31 December 2014


Every follower of Christ, at some point in his journey, will encounter God's puzzling declaration

in Romans chapter nine, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." What! But doesn't God

love everyone? Like Jacob, I find myself wrestling with questions of time and eternity, questions

of God's will and my own. If God hardened Pharaoh's heart, who's to say he won't harden

mine? If my life is predetermined then what point is there to this tiresome daily fight with evil?

So what if I fail? "Why does he still find fault, for who has resisted his will?" Paul asked, as if

just for me, in that very same chapter. One's nose could get "put out of joint" over all of this, to

say nothing of Jacob's hip!

For a fortunate few, the problems resolve easily in the truth that God exists outside of our

space-time continuum and is in no way bound by it. Here's the idea in a nutshell: Because God

is omniscient, he knows the end from the beginning of every person, so he already knows

exactly whom he will sovereignly elect for his purposes. Simple right? Not so fast!

Take the case of the patriarch Jacob. If he were this godly, upright man of good character who

always made the right decisions, I could more easily understand the phrase "Jacob I have loved

. . ." (Rom 9:13) That is, I could agree with the simple idea above that God chooses right every

time because he knows all things. However, from the moment of his birth, when he emerged

holding his older brother Esau's heel, Jacob was known as the deceiver, the manipulative cheat

who always connived to achieve his own ends. His whole life dramatized the meaning of his

name: supplanter! Likewise, who needs to look hard within his own heart to find something that

he knows God hates? So the real mystery is not, "Why did God hate Esau?", but rather, "Why

did God love Jacob?"!

Notwithstanding all his misdeeds and character flaws, there came a time when Jacob wrestled

all night with the Angel of the Lord. When morning came, one touch of the Angel's finger

dislocated his hip, leaving him limping for life. But something else happened in Jacob's spirit. In

a moment he was humbled, he was broken, and his heart was changed. Jacob's spirit, hitherto

bound by time and flesh, was somehow touched by God's unseen, eternal hand. Along with

many prominent Bible scholars, I believe the Angel of the Lord was none other than the pre-

incarnate Messiah -- Jesus, the Son of the Living God!

Could this have been the one defining moment in time, whereby God would now eternally say,

"Jacob I have loved?" The Bible did not record such a moment for Esau. Many years earlier,

their grandfather had just such a moment, memorialized by the famous words, "Abraham

believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6) The

Apostle Paul's moment also came one day in a blinding flash . . . on a road to Damascus. 

The question that leaves me troubled, or should at the least deeply concern me, is who am I to

God? Am I Jacob? Or am I Esau? What will heaven's epitaph declare for my life? For me, the

deciding issue cannot be one of character or even good works, as important as those things are. 

Far more defining and of eternal consequence must be the question of whether I have wrestled

with Eternity. That is, with the Eternal One. Has my defining moment come? Have I heard

heaven's knock and opened the door? If the heavens declare the glory of God, how can I say I

have not heard? Like Jacob, am I in the number of those whom God loves?

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and

they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27, 28)

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at

the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine

with him, and he with Me." -- Jesus Christ (Revelation 3:19,20)

Photo:  Jeff Franks, Striped Butterfly

10 December 2014

UPDATE ON UKRAINE by Jeff Franks for The Baptist Trumpet.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine takes a surprising turn from time to time, but of late it seems frozen, both militarily and politically, to say nothing of soldiers struggling to stay warm on the front lines. Reports of artillery, tank, and missile barrages, deaths and injuries continue to trickle in every day. 

Since September 5, a cease-fire has been in effect in Eastern Ukraine. However, since then 93 civilians have died, and countless soldiers on both sides. I have read impossible to verify, conflicting reports of thousands of Russian soldiers who have died in this conflict. To say nothing of the grieving Ukrainian families, Russian families cannot even publicize the real reasons for their sorrow without incurring the displeasure of the state, which continues to deny their involvement. Therefore, please continue to keep both Russia and Ukraine in your prayers. 

The protracted conflict is taking a huge toll on Ukraine at large. With the coldest months of the winter still ahead, exhausted coal supplies are forcing electric power brown-outs and black-outs throughout the country. The Hryvna, the Ukrainian national currency, has lost 40 percent of its value over the last several months. Elderly and handicapped pensioners are paying a third or more of their pension just to stay warm. Though food prices tend to lag behind inflation, the relentlessly rising numbers still create “sticker shock” as they take a larger percentage of the monthly pay check. I have no doubt Russian families are suffering in a similar manner.

The Baptist churches of Ukraine have responded in encouraging ways. Within the last week, the Baptist Union of Ukraine has held vision and planning meetings for a coordinated response to the crisis. They are focusing primarily on prayer, benevolence, and evangelism to the more than 100,000 displaced persons from the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. A recent outreach to the nearby Ivankov region has resulted in many saved with Bible study groups forming. Please pray that this effort will result in new churches planted! 

How are the churches doing inside the conflict zone? A recent report to the Baptist World Alliance stated: “Amid shelling and tanks moving through the streets, Christians hold prayer meetings in the city parks and squares, establish centers of free psychological and medical assistance, host, feed, and dress the refugees.” Only heaven sees and records the stories of their faith and sacrifice.
Author Chris Tiegreen once wrote, “We live in a broken world, partly of our own doing, and we suffer because of it. But we rejoice that the suffering does not compare to the glory to be revealed (Rom 8:18).” How true! 

I hope you have derived some prayer points from this article. I think you know well that the current unrest is part of God’s plan to show his incredible faithfulness to his chosen people in the last days, and to all who seek a relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22,23)

05 December 2014


There is a publication that circulates among our BMAA (Baptist Missionary Association of America) churches which targets those believers among us who are pro-Israel. The writer emphasizes recent Israeli laws and governmental actions which favor homosexuals and abortion. “You who stand for Israel, right or wrong, are grievously in error,” he argues, “because you are also standing for unbiblical laws which dishonor the Almighty.” 

Yes, unfortunately, there just may be some fanatics out there, who apparently think they have to support everything Israel does, right or wrong. In all the years I have fellowshipped with our pastors and church members, however, I have never met such a person. Therefore, I think these are the author’s “straw man” for highlighting Israel’s faults, whether political or social. 

But the issue regarding Israel has never been her faithfulness or her backsliding. Biblically speaking, she much more often chose the latter as a way of life. Oddly, the author goes to great lengths to demonstrate that God, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles spoke against Israel. Oh, I guess I am so pro-Israel that I missed that! No, the issue with Israel is God’s incredible faithfulness in spite of her failings! 

God’s love and protection for Israel is really more about the veracity of his eternal Word. He said he would gather them from all the nations, and he has. (Ezekiel 36:24) He is faithful and loving. His love, discipline, and protection of Israel never fails because he has promised them these things in his Word. That is why I identify with God’s protection of this much hated and maligned nation. 

Aren’t you glad that God is not like you and me? We can turn our backs on the unfaithful and hold grudges forever. We raise our fists in anger, call for mass demonstrations and destructive behavior. No, thank God he’s not like us! He is always and ever our faithful, loving Father. He may be angry for a moment, but his love never, ever fails!  Just think, if he can love Israel through her failings, he can love you through yours.

Photo above: Schindler's grave in Jerusalem. The Hebrew reads: "Righteous Among the Nations"; the German reads: "The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews".