A Picture of REMEMBRANCE

Scripture for this blog-Bible study:  Hebrews 10:12-25, Luke 24:13-14

UNITY IN COMMUNION –

COMMUNION, Paul’s term describing the nature of the Lord’s Supper is the term used by many church groups, referring to their CELEBRATION of Jesus’ final memorial supper with His disciples.  Paul used the Greek term “Koinonia” to express the basic meaning of the Christian faith, a sharing in the life and death and more importantly in the resurrection of Christ, which radically creates a relationship between Christ and the believer and of the believers with one another – a partnership of unity.

Hebrews 10:12, 14 (NIV)

[12] But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…[14] because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The words speak to the present.  It’s a symbol of our unity, reminding us whom we are to be living for in this life.

  • It reminds us to keep our eyes focused on Him.

It tells us that He is who he said He was and is and we can trust Him today with our lives.

It points to the future.  We proclaim His death…He comes again!  It points to our complete redemption and glorification in Heaven before the Great White Throne.

What does Jesus want for us at this gathering?  Yes, Jesus wants something from us.

When we celebrate, and that’s what COMMUNION should be, is A CELEBRATION, not a ritualistic ceremony.  That’s what worship should be – A CELEBRATION!

WHAT IS JESUS’ PURPOSE?

Let’s together take a walk along the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13, with two disciples of Jesus who heard the two earlier reports of the Resurrection – Mary’s and Peter’s.

However, because they hadn’t personally seen the evidence, rather, they didn’t want to check out the evidence for themselves, probably because they were afraid of being caught and possibly receiving a death sentence, they decided to pack it in and head back home some 7 miles away from Jerusalem, and go back to their old way of living.

Alright, they gave up on Jesus…but thank God, He didn’t give up on them!

Notice verse 15 says, “Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them…”.  I especially like the English Standard Version (ESV) of the passage – “Jesus himself drew near…”  The thought here isn’t that these two disciples were simply geographically distant, but that their FAITH was distant as well.

JESUS knew their need…so He DREW NEAR. 

He didn’t say, “Fine!  You want to leave, you want to doubt, and you want to turn your backs on me?  Go right ahead.  Don’t expect me to come to you.  When you clean up your act and smarten up and return to where I am, I’ll consider taking you back.”  Thank God, Jesus isn’t like that.  He knows our weaknesses and struggles.

“I would have never been like those first disciples!”

We think WE would never act the way they did.  Fact is, we would…and we do…and most likely we will.  Our lives can often fog our vision, our understanding, our faith, and our hope…We allow circumstances to overshadow the truth.

  • It’s easy to lose focus.
  • It’s easy to doubt.
  • It’s easy to forget.
  • It’s easy to fall away.
  • It’s easy to reject.
  • It’s easy to take for granted.
  • It’s easy to misunderstand.
  • It’s easy to give up and give in.

THANK GOD…that in spite of:

  1. Our clouded situations and circumstances…
  2. Getting lost frequently along the way…
  3. The times we decide to hit the road again and run away from our difficulties…

…there’s a God who not only comes looking for us BUT…ALSO DRAWS NEAR AND TRAVELS WITH US UNTIL WE SEE AGAIN!  That’s good news!  That’s grace!  That’s Jesus!

He spoke with them for hours.

He spent the day with them explaining the truth of the Scriptures; this wasn’t a 20-minute sermon!  He was there physically with them until the sun was beginning to set.

They saw Him…

They smelled Him…

They walked near Him…

And yet, with all this physical closeness they still didn’t recognize who he was!

Hello, you two.  You are so caught up in your own pity party.”

WAIT!  Before we begin casting more stones here in judgment, we must confess that there have been times, even seasons, when we’ve been distant.  Times when we wanted to throw in the towel and lost hope over a particular circumstance.

It happened with our children – “This is your last chance!”…At our workplace – “It’s no use.  People around here don’t care.  I’m not going to take it anymore…I quit!”  [I’ve been there before!]  At school – “It’s too hard.  I’m in over my head.  I’m going to drop out!”…And even with God, “I’ve been praying for 8 years and you still haven’t helped me!…I’ve asked for patience and I get more problems…I’ve prayed for healing…all I get is sicker by the day.  HELLO, is anyone up there?!!!”

We live in such a fast pace society.  We’ve become so impatient, so “me” focused.  And as a result, we give up way too easily, way too early, and way too frequently.  THANK GOD we are not left alone.  I’m not saying that you’ll never feel alone.  Truth is you will, but that’s not because God has abandoned you, it’s because you’ve abandoned Him!

God won’t go where he’s not welcomed.

If we want to keep pushing God out of our life…if we continue to ignore His Word…if we continue to break His commandments, and I’m not just referring to the ‘BIG TEN’, but all His commandments recorded in the Bible–then what gives us the right to expect Him to “be there” for us?

BUT THANK GOD that where He is welcomed, where there are those who are genuinely struggling with their FAITH, who sincerely want to believe, but because of a lack of hope…just can’t see God in their circumstances, you can be sure that you’ll find Him a lot closer than you might think.  You might even be BLIND to His presence right now, BUT He’s right there sitting or standing next to you…or walking beside you on the road you chose to escape.  Even though we all go through seasons of BLINDNESS, the good news is that sooner or later He will do for you what He did for those TWO DISCIPLES on the road to Emmaus.  Sooner or later you WILL see Him.

You see it wasn’t until He broke the Bread…that finally “Their eyes were opened” and they recognized Him.

Remember Jesus’ words…

“…Do this in remembrance of me…”

REMEMBER ME, DON’T JUST THINK ABOUT ME, REMEMBER ME.

Communion is a very intimate act.  So let’s communicate to our spiritual leaders that we require more than a ‘traditional’, a ‘run-of-the-mill’ type ceremony.  Communion should help us to focus on Jesus instead of ourselves.  It should point us to the One who has been near to us all along.

In this act of remembrance, HE REMINDS US of His constant LOVE and as we break bread we see that He HAS come near.  At least we should!  God wants our eyes to be opened – the eyes of our mind…the eyes of our hearts too.

And that’s why we are to gather at this table…not OUR table but HIS TABLE! 

NOTICE the CHANGE in the disciples’ attitude:

  • From despair to hope
  • From depression to joy
  • From doubt to belief
  • From defeat to victory
  • From dismay to courage
  • From disillusionment to enlightenment
  • From “…stood still, looking sad and downcast…” to “It is true!  The Lord has risen.”

Why the change?

“Jesus drew near…broke bread”!

The next time we gather to CELEBRATE, know that Jesus wants to do something!  And as we remember a historic fact…eat and drink these common everyday elements…we are reminded of ETERNAL reality –

JESUS IS here among us!

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CREDITS :

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP);  English Standard Version (ESV).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Music Video:  Remembrance by Matt Maher with lyrics – YouTube.

 

“For GOODNESS Sake!”

Scripture Passage:  Romans 8:28; Matthew 19:16-20

When I was a child, my mom taught me a prayer to say at mealtime, especially at THANKSGIVING.

“God is great, God is GOOD, let us thank Him for our food.  AMEN.”

And as an adult, I remember singing this chorus in the church:

“God is so good, God is so good, God is so good.  He’s so good to me.”

We find the GOODNESS of God as a reoccurring theme in the Scriptures:

God HAS to be good…it’s His very nature to be good.

  • WE RECEIVE PARDON.
  • FORGIVENESS.
  • HE HEARS OUR PRAYERS.
  • WE CAN EXPERIENCE FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM.
  • WE CAN TRUST IN HIM THAT WHATEVER HAPPENS IN OUR LIFE IS BASED ON HIS GOODNESS!

SOMETIMES, we don’t SEE God’s goodness, especially when something BAD happens.

When we experience heartache, a tragedy, a disappointment in our lives…it seems like God isn’t GOD.  Otherwise, why would God allow this to happen to us?

BUT FOR GOODNESS SAKE, EVERYTHING that God does…is good!

When God created the world, He stooped and said, “It is good.”  Part of our problem is that we spend too much of our time complaining about 10 BAD things and not enough time rejoicing over the 1000 GOOD things.

