Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Jesus, the Good Shepherd - by Pastor Mike Taylor -
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." (Psalm 23:1-6)
This is a most beautiful Psalm attributed to King David, that most everyone knows, or many have memorized. But do they understand the deeper implications that David was trying to convey about God Almighty that we serve and he served in Ancient Israel?
Let us begin to explore the deeper meaning of what this Psalm 23 means to the individual and the instruction that God gives to each of us to deal with the anxiety produced by a world that is spiraling out of control. If a person is allowed to follow his human emotions, many of us would be filled with dread and fear of what is coming upon the earth.
Like a good shepherd, our Lord and Savior delivers us from the feelings of anxiety and promises that He will always be with us, and will never forsake us. But first we have to submit to His direction, His leading and realize that we don't know the way through this crooked path in front of us, which is our lives, and that since we don't know the way, we need a shepherd that does know the way. We must look to Jesus for our guidance through this world in which we are but pioneers, sojourners in a land that is not our home.
Turn with me now to Luke 11:34 and listen to what Jesus says,
"If the eye is single, then the whole body will be full of light. If the eye is dual (or evil), how great is that darkness".
What's He saying? He's reminding us, that we need to keep our eye on Him, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is our light and if we keep our eye on Him, then our body and spirit is full of light, but if our eye is dual and looking elsewhere besides Jesus, then how great is that darkness. We will never find our way.
We are commanded to be Holy as we follow the good Shepherd. How can we follow His leadership, if we fail to live as He lived? Turn with me now to Romans 12:1-2:
" I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service,
v.2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
We have to be willing to submit wholeheartedly to the leadership of the Lord God, our Shepherd. We must be willing to say, "I'll go anywhere, I'll do anything, I'll be anything. I'll carry any load, live anyplace you want me to live, do anything you want me to do. We must be willing to put away sin as He points it out to us. Now that doesn't mean we'll be sinless, on the contrary, but if we are following what the Bible tells us and follow the truth that we have, that's 90% part of the battle , and the rest falls into place that is indefinite or unknown.
If we are willing to be brought into conformity to Jesus Christ in every area of our life, and we are allowing Him freedom to work in us, then He will reveal more truth to us. But He won't if we are consciously holding out and defending sin in our lives. He reveals His truth only to men and women with an open, and obedient heart. God desires to lead us into greater and greater righteousness in our lives as well, and we should be concerned about obtaining His righteousness, as humanly possible in this life. Let's look at what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:7,
"For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.".
God has called us unto sanctification and holiness. It is His intention to sanctify us entirely. This verse is referring to not committing fornication, but being sanctified and abstaining from sinful pleasures and acts against your neighbor, your brother, or your sister. We want to know that God is our Shepherd, but we must not tolerate sin in our lives. They may go without confessing them for long periods of time, but if we confess our sins,
" He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1st John 1:9.)
But let's notice something in the beautiful Psalm 23 we are exploring. At the end of verse 3, David makes an assertion. Why does the good shepherd lead us in the paths of righteousness? He guides us "for His name's sake." That is for the sake of His glory, and the reputation of His own name and honor. What kind of reputation would a shepherd in Ancient Israel earn if everyone knew he was careless and irresponsible with his own sheep?
Let me ask you another, more important question. What kind of reputation would God earn for Himself if He were careless with those who belong to Him and are in His charge? Those that are following and faithful to His call and responded to His invitation from the Holy Spirit to accept His free gift of grace? What is His promise? Understand that God's name is on the line here, in your life, and others who have been redeemed by His own blood. He wants to show the world that He is faithful to provide for all your needs and guide you in righteous paths, and lead a holy life, as much as possible, this side of glory.
So far we have seen that the LORD should be trusted as the good Shepherd, especially as One who provides for His own and faithfully guides them as well. But in shepherding in the land of Ancient Israel, it consisted of more than just providing for and guiding one's sheep. The Shepherd must also PROTECT them. This of course, is the focus on verse 4.
GOD PROMISES TO PROTECT YOU AND ME!!
David wrote "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me". (Psalm 23:4)
The phrase "valley of the shadow of death" most likely refers to the shadows cast by deep ravines with sharp cliffs, possibly in the Jordan valley. There is actually a place along the road to Jericho, I'm told, that is called "the valley of the shadow of death," where robbers would hide and wait for the unprepared and unsuspecting victims. A shepherd leading his sheep had to pass these dark areas with the Shepherd guiding them.
