Spitting into the Wind

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This devotional is not really about spitting—it  is a little about wind—and a lot about life.  I am typing this on my laptop computer as I sit in my wife’s Intensive Care Unit room at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. While on vacation here a couple of days ago Pat suffered a potentially serious heart problem, but thankfully, doctors expect her to fully recover.

So, this got me to thinking about life, diet, exercise, health and other matters of the heart. My exercise of choice is to briskly walk several miles early in the morning. Last winter I walked one day when the temperature was a few degrees below freezing, and the wind was gusting in 10 mile an hour blasts, straight out of the north. Since half of my route was north and the other half was returning south, I was having a lot of negative, whiny thoughts as I walked north. But when I turned back to the south, everything was better. So, I thought, maybe I should walk my entire 3 miles going south.  That way the wind would be at my back. I would certainly be warmer. I could avoid the bitter wind and resulting negative thoughts.  The only obvious problem was that when I finished my walk, I would be 3 miles from home.  So, I did some quick math, and figured the best thing would be for me to bite the bullet, and face the wind for half the walk, so I could end up where I wanted to be when I finished.

Life is a lot like that.  If you always walk with the wind at your back, you will never get where you need to be.  Life is made up of pleasant and unpleasant things—Good and bad things—events both joyful and painful. When people join in the happy and holy bonds of matrimony, they promise to stay together whether “for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, for better or for worse, until death do us part.”

Serving the Lord is much the same way.  It is at once both lovely and difficult. Many people think if you are serving the Lord rightly, everything will go well. They also wrongly think that if you are facing difficulty or hardship, you must not be doing the will of God. But that is not true on either count.  That is not realistic.  In fact, that is not even Biblical.

Try selling Abraham that formula for success in life. He left his home and family, endured sorrow, and waited 25 years for God’s promised son. Then after Isaac finally arrived, God commanded Abraham to take his son to a mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. Talk about tough decisions and wondering “why?”  But Abraham kept on doing right, obeying God, serving and trusting Him, even when God’s will may not have made sense to him.

What would Joseph think if you told him, as long as you are serving the Lord rightly, everything will go well? Joseph was doing God’s will, yet was despised by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused by his master’s wife, and spent two years confined in a prison cell. But Joseph was faithful, and kept on doing right and obeying God. God saw to it that it ended well, to the saving of his whole family. But even that was not without a lot of sorrow.

The only perfect person who ever lived, who deserved no heartache or pain, carried the weight of the sin of the world, was abused, despised, afflicted and crucified. His disciples also learned that serving Jesus was not without cost, as all but one willingly suffered martyrdom for Him.

Do you know anyone who never had a problem? Can you name one human in the Bible, who always triumphed, and never failed? Can you think of one person whose life was always painless? The nearest to this ideal may be a man Jesus referred to in Luke 16. Do you remember him? The rich man who died the same day as Lazarus?  After a lifetime of nothing but success, Jesus said about him, “…in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torments,” (Luke 16:23).

The secret of success in the Christian Life is to endure the difficult, and enjoy the blessing! It is possible for a person to be in the very center of the will of God and be betrayed by his brethren, threatened by his enemies, wrongly accused by his friends, and imprisoned because of false allegations….  But, at the very same time, that same one may be a powerful witness for Christ, an unexcelled leader in the faith, a teacher of preachers, and a church planter in many lands….  Just ask the Apostle Paul!

Those experiences allowed Paul to write the Corinthians and share his joy of future service this way: “For a great door, and effectual, is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries” (I Cor. 16:9).  Life is made up of great opportunities and stubborn obstacles.  Life is meant to be both enjoyed and endured. Both parts make up the whole.

