JUDGMENT is Good! (Part One in Series)

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH

Scripture:  Micah 1:1-9; 1 Peter 4:17-18

Micah 1:1 (NIV)

[1]  The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah– the vision saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

The word here translated as “came” speaks of the Word ‘happening’ to Micah.  It was a ‘happening’–as unplanned and spontaneous.  It was a revelation!

Has that ever happened to you?  God speaks to you and a revelation occurs.

A PERSONAL ‘God-moment’ STORY:

Several years ago, the pastor at a church I was attending called me and asked if I could write a play, a skit, for the upcoming Easter season.  I tried to explain to him that my experience in stage productions was acting in a limited fashion, but writing a play?  His reply, “Do the best that you can,” and hung up the phone.

So for the next three days, I fervently prayed for direction and guidance from the Lord but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.  Until one very early morning, around 3 A.M., I felt a hand on my shoulder.  A clear, soft voice said, “Mel, wake up.  I’ve heard your prayers.”  Thinking I was dreaming, I rolled over to my other side.  Again, the hand and the voice,  “Get up and go into the dining room with paper and pen.  I have heard your prayer.”  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I put my feet on the floor and quietly proceeded to the God designated room with paper and pen and sat down at the table in obedience.   Was all this a dream, was this really happening?  Time passed by quickly and at 6:30 A.M., “Mercy On Trial”, a three-act play on Christ’s death sentence, death, burial, and resurrection was written down in a draft.  Also, a clear picture that I could sketch on paper for the set design, costumes, and props.

What was absent to my dismay was a script.!  “What now, Lord?” asking out loud.

Silence.

And then a thought was placed in my spirit.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a major in communication and theater. Thank You, Lord.

I called her later that morning with my vision, God’s creation with directions and asked her if she could write God’s play with a script?  Her answer:   “How can I refuse?  When do you need it?”  ”

Would next week be too soon?” I asked sheepishly.  She giggled and answered,  “I’ll try.”   One month later after casting, set building, costuming, “Mercy On Trial” was performed for the first time on Easter morning.

Not everyone thinks in tidy terms, nor in a form of Systematic Theology that’s suppose to bring the orderliness to the Bible.  [*See https://www.theopedia.com/systematic-theology]

Micah not only had the Word of God “come” or “happen,” to him; it was the Word of God “which he saw.”

It’s not just that he heard God’s voice, but he was enabled to see into God’s mind.

The origin of the word describes the impact of pictorial thinking.  What Micah has now experienced and visualized, he now must translate into words to convey God’s message to man.

Micah’s prophecies began during the reign of three successive kings of Judah.

So in seven short chapters, we can see a summary of some fifty years of ministry.  I’d call that a ‘study in brevity’!

Micah’s prophecy concerned Samaria and Jerusalem, two capital cities in divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  However, Micah isn’t limited to time and space.  God’s Word never is.

The prophet goes on to address ALL people on the whole earth (verse 2).

[2]  “Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the SOVEREIGN LORD may bear witness against you, the LORD from His holy temple.”

According to 1 Peter 4:17-18, Micah seems to say that if the LORD deals with His own people, what shall the end of those be who oppress them!

Who does God call as the witness against the peoples?

He calls Himself, even the LORD from His holy temple (Micah 1:2-3).

He comes out of His place in heaven, from His holy temple, and treads upon the earth–the towering places of the earth where idolatry is widespread.

What is Idolatry?  Is it something that was just practiced in the Old Testament of the Bible?

“Idolatry” is “anything that is placed before or above the One, True God” [Footnote [i].]

Martin Luther is right; our hearts are idol factories, mine included.

At the time of Micah’s writing, the Assyrian armies were on the march.  As the instruments of God’s judgment, the whole earth shook before them.

Samaria would surely fall, her idols would be beaten to pieces.  The enemy reached even to the gates of Jerusalem, which the prophet vividly described to Judah’s high place.

The Reality of God’s Judgment.

God’s judgment on the world can be comparable to the verdict of a judge in a courtroom.  God’s universal position entitles Him to act as JUDGE.  And when God acts as JUDGE, it takes powerful and decisive actions (verse 4) –

Micah 1:4 (AMP):  And the mountains shall melt under Him and the valleys shall be cleft like wax before the fire like waters poured down a steep place.

These images portray God who comes to judge His people at His command ALL the powers of the universe.  From the beginning of Israel as a nation, God demanded absolute obedience to Him.  He prohibited allegiance to idols (Exodus 20:3).  Even in a casual reading of Samaria’s history, it discloses allegiance to idols.

Israel kept some idols of Canaan and they also utilized some of the idols of their foreign neighbors.  The LORD wouldn’t tolerate rivals; He responded in judgment.

IDOLATRY IS NOT OUTDATED!

It doesn’t belong to the superstition of ancient people.  Anything…and I mean anything that takes the place of God is an idol and the cause of God’s judgment of sin (verse 5).

[5]  All this is because of the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel.  What is the transgression of Jacob?  Is it not [the idol worship of] Samaria?  And what are the high places [of idolatry] in Judah?  Are they not Jerusalem?  (AMP)

God’s people had committed sins against the LORD.

Micah didn’t name the specifics; he simply accused both Israel and Judah of offending God.  They deliberately rebelled against the LORD and failed to live up to His expectations.  Failing to attain God’s goal and plan for their lives made the people liable to the prosecuting action of the Judge.

God’s judgment isn’t simply an outburst of rage; one that we sometimes display as parents when our children are disobedient and rebellious.  God’s judgment is a settled disposition that resolves the issue of rebellion.  When we rebel and choose to go our own way, we can expect judgment from the LORD.

Learning from the Tragic Effects of Judgment (verses 6-7)

God’s judgment brings destruction

Micah referred to the destruction of the impressive city of Samaria in verse 6:  “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble”

This impressive city, the reputation for its beauty and military strength, became nothing more than a hill.  The city wall toppled.  Future generations used the site to plant vineyards.

Human beings must beware of what they call security.

Feeling secure in wealth and military might lead to destruction.  Armies can be bested and cities can be destroyed.

God’s JUDGMENT can bring disappointment

The Israelites gave their allegiance to the idols of the day, and the idols were destroyed by the Assyrians.  They then had no place to turn.  They were not only defenseless but bitterly disappointed in their so-called gods.

God’s great grief in His judgment (v.v. 8-9)

God discloses His aching in judgment in verse 8:

“Therefore I [Micah] will lament and wail; I will go stripped and [virtually] naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a lamentation like the ostriches.”  [AMP]

God’s is portrayed by Micah as one distraught with grief by vivid pictures such as jackals howling and ostriches crying in the night to illustrate intense grief.  Micah draws back the veil that allows us to see God’s great grief over sin.

God discloses His sadness over one person’s failure and to learn from another person’s mistake.  (v. 9)

“For [Samaria’s] wounds are incurable and they come even to Judah; He [the Lord] has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.”  [AMP]

Not only was God hurt over Samaria’s failure, but He was also sad that Judah failed to learn from their neighbor’s mistake.

JUDGMENT WAS ABOUT TO COME!

Jerusalem was to face the consequences of judgment in the same way as Samaria.

God’s people stand at a unique place and time in history.  We possess the story of former generations.  The lesson is obvious; we ought to learn from the errors of their ways.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  “What Does dolatry Mean?” by Jack Wellman, The Christian Crier.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, Settings advanced.

Youtube:  Law & Order theme music from television.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), or where noted.

Vine”s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine and Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

Christmas In October, Really?

Scripture Study – NUMBERS 24:17

Okay, it may be a bit early for a blog-POST about A “STAR” at Christmas, especially since I’ve been reading and studying in the Book of Numbers in the OT of the Bible.  I don’t believe in ‘happenstance,’ so before venturing down a dead-end road I prayed and asked God for some answers to the timing of this POST.  Why had God’s Spirit given me this particular verse at this particular time?

Here is how He answered my questions:

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV Bible)

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

So after meditating on God’s answer from His Word, I began to consider our Saviors birth and the details knowing that Jesus’ birth is amazing at any time of the year and not just during the Christmas holidays.

CONSIDERING THE DETAILS OF JESUS’ BIRTH…

Would we have planned it that way?  None of us would choose to lay our newborn in a trough where animals had fed.  I wouldn’t have.

BUT THAT WAS GOD’S WAY FOR HIS SON!

Maybe we would have thought, “Yea!  Let’s send some angels!”

Would we have sent them to no-name shepherds, out in the country where no one else could see them?  I wouldn’t!

GOD’S WAY IS NOT OUR WAY!!

But God’s Way Does Not Fail!

That’s something for us to take heart to, especially when tragedies in the world recently make us want to cry out,  “Why God, why this way?  It’s too hard for me to understand!”  But His Way doesn’t fail!

With that thought in mind, look closely now at this PROPHESY from NUMBERS 24.  I think you’ve heard this Prophesy many times before and you know how it’s fulfilled in JESUS.

But after looking at the CONTEXT of the verse, God’s Way becomes all the more AMAZING!

His Way Amazes!

This PROPHECY didn’t come about in the usual way.  It wasn’t spoken directly by the LORD when He promised the Savior to Adam and Eve or to Abraham.  The words weren’t unspoken by a BELIEVING PROPHET of Israel–Isaiah or Micah.  It was spoken by someone whom we would call a Sorcerer.  His name was Balaam, son of Beor.

As the story begins, the LORD had brought ISRAEL out of Egypt about 40 years earlier.  And now was the time to enter the Promised Land.

On the east side of the Jordan River, Israel’s armies had defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan.  So when the people of Moab saw this, they became terrified!  Can you imagine over 601,000 combat-ready troops approaching the city where you live?

