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, April 22, 2014

Don’t Wait for a Crisis to Trust Jesus

Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. – John 4:50

Some people only come to Jesus in times of crisis. After 9/11 for a short time many people sought comfort in churches. That seeking spirit did not last. Today, over a decade removed from the horrific day of terror our nation is not better but worse in many ways. In many ways we are further form God not nearer. That’s superficial. That’s delinquent. That’s sinful. That’s sad.

There is an account of a nobleman who came to Jesus in a time of crisis. His son was at the point of death. There are important lessons to learn from this account. The nobleman couldn’t prepare for this life crisis. No one can prepare for a life crisis. They just come and by nature they are unexpected.  

Jesus had just returned to the village of His first miracle, Cana. Upon entering Cana a nobleman in full life crisis approached Him (John 4:46). One commentator states, “This nobleman was popular, prominent, and powerful—a courtier in Herod’s court. Yet the saying of Jesus’ day is still true today: “The black camel of grief kneels at every man’s gate.” It doesn’t matter how rich, powerful, or successful one might be. Sooner or later, we all experience sorrow and tragedy.” [1]

“When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” (John 4:47). This nobleman was thirsty for healing for his son. He came to Jesus. There is a saying, “Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities.” A child at the point of death is about as extreme as it gets for a person. I’ve been there. I know how that feels. There’s worry, concern, fear, trepidation, and uncertainty. Situations like these are tailor made for Jesus. It’s always best to go to Jesus in times of crisis.

Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (John 4:48). Jesus utters an important point. Some people put too much emphasis on “signs and wonders.” It wasn’t wrong for the nobleman to come to Jesus looking for a miracle. But he should have believed before he came to Jesus and not have waited until a time of crisis.

There is a form of evangelism that looks for signs and wonders as a means to draw people in and then the gospel is preached to them. It puts an undo emphasis on miracles. Miracles are real and do happen, but they aren’t planned by anyone but God. They can’t be conjured up according to human will. Jesus’ evangelistic strategy centered on the cross. He said, “even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). We need to point people to Jesus and His cross work. Jesus said “signs will follow” the preaching of the gospel (Mark 16:17). Signs are not the gospel. They are only the residual effect not the cause in evangelism. We need to remember that.

The account continues, “The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. 54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:49-54). As we look at these inspired words there are a number of things we can learn about faith, healing, and how God works. I will use a few other portions of scripture to help us understand the significance of what is going on here. May God guide us in His truth.

God is not limited by distance. Cana is about 27 miles from Capernaum. Distance means little to Jesus’ ability to heal. He makes intercession for us now from the throne of God (Heb. 7:25). His prayer on our behalf in heaven has its full affect regardless of distance. Aren’t you glad Jesus is praying for you? I know I’m glad He’s praying for me. Thank You Jesus for Your intercession on our behalf.


There is no set formula for healing. Here a nobleman begs Jesus to come to his home to heal his son. Jesus tells the nobleman simply “Go your way; your son lives.” And the very same hour of Jesus words the son was healed. In another instance a Centurion came to Jesus and pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus says, “I will come and heal him.” But the Centurion tells Jesus, “I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” This great faith caused Jesus to marvel and comment this centurion demonstrated more faith than one from Israel (Matthew 8:5-10).  Both instances demonstrate different amounts of faith. But both people were healed. There is no set formula for God to heal. The primary truth to be gleaned here is that God heals. God uses our faith in the process of healing. But our focus should be Jesus not our faith. Look to Jesus!


Why should we look to Jesus? The first thing we need to understand is that the faith to be healed or to heal comes from Jesus. In explaining the healing of a beggar Peter stated: “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:16). Peter speaks of “faith in His name.” This faith is in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus. Why is there power in Jesus’ name? Because when we exert faith in Jesus we demonstrate we believe Jesus is alive. Healing comes by believing in the authority and capability of Jesus to heal.  This faith is not from us, it is from Jesus. Peter speaks of, “the faith which comes through Him.” Healing faith, faith to do God’s will is “faith that comes through Him.” Jesus gives faith for healing. If there is no faith to heal, then for some reason unknown to us, Jesus has determined not to heal. We must trust the Lord in this. We must trust Jesus.


