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Leslie Flynn on Why We Owe The Messiah To The Jews

“The Messiah” By Leslie B. Flynn

During the early persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, some Jews began going to churches on Sunday. The Nazis sent orders to church leaders to ask the Jews to leave. Someone has related that in the middle of one service a pastor asked the folks to bow their heads and all who had Jewish fathers to leave. There was some rustling. Then the pastor asked all who had Jewish mothers to leave. Louder commotion. When the congregation looked up, someone had removed the form on the cross.

We owe the Messiah to the Jews. In His humanity He was Jewish. He was born in the Jewish city of Bethlehem, David’s city, of a Jewish mother. He was a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. He was called “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” He bore the Jewish name of Jesus.

He never left the confines of Palestine, except briefly as an infant carried in flight by his parents to Egypt. He spoke the Hebrew dialect of His day. He attended the Jewish synagogue and temple services and participated in the yearly festivals. For thirty years He lived in a Jewish home. When He began His ministry, He was recognized as a Jew. The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well asked in surprise, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (Jhn. 4:9). The superscription on the cross read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (Jhn. 19:19). He was bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. Paul said that from the patriarchs “is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” (Rom. 9:5).

Max I. Reich, a Jewish professor during my student days at Moody Bible Institute, penned these words,

They meant to shame me, calling me a Jew!

I pity them. They know not what they do.

They little think the name which they deride,

Each time I hear it fills my heart with pride.

Since Jesus bore that name when here on earth

No princely title carries half such worth.”

HANDEL’S MESSIAH

Recently my wife and I were looking around a gift shop filled with Christmas decorations. Suddenly above the din of friendly conversation I heard the strains of faint music over the store’s sound system. I caught these words, “unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” I knew I was listening to The Messiah. I rejoiced in the almost universal acclaim given this oratorio sung every December in countless churches and played in shopping malls everywhere. I thought of how its composer, Handel, at the lowest ebb in his life, sequestered in his attic study for 24 days, often going without food and sleep, wrote almost continuously to capture the glorious music often called “The Greatest Story Ever Sung.”

Every word of The Messiah is from the Bible. Listening to this oratorio, you hear only God’s Word sung, for it’s a compilation of verses drawn entirely from Holy Writ, predictions or fulfillments of the Anointed One. More verses come from the Old Testament than from the New. More than one-fifth of the Bible books are quoted, seven from the Old, and seven from the New. Most quoted Old Testament books are Isaiah and Psalms. The Messiah is about the Messiah.

Two strains of seeming opposing thought run throughout this oratorio. First is the suffering, the humiliation, and the disavowal of the Messiah. “He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He gave His back to smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting…. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities.” Reportedly, a visitor who arrived while Handel was writing this section found the composer shaking with emotion.

The second strain found in The Messiah is a glorious one, predicting the ultimate triumph and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection is promised in these lines, “But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy one to see corruption.” Also in “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” But the most thrilling section of The Messiah for most folks is the “Hallelujah Chorus” as it exclaims over and over again, “And He shall reign for ever and ever, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

How sad that people, hearing The Messiah sung, fail to grasp the significance of these verses from the Bible. John Newton, once a slave trader and best known for his hymn “Amazing Grace,” was converted seven years after the composition of this famous work. He grew to admire this oratorio, but with its rising popularity recoiled at the thought of people finding enjoyment in the music while totally heedless of the message. As a pastor, he delivered a series of “Fifty Expository Discourses on the Scriptural Oratorio,’ praying that audiences would respond with a sense of obligation to the divine love that sent the Messiah.

THE MESSIAH-PREDICTION AND FULFILLMENT

The inspiring compilation of texts in The Messiah doesn’t begin to exhaust the Old Testament predictions about His coming. The Old Testament contains dozens and dozens of such prophecies. Dr. John Gerstner, professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, quoted Church of England Canon Liddon as stating that “there are in all more than three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the coming Messiah. All have been fulfilled, more or less fully and clearly, in Jesus of Nazareth” (John Gerstner. Reasons For Faith. New York: Harper & Row. 1960, p. 115).

Many times in the Gospels, events in the life of Jesus are mentioned as specifically fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy. For example, the account of His virgin birth (Matt. 1:22,23) is said “to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” Then follows a quote from Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” The birthplace of Jesus-Bethlehem-was predicted over 500 years in advance. When the wise men came to Jerusalem seeking a newborn king, King Herod was disturbed at the mention of a rival, and asked the teachers of the law where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet

has written.” To Herod they then quoted Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel” (Matt. 2:1-6).

The flight of Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus to escape Herod’s slaughter of innocent infants (Matt. 2:13-15) is said to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Hosea (11:1), “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The senseless murder of baby boys (Matt. 2:16,17) fulfilled Jer. 31:15, which Matthew quoted. (From here on, we’ll give just the reference of the prophecy and omit the quote.) In a Sabbath service in his hometown synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus read a prophecy about the Spirit’s anointing of the Messiah for a ministry to the poor, to prisoners, and to the blind and the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21). Then with all eyes focused on Him, Jesus declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He had quoted the prophet Isaiah (61:1,2).

The moving of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum, which was situated by the lake near Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt. 4:12-16) fulfilled a prophecy by Isaiah (9:1,2).

His plentiful use of parables (Matt. 13:34,35) was predicted in Ps. 78:2. Failure of the people to believe in Jesus even after performing many miracles in their presence (John 12:37), fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (53:1).

