Guarding Against the Spirit Of Complacency

Bible Study and Commentary in Zephaniah 1:1-2:3

Zephaniah actually deals with the “Day of the Lord”, much more directly than any of the other Old Testament prophets.  Much like the prophet Amos, Zephaniah points out that the people of Judah shouldn’t be looking forward to the “Day of the Lord”, even though their enemies would be punished, for they too would be judged for their sins.

That said, the purpose of the PROPHECY wasn’t to drive the people to hopelessness and despair for what was coming, but rather to shock them out of the complacency they had developed in their worship of God.  As Matthew Henry once stated, Zephaniah intended “not to frighten them out of their wits, but to frighten them out of their sin.”

With many other prophecies I’ve come across in the reading of the Old Testament, I’ve found both a near term and far term fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecy.  It’s like peeling an onion, one layer at a time.

The near-term fulfillment came in Zephaniah’s generation as Babylon invaded Judah and Jerusalem and took the people captive.  But there are certain aspects of Zephaniah’s prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled with the return of Jesus.  [See “are we THERE YET?” blog-study, 8/27/19]

In this chapter reading, much of what is learned about the “Day of the Lord” is confirmed:

  • It’s universal – the entire world is going to experience the effects of God’s wrath being poured out.
  • It’s certain – although we don’t know when the final culmination of the “Day of the Lord” will begin, it will happen.  [READ 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12]
  • It’s horrific – perhaps more than any other Old Testament prophet, Zephaniah describes the nature of the final culmination with words like wrath, distress, anguish, ruin, darkness, and doom.

I don’t want to focus my studies on those specific details.  I want to investigate and dig deeper into God’s Word to see if we can discover some of the underlying reasons for God’s JUDGMENT, particularly in the discipline of His own children.  There’s little doubt in my mind that the key verse for the entire book of Zephaniah is…

Zephaniah 1:12 – “And at that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish the men who [like old wine] are thickening and settling on their lees, who say in their hearts, The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil.”  [Amplified Bible]

The language in this verse certainly would have caused Zephaniah’s listeners to think of the Passover, where every family would take a candle (“lamps”) and search every nook and cranny in their house to find and remove any leaven that might be tucked away.

In much the same way, God said that He would search every single inch of Jerusalem in order to punish the sin that was there.  And there was one SIN in particular that God focused on here – the SIN OF COMPLACENCY – or “stagnancy.”

Usually, there’s a grouping of sins into Two Groups:

  • SINS OF COMMISSION, where we do something that we’re not supposed to do.
  • SINS OF OMISSION, where we fail to do something that we should do.

But what really provokes God is the kind of COMPLACENCY that accepts sin as a lifestyle because we don’t think that God really cares about our sin, or that He won’t do anything about it.

It’s clear from the entire passage here, that the scriptural context provided isn’t speaking to the outsiders, but rather to those that claimed to be His children.  It reminds me of Jesus’ letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3, where He warned them against being lukewarm.

Okay, so we are complacent at times in the Church.  How do we guard against complacency in our own relationship with God?

Complacency in our spiritual lives can come from a number of different factors.  So in this bible-study, I want to use this passage to evaluate our own spiritual lives to determine whether we are in danger of slipping into complacency, or even if we’ve already arrived.

After reading and re-reading this passage of Scripture, I decided to group into THREE major components attributed to the number of underlying problems.

  • FAILURE TO SEEK GOD

In verse 6, Zephaniah addresses “those who have turned back from following the Lord who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

While David was out in the wilderness of Judah, he wrote Psalm 63, which he described the way that we need to seek our God in every way, and every day:

Are you a SEEKER?  Are you thirsting for God in the same way you would thirst for water if you found yourself stranded in Death Valley in the middle of the summer?

Unfortunately what happens for most of us is that we start out on our spiritual journey thirsting for God.  We can’t get enough of our Bible reading, study, we long to come into His presence in prayer, and we take advantage of every opportunity that we can find to learn more about Him, getting to know Him as we should.

But gradually over time our fervor, our enthusiasm wanes and we wake up one day and realize that we are no longer seeking after God like we once did, and we don’t know why!

I truly believe that the same progression is exactly why so many marriages in this country end up in divorce.  According to a 2008 study by the Barna Research Group, those identified as Christian are just as likely as non-Christians to be divorced.  And according to Shaunti Feldhahn in her book The Good News About Marriage says, the overall divorce rate has never reached the 50 percent level.  According to her study, the overall divorce rate is around 33%.  That’s lower than the purported 50%, but still, nothing to jump up and down about.

When I first started dating my future wife to be, some 55 years ago, I would do everything that I could to get to know her, and then to do what I could to please her as I got to know her better.  But for many couples, once the honeymoon is over, they gradually move away from that process until one day they wake up and realize that they don’t really know their spouse all that well and lost the desire to do what it takes to please the other person.

But just as it’s never too late to re-start that process in a marriage, it’s never too late to return to our roots and seek God like we once did.

  • Separating the “secular” and the “sacred”

As we look at the spiritual life of Judah as described by Zephaniah, it becomes clear that one of the root problems was that the people had separated the “secular” from the “sacred”.

This isn’t the first time that Israel had engaged in this practice, as the prophet Amos had to address that same issue with Israel over 100 years earlier.  Zephaniah points to the problem in detail, verses 10 and 11 (NIV):

[10] “On that day,” declares the LORD, “a cry will go up from the Fish Gate, wailing from the New Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.

The FISH GATE

[11] Wail, you who live in the market district (or the Mortar); all your merchants will be wiped out, all who trade with silver will be ruined.

In this section, Zephaniah is primarily addressing the practices of the businessmen in Jerusalem.  The Fish Gate was primarily on the north wall of Jerusalem and gots its name either because the fishermen brought their catch through the gate or because the fish market was nearby.

Pike’s Place Fish Market, Seattle Washington

I don’t believe there was “fish tossing,” at the marketplace in Jerusalem, but you get the idea.

The Second Quarter was likely the area northwest of the Temple area, home to many wealthy businessmen.  And the Mortar was a business district in Jerusalem.  All of that would be consistent with Zephaniah’s condemnation of the traders and those who weigh out silver.

The scenario was exactly the same as described in Amos 3.  These business people would go to church on Saturday and then the rest of the week, engage in immoral business practices in order to make a bigger profit.  And the only way that was possible is, they had to separate the “secular” and the “sacred” aspect of their lives.

Unfortunately, as I see it, not much has changed in the last 2,600 years.

We still tend to compartmentalize our lives.  We put Bible reading, prayer and church activities, all in one basket we identify as “spiritual.”  Then we dump everything else into another basket we label “secular” – things like our family, our job, our neighborhood, our communities, politics, and our finances.  But the problem with that approach, it’s not Biblical.  The apostle Paul certainly had to address that same mindset while writing to the Colossian church:

Whatever we do in the name Of Jesus, Paul didn’t make any exceptions.

He didn’t write, “In everything but your finances” or “in everything but your marriage.”  The fact is that the true measure of our WORSHIP is far less dependent on what we do on Sunday morning than it is on how we live our lives for the rest of the week.

So here’s an idea for us all to practice, God helping us along the way – Romans 12:1 (The Message Bible)

The OFFERING that God wants from me is to take every aspect of my life and make Him the center of all I do!  That’s the kind of WORSHIP that pleases my heavenly Father.

  • Seeking to “cover all my bases”

This may be the biggest problem of all!

The people haven’t forgotten about their “worshipping” God – they’ve just added a whole lot of other things to it.  It’s as if they decided to “cover all their bases.”

So they bow down to idols, following the example set by the priests, who are also engaging in that idolatry.  They go up on their roofs and worship the stars.  They swear an oath to God, but just in case…swear that same oath to another god.  The entry into the superstitious practices of the pagans around them, like leaping over the threshold in order to avoid disturbing the gods.

Of course today, we would never do anything like that, would we?

Edward Gibbon in his book, The Decline, and Fall of the Roman Empire described the attitude towards “religion” in the last days of the Roman Empire.

  • The people regarded ALL religions as equally true.
  • The philosophers regarded ALL religions as equally false.
  • The politicians regarded ALL religions as equally useful.

Sound familiar?

But unfortunately, the problem isn’t limited to our culture in general.  It’s crept into the Church itself.

I’ve known those who claim to be Christians who would never think of starting their day without reading their horoscope, maybe even right after they read their Bible.  And even if we don’t have idols carved out of stone, how many Christians make gods out of their jobs, their possessions, their social status, or even something good, like their families?

But God has given us a very clear command about trying to worship other gods at the same time we claim to worship Him:

Sometimes, we have slipped into or maybe even fallen completely, in a place of complacency in our spiritual life.  The good news is, we don’t have to fall prey to complacency.

In fact, even for the people of Judah in Zephaniah’s day, it still wasn’t too late to take steps that were necessary to recover from the complacency to guard against falling back there again.

At the beginning of chapter 2, Zephaniah provides his listeners, and us, the antidote to COMPLACENCY:

Zephaniah 2:1-3

In this passage, we find God’s commands that are intended to keep us from becoming spiritually complacent.

  • SEEK

This is the predominant command here for it’s repeated three times.

This is exactly the opposite of what started the people on their downward slide to COMPLACENCY in the first place when they quit SEEKING God.

There are THREE specific things we are commanded to SEEK:

  • The Lord
  • Righteousness
  • Humility

Rather than dealing with each of the three separately, and after meditating on the three, it occurred to me that these 3 Things are actually connected.

Although the people of Zephaniah’s day certainly couldn’t see the whole picture, on this side of the Cross, or recognizes that he’s describing here a process – the only process – by which we can become righteous in God’s eyes.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

The “Connection Junction” –

  • HUMILITY

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  C.S. Lewis

We have to first HUMBLE ourselves and admit our sinfulness to God.  Then as we SEEK out Jesus as the means to deal with our sin, we are made RIGHTEOUS before God as a result of His finished work on the CROSS, not based on our own merit or good works.

But that can’t be a one-time decision!

We have to choose each day to continue to HUMBLY recognize our shortcomings, our sinfulness, and confess it in the name of Jesus so that we might be able to continue to SEEK our God.

