Guarding Against the Spirit Of Complacency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • FAILURE TO SEEK GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Separating the “secular” and the “sacred”

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

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

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

The FISH GATE

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

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

Pike’s Place Fish Market, Seattle Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Seeking to “cover all my bases”

This may be the biggest problem of all!

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zephaniah 2:1-3

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

  • SEEK

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

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

There are THREE specific things we are commanded to SEEK:

  • The Lord
  • Righteousness
  • Humility

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

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

The “Connection Junction” –

  • HUMILITY

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

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

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

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

  • OBEY

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

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

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

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

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

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CREDITS:

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

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

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

Finding Flowers Among The Thorns

Amos 9:1-15 ~

After studying God’s Word in the book of Amos over the past few weeks, I finally arrived at the last chapter.  It’s been a long haul meditating on the many verses, taking notes, underlining certain phrases.  I shook my head at times, thinking “Is there any good news in this at all?”  It seemed that the MESSAGE is only about death and destruction.

So many ways Amos tried to get his message across to the Israelites–the talk, the sermons, and finally the personal visions he had.

In all this, Israel wouldn’t listen.

They had wandered so far away from God’s Truth that they couldn’t find their way back.

And they further deceived themselves thinking that because they were God’s people and so blessed, that God would threaten JUDGMENT…BUT not carry through the threat.  Sound like any nation you might know today?

They forgot that one of the recurring themes of the book, the Sovereignty of God.

That concerns me today about the churches in America more than anything else.  With a loss of REVERENCE to God’s POWER, comes a loss of dependency on Him.  We think we can do it all on our own.

JUDGMENT ISN’T JUST AN OLD TESTAMENT CONCLUSION –

If the people of Israel were to see JUDGMENT for their transgressions, their SINS, how can the Church today fail to expect that same JUDGMENT?

But doesn’t the New Testament SAY…God is LOVE?

And it absolutely does!  [Matthew 6:33; 1 Cor. 11:31; 1 John 4:8]

God’s Word in the New Testament also points out that the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is synonymous with His JUSTICE.

So how then can we take so much negativity laid in front of our eyes and find the flowers among the thorns of JUDGMENT and PUNISHMENT?

Judgment and Punishment have traditionally been seen as negative words.  We want people NOT to do a certain activity and so we punish them if they do.  That’s JUSTICE.

Children may recognize that we LOVE them when we punish them, but their view of PUNISHMENT is still not to do a certain thing.

There’s an element of RESTORATION that happens as the result of punishment or judgment.

Just as parents, God disciplines or judges His people to bring them back to a good relationship with Him.

That’s what LOVE can do.  RESTORES RELATIONSHIP!

In AMOS, Chapter 9, I found three things that can develop RESTORATION.

When I’m studying the Scriptures I like to break down the chapters when I can into categories:

AMOS CHAPTER NINE –

  1.  The Sovereignty of God (Amos 9:1-10).
  2.   The PROMISE of restoration (Amos 9:11-15).
  3.   The AGENT of the restoration (Amos 9:11-15).

God’s Sovereignty –

Amos knows why God’s JUDGMENT is coming.  In a vision, God shows Amos the extent of the Judgment: the very foundations of Israel are to be destroyed.

ALL of the people are involved.  Their land, their buildings, ALL were involved and destroyed.

WHY?

One reason is that it establishes the SOVEREIGNTY of God.

It’s just as a child in testing a parent to find out who’s the boss.  The child challenges the parent’s AUTHORITY.

If the parent doesn’t answer the challenge by responding to discipline, then the child doesn’t fear the AUTHORITY of the parent.  How that parent exercises that discipline can affect the challenge.

With my oldest daughter, a good strong word from my wife and I or a time-out on a chair would be good enough.  With my other two children, that would do no good at all.

For some, nothing short of a spanking would do.

For DISCIPLINE to be effective it must present the parent in a sovereign position of authority over the child, not visa versa. 

The same is true of God.  He doesn’t send JUDGMENT just for the sake of judgment.  He sends it to exert His SOVEREIGNTY on a people who have challenged it, or no longer believes in it.

He allows us to know who is really in control of the world, creator, not the created.

AMOS begins this chapter by establishing God’s SOVEREIGNTY.

He shows this in a VISION of God’s judgment in the first four verses.

God is pictured by the altar with a sword in His hands.

There’s no defensive armor mentioned because He wouldn’t need a defense!

He was to attack as if the SWORD is the only offensive weapon.

After He destroys the temple, God then continues His judgment with the survivors.

They couldn’t hide in the mountains nor hide in the depths of the sea.  The Sovereign God would find them wherever they hide.

AMOS continues to describe the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Verse 5, Amplified Bible) –

[5]  The Lord God of hosts, it is He Who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn; it shall rise like the [river] Nile, all of it, and it shall sink again like the Nile of Egypt.

He identifies God as the LORD, the Lord Almighty.

God who can control the actions of the earth and the water:  Noah and the Flood; Moses and the Red Sea.

Having established His SOVEREIGNTY through the elements, look to VERSE 7:

[7]  “Are not you Israelites the same to Me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD.  “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”  (NIV)

In this verse, God establishes the fact that He considers ISRAEL to be the same as the Cushites.  God has in the past delivered that which were not His chosen people out of captivity.  They wouldn’t recognize it, but Amos does here.

But in VERSE 8, the first glimmer of HOPE appears–finding the flower among the thorns.

[8]  Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom [of Israel’s ten tribes] and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground…EXCEPT that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord.  (Amplified)

God’s SOVEREIGNTY establishes His righteous JUDGMENT, but in His destruction, God makes a PROMISE not to totally destroy Israel or the house of Jacob.

In fact, the only time we can speak JUDGMENT without RESTORATION is the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).  

It is here we begin to see the budding of the flower start to develop.

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL:

God has PROMISED (verse 8) that He will NOT destroy the house of Jacob.

Knowing what we know from verses 1-4, not all the Israelites will be destroyed.

This leads to two interesting questions: Who will be destroyed and who will be the remnant?  And why?

After the death of Solomon, a series of successive kings didn’t look to God for leadership, trusting rather their own power to lead Israel.

This is the foundation of the division of the 12 Tribes into countries.

  • The Northern Kingdom of Israel.
  • The Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Jeroboam, the king of the northern country, Israel, wanted to make it absolutely clear that the two countries stay divided.  To do this, he introduced IDOL WORSHIP to Israel, and the people wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to make SACRIFICE to God.

They went downhill after that began.