Betrayal by one of His own (John 13:18-39) fulfilled a prophecy of David (Psalm 41:9).

Hatred against Jesus without any cause (John 15:24) was predicted by David in two Psalms (35:19; 69:4).

Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt in His so-called triumphal entry on the day we call Palm Sunday (Matt. 21:4,5) was foretold hundreds of years before by the prophet Zechariah (9:9).

The use of the thirty pieces of silver given Judas for betraying Jesus to purchase a potter’s field (Matt. 27:3-10) was also foretold by the prophet Zechariah (11:12,13).

The division of Jesus’ garments by the soldiers into four shares, and the casting of lots for His seamless robe (Jhn. 19:23,24) was foretold in another of David’s Psalms (22:18)

The apostle John related that Jesus’ cry, “I am thirsty” was uttered on purpose “so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (19:28). The prophecy came from David’s Psalm (69:21).

It was customary to break the legs of victims of crucifixion to hasten their death. Though the soldiers broke the legs of the thieves on either side of Jesus, they did not break His for they saw He was already dead. Instead, a soldier pierced His side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19: 31-37). These actions, sparing His bones and piercing His side, fulfilled two prophecies (Psalm 22:17 and Zechariah 12:10).

Many predictions about Jesus are found in certain Psalms, termed by scholars “Messianic Psalms.” Twice on the first Easter, first to the couple on the Emmaus road, and then to the disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus showed how the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, predicted not only His death, but His glory as well (Luke 24:25-27, 44).

In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:24- 35) he clearly declared that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and His exaltation to the right hand of God had been prophesied by David (Psalm 16:8-11;110:1). Two Messiahs had not been prophesied, one to suffer, and another to reign; rather, the one same Messiah was to both suffer and then be exalted. Paul’s strategy in preaching in synagogues on his missionary journeys was to reason with his hearers from the Scriptures that the Messiah, when He came, had to suffer and rise from the dead. Then he would declare, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ” (Acts 17:1-3). His presentation rested strongly on Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

Available in many Christian bookstores is the New Testament Prophecy Edition which notes in bold print verses that fulfill Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. The Old Testament says, “The Messiah will come.” The New Testament says, “The Messiah has come.” Despite all the evidence to the Messiahship of Jesus, many believe that the Messiah has not yet come.

To those who hold that His coming is still future, Joseph Rabinowitz, pioneer of a Messianic congregation in 1885 in Russia, used to relate “The Parable of the Wheel,” which went like this. Some people driving in a four-wheel wagon happened to lose a wheel. Finding that the wagon lurched along clumsily, they looked about and discovered that a wheel was missing. One of the men jumped down and ran forward in search of the missing wheel. To everyone he met he said, “We’ve lost a wheel. Have you seen a wheel?” Finally a wise bystander said, “You are looking in the wrong direction. Instead of looking in front for your wheel, you ought to be looking behind.”

Then Rabinowitz commented that this was the same mistake Jews have been making for centuries. They have been looking ahead for the Messiah instead of looking back. The Messiah has already come. The four wheels of Hebrew history are Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. The Jews by looking in front, instead of behind, have failed to find their fourth wheel. Abraham, Moses and David are but beautiful types and symbols of Jesus. But thank God, “the Israelites of the New Covenant” have found Y’shua, our Brother Jesus, our All, “who of God has been made unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;” from whom alone we have found divine light, life, liberty, and love, for the great Here and the greater Hereafter (Kai Kjaer. Joseph Rabinowitz and the Messianic Movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 57-58).

THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB

The Old Testament not only gave direct predictions of the coming Messiah, but also foreshadowed His death on the cross in many events involving sacrifices.

Right after Adam and Eve had sinned and stood in naked shame before a righteous God, the “Lord God made garments of skin for the pair and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). They then learned that the covering for their sin came at a price-the death of an innocent substitute-the shedding of some animal’s lifeblood.

Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel, each brought an offering to the Lord. The Lord rejected Cain’s, but accepted Abel’s. Abel had offered portions of his flock. Through the shedding of blood, “by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did” (Heb. 11:4).

When the Lord was about to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, he directed the Jews to slay a lamb, and sprinkle its blood on their doorframes. The Lord said, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:12,13). At midnight the Lord struck all the firstborn in Egypt. But every house that had the blood on the doorposts was passed over, and no one “under the blood” died. The lambs had died, but the sons were alive-saved by the blood of the lambs. This story foreshadowed the deliverance from sin’s bondage for all who put their trust in the blood of the Messiah shed on Calvary. Paul wrote that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (I Cor. 5:7).

On Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the High Priest required two goats. He would sacrifice one and sprinkle its blood on the Mercy Seat atop the Ark which contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments which the people had broken. On the head of the other goat the High Priest would lay both hands, confess the wickedness of the Israelites, and send it off into the desert. This annual ceremony anticipated the redemptive work of Jesus Christ who would first offer up Himself, shedding His blood as a sacrifice for our sins, and who also would carry away our sins never to be remembered against us again. The book of Hebrews points out the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Once He had offered Himself at Calvary and entered heaven to appear for us in God’s presence, no further sacrifice was needed. “Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own….But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:25,26). The once-for-allness of Jesus’ sacrifice was indicated by the ripping of the veil in front of the Holy Place. Just at the moment Jesus died, the curtain was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51).

