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Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Home for Hephzibah--by Linda Kozar

“Thou shall no longer be termed forsaken; neither shall your land any more be termed desolate: but you shall be called Hephzibah. . .”—Isaiah 62:4 NKJ

Some families come together naturally in the course of time or planning, but other families are fitted to one another by God with great care--like puzzle pieces. Only He can find all the missing pieces and put them together.
As President and CEO of a national company, Christina worked out of an office in her spacious home. To the casual observer, she was a successful businesswoman who enjoyed a privileged life. There was one thing missing however--children. Two failed marriages had produced none. “I had this understanding with God, that if He wanted me to have children, He would have given them to me.” She shrugged, “I guessed God had other plans.”
Due to her busy work schedule, Christine decided to hire a housekeeper to clean and cook lunch and dinner for her. Soon after the housekeeper started however, she began to bring along her 4-year-old niece, Hephzibah Sarah. Christine didn’t mind. The little girl seemed quiet enough. But her aunt was an “old-school” disciplinarian who believed that children should be seen and not heard. Christine noticed that the aunt would make the little girl sit in a chair all day, still and quiet, as if she blended in with the furniture.
One day, as soon as her aunt’s car pulled out of the driveway for a trip to the grocery store, the little girl hopped out of her chair and ran into Christine’s office to ask for food. The pattern continued over time. Whenever her aunt left to do errands, the tiny girl would scramble from her chair to ask for something to eat. In a meek little voice, she asked for a strawberry or a few grapes and Christine would take her into the kitchen to feed and spend time with her. The minute she heard her aunt’s car in the driveway though, she would scurry right back to her chair.
Curious as to why her housekeeper, a mother with a grown son and two grandchildren of her own, would take on the responsibility of caring for her niece, Christine discovered that Sarah had come to her out of desperate circumstances. The youngest of nine children, “Hephzibah Sarah,” was born to a Christian family in the throes of poverty. Their mother names all nine children from Biblical figures she admired. Hephzibah Sarah, whom she named from Isaiah 62:4, was the youngest. The name, “Hephzibah,” translated from Hebrew means, “in whom is My delight.”  With the exception of Sarah and her brother, Paul, the rest of the children were eighteen years old and above. Sarah and Paul were the youngest, and as it turned out, the most vulnerable.
When Sarah was almost 2-1/2 years old, and her brother Paul 5-1/2, their mother died suddenly, and their father found it difficult to take on the responsibilities of caring for two young children. The family barely scraped by financially, and then only by pooling their money with each other to share a ramshackle place, often relying on help from their church. When their father went to work every day, he left Sarah and Paul in the care of the older girls. The young caretakers were immature and ill prepared for such responsibilities and took care of the children in a haphazard way.
Sarah wandered the house each day, eyes sunken, hair unkempt, nearly skin and bones. Her belly was bloated, a telltale sign of malnutrition. Most of the time, she went without underwear or even a tee shirt to cover her. Her older brother fared somewhat better because he had learned to fend for himself, but he too was struggling.Realizing that Sarah urgently needed help, their father turned to his sister, who though reluctant at first, agreed to take care of her.
“She was stressed out in a lot of ways,” said Christine. The aunt was caring for her brother, who was very ill, as well as an older, mentally handicapped niece and her two children. It was hard for her to be patient with a young child, but she tried and she made sure that Sarah was clean, well-groomed and dressed.”
After a few days, Christine decided to ask her housekeeper to begin serving her lunch out on the cabana by the pool. She casually asked if Sarah could join her. The aunt agreed. “We began to share wonderful times together, singing and laughing.” Christine discovered that no one had ever read to Sarah, so she began to read her story after story. She eventually bought her a jump rope, Barbie dolls and other toys to play with.
From the beginning, Christine had noticed a whitish ring around Sarah’s mouth, but now felt bold enough to ask if she could bring her to a pediatrician. “ The doctor knew what it was right away. He said that the appearance of the ring around her mouth indicated a Vitamin D deficiency, probably from lack of enough exposure to the sun.” Jarred by the diagnosis, Christine said, “I suddenly realized that this child had never been outside of the house to play.”
Worried that the child needed immediate care and intervention, Christine asked Sarah’s aunt if she could be Sarah’s “Godmother.” The aunt readily agreed, so she immediately enrolled her in a pre-kindergarten daycare center. Later, Christine asked permission to enroll Sarah in gymnastics and ballet classes. Once again, her aunt agreed.  Since Sarah’s ballet classes were in the evening, she was allowed to spend the night over Christine’s house. She quietly changed her guest bedroom into a little girl’s room, complete with comforter and dolls. Sarah loved it.
In her kitchen one day, Christine began to think about her earlier understanding with God. “I had always said, If God wanted me to have a child, He would have given me one. Suddenly, there was this big, neon sign going off in my head. He had given me one…and she was sitting right in from of me at my kitchen table!”
Her thoughts seemed to be confirmed one day while driving, when Sarah spoke from her car seat in the back.
“I been thinking since I’ve been looking for a nice mommy with a big house, that you ought to be my mommy. That way,” she added, “you won’t have to be alone anymore.”
Christine, overcome with emotion, had no more doubts. She decided to visit Sarah and Paul’s father. “That August, I finally met him face-to-face. He was a nice man who just seemed to be beaten down by the world.”
He told her, “I promised their mother before she died that I would do right by the little ones. I can tell you’re a nice lady. Please take Sarah and don’t let her forget her family.”
The man allowed Christine to adopt his daughter Hephzibah Sarah and he allowed his son Paul to stay with a foster family for a while. However, Paul was happy to return when conditions improved at home.
“People tell Sarah how lucky she is to have found a new mother like me,” said Christine, “but I disagree with that. I’m the lucky one. I know that God has something special in mind for Sarah and I’m blessed to be a part of her life.”
God heard the desire of a prayerful woman’s heart to be a mother, and the desperate need of a lonely little girl for one. Now they are a family, fitted together by God—a match truly made in Heaven.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Earthquakes and the End Times--by Linda Kozar

