Monday, May 26, 2008

Wonder All Around: Horses

Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
(Job 39:19)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Absent From The Body--Present With The Lord

Recently I was with fellow Christian when his wife died. One of the first things he said was that she was now with the Lord. He paraphrased 2 Corinthians 5:8 which says, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

Christians are in a win/win situation. Check out the following passage:

Philippians 1:20-26.

Phil 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but {that} with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil 1:22 But if {I am} to live {on} in the flesh, this {will mean} fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
Phil 1:23 But I am hard-pressed from both {directions,} having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for {that} is very much better;
Phil 1:24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
Phil 1:25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
Phil 1:26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Paul was in prison for the cause of Christ (Philippians 1:12-16) and he was telling the Philippian believers about his situation.
· (Paul) I want Christ to be glorified in my body either by life or by death (Philippians 1:20). Why? You might ask. Paul’s response,
· My life is about Christ and if I die it will only be gain (don’t worry about me because I am in a win / win situation. If I live—I am living for Christ, if I die that will only be to my advantage). Let me explain:
· If I get to live, it means fruitful labor for me (1:22) and I can continue for your progress and joy in the faith (1:25).
· Paul was hard pressed between the two situations as he said “I am hard-pressed from both {directions,} having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for {that} is very much better (1:23); yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake (1:24), in order that he might “continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith (1:25).

Why is “dying” a gain for Paul (1:21)? Because, “to depart and be with Christ, for {that} is very much better” (1:23). Paul was hard pressed, because he desired to remain in the flesh (body in this context) (1:22) in order to minister to others, yet on the other hand—departing to be with Christ would be “far better” (1:23). For the Philippians’ sake it would be necessary (1:24) to stay and minister to their needs as it relates to their progress and joy in the faith (1:25). This passage is not hard to understand. Paul’s goal in life was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved to minister to others in the name of Christ, and if he died, it would only mean that he would get to be present with Christ. It is simple. Paul was in a win win situation and he couldn’t lose. He was in prison for preaching the gospel and while he was in prison he preached the gospel (1:12-16). If he lived he would minister to others (1:24-25), but if the ultimate happened, Paul would “depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (1:23). Why is it better to die? Because it ushers Paul into the very presence of Christ. Take your Bible out and read chapter one and see for yourself that this was clearly the mindset of Paul.

The consistent teaching throughout church history is that when a believer dies, his body goes into the ground and his soul goes to heaven to be in the very presence of Jesus.

I have been with precious believers who have been told they have a serious surgery to face and I let them know that they are in a win win situation. If it is God’s desire that they remain on for more years on earth then that will mean they can continue to minister to their family and others, but if that is not the outcome, then they are still winners because they will be present with the Lord. This has brought comfort to many that have been faced with such circumstances. I have been on mission trips out of the country and have prayed that God would allow me to return safely, if it would be his will, because I can continue to minister to my family, church family and others. You see, my wife’s first husband died when she was six months pregnant and I have been mindful of such situations and know how hard it would be if I departed to be with Christ since we have two school-aged children and one in college. Now we have talked about this passage as husband and wife and my desire is like Paul’s. As a matter of fact, my wife has told me many times that she is putting Philippians 1:21 on my tombstone because for over eighteen years now, it has been one of my favorite texts in the New Testament: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If God allows me to live it will mean fruitful labor for me and will be more necessary for others in their progress and joy in the faith which I truly love, but if death comes knocking it will only mean that I will depart from this life and will be present with the Lord—which is far better than anything I can comprehend.

Praise be to Jesus—when death comes knocking and comes in to snuff out this earthly body, as a Christian I will depart and be with Christ my Lord. This one fact is truly exhilarating to meditate on. Oh, may you understand this great truth!

***See also     for Scripture relating to the believer's resurrected body.
audio sermon here

Therefore we also have as our ambition,
whether at home or absent,
to be pleasing to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:9

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Israel: Is that Ok to Say?

Israel is celebrating 60 years back in their homeland, yet there is controversy among Christians surrounding Israel's land promises in Scripture.

