The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rivers from the Rock


“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”- John 7:38

Are you thirsting for something more? Are you dry spiritually? We take water for granted. We can simply turn on the faucet in our kitchens accessing a refreshing flow of water. Or we can go to the super market and purchase water in various bottle sizes. In Biblical times water was not as conveniently available. You had to draw water from a well. Sometimes wells ran dry. At other times a well couldn’t be found. Next to air, water is our greatest physical necessity.

But there is a human need that surpasses even our physical need for air and water. That need is the eternal life giving Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we wander aimlessly through a worldly wilderness searching and thirsting for spiritual water. There’s a spiritual application in the Bible’s depiction of our need for water.

Usually you don’t appreciate your need for water until it isn’t there.  When you’re parched and dried out for lack of water, when you do find some, it’s a big deal. When God’s people were travelling through the wilderness to the Promised Land they experienced times of thirst. God provided water for them. To remind them of His provision God instituted the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus used the ceremony of the Feast to communicate a greater truth that applies to our spiritual thirsts.

The Feast of Tabernacles was an eight day festival. This was one of three Feasts that men of Israel were required to attend in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16). It’s estimated that there were millions of  people in Jerusalem during the Feast. This ritual Feast was a reminder of how God provided water from the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:8-11; Psalm 78:15-16). It also spoke to the coming days of Messiah’s reign (Zechariah 14:8, 16-19). This Feast was an expression of thanks to God and call for Him to provide rains for the crops in the coming year.

The high priest on every day of the Feast would lead a huge joyous procession of thousands of people to the Pool of Siloam located just below the City of David to the south where he would get water for the ceremony. Flutes and other instruments were played and Isaiah 12:2-3 would be sung while pitchers was being filled – “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” It was said of the Feast ceremony – “Anyone who has not seen this water ceremony has never seen rejoicing in his life.” This was a time of great continuous celebration to the Lord for the entire Feast.

Why the Pool of Siloam? Siloam means sent One. The Pool of Siloam had living water or a flow of water that was not stagnant but clean. Water taken from this Pool was a prophetic picture of the Messiah who would one day come to provide the refreshing waters of life they needed.

There were two pitchers used in this ceremony. The high priest had a gold pitcher which stands for royalty. He would draw the “living water” (Heb. mayim chayim) from the Pool with the gold pitcher. His assistant had a silver pitcher filled with wine. Silver is a symbol of redemption. Wine is a symbol for blood. So in this ceremony we have living water and blood represented.

The high priest would take the filled pitcher of water and lead the procession back to the Temple through the Water Gate to the Court of the Priests. As the priest entered through the gate there would be three trumpet blasts. He would approach the altar where there were two silver basins, one on either side of the altar. Then as a drink offering the priest would pour out the water from the gold pitcher into one silver basin. As he did so Isaiah 44:3 would be sung – “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” His assistant would pour out the wine into the other silver basin. So symbols of blood and water were poured out on the altar as part of this ceremony each day of the Feast. You can’t have the refreshing water of the Spirit without the blood of atoning sacrifice.

The Feast would climax on the eighth day referred to as “the Great Day” (Leviticus 23:36). During the eighth day of celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles there would be a solemn procession from the Temple Mount to the Pool of Siloam. This Great Day was the day that Jesus made His proclamation: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).  

On this last Great Day of the Feast at one point the priest would hold up the emptied pitchers as an expression of the prophetic hope that Messiah would one day come and fill them up. It was at this moment that Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Do you see the significance of Jesus’ words?  Jesus is announcing that He is the “Sent One.” Jesus is the One who would fulfill the thirst of the people. Out of His side would flow the “blood and water” needed to redeem the sinner and open the floodgates of the living water of the Spirit (John 19:34). Are you thirsty? Come to Jesus.

John clarifies very specifically the connection of the words of Isaiah – “I will pour My Spirit on your descendants” and Jesus’ words – “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John states, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  This was all about the Holy Spirit! How so? Let’s see.

Before we go any further we need to see something very important in the words of Jesus. Jesus is not speaking here about the born again indwelling of a believer with the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus is speaking of an outpouring of the Spirit until He overflows from the believer to others. He is talking about the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let me explain why this is so.

On the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead, when His atoning sacrificial mission was fulfilled and he had been “glorified,” He met with the disciples. Jesus showed them His pierced hands and side verifying it was He, Jesus, the resurrected Lord. Then He commissioned them saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:19-21). Then it states, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22). It was at this point that the disciples were born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. But this is only the first aspect of the work of the Spirit in the heart of a believer.

John alone mentions this receiving of the Holy Spirit by the disciples at this point. Perhaps, writing a few decades after the two volume set of Luke’s Gospel and Acts John was seeking to clarify the work of the Spirit in the lives of disciples. What John refers to in His gospel (John 20:22) is not the baptism with the Holy Spirit that in Luke Jesus instructs the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem for (Luke 24:48-49). We don’t know why the Spirit inspired Matthew and Mark to write those gospels in a way that didn’t mention Jesus’ instruction to tarry in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father; the baptism with the Holy Spirit. What we do know is that Luke does refer to Jesus instruction to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for empowering by the Spirit. And we know that John made sure to indicate that the disciples had been born again prior to Pentecost.

When in John’s gospel Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” the verb “receive” is grammatically an Imperative Mood demanding an immediate responsive action to a command. It is in the Aorist Tense which conveys action (i.e. Punctiliar). And it is in the Active Voice which conveys the idea it was an action the disciples themselves had to take or receive. Couple this with Jesus breathing on them at the moment He said this to them and the best conclusion is that receiving the Holy Spirit was something the disciples did at the moment their risen Master commanded them to do it. This was the first time they received the Spirit. This was their born again experience. And it happened before Pentecost.

