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Raw Power

RAW POWER

“In the fourteenth year that Hezekiah was king of Judah, the emperor of Assyria, … (he) ordered his chief official to
… go … to Jerusalem with a large military force to demand that King Hezekiah should surrender”
Isi 36:2.

live in a world where powerful forces are at work. all are obvious but some of them bare their teeth from rich countries. Some have huge armies. But nowadays the possession of nuclear arms is equally important. Financial muscle is another form of power that often determines the outcomes in international affairs. Then there are whole blocs of countries that combine to influence decisions and trade. Tough though these realities might be for small and weak nations, they are how the world works – and they just have to fit in as best they can. Israel was one of the little “nuisance” nations in Isaiah’s day. And Judah was just the southern bit of Israel. Sennacherib ruled a big and powerful empire – Assyria (Iran today). In Christ’s day, seven hundred years later, Rome had become the dominant power.
Our faith was born, not in some isolated monastery or beautiful little country chapel. It arose in the real world, where mighty emperors pushed little people and nations around, sent armies to subdue troublesome uprisings and exacted heavy tribute from those they conquered.
Bloodshed, wholesale slaughter and slavery for the defeated people were the order of the day.
Do not hanker for “the good old days before all this trouble started”. They never existed! Pick up the cross of Christ in the middle of today’s strife and struggle, power-plays and conflicts, and carry it up hill and down dale, as Jesus himself did.

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The Gospel Of Grace

THE GOSPEL OF GRACE

“The Lord will forgive your sins”.
Isa 33:24 CEV

One of the functions of religion is to help struggling human beings cope with their deepest anguish, pain and frailties. In response to the perplexed mind that asks, “What happens after death?” faith points to eternal life.
One of our greatest embarrassments and problems is the determined way in which we fail again and again to live strongly and to control our frailties, drives and passions.
Guilt is a messy and confusing emotion to handle. And it refuses to go away. It lowers our self-esteem, gnaws away at our sense of strength, and alienates us from other people. And sometimes it festers away for years and years.
It makes us defensive.
The Apostle Paul grasped the huge importance of God’s grace that he knew was effective in dealing with sin and imparting forgiveness to the sinner. Isaiah anticipated him by seven hundred years. The way the Old Testament faith dealt with sin and guilt was by means of the sacrifices in the temple. For Isaiah they were God’s way of meeting the sinner and bringing wholeness. It was impossible for people to sort themselves out. And the new era of life after the Assyrian siege would be characterized by physical healing, perfect security, and the ready availability of God’s grace in forgiveness.
In the cross of Jesus Christian believers have the perfect answer to sin and guilt. Here God’s grace is offered fully and freely. Even the most hardened sinner can leave it all behind at the cross and start again with a clean slate.
So can those brought up in the church community who yet know there is “something missing”. Bring your sins to Jesus. Accept his forgiveness today.

Link

COURAGE

“Tell everyone who is discouraged, ‘Be strong and don’t be afraid’”
Isi 35: 4-6.

A few decades ago a helicopter was shot down in a wooded area of Malaysia during military activity. The officer in charge found his body entangled in a tree, his one leg broken. With the enemy closing in the whole patrol were endangered. After a while he took out his bush knife and cut his own leg off whilst his soldiers watched in fear and disbelief. They then carried him till they were all safe.
Human beings are capable of amazing acts of courage! But most of us are cowards. Normal life is so difficult that it is easy to get discouraged and to lose hope.
Many of those Israelites in exile in Isaiah’s day became discouraged. They were in a foreign country. The language was different. The culture, laws and religion were alien.
The work – and they were slaves ─ was hard. And the food was awful! Many of their relations had been killed, and others left behind. Isaiah, though, never lost faith in God.
He knew that no situation was so impossible that God could not intervene and sort it out. He urged them to cheer up. A positive attitude could make a world of difference.
It still does. If you are positive, hopeful and determined to overcome the adverse circumstances you can change the whole way you live, however bad things might be.
Christ was often telling his disciples not to be afraid.
And he often came to them when they were scared out of their wits. He can come to you too and strengthen, empower, and embolden you. And by your attitude you can encourage other people as well.

