Oh, Jerusalem

“Comfort, comfort My people, says your GOD. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s Hand double for all her sins.” – Isaiah 40:1‭-‬2 NIV

Jerusalem, the “city of peace.” This is an ancient (over 3000 years old) – and very modern – city that has been completely destroyed twice, and partially destroyed several times. King David claimed it in the name of LORD for the Israelites, and throughout history it has been called the most favored city of the LORD. There is a battle continuing even now in Jerusalem between the Israeli and the Palestinians. We know there is a major battle over the city still to come, because it was prophesied thousands of years ago, telling of the LORD’s return.

“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights on a day of battle. On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day – a day known only to the LORD – with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. The LORD will be King over the whole earth. On that day there will be One LORD , and His Name the Only Name. The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up high from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses, and will remain in its place. It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.” – Zechariah 14:3‭, ‬6‭-‬7‭, ‬9-11 NIV

What Hope the LORD gives! This passage was written over 2700 years ago, and once again, the prophet nailed what would be happening to Jerusalem and Israel in the 21st century. Are you anxiously awaiting the LORD’s return, or are you a scoffer who doesn’t believe? My friend, my heart hurts for you if you haven’t called on JESUS for your salvation. Our hope, the world’s hope, Jerusalem’s hope – indeed, the only hope – all lie within the MESSIAH, LORD, the CHRIST, JESUS.

“And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved.’ ” – Acts 2:21 NIV

Image: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/New_Jerusalem

I Stand In Awe

Our pastor talked about prophecies in the Bible last Sunday, and how many of them are about JESUS, MESSIAH. Even though the writers didn’t know the who, they knew the when and how, because GOD was directing their pens. It is fascinating to read the prophecies and to see how they have been fulfilled throughout history. Take Habakkuk, for instance. He identifies himself as a prophet, and it is generally acknowledged that he wrote this in the mid-to-late seventh century BC, shortly before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BC. He couldn’t know what would happen in the 20th and 21st centuries, yet his words still apply to our world today.

“Why do You make me see iniquity, And cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; Strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. Will they therefore empty their net And continually slay nations without sparing?” – Habakkuk 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NASB

“Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” – Habakkuk 2:2‭-‬3 NIV

Habakkuk saw wickedness, destruction, violence, strife and contention, laws being broken and the courts subverting justice; he saw that wickedness was overcoming his people. Where was his GOD? Why was He allowing all of this to happen? When would the ALMIGHTY GOD redeem them? These are valid questions; questions I have asked myself, and ones I have heard others asking. Why, GOD? Honestly, to really know the answers, I believe we won’t know until we are face-to-face with our LORD. It will all make sense, then. Meanwhile…….

The LORD has seen fit to equip His Prophets with the visions and revelations that He revealed to them to be recorded in His Word, the book we call the BIBLE. I love this anagram of the word:

B – Basic

I – Instructions

B– Before

L – Leaving

E – Earth

We have the complete set of Instructions, written just for us in our time. Let us be like the Prophet Habakkuk, and lean on the foreknowledge that our LORD has seen fit to provide us. Rather than spending our time standing and questioning the things/circumstances we are in, perhaps we would be better known for our thankfulness that we are alive, that we know Him as our LORD, JESUS CHRIST. Thank You, GOD, for Your Forgiveness, Your Mercy, and Your Grace!

“LORD, I have heard of Your Fame; I stand in awe of Your Deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in Wrath remember Mercy.” – Habakkuk 3:2 NIV

Listen to “I’m A Survivor” by Zach Williams. ( https://www.zachwilliamsmusic.com )

(Image from https://www.everydayknow.com )

Selfish Ambition; Vain Conceit

Where does love fit into our society today? I was reading comments on Twitter this morning. Appalled, embarrassed, incredulous…. a few of the emotions that were running through my mind as I read. The majority of the tweets I see are so negative; full of blatant lies, selfish ambition, and vain conceit. How did we, as a society, reach the point where it is the norm to curse and blaspheme the LORD GOD and His followers? How are the television and media outlets in America surviving – thriving, even – when so much of their content is about denigrating and debasing others, and it seems, our top government officials? Almost every preview of a major late-night talkshow host is filled with him taunting and ridiculing our President. Where has respect gone? If you look at the progress of Roman civilization, toward the end of its existence as a super-nation, her people had degenerated into a parody of humanity. The U.S. and the world are quickly headed to the same destruction.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as CHRIST JESUS: Who, being in very Nature GOD, did not consider equality with GOD something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore GOD exalted Him to the Highest Place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of JESUS every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the Glory of GOD the FATHER.” – Philippians 2:3‭-‬11 NIV

We are teaching our children to be vain and selfish, telling them they are a “princess” or a “prince,” and that they are worth more than anyone or anything else. We are teaching them to expect the world to treat them as if they were the ruler of all around them, and that everyone is there to serve them. Then we wonder why they act entitled and vain, and want everything their way (and throw hissy fits when they don’t get it!) Look back at these verses: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others…… just as JESUS, SON of GOD, made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant …..”

