Finding your hiding place

“You are a hiding place for me.” (Psalm 32:7)

That may sound cowardly but those words were penned by King David. A warrior who demonstrated courage when others shrank back. David was no coward. David defeated Goliath, a great warrior over 9 ft tall when no one else in the Israelite army would go out to fight him. David slayed Goliath and then cut off his head for all to see.

David was a great warrior and also a great leader and king. He was a man’s man. Yet, he felt the need to hide. He felt the need to retreat from the trouble he experienced in life.

But he didn’t just retreat to any place. He retreated to God. He found his solace by hiding and finding protection in the arms of God.

David wrote that when his heart was faint, when he was feeling needy and exposed, that he found God to be a “refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (Psalm 61:3) God was his hiding place, his strong tower, and his refuge.

I think the life of David reminds us that we too, no matter how strong or powerful we think we are, need to take time to find our hiding place to God. We need to retreat. We need to find our refuge in God. If you heart is faint, you need to take time to find your refuge in God.

That means we have to withdraw from the crowds and busyness of life. We need to take quiet moments with just God and seek him. Cry out to him. Ask for his help. When we do, we can hear the voice of God whisper to us as he did David, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)

Why Israel will continue to be at the center of the news until the end of history

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, delivers a speech to the U.S. Congress today despite opposition from the White House. He comes to the U.S. seeking to make his case to the Congress and the American people against an emerging nuclear deal with Iran. He believes that the deal that President Obama is about to finalize with Iran is a bad one and a dangerous one for Israel.

While the President is opposing Netanyahu, opposition is not new to Israel.

Ever since their birth as a nation, this tiny country and group of people have faced opposition. Whether it was the Egyptians, Amalekites, Midianites, Moabites, Ammonites, Amorites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Assyrians, Persians, Nazis in Germany, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, or the Iranians, the nation of Israel and the Jewish people have always been persecuted.

The story of the underdog David (a young Jewish boy) and a giant – Goliath (a 9 foot tall Philistine warrior) have echoed throughout history. This story plays out time and time again. The persecutors of Israel will come and go, but unfortunately the persecution of Israel will remain until the second coming of Christ.

I believe It is fair to say that no country or group of people have ever been more persecuted. But why?

Why is there such hatred and opposition to Israel and the Jewish people? I believe the root is found in the Bible. According to the Bible, this nation and group of people were chosen by God to represent himself to the earth. God has a special plan for the nation of Israel. Satan (who opposes all of God’s work in the world) wants to defeat that plan.

Part of God’s plan includes a mass return of Jews to the land of Israel. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live.” (Ezekiel 37:11-13)

Many believe that this promise began when Israel was reconstituted as a nation in 1948. But I think it is important to first understand that this was written to the Jewish people in exile at that time. This promise looked forward to the restoration of Israel for those exiles. Additionally this prophecy also is a promise to the nation of Israel in the future. And ultimately it is a promise to our bodily resurrection at the gathering of all of God’s people when he restores his kingdom on earth.

Before God restores his kingdom on earth, the book of Revelation reveals that a “beast” or “Antichrist”, a world leader possessed by Satan himself, will come onto the world stage. This leader will have experienced a remarkable healing from a deadly wound. A deceptive attempt to parallel Christ’s resurrection. He will have unlimited authority for a short time to do as he pleases in the world. He will utter blasphemies against God and make war against God’s people.

The temple will have been rebuilt in Jerusalem by this time. The Antichrist will set up an image/object of himself in that temple.  Jesus predicted this time, “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) (Matthew 24:15)

A worldwide persecution of Israel will follow. God describes how the world and its armies will descend on Israel. “In the distant future you will swoop down on the land of Israel, which will be enjoying peace after recovering from war and after its people have returned from many lands to the mountains of Israel. You and all your allies—a vast and awesome army—will roll down on them like a storm and cover the land like a cloud.” (Ezekiel 38:9) On this day Israel will stand alone with their God against the nations of the world brought together by the Antichrist.

