Category Archives: Thoughts from the place of prayer

Finding God in Suffering III: Finding Hope

Resurrection -1465- by Piero della Francesca

            In my previous entry I discussed how we can find Jesus in our suffering and how He is with the sufferer. He is in the very midst of their pain and anguish. Isn’t that what a lover does? A lover wants to be with their beloved wherever they may be, even if it is in the mud or out in freezing cold fighting to live. A lover wants to be with their beloved even in the midst of their trials. That is what St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote on love:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love…5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So if God is love then these things that Paul mentions about love are really definitions of who God is and consequently examples of His interactions with His beloved. But today’s blog is not about how God is with His beloved in the midst of suffering but about finding hope in suffering, so where to begin? Well let’s begin where we left off with our last blog, with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in the place of pain that God is shouting to us that something is wrong. Something is incredibly wrong with the world and the way things are happening that needs a drastic change. For example you don’t have to tell the child with a stomach ache that something is wrong, they already know. They know that something is wrong and that their sickness is probably not going away until they run to mommy. Now can mommy make the sickness go away? No, but she can diagnose it and find out that the child stayed up each candy to all hours of the night and now they are sick.

Now just as the child knew that they are sick when we experience suffering the pain we are experiencing is telling us that something is wrong, and just like the child we can respond in one of two ways hide in our pain and try to numb it and ignore it or we can tell mommy, or in our case God. Our suffering is as Lewis put it God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is God’s way to tell us that the pain the woman feels each night as her husband beats her is not right. The pain people experience in life is His indicator to us that something is wrong, thus meaning if God is God then that means He has a better plan. What is this better plan? Well in a single word it is resurrection.

Resurrection or rather rebirth is ultimately a new beginning. It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It is the beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start for humanity and yet still so much more. It is the end of suffering and triumph over all of humanity’s enemies. It is the end of sorrow and beginning of unending joy and peace, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, so let us dig deeper.

So where did this rebirth begin? Where will this end or rather when will it culminate? Well it began two thousand years ago when Christ conquered death and became the first fruits of new life. Christ the first fruits having thrown down the principality of death becoming the first born of the dead, the first to enter into the new birth has paved the way for humanity to follow; however, the story does not end there. But what does that entail? Is it merely a spiritual new life or is it physical as well? Is this “new life” better than the original? Well let’s begin with the spiritual side.

New Birth: Spirit

At the point of spiritual new birth, that which comes through salvation, the spirit begins the sanctification process that ultimately is the freeing from the internal bondage. What does that look like? At the point of salvation man’s spirit begins to change through the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit who now lives within to guide in the paths of righteousness. On top of this the Spirit begins to bring freedom to our spirits from the bondage and sufferings that have befallen us for so long because of sin. So what does this mean in less spiritual jargon? Well as the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us in righteousness we begin to stop saying yes to sin; which in the Christian mindset is the root of suffering. At the point of salvation the sinner is now both freed from the bondage of sin and becoming free as well. As we sin less we are ultimately creating less suffering for us and for others, though this does not mean the Christian is now free from suffering, but quite the contrary as the Christian is ultimately now creating less suffering.

Along with the decreasing of desire for sin in the sinner’s new birth into Christianity, the new Christian begins to walk the path of freedom from those things that had so long entangled them during their estrangement from God. These things being and not limited to: addictions to drugs, smoking, alcohol, sexual immorality, freedom from self hatred, narcissism, ect. However contrary to the more Post-Modern American Evangelical mindset it is not some instantaneous change from a sinner to a great holy Christian, nor is it some state of immediate freedom from ones struggles. Though some may experience some supernatural freedom from past struggles or massive leap in the sanctification process it is still a process that will continue throughout the entirety of ones life.

Now the last aspect to the new birth of the spirit is the end of alienation. No longer does the sinner remain alienated from God, but through salvation and the new birth of the spirit the Christian can now enter into blessed fellowship with God through the indwelling Spirit.

Though there are more aspects to the spirit’s new birth these are three of the main ones, though one might argue for eternal life the Bible makes it clear that even the unrepentant will have eternal life but they will be living it out in the lake of fire. At the point of death of the body or of the resurrection of the dead then our spirits will be transformed into Christ’s likeness both in the body and in the spirit.

New Birth: Body

The new birth of the body is just as glorious as the spirits, though for many it is simply the end of death but it is so much more than that, so let’s delve deeper. Unlike the new birth of the spirit the body’s new birth does not begin at salvation but at the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.

So let us begin with the obvious death is no more, no longer will man be able to die. No longer will man be able to suffer pain, sickness or any infirmity. This invulnerability to death and suffering is for those who are in Christ alone; as for those outside of Christ they will receive some form of an eternal body, but unlike those in Christ theirs can and will experience suffering.

There is much that shrouds the capabilities of the resurrected body but what we can safely assume is that whatever Jesus did with His and even what Adam and Even could do pre-fall we can do. That means when we work, yes we will still work, we won’t sweat. Work won’t be hard unlike it is now. Our minds quite possibly could be enhanced to where we are able to tap into 100% of our brains instead of only part. This idea can be seen in Adam’s ability to name every animal and manage the garden. We won’t experience shame or even self hatred concerning our bodies; this does tie in with the new birth of our spirits. Just as Jesus ate, we will eat. Unlike the Greek Gnostic mindset that says the body, work and all of physical reality is bad, the Biblical mindset says that the physical reality is Holy which is why we get a New Body.

For many they tend to liken the abilities of the resurrected body to that of modern day superheroes and though they may appear similar they are still completely different. Now concerning walking through walls, though it is possible scripture does not support this idea. Jesus never walked through walls, but rather it says Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst.”John 20:26. So how did He get in there? Well it was most likely more like He was translated just like Philip in Acts 8:39. Jesus on another occasion is translated from one place to another on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:31. Lastly how else could He see 500 people in 40 days, unless He could translate? Finally can the resurrected body fly? Though Jesus does ascend to heaven and is supposed to come riding on the clouds, that does not completely constitute flight. It merely shows that God was and will be demonstrating is superiority over the world. Does that mean we won’t fly no? No, it simply means we cannot assume anything other than it will be both glorious and perfect.

So in summary, what will the new birth of the body look like? Perfect.

New Earth

Presently we live in a fallen world where chaos, anger, death and corruption run rampant, but the New Earth will be completely the opposite. Just like the resurrected body the New Earth will in many ways return to the way things once were. Well what does that look like? Well there is peace; humanity lived in perfect harmony with all of creation. The soil was soft and not hard, the animals were not trying to kill them and there were no destructive storms in the land. Yes even the weather itself was in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. So if that was what creation looked like on the earth pre-fall we can only assume it will be at the least be the same if not better, which it will be.

Since the fall creation has groaned; for ever since humanity was thrust into exile from paradise they have waited, longing for alienation to end. Ever since the resurrection humanity has been freed from their estrangement from God and a New Exodus has begun, one that will culminate with all of creation finally reunited with God. For when Christ returns He will put to right all the wrongs as humanity’s exile comes to an end and the Father walks among His creation once more.

So what does the Bible say about the earth or rather New Earth as it says in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21? Well first there is a King named Jesus, but that goes without saying if you have ever read the scriptures, but for the sake of the one who has not read much I divulge more. In Psalm 89:3-4 David recalls the covenant that the Lord gave to him:  “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.”  So from the covenant the Lord has established the throne of David forever, thus if Jesus is the promised seed then there must be a throne. This is not some celestial, ethereal throne floating off in the cosmos but one on the earth. It is tangible.

However more than a King, there is also a Kingdom for a king is not a king without a kingdom; it is as simple as that. So what is this Kingdom? In a word it is perfect. So what is a Perfect Kingdom? For starters there is only peace. No longer will fear, anxiety and depression fill the streets. No longer will violence rage from nation to nation, for peace will overflow from the throne to the ends of the earth. This is what it means for Isaiah when he said: 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7 In short there will be peace all over the earth and it is will never end for there is not end to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom. Now does that mean that because there is no end to the increase of His Kingdom that we will take over the stars, planets and galaxies? It is unlikely that we will expand the Kingdom to the galaxies as the language is focusing on the fact that no other government could stop Christ’s Kingdom. To add on to this thought on the Kingdom there will no longer be wickedness or injustice for the One who sits upon the throne will uphold the perpetual peace through righteousness and justice for it is these two realities that are to be found as the foundation of His throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.” Psalm 89:14 No longer will there be an unjust or wicked king, no longer a flawed righteous king but a Perfect King who will always uphold righteousness and justice all throughout the Kingdom. Thus the poor will be fed, the homeless will be given a home, the orphan and widow a family, the leaders will no longer take bribes or be corrupt. Every sphere of society will be upheld by righteousness and justice. No longer will teachers pick their favorites and ignore the ones who are hard to educate. For when the Prince of Peace sits upon the throne the perfection of all things will go forth as justice and righteousness upholds all things.