Maybe this was a time when David was fleeing from Saul, and his attempt to try and kill him, but the point of the verse, is that God uses His rod to deal blows to the enemy, not to His sheep. They are tenderly pulled out of danger with his staff, which was a long crooked pole that could pull a leg away from danger, or a tap on the side to get them back in line, tenderly and with love. He doesn't whack us over the head with this rod, saying, "you bad sheep. Get back in line" and use a heavy rod on us. No, He lifts us up in His arms and gently leads us away from danger, but only if we trust and allow him to do so.
It is not that God will shield us from every harmful circumstance, as this is patently false as many of us can testify. People actually die prematurely, at least in our mind. But even in death, God is with us, so why should we fear something so natural? Death is a part of life and will visit all of us, if the Lord should tarry. But Paul wrote in Romans :
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
v. 39, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Romans 8:38-39)
Three things we must know. First nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ, during these experiences. Second, He alone passes approval on what things are permitted to afflict us and the trial we must bear. And thirdly, He will only test us for our own good and deeper knowledge of Him. We need to know that God will never abandon us. He is not the hired hand, but the faithful Shepherd.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
v2, But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
v3, To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
V4, And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice."(John 10:1-4)
Dropping down in the chapter
"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
. 12, But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13, The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine."(John 10:11-14)
Can you see how He calls His sheep, and that He is the gate in and out of green pastures? He has only permitted what in His wisdom is ultimately good for you and will never allow permanent separation to come between you and Him. You can trust Him to protect you from anything He does NOT desire for you life.
In the Old Testament, God the Father is designated as "The Shepherd of Israel." He is the Pastor of the Jewish nation. When Jesus declared Himself, "the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11, the Jewish people knew that He was claiming to be Jehovah, in the flesh and that He was proclaiming Himself to be God. God has lifted the name of Jesus above every name and He is the good Shepherd of the Church on earth.
GOD SPARES NO BLESSING!
Moving onto verse 5 and 6 of this beloved Psalm, the picture here is of God as a gracious host, and throwing a banquet and sparing no extravagance for the invited guest. David says, "my cup overflows." Which could either mean that the quality of the drink is absolutely superb or that the host had provided him with an abundance. Either way, the tremendous grace of God is evident in David's experience here. In the land of Ancient Israel and surrounding areas, no one was more safe from his enemies, as when he was in a Bedouin Chief's tent and a meal had been placed before him. His enemies could not touch him. His head was anointed with oil, a generous gesture from the host and implies honor and favor.
In fact, the implication in v. 5 is that this has been David's experience with God up to this point in his life and verse 6 seems to indicate that David is confident such grace and fellowship with God will continue throughout all his days. And so it will be with us in our time, and in our life. He says, in verse 6,
"Surely (notice David's confidence) goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life"
Rather than being pursued by his enemies, (eg. Saul) the goodness and mercy and God's loving kindness will follow him all of his days and he knows that he will dwell in the house of the Lord for as long as he lives. David envisions the direction his life will take as centered around fellowship and communion with His God, our God. The grace of God can accomplish that in our lives as well. Do we realize how gracious God has been to us in Jesus Christ? He has forgiven us our sins against Him and given us His Spirit to enable us to walk with Him.
Read with me 1st Corinthians 2:12-16:
"And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
13, Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15, But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16, For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."( 1st Corinthians 2:12-16)
We ought to rejoice in God's grace toward us, rather than be overcome with anxiety over the circumstance the good Shepherd allows in our lives. Even in trials, He is right there with us.
BECAUSE THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT LACK ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE.
Psalm 23 "And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Unbroken, eternal fellowship with God! What fellowship! What joy divine! His coming Kingdom is a place where we will be in eternal fellowship with our Shepherd, King Jesus Christ.
Jesus promised in John.
"Let not your hearts be troubled. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go , I will come again to receive you unto Myself: that where I am, there may you be also." (John 14:1-3)
He's building us a mansion right now. And it's not here, but there in Heaven, somewhere, out there beyond the stars. He's coming to bring us to His place at the future rapture of the church. We are going to Him, not the other way around.
