Worry’s Insatiable Demands

Worry  has been defined as “a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”  (anonymous)

“You can’t change it, so why worry.”  “Worrying about it before it even happens will make it happen.” “Worrying only makes it worse.” For most of us, no number of platitudes can stop the tide of discouragement, frustration and stress that worry washes over us. The negative effects of stress are well documented, with solid medical and scientific evidence – emotional, mental, and even physical problems: is that really the start of a cold, or have you been fretting  the late completion of your income tax papers from last year?

The Bible cautions about worry’s negative effects: anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up [Proverbs  12:25].  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones [Proverbs  17:22 ]. Seriously, why do we put ourselves through this stress? It’s not pleasant, it’s not joyful, it’s not constructive. Do we really like feeling overwhelmed, depressed, often frozen with indecision? Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone to take this burden off us? Oh, wait! … there is! Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand [Isaiah  41:10]. Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you [1 Peter  5:7].  Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure, remember to whom you belong [Ephesians  2:19-22]. We become anxious because we can’t see the outcome, but God can [Psalm  94:19]. We grow tired and weary, but God has unlimited physical resources and strength [Isaiah  40:30-31]. Most importantly, worry is not honouring God, who instructs His children to be strong and fear not [Isaiah  35:4], and to be strong and courageous ‘in Him’ [Joshua  1:9]. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best is a good rule of thumb. (Contribution Mary Fedchyck)

Trying to stay aware of current events has its downside because bad news sells better than good news. It’s easy to become overly concerned about major crime, nation’s economy and corruption in governments over which we have little control. Here is some good advice from Psalm  97:1  “Do not fret because of those who are evil”. A better way of thinking about negatives in our world is to take stock what personal prayer and faith can do when God is at the controls. Instead of worry trust the Lord, and rather than give in to fretting over matters beyond our control, pray about it and commit it to the Lord even if we have to wait patiently on Him, which is far better than spending countless hours and energy cycling our worries in our mind over and over again.

Jesus Christ is our source of both praise and petition in the worst and best of times. You will never wear out your welcome no matter the number of time that you go to Him. He is there for His people. But at the risk of sounding contradictory, those of you who do not know Jesus as your Savior you do have something to be very concerned about. Your soul is in peril without Christ Saving Work. Christ came on earth to claim sinners for Himself, to redeem them to God, and give His life for each of them. All in need to confess our sins to Him and repent of them. Christ saves you on the bases of His own intercessory work on our behalf. He meets God’s righteous demands by giving His life for us and paying the price Himself on Calvary to meet sin’s payment. Think about the fact that God in the flesh died to satisfy Himself where the sin’s debt has been paid in full with His own blood.

Struggles and trials will always be with us. Either God removes the difficulty or we are made able to bear up under it. Wisdom sees obstacles as an opportunity to trust God and grow our faith!  Look to Christ and be saved from your sins and may the peace of God be with you always.

Glory Forever!

Without wishing to sound sensational, a large city-based community had lost their homes and jobs and marshalled to another country nearly 1,500 km away to remain there for almost an entire generation. The ordeal left them hopeful that a return to their homeland was imminent, but in fact their leader’s message corrected this false notion and were made to understand that a much longer period was in sight. The life they once knew would be shelved for the time being.

In an era where temple worship and occupation on a tract of land specifically given to Israel were integral components to their existence and covenant agreement came to mean far more to them than we realize. For one thing, God’s presence in the temple assured them of His continued loyalty and the gift of the land was an expression of His favor. The prophet Ezekiel who was numbered among the captives taken from Jerusalem reported not only the Babylonian occupation of Jerusalem but gave a series of visions, one of which depicted the departure of God from the temple to the Mount of Olives. Things appeared to go from bad to worse for this tiny community of God’s people now exiled from their land. It seems that the tension between their captivity in Babylon to the restoration of their former estate would serve to remind them about certain realities regarding themselves and God.

A Full-Orbed Review of Yourself

The reason for the captivity was clearly set before them.  You are not long into the book of Ezekiel when you read about the reason for their deportation. “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy ….  Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. (Eze.  16:48 & 51).  The term for sister refers to the close proximity of heathen societies to Jerusalem who were less corrupt than God’s own people at the time! For a moment just think about the condition of Christianity in our own country,  the fact that Christians possess greater revelation in our era than previous ones makes us much more liable and therefore more at fault than those who came before us.   In Jesus day, He asseverates greater condemnation on cities of His day such as Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethasaida than that of ancient sites like that of Tyre, Sidon, Sodom and Gomorra who had they experienced similar miracles and teaching would have repented. I ask if this is not a compelling enough reason to immunize ourselves from sickening God with our hypocrisy! To pretend to know Him, yet not really belong to Him parrots the foolish and self-deceived Pharisees of Jesus day. Be sure that an attitude of self-sufficiency and pride runs opposite to saving faith and is the death-kneel to a genuine spiritual life in Christ. We should steer clear of any independence from God, and be wary over possible loss of real introspection since it can lead to anonymity. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev.  3:17)  In this verse a contrast between a “self-made individual” and a person totally in need of God helps us to peer inwardly and see ourselves.  If we insist on seeing and doing things our way and not God’s we willingly choose ignorance over divine knowledge and are at risk of divine wrath.

Object of God’s Wrath

Insofar as the metaphor found in Revelation  ch. 3 vv.16 where God desires commitment from us, “would that you were either cold or hot”, there is no other option.  If not, the consequence is plain enough: expulsion from His presence. Hypocrisy is nauseating to Him, “I will spit you out of my mouth.”  In similar O.T. language 3 X’s the term vomit in Lev.  18:22, 25, 28, all referring to the idea to expel the inhabitants from the land should they pollute it with their sins. You get the picture that a good deal of double dealings stem from those who profess to be His children.

The Outcome

It seems reasonable to say that had God left His people to themselves in exile, that it would have been perfectly justified. Yet, He delivers them. He is merciful to His people and loyal to His promises. You see that in an earlier arrangement with Abraham, He had vowed to maintain each detail of His covenant, the dimensions of which involved land, future posterity, and a blessing to nations. You can see then how, if, any of these components were in doubt, how it would leave Israel in despair. However, the people are reassured that they will be returned to the land and that the temple and Jerusalem will be rebuilt and once again Yahweh’s reputation would be restored before the nations of the world.

The Glory of the Lord

We should take note that 61 times the statement is made that “they would know me.” Ezekiel declares a series of punitive acts against nations who had mocked a crestfallen Israel who in previous dealings had sought her end. But God triumphs again, His judgments (the sword of Yahweh) are levied against the surrounding nations who capitulate, Israel’s land is restored to her, and the Glory of God takes center stage.

What is the future hope for mankind?

In truth, the course set by God for Himself and humanity offers a sound basis of hope for all of us. The very last line recorded by the prophet is short “The Lord is there”. (Ez  48:35) which is much like dotting God’s signature all over the course of history,  its trajectory culminates in the creation of a new heaven and earth and a new exilic people —  metaphorically speaking, those who find themselves in exile due to being estranged from God on account of sin — who now have been restored and admitted to a land where no death or sin exists. A lasting image in Ezekiel chapter one is the vision of a throne-like-structure that symbolized God’s Glory which appeared to the prophet. Here God gives an apt demonstration of His Glory of which reoccurs throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament where Divine Glory shined fully in the Lord Jesus Christ: He was the incarnation of God’s Glory before all of humanity! Now it should be evident from Ezekiel’s reaction, that when he witnessed Divine Glory “I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking”, or when John testified of His Glory in heaven in Revelation  1:17 he “fell at his feet” what our reaction should be.

I trust that you have seen something of the Glory of God from Ezekiel and that you might consider what it should mean for your life and that you will kneel in confession and adoration before His Son, Jesus Christ, to seek forgiveness for your sins and be given life eternal so that one day you might join the throng of worshippers in heaven to give God the Glory, forever and ever. Amen!

Prophecy – A Sure Thing!

What does an ancient city no longer in existence have to do with a conservation area for turtles? Probably hard to guess, right?  Let me take the suspense out of it by quickly saying that the Old Testament city is Tyre, a defunct seaport along the coastline of what is now Lebanon, but currently that parcel of land is vacant of any human habitation, since it has been designated a conservation area for certain plants and endangered turtles. On the sandy coastline in Southern Lebanon, rests artesian wells, vegetation and flowers of all sorts and yes, the turtles who splash about offshore the bordering coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches of Tyre are thought to be important nesting areas for the green and loggerhead turtle.  Any construction for human habitation is strictly prohibited.