Remember that walk into the chilling wind?  We learn from our walk for exercise, and from our walk for Christ:  If you always walk with the wind at your back, you will never get where you need to be, or where the Lord wants you to be. May we all learn from the words of Jesus to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

He Knows My Name

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Early one morning in February, a few years ago, I was at Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight home from a seminar in California. I was inching my way through a long TSA security line, anxious to get in the air. All of us were removing shoes, watches, belts, and pocket items in hopes of not setting off the metal detector. After I cleared it without alarm and was struggling to put my shoes back on, I noticed the man who had gone through the line before me. He looked so familiar. I knew him from somewhere. Who was he? Then I realized he was a famous movie star I had watched on television for years. As we walked away from security toward the gates, I caught up with him and asked, “Aren’t you Tom Danson from ‘Cheers,’ ‘Becker’ and CSI?’” He smiled and said, “Yes, I am.” I was wowed. I had seen a real somebody.

I found a place to sit a few minutes later and phoned my wife, Pat, to share the exciting news. I was so thrilled. After I told her I had talked to Tom Danson, she said, “His name is TED Danson, not Tom!” Of course it was! Man! I thought, how could I have been so dumb? My joy turned to embarrassment. But after thinking about it a few minutes, in my defense, I told her, “Well, he didn’t even know my name at all!”

Isn’t it most embarrassing not to know the names of people you should know? Most of us have had that happen at some time. But here’s what’s important: If some person doesn’t know your name, it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things. People are people, and you and they will get over it.

However, is it not a fantastic truth that the God of the universe knows your name? Get this: The One who created the world and everything on it, knows your name! He knows you personally!

God said to His people: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you, For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3). This statement was about Israel corporately, but is also true of believers individually.

“I have called you by name; you are Mine!” The God of the universe knows your name! It doesn’t get much better than that!

The Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, revealed similar comforting realities when He spoke to His disciples about His care for them. In John 10 Jesus compared believers to sheep and himself to the shepherd. He said “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (verses 3 and 4). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows every one of His sheep, calls them by name and leads them. You are most precious to the Good Shepherd! Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,…and I lay down My life for the sheep” (verses 14-15). He knows your name! He guides your life!

On another occasion the disciples went overboard celebrating the power they had used in ministering to people, healing and casting out demons. They had only employed the power Jesus gave them when He sent them out. However, the Lord put things back into perspective when he reminded them of what should bring joy to their hearts. He said, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20). That fact—having your name written in heaven—is something to really celebrate!

In 2010, Tommy Walker wrote the lyrics for a powerfully comforting song entitled, “He knows My Name.” These words bring joy to our hearts and serve to remind us of God’s great promise:

I have a Maker, He formed my heart.

Before even time began, My life was in his hands.

He knows my name, He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls and He hears me when I call.

I have a Father, He calls me His own.
He’ll never leave me, No matter where I go.

He knows my name, He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls and He hears me when I call

Have you noticed how you feel when people call you by your name? It brings affirmation, joy, appreciation and a proper sense of pride. If it thrills you that people know your name, how much more thrilling will it be when the Lord of lords calls you by your name?

Have you received Christ as your Savior? Do you know Him? As great as it will be for Jesus to call your name, it will be a million times worse to hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). And He will say those words to all who have not received Him as Savior. You can know Him and be called and led by Him, if you will call on Him, repent of your sin and trust Jesus alone to save you. Then He will call you by name to follow Him…and it won’t mistakenly be someone else’s name! What a day that will be!

If I Should Die Before I Wake

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“Now I lay me down to sleep…I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake…I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

As a child, my mother taught me this little poetic prayer. Like many things adults consider childish, this little prayer is built on solid spiritual ground. The Bible truth underlying it is the security of eternal life and the reality of a home in Heaven for young children and all believers in Christ.

This wording is so thought provoking. “If I should die before I wake…” makes you think of what would happen if you died in your sleep. Where would you go if you passed from this life into eternity before you awoke?

