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God, What are You Doing?

“How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises” (Habakkuk 1:2-3 nasb).

Have you ever heard someone ask, “If God is all powerful and loving, then why does He allow suffering, hardship, and evil within our world?” When presented with such a question, we often provide some half-hearted reply about living in a fallen or sinful world, but rarely do we join our frustration to that of the person asking that question. We don’t allow ourselves to openly exclaim that our beliefs about God don’t always make sense within the world that exists before our eyes. We would never permit ourselves to say, “God, what are you doing?” To do so would seem to indicate a lack of faith.

The prophets did not look at things in such a manner. When life’s circumstances challenged their theology, they didn’t default to an answer about a fallen world; rather, they expressed their frustration with God. The prophet Habakkuk was especially outspoken in this regard. He recognized that the people of Judah had sinned and fallen short of God’s mark, but God was judging Judah with the Babylonians, who were even worse than the Judahites: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans” (Habakkuk 1:5-6). Today we might wonder: How did that make sense? How could God judge Judah for its unrighteousness by a people even more unrighteous than they?

Habakkuk never sought easy answers to the difficult questions or to the circumstances and events his world presented. Nor did the challenge that such events posed to his conviction of God cause him to jettison his faith. Rather, he sought answers. He never received the precise answer to the question he posed, but God did answer him. That is a sign of a robust faith—faith that neither turns from the hard questions posed by life and circumstance nor abandons its conviction that God is indeed Who He said He is.

It’s hard not to look at our world today and occasionally wonder what God is doing or where He is. Our faith should have the courage to voice such frustrations and affirm those who express them, as did the prophets. At the same time, do we have the firm persistence, a persistence born from a conviction that God does answer, to say, “I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved” (Habakkuk 2:1).

PRAYER

Lord, when we look at the world around us, it is sometimes frustrating and confusing. Where are You? Why does evil persist; why do the innocent and righteous suffer? How long, O Lord, will this continue? But in the midst of our frustration and confusion, we acknowledge that You are a God who answers, and so we await Your reply. Amen.

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Don’t Trust in Horses

“Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7 nrsv).

The land of Israel sat at the crossroads of the ancient world. Its geographic location made the land strategically significant. For this reason, throughout Israel’s history, people and empires fought to control this international crossroads.

Within the ancient world, the horse and chariot represented the height of military technology. The armies that had superior cavalry and chariot forces often won the day and exerted their control over a region.

Throughout the Bible, Israel’s ability to remain within this strategic land depended upon their obedience to God. If the people of Israel obeyed the commandments of God, they stayed in the land. If they did not, God would remove them. The prophets and psalmists cautioned against trusting in horses and chariots. In other words, Israel’s military would not keep the Israelites in the land; instead, the people’s obedience to God would. Trusting in horses and chariots meant that they sought within the military technology and strategy of the day the source of their power and sustainability at the crossroads of the world—instead of obedience to God.

In Deuteronomy, we are told God commanded that when the people established a king he “must not acquire many horses” (17:16). The prophet Isaiah admonished, “Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 31:1). Israel would remain at the crossroads only when obedient; if they obeyed, they could trust that God would defend them and protect them against foreign threat. This is why the psalmist notes that while some trust in horses and chariots, Israel’s hope is in the name of the Lord.

Our modern world seeks to woo us into trusting our technology, our might, and our selves. Like Israel, we run the risk of losing sight of what keeps us anchored in our world—the source that sustains us. We find ourselves distracted by all the shiny new innovations that show up in today’s world, thinking that through this or that technology we can gain greater influence—even influence for God.

But the answer isn’t pride in our technology or in our ingenuity; it’s trusting in God, remaining obediently faithful to Him at the crossroads of our world. This, in fact, is the greatest witness we can have to His greatness—looking to Him and obeying Him, not trusting in our world’s sources of power and ingenuity.

PRAYER

Father, we look to You; we trust in Your name. Help us to remain obedient to You at our crossroads. Amen.

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Delayed Promises

“Now the word of the Lord came to him [Abram]: ‘This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, ‘I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess. … But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure’” (Genesis 15:4-7, 15-16 hcsb).

We often read the Bible to seek out the promises of God for ourselves. Reading them gives us peace and hope that God is with us and that He will bring us through our circumstances. Abraham offers a figure to whom God made tremendous promises, who proved faithful to God. But have you ever noticed that Abraham never lived to see the fullness of God’s promises? Abraham saw Isaac, but he never saw his descendants as numerous as the stars of the heavens. He never saw his seed inherit the Promised Land.