Yes, 9-11 was a tragedy…BUT we could be living in Israel where it happens daily.

Yes, I lost my Mom to Alzheimer’s disease, BUT I enjoyed 65 good years with her.

Yes, I have had heartaches and tragedies and disappointments in my life, BUT my GOOD GOD was there, through it all, to see me through every one of them.

THANK GOODNESS!

God sets the standard for GOODNESS.

How do you determine what is “good” and what isn’t “good”?  What is the standard for “goodness”?

Matthew 19:16-17 – 

The Rich Young Ruler had everything money could buy and he was living the GOOD life.  One day he comes to Jesus and asked him“Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus wants to teach him the standard for “good”…(19:17a).  The Rich Young Ruler didn’t know what “good” was.  He thought it consisted of “good things”, “good circumstances”, “good feelings”.  He even thought that being “good” would get him to Heaven (19:17b-20).

Anything that is GOOD comes from God.

If it’s not from God, it isn’t good!  It doesn’t matter how good it looks…how good it feels…how good it tastes…if it doesn’t come from God, it isn’t good.  AND…if it isn’t good, it didn’t come from God.

LIMA BEANS didn’t come from God…BUT chocolate did!  There will be no Lima Beans in Heaven!  Adam & Eve had no Lima Beans in the Garden of Eden…they came after the fall of man…a result of the curse upon the Earth!  LIMA BEANS will be the main course in Hell…HEAVEN will be full of chocolate.  You get the idea.

The truth is (as much as I hate to admit it), that Lima Beans are GOOD for you.  They even teach us a spiritual lesson.

GOODNESS Isn’t Determined by Experience, But by Its Source.

I’ve had a bad experience with Lima Beans growing up.  My parents were determined to get me to eat what was on the table, saying, “Mel, this isn’t a cafeteria.  You’ll eat the Lima Beans on your plate NOW, or have them in the morning cold, for breakfast. Your choice.”  Their strategy must have worked, because who wanted “cold” Lima Beans for breakfast?  BUT that doesn’t determine whether Lima Beans are GOOD or BAD.

Goodness is determined by its source, not by experience.

Chocolate tastes good…it makes me feel good…it makes me smile.  BUT…chocolate isn’t good for me, especially since I’m diabetic.

EXPERIENCE isn’t the set standard for GOODNESS.

James 1:17 (Amplified Bible)

“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives light], in [the shining of] Whom there can be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself].”

GOD TURNS BADNESS INTO GOODNESS –

Somebody might say:  “How can God be good when thousands were killed on 9-11.   I can’t believe a good God would allow such a thing to happen.”

Let’s just say you are right…and that God isn’t good…and that He really doesn’t exist.  You have still got thousands of dead people.  Getting rid of God didn’t solve the problem at all!

How do we answer the fact that God is good…yet bad things happen?

ANSWER:  If it isn’t good, then it didn’t have its source in God.

YES, God is sovereign…He’s in control.  God ALLOWS bad things to happen for reasons that we don’t have a clue!  BUT…God didn’t participate in their sin in any way, form or fashion.

“OUR GOD IS GOOD!”

Our problem is, we use the wrong standard for “goodness”…we use OUR standard.  OUR standard is: “Good” is whatever is “good” for me.  We say: “I am the standard for GOOD”.

God says: “I AM the standard for GOOD.”

The proof of “goodness” isn’t in the experience…it’s in the SOURCE.  Nobody likes to get a shot before dental surgery, but it’s good for you at the time.

God’s GOODNESS doesn’t mean that BAD things won’t happen to you.

We live in a bad, evil world.  BUT…because God is GOOD, He can take BAD things, and bring eternal GOOD out of them.  IF…we let Him.

Romans 8:28

We always want to blame somebody for the BAD things that happen to us.

God is always nearby, so we blame Him a lot;   “If there’s a good God in Heaven, how could He let this happen?”  What are we really saying when we blame God?  We are REALLY saying:  ‘Since God didn’t act the way I expected He should…He’s either WRONG, BAD, or DOESN’T EXIST!”  But, you can’t really be mad at a God you don’t believe really exists, can you?

See how foolish this is?  Are you going to believe in God ONLY if He acts like you want Him to?

Are you going to form your opinion of God from how He acts IN RELATION TO how YOU would act if YOU were God?

You’d be better off worshipping yourself…since you’re putting yourself on a higher level than God.  You’re determining what is “good”.  You’re setting the standard for what is “good”.

I say, NO!  GOD sets the standard for “good.”

God is GOOD…ALL THE TIME!

It doesn’t matter what happens to you and I, it could have been WORSE!

Dr. W. T. Watson used to tell this story at Trinity College:

“There was a preacher who, no matter what bad thing you said had happened to you; he had the habit of always saying ‘It could have been worse!’  One day a man in his church decided to put a stop to this and attempted to stump his Pastor at the door after the service.  He told his Pastor, ‘I had a dream last night’, to which the Pastor replied, ‘It could have been worse.’  The man went on, ‘I dreamed I died and went to Hell’, the man stated.  The Pastor replied, ‘it could have been worse.’  He thought he had the Pastor this time.  ‘Pastor, what could be worse than dreaming you died and went to Hell?’  The Pastor replied ‘It could have been true!’  

It doesn’t matter what happens to you…“It could have been worse.”  Praise God that it wasn’t.  [My Connect Church, June 23, 2014 – Romans 8:28]

Try to focus on His GOODNESS to you!

I don’t always know what “good” God has in mind when He allows tragedy, heartache, and disappointments to come into our lives.  I don’t know…BUT…I don’t have to know.  What happens in my life may not be good…it might even be terrible.  Maybe I can’t see any purpose at the time in it at all.

BUT…What does Romans 8:28 say about what I am to “know”?

I may not be able to see how it’s working for good…or feel like it is…or understand how it’s working for good. 

BUT…I am to “know” that it is!

I need to look at it from God’s perspective…not mine.

Don’t ever think that God’s GOODNESS means that bad things won’t ever happen to you.  God is GOOD…BECAUSE…HE takes the BAD things that happen to you…and brings eternal GOOD out of them.

I may never see the “good” that comes out of it…this side of Heaven.  Or…I may.  BUT…I can “know” that God means it for “good”…OR…He would never allow it to happen.

God, the Father, KNOWS What’s Best!

God has one up on us…He’s omniscient!

You and I can only see things in the present tense lens…God sees things with the Eternal View lens.  God has a lot better view from Heaven than I do in Lynden, Washington!  What happens to you and me may not be good…but it IS working together for good.  And I can “KNOW” that…when I put my faith and trust in a “good” God.

Again God is good…all the time!

That’s His nature…He HAS to be good.  God has given us so much more than we deserve.  If we got what we DESERVE in life,, we wouldn’t have driven to work today in our fine automobile (“It could be worse!”).  We wouldn’t have such nice clothing to wear to church (“It could be worse!”).  We could be in the finest hospital, or the finest jail where we live.  We could be lost and bound for an eternity in the Lake if Fire.

We’ve gotten into the habit of saying to ourselves:  “THIS is good!”  A job promotion, a pay-raise. a gift, a pleasure in life, CHOCOLATE!  We should develope the habit…whenever something GOOD happens to us…instead of saying “This is good!” “For GOODNESS sake, God is so good!”

How can we make God’s GOODNESS…REAL in our lives?

  • Don’t judge God by your standard of “goodness.”
  • Don’t judge God by whether He does what you want Him to do.
  • Don’t judge God by how you would run the universe if you were God.

God says:  “When you start creating universes…and control tides…and keep the planets in orbit…THEN I’ll come to YOU for advice…THEN I’ll let YOU determine what is “good.”

In the meantime, we need to trust Him, For GOODNESS Sake.  

YOU ARE WORTHY!!!  GOD IS SO GOOD!!!

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CREDITS:

Music Video:  God Is So Good (You Are Worthy) by Pat Barrett – YouTube 

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King James Version (KJV); New Living Testament (NLT).