  • OBEY

In verse 3, those who may be hidden by God are described as those “you who do what he commands”.  Although it’s impossible to earn God’s favor by obeying His commands, the Bible is clear that whether or not we OBEY His commands demonstrates whether we truly love Him.

And for those who guard against COMPLACENCY by adhering to these commands, God has a promise – one that’s related to Zephaniah’s name, which means “YHWH hides”.

So for those who SEEK & OBEY, God holds out hope that He will hide them away at the culmination of the “Day of the Lord” when His anger is poured out.

I encourage you to look at the rest of the Book of Zephaniah on your own, because Zephaniah, like many of the other prophets, ends his book with a word of hope.  He describes how God is going to restore Israel and make them prosper in their land once again.

So let’s make sure that we don’t become complacent in our worshipping of God.  Every day let’s humble ourselves before God, and seek His face.  Let us obey His commands!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Interlinear Bible; New English Translation (NET); The Message Bible;

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Zephaniah 1:12;  StudyLight.Org

are we THERE YET? (Parts 1 and 2)

Scripture Study:  2 Thessalonians 2:1-8

– PART ONE –

The imminence of Christ’s return

Christ’s return has been written about almost exhaustively over the years, so I hesitated about my own investigation regarding this topic found in Paul’s letters to the church in Thessalonica.  The topic has been taken to a point where certain Scriptures are now just ignored and that’s sad.  It’s better to see imminence as a personal thing, which it is!

What is the truth?

From this point on, I’m assuming that Paul spoke the truth when he gave the fact of 2 Thessalonians 2.  And that Peter also spoke the truth when he told his people to look for Jesus, though many things were coming first.

Looking back at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, we find many truths found nowhere else in the Bible.  It’s the KEY to understanding future events and central to the letter.

The church at Thessalonica found itself, much as we are at times, in a state of confusion over the return of Jesus.  So Paul here begins dealing with a doctrinal error concerning the return of Christ that had crept into the Thessalonian church.

The Day of the LORD!

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians concerning the Day of the Lord when he preached to them in person.  The Day of the Lord is the period of history mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament in which God will bring JUDGMENT [and Millenial blessing] on the people of the earth in a more direct and really drastic way than ever before (Isa. 13:6, 9; Zeph. 1:14-16).  

With other New Testament revelation concerning this period of time, it’s believed that the Day of the Lord begins after the Rapture of the church, including the Tribulation and the Millenium.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he taught them that the day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).  Misinformation ran rampant regarding this event.  To some, it sounded like the day of the Lord had already come.  After all, the persecution they were experiencing seemed to be what the prophets of old had predicted with great calamities coming on the world in “that day”.  Apparently, the church members in Thessalonica even had received instruction from other teachers that the judgments they were going through were during the Day of the Lord, that is, the Great Tribulation.  But if this was true, how could Paul’s previous instructions, that they would be caught up (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and escape the wrath of God coming on the earth be true?

Paul wrote this section (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8) to clarify the matter:

So the church had not been excluded from the Rapture nor was it the Day of the Lord, for other events must occur before the great gathering of God’s people and the Great Tribulation.  Not only that, but believers will not go through the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

VERSE 1 is an urgent request for them to understand properly the events around the Coming of the Lord.

Paul ow dives into the subject of the return of Jesus on which he has just referred to in his letter (1:5-10).  The brethren are begged to correct the confusion on the return of their Lord and Savior.

There are two phrases in the verse relating to the Second Coming.  The first is “regard to the coming” (NASB); “concerning the coming” (NIV), and the second is “our being gathered to Him”, which refers to the Rapture.  Both phrases are generally interpreted as referring to the coming of Christ.  The parousia (Grk.), or coming, had been used in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 & 4:15; the gathering out of God’s people event.  The gathering together is a reminder of 1 Thessalonians 4:17,  with both those in Christ who have died and those still living, will be “caught up together” to meet the Lord, and will “always be with the Lord.”

Just a side-note here.  I want to point out that “parousia” also is used for Christ’s return after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:37-39).  We still look for and await this great assembly together in the sky!

The Day of the Lord (Vs. 2)

VERSE 2 addresses the alarms that twisted teaching had brought about the cause of their present tribulation.

They were “shaken”, “unsettled”. “alarmed”, “disturbed” by false teaching about being in the Great Tribulation.

They were told that the persecution they were enduring was because the Day of the Lord had arrived!  The “Day of the Lord” was well known from the Old Testament and probably with Paul’s teaching as well.  In the Old Testament, the expression “Day of the Lord” occurs 20 times; “last days” 14 times; and“in that day” 100 plus times.  It will be a time of God’s special intervention in the affairs of the world (Isa. 2:1-2, 9-12; 4:1-2, 12; Joel 2:4-11; 30-32).  God has appointed a DAY that Christ the Lord shall return and remove His holy people, and they will be gathered to Him.

WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY THAT WILL BE!

Following the Rapture, is the period that’s identified as. “THE GREAT TRIBULATION” (see Revelation 7:14)

“The Day of the Lord” refers to a period of unprecedented judgments poured out successively on the earth and done so for a period of seven years.  However, even during that terrible period, God will receive any who turn to Him in faith.  Tragically, most of mankind will curse the God of Heaven rather than turn to Him in faith (Revelation 16:8-21).

I can’t help from thinking that it’s not much different from the situation that’s prevalent today when people are too wrapped up in pursuing their own desires to think of God or their relationship to Him.  For most of mankind, “self” is the center of their lives.

Apparently, the theory that the Thessalonians had accepted. was the day of the Lord had come through three channels: “by spirit, report or letter,” indicating that the day of the Lord had already come.  Because of the sources, the Thessalonians were more inclined to accept it as authoritative truth.

The reference to “spirit” probably indicates that some of this teaching came in the form of prophecy, utterances in public worship, purporting to be given by the Holy Spirit.  In addition to prophecies, there had also been “words”.  That probably means by normal conversation and dialogue.

A third form of the false teaching came in some kind of a “letter”, claiming to have been from Paul, which he denies responsibility for any such “letter.”

“Say it isn’t so!”

The Thessalonian church, in their suffering, were convinced that the tribulation period was already in progress, even though the Lord hadn’t come to gather them to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  And how about the promises that they wouldn’t see God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9)?

Paul had taught them, a pretribulational Rapture.  But their confusion arose because they couldn’t distinguish their present troubles from those of the day of the Lord.  And people were telling them of Paul’s apparent backing, that any such deliverance wasn’t going to happen.

So Paul needed to reassure them that they had understood him correctly in his first Epistle.  To accomplish this, Paul proceeds to describe features, obviously not yet present, that will characterize that day’s early stages.

THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH;  [V. 3a] Amplified Bible

“Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for THAT DAY will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come]”

The antidote to poisonous heresy is a good strong dose of the TRUTH!

So Paul proceeds by referring to three events which must take place BEFORE the judgments of the Day of the Lord took place,

The APOSTASY that Paul is speaking, means a “departure”, and religious apostasy means a departure from God’s TRUTH as revealed in His Word, the Bible.  Paul’s not talking about just any departure, or falling away from the faith, but about a special, particular, and widespread one.  “Apostasy,” doesn’t mean merely disbelieving but rather an aggressive and angry revolt (Hebrews 2:12).  It’s this apostasy that will come before the Day of the Lord.

This APOSTASY is not talking about just a few scattered people, but millions betraying the Scriptures, a dream of liberal churchmen for the establishment of a truly ecumenical church.  That church will be a moral church, teaching doctrine formulated to appease society’s expectations, telling mankind what he wants to hear.  This church will unite all religions under one roof, permitting worship of the Antichrist to be rapidly instituted.  This church is the scarlet whore foretold by John (Rev. 17:1-18).

But the Day of the Lord will not come until this great religious apostasy sweeps the earth!

Can you see it happening today?  Church members said they’ve been saved by the Grace of God BUT…don’t act like they love the Lord.  They have a form of godliness but deny by their action to love God’s people and the sharing of the Gospel of Salvation.  They won’t care for the things that God cares about (Mat. 24:10-11).  If they are not of the Apostasy, they certainly facilitate it!

  • PART TWO –  are we THERE YET?

THE LAWLESS ONE, (Vv. 3b-5)

Another event that must take place before the judgments occur is the revelation of “the man of lawlessness.”

This event will begin the awful DAY OF JUDGMENTS.

His revealing not only includes who he is but also being revealed for what he is, the MAN OF SIN.

He will be fully associated with and characterized by “lawlessness” (Grk., anomias, or “sin,” as some mss. have it).  This person is thus characterized as being opposed to God’s law.  He’s also described as the man doomed to destruction (“the son of perdition,” KJV).  The same spirit that filled Judas Iscariot (John 17:12), making him the son of perdition, also makes Antichrist the “son of perdition.”

Elsewhere in the Bible he’s called the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8); the “prince that shall come” (Dan. 9:27); the “willful king” (Dan. 11:36); the “antichrist who will come” (1 Jn. 2:18).  This man is also called the “beast coming out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1-10).

He is the Antichrist, a pseudo-Christ, hostile to the Savior.

He will be a real human being, not a principle or system or a succession of individuals.  Such a person hasn’t been spotlighted on the scene as of yet.  This person is the ultimate personification of Satan, the culmination of all that is opposed to God.

I don’t believe there’s a need to speculate about who this individual might be, we’re not told, nor is it important that we should know who he is.  He will be revealed at the appropriate time, but his identity will be revealed only after the people of God have been taken out of this world.  This man will be Satan’s showpiece who will usher in the Great Tribulation by his presence.  He will not be revealed until the faithful of the present age are taken into the presence of our Lord at the Rapture.  Jesus is our Savior!

Jesus did say quite plainly in Mark 13:32-33,

2 Thessalonians 2:4 gives us a fuller characterization of this evil person who sets himself up as God.

Revelation 13:5-8 certainly adds to. the picture that the “beast” will tolerate the worship of no one but himself.

