God Is Still Moving!

thWhile we here in this country are torn apart by politics and demanding our “rights,” God is up to something huge in other countries, where having “rights” is not even a consideration. Getting through the day and surviving until tomorrow is the foremost concern in many parts of the world. Most of us here in our prosperous nation can’t even relate to the experiences of others in third world nations.

I became so weary of the battle in the political realms this past year and now with the ongoing battles, women’s marches, and divisions that I had to simply turn off the media and the social media so that I could give my mind and my soul a rest from the cacophony, fear, panic, and general hysteria I see all around me.

Jesus promises a peace that passes understanding to those who fix their mind, will, and emotions on Him. He promises a peace that passes understanding to those who refuse to be anxious about anything, but instead bring all of their needs to Him and truly trust Him to take those needs. I’m not sure if anyone reading this feels as worn down and weary of the turmoil in our nation right now as I am, but there are times that I wish I could run away to some deserted island and learn how to really live in peace again.

Here’s the thing—a mystery with a wonderful promise: Jesus Christ is my island. Some who don’t believe might say to me, “Well, this God thing is just a crutch!” No, it is a stretcher, and I’m flat laid out on it. He is my peace. He is my island. He is my sustainer.

One of the things I have consistently done through the years is to find any materials I can that tell of the lives of other Christians who have undergone much more suffering than I can even imagine, and to hear their stories of peace and victory that Jesus Christ brings in the midst of their suffering. I gain strength from the testimonies of those who have suffered much, and who have learned through that suffering that Jesus Christ is enough—He is all they need.

There is a ministry called the Jesus Film Project® which distributes the JESUS® Film to every nation in the world in their own language. It is an amazing ministry and many miraculous stories continue to be told.

With all of the bad news and negative events we are bombarded with in our nation right now, I’d like to begin a little series of just the retelling of some of the stories from these kinds of ministries. Here is one:

Najaf lives in Southern Iraq, in a “holy city,” similar to Mecca. Najaf is from a fanatical family and his own wife teaches Sharia law. He began watching Christian satellite programs and became deeply conflicted. He began seeking and praying, “God help me, God help me! Where can I find the truth?”

The same day he prayed, he went to his office, where he worked at a used car dealership. It was a windy day. As Najaf unlocked the office door, he spotted a piece of paper flying about. It was tattered and dirty. He picked it up. The paper said, “Are you still looking for me? Are you searching for me? I am the one who died on the cross for you.” It was signed, Jesus Christ. He was further amazed to find that the paper was from a calendar page that was 17 years old. It had been blowing around since!

Convinced that God was answering his prayer, he visited a friend who showed him a DVD of “JESUS®.” Najaf was so happy and believed. A staff leader who works with Najaf now reports: “Najaf isn’t selling used cars anymore. He’s in full-time ministry working with refugees from Iraq and Syria, giving out humanitarian aid, and helping to show them “JESUS®.”

God is still moving, changing lives, bringing His “peace that passes understanding” to the deep needs of hurting people. Would you be one of those?

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OPINIONS!!!

OPINIONS!

I’ve been off Facebook for a couple of weeks. I needed to take a break from the political rhetoric that has turned to fear, rage and hate. This past two weeks without the constant flow of negative reporting I have been noticeably more at peace. I still read the news, but not the Facebook narrative. When I first went on social media it was largely a place where friends kept in touch with friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen for years, and it was a great place to see family and friends’ pictures and hear news of them. It was all so innocent.

That has all changed and now it has become a forum for expressing opinions about politics and political sides, using as our source the mainstream news media, which no longer reports “news.” Rather it is a venue designed to whip up the emotions of the masses over stories that present sound bites and talking heads voicing only their opinions of the news. During the election it became clear that the national media was fomenting much of the fear, panic, and hysterical rage. There are numerous places where one can go to gather information on their own, read full texts of documents rather than hear a sound bite and come to a logical, non-emotion-driven conclusion about either side. This is what folks once did, before cable news and online news sites.

