Friday, December 13, 2019

"The Covenant of Brotherhood"

Amos 1.9 ESV

“Thus says the Lord: ‘For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they delivered up a whole people to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.”

God was unhappy with the land of Tyre because they “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.” We must never forget those to whom we are connected. I cannot cut off my right arm, nor can I ignore my fellow human. “The covenant of brotherhood” is a sacred reality.

My kids were famous for their sales ability. From a very young age they believed mom and dad were their ultimate ‘wish list’ providers. When we showed sales resistance, the children were all too willing (and never too embarrassed) to ‘go for the close’ and ‘ask for the order.’ By adolescence the stakes became higher and their powers of persuasion even more finely tuned and fully impassioned.


“Jack got skis. Why can’t I have skis?”

“Well son, we don’t have the money for that.”

“Well dad, just go to the bank and get some!”

“Money in the bank.” The thought resonated with me. It became a concept to embrace and eventually a child-raising theme of mine. I tried to explain that “money in the bank” did not just appear. Someone had to put it there. I told my kids they could have anything they wanted if they would just put “money in the bank.”

The principle is not financial only. It applies to far more than the acquisition of material things. “Money in the bank” is an emotional, relational, and spiritual truism. If you put “money in the bank,” you can have anything you want.

My beautiful deceased wife did a fair amount of child care for our neighbors when we were all a little younger (e.g., transporting kids, babysitting, giving gifts, providing meals, making play dates, etc.). Not surprisingly, our children were the regular beneficiaries of ample and similar child care from the neighbors. Every time the woman I married gave to a neighborhood child, it was “money in the bank.” Even now, four years after her death, I am still reaping the benefits of neighborly support from the seeds of kindness she so willingly sowed decades ago. I can still withdraw favors from our friends at the “bank of love” whenever I need them. The good investment Adonica made with her life still pays dividends to the children and me. 

This is “the covenant of brotherhood” in action. We give and take. We reap and sow. We invest and withdraw. We share and receive. “What goes around…”

“The covenant of brotherhood” must never be forgotten. We are here for each other. We must give when we can and receive when we must. We take care of each other. Without “the covenant of brotherhood” our community of faith, our network of business, our culture of connection, our bonds of friendship, they all simply fail. Our society and humanity depend upon “the covenant of brotherhood.” We need each other.

“Remember the covenant of brotherhood.”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

"Have Hope"

Joel 2.3 NLT

“Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes.”



This morning I read the short book of Joel. What a glorious piece of work! The prophet describes a plague of “gnawing,” “swarming,” “creeping,” and “stripping” locusts. They swarm Palestine in such numbers the sky turns black on the “day of darkness and gloom” (Joel 2.2). The devastation of this devouring army of insects is nearly indescribable. The wind carries them to fertile lands of lush, green vegetation. They leave behind only barrenness and desolation.[1]

The words of the prophet offer hope to those who suffer from a painful and disappointing past. Like the locust, “behind them is nothing but desolation.” This may be good news for the sad of heart. Their worst days are truly “behind them.” Things will get better because “ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden.”

There’s hope from the pages of Joel this morning... a bright “Garden of Eden” lies at the end of your long, dark tunnel of “desolation;” a silver lining “as beautiful as the Garden of Eden” lies behind your temporary cloud of “desolation.” Jesus will “prepare a table before” you and your “cup overflows” (Psalm 23.5) with “rivers of living water” (John 7.38) in the “beautiful” land of “Eden.”

God loves you. Forget the nothingness of “desolation” all too visible in the “behind” part of your life. Ignore the rear view mirror of loss and barrenness. Look instead to “the land” which “lies ahead as beautiful as the Garden of Eden.”

