The Power of Jesus’ Presence in Your Life and Mine!

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By divine sovereignty, the power of Jesus’ presence was put on display even before His birth.  (See here and here.)  Not only did the power of Jesus’ presence make Mary a favored one, but the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped in the presence of the Christ child alive in Mary’s womb.  Indeed, God the Father sent His Son to this earth in power!

Joy abounds in the presence of Jesus.  There is fullness and peace, and as in the case of Mary and Elizabeth, excitement.  This is true for you and me!  His presence breaks chains, heals hurts, dispels darkness and gives us rest.  As believers, the true gift of Jesus at Christmastime becomes our everyday reality.

My prayer is that we never lose the sense of wonder, awe and joy that we experience at Christmas.  When the joy of the Lord and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit engulf us, we live differently.  Just as Mary carried that powerful presence within her, so born again believers carry the same glorious gift.  Jesus Himself came to make His home within us (2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27), and Holy Spirit power dwells within (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Romans 8:9-11)! 

Not only do we carry the power of Jesus’ presence within us, we are commissioned to share it with the world.  As we head into 2019, will the Light of Christ shine brightly through us?  Will we radiate the power that is within?  May we live our lives to reflect His, and to allow the power of His presence to be evident in all we do!

Enjoy the remnants of this Christmas season, and look with anticipation to the New Year as we live in the power of His presence!

Hanukkah Blessings Point to Christ

Hi everyone!  Hanukkah ends on Monday, but meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying a little bit of Hanukkah as we join with our Jewish friends in celebrating the miracle that happened!  We’re in the midst of a series of posts about Hanukkah, so if you don’t know what that miracle was, please review:

We know that lighting candles of the Hanukkah menorah is the focus of the celebration.  It happens each evening for 8 days, and in between placing the candles and lighting the candles, blessings are pronounced.

There are three blessings.  One is given only on the first night, but the other two are repeated each night.  As with most Hebrew blessings, they are typically sung, not said, so I’ll share those blessings in audio!  (Each is only about 30 seconds long and I’ve transcribed them in English below!)

Blessing #1:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who made us holy through Your commandments
and commanded us
to kindle the Hanukkah lights.

Blessing #2:

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors
in those ancient days
at this season.

Blessing #3 (given only on the first night):

Praised are You,
Our God, Ruler of the universe,
Who has given us life and sustained us
and enabled us to reach this season.

Beautiful, aren’t they!  But what are the “take aways” for a Christian?  We talked previously about Jesus being the Light of the world, to which these blessings allude.

Secondly though, it is significant that each Hanukkah blessing begins with praise to God, and acknowledgement of Him as Ruler of the universe!

Though Hanukkah has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas in terms of how they are celebrated.  I find it interesting that so many parallels exist!  For example: both are celebrated in close proximity time-wise, light plays a significant part in each, both commemorate supernatural miracles, and many other similarities.  Not to mention the fact that Hanukkah celebrates the failed attempt to eliminate the Jews and their culture. No Hanukkah, no Christmas!

But back to the idea of Jesus being the Ruler of the universe, the Old Testament clearly prophesied of One who would come as a Ruler:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders.
~Isaiah 9:6a

And New Testament passages quoted and confirmed those prophesies:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

Jesus, of course, was the fulfillment of those prophecies!  Jews acknowledge the Ruler of the universe in their Hanukkah celebration, while Christians celebrate the birth of the Ruler of the universe in our Christmas celebration!

Jesus is also the fulfillment of these truths expressed in the blessings as well:

Hanukkah blessings are steeped in truth about our Lord.  How many more can you find?

Tomorrow we’ll examine why some Christians celebrate Hanukkah.  See you then!

Celebration of Light

חנוכה שמח

Hanukkah began Sunday at sundown and Jews around the world repeat the Jewish phrase seen above, meaning “Happy Hanukkah!”  (Pronounced: Cha-nu-ka Sa-maech, with gutturals on the ‘ch’ sounds!)  Yesterday we talked about the meaning and significance of Hanukkah and today we’ll discover the focus of Hanukkah.

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7-branched Menorah near the Knesset

Focus is upon the Hanukkah menorah, or the hanukiah.  Different than the 7-branched menorah we see to the left, symbolizing the Jewish state of Israel, the Hanukkah menorah has 9 branches, commemorating the 8 days in which the Temple menorah remained lit with a 1-day supply of oil.

Lighting of the Hanukkah menorah takes place in homes and publicly.  At home, it is customary (though not required) for Jews in Israel to place the Hanukkah menorah outside, facing the street in order to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah as publicly as possible.  Most in the diaspora (living outside Israel) place the menorah indoors to prevent antagonism, vandalism and harsh weather.  Because the mezuzah is placed on the right door post, the menorah is customarily stationed to the left of the door or entryway.  There are specific rules about the height of the menorah (usually low), but basically it should be easily seen by others.