In reality, death is not the only thing, or even the worst thing that could happen to any of us. Remember the words of Hebrews 9:27? “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”

This verse reminds us of three realities about physical death:

  • Death is an appointment we will not miss—“It is appointed for men to die once.” The lives of people, all kinds of people, of every gender, race, creed or culture, come to an end. Modern medicine can extend and improve it, but cannot continue it. Statistics have always been the same: one out of every one person dies. Death is the natural sequence of events for man.
  • Death is not the end—“and after this.” Death is but a transition or channel to life on another plane in another place for another time. For believers, death here means living in Heaven. Paul had “the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Philippians 1:23). He knew that when death came, he would go to live with Jesus. However, Jesus spoke about a lost man who died and was buried, but “in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment” (Luke 16:23).
  • Death results in personal accountability to our Creator—“comes the judgment.” For believers in Christ, their service will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-12). For unbelievers, their lives will be judged at the Judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). But for both, accountability to God follows death.

The best news you will ever hear is that, though you may die physically, you can live eternally. Though physical death awaits each of us, Jesus has provided a way to save everyone who comes to Him. He promises life beyond death—a future beyond a grave.

After His friend, Lazarus, had died in Bethany, Jesus returned to comfort the family. He did this with truth and action. As Jesus approached Bethany, Lazarus’s sister Martha came to Him and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again” (verse 23). Mary affirmed her belief in the resurrection in general, but Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:23, 25-26). Resurrection and eternal life were not mere doctrines about future events, but present realities in Jesus himself.

These verses remind us of three realities about eternal life:

  • Eternal Life is in the person of Jesus—“I am the resurrection and the life.” Eternal life and gloroius resurrection are not found in things you do, works you perform or commands you obey. The resurrection and eternal life are in the person of Jesus. He is the resurrection and the life. If you have Him, by faith, you have the resurrection and the life. John wrote, “the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12).
  • Eternal Life comes by faith in Christ—“he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” This is why Jesus said, “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). When you believe in, trust in, Christ alone to save you, you receive eternal life and will live again, even if you die. Jesus said that death was a passing event, not a permanent condition.
  • Eternal Life is forever without end—“everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Jesus promised Martha, and us, that everyone who believes in and trusts Him for salvation will never die spiritually. It is obvious beleivers die physically, because Lazarus was dead then and millions have died since. But the beauty is that beleivers in Christ continue to live spiritually, even after their body dies. Beleivers have eternal life and the end of their physical life is only a sleep for the body until the resurrection. At death the spiritual part of every believer goes to be with the Lord. Paul wrote, “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord…and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8).

Physical death is a bleak reality but eternal life is a constant hope. It is obvious we live in the land of the dying, but in Christ, are headed to the land of the living. Paul’s statement of victory can be yours in Christ: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).

 

Homegrown Culture Shock

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Culture shock is a feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. It is most commonly experienced by people who immigrate or visit a new country or strange social environment. It may leave one with a feeling of lostness; of being surrounded, suppressed and depressed.

But, you don’t have to leave your country to experience culture shock. Sometimes all you have to do is watch the news, read the paper or walk through a mall to make you feel lost or distant; like a stranger in your own land.

Our Problem

This homegrown type of culture shock is complicated when we reject change and hold rigidly to by-gone days. Truthfully, morals, values and traditions may have been more common and virtuous in earlier times. But in retrospect the good-ole days were not always that good.

When we look back and long for earlier days instead of making the most of our time for God during this age, we will miss God’s purpose for us here and now. It is especially problematic if we use the corruption of our culture or the immoralities of our times to excuse our lack of influence for Christ in this generation. God has us here in this day, to reach these people with compassion and truth.

David is a great example of ministering to people during difficult, immoral days. Most people know about David’s triumph over the giant, Goliath. But listen to the way Paul summarized David’s life: : “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers…” (Acts 13:36). David accomplished his purpose by serving his own generation doing the will of God, then died fulfilled. Could this be said of you? Are you serving your own generation by the will of God?

Our Command

If Christian people, because of the sinful condition of mankind and immoralities of our days, withdraw from contact, it will mean abandoning the very people we are supposed to reach with the saving gospel. This would be like medical doctors refusing to treat people who had the plague. Their task is difficult and dangerous, but it is their life purpose.

No matter what the condition of society and the world, we are commanded, as was Titus, to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). The true Christian avoids and denies ungodliness and worldly desires, while living sensibly, righteously and godly in the present. You can live holy for Christ in this ungodly world.

