Pray for Our World: Israel

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it is not recognized internationally.  The land is regarded by Jews, Christians and Muslims as their Holy Land.  Israel became a nation again in 1948 after almost 2000 years.  The northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and the southern kingdom (Judah, capitol Jerusalem) by Babylon in 586 BC.  After 70 years of Babylonian exile, they returned to their land in Jerusalem and rebuilt King Solomon’s temple.  After Christ and the subsequent fall of Rome in 70 AD, the Jewish temple was destroyed, the nation dispersed and Jews scattered around the world, all fulfilling the prophecy from the book of Daniel.  The bringing together of a nation again after almost 2000 years fulfills another major prophecy before the second coming of Christ.  The temple must also be rebuilt a third time before the remaining prophecy can be fulfilled.  The original temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was built by Solomon, King David’s son.  The second rebuilding of the temple in the same place was instructed by God after the Israelites returned from exile, and the third rebuilding has yet to be done.  There are currently preparations in Israel for all the materials needed for the temple so that the Jews can be ready when the time comes.

Israel today is modern, sophisticated, and well developed in high-tech, bio-tech, chemical and agricultural sectors, and the only democracy in the Middle East.  This is evidence from their history, as a people who were chosen to be separate from other pagan religions, and as a people chosen to carry the story of God to the world.  God patiently waits for them to return, and in the end times, they will once again lead the way, this time with Christ.  God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.  Like any parent with wayward children, we would want them to be cared for until they return.  The population of Messianic Jews has increased over recent years, and I have had the opportunity to listen to many of their stories.  Messianic Jews are rich in family history, and they take claim to their Jewish Jesus with pride!  Pray for the salvation of Israel.

If we believe the Christmas story, and if we believe the prophecy that told of Jesus’ coming the first time just like the Wise Men did, why wouldn’t we believe the prophecy of Jesus coming a second time?

Names of Jesus – The Good Shepherd

This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. One who will take care of you. One who is good! We all need good in this world, and that is what Jesus is. I’ve never understood how the manger scene or Jesus could be offensive to anyone. I understand not everyone believes in his deity, but his image has always been one of good and compassion. It is his goodness that draws people to him.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Jesus gave us another example when he told the parable of the 99 sheep and 1 lost sheep in Luke 15.  Jesus came as the good shepherd to seek and find the lost.

The 23rd Psalm, the most quoted of all Psalms, also beautifully describes this good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd – Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

Names of Jesus: Unspeakable Gift

Paul describes Jesus as the unspeakable or indescribable gift in 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

It is indescribable because there is no other gift as perfect or as valuable as the sacrifice of God’s perfect son for our sins.  It is a gift from God and a gift of Grace.  It is not given by law or by deeds, it is purely Divine.

The gift is available to anyone and everyone who wants it.  A gift cannot be forced on the recipient, it must be accepted.  It is given with no strings attached.  It is simply… a gift.

The tradition of giving presents at Christmas time comes from this wonderful and indescribable gift given to us.  We show Christ’s likeness the most when we are giving, out of pure joy and love.

Names of Jesus: Prince of Peace

Then Jesus arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39)

With one word, Jesus commanded peace over nature. Only the Prince of Peace could do that. And only Jesus can create peace in our hearts.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”
(John 14:27)

Our world is filled with fear, hate, lust, greed, war, and utter despair. Surely the second coming of Jesus Christ is the only hope of replacing these features with trust, love, universal peace, and prosperity. For it the world wittingly or inadvertently waits. – Billy Graham

Paul writes it so eloquently in his letter to the Colossians:

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

May you know the everlasting and true peace of Jesus Christ this Christmas.

Names of Jesus: Everlasting Father

In a time where everything is instant and temporary, the thought of everlasting is almost forgotten.  But it is still there, in eternity.  Isaiah 9:6 names Jesus as the Everlasting Father.  This is an eternal father (protector, provider, creator) who has no end.  Many earthly fathers may have failed to provide or protect us, but Jesus promises to be a father who never leaves us.  Isaiah further explains the everlasting in the next verse.

The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

About one hundred years after Isaiah, the prophet Jeremiah talks of the Davidic Covenant – one with no end and no conditions.  God promises David and the nation of Israel that the Messiah will come from the line of David, tribe of Judah (see Leah, the Unloved – a Christmas story ), and establish a kingdom that will last forever.  No conditions of obedience on David or Israel are placed on this covenant, it is solely on God’s faithfulness and promise.  In other words, we can’t mess it up and we can’t stop it. God’s promises always come true.

“Look, the days are coming”— this is the Lord’s declaration—
“when I will fulfill the good promises that I have spoken
concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch
to sprout up for David, and He will administer justice
and righteousness in the land. 
In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely,
and this is what she will be named: Yahweh Our Righteousness. 

“For this is what the Lord says: David will never fail to have a man sitting on the throne of the house of Israel. The Levitical priests will never fail to have a man always before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices.” (Jeremiah 33:14-18)