The downward direction indicated a heavenly hand. Not only the Day of Atonement ceremony, but also the entire Levitical sacrificial system with its daily sacrifices, was done away with through the final, all-sufficient offering of the Lamb of God. Priests must have sewed the curtain back together and used it till the temple was destroyed 40 years later. But other priests evidently saw a relationship between the tearing of the veil and the death of Jesus and became believers (Acts 6:7). Of the various animals offered in Old Testament sacrifices, the lamb was probably the most frequent. So, it’s not strange that “the Lamb” was a favorite title for the Lord Jesus. John the Baptist pointed Him out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jhn. 1:29). In the book of Revelation, He is called the Lamb over 25 times. John has a vision of “a lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (5:6). Revelation speaks of “the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” (15:3). Also of “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (19:9). Perhaps the most thrilling picture is that of the ten thousand times ten thousand circling the throne of God, where Jesus now sits, singing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.”

Recently Messianic believers in Israel have pioneered the placing of full-page advertisements in the nation’s leading Hebrew newspapers. The first, just before Yom Kippur in 1988, pictured a slain lamb on the Temple altar, and was headlined, “Who Is The Sacrifice?” It explained to a potential audience of half the population of Israel how Y’shua the Messiah atones for sin.

ISAIAH 53

Probably no Old Testament chapter speaks more clearly beforehand of the humiliation, suffering and victory of the Messiah than Isaiah 53. Here are snatches of the chapter:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…. we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth …. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth …. my righteous servant will justify many … For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Rabbinical scholars have tried to identify the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 as the nation of Israel. But there are some problems with this view. Isaiah 53 speaks of the Suffering Servant’s perfect innocence, whereas Israel could never be characterized as innocent. Also, the Servant suffers vicariously for the sins of others, whereas in the Old Testament Israel suffers because of its own sin. Again, the Servant suffers willingly, but the Old Testament never describes the sufferings of Israel as a willing sacrifice for the sins of others, especially for the sins of Gentile people.

The language is so descriptive that it seems as though the prophet was standing by the cross reporting the proceedings. Interestingly, a few years ago some of our church teenagers told me of an incident in their high school where a section of the Bible was read over the loudspeaker each morning before classes. Because of a large Jewish enrollment, the agreement was that only the Old Testament would be read. One morning someone read Isaiah 53. A howl of protest went up from students claiming that the reading was from the New Testament and about Jesus!

The Ethiopian

It was Isaiah 53 that an important Ethiopian official was reading on his way home after worship in Jerusalem. Sitting in his chariot in the desert of Gaza, he was met by Philip, an evangelist, who had been diverted by an angel from evangelism in Samaria and directed to the Ethiopian’s chariot.

Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me,” and then invited Philip to join him. The Ethiopian was reading the passage, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” He asked who the prophet was talking about. “Philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). The Ethiopian believed and was baptized.

A Rabbi Believes

Through the centuries Isaiah 53 has led many to trust in Jesus as their Messiah. Harold A. Sevener details the conversion story of the founder of Chosen People Ministries.Leopold Cohn, an orthodox rabbi from Hungary, in his search for the Messiah, left his wife and family to come to America. On his third Sunday in New York City, out for a walk, he saw a church sign in Hebrew saying, “Meeting for Jews.” About to walk in, he was warned by friends not to enter a building with a cross on top, “There are some apostates in that church who mislead our Jewish brethren. They say that the Messiah has already come.” But since he was searching for the Messiah he went in (Harold A. Sevener. Vision. Chosen People Ministries, pp. 7-11).

Inside on the platform 24 Jewish girls, dressed in blue frocks with white sleeves, were singing in Yiddish with great sincerity and enthusiasm, “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light.” While he was pondering the enigma of Jewish girls singing about Jesus, the rabbi noticed that the room grew quiet, as if something exciting was about to happen. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a young man sprang onto the platform and without introduction began preaching about the Messiah. He ran back and forth across the platform with the force of a political orator. Suddenly he leaped to one side, disappeared into the wings, and in a few seconds came out again, carrying in his arms a little live lamb. The audience gasped. He went on with his sermon about the Lamb of God and the Lamb in Isaiah 53. Then the speaker, who was a Jew, went to the wings of the platform, handed the lamb over to another person, then came running out, shouting at the top of his voice, “The Messiah has come! The Messiah has come!” Though both fascinated and disgusted, the rabbi heard for the first time how salvation was available to all who believed in the Lamb of God, the Messiah.

Sometime later Leopold Cohn accepted Jesus as his Messiah and started a mission to Jews which, after a hundred years, is still going strong.

The book Testimonies: of Jews who believe In Jesus contains the full accounts of how sixteen Jews came to believe in Jesus as their Messiah. Edited by Ruth Rosen, she chose to begin with the account of her mother’s journey to faith:

Losing her mother in infancy, Ceil Rosen was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home by foster parents who loved her and treated her as their own. They were strict about the dietary laws, kept all the holidays and forbad picking up a needle, scissors or even a pencil on Saturdays. She knew that being Jewish meant knowing the real God who expected things to be done in a certain way. She knew that unlike Jews, the goyim (non-Jews) had strange ideas about God. As observant as her foster parents were, she didn’t hear much about God at home.