Our Understanding

In 1 Chronicles 12, the writer is summarizes the number of people and strength of the twelve tribes of Israel. But when he comes to describe Issachar, he writes that they were “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” (verse 32).

They possessed particular insight that enabled them to understand the times in which they lived. It says a lot when someone understands the seasons of their lives and the signs of the times. We need to understand the times in which we live, with knowledge of what we are to do, in light of our days and our culture. I wish that we, like Issachar, could understand and interpret our generation so that we could treat them effectively, reach them with the gospel, and teach them the Word of God.

Our Purpose

The meaning of “culture” is the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by a group of people in a particular place or time. It is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characerize it.

It is not our aim to change the culture. Our enemy is not the culture. The culture is just the typical ways people live and pass values to their children and others around them. Our purpose is to know the culture so we can communicate to people within it. But knowing the culture and communicating to people in it means we must:

  1. Not conform to the culture.
  2. Not fall in love with the culture.
  3. Not try to repair the culture.

Neither the Lord Jesus, nor Paul, the apostles or early churches sought to change the cultures of their world. God has not called us to change the culture, but to communicate the living Word of God in such a powerful way that people within the culture are changed. The only biblical way to change the culture is to change the people within the culture. And, though we cannot change the culture, God can, through the power of Christ and the application of His Word.

Our Aim

The power of God can change the culture, one sinner at a time. Paul reminded the Corinthians of the power of Christ to change – after he names 10 kinds of sins characteristic to their culture (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)—he says, “Such were some of you: but you were washed,but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God” (verse 11). The saving, cleansing, sanctifying, justifying power of Jesus and His Spirit changed the Corinthians, and it can change people immersed in our culture today!

The aim of Christians, indeed the purpose of churches, is to reach our generation with the saving power of Christ through saving faith in Him alone. Our prayer should be that God would raise up spiritual leaders who are intent on reaching their generation for Christ in salvation and service. There is so much to do serving Christ in the present that we do not have the luxury of living in the past, or of hiding from the culture. With God’s help let us confront the culture in the power of the Spirit, with the gospel claims of Christ and the truth of Scripture.  Maybe that is the best way to defeat culture shock.

 

What in the World are you Doing?

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What in the World Are You Doing?

This piercing, intense, high decibel question, came from my mom, after she caught sight of me, matted, head to waist in my own partially dried blood. What in the world I was doing…was difficult to explain, because I had left the house an hour before, and directly disobeyed her plain instructions. So now, bruised and bleeding, I had to face the consequences of my stupidity. Thankfully, my broken nose, and facial lacerations, surrounded by abrasions and strawberries received sliding on my face, touched a soft spot somewhere deep within her. As a result, she didn’t execute me immediately. Many stitches and lots of iodine swabs later I wondered to myself, what was I thinking? What in the world was I doing?

On that day many years ago, I was forced to stop and think about what I did, considering the consequences of my actions. The same scenario in my life has played out many times since. All have not resulted in broken bones and stitches—some have garnered worse results. But thinking people should know that activities have consequences. Deeds have effects. Actions lead to reactions. The bottom line is: It matters what you do.

Why not, as a Christian, apply this principle to your life? Ask this question: What in the world am I doing for Christ’s sake? God expects you to be a person of purpose. He wants His children to live lives that impact others and make a difference for His Kingdom.

So, what in the world are you doing for Christ’s sake? First, realize there is a war going on. The world and the Christian; culture and Christianity; the civilization and the church; are in a continual, desperate struggle against each other. According to the teaching of Scripture, the world seeks to ensnare Christians, while Christians seek to evangelize the world. For this very reason Paul urged believers to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2). Howard Hendricks used to say, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”

On one hand, Christians are to be separate from the world, but on the other, they are to befriend, identify with unsaved people, and evangelize in the world. Paul proclaimed, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law…so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23). We must minister to people we are not to mimic, if we would lead them to Christ.

