“… and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2Ti 2:24-26)
I think most believers at one time or another have made a bad turn in life. This goes with our humanity. A believer can go astray by being drawn into a sinful situation. They are many ways to go astray.
Regardless of how a person goes astray, Paul speaks to it this way: “[that] they have come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
The term, ‘come to their senses’, in the Greek literally means, ‘to recover from drunkenness’, ‘to come to one’s self,’ or, ‘to come to a right mind.’
Coming to your right mind is set forth in what is known as, ‘the parable of the prodigal son.’ Here is a snippet of the story
The Prodigal’s Wake Up Call
“A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.
“And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.
“So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
Here is how that part of the story ends-
“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)
This young man wandered away from the safety and love of his home. How many young people, including many Christians, have found themselves wandering about in life, in a similar tale as the prodigal.
“Welcome to our world,”
And guess what it happening in all these wanderings – The pigs of the world are laughing their heads off.
Jesus warned believers about having relationship with pigs. Listen -
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”(Mat 7:6)
The story of the prodigal brings into focus how temptations work in our life. For the prodigal, it had to do with money and fun. Do we have a warning about chasing after wealth? Listen -
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Ti 6:10)
Spiritual Warfare Begins in our Thought Life
An old saying goes like this – ‘If Satan can control your thought life, he can control all your life.’
This is what happened to the prodigal.
“Dad, you are just too strict. I want to enjoy life, like so many of my friends. Their parents don’t set so many rules for them. And church? That is not for me. I’m tired of listening to that old preacher. He just doesn’t want us to have any fun. So, I’m out of here.”
The Biblical term for temptation has a couple of meanings in the Bible, depending on how it is used. It can speak of a test. But it has a primary meaning of, ‘a solicitation to evil.’
Solicitations to evil is Satan’s playground. When you are undergoing a temptation, this a sign that you are under attack. Satan is at work on your mind through whatever means is necessary. He wants you to continue to dwell on something that he is directing attention to. It will usually be something that stirs your desires.
Satan uses reasoning to try and disarm you.
Temptation is Satan’s Weapon of Allurement
Listen carefully to what James said about temptations -
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. “ (Jas 1:13-16)
Did you catch it? Don’t ever say that God is in a thing, when you are being tempted in a area that you know is Biblically wrong. There are no exceptions. God never tempts with evil. He would never lead a believer to do something that is contrary to his Word.
So, where is the temptation coming from. James said the believer is being ‘carried away and enticed by his own lusts.’ Satan is keying in on something that a believer is entertaining in his own mind.
The word ‘entice’ in Greek means to catch a fish by bait or to hunt with snares. The temptation means that a hunter is at work. The hunter will keep working the enticement until it gives place to the birthing of sin.
What happens if the believer is snared? The believer is now eating with the pigs, and wondering how he got there in the first place.
Keep in mind what James said, ‘[The believer is being] carried away.’
How, then, are we to deal with temptations. Here are some admonitions.
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Mat 26:41) — Notice that temptation is something that is entered into. It has to be real or there would be no entering. Jesus was tempted by Satan, but always without sin. So, always keep in mind who is doing the tempting.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1Co 10:13) — There will always be a point of escape. Its up to you to take it.
“… the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment…” (2Pe 2:9) — If you have fallen under strong temptation, turn to the Lord. He knows exactly how to rescue you. He will make a way when there doesn’t seem to be a way. Jesus is the -Way-Maker’.
These are a few of the Biblical warnings and provisions with regard to temptations. Then we have this very special instruction from the apostle in how to avoid temptations in the beginning.
It comes under the banner of …
Learning to Take Every Thought Captive
Here are some of Paul’s basic instructions. Pay close attention -
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2Co 10:3-5)
Did you catch it? Spiritual warfare is a thing of the mind.
But there is something I must add. The key to victory is two-fold, repentance and learning to look to Jesus in every instance.
In the New Testament, the original word for repentance means to change your mind. In the former testament, it means to change your direction. Put these together and you have a true walk of victory over temptations.
Just as an additive – The ancient people of God believed that repentance was a form of worship. It meant making many turns in life, and with each adjustment you make, the Lord accepts it as worship.
Think on these things. The Lord will give you a better understanding.
Here is a wonderful song that can minister to you heart and mind.
“Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming.
“Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. She said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’
“Then she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.
“Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen 24:63-67)
Of late, I’ve had a number of readings on the original entry, ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’. Because of this, I felt it carried a message that would be worthwhile to give it again. This rendering will bring it up to date, with some minor adjustments.
But before I share it again, I want to urge all my readers – If you have experienced pain and even shame in your married life, please, once again, take time to renew yourself to the Lord. God’s love and forgiveness is for you. And, no matter what happened in the past, now is the time to pick up your life. Begin afresh with a total heart dedication to the Lord Jesus.
And now we begin -
This entry is for you guys and gals who need the romantic stirrings of your heart to be in the right place. Let’s talk about God’s gifts of maleness and femaleness.
The two most beautiful love stories in the Bible are those of Ruth and Boaz, and of Isaac and Rebecca. Each story is a prophetic picture of the love of Jesus for His Church. But they are also stories that apply individually to God’s people through the ages. There is so much more I would like to share but this will give us a start.
Let’s begin with Adam and Eve. Here is what the apostle wrote,
“ … for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. … This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Eph 5:29-33)
God’s gift of maleness and femaleness
God’s ancient Hebrew people were instructed not to be like the pagan nations around them. The Hebrews were to place the highest value on marriage. Men were to hold their wife in great favor. She was said to be God’s greatest gift to the man.
They taught that God was especially careful when he brought a man and woman together in a marriage. This is why the Hebrews often spoke of God as the great Shadchan. (‘Marriage maker’.)
Of course sin always mars the picture. As the Church became more institutionalized with this came some strange notions about marriage. Celibacy began to be promoted as the perfect life style. Over time this led to a celibate priesthood for the Roman Catholic system. But this was never God’s purpose for His people, not in the former testament or in the
From the beginning the rule of God was, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
But these strange teaching were in place. For example in some early writings there came this strange notion about the act of love in marriage. One writer went so far as to say that the Holy Spirit would leave the room during this time because the Spirit was embarrassed.
Not so with God’s people. The act of love in marriage was considered to be sacred. The Hebrews even referred to it as ‘the Sabbath delight.’ It was expected that this sanctified time would especially be in place on the Sabbath as well as at other times.
Anyway, back to the issue of…
Is God Involved in Marriages
This may seem odd, but there are Scriptures that do point to God’s involvement with the marriages of His people. Proverbs 19:14, says,
“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers,but a prudent wife is from the Lord.“
Then we have this in Ecclesiastes 9:9;
“Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting lifewhich He has given to youunder the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”
Even the apostle Paul reflects on God’s gracious gift of the woman, when he says,
“For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God;but the woman is the glory of man.” (1 Co 11:7)
What a strange statement - ‘the woman is the glory of the man.’
The Greek term for ‘glory’ speaks of an outshining, that is, the woman will bring her goodness into the life of her husband.
The apostle is using the language of the Hebrews. For example Proverbs 12:4 says,
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”
Togetherness in the Lord
In my younger years when I worked for the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on my desk I had a plaque which read, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”(Proverbs 31:30)
I began to realize very early in our marriage just how special that Betty was in my life. She has been like a crowning jewel. While we have enjoyed forty-nine plus years of marriage, we both have wished that the Lord would bring us home together. Neither of us can imagine being without the other. (Who knows.)
This reflects on God’s original intention. Adam and Eve were created as co-regents, not as servant and master, yet with the human family heading up in Adam. It is important to understand this in its true sense. Paul and Peter touch on this in the new covenant.
Paul says that in Christ there is neither male nor female. His point had to do with God’s work of salvation in that no one is greater or lesser when it comes to God’s gift of grace. This doesn’t mean there are no roles of accountability.
Peter also brings this out. Listen carefully;
“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Pe 3:7)
Here is what needs to be noted from Peter:
(1) The woman is a weaker vessel. (Physical strength. God made her that say. )
(2) The woman is to be honored as a fellow heir the grace of life. (Not as an inferior person. She is his equal.)
(3) The man’s prayers will not be answered if he fails to take these instructions to heart.
The Godly Marriage
None of this takes away from the differing roles of the man and woman. The apostles were careful in this area to let us see how God’s original purpose for the man and the woman has never changed.
The Bible says both Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. But Adam was created first and as such, had covenant responsibility (headship) for the family of man.