The current persecution of Israel we see now are hints of this time to come. This future time to come is known as the time of Jacob’s trouble. “In all history there has never been such a time of terror. It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!” (Jeremiah 30:7)

Jesus spoke about this day as well.“And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived.”  (Luke 21:20 – 20)  The destruction that happened to Jerusalem in a.d. 70 was used by Jesus as a pattern or a “type” to point to the ultimate destruction that will come at the end of the age before he would return.

Israel as a nation and group of ethnic people will recognize Jesus as their Messiah then at the end of history. The promise of God has always been that Israel will be regenerated, restored, and regathered in a future time.

The Apostle Paul spoke of this day. “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness. And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.” Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” (Romans 11:25-29)

As the nation of Israel unites behind their Messiah Jesus Christ in the final days, the world will unite against Israel. Satan, who has influenced the hatred of Israel throughout time and will continue to do so right up until the final conflict in the end, will gather the world against Israel. “And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.” (Revelation 21:16)

Armageddon means “Mount Megiddo” in Hebrew. It was in Megiddo in ancient Israel that many key battles were fought. The book of Revelation uses this symbolic geography of Megiddo to represent the final global combat zone. It is the place in which the final conflict between Christ and Satan will be fought.

“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army.” (Revelation 19:19) “Together they will go to war against the Lamb”. But the best part is that, “the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him.” (Revelation 17:14)

This passage shows the fulfillment of the single greatest promise of history: the return of Christ to reign on earth. The rebellion of mankind and Satan against Christ will come to a decisive end.

Jesus riding on a white horse (white symbolizing the color of victory)  will defeat the beast and the armies who war against him and his people.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

At this time the victory of Jesus on the cross will find its consummation in a new era of true peace on the earth.

Is there unity in the church today?

If you have placed your faith in Christ you are automatically united to other followers of Christ. You are a part of the body of Christ, the church. You have unity with every other believer regardless of the geographical or historical distance that separates you.

However the manifestation of that unity is not always apparent in our current reality. Christians can display ugly divisions between one another. You may think of this problem as a modern phenomenon. But that’s not the case.

In addition to sexual immorality and social snobbery, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church to address the serious divisions they were experiencing. Some were choosing one church leader or preacher over another. Church members were suing one another. Even the Lord’s Supper was not sufficient to bring them together in love and unity.

In light of Jesus’ prayer for unity for his church why was this happening? Why was it happening then and why does it still happen today?

I think the answer lies in understanding two important tensions that exist with the Kingdom of God in it’s current state. The Kingdom of God has a “now” and “not yet” aspect to it. The “now” part means that positionally we do have full unity in Christ right now. The “not yet” part is the reality that the perfection of our faith doesn’t happen until we reach heaven. Complete and perfect unity won’t happen until we are glorified.

The truth is we will continue to live in this tension until God’s kingdom fully comes and is set up on earth. I believe this is one of the reasons Jesus taught us to pray, “You kingdom come”. We should pray and anticipate the coming of the Kingdom of God that will bring perfection to all things.

This doesn’t mean we should not work and strive for unity now. We should. We should encourage one another and continue to mature in our faith so that we can display to the world the beauty of the unity of those who claim to call Jesus their Lord. We want the world to know the beauty of the diversity in the church while being unified.

Hopefully understanding this tension will help keep us from becoming too discouraged when we don’t see that perfection in the church now. This way we don’t grow disenfranchised or disillusioned. And hopefully it will encourage us to continue to pursue unity and peace until Jesus returns to set up his kingdom on earth.

Seeking God for Wisdom in Making Decisions

When we pray about decisions in life, we should ask God for wisdom. The bible teaches us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)

It is the nature and character of God to give generously and without reproach. As a loving Father, he never wants us to hesitate in coming to him. He wants us to be persistent in asking, seeking, and knocking. He wants us to have the wisdom for any decision we may be facing.

But one thing I have learned as I seek God for wisdom in decisions, is that is I shouldn’t be focused only on the final outcome of how God answers my prayers. If I only focus on the end result, I will often miss how God is working in my life and guiding me each step along the way.

