Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Faced with Evil: What would I have done in Nazi Germany?

I’ve often wondered what I would have done if I’d been alive during World War II and lived in Europe. Would I have known about the atrocities committed at the approximately 1,200 Nazi concentration camps? If I’d known, would I have done something?

Or, would the public atrocities have been sufficient to rise my sense of injustice? How many yellow stars would have had to walk down the street in front of me before I would have sympathized with the disgrace? How many friends would have had to board a train for mandatory encampment at a labor facility? When would I have realized those labor facilities were actually extermination camps?

Would I have been a Corrie ten Boom who defied the law to save Jewish lives before her own imprisonment? Would I be able to teach a message of grace and forgiveness after enduring Ravensbrueck Concentration Camp?

Or would I have lived in denial and fear? Would I have turned the other way? I don’t know.

I do know this…

I’ve read Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place, and The Auschwitz Escape and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve watched Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Defiance, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve walked the halls of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem and thought “Never Again.”

I’ve stood before the ovens of Dachau concentration camp and thought “Never Again.”

And yet, I still don’t know what I would do if I lived then and there. You see, it’s much easier to care – to feel a heart tug of compassion – than it is to take action. It’s easier to think grandiose thoughts after the tragedy than it is to predict brave actions before.

Why all this pondering? A few reasons…

First, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom Ha’Shoah, a day to remember what happened, teach of it to a new generation, and pray history doesn’t repeat itself. After all, as Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Second, I finished reading “The Auschwitz Escape” by Joel Rosenberg a few days ago. Although historical fiction, Joel based the story on the real-life actions of four men who dared to risk their lives, not only to save countless individuals but also to expose the Nazi’ atrocities to a world who would have rather stayed oblivious. The well-written and well-researched novel forces us to consider questions such as “What would I have done?”

Third, and most importantly, I’m pondering these questions because it may happen here and now; the outcome may be worse than it was then and there. I consider the question, “What would I have done?” because I may be forced to answer it by my actions.

Christian and Jewish persecution is increasing at an incredible rate. Headlines of horror come out of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Libya, and many more. It’s easy to ignore them because it’s the Middle East and northern Africa – isn’t something bad always going on over there?

But evil – left unchecked – spreads.

Headlines now come out of places like France and England… and the United States.

What I do Know

Like I said, I don’t know what I would have done if I lived in Europe during World War II. I also don’t know what I’ll do to help those suffering in the hands of evil today.

I do know one thing, however. I know God’s Word promises a lot of good things in the midst of evil persecution. I know it not by my own experience; I’ve never suffered persecution. I know it because God’s Word says it and His promises are a truer source of information than any personal anecdote could ever be.

I know that in the midst of persecution, God’s Word promises…
  • the advancement of His message (Philippians 1:12, 18)
  • encouragement and confidence (Philippians 1:14)
  • a reason to rejoice (Philippians 1:18, James 1:2)
  • the ability to endure (2 Corinthians 1:6)
  • comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • the ability to trust Him through prayer (2 Corinthians 1:9-11)
  • growth and maturity (James 1:4)

I wrote more in-depth about these in Everything We Need. They don’t seem logical or possible but they are our reality. What a hope in an unknown future! After all, as Corrie herself once said, "I've experienced His Presence in the deepest, darkest hell that men can create... I have tested the promises of the Bible, and believe me, you can count on them."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Place at the Table: How do I reserve a spot with Jesus?

Your table is ready… follow me. I’d be happy to show you to your seat.

Our church family celebrated Passover again this year. Every year, I make place cards to mark the seats of our guests. I know people don’t use place cards very often anymore but I include them for a few reasons. First, we only have a certain number of spots available. I want to make sure we don’t end up with an odd spot here or there which might require those who arrive later to sit separately. Also, I want family groups to sit together. Families are crumbling today; I feel this is a special opportunity for grandparents, parents, and children to come together in a significant way. Finally, I want to make sure I have candle centerpieces in the right places for each mom to light her candles.

It’s kind of a big job to make sure every guest has their own place card. I made a full set about five days before the dinner but all week I was pulling some out and making some new as guests either cancelled their reservations or signed up at the last minute. Even the morning of the dinner I pulled out my supplies and made 14 new cards. It’s also a lot of work to make sure the place cards are all set out in the correct spot to ensure the table is ready when guests arrive. This year, a team of four people spent about an hour making sure every guest had a spot, specially marked with their name. Only when we were confident everyone had a spot could another team go through to prepare all the elements of the Seder.