Then king Balak, son of Zippor took action.  If the Amorites couldn’t stand against Israel, he figured he couldn’t either, so he tried another tactic.  He sent an envoy to Balaam, son of Beor in Pethor.  He wanted to employ Balaam to CURSE Israel.  If they were CURSED, perhaps the outcome of the battle would be to their favor.

That night the LORD told Balaam not to go and he sends the envoy back to king Balak the next day.  But Balak was persistent and sent more princes who were more distinguished and promised Balaam with even greater rewards.

That night the LORD allowed him to go, IF, and only IF, he did exactly what the LORD would tell him.  As Balaam sets out, he apparently had decided in his heart, not to do what the LORD would tell him.  You know, the old crossed fingers behind the back tradition.

The angel of the LORD stood in his way and would have killed him on the spot, except Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and went off the path around him.  Since Balaam couldn’t see the angel, he became angry with his donkey.  Finally, for the third time, there was no room for the donkey to go around and it sat down and Balaam beat the poor animal.

AND THEN THE DONKEY SPOKE:

“Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day?  Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”  (Numbers 22:29 NIV)

And the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, agreeing to speak ONLY what the LORD told him.

Now King Balak readied seven altars with sacrifices in preparation for Balaam to curse Israel.  But instead of a CURSE, Balaam spoke a BLESSING instead since those were the words of the LORD.

King Balak had Balaam try again at another place and again he blessed Israel.

They tried a third time and instead of resorting to SORCERY as he had on previous occasions, Balaam continued to BLESS Israel as the LORD had told him.  By now, King Balak was furious!  But before he left, Balaam spoke some more words with a BLESSING and PROPHECY, including the Text for this BLOG-POST in Numbers 24:17 (NIV) – 

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.  A STAR will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.  He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.”

His Way Brings Hope!

People have looked to the STARS for hope throughout the ages past.  Ancient astrologers tried to predict the future from the Stars.  Modern science looks to the Stars to find new planets, a new hope when the earth is dried up.

Then we have celebrities, movie stars, and people look to them for hope and inspiration.  But how they disappoint!  All those different kinds of STARS are FALSE Hope.

But these words in Numbers 24:17 are spoken from such an unlikely source, these words were spoken almost three and a half millenniums ago, these words are THINGS spoken that don’t disappoint.

For God’s Ways Do Not Fail!

That STAR did come at the right time and was laid in a manger.

 

How many years had passed for God’s way to work out according to His schedule of GRACE, not our schedule of instant gratification.

“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not now”

Numbers 24:17 (NIV).

Almost 1500 years after these words were spoken before THAT STAR came.

But He did come!  The LORD keeps His Word!  And that should bring us all HOPE.  Hope doesn’t disappoint or prove false.

For the LORD keeps His Promises.

In Moments of the Darkness of Sin…what does the Hope of the Star Bring?

How dark the night can be!  But even in pitch-blackness of night, doesn’t even compare to the DARKNESS of Sin… the shroud of DEATH.  And since everyone is born into this DARKNESS [Romans 3:23; 5:12; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5], our natural self-thinks that it’s normal.

But God didn’t make us be creatures of the night; rather, He wants us to be His children of the Light.  Now, this goes against our inherited nature.  We don’t want to be seen by others as naked; our hearts laid bare, our secret sins exposed, our self-imagined goodness.  We cling to artificial lights to make us feel good by our own efforts, running from the TRUE LIGHT.

BUT DARKNESS AND SELF-IMAGINED LIGHT….end in Death and Hell.  NO HOPE, NO JOY.  Only the weeping and gritting (gnashing) of teeth [Matthew 13:42].

BUT LOOK!  A STAR HAS RISEN!

And this STAR shines into the DARKNESS…THE TRUE LIGHT!

This Star has worked a marvelous change in you and me–that worked a NEW BIRTH in us– A REBIRTH!  We who had been born children of darkness, we were reborn:

John 1:13 (The MESSAGE Bible)

“The Life-Light was the real thing.  Every person entering Life, he brings into Light.  He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice.  He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.  But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.  These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.”

SO THIS STAR brings you and me HOPE!

He has shattered the DARKNESS OF SIN, bring the LIGHT of forgiveness.  Thar was God’s Way to save you and me, namely to send His Son into our DARKNESS, so that He took our guilt upon Himself and died in our place as the SACRIFICE for our sin, and so ransomed us with His blood.

How far above our ways!  God’s Way doesn’t fail!

His Way Prevails!

COMFORT comes with this Prophecy when it talks about the SCEPTOR.

God’s Way will not fail, for that STAR who shines into the darkness to SAVE US, is the SCEPTOR.  He, JESUS, is the KING who has redeemed us to be His people.

HE IS YOUR KING…for He ransomed YOU with His blood!

He carries the SCEPTOR, for He has conquered SIN, Satan, and Death for you, risen from the grave in Victory and Glory for you.

He carries the SCEPTOR, for He is the Almighty God and He reigns over all at the Father’s right hand.

I thought about that for a minute.  Think of it when said and done.  When a foreign King. a pagan Sorcerer plotted to undermine God’s plan for His people, the LORD used a dumb donkey to set things right.  GOD’S WAY DOESN’T FAIL!

He even used that pagan sorcerer to speak a wonderful promise of the Savior.  A PROMISE that stirs HOPE in our hearts still today…each and every day of the year.

So whatever you are facing right now, whatever the circumstance you find yourself in, look to the STAR in the manger. see His Scepter, follow Him in HOPE!

“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Amen.

Philippians 4:7

 

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You might enjoy this Music Video at the end of this Blog-Post from YouTube:  A STAR IS BORN!  “Mary Did You Know?”

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CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), unless stated in the text.

Maneuvering Your Way Through the Bumps In Life

PSALM 116:7-8:

[7]  Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

[8]  For You have delivered my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling and falling.

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In 1978-1980, I commuted from home to work every day, over 100 miles each way. To keep me company on the long ride, I would listen to Paul Harvey. a conservative talk show host, true stories he told every morning.  One of my favorites was a lady who went to a local newspaper to report the death of her husband.  She took a glowing four page report to the obituary counter.  Upon seeing it, the counter’s clerk said,  “Ma’am, you should know that it costs $.50 a word to put that in the paper.”  Stunned, the wife took it back and re-wrote it.  It now said “Sam Brown dies.”  The clerk said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s a 7-word minimum.”  The widow took it back and counting on her fingers wrote:  “Sam Brown dies…’88 Ford for sale.”

Somewhere, in between the humorous, quick fix Paul Harvey’s widow and the person today–who for years cannot bring themselves to go on with their life because of GRIEF (a “bump”), believe there’s an equilibrium of emotion that God wants for us.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 (GNT): 

[4]  “He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing.”

The author of PSALM 116 went through the process of GRIEF and was able to find comfort in the process.

GRIEF is a natural response to loss.  It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loses is taken away  [See footnote [i] ].

If you have never experienced the emotion of LOSS before, trust me, someday you will.

Since it is an involuntary emotion, it’s not wrong to express GRIEF, in fact it is normal.

The apostle Paul, a man who experienced loss, wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13,  “Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave]” (Amplified Bible-AMP).

He doesn’t say “don’t grieve,” but in your GRIEF, remember to place your HOPE in God.

PSALM 116, most commentators agree, that it’s a “Psalm of Grief.”  They are not sure of the circumstances but looking at some of the words the psalmist uses…

Vs. 3:   “death was around me”; “I suffered anguish and grief’

Vs. 10:  “I am greatly afflicted.”

So the Psalmist has been grieving, and although we’re not sure of the cause of his mourning, we do know that GRIEF can come in a variety of ways.

The most common GRIEF experienced is from the loss of a loved one.

I believe this is behind the Psalmist’s sorrow.

Vs. 15:  “Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones).”

The loss of a loved one, especially if they are young or the death is sudden, may be the hardest kind of GRIEF to deal with, but it’s not the only source.  The loss of possessions, the loss of health, even the loss of a pet.

Some commentators feel that when the Psalmist says in vs. 3,  “the cords and sorrows of death were around me,” that maybe he was referring to his own health.

A loss of health can certainly cause GRIEF, but it is also not uncommon for a person going through intense GRIEF to have a variance of HEALTH PROBLEMS; insomnia, exhaustion, head aches, anxiety, depression and more.

And GRIEF can come from a loss of RELATIONSHIP too.

Counselors often say that a DIVORCE is tougher to live with than DEATH.  They live with the ever-present loss of the partnership, the loss of companionship, and unfulfilled expectations.

That brings us now, how do we RESPOND to GRIEF.

Since there’s a variety of reasons that we suffer, I wanted to look at how we respond to it.  But as I thought about our responses, I felt the importance of what one trying to HELP the GRIEF STRICKEN should do and not do.

Let’s face it, many have not suffered these kind of losses and it’s crucial that we have some idea how to respond to others when a critical loss happens.

In my Detective investigation of GRIEF, I ran across a survey taken by Bob Russell, a preacher in Louisville, Kentucky, involving people who’ve gone through the GRIEVING PROCESS.

I’m going to borrow and share with you the 10 practical suggestions of the “do’s” & “don’ts” to help us understand how to help someone who’s GRIEVING:

(1)  Don’t avoid the person who MOURNS.

We worry sometimes about “I don’t know what to say.”  “I’ll feel so awkward at the funeral home.”  The worst thing we can do when someone is GRIEVING is to do nothing.

(2)  Don’t think you have to say the “right thing.”

The people in the SURVEY said consistently, the person who helped the most was the close friend who was just there…sitting next tom them, just listening.

(3)  Don’t treat the survivor differently.

For example, if you would have invited the couple to the party, then invite the widow or widower to the party.

(4)  Do understand the GRIEVING PROCESS takes a long time.

BE PATIENT!

(5)  Don’t think it’s necessary to bring it up every time you’re with them.

DON’T say, “How are you REALLY doing?”  DON’T push!

(6)  Do expect their EMOTIONS to fluctuate.

The survivor isn’t always going to feel badly.  Let them be happy, let them be sad, maybe all in a matter of moments.

(7)  Do be willing to reminisce.

Sometimes I think they won’t want to hear something about their love one because it might make them feel bad.

Let them talk about their memories, then you can join in with them by saying “You know one time Frank and I were…” -OR- “I remember how Frank loved to give me a big hug every time we met.”

(8)  Do be personal in your remembrances.

If you know something nice to say, then say it!  “O, your mother was so wonderful to me.”  “Your Dad’s strong faith was such a blessing to me.”

(9)  Do keep your sense of humor.  “A cheerful heart does good like medicine (Proverbs 17:22 LB).

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Vance Havner, a famous preacher, when someone would come up to him after the death of his wife and say,  “Sorry you lost your wife.”  He’d smile and say, “Well, don’t be…after all, somethings not lost if you know its location!  And I know right where to find her!”

But remember, Proverbs 14:13 (AMP) also says:  

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of mirth us heaviness and grief.”

So, even though we should keep a sense of humor, don’t think the laughter means the PAIN is completely over.

(10)  And Do remember, the time you are needed the most, is not immediately.

Oh, you need to be there from the start but so does everyone else.  But 6-8 weeks or 6 months later, when everyone else is gone…that’s when you’re needed most!

KNOW THAT THERE IS HELP WITH GRIEF AVAILABLE WHEN YOU NEED IT!

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FIRST, know that there is HELP from God.

It’s important that those going through GRIEF–the “bumps in the road”–know that the Lord offers some incredible resources to help HEAL.

The Psalmist here mentions several, starting with Vs. 5:  “Our God is merciful (compassionate)”.

You, or someone you know, when going through the GRIEF process, are not alone.

JESUS knows how you feel because He has been where you are.  Read the 6th Chapter of the Gospel of John sometime, where you’ll find the murder of John the Baptist’s murder.  When Jesus finds out the news of his cousin, his friend, his co-worker John, he wanted to get away from people and be by Himself.  He wanted space to GRIEVE.

Hebrews 4:15 says,  “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin”  (MSG).

God knows exactly how you feel and offers His compassion.

Next, God promises protection – Vs. 6:

[6]  “The Lord protects the simple and the children; I was facing death, and then he saved me.”  (TLB)

Allow the LOSS your going through, whatever it is, draw you into a DEEPER dependence on Him.

God promises DELIVERANCE from GRIEF – Vs. 8:

[8]  For You have delivered my life from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling and falling  (AMP).

Now, it’s going to take time to make progress through the journey.  But God is with you every step of the way.  He will DELIVER you!

You’ll have to experience some depression probably, but not total defeat.  I’ve said to my wife many times when hearing about the GRIEF in a church family,  “I don’t know how people go through this without the Lord; without Christian friends.”

That conversation brought me to Peter’s words to mind.

1 Peter 1:5-6 (AMP):

[5]  Being guarded by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.

[6]  [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations.

I love the way The Living Bible (TLB) words Vs. 6:  “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.”

So, there’s God’s promised help in terms of His promises but He also offers help in terms of His people.

You see, God’s greatest PROMISE is heaven, but His greatest help lies in those who have undergone GRIEF and understand how essential He is to getting us through those “bumps in life.”

The apostle Paul tells us in the 1st chapter of 2 Corinthians about how this works:

[3]  “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  [4] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”  (NIV).

“I HAVE TRAVELED DOWN THE SAME ROAD”

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I was reading a little devotional commentary that is true to the Word of God.  Dr. George Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for 50 years, told the following story of a young, unbelieving couple in a sermon.

The young couple, who had just lost their baby, came to Dr. Truett, asking him to conduct the funeral, so he did.

He said later, he had joy of seeing them both come to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Many months later, he said the young mother who had lost her child stepped forward, went to a young girl’s side and said,  “I passed through this and I know what you’re passing through.  God called me and through the darkness I came to Him.  He’s comforted me and He’ll comfort you.”

Dr. Truett said the first mother did more for the second mother than I could have done, maybe in days or months.  For the first young mother had traveled down the same road of GRIEF & SUFFERING  [See footnote [ii] ].

That’s what Paul is talking about in the help of others who are have the same experience in life.

You are never alone in your GRIEF, and know this about our heavenly Father–

“Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones)”  (Psalm 116:15).

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Wikipedia, the Free encyclopedia- the word GRIEF.

Footnote [ii]:  https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/comfort-sometime…th-skin-on-them/

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  The Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Is it really you?”

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I want to begin this blog-POST with a story of a businessman and attorney by the name of H.G. Spafford.  He was a wealthy lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife and four daughters and a son.  He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures [a man after my own heart].

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Ana, suffered a tragic loss of their son.  Shortly thereafter, on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Mr. Spafford had.

In 1873, Horatio scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation and time to recover from the family tragedy.

He also decided to join Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England.  So he sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago, taking care of some unexpected last-minute business.

Several days later he received notice that his family’s boat had encountered a collision.  The note read, “SAVED ALONE.”  All four of his daughters drowned, only his wife had survived.

The H.G. Spafford’s story, I believe, parallels the story in Scripture; the story of NAOMI found in the Book of Ruth.

Naomi was a pleasant woman.  In fact, that was the meaning of her name.

She was well-loved, and a woman who other women admired.  She was well-known in her community, and recognizable by her cheerful attitude.

But a FAMINE came upon the land.

Her husband, feeling the responsibility for his family’s welfare, decided to uproot them and move them to a more prosperous location instead of depending on God to see them through.

Sometimes, we husband’s have found ourselves in a “FAMINE” of a different sort. A reduction  in income, an unexpected loss of employment [been there] and we decide to figure it all out by ourselves!  [done that before!]

So Naomi said her goodbyes to her BFF’s (best friends forever) and, along with her 2 sons, did what wives do today [my wife can testify to this], followed her husband to a far and distant land [In my case, from San Diego, California to the State of Washington.]  In this case, it was Moab.

Wives, have you ever found yourselves in a MOAB destination?  Well, maybe not Moab.

Her husband’s choice of location was not soundly made.www-St-Takla-org--Bible-Slides-ruth-687  

MOAB was a land settled by the descendants of Lot.  Although relatives of Abraham, they were not part of the “promised people” of God, the Israelites.

Moab was to be placed under a CURSE for their idol worship.

Isaiah 25:10 Amplified Bible (AMP):

For the hand of the Lord shall rest on this Mount [Zion], and Moab shall be threshed and trodden down in his place as straw is trodden down in the [filthy] water of a [primitive] cesspit.

Elimelech had left the land of BLESSING for the land that would be trampled on.

After some time there, he died and Naomi was left with her 2 sons and later, married Moabite women, which was not acceptable to God.

Deuteronomy 23:3 (AMP):

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation their descendants shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord forever.

After 10 years both her sons died, leaving her with 2 daughter-in-laws.  She must have felt alone.

Then the GOOD NEWS reached Naomi–the FAMINE had ended!

So, Naomi and her 2 daughter-in-laws packed to leave and to return to her homeland.  But as they traveled toward Judah (some 40-50 miles), she decided to send them back.  She thanked them for their loving kindness, she blessed them, she kissed them goodbye, and she wept with them.

At first, they both refused, but after some sound discussion…she convinced one to leave.  The other clung tightly to her.  This one was RUTH.

When Naomi saw Ruth’s determination she allowed her to go.

The Homecoming!

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I love Homecomings;  School Homecomings, Family Homecomings, past-attended Churches’ Homecomings!

Ruth 1:19-20 The Message (MSG):

[19] When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was soon buzzing: “Is this really our Naomi? And after all this time!”

[20] But she said, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter. The Strong One has dealt me a bitter blow.”

I find it somewhat interesting in this story that the entire town is excited about Naomi’s return.  It had been more than 10 years since she left, but that pleasant, cheerful, smiling woman was not forgotten.

Now here she is and they can’t believe it.  “Is it really you?”

But maybe they ask because there’s something different about her.  Maybe the smile has been replaced with a frown.  Maybe they sense a coldness in her they have never seen before.  The circumstances and the years have changed her–she has become “bitter.”

What lead her to this noticeable place of bitterness?  At certain times in our lives, how can we arrive at the same destination?

Personally, and unfortunately at times, I have found myself alone on the Island of Bitterness.

The symptoms may not be obvious at first, but they are there.  Withdrawing from those around you.  Becoming indifferent to the problems of others.  Thinking of only yourself.

Naomi only concentrated on her loss.  She gave no thought to Ruth who had loss of her husband to death with no children to comfort her.

Naomi blamed God for the acts of her husband.

She in her faithfulness, followed her husband to a foreign land:  “God made me bitter.  God brought me home empty.  God caused me to suffer.  God has sent tragedy on me.”  (v. 21)

But it wasn’t God who sent her to a land where she would lose everything, where she would suffer, where tragedy would strike.  It was the CIRCUMSTANCES of Life that did so.  What she didn’t give credence to was her statement she made,  “but the LORD has brought me home.”

God’s GRACE in our lives is such a blessing in the midst of our CIRCUMSTANCES.

Jesus’ half-brother James writes “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations”  (James 1:2 AMP).   