If the disciples received the Holy Spirit at the end of John’s gospel before Pentecost then we reasonably see what Luke mentions in his gospel and Acts as something additional and subsequent to this initial receiving of the Holy Spirit. In Acts Jesus references “the Promise of the Father” as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist referred to as being provided by Jesus. It is distinguished from the baptism with water (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16). Now we are learning the details of this baptism with the Spirit connected to Jesus.

Jesus further describes this “baptism” as, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This Promise of the Father for which 120 waited obediently in the upper room came upon them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The events of Acts take place subsequent to the Gospel of John. What happens in Acts happens to believers. You may have received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you may have been born again, have you been empowered by the Holy Spirit? The Book of Acts is the inspired historical account of the work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples He empowered. This second work of God’s grace is something provided by Jesus (Acts 2:32-33) and administered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) and received by faith (Acts 15:8-9).

We can’t reduce the working of the Spirit to a formula. At Pentecost we see the empowering baptism with the Spirit happening in the disciples as a subsequent work. A further pattern of the baptism with the Spirit as a subsequent work is seen in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) and Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). However at Cornelius’ house and what is often referred to as the Gentile Pentecost we see the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit coming concurrently or at the same time as their born again experience (Acts 10). Some people receive the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit all at once. Some people are born again and it takes time for them to receive the Spirit’s empowering. The important thing is that whether concurrently or subsequently, you receive the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit. We need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit if we are to serve our Lord Jesus optimally for His glory.

 

Much of the church and many believers are as dry and empty as the pitchers held up by the Jewish priests on the Great Day of the Feast of Tabernacles. What’s the problem? The problem is much of the church and many believers have forgotten or gotten away from a reliance on the Holy Spirit. We need to be refreshed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Only He can satisfy our spiritual thirst.

John connects what Jesus said at the climax of the Great Day of the feast with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So the question we need to ask is “Was there anything that happened in the wilderness setting this feast refers to that speaks to us about our relationship with the Holy Spirit?” And the answer is yes. There is an illustration of the process of Spirit filled life provided for us in the Old Testament connected with this Feast of Tabernacles. Remember, the Feast of Tabernacles was designed to help the people remember how God provided for them in the wilderness. Are you dry and parched spiritually? Jesus has the water you need. He can quench your spiritual thirst with the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The New Testament is our best commentary on the meaning of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we are told that God provided water for His people from a rock in the wilderness. In the New Testament we are told that the Rock in the wilderness represents Jesus. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). “Water” in scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit as alluded to in John 7:39. The rock in the wilderness and how water was received from it speaks to us of Jesus provision of the Holy Spirit.

Come to the Rock Jesus for the regenerating living waters of new life in Him. In Exodus 17 the thirsty people received water from a rock that Moses struck. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. Similarly, on the cross Jesus was struck. When He was struck on the cross, out of His side flowed blood and water (John 19:34). The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins. The water represents the indwelling Holy Spirit. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Blood and cleansing must precede the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6).

The first step in experiencing the outpouring and overflowing of the Holy Spirit in our life is to come to the Rock Jesus and be saved from our sins. You can’t experience all Jesus has for you and the fullness of the Holy Spirit unless you have repented (turned from your sins) and placed your faith in Jesus. You must first be born again. His completed work of the cross is the just basis for God to forgive your sins. Come to Jesus!

Speak to the Rock Jesus and request by faith the empowering of the Holy Spirit. To get water from the rock the first time Moses was instructed by God to strike the rock. But after that when the people thirsted for water Moses was instructed by God to “speak to the rock” (Numbers 20:8). This is because Jesus was struck on the cross once and only once. Jesus died once for all for the sins of the world. He does not have to die over and over again (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; cf. also Romans 6:10). Moses, however, in disobedient anger struck the rock again and again. He was punished for this not only because he obscured a typology of God about His Son Jesus, but also because he misrepresented God as angry with His people for thirsting. God wasn’t angry. God wants to pour water on him who is thirsty.

We don’t have to strike the rock again and again to receive the refreshing water of the Spirit. We only have to speak to the Rock Jesus in faith and the water of the Spirit will flow. We don’t have to do spiritual gymnastics or work ourselves up emotionally to receive the outpouring of the Spirit in our lives. We simply have to speak to Jesus in faith. Just ask Him to open the flood gates of heaven to release the Holy Spirit in our lives. Seek and ask Jesus in faith for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God knows what we need and is eager and willing to provide the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Speak to Jesus!

Worship and receive. There is one more point depicted in the Rock of the Old Testament. In Numbers 21 God’s people needed more water as they moved on through the wilderness. But as they moved they moved further and further from the rock. The question that then needed to be asked and answered was, “If our water comes from this rock, what happens when we move on from here away from the rock?” In 1 Corinthians we are told that “that spiritual Rock . . . followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Jesus was following them to provide thirst quenching water. Jesus follows us; walks with us; is attentive to us; watches over us and provides for us. Jesus is here. Just come to Him and ask when you need to be refreshed in the Spirit.

But notice something here. As the people moved on through the wilderness it states, “From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together, and I will give them water” (Numbers 21:16). This was a different place. This was a different time. How would they get the water? “Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it . . . .” (Numbers 21:17). As they sang water sprang up from where they were. Their worship released the flow of water. The worshipped and received the refreshing waters.