What is God’s purpose in healing? Peter mentions the beggar was given “perfect soundness.” The word “perfect” means complete. This beggar was not only physically healed, he was spiritually healed. His physical problem was solved, but he was also saved from his sin through faith in Jesus. The nobleman ended up believing in Jesus and trusting in His word. The healing God does always has a deeper purpose than mere physical relief. God heals physically to work an eternal spiritual healing as well.


What does this faith to heal and work God’s will look like? Abraham is a perfect illustration of God’s-will-working-faith. God promised Abraham and Sarah a child even though they were well past childbearing years physically. But even though everything physically was telling them “No, this is not going to happen; it’s too late for you to have this child of promise” God gave Abraham faith to do what would normally be impossible to do.


Paul describes this miracle working faith with the following inspired words: “(as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:17-25). God promised to make Abraham a “father of many nations.” Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was in her nineties, but he hoped in God. When God gives faith, hope is always alive. Even though all the physical evidence was contrary to the fulfillment of God’s promise, Abraham trusted God. Always trust God and His word. He will never let you down. The faith God gives doesn’t waver. It isn’t shaky or unstable. It is steadfast.


Abraham took God at His word and as he did his faith became stronger and stronger (compare Mat. 7:24-27). How was Abraham’s faith strengthened? Abraham gave glory to God. He gave glory to God before the answer of God came. He gave glory to God no matter what God’s answer ultimately was. No matter what, Abraham gave glory to God and that is what strengthened his faith. Can you, will you, give glory to God no matter what? If you do it will strengthen your faith.


Abraham’s faith was a “fully convinced” faith. He was fully persuaded by God’s faithfulness. God had never let him down before. There was no reason God would let him down in fulfilling His promise; not now or ever. That is the kind of faith that is righteous before God. The account of Abrahams faith is “also for us.” Trusting in God like this is how God forgives our sin through faith in Jesus and how He does great God-glorifying works through us.


What is the benefit of the faith God gives? In Peter’s first epistle he writes to people who have been scattered because of persecution. They have probably lost everything. They may be alone, lost, confused. But Peter writes to them about faith for the future. Faith for the future is hope. This is what the Lord inspired him to write: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9). Peter begins by blessing God for Jesus, for His abundant mercy, for making a way for us to be born again, and for “living hope” that comes through Jesus resurrection from the dead.  What is “living hope”? Living hope is hope that is always alive. Jesus is alive, He is not dead. And if Jesus is alive, then death is defeated, and hope, no matter what, lives on. Peter blesses God for our inheritance in heaven and which is heaven. Peter blesses God for the power He gives to keep us strong in Him as we trust Him. He blesses God for the joy we have even though there are trials in this life. He explains that these trials are necessary to prove the genuineness of our faith; our more precious than gold faith. When our faith is tested it will result in praise, honor and glory before our Lord Jesus. And Peter bless God for this faith because it enables us to have incredible inexpressible joy and full glory even though we haven’t seen Jesus and await “the end of your faith.” All of this is what God seeks to develop in us through faith and in living hope.


On a number of occasions Jesus healed with no clear mention of faith in the one who was healed (Luke 14:4; Luke 21:51).He healed the man with the withered hand by simply asking him to stand and stretch out his hand. He was healed (Luke 6:6-11). He raised people from the dead. The dead have no faith to be resurrected! (E.g. Luke 7:11-17; John 11). On another occasion Jesus spoke to the parents of a little girl who had died saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50). There was little if any faith in that house and situation. Those around Him ridiculed Him for wanting to minister to the dead girl (Luke 8:40-56). But He raised her from the dead. These examples don’t necessarily mean people are healed without faith. It does mean though that our focus should be more on Jesus than our faith. We need to look to Jesus for healing. The faith necessary to heal is a gift of God’s grace that comes from Jesus.


Healing is God’s decision. God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). He operates according to His eternal plan. When our request for healing fits into His eternal plan there will be healing. When it doesn’t fit into God’s eternal plan He will give us grace that is sufficient to get us through in all situations. God’s grace is always sufficient no matter what (2 Cor. 12:8-10). 


But what is the most important truth to glean from the account of the nobleman and his son’s healing? There is power in the words of Jesus. Jesus healed with a simple word. God’s word revives us (Psalm 119:25, 40). God’s word gives life. “For Your word has given me life” (Psalm 119:50). Jesus’ words gave life. Jesus is God! And that is why we should focus on Jesus more than our faith. Faith is only as valid and effective as the object in which it is placed. If your faith in in yourself, it will only be as effective as you are. If your faith is in people or human capabilities it will always be as limited as those resources are. But if your faith is in Jesus, if your faith is in God, well, there is nothing too difficult for God. Jesus once said if we have faith as a tiny mustard seed we could move mountains (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6). That is not a testament to the power of faith as much as it is a testimony of the power of the object of our faith, God.

He didn’t have to go to the one who needed healing for that person to be healed. And the nobleman “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” It doesn’t even appear that the nobleman went directly home. It appears his faith was such that he went on his way in no particular hurry. He simply believed and took Jesus at His word. We should too!


Don’t wait for a crisis in life to trust in Jesus as your Savior. Believe in Him now. Take Jesus at His word now. Then when you come to the inevitable mountain of a life trial you will be ready to see the power of God work in and through you. Then Jesus will be able to say to you, “Go your way, your son lives,” and you’ll be able to take Jesus at His word and see the glory of God.




[1]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 470

Monday, April 14, 2014

What if it Were Today?

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

What if life as we know it were to end today, tonight? Are you ready for that to happen? Almost all religions speak of an end of the world. We recently saw the sun rise and set on the Mayan Calendar predictions. There are some very interesting things happening in our day. When we look at Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and His teaching on what to expect in the End Times we see a great deal of the unprecedented activity He warned about (cf. Matthew 24-25). What if the days He spoke of were about to occur? What would you do? Would you have any regrets if you had to stand before your Maker today, tonight?

In Genesis 1:14 God through Moses said that the lights in the heavens such as the sun, moon and stars serve as “signs” or a flag, a signal, a warning of things to come. The LORD through Joel said that, “Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and evidence in the sky of that day of the LORD. The signs Joel mentions are, “Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” (cf. Joel 2:28-32). Interesting.

It’s interesting because in 2014 and 2015 there are some very rare and possibly very signal celestial events. There is a tetrad or four “blood moons” that are occurring; two in 2014 and two in 2015. This is a pretty rare event. What makes it all the more interesting is that these blood moons occur on Jewish Holy Days; one on Passover, April 15th, 2014; one on the Feast of Tabernacles, October 8th, 2014; another on Passover, April 4th, 2015; and another on the Feast of Tabernacles, September 27th, 2015. So what? Well, besides God saying He uses the sun and moon to signal prophetic events in history, we can actually scientifically look at history to see if this is so. NASA provides us the capacity to look historically at the occurrence of blood moons. We can then compare to see if there are any historical events that happen in close proximity to these “signs.”

An examination of the relative recent history of Israel with the occurrence of blood moons shows a possible connection of these blood moons with the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1493, the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948, and the Six Day war of 1967. There are critics who deny any significance of the occurrence of blood moons, tetrad or not. But it does seem interesting given the global conditions we are living in. When we look at the state of the world today, it certainly could be close to the end. Could we be on the precipice of global catastrophic events that would affect every living man, woman and child?

Personally, I look at the world, the mass of humanity and its downward spiral into deeper and darker sin and it brings to mind Jesus’ statement that the End Times would be debauched like the Days of Noah (Mat. 24:37). Jesus spoke of unprecedented “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mat. 24:21). There are more ways to exterminate the world today than ever before. The militaries of the world are proliferating. Humanities alterations of nature are unleashing a host of mutations that we can’t even fathom the full effects of. I’m not a tree hugger but humanity has abused nature and we see the consequences in the extremity of weather patterns. We see earthquakes in every part of the world often accompanied by the compounding problem of tsunamis. Global greed and oppression is rampant. We are a world militantly divided religiously, economically, and culturally. Perversion in its various pornographic forms is one of the most profitable multi-billion dollar businesses in our day. Violence against the image of God in humanity is viciously seen in abortion and a growing inclination to rationalize the euthanizing of the weak and infirm. We see decapitations, genocide, and a myriad of other consequences of departing from and rebelling against the God of creation.  Even an atheist has to question and be concerned about the state of the world today. Can things get much worse? Are all of these death producing variables aligning to a critical mass of cataclysmic proportions?