No one says it better than Kyle M. Yates. "It is all made possible because of the love of God for us and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who paid it all that we might be ransomed. He died in our place. We received eternal life through faith in Him as our crucified and risen Saviour. The condition of our salvation is faith in Him. The real ground of our redemption is the blood of Jesus Christ. He died and rose again for US. Now He lives in US. God the Father is the source of our salvation. God the Son is the channel through which it comes to US. God the Holy Spirit is the agent who makes it effective in US. His provision for US is the costliest transaction ever conceived in the heart of God. It took the precious blood of His own Son to pay the debt. We enter into the full realization of this salvation by complete surrender to Him with the certain trust in Him to provide all our needs. We continue in Him as the Shepherd continues constantly with US." (Preaching from the Psalms, p. 74).
Indeed, this is the only way we can live the Christian life. Our Shepherd has provided us all we will ever need. As we hand over to Him our needs, He graciously hands over to us the provision. All we have to do is acknowledge our needs and surrender them to Him. I exchange my need for His abundant supply.
THOUGH HE IS IN HEAVEN, THE GREAT SHEPHERD IS STILL SEEN CARING FOR HIS SHEEP!
" Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." ( Hebrews 13:20-21)
Think on that: "He has risen from the dead and He has 'equipped you in every good thing to do His will." He "works in us to do that which is pleasing in His sight." It is all done to glorify Him forever and ever.
THE CHIEF SHEPHERD IS GOING TO MAKE HIMSELF VISIBLE ONE DAY, SOON!!
"And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:4)
The word for "appear" means " to make visible, clear, manifest, know, to uncover, to lay bear, to reveal." One day he is coming and every eye will see Him. It will be at banquet of awards in heaven. He will honor those who have been "good and faithful," It is another trophy of grace, our crowns of gold upon our heads. Under-shepherds will "receive the unfading crown of glory." It will not be a bouquet of flowers that will fade and die and it won't be a wreath that will fade away in a day or two. It won't be the applause of men that diminishes over time. No, it will be the eternal crown of Glory that we will cast at His feet to worship Him on that day.
CONCLUSION AND SUMMARIZATION
If the LORD is your Shepherd, what can you hold onto and be fully confident of?
Because the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not lack any provision of needs in this life.
Because He makes me to lie down in green pastures, I shall not lack nourishment.
Because He leads me beside quiet waters, I shall not lack rest.
Because He restoreth my soul, I shall not lack forgiveness and restoration.
Because he guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake, I shall not lack a right relationship with God.
Because I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, and I shall not lack encouragement and hope.
Because Thou art with me, I shall not lack for a constant companion.
Because Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me, I shall not lack guidance and protection.
Because Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies, I shall not lack honor and respect.
Because Thou hast anoint my head with oil, I shall not lack power and authority.
Because My cup overflows, I shall not lack joy, and an abundant life.
Because goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life, I shall not lack contentment.
Because I dwell in the house of the Lord forever, I shall not lack assurance of eternal security in the Lord.
Yes, my friend, the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in need of anything.
The LORD is my Guide, I shall be led by Him.
The Lord is my King: I shall be a guest in His palace.
The LORD is coming soon, and I shall be with Him in His Kingdom!!!
Does this world try your soul? Does it drive you to fear and a feeling of hopelessness? Are you at your wits end wanting someone to throw you a life-line? I am throwing you a life-line of eternal life found in only One Way, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.
Have you found the LORD as your Shepherd? Believe right now, that you're a sinner. Admit that you have fallen short of the mark to stand before a Holy God. Believe in your heart that God has raised His Son Jesus from a grave in resurrection after being crucified on a cruel cross. Believe that He came and died for your sins, my sins and wants only to save you from the penalty of death that we all deserve for sinning against God. Believe that He ascended to Glory to sit at the right hand of the Father God in Heaven and waits only for the signal from the Father to come reclaim what He has already bought with His own blood...His creation, including YOU. I ask you to make that prayer right now, with your mouth, confess the LORD as your Savior, and follow Him in obedience in water baptism.
He will become instantly, the Shepherd in your life, the answer you seek, the filling of an empty space in your life, and in your heart...do it today, while there is still time...