Anyone who has taken a basic Sociology course in college knows how the “herd mentality” works and for everyone on both sides of this political firestorm, we are all caught up in a media-driven herd mentality. I was getting caught up in it on Facebook and found myself becoming angry and at times scared at the reports and opinions I read. This fear-driven media has pitted us against each other and this division is what is going to ultimately do the most damage. Most everyone has already formed an opinion about the current situation in our country. Reading your opinion on Facebook is likely not going to change my opinion, and mine is not likely going to change yours, yet we continue to lob out opinion bombs, some with deep hatred and laced with profanity against people we once cared about. It is a war zone of opinions—nothing more than opinions. The media is controlling the narrative. However, if we are truly free-thinkers at all, maybe it is time to put the media back where they belong: as reporters of news, instead of creators of news.

There is a sort of upside to all of this however. All of this back and forth rhetoric is proof that we are still a democracy, where we are free to choose who we elect and who we vote for. We are still a nation where either side can protest, and state their side in print, books, blogs, and debates. All of this is evidence that even though the sides have become decidedly combative toward each other and more profane, it is still our choice—it is our freedom in action. Go to North Korea and try to protest. Go to China and try to protest. Go to Russia and try to protest; not cold war Russia—21st Century Russia—where a female singing group was arrested for anti-government song lyrics. Go to Saudi Arabia or any Middle East country and try to protest, try to bare your breasts demanding your rights. Seriously, I challenge anyone who thinks we have lost our freedom or who believes that we don’t have enough “rights” in this country, please, use your built-in common sense, take a deep breath and think for yourself. We must stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated by others opinions and using Facebook as our news source.

I was considering leaving facebook, but I have so many wonderful friends and family—people who encourage and love and pray for each other. I became a widow in 2008 and found groups of widows who support each other and bring much needed comfort. I see posts of friends who find themselves in need and others rushing to offer help and encouragement. I have friends on both sides of the political spectrum. We know what the other believes, but we have never allowed those things to divide us. However more and more I see that if one person believes differently than the other, they are hated for it. Face-to-face, we would never demean or humiliate each other over our differences the way some feel free to do now on social media. Facebook has created a place for cowards to express their anger and hatred for others in the most demeaning and profane way in comments. Most of these would never dream of speaking this way face to face with that person. Please, do not allow the opinions and media-driven fear and sound-bites turn us all into animals, I beg you. Please let us return to a civilized society.

As for me, I will continue to rely on the only One who knows the beginning from the end—God Himself. He recorded it all—the beginning from the end—and it is all happening just as it was recorded thousands of years ago—to the last detail. I’m not afraid of the future—no matter who is in office. He brings peace to my soul and my soul is desperately in need of peace in this culture. He does not hate either side of a political party, He died for everyone and He calls everyone to believe in Him—in His Name and to finally have peace in their souls and true freedom. I am thinking this is something we are all needing at this time.

 “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30).

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STAND STILL AND SEE THE SALVATION OF THE LORD

stand-thereforeAND HAVING DONE ALL–STAND! STAND THEREFORE…

It has been my honor and privilege to teach women’s Bible studies for these past twenty-four years. Many times in teaching, I have used the example of what we call spiritual warfare drawn from Old Testament passages relating to Israel’s many conflicts when her enemies came against her to destroy her. In these very real and physical wars in ancient Israel, there seems to be a hidden meaning for us today as we face spiritual war in our lives. Jesus warned us that this enemy is a liar and the father of all lies; “when he speaks, he speaks his native language”—which is the lie. He also warned that this enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy the followers of Christ. Anyone who has walked with Jesus Christ for any amount of time understands this. It is a very real war. Just as knowing who the enemy is in a national conflict, it is essential to know that we have an enemy and this enemy has strategies. But our God has given us many examples of our strategy against our spiritual enemy if we will take the time to discover what those strategies are.

There are many examples from the Old Testament where Israel’s enemies were threatening to utterly destroy her and there are instructions outlined in the passage as to how God would have them respond. One of my favorites is found in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat, King of Israel, faces war with Moab and Ammon. “Some time after these events, the Moabites and the Ammonites attacked Jehoshaphat and started a war.” Israel is outnumbered as usual. Jehoshaphat’s reaction is perfectly normal. He is afraid. His second reaction, however, is a choice–“In mounting fear, Jehoshaphat devoted himself to seek the LORD.  Before he consults any advisers, he seeks the Lord. That is our first strategy.