When she was 13, her mother moved to Denver because of her need for a better climate. At the age of questioning authority, Ceil tired under the restrictions of her Orthodox upbringing. When she was 14, she answered a knock at the door and found a boy named Moishe Rosen standing there, who was selling house numbers. Her mother didn’t buy any, but Moishe asked her out on a date. She refused. A year later he asked again. At age 15 she went for a walk with him. They lived on the same block, went to the same school, and they began going steady. His family were nominally Orthodox, members of an Orthodox synagogue, but his mother didn’t keep kosher. Ceil could eat bacon at his house and not feel guilty.

As a member of the high school girls’ chorus, Ceil recalls them dressing up as Israeli women for a Christmas program, gliding across the floor in flowing gowns, and singing, “O come, O come Immanuel/ And ransom captive Israel.” She suddenly realized that Jesus was Jewish, and briefly wondered if He could be for Jewish people after all.

Moishe and Ceil married when she was 18. They decided not to have an Orthodox home, but be modern American Jews without religious hang-ups. With pride in their heritage they maintained their roots, but the compulsion to be religious was lifted. Having her first baby at 19, she began saying prayers of thanks to God. Any doubts as to the existence of God evaporated. Though she didn’t know what to believe about God, she knew He was the giver of life and in charge of things.

She and Moishe went to the movies a lot. The picture “Quo Vadis” made a lasting impression on her. Something about Jesus nabbed her attention. After Moishe gave her an album of Christmas carols which she listened to over and over, she asked herself, “Was it possible God really wanted her to believe in Jesus?” She began to wonder about the New Testament. She asked her cousin to buy a copy of the whole Bible at Newberry’s 5 & 10. She read the four gospels, and then started all over again. She knew Jesus was real, and just couldn’t read enough about Him. It was so obvious he was Jewish, and she was impressed with the down-to-earth, authoritative, compassionate way He talked.

Ceil knew that to confess Christ had the potential of disrupting family relationships. But she also knew that if Jesus’ claims were true, then to deny Him would be to deny God. If she came to the conviction that Jesus was truly the Messiah, she would not be able to deny it, inconvenient and disruptive as it might be.

She wanted to talk to someone but didn’t know where to turn. On a snowy day Mrs. Hannah Wago, a missionary, knocked on the door. A Christian lady, totally unaware of Ceil’s search, had asked the missionary to visit the Rosens. Mrs. Wago began teaching every week but Moishe wanted no part of Ceil’s growing interest. Finally, he told Ceil that Mrs. Wago was not welcome in their home. Ceil shifted their Bible studies to the telephone. One day Moishe came home to find Ceil engaged in one of their phone Bible studies. Moishe, who ordinarily would not deny Ceil anything, became so infuriated that he ripped the phone out of the wall. Embarrassed at his flash of anger, Moishe later apologized, but made no attempt to call a repairman. Ceil discreetly continued her studies with Mrs. Wago.

On Easter Sunday 1953, Ceil walked into a church for the first time in her life. She responded to the invitation and came forward to pray with the minister. After that she prayed for her husband every day, weeping as she asked the Lord to show him the truth about Jesus. Seeing Ceil’s deep interest, Moishe began reading about Jesus and could make quite a case against Christianity. But the information he had read had taken root. They both were surprised one Saturday night when Moishe confessed his faith. They both prayed for him to accept Jesus as his Messiah. He told Ceil he wanted to go to church the next day. He went forward at the minister’s invitation, just as Ceil had on Easter.

They told both sets of parents who could not understand nor accept their children for believing in Jesus. Ceil’s folks told her to forget that she was their daughter. They left town, and Ceil never saw them or heard from them again. She did hear that they moved to Israel, but could never discover any trace of them. Moishe’s parents threatened to disown them, but did not cut them out of their lives for more than a year or so.

Says Ceil, “When I began praying that Moishe would accept Jesus as his Messiah, I had no idea what I was asking. Once my husband committed his life to Y’shua, he could not bear to stand idly by while the majority of our people wnet on believing that Jesus is only for Gentiles. My husband eventually became the founder and executive director of Jews for Jesus, a team of people who have challenged literally millions to think about Jesus.”

Moishe Rosen says, “Witnessing to Jews is like Philip who, becoming a follower of Jesus, went and found Nathaniel. Like Philip, we want to find our brothers and sisters and tell them, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

Rosen has a suggested prayer to help Jews or Gentiles who wish to become followers of Jesus:

“God of Abraham, I know that I have sinned against You, and I want to turn from my sins. I believe you provided Jesus (Y’shua when speaking to Jews) as a once-and-for-all atonement for me. With this prayer I receive Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. I thank You for cleansing me of sin and making me a new person. Amen.”

A well-to-do businessman was entertaining a devout believer in his palatial home. In the course of the evening, while the two of them were sitting in the living room before the glowing fireplace, the wealthy host, a nominal Christian, made a biased remark, “I want nothing Jewish in my home.” The surprised guest said nothing at first. Then slowly rising from his chair, he approached a painting on the wall. It was the apostle Paul preaching to the Athenians on Mars Hill. Carefully he took the painting down and laid it by the crackling fireplace. Then spotting a lovely leather Bible on the marble table, he walked over, picked it up, and placed it beside the painting. Looking around, he saw a paitning of the crucifixion, painstakingly removed it and laid it beside the Bible and the other painting. Then picking up all three items, and moving in the direction of the fireplace, he paused, “You said you want nothing Jewish in your home. Would you like me to put these in the fire?”

In a flash the host jumped to his feet. “Stop! Stop! May God forgive me! I never thought of it in this light before. I never realized how indebted I am for things Jewish—especially my Savior” (Testimonies: of Jews who believe In Jesus, ed. Ruth Rosen. San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 1992, pp. 1-11).