Yes, my reader, we live in a time that tries the unanchored soul that has no mooring to anything solid. Cast your cares upon Him and anchor in the solid Rock that will keep you and guide you through the storms that are sure to come. As I think on the cares of this life, and the devastation surrounding every man, woman and child on this planet, I rely on another promise that God gave, that applies to only those found in the loving arms of the Shepherd, my Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 91:
" A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come nigh thee.
-Only with thine eyes, you shall look and see the reward of the wicked,
-Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place,
-No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling."(Psalm 91:7-10)
This is a time that does try a man's soul, but those who look to the "Good Shepherd", need not fear, but confidence by faith, in the provision's of God.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in HIM, should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, praying you will find my Good Shepherd, my Rock in this life, my firm foundation. May God richly Bless you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments , prayer, or biblical answers to your questions. Or visit me online at my ministry blog at www.pastormiketaylor.blogspot.com , May God richly bless you all.
TILL WE MEET AT JESUS FEET.
Hamas Blackmail, Media Silence - by Bassam Tawil -
Hamas's strategy is to remain in power forever; to achieve that goal, it is prepared to do anything. Hamas has always acted out of its own narrow interests while holding the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hostage to its extremist ideology and repressive regime.
"Those who claim to be confronting Israel are nothing but corrupt, extortionist bribe-takers. Today, every politician in the Gaza Strip is well aware of the fact that the corruption at the border crossings has become the norm of the official establishment, and not actions by individuals or a certain apparatus." - Hassan Asfour, former Palestinian Authority minister, human rights activist and political columnist.
Here one always needs to ask: where is the role of the international media in exposing Hamas's corruption and exploitation of its own people? Why is it that the mainstream media in the West does not want to pay any attention to what Asfour and other Palestinians are saying? The answer is always simple: As far as foreign journalists are concerned, if Israel is not the one asking for bribes or blackmailing the Palestinians, there is no story there.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, says it wants Israel and Egypt to keep the border crossings with its coastal territory open on a permanent basis. The message that Hamas has been relaying to Israel and Egypt has been along the lines of: If you seek a cease-fire, you must reopen, on a permanent basis, the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing (with Israel) and the Rafah terminal along the border with Egypt.
It is worth noting that the Kerem Shalom border crossing has been open for most of the time in the past few years, with Israel allowing the entry of goods and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip. Recently, Israel shut down the border crossing temporarily, but only after Palestinian rioters had set the terminal on fire at least twice in the previous weeks. Israel's decision temporarily to shut down the Kerem Shalom also came in response to hundreds of kite and balloon arson attacks launched from the Gaza Strip against Israel, and which have set fire to more than 30,000 dunams (more than 7,400 acres) of land in southern Israel.
The Rafah border crossing with Egypt is a different story altogether. For the past few years, the Egyptian authorities have kept the terminal almost completely shut. Why? Because the Egyptians do not like Hamas in particular and the Palestinians in general. They see Hamas as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and suspect that the Gaza-based group has been involved with Islamist terror groups waging war on the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula.
Like many Arab countries, the Egyptians consider the Palestinians to be an ungrateful people who have never appreciated the sacrifices their Arab bothers made for them. In recent years, a growing number of Egyptians, such as the prominent Egyptian writer Lamis Jaber, have been expressing their views against the Palestinians in public.
Some Palestinians have gone so far as accusing the Egyptian media of waging a campaign aimed at delegitimizing the Palestinians.
This is the reason most Arab countries impose severe restrictions on the Palestinians and even subject them to discriminatory and apartheid laws, such as denying them citizenship and the right to purchase real estate, as well as preventing them from working in various professions, as is the situation in Lebanon.
What, then, is really prompting Hamas's demand that Israel and Egypt reopen the border crossings on a permanent basis? Is Hamas suddenly showing genuine concern for the well-being of the two million Palestinians living under its control in the Gaza Strip? Is Hamas suddenly sincere about ending the humanitarian and economic crisis there? Or has Hamas perhaps finally turned into non-violent peaceful movement that seeks to turn the Gaza Strip into the "Singapore of the Middle East?"
Alas, it seems that none of the above is so. Hamas apparently has something on its mind, but it is not a torrent of tears for its people. Not, at least, while Hamas leaders continue to live in the lap of five-star-hotel luxury from Turkey to Egypt to Lebanon and beyond.
What Hamas has on its mind is Hamas. Hamas's strategy is to remain in power forever; to achieve that goal, it is prepared to do anything. Hamas has always acted out of its own narrow interests while holding the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hostage to its extremist ideology and repressive regime.
