Thursday, April 30, 2015

We Can Die?

Everyone has heard the story of Adam and Eve. They sinned by eating the fruit from the one tree God told them to avoid. As a result they realized for the first time in their life they were bare and had unique characteristics in their appearances. Feeling the need to cover up these differences they made clothes out of fig leaves.

But when God returns to the garden and sees them in their fig leaves He knows what happened. He just needs them to confess their ill-taken step. And they do. But what He does next was probably not what they expected.

In Genesis 3:21 we read that God hands them clothes made out of the skins of an animal. Let's talk about this concept.

Adam and Eve lived in a garden where food grew on its own and the animals walked among them. Everyone has favorites, so they must have had favorites too. Favorite foods and favorite animals. Whether they gave the animals pet names or not is neither here nor there, but they would have loved them all the same. Just like many people view their pets in today's world, some of these creatures must have been like children to them. They were family and spending time with them on a daily basis was a joy. The idea of losing one of them was not something they feared nor even gave much thought to.

Then God hands them an animal skin. As far as getting the skin off an animal is concerned, either you kill the animal as you're removing the skin or you kill it first and then remove the skin. The background of this verse can be overlooked and missed in the reading of it. This is the first death mentioned in the Bible. And, because it is from an animal we can surmise that this is the first sacrifice and example of the shedding of blood connected to the forgiveness of sin. But where did God get the animals for the sin sacrifice?

From among the animal family that Adam and Eve knew.

Can you imagine their expressions and thoughts when God hands them the skins of the newest lamb offspring? Up until that point they never knew the end of a life. What a concept to have to experience - something being alive and breathing one minute then no longer there. They ate fruits, grains and vegetables. The killing of animals to eat was not a concept they had or it would have been mentioned in the first two chapters.

And what a reminder that must have been. Everyday they wore the animal skin clothing they were reminded that they acted against God's directions and now paid the consequence of it. Everyday they were reminded that God is serious when He gives directions. And, that a sacrifice must be made when sin is committed.

Today we know we can die, so the concept is not new. However, today we have the advantage of knowing that when we sin we have a Savior we can turn to for forgiveness because his blood sacrifice is everlasting and covers all sin. And the next time we put on a cross necklace we can use this not only as a symbol of being a Christian but as a way to remember the sacrificial death that was made for us.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Leaving Fear Behind

Fear is one emotion most of us don't have to work hard to get. Especially nowadays when the news is filled with so much information about wars, nations readying for war-like action and terrorist attacks. Then there are multiple blog posts out there to tell us essentially that the Biblical book of Revelation is unfolding before our eyes. If you don't believe me check out these two blogs Running From Babylon and Cindy by the Sea.

The first emotion that ran through my body after reading these posts was fear. Then sorrow followed, but I'm not sure who the sorrow was for. Was it for me or for the many who don't see the mess our world is in? The writer of Running From Babylon is not the only one to compare the U.S. to Babylon. And even though I see some similarities, I don't believe it is a full match. But, I've got news for all those who agree with this comparison - Babylon is utterly destroyed in Revelations 14 - 18. A better description of America, I think, is found in Ezekiel 31... Assyria sounds so much like America it's freaky - God destroys that place too.

But wait! We can't let these things scare us. Remember there's hope.

So what is this fear that's being stirred up within us all about?

It's about death. If you have no idea where you're headed when you die then there is plenty to be fearful of. If you know who Jesus is and believe He died so you personally can go to heaven, then when it all boils down you have nothing to fear. You will be walking into paradise the millisecond after you leave the world behind you.

If you live through any destruction that might come our way, God will bring you through it. The Bible is full of scripture that talks about God rescuing His children. (Note: He can't rescue His people and children if there is nothing to rescue them from.)

He will not forget us whether we die and meet Him at the pearly gates of heaven or whether we live to be an evangelist for Him among survivors. He will never leave you alone or abandon you to fend for yourself. (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6) And remember His words — "My peace I give you..." (My translation from John 14:27) — are especially for troubled moments in life. He told this to His disciples right before He was arrested and their world fell apart.

No matter what life throws our way, or what news story brings fear remember this — God wins in the end. And if you're on His side, you win too.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

There Is Hope

Last week I mentioned that there must be a greater good that will come for the Kingdom of God in all the terrible, deadly, terrorist activities. Since then I have read two blog postings that point in that very direction.

The first one is written by my niece. The blog is titled Building the Bridges and you can find the post here. How wonderful it is to hear that God is using the displacement of people of the Muslim faith to hear from and experience the love of God from His people.

I think of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 1) who after being taken to a foreign country demonstrated to the leadership who the Almighty God in heaven is on more than one occasion. Through their actions the people of Babylon came to know of and on a few occasions worship the one true God. Guess what? God is doing it again, only in reverse. He has taken these persecuted homeless Muslim people out of their country to a land and people where they can find the truth about the God of Abraham.