Images/Photos:  Gooogle Images Search.

Prophecy and The Church Today

Scripture Study, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; Ephesians 4:11

PURSUE LOVE AND DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, BUT ESPECIALLY PROPHECY

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY is the most predominant of the Spiritual gifts in that it’s a gift manifested most often.  In Acts 2, Peter says that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues isn’t the result of too much wine, but is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Prophet Joel (Joel 2), a sign of the end times (Joel 2:17-18).  This is significant because, in the Old Testament, only the priests and prophets prophesied.  But not so in the New Testament.  Sons, daughters, women, men from all walks of life are prophesying and speaking in tongues.  (1 Corinthians 14:31)

In our scripture passage, we have the apostle Paul’s words on the subject, but caution must also be exercised.  Because the gift of prophecy is the one most used, it’s also the gift most misused. 

Paul does go on to say that believers should covet prophesy.  It ministers to the entire church.

So what is Prophecy?

Prophecy is divinely inspired utterance concerning past, present or future events in a known language to the church or to people, or even to places or things.  God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains.

The gift of prophesy is exercised when God (not man) anoints a believer to be His vessel.  He speaks through your vocal cords but it comes from divine inspiration.  It’s not something that you can go to school or a church seminar to learn how to prophesy.  It’s a Spiritual Gift from the Holy Spirit.

Many confuse the gift of prophecy with the ministry office of prophet found in Ephesians 4:11.

The gift of prophecy doesn’t make you a prophet.

There are certain characteristics (Numbers, chapter 12) that will distinguish the ministry office of a prophet but that doesn’t characterize one who has the Spiritual gift of prophecy.

The purpose and usage of the Gift of Prophecy is a message to the church sent to edify (to build up); to exhort (a calling near); and to comfort (to bring consolation, especially during a time of trial or distress, to cheer up!).

Prophecy can also be instrumental in bringing an unbeliever to conviction.

 

1 Corinthians 14:24-25

“But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,   [25] as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare.  So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”  (NIV)

Abuses of the Gift of Prophecy; What the Gift is Not!

The gift of prophecy isn’t to be used as a personal prophecy to others – NEVER!  Years ago, my wife and I were fellowshipping at a small church nearby.  A personal friend and pastor invited me to be his associate because of his busy schedule.  One evening we attended a pot-faith supper at a home with a prayer vigil afterward.  Before prayer began, pastor Anthony was called away on an emergency call. leaving me in a room of 15 people along with a self-confessed “prophet” who pulled up a chair in the center of the room.

And then the hair on my arm stood straight up!

Several people began to ask the “prophet” for personal prophecy.  Thoughts rang in my ear as the Holy Spirit was speaking to me to leave this gathering and leave my responsibility hanging on the doorknob as we left.  This wasn’t a prayer meeting, it was ‘fortune telling’!  This is the area where the gift is probably abused most often.  I don’t want to say that those who practice this are under the influence of a deceiving spirit.  It’s most likely just the flesh.

The gift of prophecy isn’t to give direction or settle arguments.

The gift of prophecy isn’t to teach or introduce doctrine to the church. 

The gift of prophecy isn’t to rebuke the body of Christ. 

It isn’t to bring correction.  The Word of God is supposed to do that.  When the Lord corrects or rebukes the body, generally it’s through the Word and through the pastor.  So don’t rebuke the body through prophecy unless you’re 100 percent certain it’s “thus says the Lord.”

The gift of prophecy isn’t to predict the future.

There can always be exceptions to what I’ve already mentioned.  God is ALWAYS in control in every situation and can use anyone in any way that He sees fit.

The Believer’s Attitude toward this gift is to “Covet (desire, be eager to have) the gift.”

Sincerely desire that God will use you.  This gift can be freely exercised by women as well as men:  “…and your sons and daughters shall prophesy…”  (Acts 2:17).

In my study this week I found something interesting that I had overlooked in the past.  That seems to happen quite often these days.  Maybe it’s because I’m older?  I digress.  When women do prophesy, they should do so with their heads covered. [Reference: 1 Corinthians 11]

Be anointed when you prophesy!

The anointing brings a compulsion to speak; an anointing of power within you.  You will know when you’re anointed and so will the gathered assembly.  Generally, you won’t know all that you’re going to say when you step out in prophecy.  It’s a step of faith!  Certainly you’ll have a few words and an idea and the general direction God is leading when you step out to prophesy, but it will be a step of faith!

Order In the House

I remember growing up,  my mom and dad repeating the phrase, “Mind your manners.” – Don’t start eating at the table until everyone is seated. – Asking to be excused from the table after a meal. – Calling adults by their last name and not their first. –  Not walking into a room and interrupting a conversation before waiting for an empty space. –  Walking on the outside of a walkway when with a young lady,  and opening doors letting women enter first, including car doors.  I still do this today!

“Remember your manners when you’re away from home,” my folks would repeat over and over again.  And good manners…Order in the house applies in the church today – or it should!

And we must not forget, there’s to be “order” in the house in the giving of prophecy.  God isn’t the author of confusion and the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.  Therefore, there shouldn’t be interruptions during the teaching moments, etc.   A proper time for the manifestations of the gifts should be given in each service.

In any particular church meeting, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29).

The most likely interpretation of the controversial passage is the silence of women in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35.  And yet, at the same time, Scripture reveals that women may prophesy (see Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5) but not publically judge the prophetic words of men in the congregational setting.

Prophets were always to be in control of their speech (1 Cor. 14:32) as an expression of God’s desire for peace (1 Cor. 14:33).  And as important as this ministry is in the body of Christ, even those claiming to be prophets must be subject to the final authority of the spiritual leadership (deacons, elders, pastors).  (1 Cor. 14:36-38).

I believe that everything we need to know as Christians is found in the Bible.  It’s a sufficient source of revelation for each one of us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

The Bible is the firm foundation that God has given to us all.  All other ground is sinking sand.  This is the source of truth on which we need in our lives.

Yet, we must be willing to listen if God chooses to speak to us in an “uncommon way” – in a way we don’t expect.  By that I mean if He chooses to speak to us outside of the normal channels of the Scripture, we need to be still and listen to what God says.  Just because there’s a lot of abuse by people who falsely claim they have received a message from God, doesn’t mean we need to slam the door shut on any possibility of God speaking to us in that way.  Oh, I suspect it might be wise to slightly shut the door, but we need to leave it ajar so that if God has something to say to us and to let it be known to others, we are able to hear Him.

And yes, it’s true, the Bible contains all we need as Christians.  But our gracious and generous God sometimes chooses to give us more than we think we need!  Sometimes He may choose to communicate with us in another way in order to provide special encouragement when we need direction trying to make a decision.  I’m seeking that encouragement and direction in a matter right now that I’ll share in a later blog.  I’m not going to pretend these uncommon messages from God always make us comfortable.  Many of us like the status quo.  If someone says he or she has a message from the Lord on a Sunday morning which requires us to do something new or different, we probably won’t want to hear it.  But if God is speaking to us, we’d better be willing to listen!

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT are never to be made the focus of congregational life.

Make Us Aware…

Worship and the Word are the focus, and the gifts flow under God’s direction, not men.  The great, final purpose of all spiritual gifts in the church, including PROPHECY, is the edifying of God’s people.

Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here should be the focus of our minds and on our lips when we enter the House of God.

True Prophecy in the Church to remember – by Derek Prince

  1. All true prophecy agrees with the letter and the spirit of the Scriptures. (2 Tim. 3:16)
  2. All true prophecy centers in Jesus Christ and exalts Him. (John 16:13)
  3. True prophecy produces fruit in character and conduct that agrees with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23)
  4. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit, gives freedom and not bondage. (Gal. 5:1)
  5. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit gives life and not death. (2 Cor. 3:6)
  6. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit agrees with the Holy Spirit within each believer who hears it. (1 John 2:27)

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CREDITS –

Music Video:  Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here – by Heavens Mutambira & Amplified Praise.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

True Prophecy by Derek Prince (pdf): Giving, Receiving and Testing a Prophetic Word.