His second strategy is to proclaim a fast for the entire nation. Everyone–men, women and children, bowed down before the Lord in prayer and fasting. And Jehoshaphat prays one of my all time favorite prayers:

 “LORD God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven, are you not? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, don’t you? In your own hands you grasp both strength and power, don’t you? As a result, no one can oppose you, can they? You are our God, who expelled the former inhabitants of this land right in front of our people Israel, aren’t you? Then you gave it to your friend Abraham’s descendant forever, didn’t you? They lived in it and have built there a sanctuary for your name, where they said, ‘If evil comes upon us, such as war as punishment, disease, or famine and we stand in your presence in this Temple (because your Name is in this Temple) and cry out to you in our distress, then you will hear and deliver.’ Now therefore look! The Ammonites, the Moabites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir, whom you would not permit Israel to attack when they arrived from the land of Egypt—since they turned away from them and did not eliminate them—Look how they’re rewarding us! They’re coming to drive us from your property that you gave us to be our inheritance. Our God, you are going to punish them, aren’t you? We have no strength to face this vast multitude that has come against us, nor do we know what to do, except that our eyes are on you.”

A prophet rises and gives the answer from God:

 “Pay attention, everyone in Judah, in Jerusalem, and you, too, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn’t belong to you, but to God. Tomorrow you are to go down to attack them. Pay attention, now—they’ll be coming up near the ascent of Ziz. You won’t be fighting in this battle. Take your stand, but stand still, and watch the LORD’s salvation on your behalf, Judah and Jerusalem! Never fear and never be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, since the LORD is with you.’”

There is a fascinating part of this verse that we find repeated many times when Israel is receiving instructions from God about a forthcoming war: “You won’t be fighting in this battle. Take your stand and stand still.”

Upon hearing this, Jehoshaphat falls on his face in worship.

“Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the assembled inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem fell face down in the LORD’s presence and worshipped the LORD.”

The Hebrew here is “Shakhah”—to fall face down. This is the response—the normal response—when we have heard a definite word from our El Shaddai—our Mighty God.

Next is a part of the strategy that I love most:

 “Korah stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel in a very loud voice that ascended to heaven.”

“In a very loud voice!” I love that.

The next day, they headed out to the appointed battlefield. Jehoshaphat appointed choir members to march ahead of the army and sing praise to the Lord.

 “After he had consulted with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed some choir members to sing to the LORD and to praise him in sacred splendor as they marched out in front of the armed forces. They kept saying “Give thanks to the LORD, because his gracious love is eternal!’”

God heard the voices of praise and worship—most of all He heard the voices of people who were afraid of the oncoming armies and who knew that they had no power against these armies, yet who chose to trust in the power of their God. They went out trembling, but they went out singing praises and trusting God—as if they had already defeated the enemy. And here is the most amazing part of so many of these wars:

 “Right on time, as they began to sing and praise, the LORD ambushed the Ammonites, Moabites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir who had attacked Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites attacked the inhabitants of Mount Seir, destroying them, and after they had finished with the inhabitants of Mount Seir, they worked on destroying one another!

Right on time! God moved right on time. God caused the enemy to turn on itself and destroy each other.

Folks, there is power in what these passages are teaching us. Because we still have an all-powerful God! He has not changed—He is the exact same God Jehoshaphat prayed to. We are in a spiritual war in our country. We, like Daniel, who also fasted and prayed on behalf of his country, can begin by praying and acknowledging that “We have sinned. Shame of face belongs to us.” Israel had been taken into captivity for what? For worshipping idols along with their worship of God, and for sacrificing their children to Molech (Jeremiah 32). Our country has been shedding innocent blood to the tune of 58 million unborn babies since 1973. We had an opportunity to repent, to “turn from our wicked ways” (2 Chronicles 7:14) when the horrendous videos were revealed—videos showing actual pictures of dismembered babies in petri dishes. This should have caused such outrage that we would have fallen on our faces in deep prayer and fasting and repentance, begging God for forgiveness and storming our Congress to put a stop to it. But we didn’t. Our congress was given the opportunity to defund Planed Parenthood, but they didn’t. In fact, interestingly within the past two months, an identical representation of the Arch of Baal was erected in New York City—honoring the Arch that ISIS recently destroyed in Syria. This was more than coincidence—it was symbolic.

And so the Lord seems to have allowed our country to be embroiled in one of the most embarrassing, shameful and ungodly election seasons to ever happen. Watching the debates, I couldn’t help but remember Proverbs 6:16-19—the seven things that God hates, as the candidates proudly strutted around the stage. He seems to be throwing these things in our faces to see if we will even recognize them.