Do you see the practical picture here for us? The New Testament speaks of being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). We are exhorted to being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. How can we experience this in our lives? It’s no accident that Paul goes on to say, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20). What is a means to be continually filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit? How do we open the faucet to let the Holy Spirit overflow us? Worship and receive. Are you dry spiritually? Feel weak spiritually? Enter into worship of the Lord. Take a step of faith and give a worship offering to the Lord.  Then receive the cleansing flow of the Spirit by that faith (Acts 15:8-9). Look up and over your life obstacles and WORSHIP JESUS! Worship and receive the refreshing overflowing torrents of living water of the Holy Spirit promised to you by the Father (Acts 1:4-5), provided by Jesus (Acts 2:32-33), and administered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; Rom. 5:5). Worship Jesus and receive the empowering of the Spirit!

Are you spiritually parched? Have you been born again of the Spirit? Do you lack the power of the Spirit? Are you filled but not overflowing in the Spirit? The Father has promised to provide the power we need to effectively minister in His Name. We need to come to Jesus in full surrender and by faith receive that empowerment. This is God’s promise. God is faithful. Come in Jesus’ name. Worship and receive.

 

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The God of Hope


“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

The news of what is happening around the world seems to be getting progressively worse. Compounding the darkness are the memories we deal with that are associated with the acts of evil or natural disasters. If we aren’t careful we can nosedive into a downward spiral of darkness that will leave us crashed and burned. Can we pull up out of such hell bent plunge? Yes; God reaches down and offers us a strong right hand to save us from our fears.
Isaiah 41:10 states “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” There are a myriad testimonies of those through the ages who have been lifted and sustained by the righteous right hand of their God. Be encouraged; God knows your circumstances; God has your back; and God will bring you home.
But how does God lift us, sustain us, give us hope? In Romans 15:4 He tells us, “that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (15:4b). God has give us a tangible tool to direct us in hopeful paths and buoy us through hard times - His Holy Word. God’s word reveals the nature of God and gives us hope because we learn God is not against us but for us (Romans 8:30-31). This is a key ingredient in being prepared for whatever this world throws at us. God’s hope revealed in His word helps us face present and future difficulties with confidence as we trust in Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit
The God of the Bible is the “God of hope.” In Paul’s benediction to the church in Rome he writes, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Here’s a verse we need for our day. This verse points us toward a victorious journey. This verse is the right door to pick. This is the verse that points us to the Author of the hope we are thirsty for; the hope that we need. This verse points us to the God of hope. It is in the God of hope that we have a future with the hopeful prospect of Christ’s return. God reveals Himself in nature, in His word, He reveals Himself to humankind by various names. But one of the greatest ways God has revealed Himself to us is as “the God of Hope.”
The word “hope” (Greek elpis) means to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation; confidence; faith, hope.” Hope is the gift of God to be able to look forward with anticipation of good.
Hope produces “joy” (Greek chara) a delightful gladness in God; a calm delight. Joy is a settled assurance that God is in control and because he is in control everything will turn out well in the end. Joy is not merely happiness. Joy exceeds happiness in that happiness depends on happenings, or circumstances in life. Paul is inspired to use the superlative “all” when he says, “all joy.” God doesn’t just fill us with a little bit of joy, but He fills us up to overflowing with “all joy.” And we should therefore look for God’s joy in Jesus when we go through trials (cf. James 1:2ff.).
 “Joy” is a word closely connected to the “grace” (Greek charis) of God. Grace is God giving to us something we don’t deserve. God has sent His only Son Jesus to us in love and grace. Jesus is the epitome of hope and joy. When he died on the cross all hope seemed lost. When he rose from the dead it showed there’s always hope with God. When He died on the cross people seemed emptied of joy. When He rose from the dead there was fullness of joy. Hope and joy depend on Jesus.
Hope and joy lead to peace. When we look to the future with anticipation of God’s good, it enables us to weather any present storm in His “peace.” Peaceis translated from the Greek term eirene meaning “peace; prosperity; feeling one or together; quiet; rest; brought together again. God’s peace is like the feeling we get when a loved one returns or when two that have been separated come back together. It’s of feeling of thanks, security, good conclusion; faith fulfilled. We have peace in Jesus who brings us back to God. Through faith in Jesus we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). When we turn all our troubles over to Jesus in prayer we can have the peace of God in anxious times (Phil. 4:6-7).

Hope is faith for the future. Hope is a product of faith. Hope is faith progressing and persevering. Hope is the fruit of faith in God. The key to God’s hope, joy and peace is unlocked with the words, “in believing.” When we put our faith in God, in Jesus, the God of hope will fill us up with hope, joy and peace to weather the storms of life. The closer you get to God in Christ the more hope, peace and joy you will have in life.

The Bible connects hope to our faith relationship with God over and over again. It states, “For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15). The Bible states, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. . . . 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:5 and 11). Faith is trusting God in the present. Hope is trusting God for the future. That is what God wants to give you. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hope is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The hope of God is not something we can work up within ourselves. The hope of God is something we can only receive by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes this verse on hope, joy, peace and faith with the words, “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hope, joy, peace and faith are the products of the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer. It is the Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16). And if we are His children, God will look after us to care for us (Luke 11:13). It is the Spirit who helps our weakness (Romans 8:26). It is the Spirit who assures us in times when we are too weak to handle the trials and circumstances of life. Hope is something the Holy Spirit works in us. The Holy Spirit is our Source of hope. The hope of the Spirit prepares us and empowers us to carry on.

Hope is an essential of life. Even the secular world realizes the importance of hope. Years ago the Duke University psychology department did an interesting experiment. The objective was to study SURVIVAL. The results showed the importance of hope. The experiment involved taking Norwegian wharf rats and dividing them into two groups. (Warning: PETA or The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals probably wouldn’t approve of this today.) The first group of rats was put in a large container of water. A spray of water was hooked up on top of the container to drench the swimming rats. The rats were taken one by one and placed into the container of water. THERE WAS NO POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE FOR THIS FIRST GROUP OF RATS. The rats placed in this HOPELESS situation were able to swim for 17 minutes before they drowned.

 
The second group of rats was also placed in the large container of water with the spray except this time at about the 15-16 minute mark; (just before the rats exhausted their strength) the rats were RESCUED. This process was repeated to see the effect of the rescue on the rats in the second group. What they found was that THOSE RATS WHO WERE GIVEN HOPE OF RESCUE WERE ABLE TO SURVIVE 36 HOURS!
 
What does this study show? It’s an example of the importance of hope. If rats need hope don’t you think humans do? Hope is essential to survival and perseverance. Without hope there is no reason to go on. Without hope one is likely to just give up and die. But with hope there is every reason to go on in life. There is no greater hope than the hope God provides. With god there is hope no matter the obstacle. With God there is always hope; there is always the possibility of overcoming.
You can’t live without hope. The world is filled with people who are enslaved to their anxieties and worries. There are many in this world that live little better than rats in water that have no hope. They often address their worries and uncertainties with drugs of one kind or another obtained legally or illegally. And sometimes people lose hope to the degree that they end their own lives.
A 2013 article in the Health section of the New York Times noted that, “More people now die of suicide than of car accidents, . . . . From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose nearly 30 percent, . . . .”[1] The recent suicide of Robin Williams is a vivid life photo of the rise in suicide. And what is worse, suicide is rising among the young. “According to 2010 statistics reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: For middle and high school age youth (ages 12-18), suicide is the second-leading cause of death. For college-age youth (ages 18-22), suicide is the third-leading cause of death. Overall, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for our youth ages 10-24.”[2] If hope is what we need to press on through life and God is the One who is the Source of such hope, and His word is His prime instrument of such hope, then such increased acts of hopelessness shouldn’t surprise us. We have for decades been systematically removing any trace of God and His word from our schools and society. There is a better way. There can be hope.
God wants you to hope in Him. When we hope in Him we won’t give out. When we hope in God we’ll be ready and unashamed to minister the gospel and be filled with His joy and peace in the circumstances of life, no matter how hopeless they look. Hope is only as strong as what it is based on. When you hope in God all things become possible to those who trust in Him (Mark 9:23). There is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). There is power because the gospel offers us hope. That is God’s desire for you.

Jesus is our model of hope. We find our hope when we look to Jesus. In Hebrews it states: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls”   (Hebrews 12:1-3). Look to Jesus for your hope. Jesus went to the cross and did so with joy! How could He have done that?

Jesus had joy in going to the cross (a settled satisfaction he was in the center of God’s will). Jesus knew the cross was the crux of redemption for humanity. That’s hope! Jesus had a steadfast hope that even though the cross would be the hardest thing He ever did, in the end, it would accomplish the redemptive plans of His Father. He had a hope that rested in the Father’s plan. He had a hope that rested in the faithfulness of the Father. And that hope bolstered Him and encouraged Him through the depths of darkness of His atoning work as expressed in His words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Ever feel like that? Jesus understands. Look to Jesus and he will give you hope to get through.

But there is a “weight, and . . . sin which so easily ensnares us.” What is that weight? What is that snare? It’s us! It’s our self-centered focus. If we see the world and everything else revolving around us, we will not only have a distorted view of reality, we will have no hope. If we want a sustaining hope from the God of hope then we have to look away from “me” and look up to “Thee.” We have to look to Jesus. Jesus is the light that shows us the way through the darkness. For those sinking in a smothering quicksand of bad news in the world, Jesus reaches down to lend us a righteous right hand. Look to Him. Take hold of His hand. And if you can’t see in the darkness, He will shine the light of His word to show you the way. Hope in the God of hope. He will get you through.

 


[1] Tara Parker-Pope, Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in the U.S. New York Times 5/2/2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?_r=0
[2] Gary Herron, Teen Suicide Rate increasing,  Rio Rancho Observer http://www.rrobserver.com/news/local/article_60eddcca-4332-11e3-af4d-0019bb2963f4.html

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do you Remember?


 

“Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.”  - Lamentations 3:40-41

 

Do you remember why September 11th is a special time of remembrance? Is it branded into your heart and soul? It is for me. Do you remember how on a crystal clear Tuesday morning at 8:45 am an American Airlines Boeing 767 with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel and a full load of passengers went crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center? Do you remember how at 9:03 am the South Tower was hit by another 767 with similar payload and passengers? I remember that day. I remember watching in horror. I had just dropped my children off to school. I returned to my home and stepped into the house and my wife immediately informed me that a plane had apparently hit the south tower. I watched in prayer. And then my jaw dropped as another plane hit the south tower. This was no accident. This was a terror attack. It was a merciless, vile, evil attack. I watched and prayed and then as the towers eventually collapses I fell to my knees in brokenness and sorrow as the reality of the deaths of the souls inside those towers struck home. Do you remember the fire, the smoke, the carnage, the atrocity? Do you remember the victims? Do you remember the heroes? Do you remember the hurt and pain and sorrow we all felt?(well at least most of us felt). I do. I to this day it’s difficult for me to watch documentaries on those events; just too painful.


 


Do you remember that shortly after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, U.S. House Joint Resolution 71 was passed by a vote of 407 to 0 on October 25th 2001. This resolution was an almost unprecedented show of unity and requested that the President designate September 11th of each year as Patriot’s Day. President Bush signed this resolution in to law on December 18th, 2001. The day had been initially referred to as The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks. Today our nation and its representatives are more divided than ever. We haven’t learned much from 9/11.