If I am only honed in on the end result, I may miss the experience of God guiding me each day. I may miss the the wisdom he shares concerning the steps to take to get there and forget how a big God is not too big to be involved in the smallest details of my life.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 NLT)

God promises to guide us as we make decisions. He promises to advise us. But he also wants to walk with us as we make those decisions. He wants to fellowship with us. There is beauty to be found in the time he takes to counsel us. Especially in the smaller details of the steps we take along our paths.

There is a saying that reminds us that sometimes we can’t see the bigger picture because of the smaller details – “can’t see the forest for the trees”. But I often want to reverse that idea. There are often times when we don’t want to be a person who “can’t see the tress for the forest”.

We don’t want to be so consumed with the final outcome that we can’t appreciate the smaller details as God guides us along our path. We don’t want to miss the beauty of the tress while in the forest. There is beauty to be seen and experienced along the way.

I think you see that beauty expressed in the following verses: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The emphasis is that this path we are on is a life long journey and it is a continual gradual process. The process of making our path’s straight will be ongoing over the entire course of our life. It will slowly progresses toward the final goal.

There is wisdom in taking time to enjoy that progression. Enjoy the continual counsel of God as a loving Father in our life. Enjoy the time our dad takes to be with us as he shares his wisdom for our lives.

The beauty of following Jesus is that we get to follow him EACH STEP along the path. Watching him reveal and show us new things each day. Leading us to new ways to trust him greater each day. Reminding us how dependent we are on him.

Don’t miss the trees for the forest.

 

We have distorted what it means to be tolerant

We are constantly told that we need to be tolerant.

Gregory Koukl explains how our modern society has defined what it means to be a tolerant person.

“The tolerant person occupies neutral ground, a place of complete impartiality where each individual is permitted to decide for him or herself. No judgments allowed. No “forcing” personal views. All views are equally valid” To each his own. Live and let live.

Ironically, Greg points out, “by the modern definition of tolerance no one is tolerant, or ever can be.”

Francis Beckwith calls it the “passive-aggressive tolerance trick”.

Gregory Koukl said that he spoke to a class of seniors at a Christian high school and wanted to alert them to this “tolerance trick”. He also wanted to make them very aware of how much they had already been taken in by it.

He began by writing two sentences on the board.

The first expressed the current understanding of tolerance: “All views have equal merit, and none should be considered better than another.”

All heads nodded in agreement. Nothing controversial here.

Then he wrote the second sentence:

“Jesus is the Messiah, and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him.”

Immediately hands flew up. “You can’t say that,” a coed challenged, clearly annoyed. “That’s disrespectful. How would you like it if someone said you were wrong?”

The irony in her statement was that she was doing the same thing . She was insinuating that his view was wrong. She was being intolerant of him and the second statement.

What she didn’t see was that the first statement also violated itself.

Greg pointed to the first statement (All views have equal merit, and none should be considered better than another) and asked, “Is this a view?” They all agreed.

Then he pointed to the second statement (Jesus is the Messiah, and Judaism is wrong for rejecting Him.)— the “intolerant” one — and asked the same question: “Is this a view?”

They studied the sentence for a moment. Slowly his point began to dawn on them. They had been taken in by the tolerance trick.

Greg explained, “If all views have equal merit, then the view that Christians have a better view on Jesus than the Jews have is just as true as the idea that Jews have a better view on Jesus than the Christians do; but this is hopelessly contradictory.

If the first statement is what tolerance amounts to, then no one can be tolerant because “tolerance” turns out to be gibberish.”

We have wrongly adopted this modern view of tolerance that says we must: “Be egalitarian regarding ideas.” AND “Be elitist regarding persons.”

In this wrong view of tolerance, to be egalitarian regarding ideas, means that we must agree that all ideas have equal value and worth.

Greg says what happens as a result is that “no idea or behavior can be opposed.”

