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From Bethel to Bethel

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Many people struggle through life. Every day brings them something new to worry about. Some have illnesses. Others have grief. The list of troubles that shape a person is endless. The patriarch Jacob knew all about trouble, yet his struggles became God’s instruments to transform him from a supplanter to a servant. After working in Padan Aram for his father-in-law, Laban, for 20 years, Jacob knew it was time to go home: “Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you’” (Gen. 31:3). Returning to Canaan would not be easy because of the circumstances under which he had left. Jacob had stolen the blessing of the firstborn from his brother, Esau; and Esau wanted to kill him. Earlier, Esau had willingly given Jacob the birthright of the firstborn in exchange for a meal, showing how little he valued it. The brothers never communicated the entire time Jacob was gone, and Jacob was terrified of Esau. Meanwhile, Laban and his sons also were angry with Jacob, believing he had become rich at their expense. As Jacob’s flocks increased, Laban’s decreased until God had shifted all of Laban’s …

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Family Feud

In Articles by Israel My Glory2 Comments

God uses all types of circumstances to shape people. Sometimes they are favorable; other times they involve trouble, heartache, and grief. In the case of the patriarch Jacob, the Lord used 20 difficult years in Padan Aram, when Jacob worked for Laban, to mold Jacob’s character and draw him closer to God. Jacob was 77 when he left Beersheba and went to his mother’s family in Padan Aram. Yet his journey with God had just begun. For the next two decades, Jacob lived in Laban’s world. Previously, others served him. Now he served Laban. He learned to navigate life on his own, apart from his mother’s favoritism, and he matured into a man of God as he appropriated the blessings of the rich and unconditional covenant God made with his grandfather Abraham; reiterated to his father, Isaac; and then reiterated to Jacob himself. When Jacob first arrived in Padan Aram, he immediately fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob offered to serve Laban seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, and the years “seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20). However, on the evening of the wedding, Laban …

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Apples of Gold—November/December 2016

In Articles by Israel My Glory1 Comment

It is now the time of year when Christians celebrate the Lord’s birth and sing, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” In Israel, people are celebrating the feast of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. [Editor’s Note: Hanukkah 2016 begins on Christmas Eve.] I recently visited an ultra-Orthodox synagogue-school and talked with some of the young men about Christmas and Hanukkah. One student said, “Hanukkah is a very holy feast.” The students listened carefully, but when I finished, one of them said, “That is a nice story. Now show us where it is written in the Bible concerning this one about whom you speak.” They thought they had trapped me since this verse does not mention Bethlehem. But then I read Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” The passage made them uncomfortable. They tried to divert my attention by discussing every word of the passage.“Those of us who celebrate Christmas have an everlasting light in our hearts. We celebrate the coming of the Lord, in …

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The Jewishness of Handel’s Messiah

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My wife and I traveled to Great Britain in 2008. One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to London’s Westminster Abbey, which is described as “the parish church of the world.” Well-known for its burials and memorials, Westminster Abbey houses in its Poets’ Corner the burial place of the honored Baroque composer George Frederic Handel. Handel made his career debut with the opera Almira in 1705. He became a successful composer—famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. But in 1741, at age 56, he grew miserably discouraged as competition from other opera companies increased and drove him into financial disaster. Harassed by poor health, such as rheumatism and a form of blindness, his prospects looked bleak. At the premiere of Messiah, a friend called it a beautiful piece of entertainment. Handel replied, “Entertainment? It was written for education!” He recognized that God had given him his talent, and he desired to use it to teach God’s Word. So no one misunderstood his commitment, he only accepted donations for performances of Messiah; he never charged a fee. The Messiah’s Jewish connection is undeniable. The rabbis have a saying, “Coincidence is not a kosher word.” No Hebrew …

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The Story of Glory

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Everyone was in deep shock. I longed for Bobby’s relatives to know our all-wise, sovereign, and loving Savior. “At times like these,” I acknowledged, as I began the funeral message, “you can be tempted to doubt the love of God when actually, an assurance of how much God does love you is what you need to carry you through this time.” I then preached on why a loving God would become a Man—a sermon suited for Christmas but delivered to grieving people in hopes of teaching them about a God they did not know. Christmas wonderfully displays God’s character and plan. In the incarnation of Jesus, God became Man. If we could truly  understand that magnificent feat, we could understand God. John 17 displays that story of glory. To thoughtfully read this longest recorded prayer of Jesus is to enter the Holy of Holies and hear God talking to God—Son to Father. We stand in awe and see the reasons He so deserves our praise and obedience because of who He is. HIS GLORY AS FATHER The night before He went to the cross for us, Jesus prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory  …

