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An Encouraging Word

Hope in the Word

Throughout my life Scripture has encouraged and spoken to me. While living in Sudan I could identify with David crying out to God in the Psalms.

I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” (Psalm 142: 1-3)

Living and working in challenging locations has given me a greater understanding of his thoughts and feelings.

The Word

Photo credit: jimforest

Christ fulfills scripture

Paul in Romans 15:4 encourages believers to find hope in Scripture,

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

The 66 books of the Bible, one Author with 40 writers, spans 1500 years and includes history, poetry, and wisdom. The Book describes God’s dramatic interaction with people.

The Old Testament prophets point to events that would occur hundreds of years later:

  • Daniel 2 and 8 – the rise of Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire.
  • Zechariah 12:10-13:1 – a description of the crucifixion of Christ.
  • Isaiah 53 – the sufferings of Jesus.

Prophecies express the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. When people examine Scripture, taking into account the miraculous and historical elements, they discover an authenticity that points to one, perfect person – Jesus Christ.

The authenticity of scripture

Bruce Metzger wrote in Chapters In The History of New Testament Textual Criticism that the New Testament is 99.5% textually accurate. No other ancient manuscript has this kind of accuracy. Over 5400 New Testament manuscripts point to its authenticity.

Our hope is in Christ

Since Christ fulfills Scripture and promises eternal life to those who believe in Him, our confidence and hope rest in Him. As followers of Jesus hope is not in homes, jobs, friendships, or anything offered by this world. Hope is in Christ.

The challenge

Place your hope in the person of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the unchanging, everlasting promise you can hold onto.

In what ways have you struggled to put your hope in Jesus? Share your comments below.

Praying the Disciples Prayer

Praying

The Prayer

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matt. 6:9-13

Complementing Sides

Various people have written of ways to apply the Lord’s Prayer. One way is to divide the content in two, a God side and human side.

Realigning with God

The God side includes four parts:

  • “Our Father” – praying unselfishly for Him to lovingly rule your request.
  • “Your Name” – praying for His character to be contained within your prayer.
  • “Your Kingdom” – praying for His kingdom to be the focus of every desire.
  • “Your Will” – praying for His will to be manifested in every appeal.

Realizing results

The human side also contains four parts:

  • “Give us” – praying for personal needs, without the needs of others being jeopardized.
  • “Forgive us” – praying for forgiveness, with a determination to forgive others.
  • “Lead us” – praying for His leading, knowing the pathway will be free of temptation.
  • “Deliver us” – should there be failure to follow His lead, ask for an escape from evil.

The Heartbeat of prayer

Prayer involves realignment with results following. The process of realignment and results is ongoing.

To the measure you realign to God, you experience an equal measure of results.

The more you adjust to Him, more effects follow.

Unselfish prayers

Praying unselfishly is also an integral part of prayer. Our Father, give us, forgive us, and deliver us are rooted in community. The more you attach yourself to Jesus and those who follow Him, the more relevant is your prayer. Pray with others in mind.

The challenge

Pray to realign with God and for His kingdom to advance by the fulfillment of His will. If the eternal side is right, temporal needs are also met.

Pursue Him and forgive the transgressions of others! God will supply every need.

How is God leading you? Share your comments below.

Holy Land

God Dwelling with His people

What is the significance of the place called the Holy Land, the parcel of land located on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean? What makes a land holy? The answers are found in the narrative of Scripture.

Holy Land

The Bible as Narrative:

The Bible is written as a dramatic narrative, containing four parts:

  1. Exposition – Genesis 1, 2
  2. Complication – Genesis 3
  3. Climax – Revelation 20
  4. Denouement – Revelation 21-22

Genesis 1 and 2 (creation) covers the exposition, the part of the story describing the original state of affairs. Genesis 3 (the rebellion of man) lays out the complication, the part of the story disrupting the status quo. The main portion of the Bible develops the story, stemming from the complication (disobedience to God). Revelation 20 presents the climax, the defeat of evil. Finally, in Revelation 21 and 22 is the denouement, the New Heavens and New Earth. The denouement becomes the new status quo, after the complication is resolved.