It’s also at this time they developed a false sense of independence.  Their WORSHIP became mechanical, not authentic.

They would go back and forth–they would make sacrifices to God, then turn to worshipping idols.

So EVIL had infested all aspects of Israel for literally hundreds of years.

God wouldn’t stay His JUDGMENTS forever in light of this.

It’s also important to realize that not ALL the Israelites bowed down to Baal.  They would ALL be part of the JUDGMENT but God would protect them.  That was a PROMISE!

God also left a gate of opportunity for individual REPENTANCE, even though the country would be JUDGED.

So with all this BACKGROUND in mind, we know who’s to be JUDGED:

  1. the religious leaders for their allowing IDOLATRY.
  2. to the political leaders whom wouldn’t look to God.
  3. to the wealthy for how they abused the poor.
  4. to the judicial leaders for abusing the system of justice.
  5. to the people who followed these leaders.

And the REMNANT?

  1. Those who REPENT of their wicked ways or have not turned their backs on God.
  2.  Those born while in captivity, although they go through the fire of JUDGMENT…they will be the REMNANT.

Verse Eleven and Twelve tells us that God will RESTORE the fallen tent of David and more!

“Raise, Repair, Rebuild”

God will REPAIR the broken pieces and RESTORE its ruins.

He will bring about a NEW NATION that’s stronger and more powerful than it was before.

This is a NEW DAY of the Lord.

One that’s brought forth JUDGMENT but in liberation.

Look at VERSE 13 and 14:

All the previous talk of JUDGMENT as now turned to RESTORATION and HOPE!!!

I find this next point invaluable on how this RESTORATION takes place.

THE AGENT OF RESTORATION:  Amos 9:11-15

It’s not enough to KNOW that restoration was to take place.  We must also know how.

Israel’s restoration would come in two ways.

One is immediate:

This would be their return from captivity under Nehemiah and Ezra.

The other is a future restoration when Christ comes back.

Let’s deal first with the immediate restoration:

What happened during Israel’s CAPTIVITY was several things.

  1. ALL OF THE BUILDINGS WERE DESTROYED.

This is important!

With the destruction of ALL THINGS…the places where IDOL WORSHIP was also destroyed.  Any place that could bring back any memory at all of any infection of their idol worship was gone.

Also with total destruction, any ill-gotten gains made by the rich were destroyed.

There would be a NEW START for God’s people with a NEW RELATIONSHIP with God.

Sacrifices and worship would be authentic and re-established under the Law.

But the FUTURE restoration God brought about was even more reconstructive than just the return to an existing form of WORSHIP.  The form of worship had to change, for, throughout Israel’s history, the people showed repeatedly that they turned AWAY from God under the Law.  They couldn’t keep ALL the Law, therefore, they could keep none of it!

For Israel’s RESTORATION to be complete, they would have to have a NEW WAY to worship.

The NEW WAY of worship would come with Christ. 

He came to COMPLETE the Law.

With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God completed the RESTORATION of the Law with the Doctrine of Grace!

And that DOCTRINE OF GRACE wrestled the control of religion from the hands of mere mortals and placed God in control.  It was no longer a system, a bunch of rules and regulations that man could try to adhere to, like directions on a roadmap.

SALVATION was now a GIFT that was open to everyone!

It was based on what God can do for a man, a GIFT that only God could give!!

With Christ Jesus, the RESTORATION was complete.

CHRISTIANITY was to become the NEW ISRAEL.

One day, as believers in JESUS CHRIST we will never again be uprooted as we join Him in glory.

What a great day that will be for those who are a part of the RESTORED KINGDOM!

Years ago, John Peterson and Don Wyrtzen wrote together I LOVE AMERICA that was sung by many choirs in the land during Memorial Day.  Yes, it was a patriotic musical, but for me personally, it was even more.

It was A CALLING to us all!

“Oh, the voice we could hear…”

 

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CREDITS –

Media:  You Tube video – Jesus Is Calling America.

Blog’s IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

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

Bible Commentary:  BibleStudyTools.com

 

 

 

Where is God when things go wrong?

habakkuk-2-ptr-vetty-gutierrez-10am-morning-service-1-638

TEXT for this Blog: Habakkuk 2:1-20

This weeks blog-post all began with a question my nephew-in-law proposed.  He was commenting on and trying to get a discussion started on Facebook.  Now there’s a challenge.

The QUESTION:  “If God is real, why would he create us to watch us destroy ourselves and the world?”

It was interesting to read some of the comments and answers to his question–which in turn, prompted me to search out answers found in God’s Word: Where IS God when things seem to be deteriorating all around us?

When you ask a question, what do you want?  

I know what I want–I want an answer!  Not only that, I am fussy.  I would like the right answer as well!!

In the Book of Habakkuk, we notice right away, there is a DIALOGUE going on between the prophet and God.  In today’s religious circles, we might call it, CONVERSATIONAL PRAYER (I do, anyhow).

We can plainly see that Habakkuk is looking for ANSWERS from God.  As he watches the faithlessness of his nation’s people, he wonders why God doesn’t change it.

So, HABAKKUK complains about God’s seeming lack of concern.

But…

IN CONTEXT– When the prophet COMPLAINS of God’s INACTIVITY, God gives him an ANSWER that distresses him even more.

JUDGMENT!!!

God is going to send the wicked nation of Babylon as an instrument of judgment.  Now that is definitely NOT the answer Habakkuk was looking for.

In fact, he finds it hard to believe that God would use an even more sinful and evil people to establish His righteousness (Do you know any people, leaders who you think could be evil?).

For Habakkuk, this seems inconsistent.  It doesn’t make sense.  But he doesn’t give up on God.

Learning to Wait!

WATCHTOWER
WATCHTOWER

(verse 1):  “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the rampart; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” [N.I.V. Bible]

GROWING CONFIDENCE –

Proverbs 3:5  Amplified Bible:  

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

“WATCH” = a military term.

HABAKKUK CONSIDERS HIMSELF A MILITARY MAN THAT LOOKS FAR OFF –

The Need for a Better Perspective–

At this point, Habakkuk is reserving any more comment until he understands.  For as confusing as he thought God’s INACTIVITY was, His ACTIVITY is even more confusing.

So Habakkuk comes to the conclusion that not ALL WORKINGS of God can be understood by our own reasoning.  He would agree with Solomon when he wrote:

“TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART

AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.”