 

Our politicians are so concerned with being politically correct they won’t even utter the words “Islamic Fundamentalists.” Their concern for offending is still greater than their concern for truth. We have extricated ourselves from Iraq for the most part. However we find ourselves still embroiled in Afghanistan and there is a strong sense that the war on terror is getting worse not better. There are more decapitations than ever before and more vividly depicted in the global media thanks to ISIS. Extremist Islamic terrorists are making more not less inroads into European nations and elsewhere in the world; even toward our southern borders. It doesn’t seem to be in the news as much, but let me ask you, do you think Iran is closer or further away from attaining a nuclear weapon? No doubt any day now we will get the news that Iran has weapon grade material to manufacture nuclear weapons. When that day comes, will you feel more or less safe? Do you think we’re winning or losing? Those are rhetorical questions.

 

The United States continues to be blamed for all the world’s problems. Even the first African American President with all his charisma has not changed that.  The Benghazi debacle has led to  greater frustration with our government. We are almost resolved to accepting the fact that our government officials just don’t’ get it. We seem to have little to no answers for the proliferation of terrorists and their ever more brazen tactics. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. And our enemies see our weakness. For them its carte blanche until a person of steely grit steps up who will not speak with mere people pleasing charisma but with providentially provided courage. One problem; we don’t know if there is such a person in our nation.

 

Walk a bit further down memory lane with me. Remember how after the attacks of 9/11 the churches throughout the country were packed? That lasted for about a week. Now not only are people back to their normal empty state, but we see a rise in atheistic activism. There is gridlock in the government except when it comes to passing legislation that supports immoral lifestyles. Our nations’ legislation is licentious; it gives license to sin. We promote immoral relationships and protect them as though they were genuinely issues of human rights. People fawn over those they should be embarrassed about. We are a nation that calls good evil and evil good. The nation that does that can expect captivity just as much as the first nation to run that route were taken captive (cf. Isaiah 5:20). We are a nation headed for prison.

 

But all is not lost. With God there is always hope. God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). It admittedly doesn’t look good. The sun may be setting on this nation. But we serve a God who is able to turn back the sundial. Cling to that. Petition the Lord for more time (cf. 2 Kings 20:1-11).

 

The Christian can glean good from tragic times by taking a Biblical perspective. The events we see unfolding before us are a part of historical maneuvering into position of God’s prophetic plan. One day the entire world will come to bow before Jesus and understand truly that No Jesus; No Peace – Know Jesus Know Peace. For many that awareness will come too late. Sinners who persist in rebelling against God and His word will come to know Jesus as Lord much the same as the demons do. Rebel sinners as well as demons will meet God as the Judge who will enforce their eternal damnable destiny (James 2:19). I pray the one persisting in perversity, the one rejecting God rebelliously, and even those who go so far as to deny His very existence, I pray they heed God’s gracious gospel offer so they can be saved from such a fate.

 

In the years since September 11th, 2001 there has been a lot of reflection. The world is becoming more and more convinced that 9/11 was an orchestrated government conspiracy. More and more people believe the devastation and pain was the price politicians and prominent backroom people were willing to pay to maneuver into places of power and enrich their accounts. If it were possible, I don’t think any scenario is beyond the grasp of the sinful nature of humanity. I just don’t know if humanity is able to orchestrate such a conspiracy like that on their own.  Maybe we just can’t accept that immensity of the tragedy. Who thought those gigantic towers would come down; even if jets hit them? Maybe all the explanations and conspiracies is an effort to sooth our mind and heart. Bottom line? No matter what happened, at the very least 9/11 was a demonically inspired and influenced act. Satan’s fingerprints and the fingerprints of his hoards are all over that crime scene. We should all be able to agree with that.

 

I remember sitting down and prayerfully asking the Lord to help me make sense of it all. Lord, give me a message to send out that will help the people who are hurting so badly. Lord give me a word; help me to apply Your word to this terrible event. The Lord did give me a teaching to send out. And I’d like to share some of what the Lord gave me and how we can make sense or live through tragedy. Certainly there have been natural as well as unnatural tragedies since 9/11/2001. And there are likely are more tragedies in our future. It would be hard to find someone who disagrees with that. What understanding and comfort can we drink from God’s word? Maybe you have some questions about tragedy. I pray you’ll find some answers in what follows.

 

First, God Allows Tragedies to Happen – But He Is Still In Control. We might be tempted to think that life is out of control when such tragedies hit us or near us. But this is not true. God is in control. But if God is in control, wouldn’t He have stopped such a tragedy and loss of life? We might find this difficult to accept, but God allowed the attack and tragedy that happened at the World Trade Center. In His word God reveals, “I make peace and create calamity” (Isaiah 45:5-7). That’s the truth. God is sovereign even in times of tragedy. He is BIG enough to field all our questions and entertain all our doubts. He’s God. We may disagree with God’s permissive will. We may not understand why what happens does happen. But God remains on the throne. Even Satan was not allowed to bring trials into Job’s life until he has secured permission from God (Job 1-2). What happens, happens because God allows it to happen. But why would God allow tragedy? The answer to that question is multifaceted.


 

Second, God Hates Tragedy and Calamity. The Bible tells us that though God allows tragedy to happen, He hates it: “For the Lord will not cast off forever.32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.33 For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33). God takes no pleasure in allowing tragedy to occur. He is not a sadist or tyrant who has a lust for power and indiscriminately shows it. God is not capricious either. God loves us; even when and if He allows tragedy to enter our lives. He has purpose in that which He does and in what He allows to happen. If this is so, then it leads us to a greater question, why does God allow such tragedies?