Regardless of how you view prophecy and in particular the “blood moons” and other “signs” that will eventually come, you still must consider my initial question, “What if it were today?” And you know what? “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). NOW, no matter what time it is on the prophetic calendar or your personal life calendar, it’s time to consider salvation. God tells us to consider the brevity of our days (Psalm 39:4-5). God says in His word that our days go up like smoke; they’re like a shadow in the night (Psalm 102:3). God holds our days in His hand (Psalm 102:23-24). And He says “today,” right now is the time to consider the salvation He so graciously offers to us. He guarantees us no more than “now” to get right with Him.

Why the hurry? The Bible speaks of a day of God’s judgment on sinful humanity. “For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth” (Psalm 96:13). You can’t plead ignorance anymore. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Those words were inspired and penned over two thousand years ago. We’re closer today than ever before (cf. Rom. 13:11-14). Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s imprimatur on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The resurrection proves Jesus conquered death and the death penalty for sin. The resurrected Jesus leads the way to forgiveness and eternal life. God did all of that to save you from your sin (cf. Romans 8:31-32). “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation”? (Hebrews 2:3). You won’t escape if you neglect to decide to accept Jesus as Savior. Indecision is decision. You must decide. If we miss our “day,” we will spend eternity in torment and regret for our sinful stupidity. The choice is yours (cf. Matthew 25:46). Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

What if the world as we know it was to end today or tonight and we were brought to stand before God to give an accounting? Are you ready for that? Maybe you don’t believe in any of this? Okay, but whether or not we believe in something does not affect the truth of something. You can jump off a bridge in defiance of gravity. But you will plummet and crash into the truth of that law of God’s nature. The same is true of God’s Law. If you break one Law, you break them all. That is God’s holy standard of righteousness. It’s the only standard that matters (cf. Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10). God states each person will die one day and stand before Him to give an account (Heb. 9:27). There are a myriad of personal end times before the final global End Time. What if you are near your personal end time? Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

Aren’t you a bit concerned? A little interested? A bit worried at your delinquency toward God? There’s an end of the world spirit in the world today. People are curious about what is happening around them. They are wondering whether or not what is happening today has a more vertical transcendent meaning. There are problems in the world today that seem unsolvable. That’s exactly what Jesus said there would be in the Latter Days. “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25). “Perplexity” means a state of confusion over an unsolvable problem. It expresses the idea of anxiety over the unknown, a fearful apprehension over a dark cloud of doom approaching. People in the world today can’t figure life out. The unknown is frightening. But more frightening is knowing doom is approaching with no way of escape.  Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

How can we get ready for the approaching storm? Jesus said, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). The escape Jesus spoke about is the Rapture. Jesus will remove true believers from this world before the worst befalls it (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-9). Jesus exhorted His disciples to pay attention; to watch the signs; to be ready. Christian, if you are playing around with sin, STOP! Repent and get right with God. “Beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation . . .” (2 Peter 3:14-15).

If you have no personal saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, get one. I’m not talking about being religious. Jesus spoke of a righteousness that exceeds mere religiosity (cf. Matthew 5:20). Jesus said there would be people who speak of Him and even do things in His name but who were not known by Him; they had no relationship with Him (Mat. 7:21-23). You must be “born again.” Jesus said you must be born again, spiritually regenerated if you want to enter His kingdom. Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

How can a person be born again? Admit you are a sinner; a rebel against God; and that your sin has separated you from life with God (cf. Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2; Habakkuk 1:13; Romans 3).  Then turn from your sin and ask God to forgive you of your sin. Don’t ask Him to forgive you because of any work or effort of your own. Your sole means of salvation, the only way God can and will forgive your sin, is by accepting Jesus as Your Savior by faith. Receive Jesus by faith (John 1:12). Jesus paid your death penalty for sin justly on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Believe in Him and God will have the just and righteous basis to forgive you. When you trust in Jesus as your Savior God will forgive you and He will give you spiritual life, a second birth, a spiritual birth, you will be born again to eternal life in Christ by the Holy Spirit who will indwell you. When the Holy Spirit comes within you, you will be transformed from darkness to light, from death to life, from a life of sin to a holy life; an abundant eternal life. You’ll never be the same. You’ll never look back; you won’t want to. That’s what Jesus requires of those who would live in His kingdom (cf. John 3). Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.