In the summer months especially, this area is a popular tourist destination.  One wonders if the mass of tourists are even aware of the prophetic nature of the city of Tyre that once stood on this world heritage site from the Babylonian era, where Ezekiel the prophet said that it would never be rebuilt after the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. Recorded for us are his words from hundreds of years ago: “I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (26:14)  To think that today, that it has been made a sanctuary for wetlands and vegetation is quite remarkable when you consider how densely populated Lebanon has become.

Some folk believe in luck. Lady Chance they call it. Seems like many wish for fast money with the lotteries and ticket buying to win big. On average the Canadian who picks 6 numbers for a chance at millions has a 1 in  14 chance at succeeding. Yet, odds never seem to discourage jackpot hounds, Betting Canadians spend an average of $550 per year on gaming tickets alone. The odds of winning are quite remote. Say you’re standing on a football field.  You’re blindfolded and holding a pin.  A friend has released an ant on the field. Your chance of piercing that ant with your pin is about the same as winning a Lotto 6/49 jackpot. 1 in 14 million. Not exactly a sure bet. (CBS News Nov 9, 2009 Lotteries: what are the odds?).

But what if hundreds of Biblical predictions of future events and details were made which leave you aghast at the astronomical odds of them happening yet each one finding fulfillment what would you say to that?  Simple computation for success behind Biblical prophecy is exactly that – astronomical, yet each predictions has taken place in exact detail as originally given! Consider further Tyre’s destruction:  “They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water.” (26:12)   It would seem rather unusual for anyone to take stones and timber and lay them in the sea. The  Hebrew verb for “lay” means to put in a particular place; it does not mean to throw the debris of Tyre into the sea but again to place each stone and timber precisely in a set location as though you are placing your shoes in a particular spot in your closet. So how is it that this would happen since invading armies are not in the habit of systematically arranging the rubble from the cities they just destroyed  in a set location in the sea, a piece at a time. So then, how is God going to make good on this prophecy? The answer came 250 years later with a twenty-four year old guy named Alexander the Great.

Alexander was on his way to Egypt to continue his conquest in that part of the world when he passed before the old ruins of Tyre. Not far, on an island about half-a-mile away from the original Tyre lived the ancestors of those who during the siege of Tyre centuries earlier, escaped destruction by boarding ships and fleeing to a nearby strip of land in the sea. There they built a walled city of impregnable magnitude, or at least they thought they did. Its citizens now rebuffed Alexander’s diplomatic mission to win their affection and declare him their ruler. Alexander was incensed. In his fury he devised a plan to reach the island by constructing a 2000 foot long, 200 foot wide causeway that stretched from the mainland to the island. It took over nine months but he succeeded and razed the city and killed many of its occupants. To build the thoroughfare to the island, he took debris from the nearby old site of Tyre, from centuries earlier, placing stones and timber in the sea until he reached the island.  Though it was about eighteen feet at its deepest part around the city, yet enough material along with timber from trees on nearby mountain top peaks enabled him to construct the passageway. Prophecy once again was fulfilled to the letter.

Next is in line Ezekiel was given another prediction.  “Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets. (26: 5)   For this to occur the way people fished had to remain the same in that area for well over twenty-three hundred years! Today, if you were to travel to Southern Lebanon to the old site of Tyre you would see a conservation area on its former site, the old causeway, and fishnets that are hung out to dry just like they did thousands of years earlier.  Quite remarkable, indeed.  So what is the purpose of prophecy?

For one thing, the LORD wants his people and surrounding nations to pay heed to His Rule.  We find in the book of Ezekiel, about 65 occurrences or a variation of the statement “Then they will know that I am the Lord”   “Then” is a term that designates time and occasion wherein God is acting in history to move it toward a divine end.

Second, and the principal lesson we wish to leave behind with you:  prophecy is a powerful authentication of the Word of God; it is evidence for the reliability of Scripture. As we have seen, every detail of prophetic utterance is either been fulfilled or will be at some later point, therefore; we are assured about the veracity of His Written Word and it can be trusted and relied upon from cover to cover. “If one would dispute the Word of God, he or she must first disprove the Bible’s claim of fulfilled prophecy.” (from Bible.org., The purpose of Prophecy)  In that there are 353 O.T. prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone speaks volumes for further proof where many have been accomplished and still others remain fulfillment.  J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. These encompass 8,352 verses.  It seems to me with so much evidence before our eyes, and not one failed prophecy, that we should pay attention to what is said about salvation, seeing God’s Word is sure and dependable. You have a sure basis to put your trust in Christ and repent of your sins.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  (John  5:24)