*The article above was adapted from Chapter 7 in the excellent book by Leslie B. Flynn. What the Church Owes the Jew. Magnus Press. Carlsbad, CA: 1998.

About the Author

Leslie B. Flynn, pastor, author, teacher, radio broadcaster, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, died at home in Nanuet, New York on August 11, 2006, at age 87. Reverend Flynn was the pastor of the Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, New York for 40 years, from 1949 until he retired in 1989, and he had been Pastor Emeritus there from 1989 until his death. At the age of 15, Leslie Flynn claimed Psalm 37:4 as his life verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”

Reverend Flynn often said that this verse proved to be true in his life. He dedicated himself to trying to answer God’s call for his life and in return he felt blessed beyond measure. Reverend Flynn enjoyed a rewarding career doing meaningful work that he loved, an active retirement, and a rich family life. Married for 61 years, he and his wife raised seven daughters. Upon his retirement from Grace Baptist Church at the age of 70, he invoked Psalm 23:6, saying “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.”

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on October 3, 1918, Reverend Flynn graduated from a five-year high school at the age of 16. He completed the pastor’s course at Moody Bible Institute and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wheaton College, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Seminary, and a Master of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He was also granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Denver Seminary. Before coming to Nanuet, he was the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in St. Clair, Pennsylvania from 1944–1949.

During his 40-year pastorate at Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet, Reverend Flynn was dedicated to his parishioners. He started each workday praying for members of his congregation individually by name. He was faithful in his visitation, making approximately 1,000 calls a year to homes and hospitals. Under his leadership, two new buildings were erected to accommodate the needs of the growing congregation. When asked how he survived 40 years in the same church, he answered, “Ultimately, through the goodness of God and the support of a kind congregation.”

Reverend Flynn’s ministry was not confined to his church. A prolific writer, he authored 43 books and hundreds of articles for religious magazines. His last book, Laugh, he completed at age 87. His most popular book, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, sold over 250,000 copies since its publication in 1973. His most widely published tract, Through the Bible in a Year, has had more than nine million copies printed. In addition to pastoring and writing, Reverend Flynn taught pastoral methods, journalism, and evangelism at Nyack College for 21 years. He also had weekly broadcasts on three local New York radio stations for 24 years. In addition, he filled an average of 40 speaking engagements outside the church each year. Reverend Flynn was a member of the Board of Trustees of Denver Seminary for 15 years and a member of the Board of Directors of the World Relief Commission for 20 years. Through the generosity of his church and in his capacity as a World Relief board member, he traveled extensively, visiting mission fields worldwide.

Through his ministry at the church, on the radio, in writing and in person, Reverend Flynn touched countless lives and worked tirelessly to spread God’s message of love and forgiveness to all people. He was gentle, hard-working, humble, disciplined, and soft-spoken. He had both an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and a winning sense of humor. Nothing made him happier than to see someone’s life change for the better through Christ’s teachings. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he answered, “Simply, that I preached the word of God.” Reverend Flynn is survived by his wife, Bernice Carlson Flynn; seven daughters, Dr. Linnea Carlson-Sabelli, of Chicago, Illinois, Rev. Janna Roche of Williamsburg, Virginia, Marilee Lee of Jensen Beach, Florida, Annilee Oppenheimer of Potomac, Maryland, Donna McGrath of Ravena, New York, Carol Mellema of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Susan Symington of Bethesda, Maryland; 22 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Published in the Journal News: Friday, August 18th, 2006.

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“Prophecy and the Bible” By James Montgomery Boice

What The Bible Has To Say About The Future:

Part 1 in a Series of 9 By *James M. Boice

Years ago the noted English agnostic Thomas Huxley was in Dublin, Ireland, for some speaking engagements. On one occasion he left his hotel in a hurry to catch a train, taking one of the city’s famous horse drawn taxis. Huxley thought that the doorman at the hotel had told the driver where he was going, so he simply settled back in the cab and told the man at the reins to drive fast. The driver set off at a vigorous pace. In a few minutes Huxley realized that the cab was headed away from the station. “Do you know where you are going?” he shouted to the driver, “No, your honor,” the driver answered, “but I’m driving fast.”

This story seems to sum up more than just the spirit of Huxley and his followers toward the end of the nineteenth century. It is also an illustration of the outlook of many in our tumultuous age. There is much motion, much speed. Yet few in our day seem to know where they are or where they are headed. For most of our contemporaries, life is as Franklin Delano Roosevelt described it in his inaugural address: “We don’t know where we are going but we are on our way.”

This state of affairs is completely abnormal, of course. Or, to put another way, the confusion is not God’s fault. In fact, God’s revelation in the Bible exists to accomplish just the opposite. The Bible is God’s revelation to men of where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed. It is a revelation of our past, present, and future; and these are revealed, not only in reference to the individual, but also as the concern nations and the movements of history. What will happen to us in the years to come? Where is history headed? How will it end? Is God in control or has He forgotten us? Do the events of our life have significance?

If you are interested in these questions and have not been satisfied with the predictions of politicians or pollsters, then this series of studies of what the Bible has to say about the future is for you.

 Why Study Prophecy?