Well if there is a Perfect King and Kingdom what about the rest of creation? Well for starters it is new or rather perfect. Contrary to popular belief in much of the church we will not be living in heaven on clouds as fat little cherub babies after this life, nor will we dwell before the Lord worshiping in heaven for all eternity. To go along with these false suggestions of the afterlife the current earth will not be completely destroyed, thrown away and thus replaced but it will be restored to perfection. Why? Well why not? Why would God who has done so much to save all of creation when it is all said and done just abandon His creation? What’s more what about the apocalyptic scriptures that don’t reference people but the land? So let’s look to see what Isaiah has to say concerning the earth: Isaiah 35:7 “The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water.” Isaiah 44:3 “I will pour out water on the thirsty land…” Isaiah 62:4 “…your land, ‘Married’; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.” God clearly has a heart for the earth as it is His desire to not only to revive that which has become barren and dead but He also desires to marry the earth. Even if you want to spiritualize the reviving of the earth as a spiritual revival then why would God say He will marry or rather become one with the earth? Why would He give the Israelites in Deuteronomy laws concerning the treatment and mistreatment of the land if He did not have both a heart and destiny for the Earth itself? So what is the earth’s destiny? Perfection.

To even go one step deeper there will be peace on the earth even among nonhuman creation. Once again let us peer into the eyes of Isaiah: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 Finally humanity will not live in fear of creation as there is peace among all creation. To quote Woody Allen “The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

How does the earth become perfect or new? Well it starts back with the King. When the King comes He will establish peace, righteousness and justice in the earth that will ultimately transform all creation. At the very end of His thousand year reign, He will have thrown down Death, Hades and the accuser of the brethren Lucifer. No longer will death take place in the earth, no longer will injustice continue and no longer will the oppression continue. In Zechariah chapter 14, Zechariah prophesies that the Lord will be king over all the earth and even goes on to talk about the rain and the cattle as if these two things are still needed, thus food and the harvest will continue. But if these things be true and if even the people of the earth are beating their swords into plowshares in order to farm then there must be a destiny for the earth. So what is the fire that will consume the earth? Well if you have ever read the Psalms or the Prophets then you will have noticed that on many different occasions the writers use the word fire as a means not for destruction but for purification. So if this be true then surely when the Bible says fire will consume the earth, then perhaps this is what it means. The fire of God will purify the earth unto perfection transforming it into a new look or rather a new earth. As N.T. Wright so eloquently once said “Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world.”

God All in All

So with a view of our hope being found in New Spirit, New Body and New Earth there is one last wondrous reality to consider; God will finally be all in all. Paul in his typical emblematic fashion paints the picture of the culmination of all things into perfection with this one small phrase: God will be all in all. O’ the bliss God and humanity will finally be one; the creator and His creation finally dwelling together in perfect unison. No longer will heaven be God’s realm and earth creation’s, but God and creation both humanity and nature will all be one. God will be glorified in complete perfection through all created order, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

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Justice, justice, all cry for justice!

crying-eye

Justice, justice, all cry for justice,
One child takes another child’s toy,
Not fair, not fair all cry not fair!
 
Father beats his child,
Child hides in closet,
Why me, why me, all cry why me!
 
She does all the work,
He gets all the credit,
Not right, not right, all cry not right!
 
The rich get richer,
The poor get poorer,
Corrupt, corrupt, all cry corrupt!
 
Politicians steal and take bribes,
The citizens suffer,
Foul play, foul play, all cry foul play!
 
Nation rages against nation,
Gang clashes with gang,
Violence, violence, all cry violence
 
Mom lies in bed, gasping and shivering,
Tears streaming down he watches her die,
Why God, why God, all cry why God!
 
Creation groans, creation waits,
As injustice increases, all cry to Him,
Return, Return, ALL CRY RETURN!

Finding God in Suffering II: Jesus With The Sufferer

Flagellation-of-christ-_Rubens

             Jesus is not just some philanthropist seeking to bail humanity out of their suffering but He is a lover seeking to draw near to His beloved in their suffering. These words ring throughout the depths of my soul; God desires to be with us in our pain and brokenness.

             “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion this is such a powerful statement Aslan tells Jill in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘the Silver Chair’” In the midst of our own brokenness we are blinded to our own need, though we may be aware to a degree of our need we truly have no clue just how broken we are. Just as the man blinded by complete darkness cannot see the dirt and filth that covers, we cannot see just how dirty we are. It is this reason why in John 1:5, 9 it says The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” As the world lay in deep darkness unaware of its need suddenly a great light pierced through the veil to enlighten the souls of man.

God looking upon humanity’s inability to draw near to Him out of their own blindness took it upon Himself to solve the problem of alienation between God and man Himself. The answer was Jesus, the very Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; God in flesh. The One who spent eternity past arrayed in light took off His garbs of glory and took on the garments of dust. The one who knew equality with God laid it all aside to draw near to the broken, consequently now knowing equality with broken humanity. Until we understand the depths of what He gave up for us, we will never truly know the greatness of His love towards us, but this will be touched upon in a future blog. As stated prior, if you are a lover then you want to be with your beloved in all things, even in their pain. This is what it means to be a lover, to be with them in the rejoicing and in the weeping.

So God looking down upon us in our anguish took it upon Himself be with us. Like Aslan calling to Jill before she even knew there was an Aslan, Jesus was coming to us before we ever knew there was a Jesus. The lover was coming to His beloved before she ever knew they were ever loved.

 Christ Suffers With Us

            Let us begin with the most iconic moment where Jesus suffers with humanity. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.7Then after this He *said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” John 11:5-7 The Bible tells us that Jesus had love and affection for His friend Lazarus; thus, hearing that His friend is sick decides to stay two more days and then go see His friend. Having kept a low profile with the Jewish religious leaders seeking to kill Him, takes two more days and then comes out of hiding to go see His friend whom He knows is now dead. Does Jesus know that Lazarus is going to die prior to the time He leaves? Who knows but what we do know is that He decides to wait in order to bring glory to the Godhead.

As Jesus shows up on the scene Martha comes running up to Him to say in summary “If you were here my brother would still be alive, but I trust that You could do something” in which Jesus responds “You have no clue what I am up to but I do love you which is why I am here.” Martha leaves and sends Mary to Jesus. As Mary comes running up to Jesus she falls at His feet in tears saying in summary “I know You could have done something if You had simply been here.” Jesus looking at His friend weeping at His feet and those that came with her weeping was both deeply moved and troubled. Why troubled? Well we will save that for another time. What we do know is that Jesus experiences sorrow and begins to weep within; this is what it means in the Greek by wept. It is not a loud sobbing but rather a silent weeping that is primarily an experience of internal sorrow. So Jesus in other words is not performing some outward weeping like the professional mourners who accompanied Mary, but as one whose heart was broken in deep pain. As a side note at the time there were those who people would hire to come and mourn at a funeral, these being called mourners. This is why the silent and more internal weeping that Jesus experienced was a true experience of sorrow, thus in the moment Jesus is entering Mary’s own suffering as well as Lazarus’ suffering.

Turning to the John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery being brought before Jesus for judgment. As all gathered to mock and condemn her as she wallowed in her shame before all to see; Christ knelt down beside her. As the upper echelon of religious elite sought to condemn her to death after she had experienced the fullness of shame possible, Christ did the unthinkable. The Great Rabbi adorned in fine garments got on his knees and played in the dirt. Though many have speculated what He was drawing whether He was writing their own sins or just doodling either way, whatever it was all their attention left the woman and moved to Christ. The religious elite no long looking and mocking the woman now with turned gazes stood bewildered at this Great Rabbi as His next words would leave them reeling to the point they would leave; yet, it was His drawing that moved her shame unto Him as the laughed at the “Great Rabbi” becoming the “Crazy Rabbi”.

Christ Enters into Suffering: Part I

            Jesus seeing that humanity was lost and broken and completely alienated from God became a man, lived thirty-three years and suffered death. However, though the cross was a painful experience it was His being cut off or separated from the Father that was the true pain. Jesus’ alienation from the Father began in Gethsemane and continued to build until it climaxed into total abandonment at the cross.

As Jesus entered into the Garden “He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He *said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” Mark 14:33-35 For as the hour approached for Jesus to head to the cross His soul was already deeply pained to the point of death, so much that He couldn’t bare for eight of his disciples to even see Him in His sorrowful state of weakness. Jesus though not wavering in His identity or in any way committing a sin was now facing His greatest temptation and greatest fear; fear of being separated from His Father, separation from an eternal relationship.

His heart rent with deep agony fell to the ground and began to groan in intercession. For it was that   Jesus is now being tempted in a way that He never truly experience, that was far greater than what He had ever experienced, even in the wilderness. Jesus is in such agony and pain as to what is to come that He is yelling, groaning and even sweating drops of blood. Why, because He is afraid. Sure He is about to experience the greatest beating and one of the most painful deaths imaginable that is not simply enough to cause Him to enter into this state. Many men have gone to the cross and died that were of less character than He and never once suffered the agony we see Jesus entering into. So what is He afraid of? Well for one reason though not nearly as dramatic as the primary but big enough is the fact of betrayal. Jesus after many hours of pursuing His best friend Judas’ heart at the last supper, in hopes to save him, knows that he is coming to betray him, which will ultimately lead to his own damnation. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) This is more than enough to break Jesus’ heart but still not enough to the point of His agony in Gethsemane even when paired to the sufferings on the cross.

Jesus in His agony yelled in deep sorrowful groaning “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36 Jesus is ultimately saying “Dad! I do not want to do this!!! Is there any other way? You are the most powerful and wisest person I know, PLEASE!!!! Have You found a new way? But if this is it…I will do it.” These prayers in the garden were not pretty eloquent prayers but groans of a man in complete terror, because of what is to come. Jesus is about to experience the wrath of God, Satan and Man that will ultimately lead to him being separated from God and Man.

Satan Wrath: This can be summed up in two ways. Satan is doing everything to keep Him from going to the cross, but also wants Him dead. Though the Bible does not openly acknowledge this, we can be sure that Satan is tempting Jesus in the Garden and all the way to the point off death to not go through with the cross. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 With Jesus undergoing His greatest fear we can be safe to say there was no greater fear to tempt Him. Along with this when Jesus says to Peter to “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 He was not simply telling them for themselves alone but also for Himself. His Spirit was in Full Obedience to the will of His Father, but His flesh was terrified and thus tempted. With this in mind the other aspect of Satan’s wrath is in the fact that he hates God so much that he wants to see Him suffer to the point of death. So both sides are crashing upon Christ’s frame. However the next two are even harder on Him.

Humanity’s Wrath: The ones Jesus loves and came to save are now betraying Him, mocking Him, beating Him, rejecting Him and are soon going to kill him.

God Wrath Fall Upon Him: As the sin of humanity descends upon Jesus His Father would release the full judgment upon His Son that would cancel the judgment destined for humanity, thus also leading the Father turning His back on the son and cutting off from fellowship with Him; this leaving the Son completely abandoned and ultimately an orphan. This being the greatest suffering He will ever experience, the suffering of abandonment from the One Who loved Him for eternity past.

            The writer of Hebrews states that because of Jesus’ piety the Father heard His cries and does respond in two ways the first being He sends angels to strengthen His Son in the Garden and the ultimate is that He truly did save Him from death, but not the way Jesus had hoped. The Father saved Him by death through the resurrection. But in between the two the Father does not say or do anything. Why do I say this? Well for one Jesus is praying three times in the Garden and the Father does not answer but only by sending angels, thus showing the estrangement from each other has begun. The ultimately display is when Jesus for the first time ever address God not as Father but as God when He cries out “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus no longer using the familial address of Father but is now taking on the cries of an orphaned heart saying ultimately “God where are You? Why have you have abandoned me and casted me out into darkness and silence?” Yet in His time of pain and abandonment He never gave up.

In His abandonment Jesus becomes cut off from an eternal relationship from His own Father; thus, bringing alienation to fullness. The Son becoming cut off went from an eternal relationship of always experiencing and feeling His Father’s love to being alienated and separated. It is for this reason why He was sweating blood in Gethsemane, because He knows what is to come and is terrified and does not want this. Thus Jesus experienced loneliness and can actually say “I know how the widow feels when they are lonely.” Think of you marrying the love of your life at 18 years old and you remain in married bliss for the next seventy years and now at 88 years old your spouse tragically leaves you because they no longer love you. Think of how traumatizing and painful that would be, then times that by ten billion and you still cannot touch the depths of the pain of the Father’s abandonment of the Son. This sorrow was experienced equally on both sides in different ways, but that is a point for a different time. It is this sorrow of abandonment and separation from His Father that stands alone and equal to all the suffering humanity has ever experienced combined.

Christ Enters Into Suffering: Part II

            As the story of the Gospels go on, Jesus is betrayed by His best friend whose breast He once leaned upon in fellowship just a few hours earlier. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) Jesus even at the last supper expressed the pain of what Judas’ betrayal through one of David’s Psalms as one of the greatest pains a person can experience. Side note the Gospels recognize Judas as a thief and Jesus was aware, thus Jesus suffered being robbed on multiple occasions even by His close friend. However; not only does Judas betray Him, but all of His friends abandon Him, Peter denies Him three times and Judas kills himself. This is alone is enough to break the strongest of hearts, yet Christ endures. While Christ is on trial He is beaten, mocked and spit upon constantly that leads to His crucifixion. The ones He loves and came to save would soon send Him to the cross to hang naked humiliation for all to see and mock. The betrayal of His own people was such a huge pain of suffering that one cannot fully grasp without a deeper understanding of His relationship with them throughout the Old Testament.

As already stated but while hanging on the cross Christ would soon experience the greatest suffering ever in all of history, the suffering of His abandonment from the Father. Yet even in the face of His abandonment Christ pressed on to endure one final suffering; He died. Jesus Himself declared about His own life in John 10:18 that “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” In other words if Jesus had never willingly went to the cross, because He makes it clear to Pilate that He could have delivered Himself if He had wished, but if He did not willingly die He would never die. Jesus could not die unless He allowed. But He is a man right? Yes, but even in His humanity because He had never sinned He was not subject to the curse of death. This meaning Jesus would still be alive preaching and doing miracles today if He had never died. Even more because He had never died, Jesus could not get sick, or grow to be an “old man” full of wrinkles, lose His eyesight, go bald or even go grey as all of those are consequences of sin. If you were to have never sinned, then you would not be bound by death and decay and all that accompanies, thus all the more important for Jesus to willingly lay down His life. With this in perspective Jesus suffering of death is far greater than even the average.

Jesus with the Present Day Sufferer

            When finding Christ with the present day sufferer few have said it better and clearer than C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and His Boy”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis.  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean?  I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and -”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.”  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.  “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to the shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” 

            So where was Jesus? Where was God in the Holocaust? Where was He when the child was being abused? Where was God during injustice? Where was He as present day humanity suffers?

Well He was with the prisoner in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. God was with the slaves being lynched during slavery. He was on His knees with the woman caught in adultery. He was with Mary and Martha in her sorrow at Lazarus’ grave. He was hanging on a cross with both thieves on Calvary. He was with the child hiding in their closet from their abusive father. He was weeping with the child whose parent(s) tragically died. He was with the single mother struggling to take care of her children. He was with young man filled with shame cause he was bound in sexual immorality. He was with the man who just couldn’t seem to get it right. He was with the one who could see everyone around them prospering with relative ease and they fought to keep going. He was with the one stuck in addiction. He was with the one who felt worthless. He was never distant and never will be distant from the sufferer but will always be right there with them.

            In summary I will leave you with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Lessons from Isaac in Sonship.

Isaac meets Rebekah

Walking in Confidence as a Son: Confidence in the now, with a hope for the future

When we think of what it means to be a son, let alone a confident son, too few struggle to comprehend this thought. Why is that? It is because we live in a generation where fatherlessness runs rampant all throughout America. I myself grew up without a father during most of my life, but does that mean I’m completely fatherless? Does that mean I am doomed to live out the role of the proverbial bastard? No! Why? Because there is One who has called me to be His Son…He has called us all.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…13 you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 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.” Ephesians 1:3-14

Before we were born there was One who desired to have us as His sons and daughters. Not only does He desire us, but He has taken care of everything for us to live out eternity as royalty being bathed in His unending love. All we have to do is say yes, believe and receive. However, we live in an age where the picture of what a father looks like is either greatly distorted or missing, so in short it is far easier said than done.

In Genesis 24 Abraham having been recently widowed, saw that his son Isaac had no wife of his own; thus, called his chief servant to his side. Abraham seeing that his son was sorrowful at the loss of his mother and having enjoyed his years with his son, desired that his son would have a family of his own before he passed away. Therefore he charged the man to go to the land of his fathers and bring back a bride for his son. Without anyone telling Isaac what had transpired the servant was off. As the servant traveled to the land of Abraham’s fathers in search for a bride for Isaac, Isaac continued on with the day-to-day in ignorance of what his father was up to.

With his father Abraham reaching the end of his days and his mother having already passed away, Isaac wanted to spend his time with his elderly father. Being fixated on serving and being with his father, Isaac would not be distracted by the cares of this world; even at forty years old he remained obedient in love to his father.

So it came to pass that as the servant returned with a beautiful, God-fearing virgin bride, Isaac went out to the field to pray. As Isaac unaware went out to meditate in the field toward the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. 64 Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. 65 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. 66 The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 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.

Isaac knew that His father desired him and had a destiny for him as well as an inheritance, and it was from that place he could walk in confidence. Even after forty years and having lost his mother, he could walk with his head up confidently knowing that his father loved him and had a plan and future planned for him. With unwavering confidence in his father’s love for him, he went up the mountain as a boy to be sacrificed and with unwavering faith in his father he went out to the field to meditate on the Lord.

This is what we are called to be, those like Isaac who are confident in their identity as sons and daughters. Today take time and ask the Father to declare to your heart His love for you and desires for you to have a future. For He has given to us the His Spirit as the down payment of our inheritance that is to come in Him; not only that but the Spirit testifies to our hearts who we are in the Father. So let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart today. He wants to encounter you, He wants you to be confident in His love for you just like Isaac was confident in Abraham’s love for him.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16

The Need for Students of the Word

The world waits in anticipation for the students of the Word of God to arise again. There are many in the world today with the questions and many of them are seeking the answers. If the church cannot adequately meet the questions with clears answers from the Word of God they will look elsewhere. Whether it is science, Islam, Buddhism or whatever the people are longing for “truth” even if it is tainted or false. For the one seeking intellectual/scientific proof of the existence of God the church must be ready to meet them with answers to their question. If the one is looking to find peace in a chaotic world the church must be there to meet them lest Buddhism or something else tries to. For some it could simply be why believe in Christianity when we have so many contradicting doctrines like Calvinism vs. Arminianism. This is why we must become students of the Word.

In an age where information is at the tip of your fingers, the need for students of the Word is grave. We can no longer live by quoting another’s point, but must search out the truths of God’s Word and know it for ourselves. I find that one of the reasons why atheism and religions like Islam are growing so fast is because believers are not grounded in the Word. Many in the western church have sought the excuse of “not being called” to not be ready or for others they just quote the pastor or another without knowing it for themselves. For the latter this is quite dangerous because when confronted with the questions and not being grounded in the Word, one not only will lose a chance to be a witness of the Truth, but can be susceptible to stumbling or even losing faith. For the former, though I do not believe all are called to be preachers or evangelists; I do believe that all are called to know God and when asked about Him all should able to respond. “…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  2 Timothy 4:2 Loving God is inseparable with knowing Him and talking to Him.

Loving God, being a man/woman of prayer, and being a student of the Word are one in the same. One cannot say that they love God but aren’t called to be a student of the Word nor pray. The idea is simply absurd. How can one say they love someone and not want to get to know them or spend time with them? We get to know Him by reading His Word for it is out path into knowing Him. The blessed scriptures are letters from God to us that we would know about Him and prayer is simply talking to Him about the letters and so much more. Well for the one who thinks that they just need to pray and love Jesus you still can’t do it without His word to spring-board you into deeper prayer. I have found for myself personally the more I read and study the word as well as the context of the scriptures my heart just explodes with love and affection for Him. Many times I have sat studying the context of a passage and before I even got into the words of the scriptures my heart was already overflowing just by understanding the context of the audience and the issues of the setting.

It would seem that two of the biggest struggles for many believers are that they don’t have the Word of God and many others they either take it for granted or twist its original meaning. What I mean by this is that they might either twist things to fit their own ideas, spiritualize the meaning, or seek to personalize it by saying “it is all about them.” The first gives us doctrines that promote universalism, the second gives us ideas saying the book of Revelations is not literal and the latter takes away the context of the passages, which for many they either begin proof-texting or not seeing that the Word had a specific audience. One example is obvious is if we don’t know why Paul says women should be silent in church then we will miss the point and hold women back from entering into their calling in God. The book of Song of Solomon was written as a love story between one man and one woman, then it became canonized by the Jews and was seen as a depiction between God and Israel and finally it became seen as a depiction between Christ and His Church. Now we have taken the book of Song of Solomon and say it is just about Christ and us. Though we can apply the truths of the book to our individual selves we must acknowledge that the context is Christ and His Church as a whole as well as it is Solomon and the Shulamite, without that view we miss much.

My desire is to see people giving themselves fully the knowledge of God, that men and women would become students of the Word. O’ that believers would begin to dig deep into the treasure of God’s Word. What would it look like if the Church knew the Word of God and even some of the context behind it more than the Muslims do the Koran? What would it look like if believers knew the Word of God clearly and contextually more than scientists their books of science? For this I am sure the witness of the Church would be powerful. We would no longer have contradicting doctrines concerning God. The message of the church would no longer differ from denomination to denomination, allowing the World to clearly understand the message. It is always really hard to receive directions to a couple’s house when the husband says one way and the wife says another. Or rather when you ask someone what an elephant looks like and one says it has big ears and the other says it has a long nose, both are true but are lacking and not clear. But if you go to one who has studied elephants and they describe them as large grey mammals, with long noses, tucks, big ears, small skinny tails and weigh over a ton; then your audience will actually know, understand and believe. We must become students of the Word that we may be a clear witness, ready to confidently meet the questions of the world and even more that we would know this One whom we love.

Biblical Slavery vs. Modern Slavery

Have you ever asked the question “Why is slavery in the Bible?” or “Why do the Jews have laws that allow them to have slaves?” I know I have. I mean even when Jesus walked the earth why did He not say, “Let there be no more slavery.”  I know He said that He came to set the captives free but still there were slaves and there is that big confusing thing called the Law of Moses that gave rules on proper slavery. So what’s the deal? How do we make sense out of all of this?

Well first start by defining slavery. The Dictionary states it as: The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household. So they are roughly personal property that they can do whatever they want to with. So they are the same as a shoe or trashcan and just like one’s shoe or trashcan you can do whatever you want to with them. We see this kind of slavery when whites used to have Africans as their slaves. But is this the same kind of slavery we see in the Bible? Modern slaves have no rights, no freedoms, many cannot get married, and they are treated however the mast may wish.

We shall start our observations with Abraham. Now Abraham himself had slaves/servants in his household. But who was his household if all there was, was Sarah, Lot, Lot’s wife and daughters. Yet he is said to have a household? Who else made up a household? Well it’s simple it was the slaves/servants. They were a part of his household for they were under his authority or rather his possessions. The scriptures gives us the name of one who was under his household named Eliezer, this man had been made heir of all of Abraham’s house. A slave was made heir, now this is quite peculiar (Gen 15:2-3). Who ever heard of a slave receiving an inheritance let alone everything? Though as the story goes on Abraham eventually has a son in old age who becomes the new heir but that does not change the point that a slave had been made an heir at one point. When Abraham was growing near to his death, he asked the oldest of his house, who was also a slave, to go and find his son Isaac a wife. Now this slave had been put in charge over his entire house. This was no mere slave, this man had authority. Many tend to think Eliezer was the one placed in charge since at one time he was the heir, no matter who it was it still shows that Abraham’s slaves were not like modern slaves. Now on our final point concerning Abraham when he went to war before Isaac was born he had his slaves go to war with him, but if he was just single man with no children why would they fight for him? Would they not just rebel since they have the obvious number advantage?  And how could he afford to weaponize them even with his wealth? Perhaps they possessed their own weapons and if that is the case why not use those weapons to free themselves from slavery? Surely they were not like modern slaves. Maybe something is different about this form of slavery, as these slaves have authority, possessions, and freedoms as well as are considered to be part of the family in many ways.

Now in the Law of Moses it gives many laws concerning how to treat their slaves. If man were to possess a fellow Israeli as their slave they were to be set free on the year of jubilee, but the Gentile was kept for a permanent possession. These Gentile slaves were not what we define modern slavery. Remember modern day slaves have no rights, they are considered to be nothing more than animals with no value than that which one could get out of them. The slaves in the Bible under the Law of Moses had rights, they could marry, they celebrated with the family (not as the cooks in the back but celebrated with them), they had the Sabbath off and so on (Ex 20:10, Deut 5:14, Deut 12:12, Deut 16:10-14.).

The Law of Moses (Post Abraham) states multiple times to be careful of how they treat slaves and to obey God’s laws concerning slavery, for they themselves were once slaves and know what that felt like to have no rights. The Code of Hammurabi which dated back to 1777 BC was one of several sets of laws in the ancient Near East. [7] The code of laws was arranged in orderly groups, so that everyone who read the laws would know what was required of them.[8]The Code of Hammurabi gave neither penalty for the murder of a slave, nor a penalty for injuring a slave, and it considered the life of a slave to be of a lesser value than that of a free born man. However, the Law of Moses gave the death penalty for the murder of any man (Exodus 21:12), a slave was to be set free if his master inflicted a permanent injury (Exodus 21:26-27), and both slave and free man were considered equal (Exodus 21:12, 19). For the Law of Moses these rules were for both Jewish slaves and Gentile slaves. So wait slaves under the Law of Moses had civil rights that the master was mandated to uphold? Even in the U.S. after the slaves were set free it was  nearly a century later that they finally started receive civil rights from the government, yet in the Bible the slaves started off with it. How peculiar…

In Lev 22:10-11 only the Levitical priests could eat the food that was considered holy, where as the rest of the children of Israel could not. But wait what is this? The slaves of the priest can? That is quite peculiar.

“No layman, however, is to eat the holy gift; a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of the holy gift. 11But if a priest buys a slave as his property with his money, that one may eat of it, and those who are born in his house may eat of his food.” Lev. 22:10-11

Now if you are one to think that the Bible promotes racism and that God disliked or valued Gentiles as less than then simply read: Num 15:15-16, Ex. 23:9, Lev. 19:33-34, Lev 24:22.

Now let us move on to the New Testament and Jesus and the Pauline letters. It is true that Jesus never said slavery is bad, nor did Paul, however; they never said it was good. They never promoted it nor denounced it. Jesus did however claim the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1 and how He had come to bring freedom to the slaves; this may be found in Luke 4:18. We also know at the second coming of Christ He will fulfill that passage completely and all slaves will be set free. In Matthew 8:9 it speaks of the servant of the Roman centurion who was gravely sick, so the centurion asked Jesus to heal him. Now the word used for servant is “doulos” which just happens to be the same word used in Matthew 20:27 when Jesus calls His disciples to become like servants to one another. Jesus calls us them to be a slaves if they are to become the greatest in the age to come. Jesus in the Gospels called the Jews to keep the Law (Torah) which means even the laws concerning how they treated slaves. Most of these slaves/servants would have comprised mostly of people in debt to them. He also called them to be merciful and to love.

Present day slavery of taking someone from their home and making them your slave because of their race or making them your sex-slave was not a current big issue with Jesus’ audience. If it was then He would have addressed it and since we only have a fragment of what He said and did we cannot say He never addressed it. But if you take His messages on love, mercy and forgiveness it could easily apply to the present form of slavery. Forcing someone into prostitution is not love. In reality they were the one being oppressed and He called them to love and not attack back. This is in some ways similar to the MLK method during the Civil Rights movement, though Jesus called the people to go even the extra mile out of love (Matthew 5-7).