Commentary:  What Does Scripture Teach About the Office of Prophet and Gift of Prophecy by Sam Sorm @ TGC; October 8, 2015.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV); New Living Translation (NLT); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

Living the Quiet Life

The Quiet Man

A 1952 film directed by John Ford, and one of my personal favorites, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, and Victor McLaglen.  The story takes place in Innisfree, Ireland.  John Wayne’s character Sean’s quiet manner is attributed to a tragedy he experienced prior to his return to Ireland.  As a heavy-weight boxer in America, he had accidentally killed an opponent in the ring.  Devastated by the death, Sean quit the sport, vowing never to throw a punch again.  Although the movie is considered an American romantic, comedy-drama, I was personally drawn to the man’s character whose past had relegated him to a life of quietness.  The movie does the transition from the gentle and quiet man to a man who falls in love with Maureen O’Hara’s character and the interaction between the rest of the cast.  And of course, the ending is the typical Hollywood, happy ever after conclusion.  Whatever happened to that trend today?

SCRIPTURE READING: Living the Quiet Life – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Today, the phrase “quiet life” suggests one of rest or silent in nature.  But as Christians, we are to exude zeal and passion for the Christ we serve, right?  Taken literally in our terms, being “quiet” is in conflict with proclaiming the gospel message.  In our language, the word “quiet” refers to sound.  However, when I began to investigate the Greek meaning, it had a much broader meaning.  When you look at the ways that the Greek word is used, you see an underlying theme of tranquility of spirit.  So quiet doesn’t mean that we sit in our pews becoming nothing but bumps on logs.

We must remain faithful to Christ and serve Him however we can, not destroyed by our idleness.

The Greek language uses three words that are generally translated as “quiet” or “silent”:

  1. phimao – literally “to close the mouth with a muzzle.”  (Matthew 22:34; Mark 1:25; Mark 4:39).  
  2. sigao – normally translated “silence.”  It’s not necessarily that speech is forbidden, but that discussion should be ceased, such as in Luke 9:36.  Also in 1 Corinthians 14:14, the problem was aggressive women who were told to keep silent, since their conduct was contrary to biblical principle.
  3. And the third is our word for “quiet”, or “silence”, hesuchago.  It refers to an absence of internal disturbance, tranquility arising from within, and is used most of the time in regard to tensions and conflicts.  It’s not necessarily an absence of words but the absence of controversial speech.  [See footnote [i].]

This brings us back to our verse, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “to lead a quiet life.”  It is a one-word verb in present tense form, meaning a continual, ongoing habit of life.  Who better than Paul himself to demonstrate this quiet life in action.

In Acts 17, Paul went to speak to the Jews of Thessalonica and several formed a mob to get him.  Rather than fight, he went on to the next city.  Look what happened (17:10):  As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.  On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

Not once, but twice, the very city he’s writing to about the quiet life attacked Paul.  Notice that Paul doesn’t slam them around, call them names, point fingers, or attack their character.  In love, he demonstrates resolve that more Christians need to demonstrate in this modern time.  Instead of undermining them, Paul seeks to build them up and motivate them to action.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and when exercised, our lives will be characterized by inner strength and peace that Paul is referring to here.  

People should be able to see Christians as being at peace in times of conflict, not given to outbursts of anger, criticism, or violence.  Love will always (and I’m still learning this) opens more doors than anger or exorbitant emotions.

Passion is essential if we are to be solid Christians, but there are also three little letters that come before the word that make a world of difference.  When Jesus saw the multitudes, what did He feel?

COMpassion!

When we seek the quiet life, we must first seek compassion for God’s desire in our life, the needs of others as well as for our own needs.  Does this give us free rein to correct everyone we see making mistakes?  Paul warns us to …

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

I need to paraphrase the above:  “Keep your nose clean and keep it out of other’s lives!”  That first sounds a bit contrary to the gospel.  How can we tell others that they’ve got a sin problem if we don’t get into their business?

There’s a difference here between showing concern for an individual’s spiritual needs and becoming a “busybody”; seeking nitpicky excuses to get involved in the lives of others.  And yes, we should watch out for one another’s welfare.  Yes, we should also seek to help each other overcome our weaknesses.  And no, we can’t make these words sound like we shouldn’t seek to admonish, rebuke or restore an erring brother or sister in Christ.

Just as in the case of Paul and the Thessalonians, he saw that a spiritual need was there and it needed to be corrected, and thus he writes them in the church.  Did he try to intimidate them or embarrass them?  Did he go to a committee to back up his actions?  No!  He confronted them on his own and in the Spirit and reproofed them accordingly in love.

Now I know that most of the time, we don’t look to cause problems and blast someone.  But, I know in my own case, I’ve been guilty of this as well.  If we get too involved or to passionate about service over self-control, we wind up pushing people further away than when we started.  This goes for Christians as well as the lost.

What happens when someone who works for the kingdom makes a mistake?

If it’s the first time, do we A) bring it before the Church publicly,  B) talk about it behind their back, or C) pull them aside and privately speak about the problem?  According to Matthew 18:15 and Acts 18:24-28, the answer is “C”.

The Bible refers to the tongue as a double-edged sword for a major purpose.  The tongue is the human body’s most deadly weapon.  In a single word, you can damage your testimony in Christ–Not just temporarily, but for the rest of your life here on Earth.

Always think before you speak!

Because this double-edged sword can also be one of God’s greatest healing instruments.  When LOVE is used to explain our position instead of our own desires for what we think is right, then not only are there no hurt feelings, but there is PEACE– the very tranquility that Paul is talking about here.

The PEACE & QUIET that we desire in our lives and in our Church cannot exist unless we maintain a proper distinction between a true loving concern for our brother’s and sister’s welfare and pure opinion-based busybodyness.

If we are to be beacons of truth, and show the world we seek peace (rest), then all of us should be able to present our lives as examples of that PEACE.

From my own experience in helping raise three children, I found that you can’t teach patience to a child while losing your mind.  You can’t teach them to save, budget, and spend wisely, while “rewarding yourself” with MasterCard.  You will not teach them to be sincere and kind, while you unmercifully gossip about the flaws of others behind their backs.

Likewise, to live in this quiet life is to be an example of those lost children of the world who might be looking for a further reason to rebel against their heavenly Father, or who might be looking into finding out what’s in store if they seek a closer relationship with Him.

There’s one more point that Paul expresses in this quiet lifestyle:

WORK WITH YOUR OWN HANDS (4:11)

old wrinkled hands.

This is a two-pronged statement by Paul.  In Thessalonica, some people within the Church quit working altogether to be ready for Christ’s immediate return, or they had given up looking for work because of the persecution that came with being a Christian.  This was going against Jesus’ teaching because simply put, if a man didn’t work, he didn’t eat.  [2 Thess. 3:10]

Failing to provide for one’s family makes one worse than an unbeliever (See 1 Tim. 5:8).  God rewards hard work and diligence with His blessing, and although from time to time, we may need assistance from our brethren (or even our government), we are not to rely on this exclusively.  Remember to be content with what you have.

The second part of this statement involves the work of the Church.  It’s important for each of us to do our part building up the body of Christ, but it isn’t important to get into the details and specifics.  We don’t need to tell the congregation or an individual that I’ve given out the “X” number of Jesus Saves pamphlets, “X” number of Bibles, witnessed to “X” number of people.  That’s not what Christ seeks.  He wants people to know who He is and how they can become involved in a relationship with Him, and not about numbers or experiences we might have within the work.  Why else would Paul write and tie all this in together?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1 that he was glad he didn’t baptize many in the city, because of the divisions it was causing, and stated that he hadn’t been crucified for them!  He didn’t seek to brag, as the people did.  It wasn’t about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, or HOW’S that people came to know and obey Christ.  It was that they obediently sought the Kingdom of God.

Through our work, Jesus is building, but why be proud and pound your chest saying, “I brought them to Christ!”  NO!  They came to you, you planted the seed, and Jesus was there the whole time.  You didn’t deliver them!  He did, and we should quietly respect and revere the fact that He can do that, just as it was done for us.  If I can’t bring myself to salvation, how can another person?

