Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Personal Psalm 83 War

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18

Most who study prophecy would agree that the next major event on the horizon might well be the Psalm 83 War.  Israel will be involved in a battle with their immediate neighbors who have covenanted to wipe the Jewish race from the face of the earth.  Not only will Israel win this battle, but also in the process the nation will triple is size.  This will also lead to the ability to rebuild the temple that is to be one day desecrated by the infamous antichrist.  However, this Psalm could well be seen as much more than a descriptor of a future event.  It could also speak to each individual believer about their personal walk with Christ.

John Hyde was a missionary to India during the late 1800s and early 1900s, he became known worldwide as a mighty man of prayer.  Taking Christ as His word, Praying Hyde, as he was affectionately nicknamed, trusted God to give him a burden for the lost.  He prayed at a missionary convention day and night for God to allow him to win a soul a day throughout 1908.  He did!  This prayer was multiplied in 1909 as he prayed for two souls a day, and then believed for four a day in 1910.  His prayers were again answered.  However, there were days that it seemed that the request would not be honored. Rather that blame God, he asked the Holy Spirit to reveal what was in his own heart that was blocking the request from being answered. On this point he once remarked, "Self must not only be dead, but buried out of sight, for the stench of an unburied self-life will frighten souls away from Jesus."  What a challenging insight. 
Reading such an account from a man who seemingly lived at the very foot of the cross was heart rending to say the least.  It felt as if being with Isaiah before the throne and crying, "I am undone!"

Many, if not all of the nations mentioned as invading Israel in this upcoming battle are also mighty examples of biblical symbolism.  Esau is the father of the Edomites.  This is the same Esau, brother of Jacob (Israel), who sold his birthright for a bean dinner.  It is well known that this man is a shadow of those who follow the flesh. Another antagonist in the list of combatants in Psalm 83 is Amalek, Esau's grandson.  It was Amalek who attacked Israel on their wilderness journey and to who God said, "Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation (Exodus 17:16)."  How could God fight this long annihilated tribe of people perpetually from generation to generation?  Because God is ever engaged in fighting fleshliness in each of us!  While the devil and the world are formidable foes, we usually are our own worst enemies.  

You see, God wants to win us!  Jesus shared many paradoxical statements that prove this without a doubt.  In order to live, you must die--even bearing a cross.  If you seek to save your life you will lose it, but whoever loses his life shall find it.  In order to be great in the Kingdom, you must humble self and be the least being even a servant to all.  It is here we all need to place our lives on the altar before the Almighty and become as stubble before the wind of His holy presence (Psalm 83:13).  We need to be burnt at the altar even as Psalm 83:14 suggests that fire destroys the enemies of God.  To be a victorious overcomer in Christ, we must be overcome.  We need a victory in our personal Psalm 83 War.  

John Hyde knew the secret of an ongoing life of victory in Jesus.  He knew how to assure that all men would see that the LORD was the most high over all of the earth.  The secret is dying to self and being wholly buried in Christ so that all may see Christ in us, the hope of glory.  My prayer for you and me is that the LORD will overcome us all so that all may know that the LORD is God and many, as a result, will willingly submit to the grace of the cross as they see lives thoroughly devoted to Jesus.  May the LORD expand our borders in Him and make us all to be His visible temple among men.  May all see by our submission to the LORD of Glory and that He is Soon2Come!

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6:19

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Last Shall Be First

But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:31

It is certain that Jesus upset the apple cart when it came to how he responded to those pushed aside by society.  He did say that the first (those highly valued by other men) shall be last and that the last (those who tended to be despised and rejected) would be first.  A brief look at three examples reveals the truth on this matter, and it should speak to our own hearts about the value that God has placed on all men.  Whether it was lowly shepherds, condemned criminals, or women made to feel they were second rate by societal norms, Jesus sanctified that value of all humans in His gracious treatment of those pushed aside and overlooked.