The Pauline letters are addressing the same thing if you are a slave/servant then obey your master, love them, honor them (i.e. don’t fight them). Paul goes on to address the masters and call them to love and honor the slaves/servants (i.e. remember the Law of Moses and the Greater Law of Loving your neighbor which is both Jew and Gentile). Also in the book of Philemon Paul actually addresses a man on his slave/servant for his freedom to the point he offered to pay for his freedom.

In conclusion, that I am aware of the Bible never says “Thou shalt not have slaves” just as it does not say “Hey go buy yourself some slaves” it merely addresses how you treat them if you have one. They are not inferior but to be considered as part of your family. This is why many slaves when set free were prone to becoming lifelong bond slaves to their former master. They at some point fell in love with their master because their master because of how great they had been treated. If the master had obeyed the Law of Moses or later the Law of Love given by Christ then they would have treated their slave as one of their children. The slave would have viewed their master as less of a task master but more of a father figure. The slave would have been a part of the house and thus upon release many would long to stay as part of the family, hence becoming a bond slave. For many of the slaves they probably would have found a place of dependence on their master like a son towards his father. This is a reflection of God with us. Upon being set free we realize our dependence and love towards Him and how good He has always been towards us and we subject ourselves to Him out of love and thanksgiving. So Modern slavery is wicked but it would seem though I could be wrong that the Biblical form not only was completely different that it’s modern form but also to point us to God.

 

The perils of the persecution of the West versus that of the East

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

Whenever we think of the word persecuted we tend to think more of the physical aspect, we think of the one being beaten or even killed for something they believe in. But is that it? In reality Jesus likens persecution with being insulted and lied about for the sake of Him. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “Persecute” as:

1: to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief

2: to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or importunities)

So to “persecute” is not limited to physical means only, but is far broader. Now why look at the term persecute? The reason is over the last few weeks/months I have begun to ponder the difference between the persecution of the church in the West versus the church in the rest of the World specifically those in the 10-40 window. Now having never been in chains nor faced the chance of death for my faith I am forced to only see things from a limited perspective. But it is in my opinion that neither version of persecution is more dangerous than the other in the long run. Though one is definitely more obvious and less subtle and one tends to be quicker than the other; still both are equally dangerous. The reality is whoever coined the phrase “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong. I can be physically beaten and if I have some measure of confidence I will get back up again. However, throw me in among people who will reject me, ignore me, mock me, ridicule me, demean me and tear me down and it requires a whole different level of confidence to not let it bring me down. In reality our words have the power of life and death and can easily do harm to a person’s heart to the point of suicide, lashing out at others, passivity or living in a constant state of depression.

If I could distinguish the two types of persecution I would say one is primarily of the flesh or body and the other is primarily of the emotions or heart. For a Christian in China they will be primarily forced with prison, being beaten, killed or seeing it happen to loved ones. Now this appears to have been the main form of persecution in Church history, but it would also seem to be the least effective form. Whenever persecution hit the early church it always has seemed to grow and flourish but when they became accepted it was then that it became in some ways weaker as a whole.

Now compare East to what we see in the West, specifically the United States, the church is mocked, scrutinized severely for every short coming, they are demeaned, torn down and called names like bigots and haters. The effect of this is a church that becomes both timid and passive because they don’t want to be called bigots or haters. When the attack comes we shy away in fear. The opposite would be that the Church hardens themselves to the name calling and actually hurt the people back; for example “No I am not a bigot, you are just a fag and sinner on the way to hell.” When the finger is pointed at us we point back in our own insecurity. The biggest problem is that they retaliate with name calling and don’t show love. Though these aren’t the only outcomes they are two that I have witnessed as a result of the Western persecution, with the former being more predominant than the latter.

Emotional persecution can stop the Church from growing by causing people to doubt their faith or by demoralizing hearts to the point of deep depression or even suicide. They can stop growth by scrutinizing Christians to the point they abandon their faith because they see other Christians as hypocrites. Because of fear of rejection Christians may give into compromise to be accepted. Or they just attack back losing their witness all together. In reality the persecution of the Western Church attacks Church growth unlike anything else. I used to think this was because we were less mature in our faith and we needed to become like those in the East but have since learned that it is on its own level. Meaning for a believer to stand strong in one requires a spiritual maturity that may be different from the one needed for the other. Brother Yun of the persecuted Church of China once made the point that he felt what the Church in the West experience was far harder to overcome than what He was used to. This was in context to both all the pleasure Westerners have as well as all the emotional and verbal persecution.

Growing up I was physically abused by my father for thirteen years and experienced emotional wounding from the rest of my family, friends and peers. On the outward the physical abuse seems to have wounded me more than the rest on the contrary it is not so. Though the physical abuse was more obvious, it was the hurtful words and tearing down from the rest that left deeper wounding in my heart. The closer they were to me the more pain it was. As I have shared in the past when leading people through inner healing, that my father wounds from the abuse versus the emotional or verbal wounding from another person, is like comparing a big yet shallow cut versus a small but very deep cut. Both hurt but one still is deeper. I say this because having experienced both I can say the emotional hurt worse and took far more time to heal and deal with.

Now many in the West tend to look down on the rest of the world as less enlightened and more backwater or primitive. This is many ways is true, just look at society, technology, education, judicial systems and media. We have grown in many ways to where society as a whole is greater than many other nations and we have become in many ways a beacon of light to many other nations, and a thing to aspire to. Though this all true it would seem that we have learned a new form of persecution. We attack the heart and not the body. I could not go further on if I did not add that this enlightened and more sophisticated society would not have achieved its success without starting off with a Biblical worldview as its foundation, though we have seen that disappear as time goes on. Still it is our enlightening that has made us more dangerous as we have grown more in intellectualism we have also learned how to attack others on a whole new frontier for the sake of not appearing as barbarians.

When a person in China is called by God to go preach the Gospel they say “Yes Lord” and they remind themselves of the age to come. When a Westerner is called they need to take time reassuring their identity in God. It is my opinion that this is why scriptures like Ephesians 1:17-19 and Ephesians 3:16-19 are key. We need to be rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God and His heart for us, because in the Western world these are attacked greatly. Satan seems to have learned that if He can stop the Western Church’s confidence in her identity. This is why it would appear that over the last century, specifically since the 90’s that God has begun to really move in the area of calling the Church back into her identity as sons and daughters and as the Bride of Christ. I feel that when the Church steps into confidence in their identity in God then the physical persecution will begin because they will know that the emotional no longer works. It is also my opinion that the Church in the West will continue to stand strong even the face of physical persecution in a way the rest of Church will not understand having not dealt with the identity issue from emotional persecution.

This does not mean we are better than the rest nor does it mean that the West only faces emotional persecution and the East only physical persecution, it just means we are being sanctified and matured in a different manner and some experience a certain type of persecution more than another. David himself experienced both and tells of them both in the Psalms (i.e. Psalm 109). In the end blessed are you who are persecuted for the sake of Christ no matter the manner, now may Father of Glory give to you the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Him that you may know the hope of His calling being rooted and grounded in the love of God towards you.

A Short Story: THE MEMOIRS OF A KING “The Age to Come Through the Eyes of a King from the East”

Preface

Having destroyed the antichrist’s army, leveled his kingdom and thrown both the antichrist and his false prophet into the lake of fire Jesus will institute his millennial reign. This is the story of a king from the east who stood against the antichrist in those last days and now watches Jesus rule from Zion (Daniel 11:44 & Revelation 16:12).

The Story

In those days I King Chan II of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; having seen the atrocities performed by that wicked king, who ruled with unquenchable hatred slaying all who spoke out against him, have now also seen his wicked tyranny come to an abrupt end. It is here that I write, in the second month of the thirty-first year of my reign as sovereign lord and king over my kingdom, in the fiftieth year of my life. I King Chan II recall that horrific time when that wicked man slew so many. It was by the end of his wicked and short reign that over half the population of the earth had fallen to war, pestilence and famine. Where once the earth had known such beauty and prosperity now knew destruction and famine. Where people once covered the earth, now through his wickedness both destruction and death had come to the earth.

I still recall when that wicked king came and sought to destroy Zion, yet no matter how small she was, she fought much more valiant than ever an army I have seen. I remember when he sought to make war against us kings of the east, as well as the fear that had gripped many of our hearts. That we might fall like so many nations had done so far. If it wasn’t for his struggles to overtake Zion we might have been swept away in his wrath. It was just enough of a distraction for us kings of the east to seek one final valiant attempt to flank him from his side. If ever we were to have a chance it would have been then, but alas even then his might was enough to hold us back. Still as I was there in the battle against that king, it was miraculous how that one tiny nation of Zion could stand as long as she did against his wrath. When many other nations had fallen so quickly, she stood defiant to the end. I would say it was the most magnificent display of might since the legend of the Spartans in Thermopylae; if it was not for Him who came to her rescue.