Today, have hope.
____________________

[1] This plague, which probably occurred about 800 B.C., likely foreshadowed at least three historical events which were to come:
  1. The Babylonian and Assyrian invasions suffered by Israel and Judah in the middle of the millennium preceding the first coming of Jesus Christ.
  2. The birthday of the Church when, on the day of Pentecost, Peter identified Joel’s prophecy with a unique visitation of the Holy Spirit causing a handful of believers “to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (Acts 2. 4, 14-21).
  3. The great tribulation preceding the second coming of Christ sometime in the future when, as seen in the vision of John’s revelation, “the sun became black… and the whole moon became like blood” (Revelation 6.12).
Photo: iStock/dane_mark

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"A Divine Pick-Me-Up"

Hosea 11.4 NIV

“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” 

I heard the rustle of happy sounds coming from the entry of our home. “Come here Daddy. Hurry!” I played dumb. Mom hung mistletoe and the kids wanted to give it a test drive. My two youngest children and their mother met my approach with lots of giggling. I pretended not to notice the Christmas decoration hanging over their heads.

My five-year old Rachel cried, “Pick me up Daddy.” “Why?,” I inquired. “Please Daddy. Just pick me up. Hurry!” I knew what was coming. I bent over and lifted her to face level. She kissed my cheek over and over. My wife and boy joined the fun. There was lots of kissing and laughter. Thank God for mistletoe!

I “was... one who lifts a little child to the cheek.” I “bent down.” I had to. There was no other way to pick up my little girl.

Those were happy times. My little Rachel is near eighteen now; Robert is at the Air Force Academy, and Mom died of cancer only a little over four years ago ago. How vividly I recall and long for our “mistletoe” moment again.  

I now need Jesus to bend down and pick me up…

...when I fall and hurt myself
...when I’m lonely
...when I miss my wife
...when I wonder if I’m-loved
...when I want some affection
...when I need a little attention
...when I’m looking for direction
...when I want a better view of things
...when I feel unworthy
...when I need to feel His warmth
...when I’m lost
...when I hurt deep inside

Call it a ‘divine pick-me-up.’ It’s better than caffeine, vitamins, alcohol, or sugar. I am unable to jump into His strong arms. He’s too big for me. Jesus “bent down” to pick me up. When I’m in His arms, I feel warm and secure; I never want to get down.

I’m glad for God’s gracious act of condescension. He “bent down” to “lift” me up when He heard the urgent prayer of my heart:

“Come here Jesus. Hurry! Pick me up. Please!”
________________

Photograph "Pick Me Up Daddy" from Heart of the Father Art.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"These Little Ones"

Hosea 9.10d AMP

“…they became detestable and loathsome like that which they loved.”

The following subject matter is almost too horrific to print. If it were not true, then no decent person would dare to speak of this “detestable and loathsome” thing. But it is true. Many of us have the bad habit of reading ourselves into every Bible verse. We read about God’s wrath (as in Hosea, chapter 9 for example), and react with, “How can God be so heartless? The Bible is too judgmental. I want nothing to do with such an angry God.”

We don’t relate to a God like that because we’re not supposed to. This text was not intended as a rebuke against every one who reads it. Hosea wrote these words specifically to godless people in Israel over twenty-seven hundred years ago. There truly are some “detestable and loathsome” characters who deserve God’s wrath. Evil is real and there are a few really bad guys out there.

In the holiday edition of the World Vision 2007 “Gift Catalog,” subscribers were invited to purchase life-sustaining Christmas gifts for a less fortunate human being in other parts of the world. My son Robert, now a grown man, was seven years old when he heard about this opportunity at school. He decided to buy a couple of chickens for a needy family with money that would otherwise have been spent on another toy for his December birthday. It was his choice, and I was very proud of him.