So, when Hamas says it wants the border crossings to be open all the time, that is because Hamas is thinking of what is good for Hamas. According to reports in various Palestinian media platforms, Hamas has been using the border crossings to enrich its coffers and add more cash to the bank accounts of its corrupt officials. This vocation consists not only of asking for bribes, but also nepotism. If you have good connections with someone high up in Hamas, you will be able to pass through the Rafah border crossing more easily and faster than others.
Palestinians have always known about Hamas's corrupt practices at the border crossings, but only a few dare to speak out about them. Palestinians are understandably afraid to talk about the bribes that Hamas officials collect or demand from Palestinians wishing to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal (during the rare times it is opened by the Egyptians). Reports also say we are talking about big money that is being collected from desperate Palestinians who want to travel abroad for their studies or to receive medical treatment.
One Palestinian not afraid to speak out about Hamas's corrupt practices at the border crossings is Hassan Asfour, a former Palestinian Authority minister, human rights activist and political columnist.
In a daring move, Asfour published an published an article on August 2, in which he called on the Hamas leadership to stop blackmailing Palestinian would-be passengers at the Rafah terminal. Asfour denounced the practice as "cheap exploitation," and pointed out that Hamas was requesting from $1500 to $3000 per traveler.
"The political factions in the Gaza Strip know about this, but chose to ignore it," Asfour wrote. "This has destructive repercussions on the daily lives of the people." In an implicit reference to Hamas, Asfour wrote:
"Those who claim to be confronting Israel are nothing but corrupt, extortionist bribe-takers. Today, every politician in the Gaza Strip is well aware of the fact that the corruption at the border crossings has become the norm of the official statement, and not actions by individuals or a certain apparatus."
The corruption, he added, is "part of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip and these practices are being done with Hamas's knowledge and under its supervision."
Addressing Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yayha Al-Sinwar, Asfour said, referring to the bribes and corrupt practices at the border crossings: "Stop this national and human disgrace. Enough of this unprecedented corruption. Do not underestimate the anger of the people [over the Hamas corruption]."
Asfour's revelations about Hamas's corrupt manipulation of Palestinians come as no surprise to many Palestinians, especially those who live in the Gaza Strip and those who are familiar with Hamas's repressive practices. However, here one always needs to ask: where is the role of the international media in exposing Hamas's corruption and the exploitation of its own people? Why is it that the mainstream media in the West does not want to pay any attention to what Asfour and other Palestinians are saying? The answer is always simple: As far as foreign journalists are concerned, if Israel is not the one asking for bribes or blackmailing the Palestinians, there is no story there.
Most sad of all, is that because of the refusal of the international media to highlight human rights violations by Hamas, the Palestinians will suffer even more while the UN and Egypt talk about a cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel, which would have the borders crossings reopened on a permanent basis. This means that Hamas leaders will again be able to laugh all the way to the bank, while their people hunt for the means to pay extortionate bribes of up to $3000 to get themselves healed or educated.
Watchman Warning: Swords of Midian - By Hal Lindsey -
A deadly poison is making its way through the body politic of the United States. Intelligent, thoughtful Americans are now openly wondering if a civil war looms in our future. Bloomberg recently quoted political scientist Thomas Schaller saying, "I think we're at the beginning of a soft civil war. I don't know if the country gets out of it whole."
Thomas Ricks of Foreign Policy Magazine asked a group of what he called "smart national security thinkers," a basic question. "What are the chances of another civil war breaking out in this country in the next 10 to 15 years?"
Ricks said, "I was surprised that the range of answers ran from 'five percent' to '95 percent.'"
The well-known Hollywood director, actor, and liberal activist, Rob Reiner, has on several occasions characterized America as presently being in a civil war. Charles Hurt, Opinion Editor for the Washington Times and political commentator for Fox News, wrote in June, "Civil war is upon us."
That may sound like hyperbole. After all, in the war between the states, more than 600,000 soldiers died. Gettysburg alone saw 51,000 deaths. We see nothing like that today. Thankfully, our military has not divided over geographic or political issues. Vast armies do not stalk one another through the fields of Pennsylvania, Georgia, or Virginia.