However as with Israel, throughout their history—as Elijah saw when he thought he alone was left, God reminded him “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). There is a remnant here in this country who have been praying, repenting, fasting. Not praying for God to make us great again, but for God to forgive us for our shame of face for the abominations that have been happening here. Not praying for God to deliver us from the judgment that we so deserve here in this country, but praying that for His name’s sake, He will hear and forgive. God knows and He hears these kinds of prayers.

Are we praying for repentance because we are ashamed of the sins we have committed here? Or are we praying that our prosperous and luxurious way of life will be able to continue? Are we praying for our constitution and flag to be preserved, or for the Banner—Jehovah Nissi—to be raised over this country—raised above our own flag? Are we only concerned that we can make America rich again so that we can be comfortable? Or are we willing to be bold enough to ask God to do a new thing in this country—something we have not yet seen? When Jeremiah was given the awful task of reporting to the leaders that God was going to send Israel into exile while He restored the Land, the religious leaders cried out “But the Temple is here! The Temple is here!” Because of their great sin, God allowed that temple to be destroyed—His temple! Why? Because they would not repent for their shameful sins. Their sins were that they worshipped Jehovah God in the Temple, while in their secret chambers they were watching and participating in abominable acts, as Ezekiel was shown—shameful pictures and images on the walls of the priests. And they were sacrificing their children to Molech.

As I write this, an amazing thing is occurring in our country and I can’t help but think of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah and other Israeli Kings who fasted and prayed before a battle. God miraculously turned the enemy on itself and the enemy destroyed each other instead of destroying Israel.

Right now, we are witnessing something eerily similar here. Amazingly, eleven days before the election, it has been discovered that Hillary’s number one assistant Huma Abedin and her depraved husband, are in possession of 650,000 damning emails that could destroy Hillary Clinton and possibly send her, along with many others who are complicit in her corruption, to jail. Unwittingly, those in her own “army” have begun turning against each other and are destroying each other. Is this God? Is He doing this? Have the prayers and petitions and songs of His people ascended before Him? Is He about to turn the enemies of America against each other to destroy each other.

I would like to propose that those who read this take this possibility to heart and follow the strategy of Jehoshaphat and others. A day of fasting, falling on our faces in repentance for our nation’s abominations, on the Sunday before the election. We are not praying for Trump to win, we are throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and praying as we have prayed so often in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

On Monday, begin singing in a very loud voice, to the Lord. This means turning off the TV, the football games, the entertainment and the social media and focusing only on our Mighty God. On Monday and Tuesday, continue singing and praising as we march to the polls. Maybe join with others and pray around the polling places.

This sounds completely outrageous I know, but what if—just what if—it would be the very catalyst that would move this mountain—the mountain of years of abominations done in our country—into the sea? What if we actually believed that we have a God big enough to do something this big?

We shall see, but it sure feels like God has begun moving; now we must “Take our stand. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

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SHAVUOT/PENTECOST

SHAVUOT/PENTECOST

This may seem like an ancient and outdated Jewish Feast grafted-inday to most, but to me it is a very important day. It is, of all the appointed ancient Jewish Feast days, a day which all believers in Jesus Christ should continue to celebrate.

But one must travel back in time to understand just how significant it is. We go back to the book of Ruth, which all observant Jews will read during Shavuot. Ruth is a love story of monumental importance. It is the story of two women, one a Jew and one a Gentile. It is a story of two women whose lives had been turned upside down by tragedy and death leaving both alone in a man’s world—in a dangerous land. Just before we read about the story of these two women, a profoundly disturbing statement had been made in the book just before Ruth—the book of the Judges. It sets the stage for this little seemingly insignificant story of two women informing us of the condition of the land of Israel at this time. “And there was no king in Israel in those days; everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Everyone did what was right in their own eyes

Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. This was Israel, the chosen Land where Yahweh had written His name. The Land where His people had forgotten Him and chosen to go their own way. There was a famine in the land and a woman named Naomi and her husband Elimelech (which means God is king), left the Land and traveled to Moab (today it is called Jordan), to try to scratch out a living. God had forbidden the Jews to live in Moab because the inhabitants of that land had refused to allow the wandering Jews to set up camp to rest during their journey to the Promised Land and also because the Moabite king had tried to curse Israel. The Moabites worshipped the demonic god Molech, who required women to sacrifice their children by burning them to death. But it was a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes, and so Elimelech took his wife to Moab, where Naomi gave birth to two sons, Mahlon and Chilion (whose names mean sickly and pining). These two men had married Moabite women, something else that was forbidden by God. Not only were they Gentile women, they were Moabite women—worshippers of another god and enemies of Israel.