Think about how ridiculous this logic is. A modern terrorist could be deemed as virtuous as a “Mother Teresa.” And what if someone’s ideas and views allow them to sexually molest children? Kill innocent people? Behead someone who won’t follow a specific religion?

Should we give equal merit and worth to these ideas? I would hope not. Yet we are told this is what tolerance means.

In this modern approach to tolerance, if we dare reject another person’s ideas, we’re automatically accused of disrespecting the person.

Greg points out the logical inconsistency with this thinking. He says, “To say I’m intolerant of the person because I disagree with his or her ideas is confused.” And, “ironically, it results in elitism regarding persons.”

“If I think my ideas are better than another’s, I can be ill-treated as a person, publicly marginalized, and verbally abused as bigoted, disrespectful, ignorant, indecent, and (can you believe it?) intolerant. Sometimes I can even be sued, punished by law, or forced to attend re-education programs.” Isn’t that exactly what we see happening right now? 

Greg stresses, “Most of what passes for tolerance today is little more than intellectual cowardice — a fear of intelligent engagement. Those who brandish the word “intolerant” are unwilling to be challenged by other views or grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It’s easier to hurl an insult — “you intolerant bigot” — than to confront an idea and either refute it or be changed by it. In the modern era, “tolerance” has become intolerance.”

“In this way, tolerance has gone topsy-turvy.”

The modern view of tolerance says we should, “tolerate most beliefs, but don’t tolerate (show respect for) those who take exception with those beliefs.”

We must must reject this modern distortion of tolerance and return to the classic view.

We should practice this value when it comes to tolerance: “Be egalitarian regarding persons.” AND “Be elitist regarding ideas”.

Being egalitarian regarding persons means you treat others as having equal standing in value or worth because each and every person is created in the image of God.

Being elitist regarding ideas means you acknowledge that some ideas are better than others; and they are.

Greg says in the classic view of tolerance, “we don’t treat all ideas as if they have the same merit, lest we run into contradiction. Some ideas are good. Some are bad. Some are true. Some are false. Some are brilliant. Others are just plain foolish.”

You see this in science and mathematics all the time.

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level; it is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees, nor 211.

Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees; it is never 23 degrees nor 31.

The sum of two plus two is four, never three-and-a-half.

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points on a plane.

A compass always points to the magnetic north.

As William D. Watkins explains, “All truth is exclusive — it excludes what is false as it affirms what is true. After all, if it’s true that the capitol of the United States is Washington, D.C., then it’s false that the U.S. capitol is any other city on earth. That truth excludes innumerable cities.”

Some ideas simply have merit because they are true and right. Understanding this is necessary if true tolerance is to take place.

Greg adds, “we can’t truly tolerate someone unless we disagree with him or her. This is critical. We don’t “tolerate” people who share our views. They’re on our side. There’s nothing with which we need to put up. Tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong, yet we still choose to treat decently and with respect.”

“This essential element of classical tolerance — disagreement (elitism regarding ideas) — has been completely lost in the modern distortion of the concept. Nowadays if you think someone is wrong, you’re called intolerant no matter how you treat the person.”

We must return to the practice of “civility”. That is at the heart of the classical view of tolerance. It means we respect those with whom we disagree.

Greg says:

We respect those who hold different beliefs from our own by treating such people courteously and allowing their views a place in the public discourse.

We may strongly disagree with their ideas and vigorously contend against them in the public square, but we still show respect to their persons despite our differences.

We must treat every person courteously with the freedom to express his or her ideas without fear of reprisal no matter what the view while understanding that not that all views have equal worth, merit, or truth.

Greg gives these final practical solutions if you are charged with intolerance.

Always ask for a definition. When tolerance means neutrality, that all views are equally valid and true, then no one is ever tolerant because no one is ever neutral about his or her own views.

Point out the contradiction built into the new definition. Point out that this kind of tolerance is a myth.

Hank Hanegraaff rightly says, “In a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity, Christians must exemplify tolerance without sacrificing truth. Indeed, tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.”