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Thought For The Day

Frozen Heads

A newspaper article told about a California mathematician with a life-threatening brain tumor who wants to have his head quick-frozen while he is still alive. The process is known as cryonic suspension. The man believes that scientists will discover a way to cure his tumor and attach his head to a healthy body. He is quoted as saying, “Everyone should be immortal. I am dying and want to continue to live.”

We can’t fault that man for wanting to live forever in a healthy body. But we seriously question his method of fulfilling his desire. First, he has no assurance that this expensive procedure will work. Second, even if it did, its benefits would be only temporary. His new body and old head would die eventually.

There is a way, however, to secure all the benefits that he desires. It is to receive Jesus as his Savior. When Christ returns to this earth, everyone who has trusted in Him will get a new body that will last forever and never be subjected to disease or death. According to the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).

With a new, glorified body guaranteed to those in Christ, who would want a “frozen head”?

He is coming! I shall know Him,
Jesus, my beloved Lord!
Changed forever to His likeness—
Oh, what joy this will afford! —Dimmock

Because Christ arose with a new body, we are guaranteed a new body.

Peace On Earth For The Humble Of Heart

PEACE ON EARTH FOR THE HUMBLE OF HEART

Zac. 9:9-10; Ps. 144; Rom. 8:9, 11-13; Matt. 11:25-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Jesus is the Messiah who brings us peace, peace in our hearts, peace with God, the very peace of God himself, peace with ourselves, and peace with others (John 14:27; Luke 2:14). This is a peace greater than ourselves. It is a gift of God, given to us by Jesus Christ, God’s own Son and our Savior.
But all of this is hidden from the wise and proud of this world and revealed to children, to the humble of heart who believe in Christ for their salvation and happiness. Only to them does Christ give his peace, because this peace depends on faith in him.
Christ gives us his peace by redeeming us from sin, which is what saddens and depresses us, robbing us of our peace. He gave his life to free us from this sadness and depression. He took our sadness on himself and suffered it on the cross, feeling abandoned by God (Mark 14:34; 15:34), and thereby freed us from this sadness, which is God’s punishment for our sins. He voluntarily suffered this punishment instead of us, and so, when we invoke him with faith, confessing our sins, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23), not only are our sins forgiven, but our sadness and depression is also removed from us, and in its place God gives us his gift of heavenly peace in our hearts. Therefore Jesus says to us today, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28, 29).
This peace and rest is for us the beginning of a new life in God, lived in great intimacy with him, for it is our introduction into the interior life of the persons of the Trinity. We are introduced into the love that flows between the Father and the Son. Only Jesus intimately knows the Father, and only the Father intimately knows Jesus, and these two love each other ineffably; and the Holy Spirit is the love that passes from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Father. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27).
Since we are redeemed by Christ, he dwells within us (Col. 1:27) and loves the Father from within us, and unites us to himself in his love for his Father. So we are united to Christ, loving his Father with him, and so are filled with the Holy Spirit. In this way the love of the Father for the Son is also in us, for the Son is in us, and the Father is loving us in the same act of love with which he loves his Son in us. Christ prayed to his Father: O “that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). He continues praying, “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). This is the love between the persons of the Trinity that Christ inserts us into. We are within the love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father.
Truly, all this is hidden from the wise of this world, and is revealed only by faith in Christ, because only he has revealed it. So we see the importance of faith and of the knowledge of this revelation. Christ, therefore, has given the Church a mission to make this mystery known to all the peoples of the world so that they too might share in this peace of God, this heavenly peace, this great peace in our heart, with their sadness and depression, caused by their sins, removed from them. Thus they too will be able to live in the interior love between the persons of the Trinity. To live like this is to have the kingdom of God within us, “for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 NKJV), and Jesus wants us to live in this kingdom of heavenly peace on earth.
This is the message that the Church preaches, the message that we preach to the nations. We preach to them these things that are hidden from them, that only Jesus Christ has revealed. He said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Matt. 11:25). But now these things have been revealed, and they are received only by those who have faith in Christ. Without Christ we cannot know these things, for only the Son knows them. Only he knows the Father, and only he reveals him (Matt. 11:27).
Those who will experience this peace are the poor and humble of the earth, those who live only for the Lord, not the proud of this world. Only the lowly can appreciate these interior things. They have renounced all else that divides their heart, and now love God with all their heart.
Even the Messiah himself will be one of these humble and poor of the Lord, as Zechariah prophesies today. He will not come in pomp and circumstance on a mighty war horse, but mounted on an ass as a man of peace, as one of the poor of the Lord. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9). He will be a man of peace and will bring his peace to the world. “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10).
Christ is this humble and peaceful man, this man who brings peace to the world. He entered the holy city of Jerusalem, mounted on an ass (Matt. 21:7). And he says today, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29 KJV). Christ brings to the humble and poor of the earth his gift of peace. Those who humble themselves and believe in him receive it.