So after the “departure” or falling away of the saints in verse 3, Antichrist will demand to be worshipped as God at the temple in Jerusalem.  Is this a literal temple, or is this a metaphor, meaning that he usurps God’s authority?  Both are possible.  The Jewish people are certainly preparing to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  [seeUpdate on the Building of the Third Temple” at Jewish Voice Ministries – https://www.jewishvoice.org update-building-third-temple]

“Wait a minute,” you’re thinking.  “How can THE TEMPLE BE REBUILT if the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock, the third most holy site of Islam sits on the very spot where the temple is to be built?”  The Antichrist will say, “Let me solve this sticky issue, the Palestinian problem, the question of Jerusalem.  Jews, you build your temple on the true site of the Temple.  We’ll build a wall to separate it from the Muslim Dome of the Rock Mosque.”  Ezekiel prophesied this very thing (Ezk. 42:20).  In this way, Antichrist will seem to have solved the problem that has troubled and divided Jerusalem for centuries.

Then, in the midst of his popularity, Antichrist will walk into the Temple and demand to be worshipped, “proclaiming that he himself is God” [Ezk. 28:2; Dan. 11:36, 37.].

Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Don’t be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed…you are not in the Tribulation.  This is not the Day of the Lord you’re in.  You didn’t miss the Rapture because the man of lawlessness–the “son of perdition”–Antichrist–has not come.”

Though the Lord will come “like a thief in the night”–unexpectantly (1 Thess. 5:1-11), Jesus will not come until certain events take place.  It requires no imagination to suggest that events around us are rushing toward the great finale.  It’s entirely possible that Antichrist has already been born; all that waits for the knowledge of this individual is the Rapture of God’s people and then he will be revealed.  At that time, those awful events that culminate and God’s Word to the earth will be set in motion.  We who are Christians are called to live with confidence in this present age, knowing that we are destined for SALVATION and not wrath.  We are responsible for labor at the task of declaring Christ’s LOVE and warning to all who will receive our word to flee from the coming wrath.

Before you finish reading this Bible study in the form of a blog, it’s possible that Christ the Lord will return!  Whether Jesus comes or whether He delays, we are nevertheless called to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

“We must work the work of Him who sent us while it is day.”

We live in the knowledge that time is short; whatever work will be done must be done now, while it’s day.

The Jesus supplemented His explanatory word to encourage us in John 9:4.

Jesus’ words lend to urgency and the need to be busy about His work [“Perhaps Today”, by Michael Stark. Sermon Central.com].

Paul emphasizes that he personally had taught them these prophetic truths in VERSE 5:  “Do you remember”

This teaching was nothing new to the Thessalonians.  Paul had taught them about the Day of the Lord when he was with them in Thessalonia.  He called on them now to recall these previously taught lessons.  Paul didn’t regard prophetic truth as too deep or unimportant or controversial to new Christians.  He believed it was a vital part of the whole counsel of God, so he taught it without hesitation or apology.

WHO IS THE RESTRAINER?  (Vs. 6-7)

Satan has been allowed enormous influence and power, capturing the souls of billions.  Though held back from the full vent of his evil, the power, and energy of wickedness continues to work and build toward the day of the Antichrist’s revealing.  Then and now, the work or energy directed, and this restraining will continue until the time appointed reveals the Man of Sin.  Satan’s desire to take control of the world by the Antichrist will then be allowed.

So then, who is RESTRAINING the satanically empowered movement against God’s law, postponing the revelation of the Man of Sin?

I think the most logical approach to answer that question would be to determine who could possibly hold such power to restrain the powers of Satan.  No mere man could.  So the “one” must also be superhuman.  This places God at the forefront.  Yet, God doesn’t abandon the world when the Antichrist enters the picture.

So the most reasonable explanation as to who holds back the powers of evil is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the only Person with enough (supernatural) power to do this “restraining.”

The Greek word, Katechon (“that which withholds”) is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and is gender-neutral; (“what is holding back”), and so object to the idea of this being the Holy Spirit.  But I found that this isn’t a problem for several reasons:  The “neuter” is sometimes used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14).  In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the words are masculine; ho Katechon, the ONE who holds back.

How Does He Do It?

How does the Spirit hold back the supernatural working of evil in the world?

A ministry of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  The Holy Spirit works on His own, but the Spirit also indwells the born-again spirit of every true believer.  Through Christians whom He indwells and through whom He works in society, He also is holding back, restraining, the swelling tide of lawlessness throughout the land.  Thus, the true Church and those individuals in it, are also a restraining force of God in the world.

Now when the time for the Antichrist comes, the Holy Spirit will depart.  “He” will be taken out of the way.

This “taking out of the way” (v, 7) of the Restrainer seems to refer to the Rapture of the Church when Jesus comes to gather us, to snatch us up to be with Him.  When the Church leaves the earth as the Bride of Christ in the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way in the sense that His unique restraining of lawlessness ministry through God’s people will be removed (Gen. 6:3).  When the Church is raptured out of the way, God’s restraint of evil through His Spirit will no longer hold back the forces of darkness.

So the Thessalonians were not in the Great Tribulation because the Rapture hadn’t yet occurred.  The removal of the Restrainer at the time of the Rapture precedes the Day of the Lord.  Paul’s reasoning is thus a strong case for the pretribulational Rapture.

Being Prepared Is A Good Thing

We also should be daily looking for Christ’s return.  Our attention to spiritual matters can be diverted by many things in this world.  However, the Bible tells us to be PREPARED at every moment, for any day may be the Day Jesus comes for His bride, the Church.  Far too many who are called “Christians,” are content to be religious rather than godly.

Keep the words of the Apostle Paul in mind each day in preparation:

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CREDITS:

The Interlinear Bible Of Greek And Hebrew Words.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Commentary:  Bob Faulkner, Caught Up, But When?, May 20, 2015 – SermonCentral.com; Dr. William D. Poovey, 7 Proofs of the Rapture Before the Tribulation,  April 17, 2015.

Bible Translations used in the text:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Bible (NKJV); The Interlinear Bible.

 

Can’t God Just Wrap Us All Up In “Bubble Wrap”?

Scripture:  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

When was the last time someone prayed a prayer over you? What kind of things do you like to hear prayed for you? Blessing? Prosperity? Good health?

Sometimes I find myself praying for my kids and grandkids and asking God to keep them safe and healthy and happy in the Lord. I definitely want those things for them, but they aren’t the greatest needs in their lives. Some needs can only be met by going through those “hard times.” It’s through struggles in life we learn to TRUST God and develop the unshakable faith that the Bible speaks about.

You Can’t Go Through Life in “Bubble Wrap”!

 

So, instead of praying that God would just wrap us all up in bubble wrap so that we never feel any pain or have any problems, it might help for us to look at the PRAYERS that are prayed in the Bible. When I’ve been asked to pray for certain people and don’t specifically know how to pray for them, I often open my Bible and pray Scripture that pertains to their needs and requests. After all, it’s God’s WILL, His words that I’m praying for and not my own.

 

So as we look together at these 2 verses, 11-12, Paul writes, “With this in mind…”

 

What is Keeping this in “MIND”, mean? (Vv. 1-10)

 

The fact that your faith is growing, your love is increasing, you are hanging in there during the hard times, justice and judgment is coming to those who reject God and abuse and mistreat you, and final and ultimate salvation is coming for those of you who trust in Jesus!

 

“With this in mind,” Paul says, “WE ARE CONSTANTLY PRAYING FOR YOU”

What does Paul pray, and what can we learn from it?

“That God would consider you WORTHY of His calling.” 

What does that mean?  How can we be considered WORTHY of God’s calling?  Is this then like being a paying customer, not just taking up space and using up oxygen in the room?  Does it mean to make yourself useful?

“GOD’S CALLING” –

Here, it’s likely a reference to the ultimate and final salvation of God’s people.

In another of Paul’s letters to the churches (Philippians), he talks about the upward call of God.  To be considered WORTHY of His call and to be with Him forever means they will keep trusting God to the very end. 

His CALLING ISN’T TO JUDGMENT, but to life and joy with Him forever!

There are some requirements needed, according to Paul in his letter:

In the context of both letters to the church in Thessalonia, and in this chapter, ENDURANCE and KEEPING THE FAITH are necessary for one to be considered WORTHY of God’s calling into His awesome presence, especially in the face of persecution.

WORTHY doesn’t mean that we can earn our way into heaven.  Eternal life with God is the FREE GIFT of God.  We can’t earn it or do we deserve it!

That God would fulfill every good purpose (“all the good things”) of yours (by His POWER).

God does have a PURPOSE for our lives!

There may be a number of purposes for your life; God’s, Satan’s, yours, and other people’s.  This is all about bringing your purposes or intentions, your views, into alignment with God’s!  It has to do with moral conduct.

I know, good moral conduct can’t SAVE us and make us right with God, BUT…it’s part of God’s purpose for us!

“For this is the WILL of God, your sanctification (separated and set apart for pure and holy living)” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3 AMP.

So the Thessalonian believers had shown perseverance (a never give up mentality) in the face of their persecution for their faith having demonstrated their faith, love and Godly living in the midst of it.  What Paul seems to be praying here is that God would help them followthrough with these things of being faithful to Him to that very day! 

WHAT “DAY”?

2 Thessalonians 2:3  “…for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first”

NOTE: Apostasy comes from the Greek word, Apostasia – The falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come.

That God would fulfill every faith-prompted act (by His POWER).

“…and [His] every gracious purpose of goodness, and with power may complete in [your] every particular work of faith (a faith which is that leaning of the whole human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness).”  (Amplified Bible)

I really like this phrase.  You’ve no doubt heard of acts of random kindness.  Well, these Christians had begun doing continual acts of faith!

Faith-prompted actions are things we do because of our trust in God. 

We learn to be generous with those in need because God is like that, and we want to be like Him!

Acts of obedience are considered faith-prompted acts.  We obey God because we love, honor, and trust Him in His promises! 

But it wasn’t enough!

These Christ-followers didn’t simply begin these faith acts and then let them taper off.  No.  Paul knew they would need God’s help to keep them obeying Him, in loving others, being generous, and serving those around them.

QUESTION:  HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR LOVE AND FAITH HAVE COOLED OFF?

When it becomes more about you and less about those around you.  We need God’s help in carrying out our good intentions and obey and please Him fully.

So Paul’s words here in his letter required them to realize that they aren’t alone!  God is at work in their lives, and when He works in us, it’s powerful!