The second posting is written by Joel Rosenberg and you can find it here. He talks about the newly published book by Tom Doyle, Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe.

While I haven't read the book, I like what the blog post says about it. The ISIS people hunt down Christians then video tape the executions only to find out there are more Christians to hunt down. I know this may sound awkwardly cock-eyed, but isn't that awesome!? Christians are multiplying! The ISIS terrorists have become the greatest tool of evangelism for Jesus since the Roman Empire.

You remember the Romans. They captured, tortured and then had Christians killed by lions in front of crowds, just for sport. They never ran out of Christians. In fact, Christianity continued to grow to become the major religion of the world long after the Roman Empire dissolved.

These terrorists and their ally countries may think they have the upper hand; that they can control who lives in peace and who lives in fear, for that matter who lives and who dies. But they do not factor in the man who is ultimately in charge of how things are going to finish. He is using all things to work for good for His Heavenly Kingdom. And that my friends cannot be stopped by human hands no matter how hard they try.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Danger Ahead

I believe the Lost In Space robot would be flailing its arms and rolling toward us at the top of its volume setting with the words, "Warning, warning..." In reading Joel Rosenberg's blog two weeks ago my worst fear seems to be coming to light. (His more recent one is more comforting.)

The U.S. is bringing upon itself the curse of not being on Israel's side. This is scary. I don't want God's wrath on me or the land I live in. But, if our leadership doesn't wake up and stop the country from going down the road we are on that's exactly what will happen.

My question is where is the Christian voice? Where is the American Jewish voice? Do we not see the importance, like it or not, of being an ally to Israel? Are we complacent about who does or doesn't like us because we don't have to fight daily for what we believe? Do we have rose-colored glasses on because we stay in our church clique so that we are unaware of what's happening in the world around us? Or do we really not care because the unrest is happening on the other side of the world and not on our home turf?

We need to remember that our country has the reputation of being a Christian nation and stands out above the other countries that once held that title. I wish I could say my country is strong in their faith in Jesus. How much better would it be if our country was known for doing kind actions, whether it's feeding the poor or fighting terrorists, because we love Jesus and want to show others His love?

But we don't.

I'm sad because this country thinks better of itself than it should. I don't want my country to suffer because then I would suffer. It's a pretty selfish fear-filled thought, I know. If I could think about the threat of being on the wrong side of God's wrath with the expansion of heaven in mind, I'd remember that only when we go through struggles and hard times do we turn to God. Only when there is no way out and hopelessness reigns does man finally put his trust in Jesus.

If going down this unfortunate path will bring millions more to heaven's way of thinking then maybe it will be worth it. Still, wish our leadership would wake up and halt the terrible turn we're about to make. But it's important to keep in mind that as many times as Israel had to suffer for their wayward ways, God did not abandon them. He kept them ever in His mind. Then I have the hope that He will do that for all us Gentile believers who have fallen down on the job.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

And His Name Is...

Last time I mentioned the name of Jesus being precious and powerful at the same time. And it is. This week I wanted to share something with you that I learned back at Christmas time.  The Isaiah 9:6 reference to the name of the Messiah is not several separate descriptive names in the Hebrew language. It's one name.


I checked various websites and found it translated in a variety of ways. Bible Hub and Bible Apps point out that it is only seen in one location in the Bible. I hadn't thought about it, but that's true. Only in Isaiah do we see those names grouped together. The Bible Hub website offers access to various commentaries, and the ones I checked out breakdown the word into the separate names I've been taught for years. If you ever need references about the Bible both of these websites are interesting and put lots of information at your fingertips.

There are some sites that indicate that this name was for King Hezekiah and not for the Messiah. What those writers forget to take into account is that this verse is in the middle of a passage about the Messiah and that God often uses a prophecy in two forms -- one for now and one for a time to come. Other sites do not acknowledge this as names of Jesus but as a title given to him by God. It can be rather confusing when you look at too many websites.

I know some people don't think highly of Wikipedia, but it has come a long way in respectability. It is often a good source of easily understood information that can be verified by other sources. This is the case for this name. And check out the reference section at the end of the write-up.

The definition in Wikipedia includes how the Hebrew and Christians translate this name. The same words are used but the emphasis is different. For example one reference states the title is wonderful in counsel while many others state it is to be read wonderful (comma) counselor. In some languages putting the emphasis on a different syllable makes a difference in what is communicated. But I don't know that it changes much in this case.

This week we celebrate Jesus dying and rising again, it doesn't really matter if you think of Him as wonderful and a counselor or as wonderful in counsel. He is there for all of us. He is the best friend many are looking for -- someone who listens and offers advice when asked. He's alive and well and waiting for us to talk to Him.