Devil Or Evil

DEVIL OR EVIL?

Bible teacher William Evans wrote, “It is popular in some circles today to spell the worddevil with the letter d left off. This reduces the idea of an actual person called the devil to a mere influence called evil.
“If the devil can’t mislead people that way, however, he would have them think of him as a horrible, monstrous-looking creature with a forked tail, dressed in a fiery red suit, and with horns protruding from his head. If the devil can get folks to think of him like that, then when he comes as an ‘angel of light,’ he will not be recognized, and so find it easier to beguile his unsuspecting victims.”
When we trust Christ as Savior, we have peace with God, but at the same time we come into conflict with the devil. Our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). That’s why the Bible says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
We who know Christ can overcome the devil and the evil he creates by learning and obeying God’s Word. And let’s be thankful that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
The prince of darkness grim—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure. —Luther
The devil may be out of fashion, but He’s not out of business.

Leaving All For Christ

LEAVING ALL FOR CHRIST

Amos 2:6-10, 13-16; Ps. 44; Matt. 8:18-22

“Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead’” (Matt. 8:21-22).
Here we see Jesus’ radical call. When he calls us, we are to leave all and follow him, and he blesses those who renounce all for him: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29 NKJV).
This is what the first disciples of Jesus did. They left everything, including their father and their work, to follow Jesus. “He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him” (Matt. 4:21-22). To Peter and Andrew, Jesus said, “‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matt. 4:19-20).
Peter therefore later asked Jesus, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” (Matt. 19:27). Jesus responded, saying that those who have left all for him will receive a hundredfold reward (Matt. 19:29). St. Luke says about the first disciples whom Jesus called that “when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11). The tax collector Levi did the same. Jesus “saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he left everything, and rose and followed him” (Luke 5:27-28).
When someone else said to Jesus, “‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61-62). Jesus did not even allow him to go home and say good-by to his family! So urgent and radical is his call! This is the kind of total and radical response Jesus wants to see in those who follow him.
We must love Jesus more than we love our family. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). We must leave all for him. He wants us to live for him alone. “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21). “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
We must live for Christ alone, and leave all for him. We are not to live for ourselves and our own pleasures. We are to seek all our delight in the Lord, not in worldly pleasures. We are to live a simple life of evangelical poverty for the love of Christ, and help others with our money. Such is the radical call that Jesus gives his disciples!
This means that we are to renounce the world and its ways (Gal. 6:14; John 17:16; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4), which are exactly the opposite of this. We are to be no longer of the world, but rather dead to the world, crucified to the world, to be a disciple of Christ.

The End Of Sorrow

THE END OF SORROW

“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away”
Isi 51:11.

Human life has many joys and pleasures, home and family life being among the highest points. But it also has its low times and some seem to have more than their fair share of these. Death strikes and robs families of a loved one, creating an empty place nothing can ever fill.
When it is a young person the tears are more bitter and the ache longer. Tragedies wait to happen around every corner. To pretend that it is not so is to live in denial. Some losses are so painful that those left behind never fully recover.
Isaiah looked forward to the homecoming of the exiles with hope and expectation and broke into poetry at the prospect. But it was more than the dream of earthly return that caused the prophet to soar to such lavish exultation.
What he was looking forward to was what we Christians would call heaven. The prospect of heaven, the eternal presence of God, was something the Hebrew theologians had not yet entertained. But how they yearned for the end of pain, suffering, sorrow and grief!
“We too are exiles, and our hearts cry out for home.
We cannot save ourselves, but the way has already been raised up for us, and we have already set out on it. Like the prodigal, we are on the way home, but we know far better than he did the welcome that awaits us. … Joy and gladness and God himself are up ahead, and with that certain knowledge we can rise above our weariness and set out again” (B.Webb, The Message of Isaiah, p146).