This week is a perfect time to show our children – no matter their age – and our peers just what true love looks like. Happy valentine’s week, ya’ll.

( https://monochromejunkie.com/category/jesus-love )

Prince Charming

“He loves me, he loves me not…..”

There was a country song by a country singer named Johnny Lee that was popular in the 1980’s, called “Lookin’ For Love In All The Wrong Places.” I called it my “theme song.” Failed marriages, failed relationships; I was determined that the ‘next‘ guy would be ‘the’ guy…. but it was me doing the choosing rather than GOD. I was in control! ( …..segue into uncontrollable laughter….. )

How was that working out for me? Not well! The fairy tales we grow up with, the dreams of being Cinderella or Snow White or Rapunzel; being rescued by the Prince and living “happily ever after…..” Where was that ‘reality’? The dream life I was determined to achieve was certainly having a difficult time coexisting in my brain with real life!

Well, Princess, let me assure you of this fact: Prince Charming doesn’t exist outside of fairy tales.

I was pretty bitter for years that all of my ‘prince’ choices were really frogs….. or snakes. None of my choices were working out for me, and I was mad about that. Why wouldn’t this Almighty GOD give me my Prince? It wasn’t fair. (Sound like a temper tantrum? That’s probably because it was, and I kept it up for a long time!) I thought that God should take my (bad) choices and reform them into the Prince I figured I deserved, but He doesn’t work that way. I won’t say He would never take a bad choice we make and turn it for His good, because He does, in fact, do just that over and over in our lives – when it fits His Will. In my case, He did give me a number of years with a perfectly imperfect “prince.” We were far from being a perfect couple, but we did put GOD first in our lives for a time, and those years were good. When he fell into illness and turned to the escape offered by pain meds, our life together fell apart. We both turned away from the God Who allowed it to happen. I began my search again, thinking that I could do better…..

That attitude doesn’t get us real, true love!

It took several years before GOD got my attention, and I could see Him working in my life. Every single person, no matter what your earthly relationship status, can know without a doubt that The Prince of their life is waiting patiently for us to take His Hand. Single, married, divorced, widowed, mired in an abusive relationship, whatever your situation; there’s no question of whether He loves you or not, because it always ends with “He Loves me!” Knowing that, holding on to that fact, is the one thing every person alive needs to hold on to. Regardless of anything else around you, know this:

“This is how we know what Love is: JESUS CHRIST laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. And this is His command: to believe in the Name of His Son, JESUS CHRIST, and to love one another as He commanded us.” – 1 John 3:16‭, ‬18‭-‬18‭, ‬23 NIV

The real Prince has a name; the Name above all names, the Name is JESUS CHRIST, SON of the MOST HIGH, the LIVING GOD, MESSIAH, HOPE if the world! Is He your Prince?

Just the Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts

Pastor Mark Hitchcock (http://faithbibleok.com) reminded us yesterday of a preacher from England, a Gypsy, who became a Christian evangelist after hearing Dwight Moody preach in the mid to late 1800’s. The last time he visited America, then in his eighties, Gypsy Smith met a man around the same age, who said, “Gypsy, I was blessed by your preaching when you first came to America over fifty years ago.” And he asked the secret of the evangelist’s staying power. “Sir,” Gypsy responded, “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” The hymn “Wonder of it All” as sung by George Beverly Shea begins like this:
There’s the wonder of sunset at evening,
The wonder as sunrise I see;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
Is the wonder that God loves me.

What a powerful message in just one short sentence! “I have never lost the wonder of it all.” I would love to claim that statement as my own, but in good conscience, I cannot.

“Concerning this Salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the Grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the SPIRIT of CHRIST in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the Glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the HOLY SPIRIT sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” – 1 Peter 1:10‭-‬12 NIV

Gypsy Smith understood so well what so many of us struggle with when it comes to our salvation. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, the Apostle shows us three things. The Source of our Salvation (the Triune GOD, FATHER, SON, HOLY SPIRIT), the Security of our Salvation (JESUS, SON, Who died on the cross to cover our sins, once and forever), and the Strength of our Salvation (the Ever-present HOLY SPIRIT Who guides and protects us). The Old Testament Prophets predicted it, and the New Testament Apostles proclaimed it: the coming of JESUS CHRIST, our Rock, our Salvation, our Sacrifical Lamb to cover the ugliness of our sins.

