God’s Good Plan for Your Future

God’s Good Plan for Your Future

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:10-13).

Do you realize that our Heavenly Father takes every circumstance into account as He plans your future? As a Believer, your destiny has already been decided: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

Too often we fret about finding the Father’s perfect will for our lives. To no one in Scripture did God lay out a step-by-step plan for their life. Hebrews 11:8 says of Abraham that “He went without knowing where he was going.” No five-year, ten-year, or even a lifetime plan for him! When the magi went in search of the Christ child, they did not have Google Maps or Waze to lead them. They simply followed the star not knowing where it would lead, nevertheless certain of what they would find at the end of their journey: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Even when David was anointed by Samuel, the shepherd boy had no indication of the path his life would take. He knew nothing of a meeting with the giant of Gath, or of his headlong and even years-long rush to escape Saul’s angry determination to kill him. Following the Good Father is not akin to living a novel. There is no introduction, no intervening chapters, no ending neatly tied with a bow. It is necessary to constantly seek His wisdom, conversing with Him through prayer, giving God the time and opportunity to respond to our petitions and praise. It is developing a relationship with Him through the study of His Word.

Walking with Jehovah is not a “twelve-step” program, marching mindlessly forward with no direction. It is living in the light of His Word, loving Him completely, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. There are those who would have you believe that a life of devotion to the Good Father involves no sacrifice, no pain. One need only read Hebrews chapter 11 to discover the fallacy in that: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b–38).

The Little Town of Bethlehem

The Little Town of Bethlehem

For most of us, the name Bethlehem immediately summons images of a manger and shepherds and a star shining brightly in the night sky, guiding visitors from far away eastern lands.  Many hear the words Phillips Brooks, rector of the Holy Trinity Church in Philadelphia penned in 1868 following his return from a visit to the Holy Land.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless streets
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The Everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Few places in all of Israel better illustrate the lengths to which the enemies of the Jewish people will go to deny the truth of their heritage in the land for thousands of years than the fate of Bethlehem.  This obscure village in Old Testament days became famous because it was the home of King David.  And in fulfillment of prophecy, Bethlehem is where Jesus was born about 1,000 years later.

The name Bethlehem means “house of bread” in Hebrew, and it is located not far from Jerusalem.  It is fitting that the Bread of Life would be born there to a young virgin named Mary who had made the lengthy and difficult trip from Nazareth with her espoused husband Joseph because they were both descendants of David.  The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem marks the spot where, according to tradition, Jesus was born.

But today most visitors to Israel who go desiring to see the places where the important events of Scripture happened do not visit Bethlehem.  The city is in territory controlled by the Palestinians, and the danger of attack is so high that many tours of the Bible lands no longer include a visit to the birthplace of Jesus.  Many of the Christians who once lived there and in other areas of controlled by the Palestinian Authority have been forced to move because of the threat of violence.

In fact, the number of Christians of various denominations living in Palestinian areas is estimated to have declined approximately 90% in the last century, with most of the change happening in the recent past.  Today the letter “N” painted on the outside of a house (symbolizing the residents are followers of Jesus of Nazareth) is often the precursor to vandalism or even a violent attack.

Yet because Bethlehem is currently under Palestinian control, the claim is often made that Jesus Himself therefore is a Palestinian rather than a Jew.  This outrageous falsehood is declared publicly without shame (and too often without rebuttal from those who know better) by Palestinian leaders.  At the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference—a gathering of liberal religious groups that harshly criticize and oppose Israel—earlier this year, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said that Jesus would not have been allowed to attend “simply because he was a Palestinian.”

Those who deny historical Jewish links to this land God promised to Abraham thousands of years ago are either ignorant or deliberately deceitful.  This land is essential for Israel’s security and self-defense.  It is not part of a historic Palestinian state, for there has never been one.  Israel did not conquer Palestine—they defeated the forces of Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967 after Jordan had illegally seized the land during the War of Independence launched by Israel’s Arab neighbors in 1948.

We launched our Save the Bible Lands campaign to declare our support for the recognition of Israel’s right to the Bible lands of Judea and Samaria.  The Jewish people who live there are not occupiers of enemy territory.  They live in Israel.  Land for peace has been proven to be folly because so many of the Palestinians do not want peace.  They want Israel destroyed.  Every friend of freedom and every friend of the Jewish people should stand with Israel when it comes to control of the Bible lands.

The Meaning of Christmas

The Meaning of Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  Luke 2:8-14

The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem was the culmination of a lengthy line of prophecies that began thousands of years earlier when God revealed to Adam and Eve that one day the head of the serpent would be crushed by one of their descendants (Genesis 3:15).  Through the years, additional prophetic revelation was given to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Micah, and many more detailed the family from which the Messiah would come, as well as the time and place of His birth.

It was not by accident that the wise men in the east, who would have had access at least to the writing of Ezekiel and Daniel if not the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, were looking for signs in the heavens regarding the birth.  They knew that the time foretold by Daniel had come, and when they received confirmation by a star appearing in the sky, they traveled to Israel to find and worship him.

In Jerusalem, they asked for directions to the place where the birth had occurred.  Their question was not correctly phrased under normal circumstances, for even a royal child who is born is not a king, but a prince.  Yet they were right, for Jesus was king before, during, and after His life here on earth.  The announcement that the wise men made when they reached Jerusalem shocked the city.  Herod, then aged and known for his paranoid fears of being replaced, wanted to know everything about this potential rival to the throne.

