

“Israel Defense Forces soldier Eden Attias, 19, from Nazareth Illit, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager Wednesday in the northern Israeli city of Afula,” reports Israel Hayom. “The Shin Bet and the Israel Police have launched a joint investigation into the incident, which has been labeled a terror attack. The attack took place around 8:30 a.m. aboard the 823 Egged bus from Nazareth Illit to Tel Aviv. The assailant, identified as 16-year-old Hussein Jawadra from Jenin, who authorities say was residing in Israel illegally, attacked Attias when the bus came to a stop, stabbing him multiple times.”

“Jawadra then attempted to flee the scene but was quickly apprehended by another soldier and border policeman who were also on the bus,” the newspaper reported. “Police forces who arrived at the scene were able to find the weapon used in the attack as well. Attias, who joined the military in October and was still undergoing basic training, sustained several wounds to his neck and chest. Magen David Adom paramedics rushed him to Haemek Medical Center in Afula where he underwent emergency surgery, and later died of his wounds.”

“The soldier was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, suffering from massive blood loss. We administered a series of treatments in an attempt to stabilize his condition, but the injury to his heart was too severe and despite our best possible efforts there was nothing we could do,” Haemek Medical Center Deputy Director Dr. Tuvia Tiyosuno told Channel 2.

“Jawadra was taken in for questioning by the security forces,” noted Israel Hayom. “Northern District Police Commander Maj. Gen. Roni Atiya told Army Radio that the teen confessed to the act, saying he sought to avenge relatives who are imprisoned in Israel. ‘He told us he left his house this morning with a clear intent to harm Israelis because his uncles are jailed in Israel,’ Atiya said. According to Channel 2, the Northern District Police held a security assessment following the attack, after which it decided to reinforce police presence in central locations in the district, to bolster the public’s sense of security.”

France scuttles disastrous U.S. nuclear deal with Iran at last minute. American delegation en route to Israel for high-level talks as crisis erupts in U.S.-Israel relations.

(Netanya, Israel) — It’s been a weekend of high drama and high tension on the Iran nuclear front — and in U.S.-Israel relations — and it’s not over yet.

On Friday and for much of Saturday, it seemed as if the U.S. was going to persuade the leaders of the P5+1 group to sign a disastrous “first-step” deal with Iran. The deal would have made enormous concessions but allowed Iran to keep enriching uranium, keep spinning their centrifuges, keep building advanced new centrifuges, and not being required to dismantle a single centrifuge.

Israel immediately and very publicly objected to the contours of the deal upon learning of the details on Friday afternoon. But a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli PM Netanyahu went so badly that the two weren’t able to hold a joint news conference before Kerry left Israel for Geneva in hopes of finalizing the deal.

The situation looked very grim from the Israeli perspective for most of Friday and Saturday, with the Iranians signaling they expected to sign a deal by Saturday evening at the latest.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the French delegation objected to the proposed U.S. deal.

“As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude” the talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on French radio according to the Reuters news agency, noting that France could not accept a “sucker’s deal.”

It’s not often that the French take a hard, tough line for the right cause in international diplomacy. But they did this time and we should be very grateful. Their move should also remind us not to be fearful or cynical about this process. The Lord God of the Bible is sovereign. We can trust Him to do the right thing, even if all the nations of the world do the wrong thing. He can superintend events to accomplish His will. He can make leaders do His will. And He can give His people the patience and courage to endure suffering and hardship by His grace and mercy when the nations do the wrong thing.

Iranian leaders were stunned by the last minute turn of events that went against them.

Israeli officials were amazed and encouraged. Earlier today, Netanyahu congratulated the P5+1 group for slowing down the negotiations, delaying any decisions until at least November 20th when talks with Iran are to begin again, and avoiding signing “a bad deal.”

“Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, which took place at Sde Boker in the southern Negev desert, Netanyahu reiterated his warning of recent days that the deal that was being considered in talks over the weekend in Geneva by the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — was ‘bad and dangerous,'” reported the Times of Israel.

“Over the weekend I spoke with President Barack Obama, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with French President Francois Hollande, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron,” Netanyahu told the Cabinet. “I told them that, based on information Israel has received, the deal taking shape is bad and dangerous. Not just for us, but for them as well. I suggested they wait and think carefully, and it’s good that they decided to do so. We will do everything in our power to convince these powers and these leaders to avoid a bad deal.”

That said, the crisis in U.S.-Israel relations has intensified since Friday. Israeli leaders feel they were misled by the Obama administration over the direction of the talks with Iran, and a stunned that the U.S. would not only accept such a terrible deal, but push the rest of the international community to agree to the deal.