Note, he doesn’t say be “wholly joyful FOR, but “wholly joyful IN” your circumstances.  That’s God’s GRACE at work in your life through your spirit.

Jesus said “In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]!  For I have overcome the world…”  (John 16:33).

Through His GRACE He has given us the COMFORT OF KNOWING in all trials and sorrows that we will become VICTORS.

God protected Naomi by giving her a loving companion in the form of RUTH.  But in her bitterness she rejected His GRACE.

In doing so, she also rejected His PEACE.  She couldn’t see beyond her BITTERNESS to the possibilities of God’s plan for her life.

During my detective investigation into God’s word, I couldn’t help think of the words of Job in Scripture:

“Whereas another man dies in bitterness of soul and never tastes of pleasure or good fortune”  (Job 21:25).

BITTERNESS erases all the good times that you had in your life.  

NAOMI had forgotten her friends’ loyalty and love, although, they in turn had clung to those wonderful memories of past years that God had so richly BLESSED.

She couldn’t remember the dedication of a daughter-in-law that wouldn’t let her suffer alone.  All she focused on was her “bitter poverty.”

Naomi could have been siting and questioning God right alongside of Job when he said  “I AM weary of my life and loathe it!  I will give free expression to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul”  (Job 10:1).

She wasn’t REJOICING in her returning home.  

Others were happy to see her, but she was disgusted with her life and felt like it was her duty to COMPLAIN.

Did you know that God is in the name changing business?  That’s what “Whitestone” ministry is founded on– “helping others discover their victory and true identity in Jesus”.

God changed ABRAM (high father) to ABRAHAM (the father of many nations).  He changed JACOB (the deceiver) to ISRAEL (God contended) and SIMON (God heard) to PETER (rock).

But here, we find a person changing who God has called them to be, to a name reflecting their own self-pity; from”pleasant” to “bitter”.

H. G. Spafford could have gone down the path of bitterness.

He could have been bitter in losing his wealth and his daughters.  He could have tried to get even with the owners of the French steamer by filing a lawsuit.  He could have got mad at God and shook his fist at Him in defiance and all of the above, together!

Instead, at the very place where he lost his daughters on the open sea, Mr. Spafford wrote a song.  The words are as follows:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way;

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot,  Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul.

It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL
IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

 

 


CREDITS:

H. G. Spafford Story:  Share faith – It Is Well With My Soul, the Song and the Story.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

Commentary:  Jesus plus nothing,  A Bible Study:  Book of Ruth Chapter 1 “Counting the Cost{” by I. Gordon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What GOD Thinks About War

Scripture Deuteronomy 20:1-20; Ecclesiastes 3:8

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Google Images

Ecclesiastes 3:1; 8 Amplified bible (AMP):

[1] TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven;  [8] A time to love and a time to hate, A TIME FOR WAR and A TIME FOR PEACE .

Many Christians today are saying that there are no circumstances under which we should go to war–or using the current vernacular: “Boots on the ground”.

As a church, and we who trust in God, are the CHURCH, need to understand when that time is and what God says about this issue.

There are many opinions about this subject.  We live in a time of moral relativism; where we hear in public or in private, “I think what I think and you think what you think.”  

So I don’t want to write about my opinion of WAR–

I just want us together, to go to the Bible and find out what God has to say about this subject.  Afterall, His opinion is the only one that really counts.

FIRST OF ALL, GOD DOESN’T LOVE WAR!!  God is not hungry for war.  That’s NOT the God of the Bible.

In some RELIGIONS, you have a god, little “g”, or gods that are WAR LOVERS, but you don’t find that in the Bible.  Look at the lyrics (words) to the Psalm (song) in…

PSALM 68 (NLT):

[30] “Rebuke these enemy nations–these wild animals lurking in the weeds, this herd of bulls among the weaker calves,  Make them bring bars of silver in humble tribute. Scatter the nations that delight in war.”

This says that there are some nations that enjoy WAR.  God says He will punish these nations.

We need to clearly understand that WAR is NOT a good thing.  WAR is simply the result of our own fallen, sinful nature.  At the very ROOT of the way SIN is.

Even though God doesn’t love WAR, we also find in the Bible that God sometimes Commands WAR:  1 Samuel 15:1-9

Verses 1-3:

[1] SAMUEL TOLD Saul,  The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people Israel. Now listen and heed the words of the Lord.  [2] Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I have considered and will punish what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way when [Israel] came out of Egypt.  [3] Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling ox and sheep, camel and donkeys”  (AMP).

So WAR is sometimes necessary.  Why would God COMMAND His people to go to WAR?

Because, there will not be PEACE without WAR!

In his book Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes:

“There use to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day.  Since I was smaller, I would give it to him.  Then I decided to fight back.  I started taking karate lessons.  But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson.  So I just went back to paying the bully.”

Too many people feel it easier just to pay the bully than it is to LEARN how to defeat him.  

In America’s current situation in the world, we can’t afford to pay the bully. We must defeat them!

Sure, it’s easier to just pay the bully’s, but standing for what is right is more important than a life of PEACE & COMFORT.

I also found in my investigation into God’s Word, that God STRENGTHENS HIS PEOPLE for War:  Leviticus 26:7-8 (AMP)

[7]  And you shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.

[8]  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

In time of WAR, we don’t have to RELY on our own strength and determination, but we understand that God is on the side of the RIGHTEOUS.

When we STAND together as a nation, as people, for God–I know by the POWER of His Word, He will stand for us.

We see in the Bible that God approves of WAR also because…

He TRAINS His people for WAR.  He is the One who prepared His people for the battle.

2 Samuel 22:35 (NLT):

(God) trains my hand for battle, my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

Whenever God calls you to do something, whatever it is, you can be sure that He will give you all you need to accomplish it.

And when He sent His people to WAR, where was He?  Does He just stay behind?  Does He wait for the soldier to return?

NO!

God involves Himself in War.  He goes with the ARMY!

Deuteronomy 1:30 (AMP):

The Lord your God Who goes before you.  He will fight for you just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.”

GOD WILL WIN THE WAR!

Proverbs 21:31 (NIV):

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.”

God has NEVER come in second place.  He is the clear winner of every Battle; God is always the Victor!

And He says, when we do our best and prepare for the worst from the enemy, we can TRUST GOD to bring the victory.  He will WIN THE CONFLICT!!

God doesn’t want us to enter a battle…a WAR blindly.  God gives us His rules, HisGods-Blueprint Blueprint of engagement ahead of time.

There is a RIGHT and a WRONG time for WAR.  

There’s also a RIGHT AND WRONG way to fight a WAR.

God gives very specific instructions which I discovered and listed in Deuteronomy 20.

1.  DON’T BE AFRAID  (Deut. 20:1-4):

(verse 4) –  “For the Lord your God is He Who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to save you.”

Remember, God is with us; there’s no need to FEAR!

2.  ONLY THE BRAVE ARE TO FIGHT  (Deut. 20:5-8):

(verse 8) –  “What man is fearful and fainthearted? Let him return to his house, lest [because of him] his brethren’s [minds and] hearts faint as does his own.”  (AMP)

God says that anyone who doesn’t have COURAGE will be a hindrance and a discouragement to other soldiers, so let them go home.

The God says,

3.  GIVE PEACE A CHANCE  (Deut. 20:10-11):

(verse 10)  “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace to it.”

The people of a city that surrendered not to be harmed, would become subject to Israel.  In WAR THEORY, this is known as the LAST RESORT.

You should go to WAR only as a “last resort.” 

See if there is anything else you can do, diplomacy or economic pressure or anything else.  And certainly, with America and their allies’ current circumstances, it seems we have tried every means available including “red lines” and it hasn’t made a difference.

4.  DON’T DESTROY THE LAND IN A RAGE OF BATTLE  (Deut. 20:19-20):

[19] When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by using an ax on them, for you can eat their fruit; you must not cut them down, for is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?

[20] Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siege works against the city that makes war with you until it falls.

I meditated on the words of these two verses for some time.  “Axes”, “fruit trees”, “siege works”…  I asked myself,

“What other country wins a war and goes back in and spends millions of dollars rebuilding that country and helping them back on their feet?”

That is the kind of country I live in, that sees every person as valuable with a potential to repent and live in a peaceful future.

And then fifth, and this is the one that most people have trouble with if they don’t surrender:

5.  DON’T ALLOW THEM TO CONTINUE LIVING (Deut. 20:16-17):

[16] But in the cities of these people which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes.  [17] But you shall utterly exterminate them…as the Lord your God has commanded you,

Did you ever hear your mom, or someone else’s parent say, “I brought you into the world, and I can take you out of it.”  That is true of God:  He brought us in and He can take us out.  He is the CREATOR of ALL LIFE.

LIFE is a GIFT…but SIN is serious business.  We need to understand the seriousness of SIN.

The simple fact is, none of us deserve the LIFE we are living or the next breath we are breathing.  But because of God’s GRACE…He gives us LIFE!

The NATIONS were so corrupted by paganism and immorality that they DESERVED God’s punishment, like Sodom and Gomorrah.  But God was using His people, instead of FIRE from heaven.

Also, complete destruction was the order of the day.  They were to be totally wiped out,

Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God”  (Deut. 20:18 – NIV bible).

And once again, TIME WOULD TELL that God knew just what He was talking about.

ISRAEL didn’t completely DESTROY the citizens of Canaan.  And generation after generation were led into IDOLATRY and away from God by the people Israel allowed to survive.

This was true of the Nazis during the World War II era.  When people think about the HOLOCAUST, they think only about the crimes against JEWS, but they were also looking to eliminate CHRISTIANITY.