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "it is estimated that there are 500,000 detectable earthquakes in the world each year. 100,000 of those can be felt, and 100 of them cause damage. Each year the southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes. Most of them are so small that they are not felt. Only several hundred are greater than magnitude 3.0, and only about 15-20 are greater than magnitude 4.0. If there is a large earthquake, however, the aftershock sequence will produce many more earthquakes of all magnitudes for many months. 

The prevalence of so many small quakes and tremors explains why Californians seem to take their rumblings in stride. But for the rest of the United States, and the world for that matter, earthquakes are a serious concern. Is there a rise in seismic activity in accordance with End Times prophecy or are earthquakes simply reported in a more accurate matter than in years past. A Christian would probably say 'yes' there are more earthquakes. A scientist however, would tell quote from scientific data and reassure you that earthquakes occur with great frequency all over the world.

Have you ever wondered what people in the ancient world thought about earthquakes? The Bible records many quakes, but some earthquakes are more than just natural occurances. In fact, God used earthquakes as a wake-up call for people to repent of their sinful ways, and to serve as warnings for impending judgment.

Many people are experiencing a sense of foreboding--a call to intercession and intensified prayer. Are these feelings spurred by a perceived increase in natural and man-made disasters, or are these feelings more the quickening of the Holy Spirit warning us of things to come? Perhaps both? We would do well to study the historical and spiritual implications of earthquakes.