However, in his relationship to Eve, Adam was not to be without Eve, and Eve was not to be without Adam. Each had a role to fulfill. Each had certain natural gifts that were theirs in particular. It would take both Adam and Eve to fully express what the term ‘made in the image’ really means.
Since we already know that Adam was given covenant headship, let’s take a closer look at what Eve’s role was in relationship to covenant. Here again we need to see the bigger picture.
Eve’s Role as Ezer
There are mysteries in the Adam-Eve story that reflect on the total of God’s eternal story. I’ll skim just a bit.
Genesis 2:20, says,
“…there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
Two words are important. First is the Hebrew word for ‘helper. The Hebrew word ’ezer‘ is similar in some respects to the Greek word, ‘parakletos‘.
As you know ‘parakletos‘ is applied to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you anotherHelper ['parakletos'], that He may be with you forever.”(John 14:16)
Ezer is an interesting word in that it also carries the idea of freshness, or someone who provides help in difficult situations. To means to run under, come to the aid of, to help, support, to relieve in difficulty or distress. It is a very strong word.
The root for this word is found it most Semitic languages. For example in Ugaritic, it means to rescue and save. (It is often used in a military sense.)
When the Lord said there was no one who could serve as a helper to Adam, you have to keep in mind what this role really meant. And if men truly understood the gifting given to the woman (wife), never again would they look on her as being inferior in any sense.
A Woman Suitable
Then we have the word, ‘suitable.’ This is also an interesting word. Listen carefully men –The Hebrew word, neged, literally means, ’in sight of,‘ or, ’opposite to.’ It means she is to be, ‘in your sight.’ (And not some other woman in your sight.)
So Adam needed someone whose gifting was a companion gifting to make up for His own lack in areas. The Lord designed Adam where he could not be a lone ranger.
Next we find the Lord putting Adam into a deep sleep. The Hebrew term for ’deep sleep‘ is not often used. It is close to a death word, in which consciousness of life is not present.
The point is that Adam had to die to his own life as it was, that is, to his aloneness, so that God could give him, ‘his other self,’ Eve. This speaks to us in that the husband has to die to his own selfish ways to know the value of someone precious in his life.
A Reflection of the Church born out of Death
The church was born out of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was the joy that was set before Christ that caused Him to endure the cross.
Here is where we see not only some of the wonderful mystery of Christ and the church, but also the wonder between a godly man and his wife. (Learn this men, and you will learn how to enjoy life with the woman who you love.)
Let’s follow this triple lesson.
God presents Eve to Adam.
God presents the Church to Christ.
God presents the wife to the man.
All this is contained in the Adam-Eve story.
But keep in mind one thing in particular. God required Adam to die before He would give him Eve.
So men, is it possible that the Lord wants us to die to our own self-centeredness before we can truly know the wonder and beauty of our wives?
Merging not Submerging
It is so important to understand how the gifting of maleness and femaleness work. It is never a matter of submerging one’s life under another. It is a matter of merging of lives, where both lives count. One is not to be without the other.
It is as though when God created Eve, He took half of Adam’s life-gifting and placed them in Eve. Do we men not unconsciously reflect on this when we speak of our wives as our ‘better half’? Of course she isn’t better, just different in a good way.
Now we go a step further — Listen to the passage;
“The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.”
Do you see the beauty here?
God fashioned the woman Himself. He didn’t fashion her from the earth. He actually took a part of Adam, and fashioned Eve from that part. Not the head or toe, but from the heart area. She was always to be near his heart.
The very first words that Eve hears, are the words of Adam sanctifying her to himself. Here is how Adam sanctified Eve. He looks at her, and says,
“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”
Apply this to Christ and the church and get excited. We are the body of Christ. We are bone of His bone. Flesh of His flesh. And He doesn’t fill us full of fear. He sanctified us by driving our fears away. Adam had a perfect love for Eve. Jesus has a perfect love for the Church. What does perfect love do? It casts out all fear.
Sanctifying Your Wife
There is more to the story of sanctifying Eve. Because the Lord made her to be more fragile than Adam, and yet with powerful gifts that were hers alone, Adam was put in a place where he had to recognize Eve as God’s special gift to him. This meant he had to draw her back to himself, and she needed to hear him do so.
Husbands, it is so important that you learn to affirm your wife to yourself. (Holds with the wife also.)