I am seeing similarities facing us today if we allow EVIL to go unchallenged.

We’ll see our children and their children in chains and wondering why we didn’t stand up for righteousness and truth in the face of evil.  That’s NOT God’s will for America.

God wants to continue to use us, as He has in years past, to SHARE the Gospel with our world.  Those who would destroy us, hate us because they HATE OUR GOD–they reject Jesus and they want to wipe CHRISTIANITY off the face of this earth.

But today, God is CALLING US to stand up to this evil.  So as Christians, how then should we respond to WAR?

First, and foremost, TRUST in God.

During these times, when FEAR of terrorism runs rampant, we need not panic, but instead…put our CONFIDENCE in God:

“The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest”  (Exodus 14:14).

Secondly, and this concept may be hard to grasp, is to SUBMIT to the government.

The Bible tells us in Romans (13:1-5), that God puts the government in place to PROTECT the people.

As Christians, we are to SUBMIT to the AUTHORITY of the government.  

Now that said, we need to understand that we are to obey the government unless…it is in clear violation of the Word of God.  Our allegiance is first to God!  

There may be times when we have to OBEY GOD rather than our government, but only if it is clear and direct violation of God’s word!

Third, the POWER released when we PRAY.

I find it difficult to pray for our government leaders.  There, I said it!  But we need to PRAY more than ever before.

PRAY for those in the military and their families.  And yes, PRAY for our leaders as well. Our feelings shouldn’t determine the extent of our prayer lives:

Psalm 112:8 says, “His heart is established and steady, he will not be afraid while he waits to see his desire established upon his adversaries.”

And fourth, we should look forward to the day when WARS will end!

Micah 4:1-3 (NIV Bible):

dreamstime_xs_15945369[1] IN THE last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

[2] Many nations will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of God of Jacob.  He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  [3] He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  [4] Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. 

There will come a day, when there will be NO MORE WAR, NO MORE BLOODSHED.

Not in this lifetime, but in eternity.  That is our HOPE as Christians; a hope of expectancy…with an outstretched neck.

GOD says that the price we pay for our SIN is death.  DEATH is separation from God.  And when we SIN, what we are saying to God is, “No thanks, I can do it my way.”  And that puts us at WAR with Him.

In Romans 3:23, God says that every one of us has sinned.  

When God JUDGES our sin, it gives us the taste of life without Him–a world full of DEATH, SUFFERING and WAR.

But you can experience PEACE in your life today.  That PEACE comes from a relationship with JESUS.

Put an end to THE WAR in your life by trusting in JESUS today!

 


CREDITS:

Photo Credits:  Google Images

Bible Translations used:  Amplified(AMP), except where noted.

Study Notes: Online Bible Study Guide:  Deuteronomy 20:1-20.

 

“Do You Hear What I hear?”

THE “FOUR VOICES” OF ISAIAH REVEALED IN STUDY

Scripture Study:  ISAIAH 40:1-11

VOICE #1,  “Comfort God’s People” – (40:1, 2).

“COMFORT, COMFORT my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  [New International Version, NIV].

God Loves to Comfort His People!

Follow along with how the apostle Paul refers to God in 2 Corinthians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…(and here is the description) “the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [who is the Source] of every COMFORT.”

And this isn’t the only place in the bible where we find God described as a COMFORTER…

PSALM 23, the psalmist says of God the Good Shepherd,  “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I COMFORT you; you should be COMFORTED in Jerusalem.”  (Isaiah 66:13)

So God does love to COMFORT His people.

And…He is a great source of comfort…BUT…God recognizes we need someone with skin on them too!

"Sometimes we need someone with skin on them"
“Sometimes we need someone with skin on them”

A Mother’s Words of Comfort (See Footnote [i]):

Dr. George W. Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas for 50 years, told a story of a young, unbelieving couple in a sermon.

The young couple, who had lost their baby, came to Dr. Truett, asking him to conduct the funeral, so he did.  He said later, he had such joy of seeing them both trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many months later, he said the young mother who had lost her child stepped forward, went to a young girl’s side and said, “I passed through this and I know what you’re passing through.  God called me, and through the darkness I came to Him.  He’s comforted me, and He’ll comfort you.”

God recognizes that just like that young girl in the story, sometimes we need someone in the FLESH to come and sit with us, hold our hand and listen to our heartache.

In the first verse of the text, God says,  “Comfort, Comfort My People…”

This command [“comfort” spoken in succession] is of God to comfort His people is directed not only to Isaiah, but to ALL of God’s prophets.

BUT before COMFORT can come…SIN was dealt with–that God calls His prophet to comfort.

The first 39 Chapters of Isaiah…

God doesn’t call Isaiah to “comfort” His people.  It’s only after “their” sin has been absolved that He can send the prophet Isaiah with words of COMFORT.

So in reading Chapters 40-66 of Isaiah, the words will show TRUE COMFORT consists (not in telling people what their ‘itchy’ ears want to hear), BUT in presenting the whole truth concerning their tragic condition.  AND…in causing them to SEE GOD as their only HOPE.

It is only when reality and ugliness of SIN raises its head that the announcement of DELIVERANCE can be made.

There’s A Prerequisite for COMFORT…

Apart from the Declaration of Judgment found in Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah, the WORDS OF COMFORT in 40-66 are without much point.

The prerequisite for comfort seen here in Isaiah is much the same as JESUS taught on the Sermon On The Mount–(Matthew Chapter 5).

He too talked about people being “comforted”–But before they could be comforted, JESUS SAID, they must be “poor in spirit” and acknowledge their absolute dependence upon God–and then they mustmourn” over their sin and hopeless condition…

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be

COMFORTED”

VOICE #2 – “PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD” – Isaiah 40:3-5

[3] “A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places made plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

Pope Francis was visiting the USA this past week, and as I watch all the proceedings on TV, I thought what preparations must have been made ahead of time for his arrival.

Isaiah here, pictures the scene played out by the Royal Road Builders–smoothing the way for their King, working diligently, removing barriers and obstacles in order to make the King’s journey somewhat easier.

The PROPHECY…

Though all the prophets had a part in preparing the way for JESUS’ entry into the world–this PROPHECY ultimately was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist.

Three of the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke quote this verse from Isaiah and apply it to the Baptizer.

JOHN the Baptist Prepared the Way…

john-the-baptist2

John prepared the way by shouting out in the wilderness that the only way to get right with God–was to REPENT and be IMMERSED in baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

John also helped prepare the way by grooming some of JESUS’ first disciples – Peter, John, Andrew, and James.

Once John prepared the way–removed the obstacles–showed the futility of religious ritual–preached repentance–

Once John did this, then…the GLORY of the LORD was revealed.  John the Baptist prepared the way “FOR” (“I AM the way, the Truth, and the Light”)…

We still got some “PREPARING” to do today!

Is there now no more PREPARING for the Lord–since John the Baptist, clothed in camel’s-hair, eating wild locust, shouted in the wilderness?

In a way, YES.  But, in the way, NO.

YES, there is no preparing in the sense of preparing for the Lord’s earthly arrival.  JESUS has already come in the flesh.  John the Baptist prepared the way.

But in another sense, this PRINCIPLE still applies today.

The LORD still wants to REVEAL Himself in Glory to His church.  

But, before He can do this, there are OBSTACLES that must be removed; BARRIERS that must be torn down and ROUGH PLACES that must be made smooth again…So that JESUS can arrive and be EXALTED–LIFTED UP!

TODAY’S BARRIERS, OBSTACLES, AND ROUGH PLACES REVEALED: What has to be removed before the LORD’S GLORY shows up!

Making The Way Smooth…

Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave

What are we in the CHURCH lifting up rather than Christ Jesus?

We are lifting up…

  • Personal Sin,
  • Pride,
  • Prejudice,
  • Indifference,
  • Opinions,
  • Comfort,
  • Convenience,
  • Worldly Pleasures.

In a word, we are lifting up SELF.  If we want to see the Lord’s Glory revealed in His Church, we too must LISTEN to the voice of God and prepare the way…there is way too much talking and not enough listening to God’s Spirit.

We must make a straight path/raise valleys/lower mountains/level the rough ground and make the rugged places a Plain.

VOICE # 3  Is Crying, “Invest in the Eternal” – Isaiah 40:6-8:

[6]  “A voice says, Cry [prophesy]!  And I said, What shall I cry?  [The voice answered,  PROCLAIM:]  All flesh is as frail as grass, and all that makes attractive [its kindness, its goodwill, its mercy from God, its glory and comeliness, however good] is transitory, like the flower of the field.  [7] The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely [all] the people are like grass.  [8] The grass (a) withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

(a.)  The apostle Peter quotes this verse (1 Pet. 1:24-25) and then adds, “and this Word is the good news which was preached to you” –which confirms as fact that Isaiah is here referring to the times of Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One *** (Amplified Bible footnote, Page 1029.).

PETER then goes on to say,

“SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy and jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:1, 2).

Since God’s Word is ETERNAL and everything in this world is NOT–we should rid ourselves the things of the world and crave God’s Word.

Unfortunately, we find that many people more often than not are CRAVING the temporary…craving the things of this world (money, looks, physic, career, pleasure) with passion.

While they pursue God’s Word with casual indifference…“I’ll get God’s Word from my pastor on Sunday.”  God says INVEST in something that will last!

Making Foolish Investments In The Temporary, Ignoring the Eternal…

JESUS addressed this issue in a parableLuke 12:16-21:  “What good is it to gain the world, yet lose your very soul?”

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?  

DO YOU HEAR THE VOICES?