I first heard about the horrors of human trafficking from this magazine. On page 27 of this World Vision catalog was story entitled “Sold. Trafficked. Abused.” The article described the plight of fourteen year old Lan from Cambodia...
“After arriving at the [World Vision] center, I felt like I was coming over the hill to heaven, because just the day before I was imprisoned in a dark room with my legs and arms tied and had nothing to eat. The center staff loved me and took care of me like their own daughter. I found it enjoyable to learn new skills at the center, especially hairdressing… [now] I want to learn more, so I can qualify to work for a big company or start my own business.”
And more from Lea’s journey…
“‘My mother sold me for $500 to the brothel owner [to buy] food,’ says Lea, who was required to serve eight to 12 ‘clients’ a day until being rescued and brought to a World Vision-supported shelter.”
It’s hard to imagine there are people so “detestable and loathsome” they would make a business of robbing little girls of their virginity by catering to those who want to satisfy their twisted idea of sexual fulfillment. I would hate to be them when they stand before Jesus on Judgment Day and He reminds them of this little Bible verse...

“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble,
it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around
his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Jesus, Matthew 18.5-6 NASU

All of us have sinned (Romans 3.23), and apart from the mercy of a loving God, we also deserve His wrath. Jesus paid the price for our sins and secured our eternal home. All we have to do is accept Him by faith. While all sin is forgivable, the biblical authors also taught there were levels of sin. John explained, “All wrongdoing is sin”, but “there is a sin that leads to death” and “there is a sin that does not lead to death” (1st John 5.16, 17). I’m pretty sure robbing children of their innocence ranks near the top of the list of worst sins. The wrath of God will be difficult to avoid for the person who willfully abuses a child. 
________________

Note: Below are organizations and resources to help you help children, some as young as 7 years old, trapped in the illegal sex trade.

Rember Nhu http://remembernhu.org/.  This organization concentrates on prevention and is committed to meeting the physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual needs of at-risk children before the nightmare of the sex trade ever becomes reality. 

World Vision: http://www.worldvision.org/

International Justice Mission: http://www.ijm.org/. I was deeply moved when I heard IJM president, Gary Haugen, speak at our church. He is an attorney working with governments world-wide to abolish modern day slavery in all ugly manifestations (child sex trafficking, illegal detention and property seizure, sexual violence, etc.).

Monday, December 09, 2019

"Ishi"

Hosea 2:16-17 (18-19) CJB

“On that day,” says Adonai “you will call me Ishi [My Husband]; you will no longer call me Ba‘ali [My Master]. For I will remove the names of the ba‘alim from her mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name.”

My dad went through a problematic parenting phase when I was about seven or eight years old. I guess he wanted to teach my brother and me a little respect. We were to refer to him as “Sir.” If dad asked me a question, my answer from that time forward was to be “Yes sir” or “No sir.” I didn’t get it but I tried. When I forgot, dad reminded me. “Don’t say ‘daddy.’ I’m ‘Sir.’” “OK, Sir,” I said.

This phase didn’t last long. Somehow, even my father recognized the silliness. I now understand his reasoning. He was an officer, a military commander, a pilot trainer in the United States Air Force. He had to command respect. That was his job. He could not allow familiarity to breed contempt among his cadets. My father probably needed somebody to practice on so my brother and I were enlisted as little soldiers. Eventually, my mother’s wishes prevailed and it back to “dad.” We all liked it better that way.

The Complete Jewish Version of the Bible provides excellent plain English clarity for Hosea 2.16-17. Adonai (the Lord) offers us a term of endearment… Ishi (my husband). It’s a relational word inviting closeness and communion with someone you trust. Ishi is pure love and acceptance. It is the whisper of lovers and the proud announcement of a woman who knows deeply and believes fully in her man. Nothing’s held back. There are no secrets between Ishi and the object of his love. Above all else, Ishi means friendship. Pure, lasting, fully devoted, and mutual friendship.

Ba’ali, on the other hand, is a legal term meaning “my master.” It implies ownership and effectively reduces its subject to slavery. Besides being the name of the fertility god Baal, the word was used by ancient Hebrews to show respect for a husband. It would be like a princess calling her prince “My Lord,” or Beaver’s mom referring to her husband as “Mr. Cleaver,” or my wife and kids calling me “Sir” (perish the thought!).