That the NAME OF JESUS Be Glorified In You – (2 Thessalonians 1:12)

The RESULT of following through with our good intentions to remain FAITHFUL to God–even in the midst of persecution–is that people will see Jesus in us!  Instead of doing good things so we can receive attention and praise from others, we must live so that others will notice Jesus at work in us!

People need to see Jesus being GLORIFIED or spotlighted in your life–in your words, and your actions.

Matthew 5:16 (AMP)

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”

That you would be glorified in Christ Jesus.

Finally, Paul shows that Jesus also helps accomplish OUR GLORIFICATION (present/future).  It all begins when we call on the Lord and the Holy Spirit that it all begins to work in our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us,

 

Our glorification comes to fruition when Jesus comes back for us, as He promised!

He will give us new bodies, transforming us into His likeness!

 

God has called us to a higher place.  Are you trusting and growing in Him?  Is Jesus being glorified in your intentions and your actions?

PRAY FOR YOUR CHURCH AS PAUL PRAYED FOR THE CHURCHES.

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CREDITS:

Images/Photos:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT); Interlinear Bible.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Understanding SEX–One Christian’s Point Of View

Scripture Study:  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

 

At the end of their first date, a young man in a bygone era took his favorite girl home.  He decided to try for that important first kiss.  With an air of confidence, he leaned his hand against the wall of the house, smiled, and said, “How about a goodnight kiss?”  [I never had that kind of confidence as a teen!]

“Are you crazy?” she said.  “My parents will see us!”

“Oh come on!  Who’s gonna see us at this hour?”

“No, please.  Can you imagine if we get caught?”

“Come on, they’re all sleeping!”

“No way.  It’s too risky!”

“Please.  I like you so much.”

“No,  I like you too, but I just can’t!”

“Pleeeeease?…”

Then to their surprise, the porch light came on, the door opened and there stood the girl’s sister, hair tousled, in her pajamas. 

With a big yawn, in a quiet, sleepy voice she said,  “Dad says to go ahead and give him a kiss.  Or I can do it.  If need be, dad will come out on the porch and do it.  Whatever you do, tell your date to take his hand off the intercom button”  [source: semi-joke@yahoogroups.com]

There was a time when a kiss on a date was considered “risky”.  Now couples are expected to jump into bed together, if not on the first date, at least by the time they get serious with each other.  So-called virgins are laughed at.  They are considered weird and sex outside of marriage has become the norm in our society, even among Christian singles.  In  a recent study found at ChristianMingle.com, Christian singles between the ages of 18-59 were asked,

“Would you have sex before marriage?” 

The response?  63% of the single Christians responded, “YES”.

Kenny Luck, Executive Pastor of Ministries (Crossline Church), in response to the survey, said, “[Christian young adults have become] sexual atheist.  In other words, God has nothing to say to them on the subject of consequences or at least anything meaningful enough to dissuade them following their own course of conduct.  It’s the ultimate oxymoron.  A person who at once believes in a wise sovereign and loving God can also believe simultaneously that he/she shouldn’t, cannot or will [let them] inform their thinking [about them] sexually.”  (See Footnote [i].)

There’s Got To Be Another Way!

And there is!

Exodus 20, where in just one short sentence, God tells us how to have fun, fantastic sex without all the hang-ups:

“You shall not commit adultery”

There you have it!  Keep sex exclusively within the marriage relationship and you will enjoy true intimacy.

You see, God is the One who created SEX; and when He did, He called is “VERY GOOD” – Genesis 1:31

Sex isn’t some “dirty” little secret of every married couple.  It’s a beautiful creation by God.  One pastor called it “God’s Wedding Gift,” after a wedding ceremony.  The point is, I believe, “Don’t spoil the gift!”  Don’t take what God created as good and beautiful and ruin it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

All of this takes us to our passage of Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 4:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE HOLY (OR SANCTIFIED, SET APART) IN ALL YOUR BEHAVIORS.

That means He wants you to be set apart, different, special, not like most of the rest of the world, cheapened sex.  Specifically, God wants you to abstain from sexual immorality–ie, any kind of sex outside of marriage.  WHY?  Because sexual purity is God’s will for your life.  It’s why God wants purity for His people because He loves them so much.  You see, God doesn’t say, “Abstain from sexual immorality”, to kill your enjoyment.  On the contrary, He wants you yo enjoy life more, more abundantly than you thought was possible…till it overflows!  (John 10:10)

Sex outside the boundaries of marriage leaves you feeling empty.

But a passionate relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most fulfilling, satisfying thing you will ever experience.  God is passionate about you.  That’s why Jesus died on a cross for your sins.  He did it so God could have a relationship with you, a mind-blowing relationship beyond anything selfish, self-centered act He can ever give you.

SEX ITSELF IS SACRED!

SEX IS SPECIAL!

Sex is a holy thing in a marriage, and any kind of sex outside of marriage cheapens it.

1 Thessalonians 4:4-5

Don’t be driven by your passions like people who don’t know God, no!  God has set you FREE from that through the Cross.  Instead, control your bodily urges with holiness and honor.

You see, SEX is NOT dirty.  It’s holy and honorable within the bounds of marriage.  It’s special!  It’s sacred!  Don’t cheapen it by taking it outside the context of marriage.

INTIMACY Explained.

Gerontologist Dr. Karl Pillemer wrote a book, 30 Lessons for Loving, drawn from 700 interviews with older adults.  He discovered that older adults, “place intimacy as a high priority” in their marriages.  After 55 years of marriage, I can say AMEN to that conclusion.

An example, was Jennie B., an 82-year-old widow who married her first and only husband in their mid-20s and was sexually active throughout their 47 married years.  Jennie explained, “There’s an intimacy that comes later that is wonderful.  You can hold hands with this person you love and adore, and somehow, it’s just as passionate as having sex at an earlier age.  There’s such a sense of connection and intimacy that grows out of a long relationship, that touch carries with it the weight of so many memories.  And many are sexual.”  [See footnote [ii].]

That’s the beauty of sex within the long-term commitment of marriage.  The intimacy only grows the older you get with a whole lot less effort.  But if you take sex outside of marriage, it becomes a cheap thrill with diminishing satisfaction.

Sexual Immorality Robs Others.

SEX outside of marriage is stealing.

It’s taking something precious that belongs to someone else.

1 Thessalonians 4:6a (ESV)

[This is the will of God] that no one transgresses and wrongs his brother in this matter…

Literally, no one should “go over” and “get more” in the things concerning his brother.  In other words, when a man sleeps with a woman who is not his wife, he robs that woman’s husband; and if she’s not married yet, he robs that woman’s future husband.  He robs that woman’s husband of his wife’s purity.  He robs that woman’s husband of a beautiful relationship that they could have enjoyed without the entanglements of previous sexual activity.

Don’t Go Messing Around With Someone Else’s Property.

“Returning from Sunday School one day, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic, a young boy asked his father, “Daddy, what does it mean when it says, ‘Thou shalt not commit agriculture’?  He didn’t quite pick up on the word “adultery”.  But there was hardly a beat between the question and the dad’s smooth reply:  “Son, that just means that you’re not supposed to plow the other man’s field.”  (Reader’s Digest, July 1979, pg. 87, http://www.SermonCentral.com)

Don’t go messing around with someone else’s property.  Don’t rob your brother of the joy of a pure and holy relationship with his wife.

Sexual purity is important, because #1, it pleases God; #2, Sex itself is sacred; #3, Sexual immorality robs others; and #4, Sexual purity is important, because…

SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE ISN’T SAFE.

It’s hazardous.  It’s downright dangerous, not only to your body but your soul as well.

1 Thessalonians 4:6b (AMP)

“For the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we have already warned you solemnly and told you plainly.”

There are very real physical AND spiritual consequences of sexual sin.  A devoted Christian mystery writer, Dorthy Sayers, put it this way:

In our society, there are two kinds of laws:  The law of the STOP SIGN, and the law of the FIRE.

The STOP SIGN law says when the traffic is heavy on a certain street, and as a result, the police department or the city council decides to erect a STOP SIGN.

They also decide if you run that stop sign, it will cost you between $25-$35.  If the traffic changes, then then they up the ante.  The police department or the city council controls the law of the STOP SIGN.

Then there’s the law of the FIRE.

The law of the FIRE says that if you put your hand in the fire, you’ll get burned!

Now imagine for a moment, that all of the nations of this entire world gathered in one great assembly, voting unanimously that from here on out, FIRE would no longer BURN.  The first man or woman who left the assembly put his or her hand in the fire and discovers the law of the fire is different than the law of the stop sign.  Bound up in the nature of FIRE itself is the PENALTY for abusing it.

So Ms. Sayers says, the moral law of God is like the law of FIRE.  You never break God’s laws; you just break yourself on them.  God can’t reduce the PENALTY, because the penalty for breaking the law is bound up in the law itself.   (Hadden Robinson, “Crafting Illustrations”)

Sex outside the context of marriage will burn you every time.

You may escape the STD some of the time, but you can’t escape the emotional, psychological, and relational damage it always brings.

And finally, SEXUAL PURITY is important, because…

GOD GIVES YOU HIS HOLY SPIRIT

God Himself dwells within and helps you live a holy life.  He gives you the resources to do what He has called you to do.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

God gives to you when you are SAVED–“born again”–His Spirit who helps you live a holy, sanctified life in this world of ours.  Without Him, you could only fail, and His commands would only frustrate you.

But with Him, you can live the life God has called you to live.  All you need to do is TRUST Him!

That’s the GOOD NEWS in all of this!

Even if you’ve already failed in the area of sexual purity, invite the Lord into your life and let Him begin to clean you up from inside out.  God wants you to enjoy life with Him at any age, whether you are newly married, married for 50 years or more, or without a spouse.  Just open the door of obedience to Him.  And if you are reading this post from one Christian’s point of view, and living the single life, God has laid down the standard.

The Standard of God.

What seems to be a secret with so-called Christianity in the 21st Century is that God has standards for us to follow.  God’s standard is His will for which you are to live as a Christian single.  If you are truly saved you will be moved by the Spirit of God inside of you yo live by His will and not your own.  And that will is that you live your lives in holiness, sanctification, set-apart and transformed from the world’s standards.

I’ll give you two familiar Bible verses read and think about regarding your lifestyle as an encouragement.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Kenny Luck, “Sexual Atheism; Christian Dating Data Reveals a Deeper Malaise,” The Christian Post, 4/14/14.

Footnote [ii] :  Mark Tapson, “Is Sexual Variety the Spice of Marriage?” Acculturated blog, 4/1/15; http://www.PreachingToday.com.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.  [CopyRights may apply]

Bible Translations:  The NIV Bible; The Amplified Bible (AMP); The English Standard Bible (ESV).

 

Knowing What You’ve Signed Up For

A BIBLE STUDY ~

 

If you are reading this and are a Christian having committed your life to Jesus, to love and follow Him, I have no doubt you’ve felt like a failure at one time or another.  The reason I can say that is because I know a little bit about our common enemy. 

His name means adversary (aka the accuser, aka father of lies).  He would love nothing more than to take the same Bible I read daily for encouragement and my own spiritual growth, and give me a smackdown with it, accusing me of failing God in certain areas of my life.  I am so grateful then for the verses like Romans 8:33-35 (NIV).

[33]  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies,  [34]  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  [35]  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  

The world often fails to see the potential for success that God has placed within a person.  But God Himself knows us and sees us for our true potential.

And when we open our hearts to Him daily and receive His GRACE, that my friends is the beginning of a life of success.  All other successes will be left behind when we leave this earth.  But knowing Jesus and making Him known to others is something we can take with us!

As Paul and his team were successful as they traveled around sharing the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, several dynamics emerge from these verses found in 1 Thes. 2 that helps us become more effective in SHARING God’s GRACE with others.

Even When You’re Up Against Strong Opposition –

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Acts 17 tells of the strong opposition Paul had faced not only in Thessalonia but also in Philippi.  The suffering in Phillipi that he alludes to here is detailed for us in Acts 16:16-40.  I encourage you to read the accounts of tribulation encountered.

In spite of this harsh treatment in Phillipi, they still dared to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (the gospel message) to the Thessalonians, even though they had run into a spiritual brick wall there as well.

Acts 17 tells us that the Jews in Thessalonia were jealous of Paul’s ministry so much, that they formed a mob and started a riot in the city.  Jason, the man whose house Paul was staying, was arrested and later released on bond.

So that night, Paul, and Silas (Silvanus), left for Berea under the cover of darkness.

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL –

Although over the past 47 years as a Christian, I faced different degrees of opposition to the gospel message.  But I never faced opposition that the apostle Paul faced and experienced.  And I pray that I never will.  That said, I’m prepared for what might come, not by my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Opposition will come whenever we set out to accomplish something significant for Jesus’ sake–like sharing the gospel message and helping people grow in their faith!  This is warfare on a spiritual level, and the enemy will stir up as much trouble as he can to discourage us and immobilize us in sharing God’s GRACE with others around us.

BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Just as Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them always. so He is with us.  And He will help us accomplish what He has called us to do!

The help that is delivered with Divine Assistance!

It would have been a natural thing in the world for Paul and his team to call a timeout and take a little break in their mission.

Paul decided not to be a whiner because he was not treated fairly by the people he was trying to reach for Christ.

As they passed God’s GRACE on to everyone they met, the RESULT of their efforts, using an American football term, a roughing the passer, penalty!  God, didn’t you see that?  How could you miss that call?  They deserve a penalty!

But Paul didn’t blame God or feel sorry for himself.

Paul knew what he had signed up for.

The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16,  “For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.”  Instead of complaining, Paul received strength, encouragement, and help from the Lord.

Sometime later in Corinth, after facing opposition at nearly every turn, the Lord encouraged Paul in a VISION:

Acts 18:9-10

Here’s the lesson to remember when things get tough for us in sharing Christ Jesus with others:

We can withstand any opposition the enemy throws our way

because God is with us!

“With the help of our God, we dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition.”  (1 Thes. 2:2)

So when we are doing what God has called us to do church, and we face opposition in our calling, God’s got our backs–God is with us and will help us carry out His plan!

And when we SHARE, we need to be sure that we are doing it for the right reasons.

Having the Proper Motivation –

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 (NIV)

[3]  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  [4]  On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  [5]  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

In Philippians One, Paul said that some preached Christ for the wrong reasons (envy, selfish ambition), but he was okay with ut, because even with the wrong motivation, at least the gospel of Christ was being preached.

However, the Lord wants us to take a close look at our motivation and make sure it aligns with who He is.

  • Not from bad theology (or “pop theology”).  Anything that makes us think wrongly about who God is and/or who we are.
  • Not from impure motives.
  • Not to trick the listeners (manipulation).
  • Not to please men (seeking their praise, (Vs. 6).
  • Not using flattery.
  • Not out of greed.
  • Positively, to PLEASE GOD!

The proper motivation to have for sharing the GOSPEL–The Good News–with others is to please God!

It pleases God because He doesn’t want anyone to perish without Him, but for everyone to come to repentance.

If we are using our faith to impress others or get something that we want for ourselves, then we are missing it!  How many times over the years in my own evangelistic outreach have I prayed the words of Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It’s characterized by giving, not taking.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-9

Paul could have asked the Thessalonian Christians to take care of them, providing housing, food, and other needs.  But he wanted to take care of them, not the other way around–much like a mother cares for her children.

Paul spoke of being gentle, not demanding.  He nurtured them and helped them grow while he was there amongst them.  His love was so strong that he said that he was delighted to share not simply the gospel, but his own life.  He worked day and night to avoid being a burden to them while preaching the good news to them.

How was Paul able to do all of this?

Because that’s what Jesus did!  He came to serve, not be served.  He came to give, not take!

GIVING is the truest expression of love.  God so loved that He GAVE…

Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself for her.

So the question, “What’s in it for me?” wasn’t foremost on Paul’s mind.  He knew his reward would come later.  Now was the time to SERVE, not be served!

Its effects are seen in those who share it – 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  You are witnesses, [yes] and God [also], how unworldly and upright and blameless was our behavior toward you believers [who adhered to and trusted in and relied on our Lord Jesus Christ].

Paul knew they needed to practice what they preached!

Not that he had to do anything different but just to set a good example.  A good example flowed out of a life that was sold out to Jesus!  I would like to call this approach, “modeling discipleship.”  Paul was showing them how to live at being honest, hardworking, holy, righteous, and blameless.  He was simply being a follower of Jesus, and they got to witness it.  Its effects are discipled into those who received it,

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

There’s immediate transformation when a person receives the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, but there’s also a lifelong process as well.

The spiritual growth process requires encouragement, comfort, and urging–that’s what DISCIPLESHIP is all about!

Most of us are okay with the encouragement and comfort concept.  It’s the urging that might irritate us at times.  Urging someone to live a life worthy of God and that means that they can’t get too comfortable and satisfied.

A follower (disciple) of Christ cannot give in to every whim or passion or desire that floats through their heads!

So, we are to be as parents to new believers, as a father deals with his own children. 

Sharing the GOOD NEWS with an individual doesn’t end when they accept Jesus as their forgiver and leader.  It’s an ongoing process of discipleship where the life of Jesus is imparted to them in a relationship.

SHARING THE GOOD NEWS WITH OTHERS:

As we ALL share the GOOD NEWS, realize that it comes with the opposition, but can be done with God’s help.

Our motivation should be to please God, not people.  It’s about giving, not taking, and it changes us so we can help reach and disciple others for Christ.  That’s what God intended for each one us as His people and when we became the church–WE ARE THE CHURCH!

The GOOD NEWS about Jesus and the POWER of God is leading to SALVATION for everyone who believes.  If you haven’t yet received the GOOD NEWS about Jesus and by trusting Him for forgiveness and committing to follow Him, I pray you will right now, where you are.  If you already have, then let it TRANSFORM you!  SHARE IT, and DISCIPLE those who receive it!

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CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  1 Thessamonians 2:1-12 – Bible Hub

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations as a reference in the text of used in the Photo/Images.

AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

In my recent studies in Amos, I’ve seen how God used His prophet to warn the people of Israel.  Israel was going through an almost unprecedented period of prosperity and in the process, had forgotten God.

They certainly hadn’t forgotten about religion.  They were still a very religious society.  They still went to worship in their places of worship.  They still offered all their sacrifices, and they still tithed their money.  As a matter of fact, they went over and above what the Law required.

Today, we would say that churches with these qualities and directives would be a successful church.

But like so many times throughout their history, Israel still didn’t get it.  They thought they were OK.  They felt perfectly at ease and comfortable in Zion.

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

He promised all the horrible events that would occur some 30 years later.  Assyria would invade and destroy Samaria.

All the woes,  All the promises of affliction.  All the heavy prophesies and messages given by Amos builds to a crescendo in this last chapter of the book.

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

The differences are well worth noting at this point.  Up to now, Amos’ prophetic messages have pointed to Assyria’s invasion of Israel.  That was an example of God afflicting His people in bringing them to repentance.  Repoentance is more than saying, “Sorry, God.”  It’s changing the direction you’ve been heading–a 180 degree turn from sin.

You see, that’s how affliction is different than judgment.

In my charge as the Bible Detective, I find that there are only two times that God has or will JUDGE mankind.

  • The first was at the flood.
  • The next will be the final judgment.
  • One concluded with destruction by water.
  • The other will conclude in the destruction by fire, and NOT by Climate Change.

Anything in between those two judgments is affliction rather than judgment.

Affliction is for the purpose of showing God’s mercy and grace!

Judgment is for the purpose of showing God’s righteousness and holiness!

Up till now, Amos has spoken of God’s promised affliction.  These promises of God were fulfilled.

Then A Change in Focus Occurs – Amos 9:1-3

Amos starts off with a simple statement:  “I SAW THE LORD.”  It’s simple, but oh, how profound!  God revealed Himself to Amos.

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a small child?  My wife and I sure did when our kids were little.  It sounds funny, but little children think that when you cover their eyes, you can’t see them.  That’s about as silly as we are when we try to hide from our heavenly Father.

God told Israel through Amos that there was no place they could run to.  No place they could hide from His judgment.

It brings to mind the scene unveiling in the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, the opening of the sixth seal:

When God pours out His JUDGMENT, there’s NO PLACE TO HIDE!

If you climbed to the top of Mount Everest or dive to the bottom of the sea in a nuclear submarine, GOD IS THERE!  There’s no hide and seek with God.  Wherever you may try to run, He will SEEK and FIND you with conviction.

David’s words in Psalm 139 remind me of Amos’ words here.

After all the sin in David’s life, God sought him out.  He knew David’s innermost ways and thoughts.  He sought him and convicted him.  And after reading these verses, look at how David reacted and responded to that conviction.

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

Then instead of afflicting us to bring about conviction, God judges us.

And when it comes time for JUDGMENT, there’s no place to hide!  We can’t hide, because the Lord is a seeking God.  He either seeks in conviction or seeks in judgment.

He’s not only a seeking God, But He’s also a sovereign God –  (Amos 9:3b.-8)

Definition:  SOVEREIGN – Greek 3841, pantokrator – Almighty, Omnipotent, the all-ruler… [Bible Hub].

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

I’ve got news for you.  There’s no such thing as coincidence! 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, ever has or ever will happen to you that hasn’t passed through God’s hands.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

This was a best-seller in the ’80s and still very influential in the populous.  It was authored by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.

Several years ago, if you remember, a bridge collapsed over a  river in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Within days, the book’s author was on the radio trying to explain the tragedy to people.  He explained that bad things like a bridge collapse happened because God doesn’t control the laws of nature.  He is powerless to do anything about evil events.  Kushner, I’m sure, said these things to try to comfort the people.  What an empty comfort that is!  I just can’t imagine the God of Amos that he had seen on the ALTAR had been Kushner’s god.  A god who is powerless to stop evil, as you and I are.

My God of the Bible is a SOVEREIGN God!!!

The LORD that Amos saw is the same LORD that the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:15-18 (NIV)

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  [17]  He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.  [18]  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

He is Lord overall.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

None of those surprised any more than Assyria surprised God when they destroyed Samaria and carried the Israelites into exile.

VERSES 7-8 tell us that God isn’t surprised by the actions of nations.

The Ethiopians (Cushites), the Philistines, the Syrians. 

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

Although this is difficult teaching, most of us, I think, see God’s sovereignty over circumstances, and nations.

But here’s one that will stretch your thinking.  God is sovereign over our rebellious behavior.  See the last part of verse 8:

God said that He wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel; that He would preserve a remnant.

Not because they deserved it, but because He promised it!  He would preserve them for His namesake–not theirs.

As rebellious as they were, God had promised to preserve a remnant.  And he would keep His PROMISE because He’s sovereign.  Even over rebellious people.

The Lord is a seeking God and He is a sovereign God.  But there’s more.

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

When I first looked at this passage, I pictured the process of separating the wheat from the chaff described in the Bible (Psalm 1:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17).  I thought that not one grain of ‘good stuff’ would fall to the ground,  But that’s not what it’s talking about here.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was called “winnowing.”  The “sifting” would follow the winnowing step.

During the winnowing, all the chaff was blown away.  Everything heavy fell to the ground.  That included the good grain, stones, and pebbles.  The stones and pebbles were separated from the grain using a sifter.

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

So instead of all of Israel sitting safely in the sifter of the Lord while the impurities pass from them,…ALL of Israel is the one that has to pass through the SIFTER.  They are the ones who will be sorted and sifted through affliction.

They are the ones who will pass through the affliction of God in order to be purified.  The stones and pebbles of SIN AND IMPURITY are the things left in the sifter.  And that’s a good thing…because everything that’s left in God’s sifter will be destroyed in JUDGMENT!

The SIFTER of God in Amos compares to the FIRE that Paul mentions in First Corinthians :

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.  And guess what?  Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat.  Even though Peter initially failed miserably when Jesus convicted him of his sin, he repented.  The sifting purified him.  Purified him to the point that he went from a coward to a bold witness of Christ in a few weeks time.

The promise of the New Testament says that if you’ve trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be SAVED.  But Paul says,  “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

God sifts you so you will let go of your sin.  So that even the smallest sin in your thinking, will be separated from you.

One day all the sifting that Israel has gone through over the past 6000 years will result in only the purest grain.  The LORD is a sifting God!

Finally, the LORD is a SAVING God!  (verses 11-15)

As I’ve already mentioned, this chapter in Amos is all about future promises to the nation of Israel.  God made a PROMISE to Abraham back in Genesis 15.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation.  A nation that God would choose to call His special people.  And God also promised Abraham that He would pour out His GRACE on those people and give them a land filled to overflowing rich blessings of God.

And He sealed that promise, A Covenant, by Himself.

In Genesis 15, God had Abraham set up a traditional ceremony, where both parties would contract together for something.  The ceremonies were often SEALED by the blood of a sacrificed animal.  In those contracts, if one party or the other broke the agreement, the contract would be null and void.

God had Abraham to set up that ceremony but He didn’t allow him to participate in it.  He put him off to the side and performed the ceremony Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I see God in the grace business.  He knows we fall short.  He knew that Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain with Him.  So He graciously called them out anyway.  He made them His people.  And He will graciously pour out His blessings on them as His people.  Not because of who they are or how special they are, but because of who He is!

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

“And all the nations who are called by My name.”

THAT’S US!  All the nations in the world who aren’t Israel.

In other words, Gentiles.  THAT’S US!!

By His GRACE, God promised the same blessings to the Gentiles who are called by His name as He will give to Israel. 

HOW? 

Through the BLOOD of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

These wonderfull promises that God made to Israel are available to us today because the Lord as a SAVING God.

The entire book of Amos has been a warning.  It was a warning that Israel didn’t pay attention to.  But it serves as a warning to us all.

  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE SIN.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE FALSE WORSHIP.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE HYPOCRISY.
  • He doesn’t tolerate SIN and REBELLION in His house.

Among His people, He seeks out sin.  He’s SOVEREIGN over all things.  And He will sift us.

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

At times God sifted Israel with trouble and ar rimes, And at times, He sifted them with prosperity.  So whether we’re having trouble or having prosperity, it doesn’t tell the story where we are in God’s eyes.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “How does the Lord see us?”  “How does the Lord see our church?”

If we don’t see Him as He has revealed Himself as a seeking, sovereign and sifting God, He will show Himself as JUDGE.  And I don’t think any of us want that.

But if we do see Him as He’s revealed Himself, He will show Himself to us as Savior.

QUESTION:  Where do we all start to see God as He’s revealed Himself?

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King Jmaes Bible (KJV); and other translations used in the photos/Images.

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

WHOSE YOUR FRIEND?

MY FRIEND’S NUMBERS KEEP GOING DOWN ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE

I wonder what Facebook’s definition or their idea of the word, FRIENDS?  So many times I read comments on social media of people who claim 100’s, or even thousands of friends.  So what do most us think of people we know, that are our FRIENDS?  A companion, our next door neighbor who we barely know, the person in the next cubicle at work, etc.?  Proverbs in the Bible is a good source of wisdom regarding friendship:  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).  The issue here is that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend.  I’ve been reading in the Old Testament Book of Amos for the last few weeks and found a principle of friendship in Amos 3:3– “Do two walk together except they make an appointment and have agreed?” (AMP).   FRIENDS ARE OF A LIKE MIND!!  And then of course, one of my favorite Bible verses regarding true friendship is found in the Gospel of John:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:13).

Now that’s true friendship.

 

 

 

Everything In Life Has Terms Attached To It

Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.

It seems like everything we do today has some type of terms we have to agree to.   Just listen and watch the TV commercials that lawyers seem to continuously present.  All over the ad in big 2-inch letters tell me about all the money they’re going to give me when I’m in an accident.  Of course, you have to squint your eyes or use a magnifying glass to read the fine print below all the money I’,m going to receive.  The only reason they put the terms on the TV ad is that they’re lawyers!  But they still try to hide them as best as they can.

But you can’t hide the fact that nearly everything in life has terms attached to it.  Whether you’re buying anything on time, getting a job, or entering a contract–TERMS HAVE TO BE AGREED TO IT!

Did you know that God has “terms” as well?

Except God is no lawyer–He sets His terms up front!

SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13

The problem comes, when we try to meet God on our own terms instead of His.

That’s what ISRAEL did.

Ever since God called up Abraham and promised to make him a nation, He had laid out His terms to them.  And in turn, they constantly refused God’s terms.  They wanted a relationship with God but on their terms.

In this passage of scripture, God speaks through Amos to review His case against Israel.

He reviews the way Israel tried to meet God on their own terms in spite of His continual persuasiveness.  Even though times have changed over the centuries, human nature has not,  Neither has God’s character.

There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God, and that fact is undeniable!

We can try to do it on our own terms or His.  And in order to do that, I want to look at some specific things found in this chapter of Amos.

  1. We will see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms,
  2. We will see how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

And with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, we will take a look at how it all turned out.

FIRST, let’s see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.

Verse 1:  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

In this picture, God uses the word “cows” to describe the Israelite women.

BASHAN was a hilly area overlooking Samaria and known for its cattle.  If Burger King fast-food restaurants had been around back then, they would have marketed Bashan Burgers instead of Balck Angus.

Throughout history, in every society, women are the main stabilizing forces.  You’ve probably heard the song, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World.  Well, it may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it stable.

The decline of any society can be seen in the way women act.  They are typically more stable, more moral, more obedient to the laws.  They are more kind and merciful to the poor and needy.

But when they begin to turn from those natural ways, society inevitably declines.  That’s what was happening in Israel.  The WOMEN had turned from their natural roles.  They had lost their mercy and kindness to the poor and needy.  They had usurped their roles in the home while demanding to be waited on.  This isn’t just a judgment on women, it’s a judgment on Israel as a whole.  Because women acting that way is an effect.  It’s not the cause.

The cause is from men and society, in general, turning away from God.

Now fast forward to today.

Women in America are no longer valued for their kindness and mercy.  We lift up cutthroat, catty corporate executives and political figures as role models.  From an early age, girls are encouraged to be tough and aggressive instead of kind and merciful.