Nevertheless, lines have been drawn. They're not lines of soldiers charging up Cemetery Hill. But neither are they traditional political lines where an issue is debated, then settled by ballot. Increasing numbers of Americans no longer trust the vote. When I say that, I'm not just talking about Russian or Chinese interference in US elections. I'm talking about Americans no longer trusting their neighbors to make sound decisions. Just as important, they no longer trust the media to give them the facts on which to base sound decisions.
In Chicago last weekend, 66 people were shot and 12 killed - Americans shooting Americans. If those numbers of casualties had taken place at a single venue, it would have the primary headline in every newspaper and news website in America. It wasn't at a single school or church, but it was all in one city.
Over the same weekend, Portland saw another round of violent confrontations between right-and-left-wing extremists. People are being hounded from restaurants and while walking down the street because of their political views.
The New York Times just added a racist and sexist to their editorial board. It's difficult to find useable quotes from Sarah Jeong because her language is so atrocious. I can summarize it by saying, she believes white people are stupid. She expresses special rage against white women. But she apparently hates men of all colors - saying they should be killed. In one tweet, she said, "My point is that we should kill all the men 'prior' to removing the state from marriage as an institution." She spent years tweeting horrible things about the police. She had no sympathy for members of law enforcement who had been hurt in the line of duty. She said that Americans should consider banning police.
What is her excuse for such outrageous rhetoric? She says she meant it as "satire." She could be the poster child for a new era of rage that is dividing American families, schools, clubs, churches, and previously long-standing friendships.
America's turmoil reminds me of God's judgment against the Midianites. You may remember the story of Gideon, and how God lowered the number of men in his army from 32,000 to 10,000, and finally to 300. In Judges 6-8, you can read the story of how God used Gideon and his 300 men to defeat a force of 135,000 Midianites and their allies.
The key to the military victory can be found in Judges 7:22. "The Lord set every man's sword against his fellow."
God did the same thing in judgment against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14. And in 2 Chronicles 20, He defeated the armies of Moab and Ammon in the same way. People became frightened, angry, and confused. They turned their swords on one another.
Is God doing that to America in judgment for our national sins? Or, are we simply doing it to ourselves? Brother has turned against brother; and friend against friend.
It's time to cool the temperature. It's time to remember the words of Proverbs 15:1. "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
We should be critical of the New York Times' hypocrisy in hiring. And we should speak up about political differences. Political decisions can be tremendously important - sometimes life and death. But in a free society, we must also allow people their mistakes. Don't lower the boom over every incorrect position. I'm all for robust debate. But don't destroy people for being politically incorrect, even if they are incorrect on issues that you hold dear.
Our job as Christians is to represent Jesus Christ. The Lord preached against sin, but always as a warning against sin's lethality. Even His harshest words were spoken as part of His primary mission as stated in John 3:17. "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
Christians are to follow the words and example of Christ. In Matthew 5:44, He said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
With the world on edge - when tempers are flaring, and people feel their lostness - followers of Jesus have an amazing opportunity to spread the Gospel with love.
Slave or Bond Servant - Nathele Graham -
When we hear the word "slavery" we usually think of a very ugly part of history. It was. Scripture tells us of the Hebrew slavery in Egypt and the brutality of it. There had been a drought and in order to survive Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to ask for food. Unbeknownst to them the person they asked was their brother Joseph, who they had sold into slavery many years before. What man means for evil, God uses for good and through the years Joseph had risen from a slave to the second highest official in Egypt. This position made it possible for him to provide food for his father and brothers and also made the way for the family to move to Egypt. All was well for many years, but after a while the decedents of Jacob became slaves to the Egyptians. This was the ugly type of slavery and the Hebrews suffered greatly. In due time God called Moses to approach Pharaoh and ask him to set the Hebrews free. Eventually Pharaoh granted them their freedom. They began the journey to the land that God had promised them and when they came to Mt. Sinai, God gave the Law to Moses. This Law included guidelines for slavery. You may think it odd that they had just left a nation in which they were slaves and now God talks of slavery again. The difference between secular slavery and what the Law required is the grace and mercy of God.