In His high priestly prayer (John 17), Jesus prayed for His disciples, then and now (verse 20). The thrust of His prayer was about His followers’ relationship with the “world,” using that word 19 times in 26 verses. The two aims of the Lord’s prayer for His children was that they be “in” the world…“they themselves are in the world” (verse 11); but that they not be “of” the world…“they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (verse 14).

As with every true believer in Christ, though their home is on earth, their citizenship is in heaven. Conversely, though their heart and hope are in Heaven, their duty and responsibility are on earth. That is why the Lord has left them here.

So, what in the world are you doing for Christ’s sake? For many of us the short answer seems to be, “Not enough.” The late Dr. W. A. Criswell’s warning: “We are ever only one generation from utter paganism,” (“Guidebook for Pastors”) is coming closer to reality. According to Elmer Towns in Into the Future, the only nation in the world where the gospel is not advancing and churches are not growing is the United States. We must do better.

The answer of what every true disciple is to do for Christ’s sake is revealed in the prayer of Jesus for believers and can be summarized by three powerful phrases:

REMAIN…REMAIN SEPARATE FROM the World…Christ Prayed:

“These are in the world” (John 17:11).

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one evan as We are” (John 17:11).

“That they might have My joy made full in themselves” (John 17:13).

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).

REACH…REACH INTO the World…Christ Prayed:

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

REVEAL…REVEAL CHRIST TO the World…Christ Prayed:

“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me” (John 17:21).

The whole business of the church, ministry of the saint and job of the Christian is here: Separation…Integration…Revelation. Separation from worldly behavior and lifestyle—Integration into the world with the gospel message—Revelation of Jesus Christ—Revealing the true Savior to the world.

So, What in the World Are You Doing for Christ’s Sake?

 

Free Indeed…Memorial Day!

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What we know as Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. In America, the custom of visiting the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of deceased family members soon became occasions for family reunions and picnics as well. After the War Between the States, people recognized the need to set a special day to honor those who died in the Civil War. Following World War I the special day was expanded to honor all who had died in American wars.

For us, Memorial Day should be more than a three-day weekend, barbecues and shopping. It should remind us that freedom is never free. It should help us remember how privileged we really are because millions fought and won battles for freedom against tyranny and oppression. It should give us a pause to reflect and to realize that many paid for our freedom with their very lives.

However, we are prone to forget the significance of this day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wisely said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” Sometimes we forget that freedom is not free.

In remembrance of the fallen troops who died in service, Memorial Day marks a time of giving thanks and being grateful. It is a time to remember the great sacrifice of the fallen soldiers. It reminds us how precious freedom is and that it still needs to be guarded closely. As we celebrate Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s wars. Robert A. Heinlein said, “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

Memorial Day reminds me of two things. On one hand, it’s all about remembering the price of our freedom. It is recalling the cost paid to secure our way of life in liberty. The very most a person can do for his friend is to die for him – a clear demonstration of supreme love. However, Memorial Day also reminds me of the greatest cost ever given by any man to bring freedom to others. It is a day to recall the great price Jesus paid to free us from the death penalty of our sins and to grant soul liberty, salvation and eternal life.

Jesus spoke of this great love in John 15:13 when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” The “greater love” is shown, not discussed—but displayed, becoming visible when one willingly gives his life for another. This is the kind of love Jesus has for each one of us. Jesus demonstrated His love by giving His life a sacrifice “for his friends” – literally in behalf of his friends, or in the place of his friends.

The “friends” Jesus died for, were actually His enemies when He died for them. This fact is what makes the sacrificial love of Christ so amazing. Only a few people would willingly die for friends, but Jesus died for the enemy, the hater, for those who despised Him. Paul wrote, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Marcus Dods said that, “Self-sacrifice is the high-water mark of love.” To sacrifice oneself requires more than words or desire. Peter thought he was ready to lay his life down for Jesus, but in the face of an accusation by a servant girl, denied the Lord three times (John 18:17, 18, 25-27). All the professions of love and devotion can only be proven by actions. The Lord Jesus verified His love by laying down “his life for his friends.” This was, and is, the supreme example of sacrificial love.