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Giant Hanukkah menorah, in preparation of lighting on the first night (Jerusalem 2015)

During the 8 days of Hanukkah, one additional light (or candle) is lit each evening.  The 9th branch of the menorah, which sits higher (often in the center) or offset from the other 8, is the shamash, the “servant candle” from which each of the other candles is lit.

At dusk on night 1 of Hanukkah, a light or candle is placed in the furthest right branch, Hanukkah blessings are recited, the candle is lit (using the shamash) and remains lit until 1/2 hour after sundown.  Each night, an additional candle is added until, on the eighth night, each branch of the menorah is aflame, giving testimony to the great miracle that occurred!  Know this, however: candles are added right-to-left, but are lit left-to-right, always with Hanukkah blessings pronounced in between!

While Jewish traditions can be fun to enact, they serve no purpose for Christians other than to symbolize Biblical principles.  (ie – Observing Jewish feasts and celebrations does not make us more spiritual, nor does it determine our salvation, righteousness or anything else.)  For example, let’s go to God’s Word to see how Jesus is the Light of the World, on display in the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
~John 1:1-5, 14 [Emphasis mine]

Jesus is Light…and He shines in the darkness!  Need more?  Check this out:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
~2 Corinthians 4:6 [Emphasis mine]

I find it fascinating that, when Jesus observed the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22), he had already proclaimed Himself to be the Light!  He had done so in John 1 (above), and he does so again in John 8:

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
~John 8:12

You see, Jesus knew what His purpose on earth was, and He was teaching His followers about Himself.  When He proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world, the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) was a mere hours away, and He knew those followers would recall His statement when the lights of Hanukkah were lit.  (Want to dig deeper?  Read John 8-10!)

Today we have God’s written Word to tell us the same thing that Jesus said verbally!  He is indeed the Light of the World who gives us light.  Isn’t it interesting that, even in secular celebration of Christmas, we hang Christmas lights!  As Christians, if we choose to celebrate Hanukkah, we honor the historical significance it holds for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but we also know it is God’s written Word coming to life symbolically as we light the candles of Hanukkah!

Here is a very short video tutorial if you wish to properly light a menorah!  Happy Hanukkah!

Rockets Rain Down on Israel

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IDF airstrike inside Gaza (Times of Israel photo)

Since Sunday night’s IDF special ops raid into the Gaza Strip, activity has ramped up in and around Gaza.  A top Hamas commander and several other terrorists were killed as a result of that mission, though it came at a cost.  Israeli sources have now confirmed that an IDF special ops officer was killed in that mission into the Strip on Sunday night, and another soldier was wounded.

Since then, Hamas has rained down at least 300 rockets on Israeli cities (perhaps the largest one day total ever), and the IDF has targeted over 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad sites (backed by Iran) in the Gaza Strip.  Air raid sirens have gone off almost continually in cities throughout southern Israel and the Gaza Envelope (areas surrounding the Gaza Strip).  You will find a timeline and several videos here.

Meanwhile, other interesting things relative to the region are happening elsewhere.  During an official state visit to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It was the first meeting between Netanyahu and Putin since the Russian-made S-200 missile system (operated by Syrians, in Syria) shot down a Russian plane.  Israel was ultimately blamed for the incident.   Though no details of the meetings were reported, it is probable that Iranian influence in Syria and the region (including their backing of Hamas in Gaza) was a focal point in those conversations.

It is currently in the best interest of both Russia and Israel to cooperate at least to some degree militarily, in terms of not getting in each other’s way.  However, as we see events around the world, particularly in the Middle East, confirm Bible prophecy day-after-day, we know the stage is being set for end time events.  We see evidence suggesting the imminent destruction of Damascus (Isaiah 17:1), setting of the stage for the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39), and the rise of the Antichrist out of Europe (Daniel 2, 7).

In fact, one cannot help but think the spirit of lawlessness, described in 2 Thessalonians 2, is already at work.  As I look at what’s happening in our world…and even America and evil things for which so many stand…I am reminded that our time is short.  What we see are signs of the tribulation,yet our rapture occurs before that terrible time of hell on earth.

As we see these things, we must be alert,  be about our Father’s business (as Jesus was in Luke 2:41-51), be watchmen on the wall (Ezekiel 33:1-6, Isaiah 62:6-7), sound the alarm (Joel 2:1, Jeremiah 4:5-6), and be ambassadors of Christ while still on this earth (2 Corinthians 5:20).

How are we doing?

PS: For a timely commentary on why Gaza is such a problem, check back later today.  Blessings!