Jesus is my Lord. Yes, it’s true. But He is far more than that to me. He is my friend. I love Him and He loves me. There are no secrets between us. We are tight for this life, and forever after. Jesus loves you, by the way, in exactly the same way.

“You are my friends if you do what I command.
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves.
Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
Jesus, John 15.14-15 NLT

I always respected my dad and I didn’t need to call him “sir” to prove it. I knew he would take a bullet for me. That was enough. “Sir” and “dad” eventually became united in my heart. The last time we spoke, Dad was suffering badly from cancer. I cuddled up beside him on his bed and read from the Bible. He acknowledged his friend and Savior Jesus. He told me how much he loved me and how very proud he was of me. We spoke about the times we would enjoy together someday in heaven. I said good-bye to my dad and friend a few days later.

Jesus is Ishi to me. So was my dad. So was my precious wife and best friend who died only four years and three months ago. Then, there are my children and a few very dear people I am privileged to call very close friends. I can’t wait to see Ishi Jesus, my Ishi dad, and Ishi Adonica again face to face. I love them all so much.
____________________

The beautiful drawings on this post are entitled "Snuggling Infant," "Playful Boys," and "Laughing Baby" by artist and mother Jean Keaton whose children are pictured in these images with Christ. Jean's amazing and personal artwork is used here by her gracious permission and well communicates the message of "Ishi" from Hosea, chapter 2. You can view and purchase Jean's works of love and art at http://www.jeankeatonart.com/.

Friday, December 06, 2019

"Despicable!"

Daniel 11.21a, 29-30, 45c NASB 

“…a despicable person will arise.”

“At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened, and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action...”

“…he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”


In his counsel to Darius, King of Persia, the prophet Daniel warned of “a despicable person” who would arise “in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue.” This vile character will “practice deception” and set up the infamous “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Jesus Christ. Daniel’s prophetic word points to the horror of the end times and “a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”[1]

When “the appointed time” occurs, according the book of Daniel, the “despicable” man will… 
  • …return to southern Palestine but to his disappointment, his visit “will not turn out the way it did before.”
  • …become “disheartened” and “enraged” and “take [evil] action.”

Perhaps the villain of this text is one in the same with the “antichrist” of 1st and 2nd John.[2] Or, maybe he’s Wormwood the fallen star (Revelation 10-11), or the “beast” from the book of Revelation, or the “false prophet,” or the “devil” himself, all of whom will eventually be “thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone”.[3]

Perhaps those schooled in the finer points of Biblical eschatology could better reveal the identity of this individual. In my study of the Bible, I am inclined toward the arguably more enriching work of personal application... 

I can fall easily into a milder version of the very same pattern as the bad man in Daniel’s prophesy. When things don’t “turn out the way” I had hoped, I can easily become “disheartened” and ‘act out’ in selfish ways. Nothing good came from this pattern of behavior for “the despicable person,” or for me

“…he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”

When things do “not turn out the way” I hope and plan, it’s natural to become “disheartened” and “take [undesirable] action.” In the end, however, “no one will help” me except Jesus. His answer is generally more weighted on the side of repentance than on the side of excessive sympathy. Jesus is gracious and forgiving, but “Repent”[4] is probably His message and the best advice I give myself when I discover the “despicable person” within myself.

___________________

[1] Matthew 24.15, 21 and parallel passage Mark 13.14, 18. This period of tribulation was predicted by Daniel 600 years before the ministry of Jesus: “And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred” (see also Daniel 12.1).

[2] 1st John 2.18, 22; 4.3; 2nd John 7.

[3] Revelation 20.10.

[4]“From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand’” (Matthew 4.17).

Thursday, December 05, 2019

"The Truth Fairy"

Daniel 8.12b NET

It hurled truth to the ground and enjoyed success.”

Jesus claimed, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18.37-38). Pontius Pilate, with the passivity typified by weak leadership, washed his hands of Christ’s claim with the question, “What is truth?”