We search the promises of the Bible to bolster our faith that God will take care of us or see what He will do for us. Remember that in the Bible, the “we” is always more important than the “me.” Had Abraham only sought God’s promises for himself or looked for their fulfillment in his lifetime, he could never have been the father of faith. But Abraham was believing God.

He recognized that God’s plans extended beyond him—that he and his faithfulness had a role to play within God’s bigger picture. But he did not see the fullness of the promise. He trusted God. And he did his part; he played his role faithfully.

Does our spirituality focus primarily on what God has done, can do, or will do for us? Or are we content to be faithful and serve him, playing our role within His will, not ours? Do we need to see His promises realized in our circumstances, immediately, or will we remain faithful in light of the possibility that we may not see the promise realized in our lifetime?

Abraham went to his grave with only God’s promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and that God would bring them back into the land. Yet he remained faithful. Do we have that degree of faith?

PRAYER

Father, enable me to serve You and faithfully perform my duty to You, so that Your will is done—even when I don’t see it. Amen.

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Comforted by God

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me” (Isaiah 12:1 nasb).

As children, we made mistakes. Sometimes a lot of mistakes. And, yes, sometimes our mistakes roused our parents’ anger. If we had good and loving parents, nothing was more comforting than when they looked past their anger and disappointment with us, saw our sadness and disappointment, and comforted us. We still make mistakes. And we still seek comfort.

We may not have comprehended it all as children, but somehow, we understood that in those moments when our parents chose to comfort us instead of acting on their righteous anger, we gained a genuine sense of awe for our parents. We knew that they had the right to their anger; we had fallen short. But they chose to comfort us instead.

The psalmist said, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). It’s God’s mercy, His ability to turn from His anger and comfort us, that ought to draw us closer to Him. That He desires and is willing to do so is incredible. 

Do we allow Him to comfort us? We seek His comfort when we are hurting from life’s circumstances, but do we allow Him to comfort us when we have failed Him? Do we recognize that He desires to comfort us, even when He’s been angry at us?

God often forgives us more quickly than we forgive ourselves. God’s comfort in our lives, however, brings us to a place without fear: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). It enables us to trust Him. 

When our parents sought to comfort us, despite our mistakes, it played an important role in building our trust with them. We most likely came to see that their love for us did not depend upon circumstances but instead was rooted deeply in their relationship with us.

We can trust God because He turns aside His anger with us to comfort us. He is for us. We need to allow Him to comfort us today.

PRAYER

Father, I thank You, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away and You comforted me. Amen.

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The Fruits of Repentance

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. … Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. … Don’t collect any more than you are required to. … Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:8, 11, 13, 14 NIV).

Repentance is usually seen as something between God and us. We sin and disobey; we come to Him in repentance. John the Baptist led a spiritual revival calling the people to repent and return to God. For him, repentance had to bear the fruits of repentance as evidence that the people’s repentance was genuine.

While John called the people to return to God—“Prepare the way of the Lord”—when they inquired what they should do to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” he gave them rather practical actions. Perhaps even more significant than their practicality is that the actions John advised all pertained to how they related with others instead of God: Give clothes and food to those who are without, don’t extort, don’t rob.

As Christians, we often compartmentalize our spirituality from our daily life. When I’m spiritual, that pertains to my relationship with God. How I behave as I go through my day, well, that’s just life. Yet the biblical view does not accept such segregation. The way to God is through others. In other words, the true evidence of my spirituality and relationship with God is manifested in how I treat others, including practical issues like caring for the poor and hungry and conducting business relationships and interactions.

John not only called the people to repent, preparing the way of the Lord; he also instructed them to bear the fruits of repentance. And what were those? How they treated one another. How they cared for the poor and hungry. How they behaved in business dealings with each other.

Too often we broadcast our love for God, even seeing ourselves as His defenders within our current age, yet our treatment of those around us, those we encounter in our daily lives, does not bear the fruit of the relationship we claim. John expected those who embraced his movement to show in their treatment of others the fruit born from their repentance.

PRAYER

Father, as we turn to You today, may we bear the fruit of our repentance in our daily lives and relationships, with family, friends, and strangers. Amen.

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How Do You Treat Your Enemies?

“Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the Lord will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18 NCSB).

How we treat our enemies says a lot about our relationship with God. Society today takes great joy in the falling and stumbling of those seen as our adversaries or opponents. Such attitudes permeate our civil and political discourse. We rejoice whenever our enemies fail.

We grow up like this. How often, as kids, did we mock someone who physically fell or stumbled? It’s natural that as adults we rejoice in the falling of our enemies. Sometimes we even attach divine justice to their stumbling as proof that God prefers us and looks out for us against our enemies. Such sentiments, however, are evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Jesus commanded His followers, “I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28 NLT). He called upon His followers to love their enemies; in fact, for Him, this was the principal characteristic for those belonging to the kingdom of Heaven—love your enemies.

While rejoicing in our enemy’s failures and failings is simple human nature, love of our enemies requires our obedience to Jesus. In a world where the misfortune of our enemies provides cause for rejoicing, Jesus demands His followers to live differently, to love their enemies. Even the misfortunes of those hostile to our faith and God we cannot celebrate, for God causes His rain and sun to come upon the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matthew 5:45). God does not distinguish between friend and foe in His mercy, and neither can we (Luke 6:36).

The test of our faith is not how we treat those who think like us, act like us, or even like us. The test of whether we are true followers of Jesus is how we love those who don’t think like us, who are not like us, and who don’t even like us. “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.”

PRAYER

Father, may I walk in obedience to You today by loving my enemies and showing mercy to them, as You show mercy to them. Amen.

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The Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 niv).

We have a problem: The world we live in does not produce the fruit of the Spirit, and too often we fall into the trap of allowing it to inhibit their growth in us. While our world talks about love, in actuality it shows very little true love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 niv).

Watch the news, look on social media, or just take a walk down the street. Our world is filled with the anti-fruit of the Spirit. Instead of love, we express hate or indifference; instead of joy, misery and despair. Violence and restlessness are predominant over peace. We struggle to show patience to others or ourselves. And so on and so forth.

Two important things we should note about the fruit of the Spirit. First, they don’t grow naturally. If we do not nurture them in our lives, they will not grow. If we do not obey God’s commands and the Spirit’s leading, we will not produce them. We have to choose to grow them and manifest them in our lives. They do not happen naturally, and our world does not foster or encourage their growth. Second, the fruit of the Spirit pertain primarily to our relationships with others. We don’t manifest gentleness with God; we show it to those around us. If we are truly walking by the Spirit, we should produce these fruits in our relationships with family, friends, strangers, and even our enemies.

Our world may not naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit but does recognize them whenever they genuinely see and experience them. The world may not encourage their growth, even in us, but does respond to their sweet taste. Take a look at your life today. Where can you choose to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you and your relationships?

PRAYER

Father, lead us in Your ways, so that Your fruit will grow in us. Help us to choose to walk in obedience to You. Amen.

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Sophie’s Miracle

“I couldn’t believe my mother found me after the war. I couldn’t. It is a real miracle.”

Sophie opened our meeting with a big smile on her face. She said her life is a testimony to God’s intervention.

Sophie was born in Latvia on the day that World War II began. When she was only a few months old, the Nazi’s started bombing Latvia from the Baltic sea. Over time, the bombing reached Sophie’s house and they were forced to evacuate.

Sophie’s father was recruited to join the war in the Baltic sea. He died a few days later.

A good Samaritan took Sophie’s mother in and hid her in the basement.

A week went by and, a neighbor informed the Nazis of their whereabouts.  The morning after Sophie was separated from her mother. The Nazis had taken her to an orphan home to be a part of experiments conducted by the Nazi doctors.

Sophie’s mother worked in the camps and was raped daily by the guards, but she never gave up.  She promised herself that she would survive the war and find her daughter.

Meanwhile, Sophie and other babies who were cruelly separated from their parents were injected with various shots and tested on like lab rats.

Every day babies died from the experiments, the unbelievably cold weather, hunger, and lack of human warmth and care.

At the end of the war, when the Soviet army conquered its territories back and freed the camps, Sophie’s mother started her journey of looking for her daughter, who was then a 5-year-old girl.

Thanks to the Red Cross, she found Sophie.

In the 1970s, Sophie and her husband received their documents and finally immigrated to the Land of their Forefathers.

Today, Sophie is a part of the Holocaust survivor’s center in the city Carmiel.