( Editorial review) Author Barry E. Horner writes to persuade readers concerning the divine validity of the Jew today (based on Romans 11:28), as well as the nation of Israel and the land of Palestine, in the midst of this much debated issue within Christendom at various levels. He examines the Bible’s consistent pro-Judaic direction, namely a Judeo-centric eschatology that is a unifying feature throughout Scripture.

Lest one thinks that the need for Israel to be back in their homeland is a modern day dispensational misunderstanding--check out the following quotes from the 1800's:

Horner brings out the interesting fact that C.H. Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and Horatius Bonar, all of the 1800’s, had the hope and expectation of a Jewish state in Israel.Horatius Bonar wrote in 1870:

I am one of those who believe in Israel’s restoration and conversion; who receive it as a future certainty, that all Israel shall be gathered, and that all Israel shall be saved. I believe that the sons of Abraham are to re-inherit Palestine, and that the forfeited fertility will yet return to that land; that the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. I believe that, meanwhile, Israel shall not only be wanderers, but that everywhere only a remnant, a small remnant, shall be saved; and that it is for the gathering in of this remnant that our missionaries go forth.

Speaking on Ezekiel 37:1-10 in 1864, Spurgeon declared,

first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality; and then, secondly, there is in the text, and in the context, a most plain declaration, that there shall be a spiritual restoration, a conversion in fact, of the tribes of Israel. . . . Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations; her sons are scattered far and wide; her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed; no king reigns in Jerusalem; she bringeth forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored; she is to be restored “as from the dead."

In 1887 he declared,

We cannot help looking for the restoration of the scattered Israelites to the land which God has given to them by a covenant of salt: we also look for the time when they shall believe in the Messiah whom they have rejected, and shall rejoice in Jesus of Nazareth, whom to-day they despise. There is great encouragement in prophecy to those who work among the seed of Israel; and it is greatly needed, for of all mission fields it has been commonly represented to be one of the most barren, and upon the work the utmost ridicule has been poured. God has, therefore, supplied our faith with encouragements larger than we have in almost any other direction of service. Let those who believe work on! Those who believe not may give it up. They shall not have the honor of having helped to gather together the ancient nation to which our Lord himself belonged; for be it never forgotten that Jesus was a Jew.

Check out:

The Promised Land: A Biblical-Historical View by: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ph.D. , President Emeritus Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, 1993.A.B. (Wheaton College); B.D. (Wheaton Graduate School of Theology); M.A., Ph.D. (Brandeis University).

When I read through the Bible a few years back, I started keeping track of all of the land references and was surprised at the emphasis on the promise of land. Here are a few :

Genesis 12:7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
Genesis 13:15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. Genesis 15:7 And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”
Genesis 17:8 “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
Genesis 24:7; 26:3; 28:4,13; 35:12; 48:4,21; 50:24

Exodus 3:8,17; 6:4,8; 12:25; 13:5,11; 20:12; 23:31
Exodus 33:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’

Leviticus 14:34; 20:22-24; 23:10; 25:2,38; 26:42
Numbers 11:12; 13:2; 14:8,16,23-24,30-31; 15:2,18; 20:12; 27:12; 32:2-14; 33:51-54; 35:10; 36:2

Deuteronomy 1:8,21,25,35-36; 2:12; 3:18-20,28; 4:1,5,14,21-22,26,38,40; 5:16,31,33; 6:1,10,18,23; 7:1,13; 8:1,7,10; 9:5-6,23,28; 10:11; 11:8-12,17,21,29; 12:1,10,29; 15:4,7; 16:20; 17:14; 18:9; 19:1,8,10,14; 27:2-3; 28:8,11,52,63; 30:5,16,18,20; 31:7,13,21,23; 32:47,49,52; 34:4
27:2 …“the land which the Lord your God gives you”
28:8 … “the land which the Lord your God gives you”

Scripture puts a big emphasis on Israel being given the land and it seems one should be very careful about declaring that their eviction notice is final—especially when God is the land owner.

I am not an expert in this area and plan to read more on this topic!