So much work went into such a small detail of our evening celebration. And yet, it’s nothing compared to the work required for you to have a place card hold your spot at another significant table.

Passover, the Seder, Last Supper, Communion; all link together to display God’s plan for our redemption. They all link together to show God’s plan to take us unto Himself as a groom does His bride.

Jesus’ last Passover meal with His disciples – the beginning of the fulfillment of Passover and the foundation of Christian communion – also held the signs of a Jewish betrothal. I can’t go into all of it now but I want to focus on one single aspect here.

A young Jewish man and woman were betrothed before they were married. A betrothal was similar but much more strict and binding than a modern day engagement. Two significant events mark a Jewish betrothal – the marriage contract and the drinking of a shared cup of wine. Jesus completed the signs of betrothal when He spoke over the third cup, specifically, the Cup of Redemption. “Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28).

You and I didn’t have the privilege of sitting at that table as did Peter, James, John, and the remaining disciples. We didn’t have the chance to look into Jesus’ eyes as we drank from the cup He passed thereby indicating our willingness to be His bride. But every time we participate in Communion, we spiritually join them at that table. Every drink of the cup of the Lord’s Supper is a reminder of our betrothal to Him.

A young Jewish man and woman completed their marriage in a second ceremony that occurred at an unknown time in the future. After a significant amount of time, the groom would return to the bride’s home to take her as his wife and be her husband. The wedding ceremony included a second cup of wine and the marriage feast.

Jesus offered the third cup to His disciples and they drank. However, that night He didn’t drink the fourth cup – the cup of Restoration. The fourth cup represented the promise to take us as His people and to be our God. Rather than drink the final cup, Jesus said, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Jesus completed the third cup but not the fourth. He fulfilled the process of redemption but He waits to take us as His bride and be our groom. He awaits a future table when the marriage betrothal is fulfilled over the final cup and the wedding feast.

We weren’t able to sit around the Last Supper table with the disciples but we can literally, physically sit at the table of the wedding feast. When we arrive, we can find a place card with our name on it. He will reserve a seat held only for us.

How does that happen?

We prepare.

“Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty has begun to reign! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7).

We don’t prepare by striving to do all the right things, say all the right words, or go all the right places. We prepare by drinking the cup of redemption He holds out to us. We prepare by participating in the New Covenant He cut for us.

To drink the cup and accept the covenant means we recognize Jesus as our…
  • Sacrifice who atoned for our sin
  • Redeemer who paid the price to purchase us from the clutch of death
  • Lamb whose blood made death to pass over us
  • Groom who provides for our needs

Click here to learn more about a relationship with Jesus and how to reserve your place at the table.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Next Generation: Considering dad's role at Passover

Now, in the presence of loved ones and friends,
before us the emblems of festive rejoicing,
we gather for our sacred celebration.

With the household of Israel – our elders and young ones –
linking and bonding the past with the future,
we heed once again the divine call to service.

Living our story that is told for all peoples,
whose shining conclusion is yet to unfold,
we gather to observe the Passover.* 

My husband was recently asked to speak to a group of Baptist men on the role of the father during the Passover celebration. First, it’s exciting to see the growing desire among Protestant groups to understand our Jewish religious heritage. Yes, it’s not across the board. Some denominations continue to pull away from Israel and the Jewish people. However, many Christians are about to burst with love for this ancient people and their homeland. It’s as if they’ve discovered a brother or sister they never knew existed!

Jimmy and I have never approached Passover from this particular perspective. For us, Passover is all about Jesus the Messiah. Every element points toward Him, His sacrifice, and His imminent return. (See 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

After some thought, research, and discussion, he put together some great points on the significance of the father’s role during the Passover season. Passover begins this Friday night at sunset; in honor of the upcoming festival, I’d like to share his thoughts with you.

What does Dad do?

Judaism and Christianity are similar in that the father is the spiritual leader of the home. One author uses Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, as an example of a Jewish father and writes, “Although we know that Joseph was a craftsman, the primary responsibility of parents in his day was to train their children in the fundamentals of practical life and covenant relationship with God. The goal of the average Hebrew family man in the first century was not the acquisition of great wealth or the achievement of power. It was to live a life of covenant faithfulness to the Lord and teach his family to do the same” (Source).