 I must admit that for many years I have been reluctant to write on this subject – for two reasons. First, I believe that in the last generation there has been an overemphasis on prophecy in the writings of certain evangelical leaders. Prophecy is a part of the Bible. It should be studied. Yet sometimes prophecy has been discussed to the exclusion of many other vital and urgent doctrines. That is inexcusable when some still do not know about sin or about Christ’s atonement.

The second reason that I have hesitated to write on this subject has been an inner suspicion that much teaching on prophecy has been directed toward a wrong level of involvement both for the teacher and for the listener. Many are interested in prophecy solely because of a desire to know something that no one else knows, to have the final word on things to come in the future. In some circles this has led to a certain smugness which has destroyed the very compassion and outreach to humanity that a true understanding of the subject is intended to produce.

Since in the face of such misgivings, I have decided to write a series on biblical prophecy, it would be well to give you my reasons. There are four of them.

Four Reasons To Study Biblical Prophecy

First, for anyone who has determined, as I have, to explore the whole counsel of God by means of a thorough exposition of the Bible, it is impossible to avoid prophecy, for the Bible is full of it. In fact, from one point of view, the Bible is almost entirely prophecy. It is the record of God’s promises of a Redeemer and of the salvation of the human race, together with a record of the fulfillment of those promises insofar as they occurred. One-fourth of the Bible is specifically prophetic. Whole books, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, are devoted to prophecy. It is a recognition of this fact that has led most good Bible students to treat the subject at least to some degree. A list of them would include such names as Sir Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, H.A. Ironside, I.M. Haldeman, C.I Scofield, Arno C. Gaebelein, G.H. Pember, and, in our day, J. Dwight Pentecost, Hal Lindsey, Billy Graham, and many others.

It is relevant here to point out that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does not let us regard prophecy, any more than any other part of Scripture, as unprofitable. For we are told, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

My second reason for treating prophetic themes at this time is the current secular interest in the future, particularly as shown by the involvement of many with astrology and spiritualism. It is true that humanity has had an interest in the future throughout history. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all had fortune-telling priests and astrologers. Although condemned by Christianity, astrology was popular in the western world until after the Renaissance, when increased scientific study discredited it. However, the study of astrology has revived in recent years. Today an interest in the future is everywhere apparent. Astrological signs abound. Newstands are filled with books and pamphlets on what is to come. Astrology was brought to the popular level by the rock musical Hair, with its highly successful song “Aquarius.” Millions consult their horoscopes daily. In fact, according to Hal Lindsey, a new and popular writer on prophecy, columns on astrology now run in 1220 of 1750 daily newspapers in the United States. Twenty years ago only 100 papers ran astrology columns.

There is also an interest in the more popular prophets of the day such as Jeanne Dixon, Carroll Righter, and Syndey Omarr. In Europe there are literally thousands of mediums. According to one estimate, there is a fortune-teller for every 120 Parisians. I have been told that there are over 200 mediums in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, alone. Certainly, this kind of interest needs to be countered by the legitimate biblical approach to the events associated with the culmination of our age.

The third reason is the current renewed interest in biblical eschatology by established theologians. The best known of these is the German theologian named Juergen Moltmann, a professor of systematic theology at the University of Tuebingen. His first widely successful book, The Theology of Hope, is an attempt to look at all Christian doctrine from the perspective of God’s future promises, and it has set off a wide range of related studies by others. Thus, although a generation ago many scholars laughed at any interest on the part of conservatives in biblical prophecy, today many would agree with Henry P. Van Dusen who has argued that “the problem of eschatology my shortly become, if it is not already, the framework of American theological discussion,” and perhaps indeed of theological discussion generally (Henry P. Van Dusen, “A Preview of Evanston,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review, March, 1954, p.8).

God’s Challenge

My fourth and final reason for writing this series of studies is the most important one, however. It completely overshadows the others. The reason is this: God Himself appeals to the fulfillment of prophecy as evidence that He alone is God and that He is faithful to all who follow Him. In fact, He challenges those who do not yet believe to investigate personally the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

I know that some will say, “But I have never heard of that. Where in the Bible does God make such an appeal?” God does so in many places, but the greatest appeal is in a section of nine chapters from the heart of the book of Isaiah, chapters 40-48. The theme of these chapters is the greatness and majesty of the true God, and the appeal is to prophecy.

In chapter 40 God begins by contrasting His own performance on behalf of His people with the performance of idols. The point is that the idols can do nothing.

To who then will you liken God?

Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,

A goldsmith plates it with gold,

And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.

He who is too impoverished for such an offering

Selects a tree that does not rot:

He seeks out for himself a skillfull craftsman

To prepare an idol that will not totter. (Isaiah 40:18-20, NASB)

 

In the next chapter an appeal is made to the idols:

“Present your case,” the LORD says.

“Bring forward your strong arguments,”

The King of Jacob says.

Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;

As for the former events, declare what they were,

That we may consider them, and know their outcome;

Or announce to us what is coming.

Declare the things that are going to come afterward,

That we may know that you are gods;

Indeed, do good or evil,

that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.

Behold, you are of no account,

And your work amounts to nothing;

He who chooses you is an abomination. (Isaiah 41:21-24, NASB)

The point of these verses is that the idols are ineffective. No one but God Himself can tell the future, since no one but God can control it. The argument continues in this vein for several chapters until it is summed up in chapter 48, “Who can foretell the future?” God asks.

I declared the former things long ago

And they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them.

Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. (Isaiah 48:3, NASB)

This is the test of the true God and of the one who claims to speak in His name. No one in biblical times – or today, for that matter – doubts that there are people in every age who will pretend to possess insight into future events. The idols, as well as Jehovah, had their prophets. There have always been astrologers and mystics. But the question is not “Are there prophets?” The question is “Whose prophecies come true?” By this standard, it is the claim of God and of the Bible that all that is prophesied in the Bible has either come to pass or is coming to pass and that men should believe on the God of the Bible because of it.

God’s Spokesman

In this series we will be looking primarily at the biblical prophecies of things that have not yet come to pass. Yet it would be inadequate to look at prophecies that relate to the future without at least considering some of the many prophecies that are also part of the biblical revelation. For one thing, we need to look at the past to meet God’s challenge to Isaiah. For another, only as we do this will we be able to approach the future prophecies, not as guesses by reasonably intelligent men, but rather as further divine revelations, through those who have already been tested, of what awaits this race and the individuals in it.

An excellent place to begin is with a little known prophet, Micaiah. His story is told in 1 Kings 22. Micaiah was a prophet of God in Israel during the days of the divided monarchy when Ahab was king of Israel and Jehoshaphat was king of Judah. At one point in their reigns Jehoshaphat went north to visit Ahab, and the two kings got into a discussion about an area of ancient Palestine called Ramoth-gilead, which bordered on Israel. Ahab had wanted the land for some time, and he saw an opportunity in Jehoshaphat’s visit to possess it. He suggested, “We could take Ramoth-gilead if we did it together, you and I. Shall we do it?”

Jehoshaphat answered, “I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.” Ahab was not a worshiper of Jehovah and, in fact, was quite wicked, while Jehoshaphat was more or less a believer in God. So, before they went to battle, Jehoshaphat said, “Let’s consult the Lord before we break camp.” Ahab responded by producing four hundred of his court prophets and asking them, “Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” The prophets gave the answer that the king wanted to hear.

“Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.” This word from the prophets satisfied king Ahab (actually, he would gone even without consulting the prophets) but Jehoshaphat was not satisfied. These men were paid mouthpieces, and Jehoshaphat knew it. So he said to Ahab, “But isn’t there a real prophet, a prophet of the Lord, that we may ask the outcome from him?” Ahab replied that there was one, a man named Micaiah, but that he hated Micaiah because Micaiah never prophesied anything good about him, only evil. Nevertheless, at Jehoshaphat’s insistence, Micaiah was called.

Now if ever there was a situation in which the deck was stacked against one poor prophet, this was it. First, Micaiah was warned as to what he should say. Second, he was brought into the capital city and into the marketplace where all the troops, the false prophets, and the two kings were assembled. Third, he was confronted by the king who hated and feared him. The question was asked: Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle; or shall we forbear?”

At first Micaiah ridiculed the kings. He said, “Go and prosper; for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.” What Micaiah said was a direct quotation of the false prophets, and everyone knew it. Ahab became angry. He literally roared at Micaiah: “I adjure thee that thou tel me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD.” So Micaiah replied, “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd. And the LORD said, These have no master; let them return every man to his house in peace.”

Ahab recognized that this was a prophecy of his death. He turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “See? What did I tell you? Didn’t I say that he would prophesy no good about me, only evil?” Ahab then disguised himself. But in the fighting one of the Syrian soldiers shot an arrow at random which entered a joint in Ahab’s armor and killed him. So the king died and the people of Israel were scattered, as Micaiah had prophesied.

Isaiah

A much better known prophet is Isaiah. Isaiah had a long life, prophesying over a period of sixty years, during the lifetimes of four successive kings of Judah. Many of his prophecies have been fulfilled, some during and others after his lifetime.

In the year 701 B.C., in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Hezekiah (the third king under whom Isaiah prophesied), the Assyrian king Sennacherib besieged the city of Jerusalem, threatening its total destruction. Sennacherib later wrote that he shut up Hezekiah “like a caged bird…in…his royal city.”

In the midst of the siege, which dragged on and on because of the city’s strong fortifications, Sennacherib sent one of his deputies named Rabshaketh to Jerusalem with a speech intended to weaken the morale of the defenders and perhaps lead to a revolt within the city and subsequent surrender. Rabshaketh spoke in Hebrew, rehearsing all that had happened to other cities and then threatening the same fate for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The speech had a deadly effect, so much so, in fact, that the city officials asked Rabshaketh to speak Aramaic, the language of international diplomacy, lest the people be further discouraged by hearing him. At this confession of weakness, the deputy merely kept on with his destructive propaganda.

Word came to Hezekiah of what was happening, and he was dismayed. He sent to Isaiah and asked him to pray for the people and the city. Instead, Isaiah immediately sent back a prediction of what would happen. He said, “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blight upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land” (2 Kings 19:6, 7; Is. 37:6,7).

That is precisely what happened. Soon a plague swept through Sennacherib’s army. Then the king apparently heard rumors of rebellion and insurrection at home, and the army left Palestine. Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons when he returned to Nineveh (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Later Isaiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem to the armies of Babylon, the captivity of the people, the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians, and the eventual return of the Jewish exiles to their homeland. All these events took place roughly one hundred, one hundred fifty, and two hundred years after Isaiah had foretold them.

Prophecies of the Messiah

Spectacular as these specific prophecies relating to Jewish history are, however, the most important of Isaiah’s prophecies are not those relating to the nation at all. They are the prophecies of the Messiah. Here, however, the testimony of Isaiah is supplemented by the predictions of many other prophets who lived both before and after his time.