There’s a lot more that could be said on the topic of the End Times and Bible prophecy. Is this the end? It might be. It might not be. But what if it were? Are you ready? Is your house in order? These really are unprecedented times. Four blood moons; what might they be a sign of? Time will tell. Some will say it’s just a coincidence. Others will say it’s a warning sign from God. No matter what you think it’s worth your time to consider what you would do if it was the end. What if your personal end is near, today, in a moment? What if the end of the world is near? “What if it were today?” Today is the day of salvation for you! Don’t let it pass.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Must Worship


“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24


People are gathering in stadiums, coliseums and outdoor areas by the thousands all over the world. They are gathering for sporting events, concerts, seminars, and sometimes even for church. All of these gatherings have something in common. Whether people realize it or not they are groping and drawn by an appetite to fulfill something they were created by God to do. Humanity is created with “eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Humanity has a need to worship. Some attempt to fulfill this need in worship of the things of this world. That will never fulfil. Jesus revealed the solution to humanities’ insatiable need to worship when He said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”


John’s inspired gospel provides us with some must dos if we are to experience the abundant life spoken of by Jesus. We must be born again. That means we must experience a second birth; a spiritual birth. Jesus must be lifted up on the cross. He alone is the One who can go to the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. There is a death penalty for all sin. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead so that all who trust Him as Savior can be forgiven their sins and receive spiritual life. And the one serving God must decrease and God must increase. Once we’ve experienced the spiritual second birth through faith in Jesus, we are to live for Him. And the life lived for Jesus involves Him increasing in our lives and us moving further and further away from a self-centered life. There is another “must.” We must worship God who is Spirit “in spirit and truth.” We must worship God as He prescribes. And He prescribes we worship Him in our spirit according to the truth of His word.  That is the only way to truly fulfill our need to worship.


What is “worship”? The term “worship” is proskyneo in the original Greek. This word is derived from the prefix pros which means at, unto, to, with, up against and the term kyon which is the Greek word for dog or hound. The idea in its most basic sense is that of to kiss like a dog licking its master. From this we get the picture of one who bows before, fawns over, crouches before, prostrates oneself before, does reverence to, or adores. The word picture is one in an inferior position paying homage to one who is their superior. A dog licks its master’s hand and face because his master provides for them, interacts lovingly with them, protects them and has their best interests at heart. From this we think of the loyalty of a dog to its master. We can picture how a dog is always eager and happy to welcome his master’s homecoming.  To worship is to lavish kisses on our Lord. How do we do that?


Jesus says those who worship God or lavish kisses on the Lord “must worship in spirit and truth.” Those who worship in the secular realm toward various objects or people suffer addiction. The addict never gets enough; never finds true lasting fulfillment. Religious ritual, ceremony or tradition that is performed without a person having been born again is inadequate. Such worship is like the affection of a lizard.


When I was a boy I had a pet horny toad. My parents got it for me to hold off on the pet I really wanted; a dog! This is typical parental strategy. Parents often see pets in terms of cost in time, nuisance and money. So they got me a horny toad. I don’t remember the name I gave him. Maybe it was “Harry.” After I got used to the peculiar look of the creature Harry really became quite boring. A horny toad has a lot of horns. But a horny toad is expressionless. A horny toad doesn’t smile. Harry didn’t smile or welcome me when I looked at him in his tank. A horny toad doesn’t have fur to pet. Harry had no hair.  Harry never really showed me any affection or licked my hand. Harry the horny toad did appear to get excited when I fed him mealy worms, (at least he would move a bit, until I fed him too many and the mealy worms ate him!). Harry just didn’t have the capacity to be warm or loving, show affection or “worship.” An unregenerate person has no spirit; they have a Harry-the-horny-toad-heart. They don’t have the capacity to relate to God who is Spirit. Without the Spirit there is no relationship between God and the individual. There can be therefore no worship, no true living interaction between God and those who have not been born again.


After Harry the horny toad my parents broke down and got my sister and me a miniature Schnauzer. We named him “Freddy.” Freddy was lots of fun. He ran all over the place. He always wanted to play. Schnauzers don’t shed hair and if we were delinquent in getting Freddy groomed he didn’t care. He loved us. He was always happy to see us. We knew that because he always wagged his stubby tail, barked when we came home, ran to us, jumped on us, and yes, licked us profusely. Freddy was the exact opposite of Harry. Freddy had a heart to worship his masters. Freddy loved us and we knew it by how he “worshipped” us.