HABAKKUK MOVES TO THE HIGH TOWER –

What a great vantage point in getting yourself above and away from the world’s distractions.  Habakkuk is no longer doing all the talking–he’s listening!  He is no longer arguing–“Why not?”–“What for?”–he is submitting.

So…

God Responds to Habakkuk’s Waiting  (verses 2-3)…

“And the LORD answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint.  Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.”

God wants His ANSWER to be permanently recorded because… of future generations who are going to read it (or, should read it).

God says, ‘Mark my words!  Mark it down!’

I love God’s last statement.  Oh, how impatient we get for answers to our prayers.  God literally says, “Though it delay…it will not delay.”

Simply put; Though the timing is not ours…it is not a delay in God’s timing.  He is in control!!!  There are not random circumstances.

Our CONFIDENCE on Display –

How can we become CONFIDENT in our asking?

GOD IS MERCIFUL:

God gives us a contrast here in Scripture:  BABYLON thinks that they are powerful, but in reality, foolish.

God wants us living by FAITH–

It is not what I do that puts me in right standing with God; I will never be good enough.  But instead, I need to LIVE A LIFE of Dependence on God.

– WE MAKE IT BY FAITH.

– WE MAKE IT LIVING IN ASSURANCE of God’s Grace.

When we are not living by FAITH, God, in His MERCY will go to extraordinary means to get us there!  I don’t know about you, but that sure gives me CONFIDENCE!!

God is always working for our best.  The truth is, however, when God works for our best interest, often we go through a very painful process of acknowledging the TRUTH.

AN “ALLIGATOR STORY” –

It takes DISCIPLINE going through the process…

Several years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a 1437516296_0ccededa8aswim in an old swimming hole behind his house.

Being in a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind his shoes, socks, and shirt on the floor.

He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an ALLIGATOR was swimming toward the shore.

His mother–in the house was looking out the window–saw the scene unfolding before her eyes.  In utter fear, she ran toward the water yelling to her son as loudly as she could.

Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed, making a U-turn to swim to his mother.

IT WAS TOO LATE!

Just as he reached her, the ALLIGATOR reached him.

From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by his arms, just as the ALLIGATOR snatched his legs.  The incredible tug-of-war began.

The ALLIGATOR was much stronger but the mother was much to passionate to let go.

A farmer happened to drive by and heard her screams.  He raced from his truck, took aim, and shot the ALLIGATOR dead!

Remarkably, after weeks in the hospital care, the boy survived.  His legs were extremely scarred and on his arms, were deep scratches from his mother’s fingernails that .dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

A newspaper reporter interviewed the boy after the trauma and asked if he would show him his scars.  The boy lifted his pant legs.  And then, with obvious pride, said to the reporter,  “But look at my arms.  I have great scars on my arms, too.  I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go!”

We Have Scars, Too!

Some of those scars are from our own foolishness because they are unsightly, causing deep regret.

But some wounds are because of God, in His Mercy, has refused to let go!  He will go through extraordinary means to get us where we need to be, even if it’s PAINFUL.

WE CAN BE CONFIDENT BECAUSE GOD IS MORAL (verses 5-19) –

(verse 14):  “But [the time is coming when] the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

God desires to REVEAL Himself…

As we know Him better, we discover He is holy!

When we know God, we understand HIS STANDARD.  He is a holy God and rightly condemns SIN.

Throughout this section of Chapter 2, we find the description of SIN as practiced and lived by the nation of BABYLON.

God is telling HABAKKUK that He knows they’re bad–they are evil.  And yet, God’s own people were headed down the same PATH.

God hast to stop them, discipline them. get them back where they belong…LIVING BY FAITH!  They needed to be a people who live by faith!!  (2 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 11:6).

So…

GOD REVEALS THE FAITHLESS PATHS THAT THE COUNTRY IS ON:

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HEADING DOWN THE WRONG PATH IN OUR LIVES:

THE PATH of GREED (5-8):

Babylon is never satisfied.  It is always gathering and collecting for itself; It makes itself rich carrying out material pursuits in a way that shuts out all other concerns.

THE PATH OF INJUSTICE (9-11):

I found it interesting in my studying, the verses that the road from righteousness changed direction to a path of wickedness.  A Nation full of people who are outraged by the SIN around them.  And yet, they’re still characterized by INJUSTICE because they tolerate the SIN that is within them.  They not only sin against others, but also sin against themselves.

This is the type of INJUSTICE that is spoken of here:

It’s the breaking of one’s own MORAL CODE.

A PATH OF SENSUALITY (15):

HEARTS that are adrift in sexual permissiveness–

There exist a carelessness in the society during Habakkuk time; of sexual activity, instead of seeing it in its proper sacred place (Sound familiar?).

Finally, the PATH is one of…

DOWN THE ROAD OF IDOLATRY (18-19):

SIN doesn’t go unpunished (verse 16)–

Babylon was serving the creature rather the Creator.

They sought their own substitute which demonstrated their own ignorance of REALITY–

– It was a god of their own making…

– It was a god in their own image…

Yes, there were deliberate failures made when it came down to God’s standards, but they too would learn.  SIN doesn’t go unpunished.

And this was the message that God has for Babylon (16):

“You will be filled with shame and contempt instead of glory…”

Their own SIN will find them out!  God is going to have the last Word!!

GOING DOWN THE RIGHT PATH gives the confidence we need:

WE CAN FIND CONFIDENCE IN GOD BECAUSE HE IS MAJESTIC (20)

Note the end of God’s  MESSAGE to HABAKKUK in verse 20:

“But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth hush and keep silence before Him.”

GOD is very present!!!

– IN HIM WE LIVE & MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING!

We may try to shut Him out, ignoring His purposes over our own.  THE FACT remains–GOD IS THE WITH-US GOD!

WORSHIP IS FOR GOD ALONE –

We continue to be creative in searching for the answers we seem so desperately need in our daily lives.

Perhaps, we are more spiritual in following certain preachers religiously.

Perhaps it is PLEASURE that we really worship or the accumulation of things, with the thinking that, “He who dies with the most toys…wins.”

If you wonder in your WORSHIP, and realize that God is in His holy temple–

CONFIDENCE BUILDERS FOUND IN WORSHIP:

The Lord our Creator, our Redeemer, and the self-existing, everlasting, un-caused cause lives…

No one makes Him…

He’s not a conceived and developed concept…

He is not controllable or manipulated…

In Majesty, He reigns.

WORSHIP IS FOR GOD ALONE, EVEN WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND HIM.  