I’ve wondered the same thing. What is truth, really? I do not question the reality of Jesus or the reliability of the Scripture. In those truths I am secure. But what about lesser truths?

Daniel the prophet saw a vision of a goat with four horns on his head. The smallest horn grew to be the largest and “even magnified itself to be equal” with the Lord. One of the chief characteristics of this evil being was its complete disregard for truth in the pursuit of its personal advancement.

 
“It hurled truth to the ground and enjoyed success.”

When my son was eight years old and lost a tooth. He carefully placed it in the “Tooth Fairy Pillow” my wife lovingly embroidered for occasions like this. When she went to his room about 10 p.m. to exchange money for molar, my wife was surprised to discover Robert was still awake. “Are you the tooth fairy Mom?” Mom was caught off guard and denied any relationship with the magical being. The job of slipping the tooth out and the money in was now left to me.

About 5:30 the next morning, I crept into his room with 50¢ and quietly removed the tooth from under my son’s pillow. With it, I found a handwritten note from Robert revealing his quest for truth...

“Dear Tooth Fairy,
Where do you live?
What do you believe in?
I want your autograph, please.
sign here ________________________
Please answer my questions. Thanks.

(Other side)
I charge 3 bucks!! (not kidding)”

I was dumbfounded. I forged my best authorized “Tooth Fairy” signature with the flourish warranted by such a famous “autograph” and slipped my answers back under the pillow with a quarter, two dimes, and a nickel…

[Where do you live?] “In the love between you and your family.”

[What do you believe in?] “Having fun with your family and laughing all the time.”


[Other side] “I pay only 50¢! Sorry!”

Did I lie? Did I “hurl truth to the ground”? Should I have come clean with my son about the Tooth Fairy? We teach him about Jesus Christ and claim the Bible is the living Word of God. I certainly did not wish clump Jesus with the likes of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy!

 I determined Robert was smarter than I first thought. I suspected Robert already knew the difference between truth and make-believe. Make-believe is lesser truth. It points to greater truth. Like all funny jokes, good magic tricks, popular movies, playful teasing, historic legends, most games, small exaggerations, artistic fantasy, good sermons, and even the parables of Jesus, make-believe can be an excellent conveyor of truth. If I tell my hostess that her very average dinner was scrumptious, am I a liar?  Or, have I exaggerated just a bit to convey the greater truth of gratitude for her hospitality? 

When a three-year-old snarls “ggrrrr” and claims to be a tiger, should I correct her? No, actually you're a little girl pretending to be a tiger, may be left unsaid. We both understand she is not a real tiger. It’s a game the child has invited me to play to convey a greater truth, namely her underlying quest for recognition, love, and approval. I should feel honored to participate. 

Robert already knew the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real. I even think he knew I knew he knew. But he enjoyed the game. So did his mother and I. If I chose to answer his questions with sterile accuracy, the game would be over. Soon enough Robert would tire of the Tooth Fairy game. It would come to an end on his schedule, and I was unwilling to push him to grow up too fast. The Tooth Fairy ritual helped to foster the “truth” of cherished family values... sharing joy, laughter, anticipation, and fun. We kept the “Tooth Fairy” magic going and extended this part of Robert’s childhood for about another year, perhaps not surprisingly, precisely as long as it took for him to lose his ‘baby teeth.’ 

Lesser truths eventually disappear. We outgrow or move past the story, but hopefully retain the meaning. We learn to trust the greater truth contained in the lesser one. Jesus is the Truth above, and distinctively beyond, all other truths. I hoped Robert would fully accept the claims of Jesus with certainty when all lesser truths naturally fell away. We will celebrate Roberts twenty-first birthday in a few days when he returns from the Air Force Academy for Christmas break. He has grown up to be an amazing young man and a dedicated follower of Jesus. The tooth fairy myth did not harm his relationship with Christ. 