Just like ancient Israel, just one of the final symptoms of the DISEASE that has been spreading throughout the ages.

The disease is called wanting to behave on our own terms.  We all want to meet God, but we don’t want to behave on His terms.  Just like Israel, we want to behave on our own terms.

But not only did Israel behave on their own terms, but they worshipped on their own terms,

VERSES 4-5

THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

Both Bethel and Gilgal had originally been wonderful places to worship for God.  But over the years, the people corrupted it.  That’s where Jeroboam set up the golden calf.  That marked the beginning of a long history of idolatry and false worship there.  Gilgal was the original base-camp of Israel as they conquered much of the promised land.  That’s also where Samuel anointed David King.  Both places had historically been places of worship.  But over the years, WORSHIP had become empty, even repulsive to God.  They seemed to be going through all the right motions, even over and above what was expected.  They brought sacrifices much more often than expected.  They tithed much more often than was requested.  That should all be good things, right?  Well, not if their hearts were in the condition theirs was.  It all became a show.  The freewill offering was proclaimed and published as mandatory.  They were no longer “free.”  They were an obligation.  They were “worshipping,” but they were doing it on their own terms.  They didn’t worship with a changed heart.  They didn’t do it out of free love for God, they did it for SHOW!  They did it out of obligation!

Could this be Church today?

We want to meet God, but we want to WORSHIP Him on our own terms.  We want to come to church to make us feel good or get our batteries recharged.

Or we come to church out of some sort of obligation.  And if the music, the pastor’s message, doesn’t meet our expectations, our needs, our terms, we leave.

When we have that attitude, is that worship on God’s terms, or is it worship on our terms?

God doesn’t force is to change or to do anything.  Just like He didn’t force Israel to change.  He didn’t force them, but He persuaded them.

We’ve seen how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  Now let’s take a look at how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

God gives Israel a WARNING…warning them of His terms.

BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):  

[2]  The Lord God has sworn by His holiness that behold, the days shall come upon you when they shall take you away with hooks and the last of you with fishhooks.  [Ps. 89:35.]

[3]  And you shall go out through the breaches [made in the city’s wall], every [woman] straight before her, and you shall be cast forth into Harmon [an unknown place of exile], says the Lord.

WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?

Well, He tells us in verse 2:

His terms are HOLINESS.

His holiness is the terms He swears by.

Jesus summed up God’s terms on the Sermon on the Mount when He says,

That’s God’s terms.  That’s what He demands.  And Israel didn’t even come close.

But God in His GRACE warned them every step along the way.

Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

He changes His picture here.  He goes from picturing women of Israel as fat and happy cows to picturing them as fish on a hook.

God’s warning was literally fulfilled when the Assyrian armies led Israel into captivity just a few years later.

Archaeologists discovered Assyrian carvings showing how their captives were led away by ropes.  Ropes passed through hooks placed in their captives’ noses or lips.

Has God given us WARNINGS as well?

His terms of perfection are the same as they’ve always been.

But along with His terms of HOLINESS (Perfection), He has given us His provision of GRACE!  Grace that our imperfection is covered by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  He takes away our sin and gives us His perfection–His Holiness–His righteousness.  But He only does that when we trust Him as our Lord and Savior.

And the Bible is full of WARNINGS when we refuse His righteousness.

  • WARNINGS of weeping and gnashing (‘grinding’) of teeth.
  • WARNINGS of fire and brimstone.
  • WARNINGS of eternal punishment as God’s wrath is poured out on mankind.

These warnings are far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lips.  When we behave on our terms, God warns on His terms.  When we worship on our terms, God warns on His terms.

But not only does God warn on His terms, but He also persuades on His terms.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, I began to hear statements that really bothered me.  Statements that the hurricane was God’s judgment on New Orleans.

Now New Orleans’ reputation of being one of the most wicked city’s in America to visit, but just as many churches in the area were destroyed by Katrina as were “wicked places.”  As a matter of fact, Bourbon Street was virtually untouched.

God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!

And Katrina wasn’t it.  Just like 9/11 wasn’t it.  Or World War II wasn’t it.  Or the Civil War wasn’t it.  Or the great Chicago fire wasn’t it.  Or the Great Depression wasn’t it.  Or Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t it.  Or everything since the flood wasn’t it.

God judged the world in a flood and He will judge the world again with fire.

Everything in between is His persuasion.

Many of the things we consider as trials are given by God to persuade us to return to Him.  Look at our nation.  After the Civil War, there was national renewal.  After the Great Depression, national renewal followed.  After most great times of trouble and trial in America, there have been periods of return to the Lord.

UNTIL RECENTLY.

Even after 9/11, Bible sales skyrocketed!  Every marquee in every town said something like “God bless America.”  But there was a shift after 9/11 and Katrina.  When Katrina happened, there was a tremendous outpouring of support from churches.  But the people weren’t looking for God.  They were looking for the government.

God persuaded America to turn to Him through the awful tragedy of Katrina.  And as a whole, we didn’t.  Instead of falling on our knees and crying out to God to save us, we turned to FEMA.

We saw the same pattern on a smaller scale at Virginia Tech.  Instead of seeing the tragedy as an indictment on our sinful culture, we saw it as a political opportunity to either ban or support gun ownership.  Psychologists were looked to for answers rather than the Lord.

God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.

But are we listening?  Or are we like Israel?  Are we too busy with our comfortable lifestyle to pay attention?  Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  They behaved on their terms and they worshipped on their terms.

But God didn’t just let go.  He warned them on His terms,  And He persuaded them on His terms.

Finally, I want you to see what happened.

FIRST, look at the result of Israel’s terms.

Skimming through the above verses, zero in on the last phrase of each verse.  In each of the attempts that God made to get Israel to return to Him, the answer was the same:

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

Isreal had set their terms.  They were going to come to God on their terms.  They want to be FAT and comfortable.  And they didn’t want their service to God to get in the way of their lifestyle.  They wanted to put on “I Love Jesus” T-shirts and claim to be God’s children.  They wanted to worship Him in a way that pleased them.  They wanted to get the charge from going to church without the commitment.

Through all of that outward devotion, God laid down the same charge:  “you didn’t return to Me.”

Israel’s terms we selfish and insufficient to meet God in a relationship.  And because of that, they had to meet Him on His terms.

Amos 4:12-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!

Israel wasn’t prepared to meet God.  They rejected every offer of GRACE God had given them along the way.

When God persuaded them with tragedy and disaster, the rejected Him!

When God persuaded them with His only begotten Son, they crucified Him!

The question today for all is… what are you doing with the GRACE that God has extended to you?  He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for your sin.  He has offered His Holy Spirit to you like comfort and power to live like Jesus.

What are you doing with that GRACE?  Are you rejecting it by behaving on your own terms?  Are you rejecting it by worshipping on your own terms?  Or are you going to accept it?

Make no mistake about it.  Each one of us will one day meet God face to face.

Are you going to do it on your terms or His?

If you do it on your own terms Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

But if you meet Him on His terms, through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise given by the Word of God:

How then, do you intend to meet God?

On your terms, or His?

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CREDITS:

Bible translations used:   BibleStudyTools.com – Holman Standard Bible; The New International Version (NIV); The Amplidied Bible (AMP); The English Standard Version (ESV).  And others referenced in Google Images.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merril Unger, William White Jr.

Video:  Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.

 

“HEAR NOW WHAT THE LORD SAYS”

BIBLE STUDY:

The Christian View Of Christian Spirituality –

For the entire past century and longer, the Christian view of spirituality has been on trial in my country.  Before Christ was born, Micah saw that his nation and every individual must find their real life, their spiritual life in trusting the Lord Jesus.

GALATIANS 5:16-26

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. !

AND IN LUKE 17:11-19…

IMMEDIATELY, in our study, THE SCENE CHANGES –

And it’s no longer a nation that must answer, but the individual. Micah.  He asks, “What must I bring – what can I offer God to avert His wrath?”

The LORD’s Case Against Israel –

The LORD speaking through the prophet, Micah here:

Micah 6:1-8 (NLT)

[1]  “Stand up and state your case against me.  Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.  [2]  And now, O mountains, listen to the LORD’s complaint!  He has a case against his people.  He will bring charges against Israel.  

[3]  “Oh my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!  [4]  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

[5]  Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead?  And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, when I, the LORD did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.”

[6]  What can we bring to the LORD?  Should we bring him burnt offerings?  Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves?  [7]  Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

What then does the LORD Require?

It is a RELATIONSHIP, not rituals, not ‘things’ the LORD wants.

This is where TRUE WORSHIP begins.

  • True Worship obeys, and to obey is better than sacrifice!
  • True Worship impacts and it changes lives and influences others!

We worship God when we obey Him–when we honor God’s Name, that’s WORSHIP! 

Samuel told King Saul ( 1 Samuel 15:22), 

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the LORD?

To obey is better than sacrifice 

and to heed is better than the fat of rams…”

Therefore, true worship can only come from a heart of obedience.

In true worship, we become and behave like the One we worship.  It’s not just an act (like bringing sacrifices or coming to church), it’s a LIFE!

I know, it’s not easy for us to remember, because we are so conditioned by the surroundings and by tradition, to think of WORSHIP as an event once a week.  We tend to compartmentalize our lives into different areas–church life, personal life, family life, corporate life, and social life.  That’s what we do!  And when we come through those church doors during the week, we decide…that’s WORSHIP!–an event where we are on our best behavior.  Well at least for some of us.

But WORSHIP is more than that.  Jesus tells the Samaritan woman by the well–it has nothing to do with the PLACE but the PERSON of God.

If WORSHIP is an encounter with Christ, then it happens every day and everywhere.

Each time I choose to OBEY God and do His will in my life…when His Name is honored by my words and behavior, I am worshipping Him!  I’m talking about worshipping Him every day,  It’s not just about songs we sing in the car, but our thoughts, words, and behavior.

My Christian faith isn’t an individualistic faith–it’s not just about me and God, and nothing else.

Israel was BLESSED to become a BLESSING to the nations that surrounded them.  God’s BLESSING isn’t an end in itself–it’s a witness to a lost and dying world.

It changes lives!

The question, in Micah 6:8, “What does the LORD require of you?” showed God’s expectations that God expects Israel’s faith to have changed their society, their surrounding communities.