SO…

Where is God when things seem to be going wrong?  When it’s not going the way we expected…

It is time to trust; time to live by FAITH…  

For…this is how the JUST live out their lives, they LIVE BY FAITH and not by sight!

 isaiah452melindatodd



CREDITS:

Photo Credits by,  Photo Pin & Google Search – Images; Melinda Todd (Isaiah 45:2).

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

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“Ready or Not, Here I come”– “But I’m Not Ready Yet!”

A STUDY IN 1 THESSALONIANS 5:

The blog-title for this POST came to me one morning, while remembering my childhood.

The past memories of growing up while living in Government Housing during the late 40’s, early 50’s.

What’s that have to do with a study in 1 Thessalonians?  Let me explain.

A Time of Celebration…

I had just returned from a Texas trip of celebration and joy.  My Dad had enjoyed his 100th birthday, along with a family reunion, and… three weeks later, he went home to be with the Lord.

So during the morning time of bible reading, it also became a time of reflection and memories of growing up in the San Diego area of California.

One thought lead to another as I laid the bible in my lap and closed my eyes, going down the proverbial “rabbit trail,” and finding myself at the end of the trail, as a 10 year old.

All the different games we would play in the neighborhood courts and protected front porches; Monopoly, Flashlight Tag, Kick-the-Can, Marbles in the nearby dirt alley ways.

No video games or “smartphones” to entertain us in those days.

When we got bored, our folks would calmly say, come “Go outside and play.  I’ll call you when to come in.”  Ouch!  But we did so, because that’s what all the kids did!  Sound familiar?

We could hardly wait for the opportunity while impatiently watching out the front door’s side window, waiting patiently for someone, anyone, to be the first outdoors:

“Hey dad…so-and-so is out playing, can I go out now?”

One game that every kid in the court and surrounding neighborhoods loved to play during the Summertime, was Hide and Seek.

The Game of “HIDE and SEEK” –

Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek

I loved playing hide and seek as a child.  Whether I was the one hiding, who didn’t want to get caught, or I was the one trying to catch the unsuspecting.

I remember that the seeker, or “it” as we always called him; who closed his eyes–count to 100, so everyone else could go hide.

Sometimes the seeker would close his eyes and then cheat a little–peep around and then you could hear him count,  “One, two, three, fourteen, fifteen, sixty-one and so on.”

Then you would hear him scream,  “Ready or not here I come!”  Four things I remember were always certain at that point:

#1.  He was surely coming.

#2.  He was coming when…He got ready.

#3.  He was coming whether you were ready or not.

#4.  And if you were not ready, then you would pay the consequences.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING READY- 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:

The simple Hide & Seek child’s game, how that fun game parallels the second coming of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the church in Thessalonica, the importance of being ready and the certain return of Jesus Christ.

(5:1-2a)  “BUT AS to the suitable times and the precise seasons and dates, brethren, you have no necessity for anything being written to you.  For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the Lord…”

THE CERTAIN RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST –

The Second Coming of JESUS is one of the most repeated teachings in all of Scripture.

And yet, the LIE EXISTS: “YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO GET YOUR LIFE IN ORDER.”

The Apostle Paul was well aware of this in penning the letter as he explained to his readers in the church.  They should be perfectly aware that JESUS was coming again.

Reminds me of a song sung in churches years ago,

CHORUS:  Coming again, coming again;

Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening and maybe soon!

O, what a wonderful day it will be–

JESUS is coming again!

[Words and Music by John W. Peterson]

Not only did Paul tell them he shouldn’t even have to tell them again of Christ’s return, it should be obvious!

ILLUSTRATION:  A Tourist Driving Through West Texas.

991700f63d9427c720571a481bf68009While driving through West Texas, the driver stopped at a gas station to fill his tank with gas.  He happened to notice a piece of rope dangling from a sign labeled “Weather Forecaster.”

Being curious, the tourist asked the station attendant, “How can you possibly tell the weather with a piece of rope?”

“It’s simple, sonny,” the older man answered with a thick Texas drawl.  “When the rope swings back and forth, its windy, when it gets wet, it’s raining, when it’s frozen stiff, it’s snowing, and when it’s gone…tornado!”

There are some simple things that should be obvious without even asking.  The imminent return of JESUS is one of those things.

THE UNCERTAIN TIMING OF JESUS’ RETURN –

(5:2 b.)  “…as a thief in the night.”

The question is not “if” Jesus will return, but “when” will He return?

And Paul’s answer?  He’s basically saying, “No one knows.”  He describes the time of Christ’s return as a thief in the night.

Just as a THIEF plans his entry with uncertain timing when least expected, so will be the coming of the Son of God.

JESUS Himself declared in Matthew 24:36,  “But of that [exact] day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

And He later said in Matthew 24:44,  “You also must be ready therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

NOT BEING READY BRINGS CERTAIN JUDGMENT –

(5:3-5)  [3] “When people are saying,  All is well and secure, and,  There is peace and safety, then in a moment unforeseen destruction (ruin and death) will come upon them suddenly as labor pains come upon a woman with child; and they shall by no means escape, for there will be no escape.  [4] But you are not in [given up to the power of] darkness, brethren, for that day to overtake you by surprise like a thief.  [5] For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we do not belong either to the night or to darkness.

Paul refers to the Second Coming of Christ as the “Day of the Lord”  (vs. 2).

Throughout Scripture, the “Day of the Lord” was the designation of that latter time in history [Old Testament, Joel 2:31; New Testament, Acts 2:20]; God would pour out His wrath on the ungodly.

When the Lord Jesus returns–rapture His people–then soon after our Lord will begin to pour out His judgments upon the earth in a time which many refer to as the Great Tribulation.

The Tragedy of this day is that so many will be unprepared.  Not only unprepared, but actually deceived and actively deceiving others in the process crying out,

“PEACE AND SAFETY.”  Adhering to spreading the LIE… “YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO GET READY.”  

While thinking there is no real danger at all, when in fact, destruction is immediately upon them.

THE CONDITIONS OF WALKING IN READINESS –

(5:6-8)  [6] “Accordingly then, let us not sleep, as the rest do, but let us keep wide awake (alert, watchful, cautious, and on our guard) and let us be sober (calm, collected, and circumspect).  [7] For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  [8] But we belong to the day; therefore, let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

Living Daily with an Attitude of Watchfulness (vss. 6, 7).

“let us not sleep, as the rest do, but let us keep wide awake (alert, watchful, cautious, and on our guard…”  (verse 6).