When we got older and had less time for Fred, we began to see him as more of a nuisance. If we took out our anger from life problems on him he still loved us. We weren’t interested in him as much as we got older. We didn’t take him out to play or go for a walk. Maybe we growled at him more than we talked to him. We weren’t always the best “masters” but he never stopped loving us, no matter what. God is our Master. But He, unlike we were to Freddy, is the perfect Master. He never gives us reason to not love or lavish our affection on Him. He is always looking out for our good. What He allows in our lives we may not always understand, or like, or even appreciate, but He always loves us. There is never a reason for us to not lavish kisses on our Master.


What is truth? “Truth” (Greek aletheia) refers to that which is in agreement with reality, that which agrees with the facts or evidence. If something is truly true, it is true all the time. Truth needs to be reliable and trustworthy. God’s truth is objective and absolute. Man’s “truth” is subjective and relative. God’s truth always trumps the opposing “truth” of humanity. The opposite of truth would be superstition or that which is a fantasy concocted by imagination and not in line with reality, facts or evidence. The world and those in religions outside of what God has revealed to us in His word, live in such a fantasy. They create “God” in their own image. They create a fantasy religion or “God” that suits them; that they are comfortable with and can live with. But that is seldom truly God.


The person who is born again is spiritually regenerated. They have the Holy Spirit living within them (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). By the Holy Spirit within we know we are God’s children (Rom. 8:14-16). The Holy Spirit within them is their contact with God. WE are assured of our salvation and relationship with God by the Holy Spirit within. The Spirit gives life (John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6). The Spirit also provides the inspired, literally God-breathed word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). By the Spirit within we are enabled to understand God’s word (1 Cor. 2:9-14). Jesus says God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The word of God is our manual for life. It is reliable verifiable history. It tells us His story from the beginning to the end. It is God’s revelation to humanity; His truth; eternal truth; absolute truth. It is His love letter to us. It is authored by the All-knowing God. Therefore it communicates to us truth; things we couldn’t know on our own. God’s word provides us with enough truth to trust in Him for salvation.


Later in John’s gospel Jesus tells Pilate, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37). Pilate brushed off Jesus’ words by saying, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Truth is found in God’s word and in the life testimony of Jesus. If we want to have a correct and truthful world view or understanding of reality, we need to base our understanding on Jesus and God’s word. Our faith must be based on and guided by Jesus and God’s word. It is by Jesus and the word of God that we should, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).


Before a person is born again they are devoid of the Spirit. Because of that they don’t have the capacity to comprehend the truth of God or His scriptures (1 Cor. 2:14). The unregenerate person doesn’t speak the language of the Spirit or God. The unregenerate person doesn’t hear their master’s voice, understand their master’s language, know their master’s touch, or even care to lavish kisses on their master. God is their Master but they live like a stray dog who has run away from home and left the relationship with their loving master. The Master is calling for His dog to return home.


“God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” You must be born again to worship God in “spirit and truth.” Do you have a heart to worship God? Is your heart like Harry the horny toad or like Freddie the dog? Have you been born again? He’s calling stray dog humanity to come home. Do you hear His voice? Will you follow Him? (cf. John 10:27).



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Salvation is of the Jews

You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  – John 4:22


There is a cancerous growth in the church today. It is a cancer that begins in the mind and spreads to the heart. This cancer is deceptive, divisive, and seeks to “depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1). It travels under the banner of equality but is really a veiled attempt to “depart from the faith” and dislodge the church from her support of Israel and the Jew.


There is a rising false teaching in the church that has grown out of Palestinian propaganda. It has bought into the false notion that Palestinians are a nation displaced by Jews on May 14th, 1948 when Israel rose once again to nationhood. This is a false notion. Palestine is a region not a nation. History reveals no national government, economic order, military or other entities characteristic of a nation. When Israel was once again established as a nation the non-Jew was invited to join the citizenry of the new nation. They refused.