 

Third, God Allows Tragedy to Get Our Attention; To Get Us to Search Our Ways. Sometimes a people or person becomes so hardened toward God that they need to be shaken to be awakened from their spiritual sleep. The psalmist tells us that God does orchestrate hardship at times with an aim to bring us to Himself: “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs.12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”  (Psalm 66:10-12; See also James 1:2f.) God tested Israel with affliction and hardship, but His aim in doing so was, to bring them out to rich fulfillment. That is God’s aim and purpose and He will do whatever it takes to bring us to that point. As hard as it might be in this life to recognize that there is something more than this, something eternal, we must look to God to understand this. God’s priorities are eternal. Ours are too often finite. God’s ultimate purpose for us is to spend eternity with Him and conform us to the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). But to become like Jesus is so often way down on our list of priorities, (if it is on our list or in our hearts and minds at all).


 

God uses trials to get our attention. We see an example of this on a national scale in the history of Israel. The book of Lamentations is a funeral-like dirge inspired by God through the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter one of Lamentations God through Jeremiah points out that her captivity and affliction is the result of her persistent sinfulness:

  • Lamentations 1:5, 8, 9 – “Her adversaries have become the master, Her enemies prosper; For the Lord has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy. . . 8 Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away. . . .9 Her uncleanness is in her skirts; She did not consider her destiny; Therefore her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, For the enemy is exalted!”  

While tragedy is not always the result of sin, it always serves to wake people up.  Job wasn’t afflicted because he sinned. There was a greater scenario working itself out behind the scenes. But in the case of America, we are a nation that is not only asleep spiritually, but defiantly seek to eliminate God from our schools and every walk of life. We like to think that this nation is great because of democracy. That is false. This nation is great because of those in her history who relied on God who is faithful. We have lost our bearings and foundation in God. We need to be awakened to that fact. We are immoral and lascivious. In the name of tolerance lifestyles aberrant to God are not only allowed but promoted, and that to our youth! (Romans 1:18-32). We are a people who are selfish and self-absorbed. We major in the minors of sports and leisure, and we minor in the majors of truth, justice and the salvation of souls. And tragically, the church has become secularized. Where is holiness? Where is the Spirit in and through us? Where is the Spirit of Christ in us? We need to break up the fallow or hard ground of our hearts (Jeremiah 4). The truth of the matter is that, there are no good people. All fall short of the glory of God and we need to repent and turn to Him. He is willing to heal us and heal our land, but we need to turn to Him and give Him our hearts (Romans 10:9-10). We are not called by God to speak watered down truth, but to speak all the truth and speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

 

The aim of God in allowing tragedy is to get us to search out our ways and return to Him. In Lamentations it states: “Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord;41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.”  (Lamentations 3:40-41). This is the greatest aim and lesson of tragedy, to turn to God in the midst of them.

 

Fourth, God Allows Tragedy to Cause Us to Call Out To Him and Repent of Our Sin. Jeremiah goes on to say:


 

  • Lamentations 3:55-58 – “I called on Your name, O Lord, From the lowest pit.56 You have heard my voice: “Do not hide Your ear From my sighing, from my cry for help.”57 You drew near on the day I called on You, And said, “Do not fear!”58 O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.” 

As we turn to God we find a loving God of hope willing and waiting to heal us and have us personally relate to Him in an eternal relationship of love. Jeremiah was inspired to write of this by saying:

 

  • Lamentations 3:21-26 – “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.” 

In the New Testament Jesus speaks of a tragedy similar to that of the World Trade Center collapse. He says the important thing is not whether or not the tragedy happened because of the sin of the victims. The important thing is for us to wake up and take accounts. Those who survive need to repent and turn to Him:

 

  • Luke 13:1-5 – “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  

Jesus does not concern Himself with assessing blame. Jesus focuses on the fragility of life and the need to repent and get right with God, NOW! We are not guaranteed our next breath. Those who went to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th , or who started one of the many days since that day not knowing that some other tragedy would occur, had no idea of what the day would hold for them. Life is fragile; it’s a vapor, a gift from God. We know not our days, only God does. Sudden tragedy causes us to come face to face with the reality of the fragility of life. We need to understand that we need to get right with God, NOW!

 

Fifth, God Allows Tragedy To Show Us We Need To Be Right With Him, NOW! The people of these United States of America live as though there is no God. And we in the church have shown a tendency to procrastinate in and neglect our walk with God. Ask yourself a question, and answer it truthfully, when are you more inclined to pray, in hard times or easy times, in good times or bad times? When do you feel compelled to pray, when the skies are blue, or when they are black with the smoke of a terrorist attack? When tragedy strikes it shakes us up from our lethargy and drops us to our knees before God. It is sad that that is what it takes to get us on our knees, but if that are what it takes, God will allow it.


 

Read some of the following verse which talk to us about our need to be ready and eight before God, now:

 

  • Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 

“Ánd great was its fall.” The fall of the Twin Towers in New York City pale in comparison to the crash this country will suffer at the hands of her enemies unless we repent. God is giving us a wake up call. The wake up calls of God have been getting steadily more severe. We have progressed very rapidly from the loss of a few students in a number of horrible school shootings to the loss of thousands in an all out terror attack. If we don’t’ respond now and repent, what will happen next. Will a city be lost, a county, a state, a region? Will terror planes turn into terror chemical warfare, or nuclear terror? What is it going to take to wake up this nation? You may say, “Wait a minute, those verses were written thousands of years ago, they don’t apply to me.” But the Bible says things would get “worse and worse” (1 Timothy 3:13). The world is not going to get better, but worse, (until Jesus returns).