Fact: there are at least 130, and by many estimates 300, prophecies in the OT pertaining to the Messiah; the GOD-MAN Whom we now know to be JESUS. We know because of the Apostles who witnessed first-hand the fulfillment of many of those prophecies.

Astronomer and mathematician Peter Stoner, in his bookScience Speaks, offers a mathematical analysis showing that it is impossible that the precise statements about the One to come could be fulfilled in a single person by mere coincidence.

The chance of only eight of these dozens of prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man has been estimated at 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

How can we put this in terms we can comprehend? Dr. Stoner illustrates the odds with this scenario: “Take 10 17silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas [with its approximate land area of 262,000 square miles]. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.

“What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

But that is only eight of the dozens of prophecies of the Messiah. Using the science of probability, the chance of as many as 48 of these prophecies coming to pass in one person is 1 in 10 to the 157th power—a 1 followed by 157 zeros (1963, pp. 100-109).

Fact: The Bible was written by 40 men from different countries and in different languages, over several thousands of years. They wrote these prophecies as they were instructed by the LORD, without knowing how, when, or by whom the prophecies would be fulfulled.

Genesis 3:15 offers the 1st prophecy:

GOD said the the Serpent, Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His Heel.”

Satan struck at JESUS during His life on earth, trying to destroy Him through temptations, His suffering, and His subsequent death on the cross. JESUS was triumphant over death and hell and the enemy of all creation, Satan, by rising up from the grave after three days!

Fact: There is one CHRIST, one Redeemer, one cross as evidenced by the scriptures. He was predicted to come in the Old Testament, He came to suffer for humankind as told in the New Testament, and He will come again in Glory to Reign, as foretold in the Revelations of John.

Final Fact. There is only one way to salvation, and that way is through JESUS CHRIST. Are you on the right way?

(This blog is strictly my take-away, based on Pastor Mark’s message. If you would like the entire message as shared, go to the FBC website.)

Who Do You Love; Who Loves You?

I have been searching for the answer to this question most of my life, but do we understand what the word “love” really means? Oh sure, we can go to Webster’s or Merriam’s dictionaries and get the canned definition, but what does it mean? Is it the “intense feeling of deep affection” we find in our children? Maybe it’s “a great interest and pleasure in something – like ‘he loves football’.” Perhaps it’s the meaning we (and the world) put so much importance on, “to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.” The more I consider the word, the more I realize how overused it is. I love the smell of baking bread. I love my home. I love my toys. I love my school. I love everyone in the world. We love all of the temporal things in life, but where does that leave us in regard to family, friends, and our mates? Is our love for people as shallow as all that? More and more, love seems to have become a synonym for lust and greediness. Is our mate the right one, or is he or she the one right now? Why do we have such a difficult time choosing the people we love? I found the following very insightful:

Fear, pride, and lust are the root of many problems that crop up in relationships. None of these drivers aim at love.

Fear closes off and withdraws, but love opens up and gives freely. Pride will not tolerate the risk of exposing one’s self to another, but love risks vulnerability for the sake of the other person. Lust tells the other person you only want the parts you can use, but love embraces the whole person—on his or her best days and worst. (Excerpt from the devotional Dating In The Modern Age, by Ben Stuart)

Fear, pride, and lust. I think Mr. Stuart nailed how so many of us look at love. Looking at my relationships, and considering how I view love, I find that using GOD’s definition of love is much more satisfying than mine.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7‭, ‬13 NIV

All my life, I’ve looked for and obsessively searched for “love” as defined by the world – possessive “love,” lustful “love,” a trophy kind of “love” that would take care of me and sacrifice for me. The kind of love that GOD offers, whereas the world only offers fear and pride and lust. I have finally “found” the LOVE that does take care of me and sacrificed all for me, the unimaginable, all-encompassing and completely fulfilling LOVE, the Love shown to us by the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, SON of the LIVING GOD.

Have you found Him?

Christ, Be With Me

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ, be with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie,
Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise,

Salvation is of the LORD (repeat 3x)

This is a part of the Catholic prayer called “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate.” My devotion today is based on this prayer, and I find it to be a very powerful and compelling prayer. I’m sure any Catholics who read this will find it familiar, but for those of us who are not Catholic, it could be our first exposure to it. The prayer puts in plain language the omniscience of GOD. He is with me. He surrounds me with His Presence and Protection. He never leaves me.

But what does it [Righteousness] say? “the WORD is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the WORD of Faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth JESUS as LORD, and believe in your heart that GOD raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. for “whoever will call on the Name of the LORD will be saved .” – Romans 10:8‭-‬10‭, ‬13 NASB

Is CHRIST with you? Have you called on His Name and claimed your gift of salvation from Him?

(Prayer is from the Catholic Bible School devotion, found on the Bible App by YouVersion.com)