Man and woman start in the Garden of Eden in full communion with God with both the tree of life and tree of knowledge of good and evil. Mankind finishes in the New Heavens and New Earth in full communion with God with the tree of life, having experienced the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and evil being defeated. Revelation 22:2 states, “The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River…The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations.”

What does this have to do with the Holy Land?

The Holy Land and older Covenant

The Holy Land is part of the creation story, with the Garden of Eden being the original location. The garden is the first place “flowing with milk and honey,” where Adam rules as a kingly priest and serves God in a garden-temple. According to Sam Brelo in his book God Dwelling with His Children in Paradise, “Adam, as God’s son, lived in Eden and therefore enjoyed the rest of God, symbolizing God’s sovereign rule.”[1] Adam is given the command to multiply and subdue the earth. The whole earth was to enjoy the glorious presence of God.

Adam failed to obey and was removed from the sanctity of the garden-temple. The first Holy Land became lost to mankind. As history unfolds the human race continues to rebel and attempts to become unified in a manmade sanctuary on the plains of Babel. God separates the nations.

Finally, the Lord sees promise in a man called Abraham and extends to him two promises: a kingly people and a kingdom land. A Holy Land is promised to Abraham as, “To the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

God gave the Garden of Eden as an inheritance to Adam and gave Canaan, a type of the Garden of Eden, as an inheritance to Israel. Adam’s enjoyment of God’s presence and the first Holy Land were based upon obedience.  Obedience is the same condition upon which Israel may enjoy God’s presence and live in the second Holy Land. Leviticus 18:25 declares,

Because the entire land has become defiled, I am punishing the people who live there. I will cause the land to vomit them out.”

Similar passages are located in Deuteronomy 28:63, Joshua 23:16, and throughout the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 37-48 Israel’s redemption is described as a return to the Holy Land, as well as the reestablishment of the Davidic kingship and Levitical priesthood. Israel’s salvation meant dwelling with God around His Temple in a divine inheritance, the Holy Land.

Israel staying in the Holy Land with God was guaranteed through continued cleansing and holiness, as portrayed in the Law of Moses. Without atonement by various sacrifices and worship, Israel was subject to expulsion.

The Holy Land and new Covenant

The writer of Hebrews states Jesus fulfills the sacrificial practices of the Law by His supreme sacrifice. The Levitical priesthood also became fulfilled by His priesthood (Hebrews 7:18-19). Therefore, the Temple and Holy Land become better understood in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews also shares that although Joshua brought Israel into the Holy Land, he did not give them the rest of God (Heb 4:8). Sam Brelo gives insight, “the reason for this is that the Temple in the Holy Land is not the true dwelling place of God; it is only a ‘pattern’ of heavenly realities (Heb 8:1-5).”[2]

Jewish belief is based on the Torah, Temple, and Territory. Jesus on several occasions encountered people desiring an earthly kingdom. They hoped He was

the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

They considered Israel’s redemption being the restoration of the nation and the cleansing of the Holy Land, more than mankind’s salvation.

Jesus brought fulfillment in a different way. Through the Incarnation the Lord would dwell among His people (John 1:14). Jesus would be the divine Temple, the place where God is experienced and worshiped.

Jesus also became the Holy Land. He states in John 15 of being the “true vine.” Connection with God would no longer be attached to a tract of land. Being part of the Holy Land would now require being grafted into Jesus. Jesus declared being in the Father’s presence was no longer territorial but spiritual. (John 14:1-11)

The Holy Land, where God dwells with His people, is the unquestioned inheritance of Abraham’s descendents. The Apostle Paul states the inheritance includes Jews and Gentiles:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7)

Being sons of Abraham is by faith and Jesus, God’s Son, is the centrality of faith. Those in Christ have become children with divine inheritance. The place of God’s dwelling is gained through faith. (Galatians 3:26, 29)

The quintessence of the book of Revelation is the New Heaven and New Earth, culminating in chapters 21 and 22. The vision of the New Heaven and New Earth is the climax, not only of the Bible but of the whole salvation story. The final vision is essentially a re-creation of the Garden of Eden, the garden-temple of God. The prophetic revelation brings believers to the hope of the final Holy Land, where the purpose of the Garden of Eden and the land of Canaan is fulfilled. With the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth, God establishes a new sanctuary where He and the children of inheritance dwell forever.