 

Now is the time to get right with God (Hebrews 4). God wants us to wake up now. He says, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11). Get into God’s word. Get right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. Ask God to fill you and overflow you with the Holy Spirit. Be burdened for the lost. Be empowered by the Spirit to do something about it. Get ready, because the tragedy of the World Trade Centers is not likely to be the last one.

 

Do you remember that in 1993 the Towers were nearly destroyed? For a time after the 1993 attack we were vigilant and took precautions toward potential future terrorism. But over time we became lax and negligent. The same is true of us spiritually. We draw close to God when a hard time comes, but as soon as He gets us over the hump, we slip back into our easy chair and settle for coasting in our faith and being a Christian couch potato. The enemy is persistent.

 

Sixth, Tragedy Teaches Us That God Can Bring Good Even From Tragedy. What good can possibly come from a tragedy such as that of the terrorist attack on September 11th?  God can bring much good from these circumstances. Of Jesus it was prophesied, “A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:1-4). If tragedy has nearly broken you, if the flame of your spirit is about to go out, understand that Jesus is there for you and offers you eternal life. Jesus calls us to Himself: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  (Rev. 3:20). Don’t let tragedies’ effect be compounded for evil by driving you away from God. Turn to Jesus and find rest for your souls and a saving relationship that will last and eternity. That is good.


 

Remember, those who face tragedy in the Lord, see the reality of His sustaining grace. If we turn to God, we will find a strong faith that will get us through anything. And that is true of our nation as well as for the individual. God can bring good even from tragedy if the tragedy causes people to repent and turn to Him through faith in Christ and salvation (Romans 8:28-39)

 

Tragedies reveal the strength of God in the believer. Tragedies provide opportunities to be more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. Wouldn’t you rather be a more than a conqueror who cannot be separated form God’s love by anything or anyone, not even the most horrific and brutal terrorist attack in history? That’s where I want to be, close to God, in His love, depending on Him, forgiven. That is good that comes from the dark contrast of tragedy.

Remember, this world is not our home. The events of September 11th were filled with the darkness of smoke. But there is light here too. The dark tragedy and evil that we have seen serves as a contrast to the light of the blessedness of Jesus for the believer. Jesus is our blessed hope and we look forward all the more today, after this tragedy, for His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13). The tragedy has made this world a little less, (maybe a lot less) palatable to us. Maybe now we realize our citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). That is good and that came as the result of tragedy.

 

The tragedy of the destruction of the World Trade Center, attack on the Pentagon, and the murder of thousands is a reality; it has come upon us, now we need to turn to God. This tragedy is the result of God’s hedge of protection being lowered by Him to allow a wake up call in the form of tragedy. Read the words of the psalmist who wrote:

  • Psalm 80:12-19 – “Why have You broken down her hedges, So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?13 The boar out of the woods uproots it, And the wild beast of the field devours it.14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, And visit this vine15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.18 Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!” 

We need to understand that if we do not repent, then the tragedies we’ve experienced are only the beginning. If we do not repent, it may be the beginning of the end.

We need to repent as a nation and as individual people. We need to pray for the victims, their families, friends, for the firemen and policemen and EMT workers, the doctors and nurses, the governmental leaders, our president and our nation. We need to pray for Israel. We cannot afford to let this tragedy pass us by without affecting us. Read the words of promise for those who go to their knees:

  • 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 - “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,14 “if My people who are called by My name will 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.” 

May God help us; may God bless America.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why Beheadings?


“If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow.” – 2 Kings 10:6

 

The purpose of terrorism is to shock an enemy and through fear incapacitate them. The hope is that the fear instilled in an enemy will be greater than its will to resist. Terrorists are seeking to incapacitate through decapitation. It’s working. The modern day terror group ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is already surpassing Al Qaeda in its recruiting and geographical gobbling up of territory. ISIS is doing this through the gruesome media imagery of decapitation. Few groups have risen to prominence as fast as ISIS and they are rising on the swipe of their swords and saws. Their brutality is proving to be an effective intimidation strategy causing whole cities to surrender to their demands for fear of the consequences.

The vivid realities in the world today are not for the faint of heart. Media is bringing the gory blood lust of decapitation into our living rooms. No longer is such evil an isolated incident. Beheadings are something that have garnered the world’s attention. There is a sinister influence intertwined with these beheadings.

Beheadings are nothing new. Beheading, historically, is a cost effective efficient means to execute a person. They were usually performed with an axe or sword. Later in Europe the guillotine was the instrument of choice. If performed properly beheading is a humane way of executing a person. The beheaded person loses consciousness in 2-3, at most 7 seconds. Death is the result of a sudden loss of blood pressure and blood. The severing of the spinal cord and loss of oxygen not to mention the effects of shock all lead to a swift death. Capital punishment has been abolished in Europe but beheadings continue to this day in parts of the Middle East (e.g. Saudi Arabia). And the fashion in which beheadings are performed nowadays are far from humane.

