The Weekly Epistle 10/11/23

Hi Living Hope,
It was the most devastating attack on Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As of Monday, there are 1,300 dead and another 2,000 wounded. Tragically, this number will increase. Hostages have been taken as Hamas gunmen (Terrorists) went literally door-to door taking children, young women, and the elderly. 

What are we to make of this? First and foremost, we are to pray. As Pastor Brent Leatherwood put it, “Vulnerable lives are caught up in the midst of this warfare and they need our urgent prayers.” May God place His protective hand on the hostages and bring them safely home.We can pray that this violence stops. We can pray for God’s merciful intervention that through this evil, God may bring people to Himself and be glorified through it. 

Secondly, we have to stay alert. Jesus in speaking of the signs of the end of the age, told us to “watch out that you are not deceived” (Luke 21:8). In the times in which we live, false teaching will be on the rise. Stay grounded in the Word of God. Stand firm on the truth. 

Thirdly, we are to lift up our heads because our redemption is near,” (Luke 21:27). The headline, “Israel is at War” raises lots of questions, such as, “Is this the end?” And “Are we seeing the fulfillment of prophecy in real time?” Students of prophecy would point to Ezekiel 37:22; 39:2, 4, 17; Daniel 11:45, Joel 3:2-16 and Zechariah 12:1-9, 14:1-21 that speak of a final assault from the north against Jerusalem. Is this the start of that? The honest answer is, we really do not know. 

But we do know that the groanings of this life point us forward to the glory that awaits us. We do know that what we are to be doing is looking for the soon return of the Lord. What we do know is that we are to live each day with an expectancy of His return. Lift up our heads because our redemption is near. 

As such events unfold in our world, there is a heaviness that goes with it. There is tremendous sadness, perhaps even anger, as you catch some horrific videos. There can also be fear that can overwhelm us. Again, in that passage in Luke 21, Jesus tells his disciples to not be frightened. For these first followers, they were forewarned that they would face persecution. There were difficult times ahead for them as their association with Jesus would make them hated by many. They could easily be frightened. 

Church, we do not need to live paralyzed by fear as we wonder what this all means. As a kid, when there was the threat of war or unsettling world events I often heard, “Signs of the times.” I suppose it was meant to offer a perspective that should have brought peace and assurance that this is all part of God’s plan. But it did the opposite in my mind. My heart suddenly became fearful. 

Do not fear! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27). Our thoughts of Israel lead us to our “go-to” verse in Psalm 122:6- “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” I would urge you to check out the entire Psalm to get the full flavor of those words in its context. Peace is prayed for on behalf of those who love the Lord (see rest of verse 6). Pray for peace for all our brothers and sisters around the world and for those we worship and fellowship with here at Living Hope! 

Peace be with you, Pastor Brian