Return.

Mercy

God of mercy.  That is who He is.

The topical title for Jeremiah 3:6-4:4 is Unfaithful Israel.  “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” (Jeremiah 3:6. NIV84)  “But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to Me, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:20. NIV84).  Even so, the call “return” appears numerous times throughout these chapters.  Why would God want to call a people…a person who has been unfaithful to Him to return to His side?  God of mercy.  That is who He is.

Nehemiah 9 describes another instance of God’s mercifulness.

“You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; You heard their cry at the Red Sea.  You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all of his officials and all the people of his land, for You knew how arrogant the Egyptians treated them.  You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day.  You divided the sea before them so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths like a stone into mighty waters.  By day You led them with a pillar of clouds and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.  You came down on Mount Sinai; You spoke to them from heaven.  You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.  You made known to them Your Sabbath and gave them commandments, decrees, and laws through Your servant Moses.  In their hunger You gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst You brought them water from the rock; You told them to go in and take possession of the land You had sworn with uplifted hand to give them…” (Nehemiah 9″9-15, NIV84).

All these great, miraculous signs and wonders God had done and still the people turned from Him.  “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey Your commands.  They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them, they became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery” (Nehemiah 9:17b, NIV84).

How quick are we…am I to judge the Israelites?  Condemning, “They experienced the goodness and faithfulness of God, they saw His wondrous hand, they escaped slavery and peril because He miraculously led them out and they in full will turned away from Him.  What stupidity!”  Are we…am I so innocent of such?  Are not there are times when alike the Israelites we…I refuse to listen and fail to remember and obey in spite of what God has done to reveal Himself to us…to me?

Why would God want to forgive them…forgive us…forgive me?  God of mercy.  That is who He is.

“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, FOR I AM MERCIFUL,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever.  Only acknowledge your guilt– you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'” declares the Lord.  “‘Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 3:12-14, NIV84).

May we…may I not take the mercy of God for granted.  May we listen to His beckoning, His merciful call to return to His side.  May we come.  May we see the Christ child in the manger as Mercy come down to us and revealed for us, the Forgiveness of God given…given.  May we acknowledge our guilt, accepting who He is– God of Mercy–, and return to walk at His side as individuals, as families, as churches, as communities, as countries.  That is my prayer this Christmas.

Victoria

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in the silent age

Last week I posted about the three days of silence between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ (click here to read).  Ah, did you know that there was another silence?  …which was MUCH longer than three days?

How much longer?

Try nearly five thousand times longer!  This period of silence lasted about four hundred years.  FOUR HUNDRED YEARS!  This silence occurred between the revelations of Christ foretold in the Old Testament (c.a. 400 B.C.) and the incarnation of Christ in the New Testament (c.a. 5 B.C.).  Could you even imagine what experiencing four hundred years of silence must have been like?

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“What fear we felt  i n   t h e   s i l e n t   a g e, four hundred hears can He be found, but broken by a Baby’s cry, rejoice in the hallowed manger ground” – Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground), Chris Tomlin

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In Luke 2, we are given a glimpse of someone who experienced such an anticipatory longing for Christ to end that silence and then experienced perfect joy when He did…25There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s CONSOLATION, and the Holy Spirit was on him.  26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.  27Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said: 29Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.  30For my eyes have seen Your SALVATION.  31You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— 32a light for REVELATION to the Gentiles and GLORY to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32, HCSB09).

What was Simeon “looking forward to”?

It’s better stated: Who was Simeon “looking forward to”?  The long awaited Promise– the One who would bring consolation, salvation, revelation, and glorification!  Consolation (paraklēsis): comfort.  Salvation (sōtērios): divine salvation.  Revelation (apokalypsis): made fully known.  Glorification (doxa): unequalled splendor.[1]  All these were brought by Christ Jesus alone, as…  Jesus Christ IS the Consolation Of Israel!  Without Him there is only condemnation (John 3:18, 2 Corinthians 1:3).  Jesus Christ IS the Salvation Of All People!  Without Him there is only separation (John 3:16-17, Titus 2:11-13).  Jesus Christ IS God Made Fully Known!  Without Him there is no way to know God (John 14:6, 1 Timothy 4:16).  Jesus Christ IS the Most Splendid Redeemer!  Without Him there is no hope whatsoever of being freed from the captivity of sin (John 8:36, Titus 2:13-14).

You see, “18[t]he birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  19So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.  20But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.  21She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because  H e   w i l l   s a v e  His people from their sins.”  22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him IMMANUEL, which is translated “G O D   I S   W I T H   U S.”  24When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him.  He married her 25but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son.  And he named Him Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18-25, HCSB09).

This is the Good News…that He IS the Good News! We do not have to be without God nor without Hope because Jesus Christ is IMMANUEL, God With Us!

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May you and yours have a Very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year with God and with Hope!

Blessings,

Victoria

On Behalf of the True Hope Ministries Team

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1. In the immediately proceeding portion of the text in Luke 2, we are given a glimpse of another who experienced such an anticipation for Christ to end the silence and the perfect joy when He did… “36There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and was a widow for 84 years.  She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.  38At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the REDEMPTION of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38, HCSB09).  Redemption (lytrōsis): liberation.  Liberation brought only by Christ Jesus!

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The Hopes of all the Years…

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Last week we took a look at the phrase penned by Phillip Brooks in 1868 “The Hopes and fears of all the years” and focused on the fears that may have existed as part of the Christmas Narrative.  This week, we would like to take a look at the HOPE referred to in the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem“.   The HOPE of course, was the promised Messiah.

  • Did you know that before the birth of the Messiah there was “400 years of silence”?
  • Did you know that the first coming of the Messiah was foretold in at least 300 Old Testament Prophecies?
  • Did you know that all of those prophecies made hundreds of years before the birth of the Messiah were all fulfilled down to every detail in the person of Jesus Christ?

