Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hope for 2013?

It’s natural as we approach the end of one year to try to peer into the next. As we cannot know the future, it seems the most we can do is hope for the best. All those wishes for health and happiness for the coming year are just that: wishes!

Britain is known as the “Land of Hope and Glory,” sung with gusto at the Royal Albert Hall in London every year at the end of the Promenade Concerts. For many this memory has a ring of truth, although hope is diminishing in that country and the glory has been fading for a long time.

Of faith, hope and love, the greatest may be love, but the least understood is hope. Hopelessness is the cause of suicide; hope is an essential ingredient of life. But hope according to its general definition—the probable/possible expectation of something desired—is no match for life

So why does the Bible put so much emphasis on hope if hope is that precarious? Because the Bible has a different idea of hope: It is certainty about the future, as certain as the love of God and assured by our faith—faith that is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

That evidence for the unseen is more sure than the evidence for the life we experience here. “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Thus, we will continue to put my trust and hope in God through 2013. 

Will you?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hope and Warning

I once heard of a boy with a halo around his neck. Apparently, he couldn’t keep it up. That’s the problem for most of us, and the reason New Year resolutions usually fail. Even Paul said, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing!” Romans 7:19.

Even then, we laugh it off; it’s a human quirk, a weakness of mine, part of living, everybody does it, and so on. This betrays the seriousness with which God regards our “failures.” Jesus considered the thought as evil as the deed:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:21-22.

On this basis, considering all the commandments, where does that place us? Put aside “Love your neighbour as yourself”; how have we kept the first and greatest commandment? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30-31.

What is true for individuals is also true for nations. Micah’s words, “The earth will become desolate because of its inhabitants, as the result of their deeds.” Micah 7:13. These words, 2,500 years old, are playing out in today’s increasing dysfunction and debt as the west turns its back on God.

But there is certain hope in Micah’s predictions: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2.

“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth, and he will be their peace.” Micah 5:4–5.

He comes again this Christmas, as every Christmas, as our Saviour. But there is no alternative: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” John 5:22-23.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Mothers and Fathers of Bethlehem

 This is an extra blog beyond my regular Sunday offering, from an alternate blog site I write to once a month. The theme for that site this month was our favourite Christmas story Character. but I thought what follows was most appropriate

As I reflect on the events of the past week, my heart is drawn to the parents of Bethlehem, who are such a tragic part of the Christmas story.

Herod adopted Pharaoh’s tactic, killing boys in a ruthless bid to maintain his status. Fearing Jesus might be a contender to his throne, Herod ordered the slaying of all boys two and younger in Bethlehem, hoping to ensure the end of Jesus the Messiah.

Al Assad of Syria has killed forty thousand of his own people in a similar bid to retain power. Thousands of them were children. We can also recall Congo, Sudan, Serbia, and places of other atrocities; part of the continued slaughter of children.

Nor have the girls escaped. Across India and China, millions of girls are killed simply because the parents want boys to support them in old age. In addition, two million children worldwide now live and die in squalid conditions of sexual trafficking.

The west, that trumpets it compassion for the world, is not innocent either. Canada slaughters a hundred thousand living children in the womb every year, mostly for convenience. Proportionately, the United States kills a million a year of its population; that’s still a fraction of the world’s total.

The tragic events of Newtown CN are a symptom of the insatiable search for personal recognition. When legitimate means fail, killing is the ultimate assertion of power; whether by kings or the young killer of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Matthew describes the aftermath of Herod’s rampage: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more,” Matthew 2:18. But it’s also the lament of many millions; before and since—and now.

But Matthew’s quote is from Jeremiah 31, a great chapter of God’s final reign of peace and justice. Then, He says, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33.

The children will be safe. “The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Isaiah 11:8–9

And as Jesus called the little ones to Him, so he gathers the children who have gone before. They have not ceased to exist. Bethlehem’s mothers and fathers are already reunited with their children. The joy of Christmas is the glorious hope that those we have lost here, children or adults, will be waiting for us.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Israel?

 If I was not a Christian, Israel would bother me. Well, of course, Israel bothers most people who are not Christians. Ishmael derided Isaac, and to this day despises Jacob. Shoehorned into a sliver of Palestine by the United Nations, the Arabs have never forgiven Israel for her intrusion.

But that’s not exactly what would bother me. What would make me uneasy is that Israel still exists. After all, hundreds of tin pot nations Israel’s size and larger, with their plasticine gods, have flowered briefly like a desert rose, and vanished.

As Sennacherib’s commander said to Hezekiah, “Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim?” (Is. 36:19). Where indeed! Where are those nations that worshiped them? Gone forever, like a myriad of insignificant nations and major empires of the last four thousand years.

Israel has existed for all that time; despite its genesis in slavery, occupied by foreign forces most of her time in the land, and scattered throughout the world for half of her existence. How could a nation under such privation survive?

So, if I was not a Christian, two questions would bother me. First, how did the Bible foresee Israel—a small insignificant people—as a nation that would exist until today? Second, How did the Bible predict Israel would eventually become the focus of world affairs?

To answer the first: There seems to be no option to a Bible inspired by One who knew the end from the beginning. Second, the attempted destruction of Israel, that has continued throughout her history to the present time—remember the holocaust?—is necessary to prove God a liar and the Bible untrustworthy.

The battle against Israel may be fought by human combatants, but it is spiritually orchestrated by the desperate one who was defeated at the cross. Now, as earth’s history builds to a climax, Israel is surrounded by aggressive nations and an increasingly hostile world.

We may be witnessing the preparation for that final battle for supremacy of the earth. Israel may yet have worse calamities to undergo, but Jerusalem will survive to become the world’s capital, for “He has desired it for his dwelling” (Ps. 132:13).

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Should Christians be interested in the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah? After all, It celebrates a part of Jewish history that appears to have no relevance to Christian belief. It recalls the rededication of the temple after the Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated it.

After three and a half years occupying Israel, and following an aborted attempt by Epiphanes to conquer Egypt, he returned in anger to Jerusalem in 167 BC. He forbade the morning and evening sacrifices in the temple for a further three and a half years.

During that latter period, pigs were roasted on the temple altar, and Epiphanes erected a statue to the goddess Diana in the temple precincts. That became known as the “abomination that causes desolation.”

Judas Maccabeus and his band of renegades fought a guerilla war against Epiphanes and defeated his army in 164 BC. Time now for the temple to be rededicated to the Lord. A search began for sanctified oil to light the lampstand in the Holy Place.

Only sufficient oil for one day was found. But the lampstand stayed alight for eight days on that one day’s supply, until a fresh supply was available. This Festival of Dedication (Jesus attended in John 10:22) is now celebrated as Hanukkah.

So what is the significance for Christians? Jesus referred to Epiphanes “abomination” in Matthew 24:15, pointing to that past event as a picture of a similar future event. That future “abomination” would be a sign of His near return at the end of the age.

Daniel himself, while recording prophetically Epiphanes’ first “abomination” in 11:31, referred to one that is still to come, 9:27, 12:11. Revelation, chapters 11 to 13 predict a new occupation will also extend for a period of seven years, with an interruption of the sacrifice at the halfway mark.

Hanukkah gives us a historical event as a picture of a future event. That future event will precede the final coming of Jesus the Messiah to finally cleanse, not only the temple, but also the whole earth of defilement. If we miss the significance of the historical event that Hanukkah preserves, we may not recognize the final events leading to Messiah’s promised second coming to earth.

Check my website at for more information on this subject.