We must remember to be diligent in HIS work and not work for our own ambitions.  Seek a quiet life and it will all work out for His greater Glory.

Remembering how our first verse started off on how we should make it our ambition to SEEK a Christ lead life.  Ambition requires diligence and determination, not to mention patience, understanding, motivating, and persistence.

Not too QUIET.  It’s definitely a lot more than sitting still and saying nothing!  But not enough to cause us to stress over.

God will meet our needs IF…we are obedient to His will (His Word) in our lives.

The Lord wants us to practice PEACE as much now as He did back then.  Division can come from many angles in the church and be started with the tiniest of words, but if we truly seek to be still, listen and know the Word of God over our tongues, then the words that divide us will fall down and peace will create solid unity.

1 Thessalonians 4:12 reads…

We should live in PEACE with one another…live in tranquility with one another…live in Christ with one another.  We have to be willing to call Him the sole Lord of our life and be obedient to His will.

A Moment Of Quietness ~

______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Inside Outside – Sermon by Ed Vasicek on Aug. 31, 2007.

Music Video:  Word Of God Speak – Mercy Me.  YouTube 

Bible Translations Used in the Text:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Translation (NLT); English Standard Version (ESV).

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Movie Research:  The Quiet Man, Wikipedia.

Footnotes:  [i] Greek Word Studies – Friday, March 30, 2007.  The word, “Quiet”.

 

Where Are We When God’s GLORY Passes By?

A Bible Commentary on Exodus 33:12-23

FINDING THE CLEFT OF THE ROCK

Augustus had been traveling near Somerset in England’s west country, along a road with cliffs on either side when a storm struck.  He quickly darted in a hollowed-out place in the rock for shelter.  He was fortunate to find this hiding place so quickly while waiting for the storm to pass by and began to think about the idea of the “rock of faith” is a shelter from the “storms of life.”  The words for a hymn began to form in his mind but, according to a story that still prevails, there wasn’t paper in his pocket to write down the words.  Looking down he saw a playing card, considered a sinful thing to have in his day for this young minister.  Nevertheless, he picked it up and began to write:

The analogy of Christ to a rock has its roots in Scripture.

Numerous Old Testament references to the Lord as a “Rock” or “Rock of my salvation”, can be found.  Psalm 18:46 mentions that “The LORD lives!  Praise be to my Rock!”

Alluding to the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness, Paul writes,  “For they drank from a spiritual Rock which followed them [produced by the sole power of God Himself without natural instrumentality] and the Rock was Christ!” –      (1 Corinthians 10:4 ~ Amplified Bible.)

Paul is referring to the event recorded in Exodus 17:6, where Moses at God’s command, struck the rock in Horeb, bringing forth a needed supply of water for God’s people.  That physical rock is a picture of Christ Jesus providing a never-ending flow of “water” to satisfy sinful man’s spiritual need.

So the song, Rock of Ages, was conceived in the mind of this 23-year-old man and it wasn’t published until years later when he himself published it in Gospel Magazine the year before he died at the age of 38.

The Picture of Christ…

Is a rock broken open, or cleft, to provide a place for spiritual refuge from sinful people that surround us in our daily lives and is surely drawn from Moses’ experience recorded in Exodus 33:20-23.

There are things about God that we must not see.

Others are shown to have seen spectacular visible representations of the GLORY of God, though perhaps none so directly dazzling as Moses; and Moses was granted this favor only with certain limitations, restrictions, and precautions.  That which we, the Church, crave to see and to know of God (I pray that we do) and the way He acts is beyond us.

  • Why God acts as He does.
  • Why God acts when He does.
  • Why God doesn’t seem to act at all.

Though we’d like to see ALL of God, Man cannot be brought to a full view and understanding of God.  The brilliant display of God’s grace and goodness and the full viewing of it are too much for mankind in the present state of things.  What Moses and others were permitted to see was only a small part and portion of God, and of His ways and works.  Because Moses, a mortal, couldn’t see God’s face and live, God Himself protected Moses by placing him in the cleft of a rock as He passed by and covering Moses in the cleft with God’s own hand from any harm that would surely befall a mortal who looked directly upon the full GLORY of God.

WHAT IS THE “GLORY” THAT WE’VE SO OFTEN HEARD ABOUT?

The Old Testament Hebrew word for GLORY is kabod – weightiness (He’s a God of strength and substance); glory, honor, splendor, power, authority, magnificence, fame, dignity, riches, excellency.  He’s a great and all-powerful God.  There was a day when the people of God would go to church, not just to sing songs about God or to hear stories about what God did in the past from their pastor’s sermon.  God isn’t some cosmic vending machine in Heaven, some great genie in the lamp that we rub, and out he comes to grant us our every wish.  The Bible says that God sits in Heaven and does whatever He wants – He’s God!  We need to have holy respect and awe for this God recognizing His Glory.

Resting in His Glory –

Similarly, by being hidden in Christ Jesus, the Rock cleft on his behalf at the Cross, the believer is sheltered from eternal death he would face should he stand unsheltered before a holy God who executes righteous judgment.

Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “If we have risen with Christ, our affection is on things above, and hidden in Christ.”  (Colossians 3:1-3)

So our life is hidden within a wonderful Savior, as one hides from a storm sheltered by the cleft in the Rock – not hidden as a secret, but hidden as protection from harm.  SONG –

HIS WAYS ARE HIGHER…

The things we’re talking about here are much larger than we are; too great for our full understanding; too intertwined with divine attributes and beyond the scope of human comprehension.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

[8]  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”  declares the LORD.  [9]  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

But because He is above us, and His ways are higher than ours, we have a reason for confidence and security in our trials.  When our days and nights are filled with uncertainty for a scheduled medical procedure at the hospital, the results from a biopsy, the outcome from yesterday’s job interview, we have a reason for confidence and security in the results.

Our refuge is the One Who is higher than we are!

It’s like a little child we must disappoint from time to time and denying their desires.  They want to do one thing, but another be done.  They want to play in a dangerous place, but a loving parent knows better.  They want to go one way, but it’s necessary to go another.  The child can’t understand why it’s so because his capacity for understanding hasn’t yet developed in grasping the larger things in life.

Prayer of thanks that we have a Savior – One who is greater than ourselves.  Song –

To Tullius O’Kane, who wrote the words of the song, the cleft in the Rock was a place of rest.  While we Christians may resist the notion of rest in our busy world as being motivated by laziness or apathy, there is a REST into which we MUST ENTER.

Hebrews 3:18-4:1 shows that NOT entering the promised rest is a thing to be feared:

[3:18]  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  [19] So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  [4:1]  Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

So what is this PROMISED REST?

It’s the land of Canaan, called God’s rest because He promised it, and gave it to the Israelites as their rest; and where He Himself had a place of rest; and where He gave the Messiah, the Author of peace and rest; and which was a type of heaven, the rest from toils and labor, which remains for all the people of God!

In the imagery of the song, the promised rest is found in the cleft of the Rock – that is the fact that Jesus was pierced, bled and died to purchase our entrance to the promised land, or as the Hebrew writer says it, the promised rest.

There Stands A Rock and I Go to the Rock!

In the tabernacle, the mercy seat was located directly above the ark of the covenant, between two gold cherubim.  The specs for it may be found in Exodus 25.  And speaking of the MERCY SEAT, the Lord said to Moses, “I will meet with you there.”

Numbers 7:89, among other Bible verses, shows Him doing just that!

The Mercy Seat typifies the divine throne and the One who sits on it.

The above-referenced Scripture describes the awesome scene, still in symbolic language, of which the MERCY SEAT is a type.

The mercy seat was the most sacred location of the tabernacle and in fact, on earth.  And the way to the mercy seat was once only available to Moses, that he should inquire into the mind and will of God, and then to the high priest, that he should enter once a year to make atonement for the peoples’ sin.

