Thursday, November 23, 2023

The awe and wonder of birthdays

I do not really enjoy most birthday parties: people come together for food, give presents to whosoever’s birthday is celebrated, and wish him or her a “Happy Birthday”. In Christian circles we might add a short prayer, asking God to bless that person throughout the coming year. Now, there is nothing wrong with good food, presents and prayers. But if that is all there is, the occasion remains like a celebration of a rich harvest without thanking the One who makes all things grow; it is like looking at nature, marveling at the countless species of animals and plants without ever thinking of the one who created them; like delighting in a symphony without honoring its composer or like being impressed by a magnificent building without realizing that there must be an architect who drew the plans. It sounds silly, but that is exactly what we tend to do. We worship created things rather than the Creator!

David, the great king of Israel, had a different perspective. He prayed:

“For you, LORD, created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Every birthday should be a Thanksgiving Day, an opportunity to thank God for creating an absolutely perfect, miraculous human being, made in his own image, so precious to him that he gave his own son to die on a cross in order to redeem us from the powers of darkness, pride and evil that try to keep us from everything our souls long for -  from the moment we are conceived until we die.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, angels appeared in the sky, gave glory to God and challenged the shepherds in the field to do so as well. I think that every birth is surrounded by great awe and wonder in heaven, no matter whether the newborn is male or female, whether it is Asian or Caucasian, born in or out of wedlock, into poverty or riches and no matter whether it is born to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Atheist or Buddhist parents, may they live in Gaza or in China, on the Red Sea or the Black one: A new soul, a unique personality with needs, dreams and a deep longing to be loved and to love has been born!

Therefore, instead of just wishing each other a “Happy Birthday", let us celebrate our birthdays by thanking God and by worshipping Him, our maker, for giving us a brother/sister, friend, neighbor, … - a gift He and we can delight in.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Hear, O Israel!

   When the nation of Israel was founded 75 years ago, many people thought it would be the long desired safe haven for the Jewish people. However, on October 7th 2023, the world woke up to the reality that even the best, most powerful military equipment, paired with the best intelligence services in the world were not able to provide the hoped for, impenetrable shelter for its citizens. The Bible promises Israel only one safe haven, and that is not the "Iron Dome", but it is the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe" (Proverbs 18:10). If you really want to help Israel and if you want to see true peace come to the Middle East, you should pray for Israel  to turn to the LORD: 

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD alone! Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Fear the LORD your God, serve him only, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land" 

(Deuteronomy 6:4.13-15). 

   The overwhelming majority of the worldwide about 14 million Jews, still reject the Messiah, the One whom the LORD sent to be the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. Remarkably, the rejection of Jesus is the one thing that Israel has in common with all Muslims. This hatred of Jesus will eventually somehow unite Jews and Muslims (and all other gentiles), but only when they turn to Jesus will Jews and Muslims be able to make true peace with one another. We, the church, are the only ones who can call both sides to turn to Jesus, and thus be reconciled with God. His love and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus are the only powers that can wipe away the hatred in the hearts of people. So let us not talk about Israel´s "right to defend itself" (it certainly has this right, but, as the Bible teaches, God´s people should not take revenge, but leave room for God´s wrath!), and neither let us speculate about "political solutions" for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -  there is none. True peace is only found in Jesus Christ!