Defining the Holy Land

The Holy Land and its purpose is one of the important threads running through Scripture. God’s story begins and ends with Him living with His creation in a secure, peaceful and sanctified space. In the redemption story God calls Abraham out of Ur, giving Canaan to him and his descendants as an inheritance. The Holy Land belongs to God and He calls out the elect, providing a place where He can dwell with them. Occupying the Holy Land by Abraham’s descendants was conditional upon love and obedience to God.

In the fullness of time, God sends His Son to reveal His glory and to tabernacle among His creation. The Holy Land receives its fulfillment in Jesus. By abiding in Christ through love and obedience believers find peace and rest and are a sanctified temple of worship. This is experienced by the indwelling of His Spirit and is fully experienced in the New Heaven and New Earth, the place where the children of inheritance live unimpeded with God in the final and everlasting Holy Land.

God dwelling with His children in a holy dwelling place centers in Christ. The Good News to both Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is the same; God desires to live with His children eternally. Anyone can become His child and live with Him through Jesus. The Holy Land and its purpose are inseparably linked to having faith in Christ. Outside of Christ, there is no divine inheritance.

Whose side are you on?

Those who follow Jesus are to follow in His footsteps and fulfill His command to love God and people – all people. Those with faith in Christ are to be world-changers, showing equal value to all peoples and nations.

Joshua 5:13-14 gives guidance, “While Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, ‘Whose side are you on-ours or our enemies?’ He said, ‘Neither. I’m commander of God’s army.’”

When asked, “Whose side are you on, Arab or Jew?” respond,

Neither, I’m for all peoples and nations, to the glory of God!”

Revelation 7:9, “I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”

*To view the stop-motion film, Holy Land, click here.

**For a more in-depth study read, God Dwelling with His Children in Paradise: A Biblical Theology of the Holy Land by Sam Brelo. Available on Amazon.

1 – Sam Brelo. God Dwelling with His Children in Paradise: A Biblical Theology of the Holy Land. (CreateSpace, 2012). 6.

2 – Sam Brelo. God Dwelling with His Children in Paradise: A Biblical Theology of the Holy Land. (CreateSpace, 2012). 68.

Redefining Faith

A lifestyle of sharing Jesus

Lion of Judah - redefiner of faith

Lion of Judah – redefiner of faith

In my opinion some of the scariest verses in the Bible are Matthew 7:22-23,

On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Makes you think twice about your relationship with Jesus, doesn’t it? These verses contributed to the “Redefining Faith” name on my website.

Faith as a motivating belief

One definition of faith is a “system of religious belief”. Faith is important and necessary yet James takes it a step further by stating, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17). Genuine faith should motivate you to love God and love people; should motivate you to action.

Verse 21 declares, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter (emphasis added).”

Life in Jesus involves “doing.”

When Zacchaeus encountered Jesus he was motivated to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back four times as much from anything wrongful gain. Jesus declared, “Salvation has come to this home today” (Luke 19:9). His actions were not necessary for salvation but they were evidence of a life changed by encountering Jesus.

Knowing Jesus

Weekly attendance at church, reading daily a chapter in the Bible, and saying grace before dinner may better represent familial habits than a genuine relationship with Jesus.

Ask yourself this question: Do your conversations about Jesus match your lifestyle? Maybe you should start with, are you telling others about Jesus at all? If you know Jesus, if you have genuinely encountered Him, you cannot help but talk about Him. The better your relationship with Jesus, the more you love people and the more you want others to have this incredible gift you have been given.

May you redefine faith as you pursue Jesus. There is no better way to obey Christ’s command then to “make disciples”.

The challenge

Begin today to live out a faith motivated by pure love for God, a faith that requires more than taking up space on a pew or saying a prayer before dinner, a faith that brings real meaning and hope for the future.

In what ways has your faith motivated you to action? What are you doing to display the love of Jesus to those you know?