God has poets—like you—to tell of His wonders. Have a look…!
For the next 3 months I will be doing something different—taking a short sabbatical from Church, Chaplaincy and Dinners, and becoming director of the Calvary Chapel Bible College Affiliate in Jerusalem. Yes, I will return (my visa expires in 90 days), stopping in Ireland on the way home for some fellowship and ministry. I’m back the end of May, but with all the technology, I’m still close to home. I will post videoclips and some sermons (once a month or so), and my weekly messages and Biblical Dinners will resume May 31. If you want to schedule a Biblical Dinner or Galilean Wedding (or something else) when I return, I’m an email away. I appreciate your prayers, and so does my family. Shalom, and thanks for praying, everyone…!
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.