Most know that the Egyptians considered shepherds with much disdain prior to the Exodus; however, most seem to think that shepherding was a noble profession in the land of Judea at the time of the the birth of Jesus.  Actually, the very opposite was true.  Shepherds were on the bottom rung of the social ladder.  A close study will find that they were often deprived of their rights, they were considered unworthy to be a witness in any legal proceeding, and the term "incompetent" was often associated with the profession.  One Mishnah went as far as to say that a person was under no obligation to rescue a shepherd that had fallen into a pit. Talk about the bottom of the barrel!  This was also a profession that some believed should not be taught to children.  You just about could not get any lower.  Now, who did the Almighty value so much that He made them the first witnesses to the birth of the Savior of mankind.  "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.(Luke 2:8-9)."  As Jesus might say, Truly I tell you that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Nobody likes a thief even today.  It was no different in the Lord's day.  If a shepherd was low, a criminal was even lower.  They lost all rights and most often were penalized with very harsh sentences as we see with the condemning of the two thieves hung on either side of Jesus.  In their story, suspended between the heavens and the earth there with the Son of God, is the essence of the whole gospel message.  All are guilty and worthy of death.  It seems at first both thieves railed accusations at Jesus.  Why would the Son of Man allow himself to be associated with such vile people, even to be numbered among them?  Because God is not so high and mighty that His grace cannot reach the lowest of the low. There was something about Jesus that eventually caught the eye of one of those robbers.  Was it His suffering?  Maybe it was His kind words to His followers? Could it have been His forgiving the very Roman squad that nailed Him to the tree?  Finally, the thief cried out for forgiveness.  The lowest of the low, a convicted felon, pleads out and pleads for mercy.  Many might look down on him for his crime, but not Jesus.  He allowed this man to be the first to enter His kingdom truly making the last first.  Won't you join Jesus in His Kingdom?  Plead out now and live.  Don't be like the other thief who rejected Jesus that Day and lost his soul.  Jesus still makes the first last and the last first.

Women, sadly, were considered the very bottom of society in that day, and we know that there are cultures where they still hold that terrible position (some even teaching that the majority of people in hell are women).  They had no rights, could not testify in court, could own no property, could work no job or own a business in Judea at that time.  The only schooling a little girl would be given was training in household duties.  While boys could go to school and learn, girls were deprived of an education.  But Jesus makes the last first.  This teacher allowed women to follow Him and learn even as we see Mary at His feet with the apostles learning of the promises of God.  It is a well known fact that the testimony of women was ignored since they held such a low place in that culture.  Why then did Jesus allow the lowest of the low, women, to be the first witnesses to His resurrection?  This must have been an embarrassing fact to the folks in Jesus day--oversensitive women saw a risen dead man first.  No!  It was no accident at all that a woman, even one with a colorful past, was the first at the tomb because Jesus loves those who are least esteemed by others.  Ladies, when the men ran like babies, the teenager, John, and the women bravely stayed at His side to the very end, and their faithfulness was returned when they visited that empty tomb. Jesus still makes the first last and the last first.

You see, Jesus was not like any other man, because when we see Jesus we see the face of God; we see His mercy, His grace, and His compassion.  Men, (and even some "Christians") may push others aside as meaningless, but not Jesus.  Jesus doesn't see skin color or sex and recoil with dislike as He knows all men and women are sons and daughters of fallen Adam.  He doesn't look at a persons intelligence to see if they are worthy learning of Him. He doesn't count the number of dreaded sins a person has committed and conclude that one is beyond his help.  He doesn't check bank records or personal property values and then rank a person.  No!  Jesus builds His flock with the spotted lambs just like you and me.  All one needs to do is be humble in the sight of the LORD and He will lift them up.  Call on Jesus and ask for Him to plead your cause through the power of His cross that associated with all of our lowliness and He will lift you up. Do it quickly as Jesus Christ is Soon2Come!