Unlike other forms of slavery, God put a time limit upon the servitude. "If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing." Exodus 21:2. This meant that slavery wasn't for a lifetime and it wasn't generational. The reasons for becoming a servant, or a slave, were varied but the slave was protected under the Law. If a man ran into hard times and had no money he was to be a hired servant until the year of jubilee when he would be set free and be able to return to his own home (Leviticus 25:39-41). If a man was caught stealing and couldn't make restitution he was to be sold to work off his debt (Exodus 22:3-4). These laws were established for protection of individuals and in order that debts could be paid. This cannot be confused with or compared to the slavery found outside of the Jewish nation. The "slavery" under the Law was governed by rules set by God. The duration of the servitude had a specific duration and would not be a lifetime requirement.
Servitude wasn't only for men. "And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do." Exodus 21:7. This wasn't an unsavory act by her father, but one of protection. Men were to provide for their wife and family, and women were to care for their husband and children. The hope of the father was that while in service she would marry either the master or his son. This was actually a type of betrothal, but if the master chose not to take her as his wife, she was still protected. She might also marry a man who was a slave, but that didn't negate her servitude. Unlike a man's servitude, she was not free after a certain period of time unless the master failed in his protection of her. We can't understand what a blessing this law was because today most women have jobs and leave marriage and family as a low priority. Women aren't inferior to men, but God has a special purpose for both men and women. When that purpose is blurred, society becomes a disaster. Following God's ways is always best and we can see that secular ways have a way of bringing down a nation.
When a man had served his time and paid his debt he would be free to leave, but could only take away what he had brought with him. If during his time of service he had married a woman who was also in service to the master, the wife would not be able to leave. This would have been a difficult problem for the man. God made provision for this. The man could choose to remain a servant. "And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; and he shall also bring him to the door or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever." Exodus 21:5-6. This was a voluntary choice by the servant and changed his status from a hired servant to a bond servant. We can be sure that slavery under God's Law is nothing like what the Hebrews endured in Egypt or any modern form of slavery. The most perfect example of voluntary servitude is seen in Jesus Christ. Paul says that even though Jesus Christ was God He chose to became a servant to purchase our redemption. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8. When we accept Christ's sacrifice for salvation it's a voluntary choice and we need to become a bond servant to Him. Just as the voluntary slavery in Old Testament days lasted a lifetime, so our voluntary slavery to Christ is eternal. Our mindset regarding our service to our Master, should be the same as His mindset about humbling Himself and being obedient.
The men who penned the letters in the New Testament understood what it meant to be a bond servant and they often referred to themselves as such. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God" Romans 1:1. The word translated "servant" is from the Greek word "duolos" which means a slave or bondman, but is also used as a metaphor for a person who gives himself to be used by Christ. James also used this description. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting." James 1:1. This is also the word Peter used to describe his service to Jesus. "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 1:1. Even Jude, who most scholars agree was the half-brother of Jesus and wasn't proud of that fact before the cross, eventually saw himself as a servant of Christ. " Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called" Jude 1:1. These men were Jewish and understood what it meant to voluntarily become a bond servant, a duolos, to Jesus. It meant giving Him their loyalty. It meant becoming living sacrifices to His service. They all suffered severe persecution, but their faith and dedication was too strong to be anything other than voluntary slaves to Jesus. Is that our attitude today? Or do we just say "I believe" then go on being a slave to the world?
It's important to understand that we all choose to follow a master. If we don't choose to be a servant to Jesus then we choose Satan as a master. Servitude to Satan carries with it the harshness of the slavery that the Egyptians forced upon the Hebrews or the slave trade that was an ugly blotch in history. By your servitude to the evil one you'll suffer under his yoke and face the wages of sin, which is death. On the other hand, by becoming a slave to Jesus you choose an brighter path. That path will still be filled with challenges, temptations, and failures but the ultimate gain is eternal life. Jesus said "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30. Becoming a bond servant to Christ has eternal benefits.
Today, much of our servitude is to a job. We voluntarily take a job in order to pay the mortgage, buy food, drive a car, etc. A slave to bills must be a slave to the means to pay those bills. When we work for someone he's our master and Christians are expected to serve him as if we were serving Christ. In fact, your servitude to Christ is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week service. "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" Ephesians 6:5-7. Our job may not be easy, but easiness of servitude isn't what determines if we give our service properly. If you're a slave to Christ He will help you to serve at your job in a manner that honors your true Master.