Robert’s mother, my loving wife, died of Luekemia, just over four years ago. His cherished “Tooth Fairy Pillow” still, and will always, remind Robert of his mothers amazing love. The lesser truth is symbolic of and leads us to the greater one. Robert and his sister and I are still quite fond of the Tooth Fairy legend, and someday we will slip money under the pillows of their children. But our faith rests with Him who is the Truth above all truths and who proclaimed for all people and for all times: 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
John 14.6; Hebrews 13.5

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"

Daniel 5.17 CJB

“Dani’el answered the king, Keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else. However, I will read the inscription to the king and tell him what it means.’”

Can I be bought? It’s an important question. Are my ethics for sale? At the right price, will I falter in my resolve to do the right thing? Do I cower before the god of public opinion? Would I trade my values for a chance at fortune and fame? Will I forsake what I know to be true so people will think well of me?

Who do I serve? Money, approval, comfort, things, self or... God?

King Belshazzar dishonored the things of God. He drank freely from the holy vessels stolen from the temple in Jerusalem and “praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5.4). God crashed the royal party with a divine message written by the finger of God on the palace wall in the presence of a thousand noble guests:


מ נ א מ נ א ת ק ל ו פ ר ס י ן

Belshazzar could not read the handwriting on the wall (and neither can you, unless you know Hebrew). He offered Daniel royal garments, “a necklace of gold” and “authority as the third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5.16) if he would reveal the meaning of the menacing words. I love Daniel’s response:

Keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else.
However, I will read the inscription to the king and tell him what it means.”

Daniel could not be bought. What about me? What about you? It’s an important question. ___________________

Find the prophet's interpretation of the handwriting on the wall (MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN) in Daniel, chapter 5, verses 25-28.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

"The Ultimate Consequence"

Daniel 3.16-18 NIV


“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”

What happens when a man or woman faces the ultimate consequence of divine obedience? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the consequence… death by burning. What an awful way to go. Were they naïve, idealistic, stupid? Or, simply willing to serve God at any cost? These young men fully expected to suffer for their decision of faith. Nothing moved them, not even Nebuchadnezzar’s death threat. Everyone else could bow before the king’s ninety foot golden statue, but they would not.

History is filled with heroes of faith who, like these young Hebrew men, faced the ultimate consequence of obedience to God. Some made it, others did not. Some were rescued by divine intervention. Others got an early one-way ticket to paradise.
  • Abraham was willing to sacrifice of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22)
  • The mother of Moses set her baby son afloat in a wicker basket (Exodus 2)
  • Daniel was thrown to the lions when he refused to stop praying (Daniel 6)
  • Esther risked her life to stand before the golden scepter of King Ahasuerus (Esther 5)
  • Nehemiah undertook the dangerous mission of rebuilding the city walls (Nehemiah 4)
  • Peter claimed “We must obey God rather than men” and kept on preaching (Acts 5)
  • Stephen chose death by stoning for his belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah (Acts 7)
  • Others were tortured, slain with swords, stoned to death, and even “sawn in two” for their faith (Hebrews 11)
Stories of martyrs inspire me. Survivors like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also inspire me.

“…the God we serve is able to save us from it [the blazing furnace],
and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not,
we want you to know, O king,... we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Jesus did not promise a life of comfort. If I think He did, I will feel betrayed when life is hard. I would rather not face any consequences for my obedience to God, certainly not the ultimate one. I’m far too comfortable for that. 

I need a shot of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego mixed with a little faith of Job...

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
Job 13.15 KJV

__________________

The beautiful watercolor painting at the top right of this post is entitled "Fiery Furnace" by biblical artist, Margrit Roussos. 

When Nebuchadnezzar peered into the fiery furnace he was amazed to find (in the king's own words) "four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." The traditional interpretation claims the fourth being was an angel. Perhaps it was a a pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus Christ Himself.

Monday, December 02, 2019

"Fragile Feet"

Daniel 2.34-35 NASU

“…a stone… struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them.