Receiving directions to Bethlehem from those who knew the prophecy of Micah 5:2 (but who had not bothered to go and see for themselves), they made their way to the place where Joseph and Mary were still living, now in a house rather than a stable.  They had not come just to see Jesus, but to acknowledge who He was.  Their gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—were customary gifts for a king.  Costly and precious, they were truly fit for a king.

And soon those resources would be greatly needed.  Joseph and Mary had offered doves for their offering when they took Jesus to the Temple.  Doves were given by those who could not afford a lamb, as specified in the law by Moses, so we know that their resources were limited.  When the necessity arose to flee to Egypt to escape the slaughter ordered by Herod, the gifts from the wise men doubtless allowed them to make the trip and survive until it was safe for them to return.

I met with Egyptian President Sisi in New York City a few years ago, and one of the things that we discussed was the role Egypt plays in Israel’s security.  I reminded him that God used his country in the past as a place of refuge and safety for Jesus not long after His birth…and that God has a plan for his country in this modern day to be a blessing and defense to Israel—and that Egypt will benefit if it fulfills that plan.

The Christmas story is meaningful to us for many reasons, but one of the things we must never forget is the way God works to keep His promises and complete His plans.  “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’  So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.  And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

No matter what your circumstances may be, God is able to deliver all that He has promised to you in His Word—and He will.  The same power that moved an empire to ensure a baby was born in the right place and the right time is at work in our world today.  The same power that changed the face of the night sky to announce the birth is yours through prayer and faith.  The same power that provided the resources for a trip to seek refuge can meet every need that you have.

Weapons of Spirit War

Weapons of Spirit War

September 11, 2001, was an assault from hell, planned and executed by demon spirits, just as have been other attacks worldwide—Paris, London, San Diego, Boston, Las Vegas, New York. The continuing terrorist attacks in Israel, and indeed worldwide, are a result of the same dark spiritual powers. These powers cannot be defeated without prayer. Praying saints are God’s agents to carry out His will on earth. Israel, the United States, and all other nations are helpless without prayer.

If Jesus said that He could do nothing without prayer, then we surely cannot hope to accomplish anything of eternal value and significance without prayer. It was President Abraham Lincoln who said: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.  A Christian who refuses to pray is like a swimmer who refuses to enter the water. All the talk in the world about swimming will only bring skepticism and laughter if he never dives in and begins to swim.

For a Christian to refuse to make prayer his or her number one priority is like saying to the world’s vilest dictator, “We have laid down our weapons of warfare. You win!” Our weapons of war and our Commander in Chief are waiting to win the battle; we only need to speak the Word. God has given us the weapons we need to successfully war against the enemy of our souls (Ephesians 6:13–17), the means to become effective intercessors, and the weapons to win a spirit war.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Abraham and the Foundations of Zionism

Abraham and the Foundations of Zionism

In actuality, Abram (Abraham) of the Old Testament might be designated as the first Zionist. He was a wealthy man in the village of Haran. Christian Zionist Walter Clay Lowdermilk wrote: “The movement for a Jewish homeland in Palestine [began four thousand years earlier] when Abraham, prompted by Divine inspiration, left the plains of Mesopotamia to establish a new people on the land of Canaan.”

Abram was the son of Terah, a seller of idols, but from early childhood questioned his father’s dedication to gods fashioned of stone and wood. Abram began to seek the truth and came to believe that his surroundings, the earth and sky, were the work of one Creator. He began to share this concept with others. I envision Abram sitting on a bench outside the front flap of his tent. Sarai, his wife, is likely overseeing the servants as they go about their daily tasks—winnowing grain, hauling water for the animals, spinning cloth, or roasting a goat or camel.

Perhaps God had appointed others who failed to answer His call, but obviously, the Creator sees a trait in Abram that prompted Him to say, “That’s My man! He’s the one with whom I’ll make a covenant.” So suddenly, Abram found himself in an encounter with Jehovah God. He was stunned to hear the voice of the Lord calling to him: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”

Abram responded with great faith. Imagine the conversation he must have had later that day with Sarai: “Wife, we’re leaving first thing in the morning. God told me to go. Have the servants take down the tents, gather the flocks, pack everything, and load the camels.” “Abram, what do you mean we’re leaving? We can’t leave. Where are we going?” “I don’t know yet,” Abram responded. “God will tell me when we get there!”

Along with Lot, Abram’s nephew, they packed up “all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:5). Abram’s complete trust in God and his obedience are unique in Scripture, although he did bring Lot and his father even after God had instructed him not to bring any relatives (Genesis 12:1). His father died on the journey, but by the time Abram had reached the Land, he and Lot had acquired so much cattle and livestock that they had to separate (Genesis 13).

Following Lot’s departure and the later destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God again spoke to Abram: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17).

After this land grant was bestowed upon him, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, for God had declared that his servant would be “a father of many nations.” At the same time, He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah (princess) and announced that she and Abraham would have a son, Isaac. The news must have come as a great shock for both, as they were already well past their childbearing years. But Isaac was born just as God promised. The covenant between God and Abraham would pass to Isaac, and through him to Jacob and to future descendants.