Even in nature, God designed the male to be the one who courts. To sanctify Eve, Adam had to drive away her fears. Again this is exactly how Christ sanctified the church to himself.
Actually there is a sense in which the woman can perhaps serve as a type of the Holy Spirit. This is especially true when you consider her nature and gifts.
There is also a sense in which the man serves as a type of God’s Word. Both Word and Spirit are needed for life. (The woman provides the womb and egg. The man provides the seed.)
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)
Finally, when it comes to covenant issues, there is no stronger covenant working power on this planet than that of a man and his wife who are in spiritual union together. All the promises that relate to ‘two’ people doing something, find their greatest effect in the godly marriage.
For example, Jesus said,
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.”(Matt 18:19)
Think about it. Who is in a better place to experience the awesomeness of this promise aside from two people in a godly marriage?
So, husbands be sure to keep your Eve in your sight. Learn to hear from her. And wives, remember that you are a special gift from heaven. Learn to work with your gift and always with an attitude of humility and submission.
In the meantime time here is a song by the Christian artist, Michael Bolton. Listen to it and see where it fits in your life.
“Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother’s breasts.
“Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother’s womb.” (Psa 22:9-10)
I’ve often wondered about the Scripture that says the Lord will shorten the days for the sake of those who belong to Him. They sure seem to be getting shorter all the time.
But what did the Lord mean? Did He mean that the days will actually become shorter, while the natural process of time remains the same? Did He mean that because of the darkness that would invade the earth, that He planned to bring His people home before it gets much worse?
Those are just thoughts.
Anyway, here I am. This year I will be seventy-three, will have been married to my beautiful bride for fifty years, have three children, nine grand children, and three great-grandchildren. And when I look back over my life, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Where did the time go?’
But I can also look back and say, ‘He was there all the time.’
Oh, I’m not complaining, mind you. Fact of the matter is, that in spite of the trials and troubles, in spite of my many failures and mistakes, in spite of my sinful digressions, yet I can truly say that my walk with the Lord has been both wonderful and mysterious.
Yes, I can say truthfully say with David, that the Lord who brought me forth from my mother’s womb, has been in my life all the time. And the truth be known…
It Really Hasn’t Been That Long
Here is the mystery part – Even as a young man, when I declared myself to be an atheist, He was there.
And when I was hitting the bars at every port, and doing all the seedy things in life that sailors are often found doing, He was there.
I can now look back over my seventy-two years of life, and see that God had a course in place for me. And from the time my mother taught me to pray, and I first became conscious of the Lord God, on to this very day, it is without question that God’s providence has overseen every moment and detail of my life.
I case you are wondering, what I am describing is not simply about me. I am telling the story of every child of God.
Don’t misunderstand the things I’ve shared. God was never the cause of my sins and failures. I did that well enough on my own. But God had His plan in place, and in every event of my life, He was always there to help me work things through.
Some give me a puzzled look when I tell them that I’ve enjoyed getting older. Oh yes, I carry in my heart the knowledge that one day life on this side of heaven will be complete. And in my heart I carry God’s validation of heaven.
I began this entry with a quotation from David, about God having been his God from his mother’s womb. It is also David who gives us the deeper insights in a believer’s sojourn in life.
He does this in Psalm 139. Perhaps it would do well to meditate on what David had to say.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
“You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
“If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
“And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
“When I awake, I am still with You. O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psa 139:1-24)
Just some things to think about.
And as is my custom, why not take time to listen to this wonderful gospel song. Surely the Lord will speak to your heart.
I have over 700 articles of study on the web. Many of them can be viewed under my ’500+’ blog menu. Other studies are scattered about the web. However, in my Journal ‘archives’, I have about 275 studies available.
With this in mind, I felt it would be good to share with my readers the Journal entries have received the greatest notice. The way I selected the Journal entries, was by seeing which entries had received the most recommendations.
(Recommendation does not speak of direct readers. My direct readership so far this year is over 45,000. Recommendations refer to how many times the entry has been sent to other groups.)
The reason I wanted to do this was to give my readers an opportunity to view the entries they may have missed.
The first list is made up of the top ten entries, beginning with the entry most recommended. (I include the several times an entry has been recommended, after the entry number.)
Afterwards, I’ll show a second list of ten that also received a number of recommendations. (Just click on the web site to view the study.)