Then tragedy came to the house of Naomi. Her husband died. And then her two sons died. She was alone in a foreign land responsible for her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. It was the lowest point in her life, she had lost everything and she had no children or grandchildren who would care for her in her widowhood. Women didn’t work to earn a living in those days. There were no men to provide for her. By “coincidence” she heard that the famine in Israel had ended and so she decided to make her way back to her native land. It would have been a treacherous journey and the likelihood that she would even make it was slim to nonexistent. She told her daughters-in-law to return to their own people but Ruth refused. A familiar little passage comes out of this story when Ruth tells Naomi “Where you go I will go and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth chose to give up everything that was familiar in her life—her land, her people, her family, her mother and father and sisters and brothers, her chance to ever marry again, and even her religion, to set out on a treacherous journey to a foreign land where she would only face rejection from the people because she was a Moabite foreigner and a complete outcast.

Why?

That is the question isn’t it? Why? Because there was a God in Israel and He had not forgotten His people even though they had forgotten Him. He was behind the scenes orchestrating the circumstances to put into place the next piece of the cosmic puzzle. This God had a plan bigger than these two widows could possibly imagine and their story continues to impact us today. His plan, from the beginning of Genesis, was to bring a promised Deliverer into the world through a people He called the Hebrews, through a specific tribe of the Hebrews, the tribe of Judah, and from one specific family of that tribe. This lineage can be traced throughout the Scripture. We would imagine that God would only use the designated tribe and family to continue this lineage—only the most perfect of the tribe—but as He often does, He stepped completely out of character and allowed people into the story who were outcasts in Israel—a Gentile prostitute, Rahab; a Moabite Gentile, Ruth; an adulteress Bathsheba. For some reason, God stepped out of the prescribed “box” and brought these fallen, outcast women into the lineage of the promised Messiah.

Ruth traveled with Naomi back to Israel, specifically back to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem (“house of bread”), and by a series of strange “coincidences” she married a wealthy Jewish landowner, Boaz, who happened to be a near relative of Naomi which meant that he was obligated to provide for this widow of his relative. Again, out of the prescribed “box” of the law of Israel, instead of marrying Naomi, he married Ruth and at that moment, a Gentile outcast, was grafted into the tribe of Judah, and she gave birth to Obed who became the father of Jesse who became the father of David who became the great, great, great (?) grandfather of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Jesus came to the Land of Israel, born in the city of Bethlehem. Scholars believe He was born near the same field that Boaz had owned and where he met Ruth. It is believed in fact that the shepherds in that field on the night Messiah was born, were tending their sheep in the field of Boaz which you can still visit today. A fulfillment of a prophecy that God had set in motion thousands of years before—fulfilled to the very last detail.

What does this have to do with Shavuot—Pentecost—that is being celebrated today?

Jesus the long awaited Jewish Messiah, had fulfilled every detail of the Feast days of Passover (Pesach). He was the spotless, sinless Lamb, introduced as the King of Israel four days prior to the Passover sacrifice, proven as a pure Lamb by the questioning and examining of the rulers who found Him “faultless” which qualified Him for the sacrifice. He was the “Unleavened Bread” who went into the temple and turned over the tables of the money-changers symbolizing the cleaning out the leaven of the temple. His blood was shed on the day of the offering of the sacrificial lambs—Passover, which memoralizes the blood on the doorposts of the Jews in their escape from Egypt—the last plague when the angels of death would see the blood on the doorposts and “pass over” the houses marked with the blood. He died and shed His blood at the very same time the religious leaders in Jerusalem were shedding the blood of the innocent lambs in the temple and the high priests, after the last lamb was sacrificed would cry out “It is finished!” Jesus the Messiah would have cried out the same words on a cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem just at that moment. Three days later He rose victorious from death, fulfilling the third part of the celebration of Pesach, the offering of the first fruits. His life, death and resurrection fulfilled to the last detail all of the hidden pictures that the Jewish people have celebrated for thousands of years.