As a SOLDIER is commanded to “stay alert” — “keep wide awake” — “WATCH!”, so as true believers, we too are commanded… to have an attitude of “spiritual awakeness” (gregario – Greek. word used).  

So must we as Christians!

Paul’s command to “watch” is in the present tense; meaning this must be a continual practice of the Saints (the true believers).  A matter of ATTITUDE.

A Roman soldier would be put to death for falling asleep on his watch.

The outcome could be just as fatal for the person not constantly looking for the return of Christ Jesus.

DISCIPLINE comes into play at this point.

LIVING DAILY WITH DISCIPLINE OF SELF-CONTROL –

Paul’s warning must not allow anything within our lives to influence our moral alertness…not anything!

Just like alcoholic beverages will greatly influence and inhibit a person’s abilities to focus–to make important decisions; sin (not the ‘drinking’ of spirits, but the results) will affect one’s ability to make moral decisions.  A person doesn’t become drunk with just one drink, but one drink can lead to two and then three.

Slowly, the person becomes drunk without noticing it and all of one’s senses become blurred, making oneself a danger to self and also others around them.

In the same way, if we do not control sin in our lives–not “watchful”–we soon are overcome by its effects and become oblivious to spiritual matters.  Therefore unaware and unconcerned about the imminent RETURN OF CHRIST JESUS.

As a drunkard who has passed out and oblivious to the world, so is the uncontrolled sinner who has spiritually passed out.  It takes daily discipline and self-control.

THE NEED OF HAVING DAILY PROTECTION – 

(5:8)  God’s Armor  “…let us be sober and put on the breastplate (corslet) of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

As BELIEVERS, we are clothed “in Christ” as Paul describes in detail on many occasions in his letters to the churches.

In other words, what Paul is saying, that once we are SAVED…we are battle dressed with the Armor of God, and that ARMOR protects our spiritual organs–spiritual heart and mind.

What is A HAT?  What is its function?

A HAT can be used for decoration as an accent to an outfit; to dazzle those around you and just look good!

It may be used as RECOGNITION; for identification such as a policeman’s hat or a chef’s hat…

It might be used for PROTECTION, such as a football player, or like my Dad wore his Fireman’s Helmet.

The HELMET identifies us with our savior…

It identifies us with JESUS…

It reveals to the world who we want to be identified with…but it also identifies us on how we should be acting and living!

SPIRITUAL PROTECTION –

The ARMOR we are given as a believer in Christ protects us from the enemy who is always out to destroy us…from this evil and broken world…and protects us from ourselves, from the terrible decisions we sometimes make (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

The Blessings that should Come from Being Ready!

(5:9-11)  [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.  [11] Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.”

The PEACE of knowing, of always being READY for Jesus’ return is surely a BLESSING.

Therefore,you will look for Christ’s Coming with excitement and with expectancy instead of Fear and Dread.

THE COMFORT OF KNOWING…that you will be SAVED from the Wrath of God!

Quote:

“God’s people should plan for a VOYAGE of a thousand years, but be prepared to abandon ship tonight!”  ~ Joseph Bayly.

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CREDITS:

Photos– Photo Pin and Google Images.

Bible Translation:  Amplified Bible.

Commentary:  Bible.org – John Walvoord, “The Rapture and the Day of the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 5”; “how does the day of the Lord relate to the rapture?” – whenistherapture.com

“Being Careful with the Company You Keep”

The words in this blog title, were the words I heard from my parents constantly while growing up as a child.  I’m sure your parents emphasized the same idea to you as well.

I remember my dad telling me, “Mel, if one of your friends jumped off a roof into a fire, would you do the same?”  Hanging my head in shame, “No.”

In essence, my parents were trying to get the point across to me, “Be careful who you associate with (‘who you hang with’).”  Did my parents WISDOM stick in my adult years?  I’ll answer that question while investigating together, the WISDOM given from a father to his son in The Book of Proverbs.

TEXT: PROVERBS 4 – “Oh, kids will be kids…”

This parental phrase has been repeated over and over again in families.  So, I want to elaborate on the idea of responsibility as a PARENT, GRANDPARENT, GREAT GRANDPARENT, AND UNCLE when it comes to teaching the ways of the Lord.  This principle will apply not just to our family kids, but also to our spiritual children; the friends, brief acquaintances, neighbors, and others that we have led to JESUS or leading to Christ.  Some in the church call the process “DISCIPLING”.  And it can be.  But I’m going to call it teaching godly WISDOM, as Solomon speaks to in the Bible.

PROVERBS 4:1-27 AMPLIFIED BIBLE:

"Do NOT forsake my teaching"
“Do NOT forsake my teaching”

HEAR, MY sons, the instruction of a father, and pay attention in order to gain and to know intelligent discernment, comprehension, and interpretation [of spiritual matters].  For I give you good doctrine [what is to be received]; do not forsake my teaching ~  (verses 1-2). 

 

“Boys will be boys” …

We all heard those sayings before, perhaps even repeated the words ourselves.  BUT, what do they mean to us and others?

It means that when someone says that, they don’t believe they have any reason to worry how the kids will turn out…because kids will always be kids.

Now, that may seem logical…but its not!  The MESSAGE I want to make clear in the blog-POST…a child left to their own devises without instruction and correction of disobedience can become monsters.

PROVERBS repeatedly WARNS PARENTS…children left to their own desires will metamorphose into…

–  All the days of the afflicted are evil; but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast ~ Proverbs 15:15 KJV.

–  A wise son makes a glad father, but a self-confident and foolish man despises his mother and puts her to shame ~ Proverbs 15:20 AMP.

–  A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him ~ Proverbs 17:25 NAS.

–  The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother ~ Proverbs 29:15 NIV. 

The Story of Two Sisters:

This story involves TWO SISTERS who had spent the day fighting.  And girls (I helped raise two daughters), if you are reading this story, it’s not 8681712-a-young-girl-says-her-prayers-just-before-bed-timeabout you…well, maybe.

When it became bedtime, the two sisters were still mad at each other.  But as usual, they knelt beside their beds for their prayers.

“Dear God,” the 8-year-old began.  “Bless Daddy and Mommy, bless our dog.”

Then she stopped.  Her mother gently prodded,  “Didn’t you forget somebody?”  She glared across the bed at her 6-year-old sister and added,  “And oh yes, God bless my ex-sister.”

Still, you might be thinking,  “What can you do?  There are some who look at kids who behave badly and just shrug and say…Well boys will be boys; kids will be kids.”