Click on the website of each entry and it will show up.
“Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’S house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.” (Eze 10:18-19)
“The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.” (Eze 11:23)
“Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. … And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east.”(Eze 43:1-4)
“Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east … “ (Zec 14:3-4)
The Eastern Gate of the old city of Jerusalem has been known by many names, the ‘Beautiful Gate’, the ‘Golden Gate’, the ‘Gate of Mercy’, and in Arabic, the ‘Gate of Eternal Life.’
This is said to be the gate that Jesus passed through in fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “…your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey…”
“When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’
“And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.’
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.
“And He said to them, ‘It is written, “MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER”; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
“And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.
“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant.” (Mat 21:10-15
The Glory Left the Temple
Why did the chief priest become so indignant? Their rage had mounted, but they became especially furious in hearing the children, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The children were calling Jesus, God’s Messiah. The ‘Son of David’ was well accepted by the Jews as an expression that applied to the Messiah, as a descendant of David.
Jesus left the temple, and went to the Mount of Olives. It was in returning the next morning, that we find, ‘an acted out prophecy.’
“Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it,
“‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’
“And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?’” (Mat 21:19-20)
The withered fig tree was a prophetic telling of Israel. Not long hence, Jerusalem and the Temple would lie smoldering in fires of destruction. Israel would bear no more fruit for the kingdom.
The Lord also used a parable in addressing this very issue of Israel bearing no more fruit, in speaking to certain of the religious the Jewish leaders -
“Jesus said to them,’Did you never read in the Scriptures, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES”‘?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.’” (Mat 21:42-43)
When the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus Christ as God’s true Messiah, they were rejecting the very Glory of God. It was the glory of God’s Son was leaving the temple.
Paul speaks to this:
” … but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; …
“… for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.“ (1Co 2:7-8)
This brings me back to interesting insights about the Eastern Gate.
Stories of the Gate
Some years ago when Betty and I were in Israel, I stood before the Eastern Gate, and thought about the various prophecies about the gate. (The foundations of the original gate are deep in the earth.)
There are interesting stories about the Eastern Gate and the Mount of Olives. Here are various writings that are quite interesting.
Not long before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, we have this report from a Talmudic Midrash -
“Jewish historical records state that the Shekinah glory departed the Temple at that time and remained over the mount of olives for three and a half years, during which time, a voice could sometimes be heard coming from the mount pleading for the Jews to repent. See Midrash Lamentations 2:11
There are other legends, and myths, and historical and prophetic insights behind the Eastern Gate.
According to Jewish tradition, the Shekinah (Divine Presence or Glory of God), use to appear at this gate, and would come again with the Messiah.
Both the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (37-100 ad.), and the Talmudic Rabbis, call attention to the strange happenings in Jerusalem, prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 ad. Josephus records this:
During the Feast of Unleavened Bread in 66 A.D. … around midnight, during the Feast, the huge eastern gate of the inner court of the temple … opened on its own. … … this was understood by knowledgeable men to mean that the Temple’s protection had vanished … this sign foreshadowed the disaster that was coming on them (Wars IV,5,3).
During the night portion of the day of Pentecost in 66 A.D., as the priests were entering the inner court of the Temple, they felt a quaking and heard a great noise and a sound like a great multitude of voices saying, “Let us remove hence”.
It is said that, just before the Roman’s final siege of Jerusalem, that this light which appeared over the Mount of Olives disappeared into the heavens.
When the Glory Returns
What makes all this so strange, is that Josephus and the Rabbis were speaking after the fact. The things they recorded were fulfilled and will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Regardless of how technical we wish to be with regard to end time prophecy, one thing is clear. The glory of God will not return to Israel until the nation as a whole, and its Jewish leadership, begins to call upon and publicly acknowledge Jesus Christ as both, Son of David, Son of God, Redeemer, Lord, Savior, Messiah, and all that pertains to the truth of who He really is.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!
“Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’“ (Luk 13:34-35)
From all that we see happening in the world today, that day of calling upon the Lord is not long to come.
Oh yes, it is going to happen. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles all affirm this in one voice.
With all this being said, I wish to admonish those who take to themselves the name, ‘Christian.’ It is time to get your house in order. There is nothing I can add to that.