Israel, unlike the people of Palestine, have a long history of nationhood. Just read the Old Testament. What has been the perpetual attitude of Israel toward their neighbors and those who reside within her borders? God’s command is, “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Le.19:34). That’s a little bit different than the attitude of Israel’s Muslim neighbors toward her wouldn’t you say? (Yes, that’s rhetorical and facetious.)


Palestinians seeking nationhood do not want coexistence with Israel, they want extermination of Israel. Hitler is their hero. And given Israel is outnumbered by hostile neighbors about 200 to 1, the very existence of Israel really is in question. God through Zechariah said all nations would gather against Israel (Zech. 14:2). Jesus said all nations would hate Israel “for My name’s sake” (Mat. 24:9). We commonly look at the Olivet Discourse of Jesus and forget to realize Jesus is speaking to Jewish disciples about a period in history when Israel will be the center of God’s prophetic plan. The Olivet Discourse of Jesus is about the Tribulation of Israel.


Of the Latter Days Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Mat. 24:9). We read that and our prime focus and interpretation is that disciples of Jesus will be persecuted because of their adherence to Jesus name. There is an element of truth in this. But the Tribulation is about Israel. The Olivet Discourse is about what will happen to Jewish disciples and the Jewish nation. And if the Tribulation pertains to Israel, isn’t it reasonable to think Israel will be persecuted by all nations. Could such persecution be in part because there is a convoluted and confused desire to defend the name of “Jesus”?


In the End Times there will be a unified one world religion made up of a conglomeration of melded together compromised belief systems. The name of Jesus will be thrown in with other names like Muhammed, Buddha, Mary, and a host of others. It will be the ultimate worldly kumbaya. This “Jesus” thrown in will be “another Jesus,” not the true Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3-4). If Israel retains her monotheism and even comes to realize Jesus as Messiah, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a scenario where the world would rally against her. Perhaps a one world religion would take offense at Israel for “usurping” the “name of Jesus”; for insisting on the exclusive worship of Jesus. Israel might be opposed for the “heresy” of saying Jesus is Lord of all not just one among a pantheon of false idolatrous religious polygamy. “The church” might become an agent of persecuting Israel. It’s happened before. Just a thought.


Historically Israel has been singled out for marginalization and then persecution. There is that kind of spirit in the church today. Jesus speaks of many being offended, betrayal and hatred in the latter days (Mat. 24:10). He speaks of proliferating false prophets (Mat. 24:11). Lawlessness will spread and love will grow cold (Mat. 24:12). We see traces of these things in those who would replace Israel with the church. There is a spirit of superficial seeming logic circulating that says, “Why do we, the church, so exclusively support Israel? Is that fair? What about the Christians in the Middle East? What about the Palestinians; shouldn’t we support their right to statehood?” And beneath the surface of those questions is a danger that a spirit of anti-Semitism brews.


There is a very cunning piece of propaganda being sold and purchased on the market today. There is a deceptive reference to and use of an oppression model. The plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East is lopped into the “oppression” of Palestinians. We are told Palestinians are merely seeking freedom, equality, and statehood; good old American themes. Their situation is similar to that of our Christian brethren. We are even shown Christians who side with Palestinians. Our sense of fairness and impartiality is aroused. We are led to question why the evangelical Bible believing church has been so supportive of Israel and not equally supportive of the plight of Christians and Palestinians in the Middle East. And a wedge is put between the church and Israel.


Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted. There are Islamic sacrificial slaughter houses where kidnapped Christians are brought and given an ultimatum to recant their belief in Jesus. If they refuse they are hung upside down like a piece of meat in a slaughter house, beheaded, disemboweled and thrown to the side; a trophy to Allah. Christians are being mercilessly persecuted in the Middle East. But the solution to such persecution is not opposition to Israel. Please take no offense but I can hear the Jew say, “Welcome to my world; welcome to my history.” Israel of all people groups knows persecution. The nation of Israel was created to be a sanctuary to Jews who had just suffered an unprecedented persecution in Nazi concentration camps. There are those who would have us overlook the ovens or even deny they ever happened. That is demonic. Israel is the one sane bastion of freedom in the Middle East.


It is possible to “worship what you do not know” (John 4:22a). Jesus spoke those words to someone who was at odds with Jews. He spoke those words in reference to someone with a faulty belief system that excluded Jews. And He spoke those words to exhort a person to get back in sync with God. Don’t be an ignorant worshiper. You can’t know and worship God without the Jew.