George Heron, a French mathematician, calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling only 40 of those prophecies are 1 in 10 to the power of 157. THAT IS A 1 FOLLOWED BY 157 ZEROS!  Another mathematician, Dr. Peter S. Ruckman, claims the odds of fulfilling only 60 of the prophecies in one person are one out of ten to the 895th power. THAT IS A 1 FOLLOWED BY 895 ZEROS!

Let’s take a look at just a few of these prophecies and their fulfillment…

  • Genesis 12:3 tells us that Messiah would come from the lineage of Abraham.  Mathew 1:1 reminds us that Jesus came from the lineage of Abraham.
  • Psalm 89:29 tells us that Messiah would come from the lineage of David.  Luke 3:23-31 reminds us that Jesus came from the lineage of David.
  • Jeremiah 31:22 and Isaiah 7:14 prophecy that Jesus would be born of a virgin.   Matthew 1:18-20 and Luke 1:34-35 confirm that Jesus was in fact born of a virgin.
  • The Old Testament prophet Micah tells us that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).    Luke 2:4-7 tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  Incidentally, this prophecy detailing the fact that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrata was most likely the inspiration behind the song “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  • Isaiah 7:14 tells us that HIS name would be called Immanuel.   In Matthew 1:21-23, Jesus is called IMMANUEL!
  • Malachi 4:5 tells us that the Messiah’s coming would be announced by a man coming in the Spirit of Elijah.  Matthew 3:1-2 tells us that John the Baptist came in the Spirit of Elijah.
  • The next verse, Malachi 4:6 tells us that the Messiah’s announcer would turn many hearts to God.   This was fulfilled in Luke 1:16-17 and Mark 1:3-5.

The prophecies get even more specific from there talking about specific miracles that Jesus would do, the fact that he would calm the stormy sea (Psalm 107:28-29 / Fulfilled Matthew 8:24-26),  the way that He would enter Jerusalem and even the way that HE would die.

Jesus IS the Messiah, the One TRUE HOPE, the Only Person in all of history who has and could fulfill hundreds upon hundreds of prophecies! 

There is one more fact that makes this even more exciting.  There are over 500 prophecies which detail Jesus’ second coming!   If HE fulfilled every prophecy related to HIS first coming, you and I can be sure that HE will fulfill those second coming prophecies as well!

Rejoice: Jesus IS our TRUE HOPE and HE IS coming back soon!

~Stephen

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years…

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In 1868 Phillip Brooks penned the lyrics, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.  Of all the years that I have been singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, these lyrics leapt off the score this year like never before.  I wonder what might have been on Brooks’ mind as he penned these lyrics? 

Was it Mary- who was expecting a child, and not just any child but the Son of God, when she was a child herself AND in what seemed to be a fearful predicament for which women were disgraced (Lk. 1:26-35; Mt. 1:18-19)?

Was it Joseph- to whom Mary was pledge to be married and who feared what to do and what might be done to Mary (Mt. 1:18-20)?

Was it King Herod- who was troubled with fear at the news of not just the appearance of any other king but the Rightful Messiah King (Mt. 2:1-7, 12)?

Maybe it was the people- who, along with Herod, were fearfully distressed- perhaps they were not prepared to be in the physical presence of their God and Savior (Mt. 2:3, 3:2; Luke 3:3-8a)?

Or possibly it was the fear of a reverent expectant awe and amazement, like of the Shepherds and those whom they told, which Brooks had in mind (Luke 2:15-17)?

And what about THE HOPES OF ALL THE YEARS…

Victoria

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Check back next week to read about THE HOPES OF ALL THE YEARS!

The Cross: Celebrate and Cheer

With Thanksgiving over, I think it’s safe to say that the Christmas Season has “officially” begun!  Decorations are up, the scent of hot cocoa and cookies are in the atmosphere, and some of us are even excited to strut around in those beloved knit seasonal sweaters (you know who you are)!  In the midst of all the yuletide cheer it can be all too easy to lose sight of the Real Reason for celebration and cheer.

I’d like to share with you a bit of a devotional written by a young man, which recently reminded me of why I can and should celebrate and cheer this and every other season of the year…

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THE CROSS

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.'” (Matthew 16:24)

The cross is a symbol of redemption, hope, and victory over sin and death.  “The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men” (Tozer).  The cross was used to kill, but Christ uses it to give life.

A.W. Tozer said, “[The cross] was permitted to remain what it had been originally, a cross.  Its power departed when it changed from a thing of death to a thing of beauty.  When men made of it a symbol, hung in around their necks as an ornament…then it became at best a weak emblem”.

We have hung our crosses around our necks, placed the crucifix atop our beds, we have cried when we watched The Passion of the Christ, and we have become sad when we read the account of the crucifixion during Easter time.  But we have lost the true meaning of the cross.  The cross cannot save us, it’s the man, Jesus, who died on the cross who has the True and Only Power to save us!  Jesus died on the cross for our sins, to save all mankind!

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To think that Christ came to be born of a virgin, living to give His life upon the cross so we might live, is utterly mindboggling.  The power of sin and death over us IS broken!  We don’t have to be slaves to sin- neither its “power”, “pollution”, nor “guilt” are able to keep a hold on us (A.W. Pink)!

Why can (and should) we celebrate and cheer this and every other season of the year…?  Because Christ Jesus, who died on the cross and who has the True Power, has offered Salvation from sin and death to us as a free gift!  WOO HOO!

So as we take up our crosses in obedience to Christ throughout this Christmas and every other season of the year, let us be reminded of why we can follow Christ and do so with celebration and cheer!

-Victoria