While you think on these things, you may wish to take time for this narrative music. It is lengthy but well worth the listening. Let the Lord inspire your heart by His Spirit …
“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joe 2:28-29)
Have you ever had a discouraging moment? Sure you have. We all have. And yet it is often in these discouraging moments that we find the Lord speaking into our lives in a special way. He often allows us to see past the veil, that is, to see things the way He sees them.
Our first question would be, ‘What is the veil that God allows us to see past?’
Paul gave us an understanding of the veil that lies over the unbelieving heart.
“But their minds were hardened [The context has to do with those of the Jewish nation and leadership, who turned away from Jesus.]
“ … for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
“But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2Co 3:14-18)
What God allows us to see through the veil is three-fold. He let’s us see the beauty and the glory of Jesus. This is God’s transforming aspect of seeing past the veil.
God also lets us see our relationship to heaven by our oneness in Christ Jesus. This is that part of, ‘Nothing will ever separate you from My love.’
But He also lets us see our walk with the Lord, the way He sees us.
The Lord pulls back the veil often for every believer. We may not realize what is happening at the time, simply because the Lord has so many ways to minister to our hearts. It can be during a time of Bible devotion. It can be in a church service. It can be while we are traveling.
It could well be when you are standing before a mirror, getting ready for the day. Something is troubling you. But for some unknown reason, you begin to sing. That song is what the Bible calls, ‘a song of deliverance.’ It comes from the Lord.
When you look back over your life, you will recognize how often the Lord has been there. And in many instances it will happen during a time of struggle or a time of confusion.
Most of the music and songs the Lord has given me over the years, have come by way of God letting me see through the veil. Not necessarily during a time of struggle. Many times He is letting me see something wonderful about Jesus.
Been so long now that I don’t really remember what was happening at the time. Whatever the case, I must tell this story. It is one of the many times that the Lord allowed me to see things as He sees them.
It Was Just a Dream
In the dream I was crossing a large open field, heading for home. I had many miles to travel, and I was on foot. I just wanted to make it home. I felt so lonely.
The large open field was dry and brown. The grass had withered from lack of moister. There was no life in it.
Then it happened. As I looked back across the field where I came from, I saw a group of people looking at me. They kept looking up at me and then at the ground. What are they looking at? Why are they pointing at me?
What I saw next startled me. Looking back across the field, I saw that each of my footsteps had green grass springing up in it. Yes, it was just a dream.
That was it. In that dream, God was showing me something that I could not see with my natural eyes.
He was letting me see things the way He sees them..
Seeing With the Eyes of Faith
God’s encouragements may not always come in the form of a dream. As I shared earlier, the Lord has many ways of speaking to us. Where we see discouragement, God let’s us see our victory in Christ.
And so, when we begin to feel so unworthy, God says, “You are My child. I have plans for your life. Don’t be discouraged.’
Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul instructed us to take care about judging a brother or a sister. In writing the Corinthians, Paul said,
“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1Co4:5)
But Paul also spoke of the eternal vision that the Lord gives His people. Moses had it. David had it. All the prophets had it. And God’s children today are also given eternal vision.
Note what is says of Moses:
“By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.“ (Heb 11:27)
Now listen to Paul:
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while …,
“…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Co 4:16-18)
My best advice to any believer is simple -
Don’t Look at Things As They Appear to Be
The Lord has a road map for your life. God knows every struggle you will ever face. His plans for you are far greater than you could ever imagine. The apostle said that your every struggle is serving a purpose of eternal glory.
In closing out this devotional study, I want to share with you a prophecy given to David. The prophecy is Messianic. It speaks of Christ and the covenant life that the Lord God has provided for each of His children.
Take time to savor each thing that David has to say. The Lord wants to speak to your heart –
“Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel,
“The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, ‘He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.’
“Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and secured; for all my salvation and all my desire, will He not indeed make it grow?” (2Sa 23:1-5)
Well, that’s it for now. Please take time for this song. It’s about your life in Christ Jesus.
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Luk 15:4-6)
Did you know that there is a special class of angels assigned to oversee the children of God? Their Hebrew name is, ‘Malakim Panayim.’ [Malakim is plural for angels, that is, angel messengers or angelic envoys. Panaim means, presence or the face.]
These angels are called ‘angels of the face or presence’, because of their association with the throne of God. They carry with them the very presence of God. The presence of God speaks of holiness. This is why they are also called ‘holy angels’. They are directly associated with the holiness of God.