Haaretz is reporting that “a delegation of high-ranking U.S. officials is set to arrive in Jerusalem on Sunday to update the Netanyahu government on the weekend talks in Geneva about Iran’s nuclear program. The delegation will be led by Wendy Sherman, the U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, who heads the U.S. negotiating team on the matter….Sherman is expected to brief her Israeli counterpart on the talks in Geneva and on the gaps that remain. The U.S. delegation is due to meet with Israel’s national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, and with intelligence officials as well as senior officials in the foreign affairs and defense ministries. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be flying to Abu Dhabi to meet with Sheikh Abudllah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss the Iran negotiations. Along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the UAE is a staunch opponent of an agreement between Iran and the world powers. According to foreign news reports, Israel has been working with the UAE on the Iran issue….Netanyahu is due to visit Moscow on November 20, the same day as the next round of Iran talks in Geneva.”

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“Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief,” feels “misled” by Obama team. Rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israel relations developing due to disastrous Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Obama delivers remarks at the White House in Washington(Netanya, Israel) — I landed in Israel on Friday afternoon amidst a rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

The Obama administration is preparing to cut a disastrously bad nuclear bargain with Iran that relieves enormous economic pressure on Tehran without requiring the mullahs to dismantle a single centrifuge. The Israelis are stunned. Top officials feel betrayed by the White House, including by reports that the White House has secretly been easing sanctions for months. There have long been tensions between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There have been times I have  feared a “train wreck” between the two. Hopefully, the dynamic will change for the better, and quickly. But at the moment things are going from bad to worse in a hurry here.

Please pray that the terrible deal with Iran would be derailed for a real deal that ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Please pray that the White House changes direction and that the Lord changes the heart of the President. Pray that the leaders of Israel would be like the sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32) Please pray that the leaders of all nations involved would turn to Bible and read the Scriptures for wisdom. And please pray for the peace of Jerusalem at this critical hour.

“Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief” at the deal and feels “misled” by the U.S. over specifics of the deal, reports Israel TV 10.

“If there were a synoptic map for diplomatic storms, the National Weather Service would be putting out a hurricane warning right now,” noted a leading Israeli commentator in Haaretz. “The winds are blowing cold, tensions are on the rise and tempers are beginning to flare in the Bermuda triangle of relations between Israel, the US and the American Jewish community. And given that the turbulence is being caused by an issue long deemed to be critical to Israel’s very existence, we may actually be facing a rare Category 5 flare up, a ‘superstorm’ of US-Israeli relations.”

Another Israeli newspaper called the White House approach to Iran “shameless appeasement.”

What will Netanyahu and his government do now? This remains to be seen. But consider the Prime Minister’s blunt language. “Israel utterly rejects [the deal] and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people.”

“These critical days in November will be remembered for years to come,” said Naftali Bennett, a top Israeli Cabinet official. “The Free World stands before a fork in the road with a clear choice: Either stand strong and insist Iran dismantles its nuclear-weapons program, or surrender, cave in and allow Iran to retain its 18,500 centrifuges. Years from now, when an Islamic terrorist blows up a suitcase in New York, or when Iran launches a nuclear missile at Rome or Tel Aviv, it will have happened only because a Bad Deal was made during these defining moments. Like in a boxing match, Iran’s regime is currently on the floor. The count is just seconds away from 10. Now is the time to step up the pressure and force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. Not to let it up. It would be dangerous to lift the sanctions and accept a deal which allows Iran to retain its entire uranium-production line. It would be dangerous because Iran would, a year, two or three from now, just turn everything back on and obtain a nuclear weapon before the world can do anything to stop it. It is not enough to shut off the centrifuges. They need to be completely dismantled. We call upon the West to avoid signing a Bad Deal. Israel’s responsibility is to ensure the security of its citizens and that is exactly what we will do. We will never outsource our security.

Notes Mideast expert Daniel Pipes: “I wrote before the last presidential election that ‘Israel’s troubles will really begin’ should Obama win second term. At Obama’s second inauguration, I predicted that he, ‘freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.’ That moment is now upon us.”

Excerpts of coverage from the Times of Israel:

  • Netanyahu, the reports on Israel’s Channel 10 and Channel 2 news said, had “an unprecedented confrontation” with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Tel Aviv on Friday morning over the possible deal, which he publicly described as “a very, very bad deal” and which he implored Kerry “not to rush to sign” and to “reconsider.”
  • The Netanyahu government is “in a crisis of faith” with the Obama administration over the possible deal, Israel’s Channel 1 News further reported, in part because it apparently differs in content from the terms that Kerry had previously described to Netanyahu. Other Israeli reports said Netanyahu felt he had been “misled” by the US over the terms of the deal.
  • “Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief” at the imminent deal, Channel 10 news reported. It said the prime minister had not believed that a significant easing of sanctions was on the table in Geneva, but now was horrified to see that the emerging deal provided for a dramatic easing of sanctions against a mere Iranian promise to restrict uranium enrichment to 3.5%. In his public comments Friday, a clearly agitated Netanyahu said that, under the deal, “Iran gets everything it wanted at this stage and pays nothing.” Netanyahu — who in a clear sign of the Israel-US crisis, delivered the remarks alone, rather than at a traditional joint appearance with the visiting Kerry — added: “I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider.”

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