The VOICES are calling God’s people and they’ve been calling for centuries…

  • “Comfort, Comfort My people”
  • “Prepare the way for the Lord”
  • “Invest in the eternal”

And there is one more voice, and the VOICE IS CRYING out to us,

“GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN” – Isaiah 40:9-11:

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[9] You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain, You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”  [10] See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.  [11] He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young  (NIV Bible).

The Announcement of the Presence of God Must Be Proclaimed Far and Wide…

GOD’S PEOPLE are not to be silent; keeping the Good News of the Lord’s arrival to themselves.  We are to go up on a mountain, but not just any mountain.

We are to go on a HIGH MOUNTAIN.  And we are not to just softly speak about the Lord’s presence, we are to SHOUT!  Lift up our VOICE…

We are not to be intimidated but rather to shout…  

Here’s your God!!!  He is powerful and mighty!!!  He is a God who rewards greatly!!!”

The VOICE compels us to “Go Tell It On The Mountain” –

Matthew 5:14-16:

[14] You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  [15] Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  [16] Let you 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.

ISAIAH began the second half of his ministry by hearing the VOICES OF GOD calling him to:

#1.  Comfort My people…

#2.  Prepare the way for the Lord…

#3.  Invest in the eternal…

#4.  Go tell it on the mountain.

And ISAIAH WAS FAITHFUL and answered those VOICES…

And the voices, are they still calling today?

Do you hear the voices?

Will you respond to what you hear?

Or, will you ignore them?


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i] – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/comfort-someti…h-skin-on-them/

Photo Credits- Google Image Search & Photo Pin.

Bible Translation:  The AMPLIFIED BIBLE, except where noted in the text.

Simply Being There In Times Of Pain and Suffering

A FLOOD OF KINDNESS THAT CAN TURN WATERLESS IN DESOLATE TIMES:

Because of ice...
Because of ice…

“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.    My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which vanish,  which are turbid because of ice,  And into which the snow melts,    When they become waterless, they are silent, When it is hot, they vanish from their place.    The paths of their course wind along,  They go up into nothing and perish,    The caravans of Tema looked,  The travelers of Sheba hope for them.    They were disappointed for they had trusted,  They came there and were confounded”   (Job 6:14-20 NAS).

A Dried-up Brook
A Dried-up Brook

 “Now to me you are [like a dried-up brook]; you see my dismay and terror, and [believing me to be a victim of God’s anger] you are afraid  [to sympathize with me]”  (Job 6:21 AMP).

THE BOOK OF JOB:

For the last week or so, I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK OF JOB.  Where else is there a better story in the Bible, to try to “dig” out the truth and to try to understand the “mysteries of  suffering” in comforting friends; how to approach the details of the situation–how much do we need to know, to pray for them effectively, what can we say to them without making everything worse?  All good questions.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have all the answers.  But what I did find in my investigation of God’s Word, the bible, it certainly answered a few of my questions and hopefully answer a few of yours as well.

Job’s Faith, His Friend’s Fears…

Job doesn’t know what the book’s audience knows:

1.  God Himself had praised Job’s righteousness…

2.  Satan had been the one who wanted to strike him down  (Job 1:8-12).

Although, while reading through the story, I find that Job is right, in the sense that GOD has done it (12:9; 17:6; 23:16), but he doesn’t know the entire story.  Neither do we in dealing with our friends maladies.

At the end of the Book, when GOD challenges human questions, He doesn’t bother to inform Job or his friends about Satan’s role in accusing Job in the heavenly court.

Two Principles Given to us for direction…

FIRST, Satan cannot touch GOD’s servant without GOD’s permission!  In fact, GOD earlier protected Job’s health (1:2), and afterward his life (2:6) from Satan.

So if we are GOD’s servants in this life on earth, we can TRUST that GOD KNOWS every hair on our heads; He may not initiate the “suffering,” but He still cares and has a purpose.  SUFFERING may test us (cf. 23:10), but it is NOT always a punishment.

SECOND, Job didn’t really need to know; what went on in heaven.  We don’t need to understand the universal dynamics behind the suffering; we just need to know that GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY.

–It is GOD and not Satan with whom we ultimately must deal with in times of trouble, and Job was right to make an appeal to GOD.

–We don’t have all the answers; neither do we have to.  We just need to REMEMBER the One who watches over us, does have the answers.

How Do We Help People Who Are Really Going Through Stuff–“Suffering”?

Job 2:11-13 in the NIV Bible:

[11] When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him (Job), they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  [12] When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  [13] Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Have you ever visited someone in a hospital, a nursing home who was so ill, that their appearance was unrecognizable?  Their hair was unkempt, they had lost so much weight and lay there so frail… you felt liked turning your back and weep in the hallway.  I experienced this very thing with my mother before she died in 2008.  You ask yourself, What can I do, say, pray for this friend?  All good questions to ask.

In time of COMFORT…

If you have ever read the Book of Job, you find that Job’s friends came to COMFORT him in a time of loss, but later debate with him.

In verse 13, there is a key to be found when visiting a friend in suffering: “No one said a word…”.  

A close friend of mine recognized this verse with this simple idea:  “The three friends were of comfort until…they opened their big mouths!” There’s some real wisdom in that observation. Sometimes we confess to ourselves and others,  “I would call them, or go by to see them, but I don’t know what to say.”  Just BEING THERE is sometimes enough–‘no one said a word for seven days and nights’–they were JUST THERE TO COMFORT their friend… in SILENCE.

A Time For Weeping–verse 12

Crying or weeping differs in cultures.  In some societies, wailing in the midst of suffering can bring comfort to others.  When I was growing up, the idea of boys or men crying aloud showed weakness; “you hurt your knee…put a band-aid on it…’suck it up’… it will get better later.”  I remember thinking, “How much later?”

Reminds me of a story I found and read while studying for this blog; a conversation that transpired between a mother and her daughter:

“Where have you been?” the mother demanded.  The little girl replied, “On my way home, I met a friend who was crying because she had broken her doll.”  “Oh”, said her mother, “then you stopped to help her fix the doll?”  “Oh, no,” replied the little girl, “I stopped to help her cry.”

TWO THINGS the Bible says about CRYING:

#1.  “Don’t grieve like those who have no hope”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

#2.  “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice”  (Romans 12:15). 

Sometimes Our “Feelings” Interfere With Our “Comforting” —

FEELINGS of hating to go visit someone who is suffering from…DEATH of a family member; sickness; losing their job, and many more examples of “suffering.”  We have this little dialogue in our heads, and I say “we” because, I’ve had these thoughts too many times in my own head:

—  I would be touching their pain if I dropped by, or called them, or sent them an E-mail…

—  I reasoned, whatever I might say, wouldn’t be of much help.

—  They would probably think I was a ‘meddler’ anyway.

—  Maybe I would just make things worse.

—  Someone else, like their pastor, my pastor could probably help more.

Those FEELINGS are normal…but they are wrong!  We ALL need to know others care, as we have the same need!

Job’s Friends:

After sitting with Job for a week, his friends blew it.  They had a need to explore what went wrong and why Job suffered so much.  They seemed certain that Job must have done something wrong; there must be some unconfessed sin in his life, thus GOD was punishing him.  THEY WERE WRONG!!

CHRIST is the Head, and WE, the Church are His body…

He has put ALL THINGS under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church  [a headship exercised throughout the church],    Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]  (Ephesians 1:22-23 AMP).

There you have it friends.  JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  He can minister to the “suffering” by His Spirit; through His body [that’s us!].  Since the physical body has appendages–arms, hands, legs, feet–we need to use are feet more often to minister, to comfort those who are in need.  Don’t wait for someone else to go.

Expressing Deep Feelings in a Tangible Way…

“Tearing their robes” (verse 12)

This was the custom of that day, to show deep feelings.  We certainly don’t tear our shirts as a custom today, so how else do you communicate to someone you so feel for them and feeling their pain?

Tearing one’s shirt says, “I feel torn inside”–“I feel so badly for you, that it’s tearing me up!”  Do you know what we tend to do?  We want to somehow cheer them up, so we say, “Oh don’t feel so bad.”  “It will get better.”  “You have your whole life ahead of you.”  “It’s too bad your mother died but she was 70, the bible says, 70 to 80 years and that’s it!  We have to expect it.”  I don’t know about you, but those words wouldn’t COMFORT me!  Another approach is to say, “Well, I went through that one…and let me tell you what I did.  I just got up, brushed myself off and moved on with life.”

Inside, the SUFFERING individual is feeling,  “Yeah, right!  Good for you!  How soon will you be leaving?”

Sharing our own SUFFERING with others…

We’ve gone through our own share of suffering, sometimes the other person will ask us how we got through it.  In that case, tell them, but unless they ask, just be there for them.  Even if it’s hard–even if you feel like you don’t have the right words to say.  You don’t.

Simply Being There
Simply Being There

Being Simply There For Someone Who Needs Comforted…

Job’s friends came to be simply there in his need.  Perhaps they were ready to bring him a drink of water, a loaf of bread to encourage him to eat; maybe in our day, even a homemade casserole.

You are very privileged, if you are the one…if I am the one, who has the quiet task of simply, silently being there.

Some of us are there to run errands, do some shopping, take care of the kids, make phone calls, provide meals, and fix their car or their plumbing.  It is a way of being with them without a word that’s the most important thing.

Being “tangible” in a time of need…

A neighbor and prayer partner with my wife, who in her mid 80’s,  fell and broke her hip and was in therapy.  She is an active widow who lives independently, even with her family nearby, even with her churches aid, Dianne wonder what she could do help.  So she called Darda:  “Darda, how can I help you?”  Just a phone call was needed and Dianne started taking Darda to the grocery store, helping her reach for items off the shelf, then bringing her home.