The angels Michael and Gabriel are of this group.
“The angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.’” (Luk 1:19)
There are many orders or groupings of God’s holy angels, and each group of angels has their own governmental structures, called ‘principalities and powers’. All of the angels are much aware of God’s children on earth.
However, it seems that the malakim panayim are given special assignments to oversee to the affairs of God’s children. We see this when Jesus warned the world about causing one of God’s children to stumble. In giving the warning the Lord drew attention to the malakim panayim:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 18:10)
There is much about angels that we don’t understand. That they are greatly involved in our lives is well documented throughout the testaments. The term angel or some variation is found well over 200 times in the Bible.
Here are some things about angels that are good to know.
God’s angels carry in them the spirit of holiness. This is important to understand because Satan’s world is a dark, sin filled world. And while Satan and demons try to present themselves as angels of light, they can only carry in them darkness. They promote sinful living. Holiness belongs to God alone.
The term holiness also associates itself with the term power. The Holy Spirit provides God’s people with the power to live holy lives.
“Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’” (Isa 6:2-3)
Angels can draw near to believers in order give strength of holiness in times of great need. We see this in the Lord’s earthly walk. And since we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus, we can expect the same strengthening in our own lives.
“‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.” (Luk 22:42-43)
Angels even prepare us for our journey home. They accompany us.
3. As messengers of God, angels can appear in various forms. Believers have often encountered angel visitations without realizing it. (More than we know.)
Angel visitations have a purpose with regard to a believer’s walk with the Lord. Not only for protection, but their message can be a message of hope, of encouragement, of direction, or anything else that would benefit the believer in times of stress.
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:1-2)
There is so much more to be said about the work of angels. But let me draw attention to another issue for the sake of this study. Angelic activity is not merely about taking care of God’s ‘good’ children. It is about taking care of God’s children, whether or not we have missed the mark of goodness.
This brings me to ….
Angels and God’s Straying Children
Every child of God carries in their heart, ‘the seal of redemption.’ All of heaven recognizes the seal. The seal speaks of God’s ownership. It simply means, ‘This is a child of God.’
And while we are instructed to live our lives with a view to godliness, there will be times when we stray away from a proper walk with the Lord.
Take special note of these Scriptures –
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Isa 53:6)
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
“When he has found it, he lays it on hisshoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Luk 15:4-6)
“‘They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’” (Jer 31:34)
” … after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:13-14)
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (Joh 10:27-28)
Let’s continue with this last area. It has to do with…
God’s Saving Place
The cross is our dying place and our living place. It is our forgiving place and our victory place. We are to learn to live our lives from both the victory of the cross, and from the power of the cross.
Angels are deeply involved in the outworking of the cross in every believer’s life. As servants of God, their work is to render aid to the heirs of salvation.
“But to which of the angels has He ever said, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:13-14)
Angels are very much aware of the law of the cross. It is found in one statement.
Listen carefully …
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.‘” (Rom 10:12-13)
The Lord said that if when we confess Him before men, He will confess us before the Father and His holy angels. And the angels watch over all the confessors of Jesus Christ.
Yes indeed – Angels are very much involved in the working of salvation in our lives.
Now for your blessing, take time to listen to Candy Christmas as she sings, ‘Lord, Send Your Angels.’
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Mat 7:6)
“So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
“And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!’” (Luk 15:14-17)
At the beginning of my ministry this past Sunday, I asked the question, “Why eat with the pigs when you can dine with the King.”
The goal of my ministry was to reach out to those of God’s children who have strayed into the world. The child of God who strays over into the world will soon become spiritually disoriented. The reason is that it is contrary to the nature of a child of God to feed with pigs. God’s children are likened to sheep. Their food comes from heaven.
Jesus lays out this scene of the straying child in the story of the son who wanted to be on his own. The son went out into the world to live a life as he pleased. In the end he found himself living with the pigs. It was only when the son came to his senses, that he realized how far he had strayed from where he belonged.
The end of the tale of the straying son is that he does return into the arms of his loving father.
The issue of straying is also laid out in other Scriptures. The apostle Paul speaks of this in his writings. Listen:
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1Ti 6:10)
“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.“ (2Ti 2:24-26)
My message Sunday wasn’t limited to the straying believer. It included insights into the new covenant of Christ. You may wish to hear about a special class of angels who can bring strength into your life. You may wish to hear about a Father’s love that will allow no child of God to be separated from His love, even the straying child who has fed with the pigs.