I will never forget that day when He showed up. It was as if He came out of nowhere. Never has a King shown up in such splendor and majesty, nor has there ever been an army so vast and so strong. If it was not enough for Him to show off His might that He Himself rode off to war to defend Zion. With a military like His, He simply could sit in the back and not even worry about fighting yet it was Him I remember who fought in the front lines at the battle for Zion. The way He fought, it was as if He had been consumed with a fiery jealousy in His heart, much like a husband whose wife had just been assaulted before their gaze. The anger in His eyes from the destruction that had befallen Zion was as if someone had poked the apple of His eye. His gaze alone was enough to cause the strongest of warriors to quake, yet it was the way He fought that set Him apart. It was nearly as if He didn’t even need His army as He slew that wicked king’s military. This Man fought with such tenacity that His garments were dripping with the blood of His enemies; surely there was more to this Man than what meets the eye. It was not until after that great battle did I hear the cry of Hosanna to the Son of David. It was there long-awaited King, King Jesus.

The people of Zion as well as those who served Him that were not from Zion greatly rejoiced and celebrated the return of their great and mighty King. Over the years things began to change as soon as the King returned and set up His throne He surprisingly went straight to work in establishing His Kingdom. His Kingdom grew so fast and so beautiful as He began to restore all that had fallen to destruction during the wars against that wicked king. I have even heard the rumors that the poor are all being fed and clothed in His Kingdom.

I King Chan II in the eleventh month of the sixty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have seen much over these last thirty years of this King of Zion. It is said that already that much of the deserts of that region have turned into oasis’s as if it were all just one big garden. Not one negative word have I heard about the King of Zion. It would seem that all of His people both love and adore Him. Word has reached my ears that His people volunteer freely to serve Him and His Kingdom. What is His secret? Surely He must be doing something to get them to serve Him in this manner. I must continue to observe this King of Zion.

I King Chan II in the fourth month of the eighty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have lived these last one hundred years, yet it would seem as though my body is growing younger. Or rather I should say it is as if I were returning to the days of my strength. I find that I feel, look and even have the same strength and speed as though I were in my late twenties. What is this? I feel as though it all began when He established His throne in Zion. It is not just me but my family and subjects are all experiencing it as well.

I King Chan II in the fifth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have received word that the King of Zion has found the cure for every known disease. There is no sickness known to man that can stand in His Kingdom. I must discover what kind of medicine they are using; perhaps He would help me with bringing healing to my people. I shall go and seek Him out in person, for perhaps I will get some answers to the questions I have about Him in the process.

I King Chan II in the ninth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write what transpired of my visit to the King of Zion. Never have I seen such beauty, for the houses of His own subjects was enough to make the palaces of the kings of the east to be shamed. When I entered His throne room it was decked with the purest of gold and ivory. The music that was played in the throne room was as if it was filled with joy and peace, for never have I experienced such joy and peace. As I approached the King on His throne I saw Him high and lifted up and adorned in beauty. The splendor and majesty of His throne room was enough to cause my heart to tremble in His presence, yet at the same time I felt as though I was being strengthened.

As I approached the King I began to bow before Him with my gift of silver and gold in my hand, to pay homage to Him. I knew it would mean nothing to Him for it pales in comparison to His great halls. Nevertheless as I bowed and offered it before Him, to my surprise I glanced up to see Him arise and begin walking down from His great thrown to me. I was both shocked and afraid as this great King approached me. Out of fear I began to bow lower, when unexpectedly He stretched out His hand to me to stop me from bowing. He brought to me a chair made of the purest of gold, silver and ivory and bid me to sit in it. The chair alone was far greater than the thrones of the kings of the east. I began to ask myself “Is He trying to humiliate me with this great chair?” “Is He trying to show off His great wealth and power?” Nothing would have prepared for what was to happen next, for he pulled out a golden bowl and said to me “My first rule for all that enter into my throne room, is that I get to wash their feet.” With a smile He began to take my shoes off. I sought to resist Him at first because of how frustrated it made me, but something kept me from doing so, call it fear or curiosity whatever it was I let Him proceed in washing my feet. As He washed my feet His gaze met mine and it felt as though His eyes were reading my soul. As He continued He began to tell me how much He loves me and just how much He loves my people. I had no clue just how to respond. Afterwards He returned to His throne and asked if I was thirsty. One of His servants entered dressed in the finest of linens; they came in full of joy to serve us wine. I found it quite odd that He had no royal cupbearer to taste the wine to make sure it was not poisoned such confidence. I found the wine to be the best tasting wine I have ever had; it brought such joy and pleasure to my heart.

Soon after the King asked me what was on my heart, so I asked Him what His secrets were. How had He made the land become so prosperous and beautiful? How did all poverty in His land end? How has He cured all forms of disease? How did He amass such a military on the earth to defeat the wicked king? For it was as if there were more in His army then there were on the earth prior to their appearing at the battle for Zion. Finally I asked Him if He knew why it seemed as though people began to regain their youth shortly after His reign began, and since then it was if the aging process took much longer. As He answered each question it was as if I felt He was encouraging and strengthening me with His gracious words. After my meeting with Him I felt as if I were leaving with more questions in my heart than before. As I left to return back to my kingdom I found myself continually looking back at His Kingdom wondering. I feel that I will wonder about this great King of Zion for many years.

I King Chan II in the third month of the two hundred and fifteenth year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; much of the world has changed over the last two hundred years. The Kingdom of Zion has vastly expanded; I have heard that there is peace among Assyria, Egypt and Zion. It has reached my ear that the Kingdoms that choose to make war against this great King of Zion quickly fall; however, I have also heard that those who have chosen to submit to this great King are shown mercy and even rewarded. It is not just the kings that are rewarded but their subjects who willfully choose to submit to this King of Zion. What is His secret?

I King Chan II in the seventh month of my three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: Famine has hit my realm, yet it would seem that the Kingdom of Zion and all who are in subjection to her are experiencing bounty. Having desired to know what His secret is I have sent word to Him to let Him know that I desire to visit with Him. However, on the day of my departure I heard a great uproar in my city. As the cries in the city grew louder and closer I heard some saying “It’s the King of Zion!” Quickly I arose to gaze out the window to see for myself. Expecting to see some great parade of soldiers with the King, I simply saw the King of Zion and handful of men on horseback. This was hardly what one would expect. The men with Him were not guards dressed for battle, rather they were in the finest of linens and not one carried a sword. As I ran to my throne to prepare myself, began to ask myself “Why is He here?”

As He entered my throne room He came in dressed so elegantly that His garments made mine look as mere rags. It would somehow seem as though He had grown more majestic since our previous meeting. He walked towards my throne with such strength and gentleness. As one of my servants introduced Him in my court I realized that His men were nowhere to be seen; however, what He did next was the biggest surprise. He bowed before me. Though His bow was not one of showing fear or timidity in my presence and it was not one of insecurity. In fact as He bowed it seemed as though it was done in confidence knowing He was more powerful, thus no need to show off out of insecurity. In truth it seemed as though He was attempting to honor me as one would a friend. His first words were words of apology for His sudden and uninvited arrival. He began to tell me that upon receiving my letter of the state of my kingdom that He and His companions set off immediately to come and offer aid. I felt so humbled and honored to see this great King come in all haste to personally meet with me. As He continued He said these words which I will never forget, “When I said I loved you and your people, I truly meant it.” His words were as though someone had taken a double-edged sword, and plunged it straight into my heart. As I was still reeling from His words He began to ask me if I was free to show Him around the city so He could get a better idea of what all I need help with.

As I took Him up on His request, I led Him down into the city to show Him the beautiful places. I began to wonder where His companions were but before I could ask He revealed to me, how they dispersed to go through out my city to help the people in whatever way they could. Shocked by these words, I was even more thrown back when said to me; how He did not desire to look upon the beautiful places. It was the broken down places that He desired to see, that He might rebuild the ashes into beauty. So of course I began to show Him where the places were that had been most impacted by the famine. I showed Him the districts where the poor lived, to my surprise He began to go to the people and give to them water from His own bottle. The most astonishing thing was is that it never seemed to run dry as people flocked to drink from His water bottle. He even seemed to have enough bread, fruit and nuts in His bag to feed all the people who came to Him.

When He finished with all who came to Him we continued going about the city until He saw the sector of the city that had been most destroyed by the riots. At this point He stopped me to tell me He had seen enough and was ready to start helping me rebuild and take care of my people. To my astonishment He rolled up His sleeves and walked straight over to where those doing construction were and began to help them. As I sought to stop Him to let Him know we had workers for this such job, He simply smiled and told me “I told you I came to help you and your people out because I love you all; besides I know My way around carpentry.” I had no clue how to respond. I simply watched Him for a bit in amazement. Who is this great King who is willing to feed the poor and get His hands dirty with manual labor? I even felt the fear and insecurity rise up in my heart that the people may turn on me and choose Him. However, something in me leads me to believe that He would not take my throne unless I gave it to Him freely.

I King Chan II in the eighth month of the three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been nearly one month since He arrived in my city to offer assistance. If He was not helping to feed my people then He would be seen helping to rebuild the areas that had fallen to ruin. At first I was quite skeptical of His agenda; I was not sure if He was secretly trying to spy out my land or even try to turn my people against me with His great wealth by feeding them all. Alas I am beginning to feel as though He really is just here to help serve us, simply because He loves us. This is so new to me, however, I do fear as though that the people may begin to revolt or all leave when He eventually returns to His Kingdom. Nevertheless His help has been quite helpful as the famine has ended and the Kingdom is now starting to stabilize again. The repairs to the houses and business, as well as the new wells and farms have made the land more fertile and left the people in better condition.