At the moment Jesus died, the VEIL that concealed the Most Holy Place was destroyed – torn from top to bottom.  The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament wrote:

Hebrews 6:19-20 (AMP)

[19] [Now] we have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whoever steps out upon it – a hope] that reaches farther and enters into [the very certainty of the Presence] within the veil.

[20] Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek.

AND,

Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV)

[19] Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, [20]  by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, [21]  and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, [22]  let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

The MERCY SEAT signifies the way of access to God that lies through Jesus Christ and propitiation (appeasement or satisfaction) by His blood and righteousness; through the veil that signifies His flesh.  We make use of that access when we pray in His name.

Song – From Every Stormy Wind

We see that Jesus is pictured in many of our songs, new and sometimes old, and the Scriptures as a Rock that is cleft, broken, or fractured.  It was on a lonely hill just outside of Jerusalem that the body of Jesus was “broken” on a Roman cross, piercing His hands and side, allowing His lifeblood to flow out, the price of all the benefits that have been mentioned in this blog-study – not the least – His everlasting life in the realms of GLORY!

AND that’s why we hide in the Cleft of that Rock!  A safe place to be!!

_______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentary:  Shelter from the Storm – Our Daily Bread Devotional – 10/8/2019;  The Glory Of God; Show Me Your Glory by Chris Jordan, Sermon on April 25, 2006.

Dictionary:  GotQuestions.org – What is glory?

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Music Videos:  YouTube search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version NIV).

 

“Ah Yes, I REMEMBER It Well” – Do You?

~ Fourth and Final Commentary In The Series On The Book Of Malachi

MALACHI 4:4-6 (NLT)

[4]  “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

[5]  “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 

[6]  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

With only three verses to look at, I thought this particular word investigation would be fairly short.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way and there are many reasons why this final chapter commentary is longer than I expected. 

The Book Of Malachi certainly serves as a bridge from the past to the future for the Israelites during Malachi’s day.  And for him and for us, as the last book of the Old Testament, it also serves as a bridge to the New Testament.

So let’s use the theme ‘s statement as an outline which we can examine this passage of Scripture:  WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE PAST – “Remember it well!”

In verse 4, God commands the people to remember the law of His servant, Moses.  The entire book of Malachi has shown us a covenant-keeping God who still loves and pursues His people even though they haven’t remained faithful to Him.  It’s not surprising that the final command of the book is to remember the Law of Moses which the people who had come to pay little attention to.

But the word “remember” conveys much more than just mental recognition:  “remember” (Heb. “zokar”) means “to bring to mind and act accordingly.”  So when God commands His people to remember the law, He’s calling them to once again become a covenant-keeping people who not only know the Law but also puts it into practice.

The idea of remembering is a common theme in the book of Deuteronomy.  The command or admonition to REMEMBER is found 14 times in that book alone and the majority of those verses are connected with the need to obey or keep God’s command.

The Book Of Deuteronomy also uses some form of the same phrases that I’ve found here in Malachi – “the statutes and rules” – 17 times in the book of Deuteronomy including this very relevant passage:  (Deut. 6:1-3)

There’s no mistaking here that the purpose of knowing and remembering the law so that the people can put it into practice.  That principle is certainly just as applicable today to New Testament Christians as it was to the Israelites of Malachi’s day.

As we know, keeping God’s law isn’t a requirement for SALVATION – which can’t be earned but completely an act of God’s grace – but it should be a result of that salvation.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST –

While reading the Scripture, we’re not only exposed to God’s LAW so we can know and understand what that law is, but we also read the historical accounts and demonstrate the blessings of obedience and the curse of disobedience.  So we look back to learn from the past as we remember God.  And once we do that, we can move onto the next step – WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT – “TURN”

I spent a lot of time contemplating the first part of verse 6, where Malachi describes that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  And frankly, I’m still somewhat up in the air – confused!  But with the help of a couple other passages that shed some light on that verse, I think I can at least develop some useful applications we can use in our lives.

There seem to be two major camps when it comes to VERSE 6 –

In reading several commentaries I found some hold that the fathers here are the fathers of FAITH, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses.  Certainly the idea of the Israelites turning back to the faith of their spiritual ancestors would be consistent with the idea of REMEMBERING the commands given to Moses.  But the problem with that position is it really doesn’t explain how the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children.

The other major position if this verse deals with God restoring relationships of the family – particularly the relationships between fathers and children.  But to me, the weakness of that viewpoint is that it doesn’t fit into the ending of Malachi’s prophecy that deals with the much larger issue of the whole nation’s rebellion against God and His law.  Obviously, that impacts relationships within the family, but it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the prophecy.

Since I adhere to the idea that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture, we need to look together at a couple of other passages in the Bible that gives additional insight, a practice we should stay with when looking for answers in the Bible.

I have already looked up one of those passages –  Deuteronomy 6, lets notice and underline verse 2 – the purpose of observing the statutes and rules is to “FEAR GOD” – and we have seen that idea frequently if you’ve been following along in the series on Malachi [See previous Word Detective posts, 1, 2, and 3.].  And you’ll also notice here that “you and your sons and your son’s son” keep the law.  So the idea planted here is that successive generations of Israelites are to keep the Law as the law is constantly passed down from father to son.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how that’s done, the next part of Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give some wonderful guidelines on how fathers are supposed to do that.

In the Hebrew language, Malachi 4:6 seemed to be confusing at first reading.  Most of the English translations tend to translate the verse, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..” (NIV).

But it’s also possible to translate that phrase like this:  “And He will turn the hearts of the fathers together with those of the children [to Me], and the hearts of the children with those of their fathers [to Me].”  That seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 6 and consistent with what is seen earlier in the Book of Malachi 3:7…

The word “RETURN” in the above verse is the same word that is translated “turn” in Malachi 4:6, another connection that seems to support the alternate translation which focuses on ALL the people turning their hearts toward God rather than toward each other.

Back to my last blog-post, the third in the series, Malachi 3:1, that prophecy is multi-layered.  The “messenger” was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus confirmed the prophecy with these words:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-14)

Jesus is clearly connecting John to both Malachi’s and Isaiah’s prophecies about the forerunner to be like Elijah. (See Isaiah 40:3-4). 

During his day as a prophet, Elijah had turned the Israelites back to God at the time of their worst apostasy when Ahab and Jezabel made Baal worship part of Israel’s worship.  John had a similar ministry.

But notice that Jesus indicates here in Matthew that since Israel wasn’t willing to accept Him as Messiah, and also refused to accept that John was the forerunner who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, so because of that, there will be a second Elijah who will precede the second coming of Jesus and he is the one who will bring to its final fulfillment of this prophecy of hearts being turned.

The angel who comes to Zechariah informing him of the coming birth of his son John, almost certainly had Malachi’s prophecy in mind when he spoke these words about John:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Although the angel mentions the turning of the hearts of the father to the children, the main idea here is that John’s role is to turn ALL hearts – fathers and children – to the Lord their God.

So even if Malachi is focusing on the relationship of fathers and children, the way reconciliation occurs in the family when ALL the hearts are turned back to God.  Our horizontal relationships with other people should never surpass our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So regardless of our views of Malachi 4:6, the bottom line is that it all comes down to our hearts being turned to God.

THE KEY to living in the present then, according to the passage of scripture in Malachi, is to “turn our hearts.”

I’ve already pointed out the underlying Hebrew word “to turn”, but it also can be translated “return.”  That same Hebrew word in the OT is frequently translated “repent”, which isn’t surprising and given that repentance is the idea of turning our hearts from sin and turning then back to God.

Repentance, or turning back to God, isn’t just something that we do once in our lifetime and then forget it.  It’s something that we must do every minute of every day.  The people of Malachi’s day had forgotten that and look where they ended up.

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites who had descended into lukewarm worship by merely giving God the leftovers. But the fact is, we are in danger of ending up there ourselves if we don’t guard our hearts and consistently turn them from evil and turn back to God.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT –

We learn from the past as we remember God’s law – We live in the present by turning our hearts to God.

Finally…We need to look to the future – “behold”

The word “behold” is used in the prophets to grab our attention.  It’s like God shouting to the people here to take notice of what He’s about to say.  And what follows is a message of God’s grace and mercy.