For the benefit of readers who would appreciate hearing the message, here it is. It is titled, ‘A Covenant for Little Children.’
“How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance.
“In Your name they rejoice all the day, and by Your righteousness they are exalted.” (Psa 89:14-16)
We returned from another trip to Branson, Missouri. I love Branson. You get to see and hear the most talented people who planet earth has to offer. And most everything you see and hear has a Christian motif to it.
The highlight of the trip for me was getting to listen to four marvelous and talented young people, the group, ‘Southern Raised’. These young people have a bluegrass sound that is uniquely theirs. If you love Celtic music, Irish ballads, and mountain music, you will fall in love with ‘Southern Raised’.
Many people are not aware of the background of bluegrass music. Bluegrass has its roots in the early Irish, Scottish, and English settlers of the Appalachia mountain region. That is why bluegrass is often called ‘mountain music.’ The settlers brought their traditional music with them. The music has been characterized as, ‘Scottish bagpipes’ and old-time fiddling.
What makes it even more interesting is that over time, bluegrass music carries with it a blending of African-American music. So, what do we have in bluegrass? We have wonderful music that speaks of our traditional American heritage.
How about a medley of ‘Southern Raised,’ music. See what you think. Might even get a bit of foot tapping a going. [Here is their web site: http://southernraisedbluegrass.com/]
Would it be great to have Southern Raised make their introduction to Central Louisiana. What do you think?
OK, what this about…
New Additions to the Family
I’m talking about new additions of stringed instruments to the Buddy Martin collection. Don’t rightly know how many guitars I’ve had, including the ones I’ve passed on to my kids. Making a quick count in my office, I see eight guitars of different orders, two banjos, a mandolin, and a couple of harmonicas.
This is where ‘Southern Raised’ put the bug in me for more bluegrass mountain music. So, off to the ‘Cedar Creek Dulcimers’, music story in Branson, we go. Wow, what a great place! Cedar Creek provides ‘Handmade in the Ozarks’ dulcimers, along with other stringed instruments.
Well, I did it. Here is a picture of my mountain dulcimer.
Of course with my grandson Jared, I watched him closely to see if I could catch a glimmer in his eye towards a bit of mountain music, You know what I mean. I wanted to see if he had the inkling towards the dulcimer.
Yep, I saw it. The gracious owner of Cedar Creek Dulcimers, showed Jared a bit on the dulcimer, and that grandson of mine began picking and a strumming like it was a natural.
Good investment. I made sure Jared had one in his hands. And we got to listen to Jared play his dulcimer in the car on our way home.
But then, I also got to thinking about Zach, our Yorke back home. Zach had nothing to play, so I decided to get him a ukulele.
Here it is…
But the truth be known, I have a love for almost every kind of music, from classical to Spanish, and everything in between. (Not rap – Never could see any music in it.)
Yet there is something about Southern Gospel and bluegrass that stirs my heart deeply.
Guess it goes back to my early years when I bought my first guitar. It was a Sears and Roebuck Silvertone.
The one record I played over and over was, ‘The Cattle Call’, by Eddy Arnold.
Even learned how to yodel. (No, I’m not going to embarrass you or myself by seeing if I can still yodel.)
OK, enough of that. Guess the only thing I have left is to let you hear what dulcimer music sounds like.
“Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.’
“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’
“Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion.
“Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.
“The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God.” (Isa 52:6-10)
I believe that every congregation of Christian believers is unique in their own right. But I can only speak for the ministry that my wife and I founded in 1976. Many people don’t realize just how special and unique Christian Challenge International really is.
This past Sunday we celebrated our 37th Christian Challenge Homecoming Jubilee. There are never enough words to express the wonderful time we had. It really was past wonderful!
The day was filled with awesome worship, with special singing, with the Biblical dance, and dramas, and dinner-on-the-grounds. We had old-timers and new-timers there. What a joyful time. Guess what I love most of all is seeing how Christian Challenged has developed into a strong spiritual family through these many years.
As part of the celebration, Nathan asked Betty and me to share our testimonies. Afterwards he spoke about the DNA of Christian Challenge. I thought perhaps my readers would like to see that part of the celebration.