She is an active member who helps other survivors like herself as well as receives the necessary help that she needs.  

She says that being a Holocaust survivor, old and lonely is a burden. Not being able to buy food and medicine and live on only the ridiculous pension is not possible.

CBN Israel is an active supporter of the Holocaust survivor’s center and its ministry.

“The people who run the center are the kindest people I have ever met. For me, the love, care, and compassion they show is nowhere to be found. I could not but wonder what is this endless light that shines through them,” Sophie said with a big smile on her face.

Sophie continuously thanked CBN Israel and all its supporters for their generosity. She wishes everyone good health and, says CBN Israel is the reason she and many others like her, have hope and someone to care for them and their basic needs.

May God bless you abundantly. 

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How’s Your Light?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 niv).

We live in a world where people like to talk. Our lives are filled with the noise of communication. Our news, sports, and even weather are filled with talking heads that all have something to say. Social media provides a platform for everyone to talk and express themselves. As followers of the Lord, too often we assume that we display our light through what we say, the causes we defend, and even the arguments we have on God’s behalf.

Light shines. It provides illumination in the darkness. It just does; that’s its nature. It doesn’t have to announce itself or let everyone know what it’s going to do. It shines and is visible to all.

Many of us who grew up in church were told that the way our light would shine was by sharing with our words, but that’s not what Jesus says. He equates letting our light shine with our good works. Thus, it’s not what we say; it’s what we do. Our actions, deeds, and works cause those around us to give glory to our Father in heaven.

As the saying goes, talk is cheap. We live in a world filled with cheap talk, quite often even by those who are followers of the Lord. We complain about the rise of anti-religious attitudes and secularism in our society, and we think that we need to speak out all the louder to stem this growing tide. Perhaps, if we take Jesus more seriously, we should let our light shine by doing good works. People can argue with our words; they cannot argue with our actions aligned with the teachings of Jesus.

Do our good works cause people around us to give glory to God every day? Do we realize that perhaps the reason our world doesn’t glorify God is because we lack good works, or our light isn’t shining brightly enough? Maybe we should focus more on what our works communicate than our words. So, how’s your light; how’s our light?

PRAYER
Father, may we live our lives today obediently submitted to Your will and commands, so that those around us may see our good works and give glory to You. Amen.

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The Killing of the Innocents

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. … Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.’ Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel” (Matthew 2:16, 19-21 nkjv).

Matthew’s story of the birth of Jesus includes the figure of Herod the Great. Matthew tells how, after the wise men came to Jerusalem seeking the child born “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2), Herod ordered the murder of all male children in Bethlehem that were two years of age and under (Matthew 2:16). Herod’s actions as described by Matthew fit what we know of Herod’s personality from other ancient witnesses.

The story of Herod’s killing of the boys two and under in Bethlehem only appears in the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-18). Yet, Matthew’s portrayal of Herod’s character fits the paranoia of Herod at the end of his life and his use of brutal force in order to preserve his throne. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, relates a story that happened prior to the birth of Jesus that is relevant to the Gospel account of Herod’s killing the children in Bethlehem.

There were Pharisees who prophesied to the wife of Pheroras, the brother of Herod, that he and his wife would soon inherit Herod’s throne and kingdom. When Herod found out about the prophecy, he immediately acted and put those Pharisees to death. Then he killed everyone in his own household who had approved of the prophecy from the Pharisees (Antiquities 17.41-45). In response to the potential threat to his throne, Herod brutally killed those who had made the prophecy as well as any sympathetic to it.

Matthew presents an identical picture. When Herod heard of a potential messianic claimant to his throne, he used swift and brutal force to make sure that the child born in Bethlehem would not grow into a threat. Miraculously, God protected Jesus by warning Joseph in a dream and sending him and his family to Egypt until after the death of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23).

The Bible reflects the historical realities of its world, but its message extends to us today. God protected Jesus and his family despite Herod’s designs for the baby’s destruction. The story of the Bible is about God acting in human history; that’s the message of the birth of Jesus. And, if God acted to protect His son, even in the face of the powers of the day, He will watch over and protect us.

Herod sought to use violence and coercion to protect his power and throne. Jesus willfully submitted to the will of God, and by His submission, He gained an eternal throne.

PRAYER

Father, thank You for Your nearness! Thank You for sending Your son Jesus to show us the way to You. May we live in submitted obedience to Your rule and reign every day. Amen.

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