Darda’s independence was never in jeopardy, for Dianne was being simply there for someone in need of comfort.

CONCLUSION FINDINGS–“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” ~ Author Unknown.

Job’s three friends went to sympathize with him and comfort him – BE THERE!  Don’t wait for someone else to go!

Job’s friends began to weep aloud – If you’re not a “weeper, a crier”…[I am not, although as I get older…] JUST BE THERE!

They expressed their feelings tangibly–they sat with him “silently” for a long period of time because they saw how great his suffering was.  This was no walk in the park for themselves.  They suffered WITH Job!

We certainly can’t do all of these things for everyone that SUFFERS.  But for loved ones, for very, very, close connections in our lives, when we can experience a great privilege of simply being with people in their most private and painful moments of life.  We don’t want to be like the torrents of a spring brook, when the ground isn’t thirsty–when someone in their suffering is hoping to find refreshing water– but were bitterly disappointed because the brook had dried up.

We do not want those who we have come to comfort in their pain and suffering, to say as Job,  “I have heard many such things; wearisome and miserable comforters are you all!  (Job 16:2).  Being there in SILENCE is sometimes the best medicine.

Credits:

Dr. Craig Keener’s Commentary – Category: The Old Testament.

Photos:

Photo Pin: Free photos for bloggers.

 

Just A “One-Trick Prophet” In A Non-Believing World

“A ONE-TRICK PONY” —

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I was watching an advertisement on television this past week, regarding people who had gathered at a church wedding where the atmosphere gets out of control.  Someone shouts at a person in the second row holding a popular smart phone, “You’re just a ‘One-trick pony!’ and the chaos continues from there.

Being the Word detective that I am, I decided to investigate the background behind the EXPRESSION: “one-trick pony”– which so happens to fit in nicely with Scripture found in the Book of Nahum 1:1-3:

[1] “THE BURDEN of Nineveh.  The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

[2]God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

[3]  The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet”

Where did the expression “One-Trick Pony” come from and what is the implication?”

Merriam-Webster explains:  “One that is skilled in only one area; one that has success only once.”

Paul Simon wrote the lyrics to a 1980 song entitled, One-Trick Pony:

He’s a one-trick pony

One trick is all that horse can do

He does one trick only

It’s the principal source of his revenue

And when he steps into the spotlight  You can feel the heat of his heart  Come rising through.

So, whether it be written on the front of a cereal box or the title of a tune, I think by now you get the idea of what it means of JUST A “One-Trick Pony”.  

 NOW, the “One-Trick Prophet”  Comparison:

THE BOOK OF NAHUM–THE PROPHET:

Announcing God’s impending destruction on the city of “Nineveh”–

The Book of Nahum has one theme, and one theme only–God’s impending destruction on the city of “Nineveh”:

“THE BURDEN or oracle (the thing to be lifted up) concerning Nineveh [the capital of Assyria]” ~ Nahum 1:1 AMP.

#1.   Described in detail in Chapter 3, verse 1“A bloody city”.

#2.  At the same time, God is going to destroy the “wicked” (Nahum 1:15) in the Assyrian Empire.

THE LARGER LESSON TO BE LEARNED IN THIS BOOK–

GOD is going to take vengeance (Nahum 1:2), whether immoral nations, pagan cities or corrupted individuals.  Sound vaguely familiar in the area where you are residing?  You’re NOT alone!

As verse three says “the Lord IS slow to anger”–and at the same time, He “will by no means clear the guilty”  (Nahum 1:3).

Verse 8 goes on to say, “He will make a full end [of Nineveh]”.  There’s an image that flooded my spirit here; both the severity and certainty of God’s coming wrath on ALL those who do not “take refuge and trust Him” (Nahum 1:7).

During The Time Nahum Received His “VISION”–

Nineveh’s approaching destruction must have seemed like wishful thinking.  The Assyrian Empire was still “at full strength” (verse 12); “safe” (as the NKJV puts it).

While verse 8 states “with an overrunning flood He will make a full end of [Nineveh”s very] site…”  (which history tells us literally came true!).

KNOWING THAT ONE OF GOD’S ATTRIBUTES IS HIS WRATH  (JOHN 3:36):

“And he who believes in the son has eternal life.  BUT whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides to him.”

Scripture says the Lord will pour out His WRATH on those who do not REPENT their sins, and profess (DECLARE) THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15).  And then (by His enabling Grace), start imitating their Savior’s example (1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 Timothy 4:12).

Most Christians Know That Scripture Tells US–

We, as believers. are “not to take our own revenge”–but, ‘leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written,  ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord”  (Romans 12:19).

What we’d rather hear in church or Bible Studies is about God’s LOVE for sinners (Romans 5:8).  To tell us about His mercy and compassion (James 5:11) regarding sinful people–tell us please about His saving peace (Ephesians 2:8).  And lets don’t dwell on His vengeance, His wrath, and His anger (Nahum 1:2-3), because a little goes a long way, right?

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Not Hearing, Seeing or Speaking the Truth

The message I found in the Book of Nahum, enables us to better understand what we’ve been saved from (Romans 5:9); also helps us to more deeply appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-8).

ABOUT THE MAN AND HIS MESSAGE:

NAHUM’S NAME means “comforter”, “counselor”.  Sounds odd, given the severe tone of his book and his surrounding WORLD.  And to expand this further, it was obvious that the Assyrians found little comfort in Nahum’s prophecy–JUST A “ONE-TRICK PROPHET” as far as they were concerned.

A Day of Troubled Times–

Beyond the reference in verse seven, of God being “…a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble;  He knows those who take refuge and trust in Him (Nahum 1:7), can we in our modern society, learn the lesson the Assyrians didn’t?

While it is certainly possible individual Assyrians may have found COMFORT in Nahum’s words–there was no hope for the city (or nation) as a whole.  The impending disaster prophesied by Nahum wasn’t going to be averted, like the one in Jonah’s day had been (Jonah 3:9-10).

God was going to “…make a full end of [Nineveh’s very] site” (Nahum 1:8); Nineveh as a city, Assyria as a nation–even if some of the people living there believed God and repent (Jonah 3:5-8; Daniel 1:1-7).

Nahum’s Name Implies a Measure of “Comfort” or “Consolation”…primarily for God’s covenant people–in this instance, the people of Judah.

In the midst of all the BAD NEWS in the land, on how God was going to pour out His wrath upon the people of Nineveh– also find some words of “comfort” directed to the people of Judah (and by extension, all God’s covenant people living in every nation and every generation)–like chapter one, verse 13, where God said  “…I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds asunder–verse fifteen “…Celebrate your fests, O Judah; perform your vows”–and chapter two, verse two, where the prophet said “…For the Lord restores the excellency of Jacob.”

Scripture as a whole, repeatedly offers God’s elect covenant people “comfort” and “consolation”, even in the midst of moral and social, political and spiritual decay–

One example can be found in PSALM 94:2-3, 14, 22-23:

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render to the proud a fit compensation!    Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall wicked triumph and exult?”  (verses 2 and 3).

“For the Lord will not cast off nor spurn His people, neither will He abandon His heritage. (verse 14).

“But the Lord has become my High Tower and defense, and my God the Rock of my refuge.    And He will turn back upon them their own iniquity and will wipe them out by means of their own wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.”  (verses 22-23).  

Another example is found in The Book of Revelation  (Revelation 6:9-11):

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.    They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”    Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed”  (NIV).

I DON’T WANT TO “BEAT A DEAD HORSE”:

I know, another cliché to ponder.  BUT, I want you to see the THEME–God’s retribution is not unique in the Book of Nahum–nor confined to the Old Testament.

Scripture does NOT present GOD as a God of wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament and a GOD of love and grace in the New Testament–He’s EXACTLY THE SAME IN BOTH (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

It is the Old testament that describes Him in several places as “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and One who relents concerning calamity”  (Jonah 4:2; SEE Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17).

On the other hand…

It’s the New Testament that says:

“it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, DEALING OUT RETRIBUTION to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus”  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).

Here’s the point–

There is NO “comfort” or “consolation” in the Book of Nahum (or anywhere else in Scripture) for those who “trample under foot the Son of God, regard the blood of the covenant unclean, and insult the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29-31).  For then, the Lord IS “an avenging and wrathful God, who will not let the guilty go unpunished” (Nahum 1:2-3).

LOVE, GRACE and FORGIVENESS PREACHED…BUT, HAS SOMETHING BEEN MISSED, SOMETHING SET-ASIDE?

Those three words, “LOVE, GRACE and FORGIVENESS” are paramount in preaching the Gospel in a “non-believing world”–but we must not put aside Declaring the Whole Counsel of God at the same time.  I know, that message isn’t popular in today’s churches.  But if we set aside the WHOLE TRUTH of Scripture because of our fears to offend someone, then only a few will walk down that aisle on Sunday mornings, if any.  And if you are satisfied with that approach, that’s okay too.  But if you are going to emphasize only ‘half-truths”, then you are NOT declaring the whole truth.

The New King James Version says it this way:

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God”  (Acts 20:27 NKJV).

Here is but another translation of the same verse:

“I have not FEARED to tell you ALL that God wants you to know”  (Acts 20:27 WE).

GOD’S WRATH REMAINS WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT!

The same wrath envisioned by Nahum remains over every nation today…where God and His laws are rejected or ignored.  And that would include are own (Nahum 1:1-3).

These nations may or may not fall as dramatically as Nineveh did, but fall they will!  UNLESS, we take heed to the words of John the Baptist  “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he [John the Baptist] said to them,  You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee and escape from the WRATH and INDIGNATION [of God against disobedience] that is coming?  (Matthew 3:7 AMP).