“But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”


The prophet Daniel displayed amazing supernatural ability in his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream which predicted with historical accuracy the world powers following the rise and fall of Babylon. The king saw a “great statue… of extraordinary splendor” and “awesome in appearance” (v. 31). Its head was gold; its breast and arms were silver. It had a belly of bronze and feet made “partly of iron and partly of clay” (v. 33). A stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” (v. 45) fell on the “feet of iron and clay and crushed them.” The statue fell before the superior power of God whose kingdom of heaven would “endure forever” (v. 44).

Daniel outlined a future chronology starting with the prophet’s own time period by informing the King of Babylon, “You are the head of gold” (v. 38). Using the imagery of the statue’s elements, Daniel predicted the world powers that would follow Babylon during the next six hundred years… Persia (silver), Greece (bronze), and Rome (iron). The Roman empire would be a kingdom with feet of “iron mixed with common clay” (v 41). Rome’s influential men sought, but ultimately failed, to consolidate massive political forces in order to become a lasting super power. Daniel prophesied, “They [the leadership of Rome] will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery” (v.43).

Daniel referred of the day when a virgin would give “birth to her firstborn son; and [wrap] Him in cloths, and [lay] Him in a manger” (Luke 2.7). This is the pivotal event of all human history and occurred during the “iron” rule of Rome when Caesar Augustus was the Emperor (Luke 2.1). This baby established an eternal kingdom we now call the Church of Jesus Christ and will someday “crush and put an end to all these kingdoms” (v. 44).

Nations and people have “feet of clay” and with one blow from the Rock of Ages, they fall helplessly to their knees. It would be wise for all of us to voluntarily kneel before we badly wound our fragile feet. 

__________________

Note: The book of Daniel is comprised of five stories and five visions. You can find an outline of this book by pressing the link called “Daniel ~ Faith on Trial” under "Detailed Bible Charts" in the left column of this blog.  

Friday, November 29, 2019

"Leave Different than You Came"

Ezekiel 46.9 NKJV

“But when the people of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate.

He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate.

This verse speaks to me about the impact of worship. No one leaves true worship the way they entered. If you enter from the north, you leave to the south. If you come in “by way of the south gate [you] shall go out by way of the north gate.” No exceptions. A true worshiper…

“…shall not return by way of the gate through which he
came, but shall go out through the opposite gate.”

Be wary of those who claim they worship continually. No one does that. While it is theoretically possible, human beings, even mature believers, are not perfected in their practice of the presence of Christ. Our day of perfection will come. Jesus promised, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). “Perfect” is a condition for which we strive by the grace of God. But the state of perfection is a future hope, not a present reality. In heaven we may live each eternal moment in the glorious bliss of ecstatic worship. Until then, moments of true connection with God, through the practice of Biblical worship, comes in spurts. 


Like a drowning man gasping for air, we surface occasionally for enough life-giving breath of worship to sustain us until we reach heaven’s shore.

Ezekiel’s Jews were reminded of the value of worship “when the people of the land [came] before the Lord on the appointed feast days.”  Christians historically celebrate their “appointed feast days” each Sunday morning at their local church.[1] Prepare to leave your house of worship different than the way you arrived. If you are determined to remain unchanged by the worship event, Jesus will regretfully grant your wish. Stubborn pew-warmers leave church the same way they came. 

Let the Divine-human encounter affect you. Be a true worshiper who…

“…shall not return by way of the gate through which he came,
but shall go out through the opposite gate.”

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[1] Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday to “honor the Sabbath” according to the Hebrew tradition. They claim that since God “rested on the seventh day” (Genesis 2.2), we should too. There is, however, ample Biblical evidence for the practice of honoring the Christian Sabbath on Sunday. On “the first day of the week” (Sunday) Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to Mary and His disciples (Mark 16.9; John 20.19). On the first day of the week Paul “gathered together to break bread” with the followers of Christ in Troas (Acts 20.7). Paul also instructed the Corinthian believers to take “a collection for the saints” on “the first day of every week” (1st Corinthians 16.1-2). As a former Presbyterian pastor, I can assure you that most clergy “work hard at preaching and teaching” (1st Timothy 5.17) on whatever day they worship. I normally took Mondays off to rest after my most challenging work day of the week. It's not easy to lead worship or deliver effective sermons. I presume most Seventh Day Adventist preachers actually rest on Sundays! Paul wrote to the Roman church, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike” (Romans 14.5) implying that, while special days of worship are important, precisely which days those are matter not.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

"Muśhü Limalicuy"

Ezekiel 43.10-11 NIV

“Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple — its arrangement, its exits and entrances — its whole design and all its regulations and laws.

Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.

Madre y Nino by John Farnsworth
I am holding in my hand a copy of the Muśhü Limalicuy. It’s a miracle. My friends Rick and Melanie Floyd gave it to me.  They lived most of their adult lives, twenty-six years, in Peru. Much of that time was spent in San Pedro de Pihuas, a village of about a thousand Wanca speaking people in the Andes Mountains of central Peru. An estimated two hundred and fifty thousand people speak Wanca Quechua, one of many dialects within the Quechua language family. The Quechua people, descendants of the Inca Empire, are mostly potato farmers and shepherds. Prior to the arrival of the Floyd’s in 1981, there was no written form of the Wanca dialect. Rick, who holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and fluent in both English, Spanish, and now Wanca, embarked on the task of learning the language and culture of these amazing people.

Rick and Melanie’s home had dirt floors and no running water. In that home they raised three very fine sons. The Floyd’s are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Rick created a Wanca alphabet and lexicon of words. Together with the help of a small team of nationals, they translated the entire New Testament into Wanca Quechua. It took two and a half decades but today the Muśhü Limalicuy is available to all Wanca speakers who want to read the God’s Word for themselves. Rick has been my friend for the past forty-seven years since we first met as college kids.

I make a small (very small) contribution each month to Wycliffe in the name of the Floyd’s work. Rick and Melanie came to our home about six years ago and presented my wife and me with our own personal copy of the Wanca New Testament. They claimed we played a part in its creation. By making the decision to support the Floyd’s, my family had a hand in bringing to a people group in another part of the world the Bible in their own language. I held a copy of the Muśhü Limalicuy. It was an emotional experience. 

Rick told me there is no word in Wanca for “disciple” which presented an interesting translation dilemma for him. Instead of introducing a new word into the language, his team selected the Wanca word yaćhapacü, which literally means “apprentice.” An apprentice is a person who learns from the master. The prophet Ezekiel was commanded to write down the inspired words of God:

“Write these down before them so that they may
be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations.”

The Floyd’s were called to do exactly what Ezekiel did. They ‘wrote down’ the words of God. Rick and Melanie and their supporters fulfilled the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to “go therefore and make disciples [yaćhapacücuna apprentices] of all the nations” (Matthew 28.19). Another two hundred and fifty thousand souls now have access to the Word of God. Armed with the Muśhü Limalicuy, new Quechua ‘apprentices’ will inspire Wanca speakers everywhere to pick up their very own Bible, to “be faithful to its design and follow” its Author into everlasting life. 
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The three photographs on this post are entitled "Madre y Niño," "Quechua," and "Hermanas" from the Peruvian Portfolio of artist and photographer John Farnsworth whose incredible work you can view at http://www.johnfarnsworth.com/. You may also see some of John’s photography on display while enjoying Peruvian cuisine at Andina Restaurant in Portland, Oregon (13th and NW Glisan in the Pearl District). These beautiful images are available for purchase on John's site. ©John Farnsworth http://www.johnfarnsworth.com/. John kindly gave me permission to post his photos here.   

You may contact Rick and Melanie Floyd by mail at Wycliffe Bible Translators, Box 628200, Orlando, FL 32862-8033 or by email rick_floyd@sil.org. Rick continues to work as a translation consultant with Wycliffe worldwide and currently assists a new team charged with the translation of the Old Testament into Wanca Quechua.