These men told a great deal about the Messiah and they told it in exquisite detail. The Old Testament tells us that the Messiah was to be a descendent of Abraham through King David (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Chron. 17:11-14; Jer. 23:5). Micah, one of the so-called Minor Prophets, wrote that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). This prophecy was quoted by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalm as an answer to the Wise Men, who came to the city inquiring where the King of the Jews had been born. Isaiah revealed that the Messiah would be the child of a virgin (Isa. 7:14). He also foretold the King’s rejection by Israel and described His suffering (Isa. 53). Zechariah spoke of the price of the Messiah’s betrayal: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zech 11:12). Parts of the Psalms describe the crucifixion and intense suffering of the Chosen One; Psalm 22 contains prophecies of the mocking of the Messiah, the piercing of His hands and feet, and the division of His garments by those who carried out his execution.

In Daniel there is even a prophecy of the time at which this would take place. The Messiah was to come shortly before the destruction of the temple built by Herod; that is, before A.D. 70 (Dan. 9:24-26). Moreover, Daniel foretold that the time between the publishing of the decree permitting the rebuilding of the temple after the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians and the “cutting off” of the Messiah would not exceed 483 years (69 weeks of years or 69 times 7). Since the date of the decree to permit the building of the temple has been fixed from several sources at 445 B.C., the latest possible date for the death of the Messiah is fixed at A.D. 38, meaning that if the prophecies of the Bible are correct, all the events foretold about the Messiah had to be fulfilled before that time (note: The prophecy may be even more accurate than these figures show. For if, as Charles C. Ryrie argues, the “years” of Daniel are based upon 360 rather than 365 days, the prophecy spans 173,880 days and the cutoff date for the Messiah falls on 6 April A.D. 32, the most probable date for Christ’s crucifixion. Justification for a 360-day year lies in the fact that the Scriptures seem to equate 1260 days with 42 months or 31/2 years in prophetic passages, See Ryrie, “The Bible and Tommorow’s News”, Wheaton, ILL.: Scripture Press, n.d., pp.52-56).

Were these prophecies fulfilled? Of course, they were fulfilled. They were fulfilled in the genealogy, birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is thereby identified as the Messiah, the Son of God.

A Future World

In Part Two of our series we will begin to look at the biblical prophecies of things to come. But before we do that, we need to take note of the following three conclusions. First, if the prophecies we have already looked at have been fulfilled, as the Bible and history reveal them to have been fulfilled, then the  God of the Bible is the true God and we should worship Him. That is the conclusion that must be reached if we take God’s own challenge through the prophet Isaiah seriously.

Second, if these prophecies have been fulfilled, as we know them to have been fulfilled, then the Bible is a supernaturally trustworthy and totally authoritative book. This will guide our approach as we turn to future things. The Bible is a record of prophecy. If the prophecies have been fulfilled, then what Peter said about this Book is true. “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20, 21). God Himself stands behind this Book. It follows that we can trust the Bible for what it has to say about our own condition and about God’s plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Finally, if the biblical prophecies about the past events have come true and if we may expect the biblical prophecies about future events to come true, then the future is bright for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are His followers. One day the rays of the sun will rise on that last and future world that has been spoken of so much by our contemporaries. But it will not be a world devastated by an atomic holocaust, as some are predicting. It will not be a world decimated by the inevitable encroachment of worldwide famine, which others are warning about. It will not even be a dehumanized world composed of machines and the men who serve them. These things may come. The Bible even predicts that some of them will come. But this will not be the end. The Bible teaches that there is a future beyond them when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah who came once to suffer and will return again, will reign in righteousness and will establish a social order in which love and justice will prevail.

[This article was adapted from Chapter One in one of the first of James Boice’s plethora of books, and is entitled: The Last and Future World, Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1974. Though this book was written almost 40 years ago – it’s contents are just as relevant today as when it was first written, since most of the prophecies taught in the Scriptures and addressed by Dr. Boice have yet to be fulfilled.]

*Dr. James Montgomery Boice (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He was the author of numerous expositions of the Bible (e.g. Genesis and Romans), Theological writings (e.g. Whatever Happened to Grace? & Foundations of the Christian Faith), and on the practical Christian life (e.g. Living By The Book & The Cost of Discipleship).

 

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The “Jesus Focus” in the Book of Isaiah

Reading The Bible Through The Jesus Lens in the Book of Isaiah

From Biblical Book to Biblical Hook

Chart adapted from Dr. Michael Williams Book

Title for Isaiah

Theme of Isaiah

Isaiah 42:1

“Divine Presence”

The Holy One of Israel challenges His people to respond appropriately to His presence among them.

 “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”

Christ-Focus in

Isaiah

Implications from

Isaiah

Hooks from

Isaiah

Jesus is Immanuel, God’s presence with us.

 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 – Matthew 1:23

The Spirit of Christ is present within us and enables us to respond to our King with grateful service.

 “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

 – Hebrews 9:14

Do our lives of service to God challenge people around us with His presence and invite them into His presence as well?

 Are we challenged by God’s presence with us?

 How would you behave differently if God were physically present with you?

 How do we know what a life of service to God looks like for us in our particular circumstances?

 Is God’s presence with you something that is obvious, or do you guard it more closely than your bank account number?

 Is God served and are people challenged by your Facebook page?

 What is one observable difference God’s presence in your life has made?

 

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