On one particular day as I was sitting in the great halls having a meal of celebration with the King of Zion and His companions; when a great commotion was heard as the captain of my guards entered.  As he entered into the great halls he began to rejoice aloud declaring that they had finally found the man who had murdered my father over three hundred years ago. The man had worked as an assassin for that wicked king and poisoned my father when I was eighteen years old. I had always hoped we would eventually find the man, though I had expected that he had since then died. As my guards brought the man in before us, I knew it was him as soon as I saw his face. How could one forget the face of the man who murdered their father? As I began to question where they had found him I kept one eye on the King of Zion to observe how He might react. My guards informed me that they had found him among the inner city districts feeding the poor and even served in their reconstruction. As I began to send him to the dungeons, the great King stopped me and asked me if He might hear this man’s story as to why a former assassin was now serving the poor.

This in short is what the man said: “After I assassinated my king’s father the previous king for that wicked king, I continued performing assassinations for him. Whoever would offer a high enough price would have my knife at their command. However, as time went on I was beginning to see the chaos I was helping bring to the world and thus withdrew from helping the wicked king. After the great war for Zion I found myself working as a thug for local gangs and spending most of my time and money in taverns and brothels. I honestly began to desire death, as I would spend hours trying to drink the faces of those whom I had killed away. However, I began to notice something strange and that was I was in a sense getting younger and now ageing much slower. I felt as though I had been cursed to live and unnaturally long life with the faces of my victims continually tormenting me.”

“One hundred years following the great war for Zion I found myself hitting rock bottom and lying in a ditch as a man named Stephen had found me and began to help me. The man was so noble looking in appearance as well as dress that I thought he was some great lord of a land. He had glow about his face that just left me stunned. He began to help me by feeding me, clothing me and even helping me to sober up. He had a companion with him, a man named Paul who looked just as majestic as he. They seemed to be the best of friends. Paul would ask me many questions about my life and my past; for some reason he never seemed offended or shocked when I told him of all the wickedness of my past. Even when I told him of people I had murdered in my past, he would just begin to tell me of how he can relate. Then he would just go on to tell me of how he used to do the same, but he found redemption and from then on his life began one of blessing and giving life rather than taking it. Stephen would just be smiling beside him, as though he was thinking of something or rather remembering something from long ago. I found it hard to believe that this man could ever have done the horrible things that I had once done, but for some reason even in my doubt something told me to listen to him and believe. These two were quite the pair of friends in how they interacted with each other and how they served me, each other and others. They seemed to have some history of brotherhood that was unlike anything I have ever seen. Words could not put to words how they interacted with each other.”

“After I parted way with these two I began to search out forgiveness for all my wickedness by helping others in hopes that I would eventually find redemption for my sins. For the last two hundred years I have traveled the world helping others in hopes that I would find redemption for my sins. My Lord Chan I beg thee that thou would please forgive me. It seems that my travels have brought me to your feet for forgiveness for the father I stole and the life I destroyed. I know I have wronged you, your family and your people and willingly receive whatever punishment you deem worthy, for I know I have sinned.”

As I rose up to sentence him to the gallows, the King of Zion rose up and began walking towards the man and stretched out His hand towards him and helped him up. “Today,” said the King “Today mercy has triumphed of judgment. If you will allow King Chan I would like to claim this man for myself, call it payment for everything I have done; for I can see in his heart that he has truly changed. My son today you shall know redemption. Today I have bought you for Myself that you may know freedom.” Before I could say anything the King looked at me and His gaze felt as though He was reading my soul. Suddenly out of nowhere I began to remember all of the wicked things I have once done in my life. I felt as though I was unable to pass judgment upon this man for I too have done so much wickedness and am deserving of judgment.

Later that night I met with the King alone in my study and began to talk with Him. I began to ask Him all the questions I have had building in my heart about Him and His ways. One after another He would answer them and in some way I felt as though new questions would arise in my heart. It was though each question was a head of a hydra and with each answer a head was cut off for two more to replace it. Eventually the King stopped me and asked me why I would not just go ahead and ask Him who He was. I realized that this was the chief question of my heart. “Well my Lord who are You?” Suddenly His eyes began to change and look as though they were far older than the world itself and far wiser than all the wisdom of the world. He told me “It begins with a God desiring a family and His Son’s pursuit of a bride.”

Then He began to tell me about the prophets of Israel from the days of old, about the creation of world, humanity’s plunge from grace and how redemption came into the world on a cross. It was as if He was telling me some kind of fairytale though in my heart I somehow knew this one was true. As He went on I found my heart beginning to experience a burning sensation. I did not know what this was but I knew it was connected to His words and thus I did not want Him to stop speaking. Suddenly He paused stared into my eyes and told me how much He loves me and how He has longed for this day since before the dawn of time. His words left my heart reeling. “My Lord,” I said “What does this mean for me? What do I have to do with Your story?”

“My child,” said the King “I am the One who stood in that garden with your ancestors. I am the One who wept as they turned their backs on Me, and had to leave because of their sin. I am the One who sent messengers to them time after time in hopes that they would turn back to Me. I am the One who wept while watching the people of the earth fall into greater depravity, which resulted in so much death. I am the One who formed a nation of people, endued with My promises, to be My representation to the people of the earth. I am the One who wept as they rejected Me. I am the One who sent more messengers calling the people of the earth to return to Me. I am the One who came and bore all of the sins of the world both past, present and future on a cross; so that they may receive redemption from their sins if they would just turn to Me. I am the One who rose from the grave having conquered death, hell and the grave. I am the One ascended into heaven and waited until three hundred years ago when it was time for My return. I am the One who came and fought to deliver my people and the people of the earth from that wicked king. I am the One who has loved you since before the dawn of time and I gladly stand before you.”

At once I began to fall to my knees in reverence to worship Him, but before I could even get to my knees He caught me and pulled me up and began to hug me and tell me how much He loves me. I felt as though my heart was about to burst with love and affection for this great King. After He let go of hugging me for what seemed like an eternity of ecstasy, I looked into His fiery eyes as I took a knee and swore my allegiance to Him. “What is mine is Yours, my kingdom is Your Kingdom, my throne is Your throne and my life is Yours my Lord, my King.” With a smile He raised me up and told me to govern New Korea on His behalf as His appointed governor over the realm. Afterwards He began to share with me some of the secrets of His heart towards me, as well as how to better improve the realm.

For the next week I would always be by His side asking Him questions and listening to Him. At times He would ask me questions or tell me stories and at other times He would share of His love for art, rock music, coffee, and turkey bacon. At times He would look at the clouds and ask what I see and after I responded He would simply say “That is awesome” and then go back to walking. He never seemed down, but always seemed filled with joy. It was always delight to be around Him. After that week He had to return back to his Kingdom but before He departed He bid that as His appointed governor that I govern justly, show mercy and walk humbly. “My Lord,” I said to Him “What is to come of my father’s murderer who You ransomed from me?” “Do not worry about Him My son,” He said “for I tell no one anyone’s story but their own.” With a smile He departed with his companions. The man who had murdered my father rode on the horse beside the King; I could only wonder what marvelous things He might have shared with him.

I Chan II in the twelfth month of the eight hundred and seventy-sixth year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been over five hundred years since that night with the King of Zion in my studies. Often I have found myself thinking about the things He shared with me during that time. Over these last five hundred years I have had multiple meetings with Him, though most would be about politics as He would ask for a report of the realm. Though every time He would start encouraging me by telling me just how proud of me He was and how I am doing a good job.

I am beginning to feel old, though each time I feel it I find myself laughing when I realize that I am eight hundred and ninety-five years old. Who would have thought that I would ever be this old? I can just picture the King of Zion just looking at me with a gentle and infectious smile of His and tell me that “I don’t look a day over four hundred.” Though I have aged, He still remains filled with youth, vigor and beauty. It would even seem with each encounter He looks more beautiful and more glorious.

I Chan II in the second month of the one thousand and thirty-first year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: I am getting quite old though even in my old age I still feel like a child on the inside when I think upon my King. Over the centuries we have become close, I have found a true friend in the King of Zion. He has never done me wrong, and oh how pained I was when I heard that some of the kings of the earth had chosen to revolt against Him. It was so painful when these men asked me to join in their revolt. How could I have betrayed my King, whom I have faithfully served these many years and He has done me no wrong? How could I betray this one whom has won my heart? I watched them submit themselves to that demon and follow him to war against my Lord, my King. Oh the wickedness in their gaze as they sought to oppose my King. When the battle was over there was not one left standing in their military and not one dead in my King’s military. It was such a bloody battle. I remember seeing the King weep as he slew those wicked kings. I could see the pain in His heart as these whom He had loved so dearly betrayed Him.

I Chan II in my one thousand and fiftieth year write as follows: Shortly following battle there was a time of rejoicing as the age of my King transitioned to the age of His Father who was coming to the earth to rule and to reign. It was at this point that both the living and those who had died were to be summoned to stand before the King, that they might be judged according to their deeds.