Yes, the great and awesome day of the Lord Jesus is coming!  And as we’ve seen it’s not going to be a pleasant time for those who’ve rebelled against God and refused to turn back to Him.

Before He does that, he’s going to send his messenger, either Elijah himself or someone else like John the Baptist, to minister like Elijah in giving people one last chance to turn to Him.

Although there’s certainly not enough biblical evidence to definitely identify this forerunner with one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, that’s certainly one possibility.  There in Revelation, those two witnesses preach God’s Word for 3 1/2 years prior to the second coming of Jesus.  But regardless of the identity, God’s purpose is made clear.  His aim is to spare people from being cursed – separated from God’s glory; His person and the coming wrath.

So before Jesus returns to the earth one more time to carry out swift justice to those who have rejected Him, He’s going to give people one last chance to return to Him.  And the good news is…at least some people are going to have their hearts turned toward God as the result of his ministry.

What Malachi makes clear here is how we view the future is dependent on how well we’ve remembered the past and turned in the present.

If you remember God’s law (His Word in the Bible) by seeking to understand it and do it, and if your heart is turned toward God, then you can look to the future with great hope and anticipation, knowing God’s faithful remnant who will be spared from God’s wrath will spend eternity in God’s presence.

But if you fail to remember God’s law – if you fail in repentance in turning your heart to God, then if you’re not fearful of the future, you certainly should be!  Because God is holy and just, He must judge those who have chosen to rebel against Him and that judgment is going to be swift, horrible and everlasting.  It truly will be the utter destruction that Malachi writes about at the end of his prophecy.

Several people in the past have asked me, “Teacher, how about giving us some practical applications from the Word Study?”  So I’m going to list three:

#1.  We must turn our hearts to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

God’s desire for us is to turn our hearts–body, mind, and soul–to Him.  But that’s not something that we can do on our own.  Trust me, for you will find yourself in frustration when you try to accomplish this on your own terms.  Although the word Messiah or the name of Jesus is never mentioned in the Book of Malachi, is the idea of a Messiah that comes first to save God’s people and then returns a second time to judge those who refuse to turn their hearts to Him is a central theme.  Because God is holy and we are not, then the only way we can truly turn our hearts toward Him is by placing our trust in that Messiah, Jesus.  By taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for those sins, He’s made it possible for us to have a relationship with God in which we are able to turn our hearts to Him.

#2.  We must consistently spend time in God’s Word.

The only way we can live in obedience is to know what God’s Word says!  That means that we have to be spending consistent time in God’s Word, reading, and praying over it on a consistent basis.  A half-hour once a week on Sunday morning will never be adequate to really know and understand the Bible.  And what I’ve been personally missing lately, and I’m not alone, and is necessary and valuable for all of us, is spending time with other believers each week, where digging into the Bible is benefitting from one another’s insights in the Scriptures.

#3.  We must be intentional, living, vocal witnesses for Jesus.

In light of the possible two destinies faced by every human being – eternal life for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and eternal punishment for those who have not, our witness for Jesus Christ is essential.

Our effectiveness in our witness –

It’s likely that God has brought some people into your life that has no one else in their lives that’s going to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.  For our witness to be effective, I want to throw out three adjectives to describe what that WITNESS is to be like.

First, our witness must be intentional.  

We must strategically pray for the people that God brings into our lives and then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prepare, as Peter urges in 1 Peter 3:15…

That means being able to share my own testimony of my relationship with Jesus and able to use the Bible to explain how the other person can have the same type of relationship with Him.

Second, our witness has to be lived out.  Some call it Lifestyle Evangelism.

There’s nothing that will turn a person off when it comes to their relationship with God than someone whose life isn’t consistent with their words.  But at the same time, it’s not enough to just live for Jesus with the hope someone else is going to figure out your life is different than theirs.  That’s a great start, but at some point, we’re going to have to open our mouths.

In concluding this study on Malachi, the most important thing we should take away is to understand just how much God loves us.

He’s a covenant-keeping God, a promise-keeper, a God who loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we fail Him.  And if we’ll take and apply the principles He has given us in His Word, we’ll be in a much better position to pursue Him.

And in that same way remembering that God desires for me (and you) to pursue Him in the same way He pursued us!

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search; YouTube Music Video – I Remember It Well from the movie, Gigi.

Bible Translations Used:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV); 

Word Sources:  Bible Hub:  NASB Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  HEBREW WORD STUDY – FORETELLER OR PROPHET, by Chaim & Laura – Sept. 13, 2014 Devotionals; Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible – Malachi 4 – StudyLight.org.

The LORD Never Changes, and the Results?

Malachi 3:6

[THIRD IN THE SERIES ON THE BOOK OF MALACHI]

We saw in Chapter 1 Malachi reminds the people of God’s love.  Many times it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.  But Malachi condemns their half-hearted attempts to worship God with “leftovers.”  They saved the best for themselves and then gave God the crumbs.

In Chapter 2 we see the priests (“spiritual leaders”) that they were no better than the people because they viewed their ministering as drudgery that they had to put up with.  They were just going through the motions to get a ‘paycheck’ (my term); they lost the heart and the passion for worship.

My Commentary on MALACHI 3:1-18 

Some things never seem to change.

The politician who promises the most before an Election and delivers the least afterwords.  Teenagers are always sure they know more than mom and dad till they get kids of their own.  Your paycheck almost increases as much as the tax rate.  Some things never change.  We’d like politicians to keep their promises, teens who listen now instead of later, and my Social Security benefit staying ahead of the tax rate.  Change can be a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m glad some things never change,  I’m glad the sun rises every day.  I’m glad for my wife’s unfailing love.  Most of all, I’m glad that in the midst of all that changes in this world, Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the LORD, I do not change…” – God’s changelessness – what theologians call, His immutability–is comforting to me, no matter how my circumstances or feelings change, I always find Him to be sure and certain, faithful and loyal!

Malachi 3 breaks down 3 areas of God’s relationship with us that never changes–3 areas that will challenge and comfort our hearts.

HIS PASSION FOR PURITY (vv. 1-7)

I don’t like to peer into a glass of milk in the morning for breakfast and to my wondering eyes should appear, but black floaties in the glass.  If my dog, Ollie, somehow gets to the TV table to lick my plate when I left the room, and on my return, I catch him, I’m not going to eat from it!  And, in my humble opinion, water that’s not clear, isn’t fit to drink!!!  Purity will always be important in my life.

Malachi tells us PURITY is important to the Lord–so important that He is always passionate about our purity in worship and our obedience to His Word.

Back in Malachi 2:17, Israel asks the question, “Where is the God of Justice?”  They’re not just asking where He is–they’re asking God to show up and set things right.

VERSE 1 declares God answers with a personal appearance.  Jesus identifies the Messenger as John the Baptist in Matthew 11:7-10.  

But the main attraction is the LORD, whom you are looking for, whom you desire, suddenly comes to His temple and God Himself comes to His people, and Malachi says they get more than they bargained for.

VERSE 2:  But who can endure…who can stand?

The ANSWER is…Nobody!  He doesn’t come to put them on their backs–He comes to purify them, a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap!  He comes to PURIFY His people like a metal worker, to clean His house spick and span.

He begins with their worship (vv. 3-4)

He will purify the sons of Levi that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.

The Levites were in charge of worship in the Temple.  God says their worship had degenerated into meaningless, mindless ritual, instead of thoughtful, adoration of their Lord.  God will purify them by bringing them back to worship Him in spirit and truth as they did in the old days (v. 4).

From the Temple, the Lord moves in verse 5 to purify the people in their obedience.

[5] “So I will come to put you on trial.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear Me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

God will judge those who don’t fear Him.  He will purge the land of rebels instead of just wiping them all out only because of His unchanging mercy (v. 6).

“I the LORD do not change.  So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed”

He invites them to return to Him, even though they act as if they have done nothing wrong (v. 7).

“Return to Me, and I will return to you”

On one level, this passage of Scripture reading predicts the coming and work of Christ.