God calls both Jewish and Christian fathers to lead and teach in the home. How do we see this in the celebration of Passover?

Prepare the Home
A Jewish home must be cleansed of all leaven, or yeast, prior to the celebration. The family removes all bread and bread products. On the evening before the first night of Passover, the father leads the family in a search through the entire home to make sure they have removed all leaven.

In Scripture, leaven represents sin. The unleavened bread of Passover points to Jesus the Messiah, the bread of life who knew no sin. Only He has lived a life entirely free from the corruption of sin, just as the unleavened bread is free from the corruption of yeast.

The father leads the family in removing leaven from the home. Likewise, fathers need to lead in removing sin from the life of the family. This world eagerly and slyly tries to penetrate our homes and families with corruptive influences. A myriad of electronic options, the influence of others, and false teaching would all love to bring destruction into our homes. It’s primarily the father’s responsibility to vigilantly guard and protect his home from their influence. He’s also quick to remove it when it does appear.

Prepare the Lamb
Jews don’t sacrifice a lamb on Passover anymore. However, God’s original design required them to do so. The father brought the lamb into the home three days prior to Passover. He then led the family in inspecting the lamb to make sure it was free from blemish or defect. In short, the lamb had to be perfect.

The lamb of Passover also points us to Jesus. “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV). And later, “For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

The father brings the lamb into the home. Likewise, the father should bring the Lamb of God into the home. Mom may teach the kids a lot of biblical lessons but dad has the responsibility to make sure the lessons are taught and the kids are learning. Of course, it’s still up to the child to respond and accept Jesus.

Blessing and Prayer
A Jewish Seder celebration contains many blessings – the four cups, the bitter herbs, the bread, the haroseth, and more all receive many blessings from the father throughout the meal. The light of the candles is the only exception. The mother recites the blessing at that time.

The blessings of Passover point to Christ as they acknowledge Him as our Provider, Lord, and Creator. The blessings point to Him as our Sustainer, the Giver of the law, the Redeemer of mankind, and the Savior whose return we await.

The father leads the family in blessing which plays a crucial role in the growth of a child. Think of how some of these ancient blessings have changed our modern day world… God’s promise to bless those who bless Israel, the blessing Melchizedek gave Abraham, the blessing Isaac gave Jacob instead of Esau, God’s blessing for Jacob when He changed His name to Israel, and Jacob’s blessing for Ephraim and Manasseh. And all these blessings are within only a few generations!

Pass it on to the next generation
The Jewish people thrive despite millennia of persecution. Primarily this is because of God’s plan and calling. Secondary, though, is the Jewish people’s commitment to teach the next generation which is an integral part of Passover each year. In my haggadah (book to guide through the Passover), right below the title, in a place of prominence, it reads, “As it is said: You shall tell your child on that day.”*

At each Passover celebration, the youngest asks the father a series of questions starting with, “How is this night different than other nights?” The father uses that opportunity to teach his child, and the rest of the family, the story of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. For that reason, Passover has become the oldest continually celebrated holiday in the world. If we don’t teach our children, then the stories are lost forever.

The story of the Exodus points to Christ as He is the One who brought us out from the world, freed us from slavery, redeemed us, and waits to take us as His people and be our God.

The father teaches the next generation. Without his regular and continuous teaching, the child will grow without hearing the stories of redemption and salvation. Eventually, his family line will forget the power of God’s working and the necessity of Him in our lives. “Hear this, you elders, listen, all you inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation” (Joel 1:2-3).


*Taken from "A Passover Haggadah" as prepared by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, © 1982

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Israel: Does this small nation still matter?

When was the last time the news covered stories from Brazil, Vietnam, or South Africa? You probably don’t know. I know I don’t. What about hot spots like China, Ukraine, or Venezuela? You might hear them mentioned every week or two. One country, however, is in American news almost every day, despite being about 6,000 miles away – Israel.

Another place mentions Israel a lot – my Bible. In fact, my Bible uses the word Israel almost 3,000 times although some of them refer to Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham who is one of the nation’s founding fathers. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel after the two wrestled one night (Genesis 32:24-32). His many sons became the fathers of Israel’s twelve tribes.