Friends

FRIENDS

A widower and a widow I know are both aged, shut-in, quite alone, and on the prayer list at their church. And they both have a true friend. The widower, who loves classical music, looks forward to alternate Tuesdays because a young man comes with a couple of tapes and spends the evening visiting, and they enjoy the music together.
The widow, who is diabetic and has a very limited income, receives visits regularly from a woman who is very kind to her. Recently she bought her a blood-testing device that greatly helps her control her diabetes. It’s something the diabetic woman could not afford to buy for herself.
Both the widower and the widow are fortunate to have at least one person who really cares about them. There are many people who are friendless, and no one ever visits them. There’s a tragic shortage of those who will take the time to be a friend.
Even Paul, who knew the reality of Christ’s presence, needed friends as he awaited execution in a Roman dungeon. He longed for flesh-and-blood companionship. He wanted a heavy garment and some books. He could get these only from friends.
Lord, help us to be a friend to someone in need.
To those in darkest night,
Go be a kindly friend;
Pour love and sunshine on their cares—
And broken lives you’ll mend. —Zimmerman
A true friend will not let you stand alone.

Do We Listen To Our True Prophets?

DO WE LISTEN TO OUR TRUE PROPHETS?

Lam. 2:2, 10-14, 18-19; Ps. 73; Matt. 8:5-17

“The Lord has become like an enemy, he has destroyed Israel; he has destroyed all its palaces, laid in ruins its strongholds; and he has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation” (Lam. 2:5).
When Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 587 BC, the city was destroyed, its wall torn down, the temple burnt, and the king and all the leading men were exiled to Babylon or killed. The book of Lamentations speaks of this destruction and interprets it not only as the work of Babylon, but much more importantly as the work of God himself, of Yahweh, of the God of Israel. God himself, says Lamentations, destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem and its temple. “The Lord has become like an enemy, he has destroyed Israel” (Lam. 2:5). All this happened because they did not listen to their prophets, but rather disobeyed them and worshiped false gods. Jeremiah prophesied all this ahead of time, warning the people that the temple would be destroyed if they do not listen to the truth that he is prophesying to them and abandon their idolatry. “And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house which is called by my name, and in which you trust … as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight” (Jer. 7:13-15). But the people paid no attention to Jeremiah, so finally the temple and the city were destroyed by God himself, and the people were exiled to Babylon as a punishment.
Although the Babylonians did all this, the word of God today explains that it was really God himself who did it in order to punish his people for their infidelity. “The Lord has destroyed without mercy all the inhabitants of Jacob; in his wrath he has broken down the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; he has brought down to the ground in dishonor the kingdom and its rulers” (Lam. 2:2). “The Lord has determined to lay in ruins the wall of the daughter of Zion” (Lam. 2:8).
There were also false prophets who deceived and misled the people, telling them that they would not be destroyed. These false prophets did not point out to the people their sins nor call them to repentance, and the people followed them to their own destruction. “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles false and misleading” (Lam. 2:14).
In the people of God today, the Church, there are also prophetic voices warning us of the danger we are now in. But how many pay them any attention? Like Israel, most prefer to listen to the false prophets in our midst who do not point out our faults or call us to repentance. They prefer to follow their false gods. What is their false god? It is the secularization of the Church, of the priesthood, and of religious life. Many imitate the world in its worldliness and secularized lifestyle. Many have become secularized and gone astray. And what is the result? The present disastrous vocations crisis. The death of many religious orders is now imminent. If we do not listen to the true prophets in our midst, these orders will disappear in a few more years. And when it happens, it will be the punishment of the Lord for not listening to our true prophets, repenting, and changing our ways.