The next Feast on the Jewish calendar would be Shavuot, (Greek-Pentecost). This Feast was held 50 days after the day following First Fruits, and the Jews would begin the countdown by bringing a sheaf of Barley, the first fruits of their harvest, to the temple as an offering to the Lord every day for fifty days. Close to the time of the celebration of Shavuot, the Wheat harvest would begin and the last offering would be wheat. There would be a great celebration on the last day of the counting of the omer of the sheaves. It is the only Jewish Feast that was open to Gentiles.

However, on this particular Shavuot, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, something completely different happened—something so extraordinary and supernatural that we miss the significance of it. Much emphasis is placed upon the fact that on that day, tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit descended upon the people and they all spoke in a different language, but the real miracle is that because Jews and Gentiles were there, celebrating together, and at the moment that the Holy Spirit came, the Gentiles were “grafted” in to the plans of God which had been reserved up to that point for the Jewish people. This grafting in (Romans 11:17), was in direct fulfillment to the hidden prophecies in the book of Ruth, a Gentile who was grafted in to the Jewish people. But in this fulfillment fifty days after Jesus the Messiah was resurrected from the dead, Jews and Gentiles together were brought as one people into the Kingdom of God—believers and followers of Jesus Christ who fulfilled every detail of every hidden prophecy found in the spring Jewish Feasts. There are three Feasts yet to be fulfilled—the Fall Feasts of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succoth. We are anxiously awaiting the fulfillment of those.

But why does this day matter to me? For many reasons, but most importantly because in 1989, a fallen woman (fallen many times over), an outcast from her church, a messed up, confused, lonely, and very ill woman, was grafted in to the fellowship of the body of Christ. This Messiah, Jesus, met me right in the middle of my fallen state and said, “Come and follow Me.” And I accepted His invitation and the miracle of Shavuot/Pentecost, happened in my own little insignificant life. And I have never been the same. Just as Ruth said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God,” I changed identities from messed up, confused, miserably unhappy, beginning to worship the false god of the New Age, to a “new creation” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). I am grafted in. Shavuot is my Feast Day. I am Ruth, betrothed to the mighty Boaz. The Jewish resurrected Messiah is my Messiah. I have faced many hardships and losses since that day, but if Jesus Christ never did another thing for me, this was enough. And He is coming again—sometime during one of the as-yet-to-be-fulfilled Fall Feasts, He is going to return. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

Chag Sameach.

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2016–SO FAR

2016 — SO FAR

I’ve been mulling over many things, trying to make some sense of the year 2016. It has been a crazy year thus far. I have refrained from voicing many opinions on social media about the insanity of this election year, but many thoughts have been percolating on the back burner of my mind so decided to get them down on paper. Whether this makes it to social media, I can’t say. Way too much has already been said and one more opinion really doesn’t matter.

My thoughts have not been tracking along the same lines as most others—taking any hardline positions for one side or another—but mostly reading and observing the way things are trending. In my times of prayer over the whole thing, I continue to hear the same thing:

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

That pretty much sums it up.

I have been reading through the Bible now since 1989 and though I don’t keep track of how many times I have read it through, I do know that my worldview has been shaped by the history of the nations and wars that are recorded there. If it is true that history repeats itself then we do well to study history. In the Judges passage above, Israel had been through many leaders—“Judges”—some who started off following God but after many years of slowly encroaching corruption in leadership and in the priesthood, they finally ended up abandoning the laws of God and doing what was right in their own eyes. The following quote attributed to Scottish history professor Alexander Tytler in 1787, seems to portray an accurate reflection of what has occurred during our 200+ years of existence as a democracy.

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    • From bondage to spiritual faith;
    • From spiritual faith to great courage;
    • From courage to liberty;
    • From liberty to abundance;
    • From abundance to complacency;
    • From complacency to apathy;
    • From apathy to dependence;
    • From dependence back into bondage

These words were written two years before George Washington became our first President. Of course America was much more than a democracy; it was a republic built on a strong biblical foundation. For that reason, we have much to learn from the history of Israel, a nation built on those same foundations, and also from the Roman Empire. America shares much in common with the Roman Empire, which began as a republic, then gradually became a democracy and eventually disintegrated into utter depravity. They say the Roman Empire was never conquered; it disintegrated from within. Nikita Kruschev made the declaration in the 1960s that communism would finally conquer the United States without firing a single shot, and he outlined definitive long-term plans for this coup. It seems we have been marching right along toward that end for decades. We are now at that very point which he predicted.