Bible Quakes
Mount Sinai
Exodus 19:18 "Now all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightenings and the noise of the trumpet and the smoking mountain, and as (they) looked they trembled with fear and fell back and stood afar off." The first biblical account of earthquake activity begins here. God is on the mountain. The mountain trembles and the people tremble as well.
Hebrews 12:25-26 "So see to it that you do not reject Him or refuse to listen to and heed Him Who is speaking (to you now). For it they (the Israelites) did not escape when they refused to listen and heed Him Who warned and devinely instructed them (here) on earth (revealing with heavenly warnings His will), how much less shall we escape if we reject and turn our backs on Him Who cautions and admonishes (us) from heaven? Then (at Mt. Sinai) His voice shook the earth, but now He has given a promise: Yet once more I will shake and make tremble not only the earth but also the (starry) heavens. (Hag. 2:6). Let's use Noah as an example. Noah warned of the coming flood. Perhaps some people took note or heed of what he said, yet as the years passed and they continued to live their lives in peace and prosperity, they began to doubt. That doubt led to mockery and derision. Most of the old testament prophets experienced the mockery of those who chose to ignore or reject God's warnings. God loves us so much He warns us beforehand. He gives His people every chance to repent. But there will be those who turn a blind eye to God's tender care for us. "For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Pet. 3:3-4) People will say, "What impending disaster? The sun is shining. Business is great. All is well." But God is calling us to repent, to seek after heavenly, not earthly things. Sometimes He literally has to shake us up to get us to listen to Him.
Psalms 68:8 "The earth trembled, the heavens also poured down (rain) at the presence of God; yonder Sinai quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel."
Mount Calvary
Matthew 27: 51, 54 "And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the eath shook and the rocks were split (Ex. 26:31-35)." "When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, 'Truly this was God's Son!'" It is estimated that the veil of the sanctuary was four inches thick. Think phone book thick. Have you ever seen somebody tear a phone book in half. Now imagine a temple veil 60 feet high, torn completely in two. As the earth convulsed, amny rocks were split as well. The skies were dark and people were completely terrified. prompting even the gentile Roman soldiers to admit that Jesus had to be the Son of God.
Matthew 28:1-2 "Now after the Sabbath, near the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to take a look at the tomb. And behold there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled the boulder back and sat upon it." When Jesus died on the cross--an earthquake and three days later, when He arose from the dead--another earthquake! Matthew 27:52 The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised (to life). And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. Can you imagine that? I wonder if Joseph, still in his Egyptian garb, was among those who wandered through the city. Remember, his specific request? He asked that his bones go with his people. He did not want to be buried in Egypt. So Joseph rested with his fathers. 
Make note of the word "after." The old testament saints were resurrected in body and spirit, but Jesus had to be resurrected first, which explains why they rose in body and walked the earth, but were not resurrected to heaven until after Jesus. Some say these were the old testament people whom Jesus witnessed to in Paradise, a compartment in hell that is no longer there. It was emptied when these old testament believers received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Some also claim this event to be the first rapture.
Holy Spirit
Acts 4:31 "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage." These early church believers were living in fear. They had been forbidden to witness, to speak of or share with anyone about this Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, so they gathered together daily to pray. And when the Holy Spirit came upon each of them with tongues of fire, they left that upper room with boldness and began to witness to every living soul, without fear of imprisonment or death.
Paul and Silas
Acts 16: 25-27 "But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the (other) prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors of the prison were opened and everyone's shackles were unfastened." Can you imagine a more miserable place? Every prisoner was shackled in a cold, dark, filthy place. But Paul and Silas did something improbable. They sang with joy. They sang their faith. And the other prisoners were listening intently. The earthquake produced an improbable result as well. All the doors of the prison were opened and each and every shackle on every prisoner was unfastened. Amazing. What is more amazing is that these thing happened without a record of any loss of life in the prison. God can call forth an earthquake, tell it what to do and how to do it. He can use any natural force to do His will any way he wants it to.
Second Coming of Christ
Matthew 24:7 "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place." One could argue that this prophecy is occuring right now. Nation is rising up against nation. There are famines. And there are earthquakes in many places that do no usually experience earthquakes.
Luke 21:11 "There will be mighty and violent earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences (plagues; malignant and contagious or infectious diseases which are deadly and devastating); and there will be sights of terror and great signs from heaven." Some recent occurances come to mind. The earthquake and Tsumani in Japan. Recent quakes in Oklahoma. The Bird flu virus. Asteroids.
One thing is clear. End Time Earthquakes are decidedly different from all previous quakes. These will truly be devastating on a scale far greater than any experienced on the earth throughout all history. "There shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matt. 24:21,22).
Opening of 6th Seal
Revelation 6:12-17 "When He (the Lamb) broke open the sixth seal, I looked, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun grew black as sackcloth of hair, (the full disc of) the moon became like blood (Joel 2:10, 31).
7 Trumpets
Revelation 8:5 "So the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and cast it upon the earth. Then there followed peals of thunder and loud rumblings and blasts and noises, and flashes of lightening and an earthquake. (Lev. 16:12, Ezek. 10:2).
Revelation 11:19 "Then the sanctuary of God in heaven was thrown open, and the ark of His covenant was seen standing inside in His sanctuary; and there were flashes of lightening, loud rumblings (blasts, mutterings), peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a terrific hailstorm (1 Kings 8:1-6).
The Two Witnesses
Revelation 11:13 "And at that (very) hour there was a tremendous earthquake and one tenth of the city was destroyed (fell); seven thousand people perished in the earthquake, and those who remained were filled with dread and terror and were awe-struck, and they glorified the God of heaven."
The 7th Seal
Revelations 16:17-21 "Then the seventh (angel) emptied out his bowl into the air, and a mighty voice came out of the sanctuary of heaven from the throne (of God), saying, It is done! (It is all over, it is all acomplished, it has come!) (Isaiah. 66:6).

Have you have recently experienced an earthquake? If so, you know how terrifying it is to feel the ground move beneath your feet. But many people experience personal earthquakes. Their lives are shaken by financial, family or health problems--a shaking that topples, crumbles, destroys.

When troubles find us, fear makes our hearts grown faint. We tend to run around in circles, uncertain about what to do--panicked and without direction. The Greek word for moved can mean agitated, shaken or disturbed. 

The first thing to do in this situation is get before God. Fall to your knees. Shut out your fear and shut yourself in with your Father God. There is only one sure way to overcome fear and that is in God's perfect love. Don't stop praying until you are fully satisfied and persuaded that God is in control. Once you do so, you will be able to sing your faith as Paul and Silas did. And you will see others come to Christ. You will see the doors open and the shackles fall away.

Then and only then will you truly be able to say, "Nothing on this earth can move me! I am in the presence of the Most High God. I am covered under the shadow of His wing (Psalm 91). I am not afraid, for in His presence is fullness of joy.