Here’s a sample from under Jerusalem…!
It’s been busy in the Middle East lately, but not all the news is bad—or at least it won’t be. Let me start with a recap of the stories that tend to keep us awake.
Three Jewish boys were kidnapped and murdered by the enemies of goodness and sanity. The ambulance carrying away their bodies was pelted with rocks and paint to the cheers people rejoicing in the murder of children. The festivities continued with a barrage of rockets raining down on civilians living in southern Israel.
There’s also something out there called ISIS. Smart, extremely well organized, wealthy beyond the dreams of Croesus, politically brilliant, terrifying in its bloody resolve and bent on conquering every land with a Moslem shrine. In a matter of weeks it captured most of Iraq and northern Syria and is organizing cells in Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Israel is right in the middle, possessing the third holiest shrine in Islam.
And then there’s us. The U.S. had been Israel’s friend and staunchest ally since 1948. Now she has recoiled as if from a disease from the only free democratic government in the Middle East. The only one. In recent years we have lied to Israel, pressured and threatened her to trade more land for more conflict, joined with some of her anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist neighbors impugning her for retaliating when hit, demanding that Israel retreat to her original borders and surrender Jerusalem, her historic capital, to hostile, sometimes genocidal enemies.
Add to to this Iran, who has persistently threatened Israel’s annihilation, supplying arms and ordinance to terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas through the porous borders of Sudan and Syria, while the UN yawns.
Now, all that being said, King David once wrote,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
Now more than ever.
But despite all the unsettling news about Israel, there are a couple accounts in the Bible that sort matters out rather well.
The first took place in the days of King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet, when the vast, relentless Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem—a battle-hardened force of more than 185,000 soldiers, feared for their terrible cruelty. The Assyrian commander mocked God and the King with a fearsome and blasphemous ultimatum shouted across the city walls while the besieged trembled in silence.
The ultimatum was handed to the King, who, with Isaiah, took it to the Temple of God, laid it on the alter, and prayed. And God answered. He told the King and the Prophet that He would take care of the people because they were His people and protect Jerusalem because it was His city. And besides, He reminded them, He’s God and He knows where the enemy lives. In other words, “Go home and get a good night’s sleep—I got it handled.” You can read God’s full answer in Isaiah 37:21-35.
In the morning, the King and the blasphemous commander both awoke to the silence of 185,000 dead Assyrian soldiers, killed during the night by a single angel.
The second took place years later in Babylon, and (interestingly) concerned three Jewish boys kidnapped by megalomaniacal king who commanded them to bow and worship his huge golden idol. They defied the enraged king had he them executed on the spot. You probably know the story—that God not only protected the boys, but that He also stood with them in the blazing furnace into which they were tossed. But I like this part best: while on trial for their lives before the king, they retorted, “…we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [Emphasis added]
They knew Who was in charge, and though they might not survive the moment, the final outcome was assured. God will deal with His enemies. As for that king, God reduced him to insanity; when he recovered He worshipped God alone.
God knows, God rules, God is working. And though sometimes hard-fought, the outcome is assured.
So pray for the peace of Jerusalem—pray, pray, pray.
And for their battles—and your own, lay the threats on the alter, and go get a good night’s rest. Dawn is coming—I wonder what we’ll find when we awake…!
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 122:6–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Da 3:16–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
A fascinating tale is told of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The account might be legendary, but it is also wonderfully provocative. The story goes that around 1900 the General was preparing to send his annual Christmas greeting to all his Salvationists serving around the world. Since this had to be done by telegraph—which charged for each word sent—the whole process proved quite expensive. Times were tough that year, and it was calculated that there was only enough money available to wire a single word to each missionary. The one-word message the General chose to send simply said, “Others!”
I have found that when I set out to make my day good for me or do good things for myself, at the end of that day I ponder whether or not it was truly a good day. And as I reflect on my puzzling lack of fullness, I wonder why I am even concerned about it at all.
Ever felt like that?
But when I set out to make the day better for someone else, for “others”—an encouraging phone call or visit, a prayer for a friend, a kind word to a stranger, lending a helping hand with a chore or just holding a hand—when my day has been about others, I sleep well at night and never wonder whether or not the day was good. It was.
Life is always about others—we’re built that way despite all the selfie trends floating around this world. And others is what Jesus has always been about. Look at everything He did—it was always for someone else. You can even tell by His arrival on earth as a baby and by how much we cherish that thing we call the “Christmas Spirit”. God gave us Jesus and Jesus gave everything. But He also took a few things, too—our sins and our guilt, and He took the sting out of death. For others. For us. For you.
So, have Merry Christmas and remember to have a wonderful day—every day. Like Jesus.
I found this in an old transcript. It took my breath away…
“Nothing can extinguish it. To the end of time it shall be there and shall always manifest itself, and men must never lose heart because of that. All [mankind’s ideas and struggles to create his own utopia] are absolutely worthless—the society in which utopianism is the great pursuit is the one who is about to commit suicide. The great guarantee that human life is always worth creating, always worth bringing into this world, always worth living is that there is built into it an indestructible awareness that life belongs to eternity and not to time. [This] shines with an incredible brightness in the one place in the world where you would not, under any circumstances, expect to find it surviving. The Catacombs.” —Malcolm Muggeridge, Firing Line #433, with W.F. Buckley, Jr., Sept. 6, 1980, PBS
The church will outlive the world itself, and it will survive—no, thrive—in the eye of the great hurricane of cultural upheaval. The world tried to kill Jesus once, and look what happened. His followers can even be driven underground, but what are catacombs if not bomb-shelters, illuminated not by oil or electricity, but by the songs of the saints.