–by fleeing to JESUS who bore the full brunt of the WRATH on the cross for our sake, GOD’S ELECT.  And because he did, you and I can take “COMFORT” in passages of Scripture like these:

[9] “For God has NOT APPOINTED US to [incur His] WRATH [He did not select us to condemn us], but [that we might] obtain [His] salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)  [10] Who died for us so that whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life”  (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 AMP). 

and again,

“…JESUS, Who personally RESCUES and DELIVERS us out of and from the WRATH  [bringing punishment] which is coming…”  (1 Thessalonians 1:10 AMP).

and one more,

“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  [9] Therefore, since we are now JUSTIFIED (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be SAVED by Him from indignation and wrath of God”  (Romans 5:8-9).

And, aren’t you glad that we who are Believers are…?

Not because we are so worthy, or better than the Assyrians living in Nahum’s day–but because our God and Savior has chosen us to be gracious to?

My next POST will spring off these thoughts concerning our DECLARING in a non-believing world. Keep watching!

“BUZZ IN or BUZZ OFF” – Are You Listening?

“BUZZ IN or BUZZ OFF”:

I’ve been reading of late in the Book of Isaiah where I came upon the verse recorded in  the above picture.  I get my inspirations from Holy Spirit when reading in God’s Word and this topic was not an exception.

Sometimes God speaks to us in truths both bitter and sweet at the same time.  He speaks to us in terms of both a warning and of comfort at the same time with an unequaled knack of doing this throughout the Bible.

We can hear Him speaking that exact way in Isaiah 7:18:

And in that day the Lord shall whistle for the fly 

[the numerous and troublesome foe]

that is the whole extent of the canal country of Egypt and

for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Isaiah’s Time of World History:

This place in time was about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah [Isaiah 7:14].  Egypt and Assyria [4-countries of Northern Iraq, Northwestern Iran, Southeast Turkey and Eastern Syria], were formidable military powers who were great threats to the children of God and the whole world.

God gives a clear warning to His rebellious, disobedient, wicked, idolatrous people who have abandoned the Lord :

Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly!  They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised and shown contempt and provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they have become utterly estranged (alienated)”  (Isaiah 1:4 AMP).

These nations will come and consume and devastate their land like armies of locusts.

This is not like human parent’s traditional “over-the-knee” spanking of naughty children.

The words of God through His prophet were a “all-consuming judgement”!  Not the “feel-good, smiley-faced preachers and prophets” of the modern world; the “no-spanking churches” who refuse to preach it or allow it to be preached.  But instead, recommend to God a far milder, much more gentle recommendations, like heart-to-heart talks in private.  “We don’t want to offend anyone” approach to the Gospel.

Now That Is The Bitter News–but the Sweet News in all…God has these nations totally under His control, like whistle-trained dogs. 

THE CHOICE–Both “FLIES” and “BEES”

“BUZZ IN” or “BUZZ OFF”

The word pictures presented by God through Isaiah, is describing entire nations.   Their formidable might is not a casual but Divinely intentional.  The greater significance here is that God likens entire nations military prowess to a single fly and a single bee.

Today’s “Super Powers!”

There is only one “Super Power” in the world and His name is “Almighty God”.  

Compared to God, all the so-called “Super Powers” in this world [including the U.S.A.] are nothing but ‘small fry’, ‘squirts’, “pipsqueaks”.  They’re insignificant!

America and their politicians gloated for years that “America is the greatest Super Power in the world.”  What a joke!  America is in fact, compared to God, not even a “Superfly” a “Superbee” but just a fly or a bee, take your pick!

That is the joke God laughs at when He says in Psalm 2:1, 4:

WHY DO the nations assemble with commotion,

and why do the people imagine (meditate upon and devise) an empty scheme?

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision

[and in supreme contempt He mocks them].

God is enabling us to see the activities of the nations of the world from the Divine perspective and not from television or newspaper’s commentaries we seemed to hold as the gospel truths.

God views entire nations of the world and each one of those nations, whether it be the United States of America, China, Russia, Iran or whatever nation, as but a fly and a bee whose demise is but one God-swat away!

GOD MENTIONS TWO NATIONS IN ISAIAH 7:18 WHO ARE TOTALLY PAGAN:

Egypt and Assyria are the nations mentioned; they don’t know God, nor do they want to know Him.  Here is Jehovah God, commanding at will to these aforementioned nations or any nation on earth, to simply “Buzz In” or “Buzz Off” to accomplish His purposes anywhere or anytime.  Can you even imagine this picture?  The modern day’s anarchist, swarming nations of the world, being reduced by God to nothing more than a common House Fly or a Honey Bee.

To mankind, the tumult going on, the fire power of nations in the world is like ‘sonic booms’ exploding in our thought process.  To God, it is no more than the “zzz” of a fly or bee.

By the Way, Insects Don’t Live Very Long!

Answers.com states that flies and bees average lifespan don’t live for more than 60-90 days, many insects much less than that.  However, the Queen Bee may live up to 3-5 years to reestablish the hive and colony, but then she too then dies.  However, the insects so often do make a big noise and nuisance about themselves while they are still alive.

So rulers and their nations who are blinded with pride, sickened by their revenge on the guiltless, are like many rulers throughout history like…Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.  Mistaking themselves as predators; LIONS, when in fact they were and are ‘little bugs’ living out their lives on earth until ‘squashed’ by Almighty God.  A current example might be when Saddam Hussein was found and captured hiding  in a small hole in the ground, like an insect.  Or when Gaddafi was found hiding along side a desert road ditch, pleading with the rebels not to shoot; they shot him dead.

The rulers may sting others for awhile, only to be stung to death like the little buzzing bees they really are.  Then the “zzz” is silenced forever!  Am I saying that we can ignore the murder of the innocent going on in the world today?  NEVER!  Neither should our national leaders which in fact shamefully did and are doing.  That ought to cause us great concern and disgust.

THE WHISTLING GOD:

The truth is not only here for our calmness, but serves as a warning as well.

Isaiah 7:18 reveals something that’s not easily related to God, that God is a whistling God.  Specifically, God whistles for nations, Isaiah says “the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bees, that is in the land of Assyria.”

Here are two nations, at the sound of the whistling God, come running!

I remember when I was growing up in the early 1950’s, being enticed by a forbidden wilderness in the back of our rental unit.  I would stare out the back window in the mornings with curtains drawn, almost hearing a distant call, “Mel, adventures are awaiting.  Come and be fulfilled with joy!”  But my parents set down rules were quite clear…”Absolutely Not!  We want to be able to see you and hear where you are.  It’s just too far away.”  That rule for a eight to ten year old is like a sign on a freshly painted front porch which reads, DON’T TOUCH–WET PAINT!  You’ve got to touch it, regardless of the consequences.

One day, in my rebellious spirit, I had to venture out on ‘a canyon expedition’ with some friends.  About a mile in, I stop short and said to the others, “I’ve got to get back home, NOW!”  One friend said, “Why NOW?”  To his surprise and disbelief, I said “Because I can hear my mom’s WHISTLE!”  He shook his head and said, “You can’t possibly hear a whistle from this distance.”  Never-the-less, I hastily headed back home…alone.  And with no surprise, there mom was at the edge of the canyon rim, holding a personally selected Eucalyptus ‘switch’ , the weapon of choice in her hand.  Disobedience has only temporary joy but the reward of punishment is inevitable!

Why do the two nations come running?

To do the bidding of God, fulfill His global purposes!  Amazing!!

What is more amazing, they don’t even know they are doing the will of Jehovah-El yon, God most high.  Even when we whistle for our dogs, they often won’t obey; they don’t come and many times run the other way.

God whistles for entire nations, who respond to the will of God marching in step and in formation.  Have you ever tried to whistle for a fly or bee to come to you?  Lots of luck.

Nations and armies of the world, the flies and the bees, don’t realize that ultimately, their Whistle-commanding General, the Lord of hosts, the WHISTLE TRAINER OF THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD will respond!

FOR WHAT REASON DOES GOD WHISTLE FOR THE HEATHEN NATIONS?

In the case presented in Isaiah 7, it’s to bring judgement upon the Jewish people and the holy land because they had turned away from God, forgotten about Him.  They had given themselves over to false gods.

The principle repeats itself throughout all of Scripture:

“God will employ any nation He chooses to give

any God-less and wicked Nation a Sound SPANKING,

Whenever and however He wills.”

If you miss that principle in history, you are disqualified from being a historian.  Former President George W. Bush said more than once:  “America doesn’t need a permission slip from the United Nations in order to defend itself.”  And America’s politicians…neither does the Nation of Israel need our permission to defend themselves.

Heaven’s High Court.

Certainly God doesn’t need the endorsement of earth to carry out judgement in heaven anywhere, at any time, by any means, against anyone!  It’s not the United Nations, but in Heaven’s High Court of Justice, where kings and kingdoms are arraigned, tried, and righteously judged.

History Repeats Itself:

This principle has been carried out by God over and over again throughout the history of the world we live in.  The ancient proud city of Tyre who was seen as a prosperous city.

According to historical testimony, Tyre was on the mainland.  Bit in course of time, for safety against besiegers, relocated to a neighboring island.   The people of Tyre became so proud and self-confident in their existence, they equated themselves with Divinity.

Then God goes on to say in Ezekiel 28:7-8″ :

“Because your heart is lifted up and you have said and thought, I am god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas…”

Today, nothing remains of the glory of Tyre; first captured by the Muslims and later reduced to a pile of stones.  He that has ears, let him hear what the Spirit of God is saying to America!