The author of PROVERBS wouldn’t agree.  He believed a parent should and could influence their children.  He constantly preached to his kids about what was right and wrong; as he noted in Proverbs 29:15:

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left undisciplined brings his mother shame” (MP).

Proverbs 22:6:”

“Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

According to a 2003 study by the Barna Group [See Footnote [i] ]– they found that:

~  A person’s moral foundations are laid by the age of nine.

~  Most people make a decision regarding the personal significance of Christ’s death and resurrection by the age of 12.  [For me personally, I was thirty years old and my wife was twenty-eight].

~  In most cases,people’s spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed while they are still preteens.

An Attention Getter…

“Listen, friends, to some fatherly advice; sit up and take notice so you’ll know how to live!”  (Proverbs 4:1 Message Bible)

SOLOMON is saying “listen to me” “pay close attention to me and learn”–he’s assuming something worth saying is something worth listening to.  So…as if you’re a PARENT, GRANDPARENT, UNCLE/AUNT…what can you say worth listening to?

A SHORT SURVEY OF PROVERBS:

I searched out THREE MAIN THEMES:  (There may be more, but these were the ones that stuck out to me).

Those three main themes are summed up in the following verses:

PROVERBS 1:7 – “The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge…” (AMP Bible).

PROVERBS 1:8 – “My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother.”  

PROVERBS 1:10, 15-16 – “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent”  “My son, do not walk in the way with them; restrain your foot from their path;  For their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”

The On-going Message….

FIRST…Fear God.

Then REMEMBER what I’m teaching you.

And then, be careful who you hang out with and who you try to be like.

Proverbs 4:19:

“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.”

SOLOMON–ONE OF THE WISEST MEN WHO EVER LIVED!

10646657_10152631217078930_8754778246084982255_nHe talked the talk.  BUT he ended up NOT walking the walk.   And by failing to “walk the walk”…he hurt his son.

Looking back on life, especially in raising our son; in my spiritual immaturity–I perhaps hurt my son by NOT walking the walk with consistency.  Sometimes my life would be exemplary in being like JESUS, and other times, not so much.  Examples: complaining about work, neighbors next door, loosing my temper while driving, etc.  It certainly wasn’t demonstrating the LOVE of Jesus.

Make a Decision NOW!

 Here’s the deal:  If you want a child to grow up the way they should go, and believe me, I learned the following priorities the hard way, you have to DECIDE to keep your priorities straight.

~  DECIDE that YOU’RE going to FEAR GOD.

~  DECIDE that YOU’RE going to REMEMBER what God taught you.

~  DECIDE to be CAREFUL who YOU hang out with.

If a parent will repeat those THREE IDEAS–over and over again to their children–FEAR GOD, REMEMBER OUR TEACHING, BEING CAREFUL WHO YOU HANG WITH; WHO YOU TRY TO BE LIKE, over and over again to the younger generation, it WILL make an impact.  My adult children have demonstrated our teaching and demonstration of living with godly fear in their lives for the most part.  Thank you JESUS.  Are things perfect in their lives? No, but neither is my life.

SOLOMON was very good at “talking the talk”

For the majority of his life, he even walked the walk.  BUT, toward the end of his life, he grew tired of that walk (1 Kings 11:9-13 NIV):

[9] The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.  [10] Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’S command.  [11] So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.  [12] Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime.  I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  [13] Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.

Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, talked the talk yet ended up NOT walking the walk because he FAILED and hurt his son!

Todays PARENTS “Walking the Walk”; Needing to look to God as a Way of Life…

As parents, if we look to God, God will be the One who’s in the center of our lives; and that goes far beyond Sundays at church–or Wednesdays, Mondays…

And if that is true, our own kids, grandkids, nephews/nieces will take notice.  They may not tell you so with their lips, but by their decisions and actions away from the family unit…

That which you fear is that which you will obey…

That’s why Proverbs 9:10 tells us,

The reverent and worshipful FEAR of the Lord is the BEGINNING (the chief and choice part) of WISDOM and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.

If I FEAR GOD, I won’t FEAR anything else.  

So FIRST, we need to talk with our kids.

Secondly, we need to “walk the walk.”

And third…we need to Look to God; looking to God as the center of our lives as PARENTS.

If that’s true, our kids will notice.  If we sincerely look to God in faith–if we believe we can trust God with our everyday lives in all situations–our children will too!

I remember an incident on a New Year’s night, my wife and I were celebrating the evening at home…snacking, dancing, snacking…you get the picture.  We heard a car drive up and heard several voices laughing and quite vocal. As we went to the front room windows, peering out into the darkness (about 11 PM), the front door opened and our youngest daughter, her boyfriend and another couple came upstairs.

Our daughter’s voice rang out at the top of the stairs, “I hope you don’t mind mom and dad, if we hangout here for New Years, it’s nuts out there and we thought it would be safer over here.”   What ‘music’ to our ears as parents.  Godly teaching had gotten through! Thank you JESUS!!

One thing Solomon knew about his daddy, his relationship David had with God was real.  And knowing that, Solomon wanted that same bond/closeness he’d seen in his father.

And because Solomon knew that; because he struggled to follow his father’s example…Solomon’s kingdom eventually became even greater that David’s had been.

Leaving you with one last thought…

What your children/grandchildren become depends to a great extent…upon you; what you choose to do with your God in your life.

Who’s company are you keeping these days?

 

Footnote:

[i]  Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Ventura: Gospel Light, 2003.

Bible Translations:

Amplified, NIV, The Message, King James bible.

Photo Credits:

photobucket; Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

JESUS Loving the Unlovable

REVELATION 3:19:

JESUS is talking to a church and saying,

“Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them].  So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]”  ~ Amplified Bible.

I seldom hear about the CHASTISEMENT OF THE LORD from today’s pulpits.  In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing about God’s discipline for people in the church.  But it is an issue that all Christians should learn about, and sooner or later, most of us will probably discover what it is to be chastened of the Lord.

The Purpose for Chastening is…?  

“The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death”  (Psalm 118:18).

The PURPOSE is not to destroy but to LEAD to repentance.

“…You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; bring me back, that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God.  Surely after I was turned [from You], I repented; and after I was instructed, I penitently smote my thigh.  I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth [as a nation]”  (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

And to RESTORE God’s blessing.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  O Lord, and teach out of Your law (Word)”  (Psalm 94:12).

I must admit, I’ve never been fond of the idea of spanking–on the receiving end, or the giving end.  Probably because as a kid I received quite a few spankings.  And by the way, hiding under my parents bed to escape punishment never worked [It doesn’t work for God either.].