Here is another quote, an even better one…
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” —Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16
Shine, wherever you are.
I am not against politics, though I do not like them.
My friend Gayle Erwin recently noted,
“If a politician runs on the “Jesus” platform and is not compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth, mercy to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, then I consider them hypocrites and liars. Support them at your own risk.”
Last Tuesday another attempt was made to lobby me to pulpit-political activism. I know it’s legal for me to talk about political issues and patriotism from my pulpit—I can even publicly espouse or deplore the merits of certain propositions. But—because I have only so many breaths in my lungs, I have elected to spend all I can of them preaching and teaching the Bible. Not the Bible and… There are just too many eternal things to talk about during my one short lifetime to use up good moments rallying people for causes less than Christ. Besides, God is not a Republican—in fact it may shock you to discover He’s not even an American.
I hope people come to our church not to convert to a political view or, worse, to some political party, but to Christ and Christ alone. They already know how they will vote and who they will vote for next election when they walk through the door. Besides, what cause have I to add to any message that could ever equal or even enhance God’s Word of Life? I am both privileged and called to tell them about a King who will come, and that when He does, He will destroy all forms of government except His own. He will not even Christianize the world. He will simply rule it as He sees fit.
Malcolm Muggeridge seems to have been quite a prophet. Here was his take on the subject:
“Whatever may happen, however seemingly inimical to it may be the world’s going and those who preside over the world’s affairs, the truth of the Incarnation remains intact and inviolate. Christendom, like other civilizations before it, is subject to decay and must sometime decompose and disappear. The world’s way of responding to intimations of decay is to engage equally in idiot hopes and idiot despair. On the one hand some new policy or discovery is confidently expected to put everything to rights: a new fuel, a new drug, détente, world government. On the other, some disaster is as confidently expected to prove our undoing: Capitalism will break down. Fuel will run out. Plutonium will lay us low. Atomic waste will kill us off. Overpopulation will suffocate us, or alternatively, a declining birth rate will put us more surely at the mercy of our enemies.
In Christian terms, such hopes and fears are equally beside the point. As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometime flounder, whereas we acknowledge a King men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work,” to concern themselves with the things that are unseen. “For the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ.”
I pray our pews (okay, chairs) will be filled with every kind of political animal—who will come because they love hearing about our soon and coming King, and how we will all bow and worship before Him without flags, affiliations, parties or petitions.
Just Him, and us looking at Him. Our King.
Biblical Dinners in South America
As most of you know, I have a ministry called the Biblical Dinner, which is a live presentation of the historical Last Supper, and you’re in it. I have also been given the privilege of sharing this ministry all over the world, with powerful results and lasting good fruit. Here’s what happened tonight…
I was embroiled in a conversation with two other pastors over coffee when we all realized that we were late for dinner, and being Calorie Chapel pastors, we were late for our calling. As we entered the dining hall, eight hundred pastors were already seated and working on their salads. We needed to find seats, preferably together and we rushed past a table with three open seats right next to each other. Over the deafening noise in the room I called to the other pastors and pointed to the empty chairs, and they turned and quickly sat down. The other pastors seated at the table were all from Latin American countries, including Guatemala and Columbia. The Columbian man was at my left elbow, and he introduced himself as Luis from Cali.
I had visited Ecuador on several occasions, and since Ecuador borders Columbia, I told this to Luis hoping to stimulate a little conversation. He immediately asked me if I knew pastor Freddy Bernadino of Calvary Chapel Cuenca, Ecuador. I not only know Freddy, I ordained him. More than that, Freddy learned the Biblical Dinner from me and has been busy presenting them all over northern South America. Luis then told me that Freddy did these dinners and has asked him if he would like to learn how to present them.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
Luis looked at me and said he would like to meet the man who taught Freddy how to do the dinners. Now it gets even more interesting. He looks at me, having never met, and said, “you are the one who does the Biblical Dinner…!” I was stunned, to say the least.
He then explained that he had been praying about if he should launch out into this amazing ministry, but was still unsure—until now. There is much more to tell, but I think you get the idea. We now have another Biblical Dinner presenter!
But it gets even MORE interesting. During our amazing conversation the Lord showed me something that had never occurred to me. I have had many people urge me to raise up other men to do Dinners in order to spread this powerful ministry and to help lighten my schedule. So far no one here has taken up the torch, though there are now four men doing it in South America. But wait—do you see it? We Americans are often ignorantly arrogant about ministry. Ministry is not ours to command, keep or even define. God determines what He will make of it, and i am now quite convinced that the ministry of the Biblical Dinner was primarily meant for, of the places on earth, the people of South America. To us, South America is a forgotten continent, an afterthought in geography class. But it is full of all kinds of people, Indian and Hispanic, Portuguese and European, and all of them need to know and can appreciate the understanding of ancient biblical culture as much as all the rest of us. And God has paved the way through men like Freddy, Fernando, Luis and others. As I continue ministering these Dinners, I am beginning to happily understand that I am the one orbiting these pastors, and not the other way around. This is tremendous. I would have never imagined—the Biblical Dinner—determined by God for South Americans!
As I continue to minister these Dinners, I will continue to seek for a few good men to expand the ministry here, north of the equator, but now with the knowledge that God has done something wonderful, completely outside my imagination, with this ministry.
For South America! Who would have thought?
Bless the Lord…!