So, Israel’s in the news and in the Bible. Why does that warrant a blog article? America and Israel have been key allies since Israel declared independence in 1948. President Truman was the first world leader to recognize Israel’s statehood on the world stage. From that point on, America and Israel have been key allies. However, that is changing. The Obama administration is distancing itself from this important middle-east relationship. I’m writing to share that I stand with Israel and why…

Why do I stand with Israel?

God’s blessing is on Israel
God blesses many individuals, but not many nations. I personally believe the hand of God’s blessing led to America’s prosperity over the last 200 years. Even that, however, may very well be due to our historical support and relationships with the Jewish people. Yes, our support for them goes back much further than 1948. I also believe that if we, as a nation, discontinue our support and friendship with God’s chosen people, then He will remove His blessing from us.

After all, Israel is the only nation of which God has said, “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).

God’s treasure is Israel
Treasures are rare; I know I’ve never seen one. Yet God placed one treasure in this world – the Jewish people and the blessing that comes through them. God called Abraham’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt. A short distance into their journey, God was ready to take them to the next level. He was ready to make a covenant with them that would include the giving of His Law. In this covenant, God promised to separate them out as a holy nation as long as they obeyed Him. He told Moses to tell the people, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 NIV).

God’s love is for Israel
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – God loves the world. He loves everyone in the world. He loved them enough that “He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That love was ultimately expressed through God’s only Son, Jesus, who is also the son of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel. The queen of Sheba spoke words to Solomon which I believe are also prophetic of his descendant, King Jesus. “May Yahweh your God be praised! He delighted in you and put you on the throne of Israel, because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel. He has made you king to carry out justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9).

God’s eye is on Israel
Many people groups from the Bible no longer exist. We don’t hear about the Perizzites, Agagites, Hittites, or Amalekites in the nightly news because they don’t exist. Other biblical people groups are still around such as the Persians (Iranians), Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Egyptians.

Israel holds a unique position, however. The Jews were scattered – disbursed among the nations in the late part of the first century AD. However, God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people and He promised that a remnant would always remain, no matter how many times evil tried to exterminate them. So, despite their dispersion for nearly 2,000 years, the Jewish people aren’t destroyed as were the Hittites and Amalekites. They remain and God is bringing them back to their homeland en masse.

I’d encourage you to read all of Jeremiah 31 but let me share a few verses here, “Nations, hear the word of the Lord, and tell it among the far off coastlands! Say: The One who scattered Israel will gather him. He will watch over him as a shepherd guards his flock, for the Lord has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the power of one stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10-11).

God still has a plan for Israel
God’s plan since Adam has been the redemption of all mankind. It was never only about one people group. It’s for those who, like Abraham, believe God and God credits their belief to them as righteousness (Romans 4:3). From Abraham came Isaac who then had Jacob whom God renamed Israel. Through Israel’s son Judah came King David, King Solomon, and later, Jesus. Through Jesus, all nations are blessed and salvation has come to the whole world.

God still has a plan to redeem Israel. They haven’t fallen from grace so as to be unredeemable. Praise God, no one can fall so far that God can’t still reach them. “I ask, then, have they stumbled in order to fall? Absolutely not! On the contrary, by their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling brings riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full number bring!” (Romans 11:11-12).

God’s attention may have shifted to the Gentile church for a while but soon it will shift back to Israel. Now, He calls them home physically to their land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River but soon He will call them home spiritually. “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. … On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity. … They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God” (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1, 9).

I stand with God

God made all of these promises to the Jewish people. He promised to bless them and keep them as His treasured possession. He promised to love them and watch over them. He promised to not forsake them but to redeem them. He promised to take them as His people and to be their God.

I stand with Israel because I refuse to accept that God would go back on His promises. “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). God’s spoken word can’t and won’t be broken. His promises don’t change. So, I stand with Israel. Why? Because I stand with God.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Deal Breaker: Crossing the line into false teaching

False teaching. It’s a touchy subject but one that thrust itself into my life this week. It wasn’t loud or obnoxious; it didn’t come from an arrogant televangelist or celebrity Christian. It was small – only a few lines quietly buried in the middle of an otherwise great message.