In the mid-1800s, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political thinker and historian best known for his works Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856) made a fact-finding journey to America to discover what made America great—because in those days she was great. In both of his books, he analyzed the improved living standards and social conditions of individuals, as well as their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America was published after Tocqueville’s travels in the United States, and is today considered an early work of sociology and political science. His analysis of our democracy is succinct and almost prophetic. As he wrote: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money,” and, “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.” And here is where we now find ourselves in this very important upcoming election.

From a purely Biblical worldview, which I find answers so many of the complexities we experience in life and explains human behavior far better than most sociological studies, I can see an almost eerie likeness to the rise and fall of the empires found in the historical narratives of the Bible. As in the passage from the last book and last verse of the book of Judges, when God’s way is forsaken, then men and women seek their own ways, invent their own gods and live according to what they feel rather than what is morally right. God demonstrated it time and again. When left to our own devices, we will always spiral down into moral corruption. Romans chapter 1 gives the formula and that formula hasn’t changed for the past several thousand years, repeating the cycle over and over.

After the nation of Israel fell into moral depravity and sin as a result of leaving God out of their lives, they began to cry out to God for a “King.” The cry went up, “Give us a King!” We find the story in 1 Samuel where a high priest Eli was sitting as Judge over Israel and his two sons served as Priests in the Temple. Eli was corrupt as were his sons, defaming the Temple and having sex with women who came to offer sacrifices. Yet, God was raising up the young man Samuel to be Judge over Israel. While Israel remained true to their God, God blessed them, but because of their corruption and godlessness, He had removed His hand of protection, allowing their archenemies the Philistines to defeat them in battle. The lament went out “The glory of God has departed from Israel.”

God Himself had not departed; but His glory had. At that time His glory rested on the Ark of the Covenant, and the Philistines had captured the Ark in the battle and set it up alongside their false god, Dagon. (God adds a bit of humor in the story by relating that as long as the Ark of the Covenant was in the temple of Dagon, Dagon repeatedly fell on its face until its nose broke off.) It is important to note this story because it may be that the glory of God has departed from our country, but He Himself has not. He is still here, living within His followers, those who remain faithful to Him and to His truth, just as there were His followers who remained faithful to Him in those days. In chapter 7, after the Ark had been returned to Israel, Samuel, now a much-loved leader of Israel told them this:

Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your hearts, [then] put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths [female gods] from among you, and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.” So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured [it] out before the LORD. And they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah [1Sa 7:3-6].

I make note of the fact that the admonition was to return to the LORD with all their hearts, put away the foreign gods and prepare hearts for the LORD to serve Him only. Only then would He deliver them. They obeyed. He delivered. We see this identical admonition repeated again and again in the stories of Israel and their God. In particular we in our country are fond of the 2 Chronicles 7:14 promise, “… if My people which are called by My Name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” In fact, believers all over this country right now are claiming this verse, yet He hasn’t delivered or healed our land. Why? I believe it can be found in the fact that we haven’t really turned from our wicked ways, forsaken our idols. No, we don’t have carved images of foreign gods on our shelves that we worship, but we worship many other things—our electronic devices; our entertainment; our sports; our wealth; our immorality; our “opinions;” our pride and a host of other idols. I am not pointing a finger here—I include myself in this.

One of the things that we find as we read through the books of Kings and Chronicles when Israel had begun to have Kings instead of Judges is that most of the kings were corrupt. The words “… he did was what right in the eyes of the LORD but he didn’t tear down the high places…” is the sad narrative in the descriptions of many of these kings. A few, like Josiah, Hezekiah, and Asa, did tear down the high places. What are “high places?” In the days of the Judges and Kings, high places were the places where false gods were worshipped along with the true God. In the New Testament and in our day, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 calls them “high thoughts that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God…” In other words, it is anything that we allow to be exalted above what we know to be true about God. We could spend some time here, but I will move on.