Several years later Peter wrote this about Christ’s sacrifice for our sins: “He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” because it is “by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

The Lord’s love for us was immeasurable. His compassion for our condemned condition was so strong, that, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

As Peter wrote, this sacrifice Jesus made, this death He died for us, was so He could, “bring us to God.” His atoning death was able to please the holy and righteous demands of God because “Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).

The Bible also teaches that Jesus lives to secure the salvation He died to purchase, so that, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2).

Why not make this a Double Memorial Day? On this Memorial Day, remember those who paid the ultimate cost, giving their lives for your national freedom. And rejoice and trust in the One who gave His life for your spiritual freedom. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). And freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.

 

 

 

Witnessing History

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Jonathan Lethem wrote, “You could grow up in the city where history was made and still miss it all” (The Fortress of Solitude).

It is possible to witness history being made, and yet miss it. History was made last week, on Monday, May 14, 2018, when the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. On the surface, it doesn’t seem that spectacular, but let me tell you why it was historical.

About four thousand years ago, God promised Abraham, “I will make you a great nation…and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). This everlasting covenant between God and Abraham included a people (the nation of Israel) and a possession (the land of Israel).   God had the right to give it to Abraham, because He made the land in the first place. And Abraham had the right to receive it because he moved to the land of Canaan from Ur, in obedience to God’s direct command.

Several years later, as Abraham and Sarah were childless and uncertain, God came to him again and said; “’Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Genesis 15:5). Then, to encourage Abraham further, God said, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it” (verse 7).

God’s covenant with Abraham was extended to his son, Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5, 24); then to his grandson Jacob (Genesis 35:10-12), and to his twelve great grandsons, the twelve sons of Jacob, the children of Israel, and to their descendants (Exodus 2:23-25).

About three thousand years ago, King David made the city of Jerusalem his home and capital of Israel. David purchased the site of the future temple on Mount Moriah and declared it the “house of the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 21:18, 26—22:1). It was on this very site a thousand years earlier Abraham had offered Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It was here that David’s son, Solomon, constructed the Temple of God (2 Chronicles 3:1).

At the ascension of King Solomon’s son to the Jerusalem throne, the kingdom was divided in two, between Israel (mainly the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (primarily the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin). For the most part, Israel forsook the Lord and fell to Assyria in 722 BC, while Judah and the capital of Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586 BC (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).

Around 500 BC God moved the heart of King Cyrus to authorize the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The city was rebuilt, the Temple was restored and Israel was a nation, though weakened and often defenseless.

A few years before the birth of Christ, Herod the Great built the second great Temple in Jerusalem, the foundations of which remain to this day under the Temple Mount. However, Herod’s Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem ransacked and Israelites scattered by the Roman General Titus in AD 70. Jesus had prophesied this destruction and dispersion in Matthew 23:37—24:2. From AD 70 until May 14, 1948, the people of Israel were driven to every corner of the earth, scattered among the countries and nationalistically was non-existent.

During the past two millennia one would think Israel would have dissolved and been assimilated into scores of cultures and nationalities, as has happened to many distinct people groups throughout history. However, the path of distribution, dissemination, loss of distinction and ensuing destruction could not happen to the people of Israel. God kept His eternal covenant with Abraham, and Israel, though scattered, remained a distinct people.

Despite their disobedience, defection and defeat, the chosen people of God are always part of God’s plans and future events. Even their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, the Son of God, did not alter God’s plan and course for Israel. This promise to Israel was kept: “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37). Israel survived, thrived, and now occupies their God-given land.

Last week history was made. The nation of Israel enjoyed her 70th anniversary by celebrating the move of its capital to Jerusalem. In a speech at the celebration, Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu said, “The prophet, Zechariah, declared over 2,500 years ago, ‘So said the Lord, I will return to Zion and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth.’”

Surely glorious days are ahead when those words, and these, come to pass: “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle…. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west…. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zechariah 14:2-5). When prophetic becomes historic, that will be a great day!