It’s interesting to read and hear what God said to the prophet Ezekiel about SODOM & GOMORRAH:

The poor and needy are always on God’s radar screen.  People are God’s concern.

Forgetfulness:  It Can Be Hard to Remember Things.

Spanish philosopher Geroge Santayana famously stated the great truth that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

One of the greatest mistakes God’s people made in relatuionship was to forget who they were and lost their sense of identity as the covenant people of God, gradually drifting away from living their lives as God had intended for them.

God had said to them in Deuteronomy 6:12,  “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

This happened not once, but time and time again.

The writer of Hebrews included a WARNING for New Testament believers not to make the same mistake.  But as I write this blog-study, I sense we are all in need of being continually reminded.  Only then can we fully appreciate the weight and relevance of the question presented by Micah”

“What does the LORD require of you?”

Micah sees a vivid picture of the destruction that will come about of the people beginning with their rulers and reaching unto the women and the children.

WHY?

Because JUDGEMENT was coming because the people of God were no longer living as the People Of God.  Instead, there was corruption, oppression, bribery, and injustice and all the while God’s people weren’t able to see that something had gone radically wrong.

WHAT HAD GONE WRONG?

The people of God neglected their relationship with the LORD–so much so that their hearts’ affections were overtaken by other things.  And this, in turn, was the explanation for the change in their attitudes, the way they were daily living and how they treated others.

AND THE CURE?

Not so much dealing with the symptoms but to deal with the cause.  A change in behavior would be the unavoidable outcome, returning to a meaningful relationship with the LORD.

It happens to Christians too!

We can drift away and as soon as we become cut off from the source of our life we no longer are motivated in the same way to be distinctive, nor do we have the passion anymore to do so.

Have you lost your passion?  Maybe your passion isn’t what it once was for the things of Christ!  Your relationship has grown cold; there are holes big enough in your relationship as if moth-eaten.

Micah Tells Them God’s Requirements For Getting Back On Track.  Repairing the Holes.

It’s as we are renewed in our relationship with God our Father, that we not only remember who we are in Christ Jesus, but we also take on His nature.

ACTING JUSTLY –

It wasn’t happening in Micah’s day (Micah 6:11) – “Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?”

Here was a society that was cheating one another, not God’s way.

In Psalm 51:6, “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

In Proverbs 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

LOVING MERCY –

This isn’t just ‘having mercy’, but “loving mercy.”

Mercy is a rich and strong word, meaning loving-kindness in action.  There’s an element of unexpectedness about it.

Mercy conveys a sense of LOVE and KINDNESS that’s not expected.  It’s doing acts of kindness to others out of love.  Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, it was the one considered least likely to offer help who did so.  Or the story of the woman caught in adultery that teaches compassionate mercy scarcely revealed in Old Testament law.  Or the dying thief on a cross who believes.

It’s a way of life that reflects the LOVE of God for us.  It is taking on and living out Godly nature.

WALKING HUMBLY WITH GOD –

I love this quote I came across in my study this week:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s just thinking of yourself less.” 

by Kris V.

HUMILITY is a theme of the entire Bible.  But God gives a ‘greater’ grace.  Therefore it says in James 4:6,  “But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

And in Zephaniah 2:3,  Seek the Lord [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire form them, require them as vital].  It may be you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.  (AMP)

Have this attitude within yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, He didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

We Walk (in the Spirit), HUMBLY when we come to Him in prayer.

I love the prayer that goes, “Dear Lord, so far today I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, not cursed, lost my temper, and been greedy, nasty or self-indulgent.  However, I am about to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.”

To WALK HUMBLY with God is to “live carefully” to acknowledge that we don’t have it altogether, so we go to God for help.

1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”

To sum it all up, it’s not all about giving “things” to God.

More than “things,” God requires us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him.  We can give all kinds of gifts to our church, but God is interested in the QUALITY of our lives.

We need to reconsider the way we are living our daily lives.

We need to first acknowledge our sins and then be willing to submit to God’s Mercy.  It’s only through a humbling of ourselves that we will be allowed to walk with God.

The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly) giving Him glory for it.

May the LORD enable us through Christ Jesus Who is our strength to live according to His Word.

AMEN

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Ols and New Testament Words.

Commentary:  Sermon Central – Micah 6:1-8 [various contributors].

Photo/Images:  Google Image Source.

Bible Translations:   New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible (AMP), New Living Translation (NLT).

 

“Prophesy,” “Preaching,” OR… Just “Tittle-Tattle”?

Scripture Study:  Micah 2:1-12 

*NOTE: You will need to read these 12 verses before diving into the context of this study.

To “tittle-tattle” or not to “tittle-tattle”, that’s the question.

Let’s face it, the word “tittle-tattle” seems over the years lost its meaning and use.  I haven’t heard the term used in years!  So I think it’s a good thing to inform my readers about the meaning and the reason I have connected it to our scripture study.

“tittle-tattle” or to “prattle”:  “If you say someone ‘prattle on about’ something, you are criticizing them because they are talking a lot without saying anything important.”  [Collins English Dictionary]  Synonym: Iddle babble.

In this Old Testament reading in the Book of Micah, we can readily categorize the message into two major parts.

The prophet Micah’s Warning:

  1. Covetous Materialism, and…
  2.  Idle Prattle.

“Covetous Materials” – Wanting to have the most and the best!

We see and hear a lot of this, don’t we?  “Keeping up with the Jone’s,” is still prevalent today, even in our churches.  Always driving a fancy car, dressed in the finest, even casual wear will be the ‘good stuff.’  Is it because of the quality, or is it to be viewed with envy?

Micah’s Second Warning, “Prattle”

Most of you probably haven’t heard this word or ever used it in a conversation.  I’m dating myself, but I haven’t heard the term “tittle-tattle” since my grade school days.  It means idle, silly, almost meaningless talk.  We all are probably quilty prattling from time to time and spouting off on one thing or another only to dominate a conversation to be the center of attention not to share anything meaningful.  It reminds me of a scene out of the 1987 movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie with much pathos, where Steve Martin’s character is reminding John Candy’s character of “meaningless talk.”

When God brought His people, the Israelites out of slavery to the Egyptians to the land of “milk and honey”. His plan was to give everyone special opportunities to prosper and live in peaceful concordance.

BUT, there are always a few that want more.

The Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:8-12)

The shrewdly found ways to amass fortunes on the backs of these pilgrims.  We’ve got to understand that God had laid out this plan for His people.

So as to guard against land barons, slum lords and a quasi-type of enslavement, a type of “sharecropping” or “owing to the company store”, the practice of Jubilee Year was set up.

I could spend a lot of time here on “The Jubilee”.  The year of Jubilee rolled around every fifty years.

  1. ALL DEBTS were canceled;
  2. ALL LIENS were deemed null and void;
  3. Properties held by owners were returned to the original owner.

In other words, ALL indebtedness was erased, and everyone got a “do-over”.

If only that was a modern-day practice, there would be a great number of very happy folks, I included!

There is a significance for today’s Christian in understanding the Jubilee, and here’s why:

Romans 5:6-11

John 6:28-29 (AMP)

[28]  They then said, “What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God?  [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?]

[29]  Jesus replied, “This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].

Our INDEBTEDNESS is paid in full…

Rescued from slavery (to sin) in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are some that have sold themselves into slavery by worshipping materialism over God.

As to the reference of “tittle-tattle”, there are two ways to view this.

FALSE PROPHECY – false prophets will claim what they declare as facts as from God.  It becomes our responsibility to test the prophecy that we hear against Scripture which is our only means of assurance of the TRUTH.

Micah 2:6 (AMP)

“Do not preach, say the prophesying false prophets, one should not babble and harp on such things; disgrace will not overtake 8s [the reviling has no end].”

It’s so easy to listen to any speakers sharing philosophical points or opinions and know right off that his/her purpose is drawing attention to himself/herself rather than for the good of the gospel.  It can’t be said enough, “guard the gospel truth.”

The second form of “tittle-tattle” within the church is that of “tickling ears”.

Micah 2:11 and 2 Timothy 4:3

AND…

If the church service is more about entertainment and less about the gospel, a huge WARNING SIGN emerges.

We all love good “Praise and Worship” music on Sunday’s and it can be a very good form of worship.

However, CHURCH is the place for corporate prayer, confession of sins, and sharing God’s Word.  And this practice isn’t for just monthly Communion services.

Outside of the church, we need to refrain from inane and meaningless and harmful conversations.  God has a whole lot to say about that.

Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV)

[36]  “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  [37]  For by your words you will be acquited, and by your words, you will be condemned.”

Ephesians 5:4 (AMP)

Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people).

Colossians 3:8 (NIV)

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Proverbs 10:13-14 (NIV)

[13]  Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

[14]  The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

These passages are but just a few among the great passages of Scripture on this subject.  If it wasn’t important, then there wouldn’t be so many teachings and warning for the Church to observe.

I would invite you to conduct your own private study.  The WWW (world wide web) offers countless resources.  Just be wary unless the sources are reputable, and the information is verifiable.

So What Are We Coming Away With From Micah?

NUMBER 1.  Guard that mouth and the words that flow from it.  Avoid lies, gossip, vulgar, vain, profane, ungodly talk.

Communication is a two-way process.  The good practice is to walk away before listening to those types of conversation.  There is plenty of wholesome clean humor and entertainment available without being a part of any that isn’t acceptable to God!

NUMBER 2.  We really do need to guard against covetous materialism.

Notice that I said “WE”.  There’s nothing wrong with having nice things IF we don’t flaunt them (Facebook, included) or acquire them by taking advantage of any less fortunate than ourselves.

Ask yourself exactly what you would do with the money, won in the lottery.  Sure, you would be very generous with helping others, reaching out to the poor, the less fortunate.  I truly believe that…But what I’m asking is, what will you spend on yourself, and why?

The “WHY” here is more important than the “WHAT!”

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Bible Hub – Micah 2:6; Studylight.org – Micah 2:11

Dictionary:  Collins English Dictionary.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Bible translations used in photos taken from other translations from the text and noted.

Video:  Youtube – Planes, Trains, And Automobiles – Chatty Cathy Scene.