There are people who “worship” ignorantly; who do not know what or who they are worshipping. Did you know Jesus is Jewish? He included Himself as a Jew when He said, “we know what we worship” (John 4:22b). Jesus the Messiah/Christ comes from Abraham’s Seed (Gen. 3:15; Mat. 1:1; Luke 3:34; Gal. 3:29).  Jesus the Messiah/Christ is a descendant of King David (2 Sam. 7:16; Mat. 1:1; 21:19; Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8). Messiah was from the lineage of Jews. Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies of the Old Testament identifying Him as the fulfillment of Messiah promised by God. Think of that next time you are tempted with a spirit of anti-Jewishness.


Jesus said, “for salvation is of the Jews.” This teaches us that Jews are integral to salvation history (John 4:22c). The Holy Scriptures which are Gods revelation of His divine plan of redemption were entrusted to the Jews and came through those of Jewish heritage (Rom. 3:1-2). The scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). From Genesis to Acts 10 God’s word is predominantly Jewish history. True worship “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Our spirit must seek and follow His Spirit. And His truth is His word (John 17:17). To worship without first referencing God’s word and seeking understanding of God’s word by the Holy Spirit results in ignorant worship (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-14). And God’s word begins at Genesis and ends at Revelation. The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. You can’t have one without the other. The New Testament is rooted in the Old and the Old is fulfilled in the New.  


There is an unfortunate movement in the church today that attempts to replace the role of Israel with the church. It’s called Replacement Theology or Supercessionism. It is the doctrine that teaches that the church supersedes or replaces Israel. This is based on the view that Israel failed her elect mission and God had to introduce the church to take over where Israel failed. Has Israel failed? Yes, for the most part Israel has lived in rebellion toward God. But there has always been a faithful remnant. And we need to understand that the church to a great extent has failed too! The church completes her God given mission through an empowered remnant. God works through a remnant of true believers. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mat. 7:13-14).


We need only look at Revelation 2 and 3 to see that by the end of the first century the church was already in dire straits to a large degree. Thankfully the churches addressed by Jesus in Revelation are not only representative of actual local historical churches, but also represent characteristics of the church in seven epochs of church history. But still, only two of those seven churches are commended without reservation by Jesus. The others have serious sinful issues. The Last Days church makes Jesus sick to His stomach to the point of vomiting! (Rev. 3:16).


There was apostate Israel and there was the faithful remnant of Israel (cf. Jer. 3; 4:1-4; 31:7; Rom. 11:1-5). There is an apostate church and there is a faithful remnant church (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1ff.; Rev. 2:8-11; 3:7-13). The church and its role in God’s prophetic plan are separate and distinct from the role of Israel in God’s prophetic plan. We live now in the church age when God’s primary instrument is the church. It is composed of Jew and Gentile who have received Jesus as their Savior, Messiah, Christ and Lord (Eph. 2). God is not finished with Israel. “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” (Rom. 11:1a). The reinstituting of Israel in our day is an incredible fulfillment of God’s prophetic plan. It is a sign of the times we are living in. With Israel established as a nation once again we have clear evidence for this being the latter days.

Some contend that Israel is a purely secular entity and should not be seen as part of God’s prophetic plan. Ezekiel 37 illustrates God’s resurrection of Israel as dry bones being brought back to life. Notice the dry bones are brought to life gradually. Ezekiel prophecies God’s word over them. Then the bones come together sinew by sinew, then flesh, and finally God breathes into the bones and brings them to life. I believe the first stage of the dry bones being brought together is a secular stage. There will be subsequent stages that will culminate in “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me who they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10). I believe that will be at Jesus Second Coming. I believe it will be at this time that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26).

If we cut Israel out of scripture we no longer have verification of Jesus as Messiah. If we cut Israel out of scripture we lose the fulfillment of God’s prophetic word; an incredible piece of evidence verifying the authority and inspiration of scripture itself. If we remove Israel and God’s covenant with them then His gifts and calling become revocable (Rom. 11:29) and God is no longer faithful or reliable. But, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). Salvation, as Jesus said, is of the Jews. We shouldn’t be so quick to remove the Jew from God’s revelation of His salvation plan. The consequence would be fatal to the gospel.