Beheadings are a favorite practice not only of terror groups. Drug cartels have used beheading for years as a means of not only eliminating their opposition but making a statement to discourage others from opposing their illegal commerce. Cartels seek to emasculate local government officials with such tactics. We are told by those who study such things that decapitations occur on a daily basis. There are hundreds of beheadings that occur around the world. It is the contemporary media presentation of beheadings that have brought this practice to our attention in an all too up front and personal way. [1]

Beheading is something found in the Bible. David cut off the head of Goliath (1 Samuel 17). King Saul’s son Ishbosheth was beheaded (2 Sam. 4:5-7). Jehu, in fulfillment of Elijah’s prophetic word against the house of Ahab, beheaded Ahab’s seventy sons. He sent letters stating “If you are for me and will obey my voice, take the heads of the men, your master’s sons, and come to me at Jezreel by this time tomorrow” (2 Kings 10:6). For fear of retribution from Jehu his command was fulfilled. Jehu also put the prophets of Baal to the “edge of the sword” (2 Kings 10).  This is an extremely gruesome chapter in Israel’s history. Taken in isolation we could easily be appalled. But King Ahab had been exceedingly wicked and evil. The LORD through Elijah had warned him (1 Kings 21:21-22). Ahab brushed off the prophetic warnings and persisted in his wicked ways. He reaped what he sowed.

In the New Testament John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod (Matthew 14:10; Mark 6:16, 27; Luke 9:9). James was beheaded (Acts 12:2). The followers of God have been persecuted and destroyed viciously throughout history. Beheadings are nothing new.

Beheading can be an instrument of the governing powers or the instrument of those opposed to the governing powers. What is the purpose and message of the beheadings used by such groups as ISIS today?  Psychological warfare is definitely one purpose of beheadings. When one person beheads another it communicates total control over total vulnerability. It feeds the savage seduction for power for the one doing the cutting. It starves the one victimized of any hope of mercy. Islam is the perfect conduit for such interactions.

Why are beheadings rising to such prominence? There’s something in the fallen sinful nature that is prone to rubber neck and watch the gruesome, especially when it involves blood and dismemberment. Perhaps today’s generation has been desensitized to bloodletting through video gaming where decapitation is commonplace. The raging rebelling warrior spirit of the disenfranchised is also drawn to the gruesomeness of beheading. The cell phones of captured terrorists commonly contain images of decapitation. And in a vile demonic way beheading has become a kind of rite of passage and initiation into terror groups. It’s a badge of honor to a terrorist to be a part of a group that will go all the way in brazen beheadings.

We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). Humanity has a mind to think and a chest with a heart to make decisions. There can be little doubt that any and all efforts to scar and dismember humanity are rooted in Satan’s raging maniacal effort to desecrate the image of God by marring the human body. Separate the head from the bodies’ heart. When you see the grisly ghastly destruction of human beings you can be sure the ultimate author of it is Abaddon, The Destroyer (Rev. 9:11).

The response of the world to the images of beheadings is telling. But what does it tell us? Time will tell. We are confronted with beheadings today and it takes our breath away. But since 1974 when abortion was legalized literally millions of abortions have been performed using techniques far worse than beheading. Abortions are performed with such techniques as Suction Aspiration or Curettage, and Dilation and Extraction all of which are mercilessly and disgustingly gruesome. And while terrorists have begun more frequent beheading of children, they are no match for abortions destruction of the human in embryo. Apparently, based on the absence of an enduring outcry, people have become used to such carnage. There certainly are images of abortion as gruesome as that of the terrorist’s beheadings. Just Google “Images of Abortion” and you’ll see.  If we can become accepting of abortion, will we also grow to accept beheadings? What does this tell us about human nature; the sinful nature? There’s something seriously wrong here.

The church is described as a body with Jesus as its Head (Col. 1:18). The decapitation of a human body is a demonic statement of removing Jesus the Head from the Church Body. It is a demonic statement against Jesus Christ. The prophetic word of scripture tells us many saints will be beheaded in the latter days (Rev. 20:4). To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). But there may be a more serious separation taking place that is being exposed through the ghoulish terrorist henchmen.  Does not the absence of grief and being appalled at abortion and possibly the one day desensitization to the imagery of terror decapitation expose a fatal disconnect between the heart of Christ and the heart of humanity?

The apostle John was inspired to write, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). If that verse indicts those who withhold “goods” from those in need, isn’t it even more indicting for those who stand by and accept the destruction of humanity as long as it doesn’t personally affect them?  Let me tell you something; ISIS is literally at the southern borders of the United States and it very possibly won’t be long before beheadings are taking place on our soil. If they come to our churches and start beheading people, then what will you do? Will you renounce Christ to live? Or will you join the ranks of beheaded saints?

In Revelation we are told that the saints “overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11). Have you been forgiven and cleansed from your sin by the blood of Jesus through faith in Christ? What is your testimony? What does you response to the brutality in the world expose about how you really feel in your heart? Do you love your life more than Jesus? The time may come when such a decision may have to be made. What will you decide?

Why beheadings? Beheadings reveal the dark destructive demonic talons that have sunk into Christ-rejecting humanity. But maybe the gruesome bloodletting exposes something else. Maybe the present or eventual innocuous response of “Christians” to what is happening to their brethren also serves to identify the tares from the wheat. If we can look on with curiosity at the gruesome images with no tangible response other than a “My, my, isn’t that terrible,” then there’s no pulse to our spiritual heart. If we can watch the carnage with nary a prayer or letter to a government official or vote or demonstration or some kind of responding action, are we alive spiritually? If we can watch the carnage and just let it go business as usual, what does that flat-line tell us of our spiritual heart beat?

But what can we do? We can pray. And we can seek the Lord’s intervention on behalf of our persecuted brethren. Seek the Lord to protect them. Seek the Lord for His will to be done. Seek the Lord in full surrender to see what He might want “me” to do. Seek the Lord and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Pray and be ready to put shoes on your prayers.

We have two choices. Jesus said, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: . . . . Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34, 40). And Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 45-46). Why beheadings? Maybe to get our attention about a choice we need to make.