Mom would have an ever-present tree switch nearby, and would shout to me in my hiding,  “If you don’t come out right now, the punishment will be much worse!”

Looking back now, I recognize that the discipline of my parents was necessary in keeping me out of trouble–and in many cases to spare me from greater pain and suffering.  Of course back in those days, because of my immaturity, that reasoning wouldn’t make sense to a youngster.

Furthermore, I realize now what my parents went through during those years.  I too experienced the same in the raising our three children– the ordeals of correcting–not because my parents dislike us, but because they love us.  I don’t think my children understood that reasoning either while growing up, but its application was the same never-the-less.

That realization reminded me of God’s word in The Letter to the Hebrews– 12:9-11:

[9]    Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded [to them] and respected [them for training us]. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits and so [truly] live?

[10] For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness.

[11] For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness–in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. 

God’s Word Exposes the Church’s Hypocrisy…

 “I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold or hot. Would that your were cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing, and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”  (Revelation 3:15-17).

Though JESUS has just exposed church hypocrisy, and has implied that many are pretending to know Him, yet don’t, His reasons are not because He hates them for falling in such a state but because He deeply loves them; He wants to come into their lives.

He reminds the church that He is impartial, always consistent while confronting and discipline.  That is the way GOD treats everyone He loves when they get off course, and believe me…I have certainly gotten ‘off course’ during my 42 years of Christian Life.

Proverbs 3:11, 12:

My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastising of the Lord  [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof.

For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

[Other Scripture to meditate on:  Hebrews 12:5-11; Job 5:17; Psalm 39:11; Proverbs 15:10]

JESUS’ Harsh Assessment…Revelation 3:19.

His harsh assessment of this particular church wasn’t for the purpose of driving them away from Him, but rather serve to put them on notice–YOU MUST BE ZEALOUS–they must be “HOT” (verse 16) and “REPENT” [changing your mind and attitude].

God Wants What Is Best For Us–

He wants us to have SPIRITUAL LIFE, not death.  All this language, the language of LOVE;

–  it’s the treatment of LOVE

– it’s LOVE rebuking, chastising, and exhorting.

JESUS wants to see you restored.

For this very reason, He will discipline us who persist in sin; will even deal out correction if we show signs of APATHY or SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENCE.

“Spiritual Indifference”:

Indifference robs a church of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP POTENTIAL-

It shows itself through…

…NEGLECTED ATTENDANCE…PREPARATION…PARTICIPATION…

Enthusiasm to Worship King of kings, Lord of lords, the Almighty living God will be missing (Psalm 122:1).  Violation of God’s Word will rob the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION in the body of Christ (Hebrews 5:11-12).

Our interest must increase for our worship to be a blessing– “I don’t get anything out of worship.” — Are you putting anything in?!

AGAIN, Revelation 3:19, [The New Living Bible]:

“I continually discipline and punish everyone I love, so I must punish you unless you turn from your indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God.”

“I Hear You Knocking…”

Picture of Door by Sarah Langova
Picture of Door by Sarah Langova

Since I’m a product of the 50’s, and  remembering listening to the music of the day on my old Silvertone Radio, the Fats Domino song rang out in my ear.  Although the rest of the lyrics certainly don’t fit the topic, the title certainly does.

“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in”

Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and be [will eat] with Me.

JESUS IS THE DOOR! – John 10:7.

Restoration is Made…

What a telling image Jesus gives.  JESUS pictures Himself standing outside the DOOR of the repentive heart.

So often this famous verse is used to invite UNBELIEVERS to accept Jesus into their lives.  And of course, that is the message.  BUT the fact that He needs to ask to be let into the hearts of supposed Christians found in the church of Laodicea is a horrible assessment of their condition.

They, like the unbelievers around them, need to repent and welcome Him to come in and take control of their lives–to RESTORE the relationship they once demonstrated

Proverbs 15:10 says,  “The HEART knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”

Psalm 39:11:  “When with rebukes You correct and chasten man for sin, You waste his beauty like a moth and what is dear to him consumes away; surely every man is a mere breath.”

Indifference Robs A Church!

Robs it of what?  Of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP  POTENTIAL.

It shows itself through neglected attendance, preparation and participation.  My ENTHUSIASM to worship will be missing (Psalm 122:1):

“I WAS glad when they said to me,  Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Violation of God’s Word will always ROB the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION: The meaning “edification” in the sense of “being built up, strengthened in one’s faith” [Expository Dictionary of Bible Words].

Our interest must increase for our WORSHIP to be a blessing;

“I don’t get anything out of worship.” — Are you putting anything in?!   [ [i] Referenced].

While Christ is Knocking at Our Door…(3:20)

He is directing some of us to knock at Him; “knock and it shall be opened.”

He will certainly hear our voice and open the door to us.  He will not be DEAF to our voice, nor bar the door, nor keep us standing in the hallway, nor send us empty away.

Christ’s Church When He Comes…

The body (the church) will be found in different circumstances then, as well as now, and with many kinds of knocking; yet in all, it’s the same earnest desire on His part to be let in.  He will not force the door; but still wants to be let in.

Don’t find yourselves repeating the lyrics to a song that was popular in the 50’s: “I hear you knocking, but You can’t come in!” How much you will lose out on!

In His Absence…

—  NO outward prosperity,

—  NO riches,

—  NOR numbers can compensate…

IF HE IS KEPT OUT–all is sadness, and leanness, and poverty.

IF He is admitted, ALL IS WELL…

—  HAPPY is the church where Christ is daily feasting…

—  HAPPY the soul in which He has come to live…and who, is in daily communion by Faith and ENJOY the TASTES the Bridegroom’s LOVE!.

“I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.”

 

 

 

 Reference:  [i]  www.bibleanswer.com/indiffrn.htm

Bible Translation Used: Amplified except where noted.

 

 

Keeping Yourself Spiritually Fit!

Getting Into Shape

“Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit].  For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), BUT godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come”  (1 Timothy 4:7, 8–Amplified Bible).

I can listen to fitness experts everyday telling us how unfit we all are in America.  They can write informative books with images in ‘shaping-up’, enlist us to join a local health club, watch “The Biggest Loser” on television, all to better ourselves physically.  But in order for us to see any personal results, we must make a “personal response”.  We won’t see any benefits unless we do it; walking, jogging, exercising to a video, join a health  club.  The list goes on but we “just have to do it!”  The same is true in our spiritual fitness response.