I’m sure I’ve taught the Word of God incorrectly at times through the years, as much as it pains me to say so. I know God’s Word is absolutely true – every word, every concept, every story. I also know my mind isn’t perfect, my heart is sinful, and sometimes I just mess up.

So this week, I heard something that goes against God’s Word – an errant teaching I’ve encountered before on the internet but not from the mouth of a friend. I’m not going to share what it was as that would be an article in itself. But today I’m wondering a few things…
  • What distinguishes a false teacher from a teacher who messed up on a particular point?
  • What distinguishes a false teaching from a teaching with which I happen to disagree?
  • Where is the line between areas where we “agree to disagree” and areas that are “deal-breakers” under valid Christian teaching?

Many believers think the end times are approaching quickly. If this is so, Scripture warns that false teaching and deception will be prevalent in our world. “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). And again later, “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared” (1 Timothy 4:1).

So, if false teachings and deceptions will increase, I think it’d be wise of us to answer some of these questions.

A false teacher from a teacher who messed up

No Bible translation is perfect, no denomination is perfect, no pastor or teacher is perfect, no commentator is perfect, and no Christian blogger is perfect. Sometimes I think God allows this on purpose as only He is perfect. No one and nothing will ever match His sinless perfection. Every person who’s ever tried to teach something from the Bible has messed up at some point. So how do we distinguish between a teacher who messed up and a false teacher?

I think a key factor is intent behind the teaching. I can only speak for myself, but I know my intentions in studying the Bible and writing about it is to know Him and make Him known. My books and blog are a natural outcome of my desire to love and serve God. A false teacher’s intention is destruction. “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies…” (2 Peter 2:1). It goes on to describe their work as unrestrained, blasphemous, exploitative, and greedy.

Another key factor is the outcome of their teaching. Good teaching brings others into a relationship with Jesus and then helps them continue to grow in their relationship with Him. This isn't the case with false teachers. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. … Every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:15-18).

A false teaching from a teaching with which I disagree

Or, to say it another way, it might be ok for us to disagree on some teachings. In other areas, lines have to be drawn, truth spoken, and even relationships severed at times. Where is the line between these two areas? After all, I know of no other person with whom I agree on every single detail of Christianity. When is it ok and when is it a deal-breaker?

Sometimes we may disagree but we don’t have to argue about it. I think of a friend who believes the rapture will happen at the end of the tribulation whereas I think it will happen at the beginning. We can’t know for sure and simply agree to disagree.

At the other end of the spectrum, I heard a church deny Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion. I don’t have to question or wonder; I know this is a deal breaker. If we deny the resurrection of Jesus, then God’s Word is a lie. The whole plan falls apart.

The problem comes in a wide range of areas in between these two extremes. That is why Paul wrote, “Test all things. Hold on to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We have to put this into practice rather than blindly accept every teaching we hear – even if that teaching comes from someone we know and respect.

John gives us a little more help when trying to discern the validity of a teaching. He wrote, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3).

Denying Jesus isn’t only denying what the Bible says about Him. To deny Jesus is to deny the whole of the Word of God as John also wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). The Word isn’t merely about Jesus; Jesus is the Word made flesh.

I guess it comes down to one thing when we’re trying to determine if we can agree to disagree or if the issue is a deal-breaker. Does this teaching deny Jesus – His truth, His Word, or His work? If the answer is yes, then it’s more in the deal breaker range. If the answer is no, then maybe we can agree to disagree. We’ll only know into which category it falls if we know the Bible for Jesus Himself – the Word made flesh – said, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Courage Until the End: Utilizing the power in our words

Encourage – to fill someone up with courage.

Discourage – to take any shred of courage they have and throw it in the trash.

We wield a lot of power when we choose whether to encourage or discourage another believer.

God has worked with me a lot on the power and necessity of encouraging words over the last few years. A lot of it has showed up on here…

Handling Discouragement

Don’t Diss Someone’s Courage

Encouragement in the Last Days

As we draw nearer to Jesus’ return, it will become almost impossible to maintain our courage. God knew that when He inspired the writer of Hebrews to say, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13, emphasis mine). Did you catch the word “daily” in that verse? We may have been full of courage yesterday, but today it’s zapped. Gone. We need a daily fill up of courage to keep believing, keep loving, and keep serving. Later, he also wrote, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). As the time of the end draws near, we have to get together and fill each other with courage. Otherwise, we won’t be able to serve as God calls us – by loving and doing good works.