Now a word to the masters, that is those who employ the slave, servant, or employee."And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him." Ephesians 6:9. God loves you whether you're a master or a servant, employer or employee, and He has no prejudice as to skin color or nationality. Whatever your station in life you're loved by God. Our attitude towards other people needs to be the same as that of our Master. It isn't a coincidence that the following verses in Ephesians 6 deal with putting on the full armor of God in order to fight against the powers of darkness. Indeed, Satan uses bad attitudes as a way to cause strife. Whether in the workplace or outside of it, if you feel superior to someone or belittled by someone, you need to check your attitude. If you feel superior, then you need to humble yourself before the Lord. If you feel belittled you need to be sure that your own attitude and actions aren't causing others to react to you in a bad way. Turn to the Lord and let Him mold your attitude. Brothers and sisters, we must always be ready to fight against the powers of darkness and the way we treat each other is important in that fight. As an employer you must be a leader and expect those you hire to give an honest day's work, but you have no right to mistreat your employees.
Jesus fulfilled the Law, and the Law regarding slavery is just one example. He voluntarily became a servant so that we can have eternal life. We owe Him everything. When we accept the sacrifice He made for our salvation we become His bond servant for life....for eternity. We voluntarily choose to follow Him and our service needs to be as bond servants...voluntary because we love our Master. Your choice is whether to be a slave to sin or a bond servant of Christ.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham's previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is "theopneustos" God breathed.
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Daily Jot: Taking back the high ground - Bill Wilson -
How is it that those who hate anybody who disagree with them have the moral high ground in labeling people bigots, hate mongers, homophobes, Islamophobes, misogynists, racists, xenophobes, Nazis or whatever? If you profess Christianity or conservatism, you are automatically thrust into one or more of these categories. In fact, you will be accused of doing the same type of hate-mongering that the accusers are doing against you. Yet they seem to get away with it as if they are the moral authority. This is no less than political intolerance and ideological bigotry. Christianity has nothing to do with these traits. Nevertheless, Christians are painted with a broad brush of prejudice. We need to take back the high ground.
As we journey toward the Day of the Lord, Christ himself says that things will get worse for Christians. He said in Matthew 24:9-10, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." This is the way of the world. Even in a nation where the very First Amendment to the Constitution underscores freedom of religion and free speech, Christians have become demonized as uneducated knuckle-draggers that cling to their guns and Bibles. Christians, however, are not out there bullying and killing people who don't believe the way they do.
In Christianity there is no racism, bigotry, hate, misogyny or other "phobes." We are to hate sin and stand against evil. In this day and age when everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, people do not recognize bible-based morals and ethics. They believe them to be old-fashioned and not relevant to modern society. Even many Christians look the other way on some of the current mores of society that are in conflict with Holy Scripture. When so much is against us, how then do we take back the high ground? It seems that we can appeal to some by asking questions about certain biblical principles (without calling them that) that will either make them think or find points of agreement.
Additionally, our example of living speaks volumes. People will know us by our deeds and the spirit in which we conduct ourselves. Remember the Apostle Paul's approach in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Using this approach, we may save some; we may begin taking back the high ground. Food for thought.
Daily Devotion: The Truth about Eternity - By Greg Laurie -
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. -Colossians 1:28
I have a friend who is a doctor, and sometimes he has the very difficult job of telling people they have cancer. To tell someone this truth is hard, but when he tells patients they have cancer, he can also give them hope for a course of treatment. He gives them the truth, but he also gives them the solution.
When we share the gospel, we not only talk about the promise of Heaven, but we also warn about the reality of Hell. Yes, there is a Hell, but we don't have to go there. God has made a way out of Hell-if we believe in Jesus Christ. To promise Heaven and not warn of Hell, to offer forgiveness without repentance, to preach the gospel without the cross is a false message giving false hope. We want to warn people about this horrific place.
I wonder how many people have actually heard the gospel. I think a lot of people haven't. If you really love people, then you will tell them the truth about eternity. You won't hold back. You will lovingly engage them with the gospel but also warn them of the consequences of what can happen if they do not believe in the gospel.
I pray that God will give us a burden like we have never had before for people that we care about-that we will preach as dying people to other dying people, not knowing how long they have or how long we have. Just say, "I want to give you this message right now because I love you and because I care about you."
So why should we share the gospel? The bottom line is that we don't want people to go to Hell. Let's make every effort we can to get the gospel out.
FROM THE HEART
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