A PERSONAL RESPONSE ~ 1 Timothy 4:7

Training yourself is a reflexive pronoun:  “Expressed action directed or turned back on oneself”.  It’s good to have godly mentors (‘trainers’ or ‘coaches’) but ultimately, each believer is responsible for his or hers own spiritual training.  No one can do it for us so we have to be diligent and disciplined, not sporadic in our doing.

Jay Adams asks, “What is the secret of godliness?”  In a word, DISCIPLINE!  Discipline is God’s path toward godliness.  We Christians may be very disciplined and industrious when it comes in our business, our studies, our home and even our ministry.  But we tend to be ‘lazy’ when we exercise our own spiritual lives.  We much rather pray, “Lord, make me more godly.”  We expect Him to “pour” some godliness into our souls in some mysterious way.  God does in fact work in a mysterious way to make us godly, but He doesn’t do it apart from the fulfillment of our own personal responsibility.

DISCIPLINE

Gumnazo [detective word study] is from gumnos; “naked, bare, unclad or minimally clothed.”  It is descriptive of the common practice of males in Greco-Roman “gymnasia“; the English “gymnasium” and “gymnastics” is derived from.  It meant literally to exercise “naked” in the palaestra (school in ancient Greece or Rome for sports).  Now there is a picture!

Gymnastic exercises were highly esteemed by the Roman-Greek world but of little worth, short duration and refered only to this life and the applause of men. 

Godliness involves a promise (will deal with the promises later) for the life to come; something we can stand on,the life that reflects the heavenly life shaped and controlled by it bears to impress.  Godliness is profitable in all things:

1.  Makes people happier.

2.  Makes people more prosperous.

3.  Makes people more healthy here and now.

4.  Prepares for the life to come.

R. Kent Hughes wrote:

No discipline, no discipleship!

No sweat, no sainthood!

No perspiration, no inspiration!

No pain, no gain!

No manliness, no maturity!

GETTING INTO SHAPE

Gumnazo” figuratively means to exercise; to discipline oneself (in the moral or ethical “gym” so to speak); to exercise vigorously in any way, body or mind.

It word conveys the picture:

1.  To be rigorous.

2.  To be persevering.

3.  Painstaking.

4.  Diligent.

The “self-sacrificing” training of an athlete for a perishable prize and the Christian “athlete” willing to undergo for an imperishable prize (I Cor. 9:24-27).

In the present context, “godliness” is the prize that’s profitable for this life and the life to come.  Just as our physical muscles grow stronger through exercise, also the “muscle” of our will is strengthened by exercise (discipline) in doing right.

PAUL’S COMMAND TO TIMOTHY  (and to all who seek to be “vessels of honor” like Paul and Timothy)

The command is in the present imperative voice, calling for this to have a Christian “soldiers” lifestyle.  In other words, no time off because of our enemies; the world, the flesh, and the devil don’t take time off.  If you let down your guard, you will make yourself vulnerable to attack.  Failing to “keep yourself fit” or training yourself spiritually is like ceasing to pedal when riding on a bicycle.  Cessation results in loss of stability and serious injury. First to one’s spiritual life and then on the bicycle!

THE VITALITY OF YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

Your “vitality” in the spiritual life depends on your “diet”:

“But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law”  (Hebrews 5:14).

Wuest renders this verse:  “But solid food belongs to those who are (spiritually mature).  To those who on account of long usage have their powers of perception exercised to the point where they are able to discriminate between both that which is good in character and that which is evil.”

The vitality of your spiritual life depends on your “diet”.  Are you taking in solid food yet?  So you will be able to recognize false teachers?

Christian author Jerry Bridges says, “It is impossible to practice godliness without being constant, consistent with a balanced intake (food) of the Word of God in our lives.”  Donald Whitney says, “We don’t grow in grace if we fail to use the God-given means for growing in grace.”  Read those last two statements again to yourself and let the words sink in.  Are you getting hungry yet?

GODLY EXERCISE

Fitness advocate Jhannie Tolbert tells us, “you don’t need a treadmill or specialized equipment to get a great physical workout at home.”  Mr. Tolbert uses a toolbox for stepping exercises, lifts soup cans to work shoulder muscles; he uses common household items in his daily training.

The same principle holds true in spiritual fitness.  Bible dictionaries, commentaries and other books are all helpful.  I personally use all of those ‘helps” in preparing for a daily blog.  We can begin spiritual training with nothing more than the Bible and then guidance by our own God-given spiritual Trainer, the Holy Spirit.  Many times in reading the Word of God every day, I keep a notebook and ink pen close by to write down some insight that the Holy Spirit gives me.  We just need to begin where we are and what we have access too, RIGHT NOW!

WHAT DISCIPLINE “IS” AND “IS NOT”

First, discipline is an ongoing process, not a quick fix.  You can never say you’ve arrived.  Staying in shape physically for 25 years then one day you quit, you start to get “flabby”.  You have to keep at it, for it is a lifetime process.

Secondly, discipline involves hard work.  It is something in which God and you must be involved in the process.  “Self-control” is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:23).  Are you willing to pay the price?  If athletes put themselves through years of hard work and training for a silly gold medal, shouldn’t we pay the price to be godly?

Next, discipline means discarding hindrances; be unencumbered in exercising.  Remember, discipline comes from the Greek word for “discipline” = gymnazo.  It came from the word meaning “naked”.  Greek athletes would strip off their clothing, not to be hindered from the purpose of winning their event. 

The point is training ourselves for godliness.  There are hindrances we have to strip off; we have to say NO to things that hinder us from our purpose.  Of course that includes all sin, but it also includes things that may be all right in and of themselves; yet don’t help you grow toward godliness, like controlling  the TV set.  That is the wrong “diet” plan to apply in your growth to spiritual maturity

Discipline is managing your time in line with your goals.  An athlete works his schedule around his goal; he says NO to many good activities so he can say YES to his daily workout.

As Annie Dillard has pointed out, “How we spend our day is, of course, how we spend our lives” (Reader’s Digest, [7/92], p. 137).  The goal of godliness demands that you spend time each and every day alone with God, in His Word and prayer.  It’s not a question of having a “schedule”, you have one!  We all have the same number of hours in each day.  We all make time to do the things we want to do.  The question, “Is your schedule in line with your goal of becoming a godly person?”

PART 2, (which I hadn’t plan to do), will address the promises that come from Keeping Yourself Spiritually Fit!  The promise for this present life and also for the life which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). 

Get off  the spiritual “Lazy Boy” and start getting spiritually fit.  Don’t just sit there,  Do it NOW!