When it was my time to stand before the King He sat on His heavenly throne looking even more glorious than ever before. He had beside Him a book in which He began to open it and read from it, each line in the book was concerning a point in my life. There were many things that He told me that brought pain to my heart concerning my own failings. There were also many other times that He told me of things that I did that brought joy to His heart, such joy that I felt it in my heart as well. I remember as He went through my life and then stopped at one point and began to speak about the man who had murdered my father. He said “You chose to show mercy and forgive the man just as I had chosen to show you mercy and forgive you. Now hear of part of what happened after you forgave him.” I began to think about how I thought I was not allowed to know anyone’s story but my own. As I thought this the King said to me, “My child this part of his story is yours as well, for all the good things He did from that point on you were to share in them as if you did them as well; for it was your forgiveness and mercy that allowed him to do so.” All of a sudden I began to see the man and all the people he touched behind him each one with tears in their eyes saying to me “Thank you!” Many times the Lord would do this with other people who I had touched or forgiven in some manner and the reward that I shared in their lives. He kept telling me that it was an investment made in wisdom. With each time I found myself falling to my knees weeping tears of joy for the good points and tears of sorrow for the times I had failed; each time He would stop, walk down towards me and knell down to wipe away my tears, all the while telling me “I love you!” When it was all said and over I must say it was the hardest, most sober, most healing and most joyful experience I have had so far. This great King of Zion, has won my allegiance. This God-man Jesus Christ has won my heart, and I will forever love Him and serve Him; for never has one been so gentle and so merciful to me a sinner.

Two sisters, married to the same man but only one could have his heart: The story of Leah and Rachel

Though many know the story of Jacob and his two wives Leah and Rachel and how he loved only one, it would seem there was more to the story. This is that story.  In their early years  Jacob loved Rachel very much and far more that her other sister, his first wife Leah. We have heard the story of how their father Laban had tricked Jacob into marrying Leah so not to disgrace to older sister by the younger marrying first, plus there is the fact Laban wanted to keep using Jacob as cheap labor. However in the midst of all this Jacob married Rachel after Leah and preferred Rachel over Leah thus rejecting Leah. The Lord in His mercy saw the pain in Leah’s heart from the rejection of her husband and gave to her a son, Jacob’s firstborn so. Leah responds to the Lord by naming her son Reuben which means “Behold a son” 32Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”  Leah sees the gift of God as a means to win her husband’s approval. Still even after producing Jacob’s firstborn son she went on unloved, so the Lord in His mercy gave to her a second son. Leah here responds to the Lord by naming her son Simeon, “He has heard,” for God had heard her sorrows. 33Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. Yet Leah went on being rejected by her husband and in her heart yearned to win her husband’s love, so the Lord granted to her a third son. For her third son she named him Levi, meaning “Join” for she had longed that her husband would join his heart with hers. 34She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. Now even after giving her husband three sons, while her sister Rachel produced no children she went on being unloved and rejected by Jacob, so her heart cried before the Lord. The Lord in His kindness and gave to Leah a fourth son whom she would name Judah, meaning “Praise.” Here it would seem that Leah learned a valuable lesson being that though her husband may have rejected her, God had not thus she lifted her hands and praised the Lord for His faithfulness to her. 35And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing. Genesis 29:32-35.

As the story continues Leah’s son Reuben goes out and picks some mandrakes and returns home. Rachel seeing the mandrakes desires to take and eat them for herself. Leah responds asking why her sister must first take her husband and now take her son’s mandrake’s, which he had gathered for his mom. Rachel responds by offering the right to lying with Jacob that night as payment for food. 14Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  15But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” 16When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. Even after this the Lord sees Leah’s love for her husband and opens her womb up again that she might bear a fifth son, Issachar meaning “There is a reward.” 17God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. It is in my opinion that the reward of a fifth son being more of the fact that Leah seems to have valued Jacob far more than Rachel did, much like Jacob valued Esau’s birthright more. Nevertheless, once again God’s gaze fell on Leah and He opened up her womb that she might bear a sixth and final son for Jacob. This time she named her son Zebulun meaning “Gift of honor” or more likely “Dwelling of honor”. 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. Finally Leah bears Jacob a daughter whom she names Dinah, meaning “Judged” or “Vindicated” which the names shows how the Lord vindicates Leah’s mistreatment with six sons and one daughter while her sister had yet to produce one child. 21Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah. Genesis 30:14-21

Though the Lord seems to have shown an abundance of favor to Leah, He had not forgotten Rachel and gave to her a son whom she named Joseph “He will add” for the Lord had removed the reproach of barrenness from her. Rachel believed now that she had born a son that she would be able to bare another. 22Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord give me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24

Later on in the story of Jacob and his wives we the Lord calling him and his family to leave Laban and to return to his father’s land. What is the interesting fact is that it was Rachel who sought to take the idols of her father with her. Leah who had learned the lesson of worshipping the Lord did not, but it was the younger sister that desired the idols. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. Genesis 31:19 Jacob having no clue that Rachel had done such a thing was unable to stop her, and the scriptures say nothing about Leah in this regard but it would seem to contrast the difference between the two wives in where their hope was.

Years later the Lord opens up Rachel’s womb again that she might bear another son, however this time the birthing process would be too much for her and would claim her life. When Rachel heard that she had given birth to a son she named him Ben-oni, meaning “Son of my sorrow” for her soul was passing away. However, Jacob not desiring that his son would be named with such an awful and negative changed it after Rachel died to Benjamin which means “Son of my right hand.” 18It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Genesis 35:18-19

 

Lastly let us now consider where Rachel was buried, which was on the road to Bethlehem. Though this seems of little consequence it is quite peculiar. Why would the woman Jacob had loved so much in his early days just bury her while on the road? Joseph made sure his bones were to be carried from Egypt back to the land of his father (Genesis 50:25), so why not Rachel’s? Leah on the other hand was not treated in the same manner. Jacob while in Egypt and lying on his death-bed reveals that he had buried Leah in the tomb with his grandparents Abraham and Sarah and of his parents Isaac and Rebekah. This is quite peculiar, for his last request before he passed away was that he might be buried in that tomb with his wife and parents and grandparents. So at Jacob’s passing he was carried from Egypt to the land of Canaan to be buried. 29Then he charged them and said to them, “I am about to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. 31There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there I buried Leah—32the field and the cave that is in it, purchased from the sons of Heth.” Genesis 49:30-32

In conclusion, though Jacob had loved Rachel more in their early years because of her looks, it would seem that as time went on things changed. As Leah began to find her confidence in the Lord and it would appear she gained favor with the Lord and ultimately her husband. Scriptures seem to show that Rachel did not mature much in the Lord at all. No wonder Jacob at the end of his life desired to be buried with Leah for as the preacher says Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”Proverbs 31:30

The Echoes of Christ

“What We Do In Life Echoes In Eternity” -Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)

            Lately I have been thinking a lot about echoes how there are things, people, events and moments in history that continue to echo throughout time in our personal lives as well as large populations and some that echo throughout the whole world. Some echoes bring joy to our lives and some bring pain, some bring excitement to populations and some bring sorrow. For one the day their wedding day may be an echo of joy that continues to echo throughout their lives, for another painful echo of a divorce continues to echo throughout their lives. These echoes can affect the way they think, feel and even live life. For a nation the echo of a man who lived and died for a just cause like Martin Luther King Jr. can have a positive affect or even a negative one depending how they receive it. If you are German or Jewish the echo of the Holocaust is still a painful echo that leaves both groups hurting and others uncomfortable to even mention. There are even the echoes of things, people and events that have transpired that most people now do not even know about, yet they are experiencing the echoes left behind like: Alexander Graham Bell who invented the first telephone which over time has give us the iPhone.

I think about these echoes that continue to echo over time there is one particular echo that has not quieted but is actually getting louder. This echo has impacted many people of many nations for many generations we have seen nations rise and fall because of this echo. Some hear the echo and try to ignore it exists and others pretend it is saying something else; even so it continues to echo with its essence unaltered no matter how it is received. This echo I speak of is the life of Jesus. From the moment of conception at the incarnation His life has brought forth one massive echo that would only get stronger, bigger and louder. While He walked this earth He confronted the way many lived their lives calling all to the first and second commandment. He confronted the religious system of His day, sickness, death and demonic strongholds. He was a friend of the broken sinner, yet despised by many of the religious leaders of His day. He was betrayed and denied by those closest to Him yet most of them returned and went on to testify of Him. He was falsely accused and put to death having done nothing wrong. He was killed by those He came to save, yet His love overcame the power of death three days later. He now sits at the right hand of His Father having conquered death, hell and the grave and will one day return to establish His Kingdom of righteousness and justice. No life has left an echo like the life of Christ.

No matter how much we try to ignore the echoes of Christ, no matter how we try to pretend it says something else these echoes persist declaring the truth of the love of God, the power of the cross and resurrection that has conquered sin and death. They declare of a blessed hope that is found in the truth that He is coming again to right the wrongs and restore that which has fallen into brokenness. These echoes cannot be stopped because they are telling the story of what has happened, how it is impacting in the present and even points to what will one day happen.

Just last week we celebrated the echo left by the cross and the resurrection and all across the earth people experienced the echoes in some manner. Many celebrated them, many tried to ignore them and others tried to pretend they were something else (i.e. a big candy giving bunny). Yet the echo continued declaring of Christ’s power over sin, death, hell and the grave. The echo declares that Jesus is alive, that He is not a liar and if He says He will do something, then He will do it. He said He would rise from the dead three days later and He did; so when He says He will come again and establish His Kingdom then we can trust that He will. He is alive after all. This echo left by the cross and resurrection fills us with hope of His return. We find our blessed hope in the reality that He is alive, He is not a liar, that He is just and He will return. Oh that we would take the time and sit and listen to the echoes left to us through His life, that we would know this man whose words are red, and experience the joyous hope we find in Him.