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‘For My Name’s Sake’

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Iam Charlie Perry’s great grandson. That fact may not mean much today, but in my small hometown many years ago, it meant plenty. Charles H. Perry was a man of impeccable integrity. He was highly esteemed by everyone who knew him or did business with him, and his reputation as a godly Christian followed him everywhere. People knew him to be kind, friendly, scrupulously honest, and always willing to lend a helping hand. And if you were blessed enough to be related to Charlie Perry, you reaped the benefits of being associated with his good name, as my mother will attest to even today. A good name extols a person’s character. The more reputable the individual, the better his name. King Solomon wrote, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Prov. 22:1). Why? Perhaps because a reputation lives even beyond the grave. God has a “great name” (1 Sam. 12:22). Fifteen times the phrase For My name’s sake appears in the Bible (NKJV). God’s name extols His character. His integrity, reputation, holiness, and even His glory are all closely linked to His name. And often God acts to sanctify His name and prevent it from being …

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Didn’t Know Who You Were

In Articles by Israel My Glory3 Comments

Christians sing! And well we should because we have much to sing about. The Christmas season will soon be upon us, and everywhere— from the terraced vineyards of Bethlehem to churches the world over to carolers serenading on city streets and families gathered home in festive celebration—songs of the nativity will fill the air. Their lyrics endure because they spring from a reality found first in Scripture as a promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). The promise became history centuries later when shepherds, tending their flocks outside little Bethlehem, were visited by an angelic emissary heralding the news that the promised Child had arrived: And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Lk. 2:9–10). Isaiah’s “us” described Israel’s ultimate inheritance …

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The Unfathomable Christ

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You are about to read one of the most enlightening passages in all of Scripture. In it, the apostle Paul disclosed the unfathomable truth and magnificence of Jesus Christ. Paul expounded on Christ’s deity; His equality with God the Father; and His eternality, incarnation, humanity, humility, servanthood, voluntary death on the cross, exaltation, victory over the supernatural forces of evil, ascension, and universal authority over all of creation. Jesus’ incarnation is the greatest miracle revealed to mankind, and no one can fully comprehend it. At the name of Jesus, heaven and earth will eternally bow and confess Him as Lord, to the glory of God. All of these truths are divinely revealed in Philippians 2:5–11: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name …

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Apples of Gold—September/October 2016

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Isaiah 49 says, “You are My servant, O Israel. You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (vv. 3, 6). Many Hasidic Jews believe they are the servants of God, chosen by Him to spread His salvation to the ends of the earth. Wearing their long beards, payot (curled side locks), black hats, and black clothing, they go to people and introduce themselves as prophets of God. Unfortunately, they convince many that the Hasidic path is the right path to God. In reality, they do great harm because they are leading people far away from the God of Israel. Recently, I ran into one of my neighbors who had received some of their literature. She told me she was honored to have met a prophet and that he gave her something special. “What did he give you?” I asked. She then showed me brochures and rabbinical books. Since I have helped her and her family many times with household repairs and electricity problems, she felt comfortable asking me about the literature. “People can write all they want to  confuse you,” I said. “But what people write is not important. What God has written—that is what matters.” I …

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The Coming Captivity

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Thirty miles north of Jerusalem, in what most people call the West Bank, lie the ruins of Samaria, ancient capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Though the area today is closed to tourists for security reasons, the biblical city’s exposed foundations still stand, a silent witness to the accuracy of the prophecies that open the book of Micah. Delivered before Assyria’s three-year siege of Samaria (725–722 BC), Micah’s first prophecy was to the northern kingdom, which Assyria finally destroyed in 722 BC. But he addressed his message to “all . . . O earth” (all people everywhere). God’s punishment of Samaria, as well as the southern kingdom of Judea, was to be a lesson for everyone; and all humanity is called to attest to the fact that the Lord’s judgment is just. “Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it!” (Mic. 1:2). The Lord is pictured as “coming out of His place” and walking on the mountaintops (vv. 3–4), a visual that speaks of His majesty, power, and overwhelming presence. Since most cities were built atop tall hills and accessible mountains, it also speaks of His destruction of those cities. Samaria’s walls were massive …