After the days of the Judges, Israel demanded a king, rejecting God’s plan for them to have His appointed Judges rule until the King He had predetermined had come of age. They wanted a King like the surrounding pagan nations had—they wanted to be like the pagan nations, so, He gave them what they wanted; He gave them a King—the kind of King they demanded. He gave them Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin and as Samuel told them, this king would make them serve hard military service and take their sons and daughters to serve in his palaces, he would levy a heavy tax burden on them and bring poverty. Their answer? “No, but we will have a King.”

God’s answer:

“… And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them’” [1Sa 8:7].

Here I come to an important crossroad—what I consider to be the crossroad we are facing today in our country. We are at a critical juncture in that we have not torn down the high places in our personal and national lives. We have seen the torture and murder of 57 million unborn children and we have ignored the fact that God peeled back the veneer of our apathy towards abortion by revealing in the most unbelievable videos what really takes place in many abortion clinics—the dismembering of live babies in the womb and the selling of their body parts for a profit. We have followed the downward spiral of Romans 1—beginning with worshipping the “creation” (“environment”) above worship of the Creator. We have ignored God’s moral laws by sanctioning and legalizing same sex marriage and approving of it (Romans 1). We have turned our backs as a nation on our strong democratic ally, Israel, God’s land, where He has put His name. We have given preference and bowed down to the demands of political correctness of a radical Islamic jihadist organization (The Muslim Brotherhood). We fight for the “rights” of a black lives matter organization to riot and loot and burn down businesses, while we ignore the slave trade and genocide of Christians and Jews at the hands of radical Islam. I could go on, but we all know and have grown weary of the news. We have stopped our ears from hearing negative news and want to accumulate teachers who will tell us what we want to hear to make us feel comfortable (“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” 2Ti 4:3-4). We have rejected true conviction from the Holy Spirit and there are now even accusations between many believers with one side leaning more toward progressive Christianity and who accuse other believers—those who still follow the old paths, of being “haters.” We have twisted the true conviction from the Holy Spirit—that which gives us our moral compass—into hate speech, if it does not agree with the new morality—thereby accusing the Holy Spirit of being a hater.

And so now we are crying out for a “King” of our own choosing. And God has set before us a cadre of men and women to choose from. It reads like a story out of the Kings in the Bible. We have a woman who is on the verge of being indicted for serious crimes while serving in the highest office in the land—crimes which endangered the security of our country and yet her supporters love her, even bordering on worshipping her (“The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their [own] power; And My people love [to have it] so. But what will you do in the end? Jer 5:31). We have a Saul Alinsky follower, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who wants to tax us into oblivion and bring about a Marxist political system—ending the democracy we have all enjoyed for over 200 years, turning us into a state-run Marxist nation. We have a bombastic and insulting man, boasting of his wealth, claiming to be a Christian while denying that he has ever needed forgiveness for anything and again, men and women who profess Christ are flocking to him in droves—again, bordering on worship. We have another man who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, yet rumors are circulating of his moral failures and behind the scenes shenanagins. The divisions among political parties and sadly, among the followers of Jesus Christ, have hardened into violent, virulent hatred. It is grevious.

Make no mistake about it—God Himself has placed these men and women before us and God Himself is saying to us, here are the choices, according to your own demands. He almost seems to be mocking us, showing us how very far we have moved away from Him—away from His moral laws and His plans for our country. We have become a cartoon caricature of our former selves–a circus sideshow. It is the most pitiful state I have seen and I am ashamed and embarrassed for all of us. Most of all I am grieving. People I love are dividing up into factions, as King David said, “For [it is] not an enemy [who] reproaches me; Then I could bear [it]. Nor [is it] one [who] hates me who has exalted [himself] against me; Then I could hide from him. But [it was] you, a man my equal, My companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, [And] walked to the house of God in the throng” (Psalm 55:12-14).

But God…

He still cares about this once great nation and He is waiting to see what we will do. What will believers do? That remains to be seen, but my prayer is that our own dumbed down apathy will be removed and that we will honestly and truly pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. He always responds to true repentance and He always resists the proud. I’m thinking a good place to start might be praying the prayer of Daniel (Daniel 9:4-19), putting in our own names. Daniel was certainly a righteous man, but he named himself among those who had “shame of face.” We begin by humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face (not our opinions), and turning from our wicked ways. Only then will He hear from Heaven and heal our land.

I pray it is not too late.

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