Over 400 years after Malachi’s prophecy, God sends His messenger, John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ.  And the Lord Jesus Christ does come to His temple to clean it out, purifying worship from hypocrisy, and calling out people to be purified as well, through the CROSS, to live obediently in the process.

On another level, this prophecy outlines God’s passion for His people everywhere.  The Lord is demonstrating to the people of His unchanging commitment to PURITY.  He loves them too much to leave them to their polluted worship.  He loves them too much to allow disobedience to corrupt their relationship with Him.

So in mercy, He makes a personal visit to purify them–even though they don’t realize how ‘dirty’ they really are.

The Importance Of Staying Healthy –

I’m told that whenever there’s an outbreak of sickness, one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to frequently wash our hands.  Doctors say you can pick up bacteria and viruses off almost anything these days–a doorknob, a telephone, a pen, a magazine in the doctor’s office.  That microscopic impurity can make you sick, and if you get a bad enough case, you can even die.  Purity is especially important to good physical health.

Through Malachi, the Lord tells us that purity is also important to our spiritual health.

It’s vitally important that our worship stay pure–purely devoted to Christ Jesus, not just meaningless rituals.  Worship that comes from the heart that truly adores the Lord, not just from singing a song, or praying a pastor lead prayer, or your pastor’s sermon.  Pure worship comes from a place down deep inside of you from a pure heart!

God is committed to our purity–we need to be committed to being PURE for Him,

Malachi mentions another area where God never changes.

God’s Blessing On Those Who Give To Him (vv. 8-12)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on the Lord’s blessing!  So pay attention to what Malachi is going to say regarding our willingness to be blessed!

Malachi Chapter 3 is perhaps the most preached, the most taught Scripture when it comes to the issue of GIVING in the church.  Preachers have been known to use this text to shame Christians who don’t give a whole lot to God’s cause.  And (in many churches) I suppose there’s a reason for the premise–the national average of giving is 3%, with the majority of the support – in any given church – a handful of people.

This passage almost preaches itself because that’s exactly what Malachi was trying to get across to the people.  He was shaming them.  Malachi was basically telling them, if they would put into their relationship with God, they’d get more out.  The Israelites had become lax in their obedience to the law and specifically the part of that law that required them to give a regular tithe to God.  But hey, they were under the Law – we’re not!  They were specifically instructed to give a 1/10 of their income to God -we’re not…at least I don’t think so.  Actually, it’s not quite that simple.

God is the Great Giver!

He gives us life, along with all the joys and pleasure that come with it–from eyesight, to love, to the colors of the sunset.  He’s always giving.  He wants His children to be generous givers.  This may be one reason why He commands us to give to Him–so that we can learn the blessing of giving.  

He is changelessly committed to blessing those who give to Him first.

BUT…Israel had made a trade–the garment of giving for the robes of a thief.

“How can anybody rob God?  No!,” Israel replies.

You might steal from somebody else and get away with it, but how can one steal from God, Who sees and knows everything?

“But you have robbed Me!”  [Nervous laughter].

Lord, how could we do such a thing, robbing You?  [The Lord isn’t smiling]

“You have robbed Me by not giving your tithes and offerings.  That’s why you are under a curse right now!”

What was the CURSE?

Vs. 11 gives the idea where God speaks of the devourer, vines that fail to bear fruit…insects that destroy crops, a blight which keeps the vines from producing a harvest.  God makes a connection they fail to make:  WHEN YOU STOP GIVING TO ME, I’LL STOP BLESSING YOU!

But God has a remedy built-in for their situation in verse 10:

The TITHES mentioned here were offerings given to God – 10% of all they owned. 

They were to be given, not as a duty, but as a way to WORSHIP the Lord, to acknowledge His ownership of everything, out of gratitude for His gifts to them.

The storehouse was the Temple; the Levites and priests.  Give to Me what I have commanded you to give and then I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it!

Jesus echoed the same changeless principle in Luke 6:38:

It’s an unchanging truth about God:  He always blesses those who give to Him first!

Whatever you do, don’t limit this timeless truth to MONEY, or POSSESSIONS.  Of all the things God can bless us with, money is the least valuable for one important reason.  Are you ready?  It doesn’t last!

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NIV)

[4] Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  [5]  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

It’s true, often God will bless our giving financially, or give us more stuff. 

But the real blessing that comes from giving is eternal–the JOY of giving back to your Savior Who gave you so much; the peace that comes from not being enslaved to covetousness (keeping up with the Jones), or greed–the pleasure of seeing how God can use what you give, glorifying Him in changing the world.  The GIVING pays off in so many ways other than just more money, more stuff.

And remember this:  If you are not giving from a heart of worship, you’re not really giving to God at all!

Your giving is not a business transaction:  “If I give you this, you should give me that!”  Your giving is an important way you worship the Lord in acknowledging His ownership of everything and your gratitude for what He has already given you and about to give to you!

I remember when I was a new Christian and having a conversation with my wife after listening to our pastor’s message on tithing.  How could we as a family give 10 percent of our income to the church when we were having a hard time even keeping on top of our bills?  But we trusted in God’s provision and have been trusting Him ever since.  And God has always, and I mean ALWAYS, provided for us!

GIVING comes down to two things:

  • Who you love,
  • And who you trust.

Are you robbing God?  Or are you proving the promise of Malachi’s words here?

GOD ALWAYS BLESSES those who give to Him first.  That’s our unchanging truth.

One last thing I want to address about God that never changes is…

God’s distinction between the RIGHTEOUS and the WICKED (vv. 13-18)

“WHO’S THE ‘we’s?” (v. 14)

The Lord quotes the people’s murmuring in verses 14-15:  Does it really pay to serve the Lord?  Look around you at the wicked, evil people living the good life and we have it so hard!  Look at how all these sinners prosper and mock God, and we barely scrape by trying to be faithful followers.  Lord, it’s just not fair!!

Have you ever complained this way?  Maybe you watched all those celebrities who seem to get so much out of life than God-fearing people.  At your workplace, perhaps where the schemers, the liars, the people who don’t care one iota about God, who seem to get ahead, while the folks who love God try to live right and get run over.  It’s always been that way in the world.  The Lord doesn’t deny that’s the way it seems, but He offers a different perspective.

FIRST, He reminds the people:  I keep a close eye on the righteous.

It’s not clear who verse 16 refers to when it talks about those who feared the Lord.  Could they be the folks mentioned in verses 13-15 (maybe they had a change of heart)?  Or are they others who stayed loyal to the Lord, in spite of doubts and the doubters?  Whoever they are, God tells them, I’ve written your names in My Book and those who fear the Lord meditate,  (honor) His Name (vs. 16-17).  

And yes, Malachi is speaking openly to the Israelites, the Jews of his day.  But since Bible prophecy is multi-layered, like an onion, is the Book of Remembrance (vs. 16) pertain also to NT believers as well?  [See Rev. 3:5; 20:12; 21:27]  That’s a rhetorical question on my part.

We write down names to remember them; God writes down names to show us He never forgets the righteous (Rev. 20:17).

“They are My special peculiar treasure (My “jewels”).  I have special plans for their future.  There will come a day where everybody will realize I always make a distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous.”   (v. 18)

In eternity, serving God will pay off more than the wicked ever received in this life.  God always, always makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked.

Matthew 13:47-50

It always pays to live in obedience and serve the Lord God Almighty.

It might not always seem to pay off here on earth, but in eternity, everyone who loves and serves the Lord will spend forever glad they did!  Everyone who didn’t love and serve will spend eternity wishing they had!

Some things never change: God’s passion for our PURITY, God’s blessing to those who GIVE to Him first, God’s distinction between the righteous and the evildoers.  Aren’t you glad these things about God never change?

And remember when you get discouraged and are tempted to wonder if it really pays to serve the Lord, bringing Him the glory…when we get home, it will be worth it all! 

Amen?

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CREDITS:

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); The Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  “Our Unchanging God” – SermonCentral.com,  by Dean Rhine, Nov. 3, 2016.