I’ve written a lot about how to deal with the discouragement so prevalent in the last days…

My Peace I Give You

A World in Chaos: What can I do?

Where is God in a Tragedy?

Life Sucks

The Hand of God

Finding Good Things in Bad Times

Encouragement in general

Jesus may return tomorrow or decades from now; either way, we must keep our courage level full. Our enemy doesn’t want us showing true love or serving in a real way; he knows those things will witness to the world of God’s awesomeness. Our enemy knows if we do those things, people might catch a true glimpse of the Savior of the world. He wants to keep that from happening at all costs. He will do everything in his power to keep you from loving and serving in the same way that Jesus loved and served us. He succeeds when we become discouraged – when our level of courage zeroes out.

I’ve written a lot about the necessity of encouragement in general…

Spark: Five ways to renew the light within you

The God of Peace

Bible Band-aids

Thankful for You: Finding ways to appreciate each other

And yet…

So, like I said, over the last few years God has really been teaching me the importance of encouragement. Even still, the other day someone said something to me that totally discouraged me. In the day that followed our encounter, I felt completely drained. I didn’t want to pray, study, or write. I didn’t want to serve in other areas – forget responsibilities at home, quit on projects at church. As I look back, I realize now that the words of discouragement left me without the courage needed to love and serve in the ways which God has called me.

I tried praying – more out of discipline than anything else. It helped because God is always faithful to hear us when we call out to Him. It wasn’t complete, though. I knew something else was still missing. I knew griping to a friend or my husband wouldn’t help – been there, done that, doesn’t work.

I saw the person. We talked. We worked it out and reconciled the situation. Grace was required on both sides; forgiveness was present. We parted ways once again in unity as fellow believers in Jesus. Once again, I was encouraged.

What’s the point?

Life’s hard and it’s going to get harder. We can’t let little differences keep us down. Sometimes we have to talk to others and work out our problems. They can’t rob us of the courage needed to love and serve God through difficult times.

God says a lot in His Word about pouring grace out all over the place, sacrificing ourselves with unconditional love, humble forgiveness that looks to the other person first, and complete service that gives until nothing’s left to give. We can’t live that way until we have the courage to do so – courage that comes from the power of words poured into us by our fellow believers.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Servant Suffers: Finding victory in the pain of suffering

“Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). We know this to be true from these writings in the Old Testament / Torah but Paul confirmed it again in Romans 4 of the New Testament. For Jews and Christians alike, Abraham was a man of righteousness.

He was also a man of blessing. It was to him that God spoke, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).

I doubt Abraham had any idea the persecution and trials that would befall the Jewish people – his descendants through Isaac and Jacob – over the next several millennia. From the Egyptian enslavement, through countless attempts at extermination, and culminating in a final attack prophesied by Ezekiel which is still yet to happen, the Jewish people have suffered. They have known pain unlike any other ethnic group.

Many people of compassion look at Jewish history and ask, “Why?”

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah offers a hint of explanation in one of his most well-known prophecies. Yet, we often overlook it.

Join us as we consider Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – the fourth of Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant. In this five-part study, we’ll consider the role Jewish persecution had to play in the coming of the Messiah, the significance of Jesus’ humanity, the purpose for Jesus’ life and death on earth, and the outcome for all humanity, including the Jewish people.
Click on picture to view a downloadable, printable pdf file of the study.

What do I do with it?

Several people have asked for copies of various blog series over the years. We're thrilled to make them available to you in a free downloadable, printable format. We've even added questions at the end for personal reflection or group discussion.

Click here to view the full selection of available Bible study downloads.

As hard as this is to believe, not everyone in the world has an internet connection. Not everyone has access to online study resources or neighborhood Christian book stores. Some of those who do have access don't know where to start when it comes to Bible study. So here are some suggestions on what you can do with these free downloads...
  • Use them as a guide for your own personal Bible study time on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Send them to a friend, relative, or missionary living in a remote location.
  • Start a short term study with friends at work, in your neighborhood, or in your church.
  • Be creative! Let us know in the comment section how you may utilize these resources!

Click on the above picture to open a .pdf file. From there, you may either download it to your computer or print the file.

May God bless your time in the study of His Word!