THE AVENGER


With the recent news headlines regarding the lack of justice in the land and in the world, let’s face it.   It’s frustrating!  It seems that hardened criminals get off with just slaps on the wrists.  I can’t stand the lack of consequences being dealt out for evil behavior.

While injustice in our country and the world abounds, my spirit rises when I ponder the Word of God when it clearly communicates that the wicked will not go unpunished.  As the Day of the LORD approaches, The Avenger of all the earth ensures that the wicked are done away with and justice is done.

In the last several weeks I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK Of Jeremiah, learning that because of the people’s constant sinning against the LORD, the Jews of Jeremiah’s day received what they deserved–the JUDGEMENT of the LORD.

God didn’t let them get away with rebellion against Him.

The people who God used to carry out His judgment were the Babylonians.

However, the tactics and methods of the Babylonians were absolutely unconscionable and brutal.  That gave rise to the question, which Jeremiah anticipates in the two chapters referenced:

“Will the Babylonians be punished for their evil deeds?  Will justice be done?”

And the answer given of Jeremiah 50-51 is “Yes, the Babylonians are going to be punished for the evil they commit against you.  The destroyer is going to be destroyed.  Babylon is going to fall and not rise again.”  

And for the Jews, Jeremiah 50-51 held a great comfort:

  1. The Babylonians were not going to get away with their evil deeds.
  2. The Jewish nation was going to survive.  God was going to redeem them in the land of captivity and return them to their homeland and be their God.

God’s JUSTICE…Is the fact that God will not let the wicked go unpunished.

But before we can have an understanding of God’s commitment to JUSTICE, we need to learn and understand about His vengeance and the anger that is aroused in Him by a person or nations in disobedience.

Jeremiah 50:15

Jeremiah speaks of the city of Babylon as an act of vengeance by the LORD:


Jeremiah speaks of how the time has come to be punished and how God was going to take vengeance on the Babylonians for what they had done to His Temple:

Jeremiah 50:27-31 (AMP)

[27] Slay all her bullocks (her choice youths, the strength of her army); let them go down to the slaughter!  Woe to [the Chaldeans]!  For their day has come, the time of their visitation (their inspection and punishment).

[28] Listen!  The voice of those [Jews] who flee and escape out of the land of Babylon proclaiming in Zion the vengeance [of the Lord upon the Chaldeans] for [the plundering and destruction of] His temple.

[29] Call together [many] archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow.  Encamp against her round about; let none from there escape.  Recompense her according to her deeds; just as she has done, do to her.  For against the Lord, against the Holy One of Israel, has she been proudly defiant and presumptuous.

[30] Therefore shall her young men fall in her streets and squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, says the Lord.  [31] Behold, I am against you, O Babylon [you who are pride and presumption personified], says the Lord, the Lord of hosts, for your day has come, the time when I will visit and punish you.

Jeremiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon was 170 years before its fulfillment.

In verse 29, God’s intent was to repay Babylon for her rebellion against Him.  Like things are said in Jeremiah 51:6; 51:11; 51:13; 51:24; and 51:36.

One of God’s Attributes: GOD IS A GOD OF VENGEANCE!

For some of us, the idea that God is a vengeful God just doesn’t seem right.  Yet in Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 we read:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”

And in Romans 12:19,

So what is the vengeance of God about?  —justice, retribution, punishment, payback, balancing the scales of right and wrong, righteous and holy anger.  It’s God’s response to SIN AND REBELLION.  Vengeance and the punishment of the wicked is God’s right and His duty.  In fact, if God can’t be true to His character of holiness and justice and if He allows SIN AND REBELLION to go unpunished…and if justice is to mean anything, then rebellion, lawbreaking, disobedience, arrogance, and all evil acts necessitate punishment.  God cannot and will not let the wicked go unpunished. 

As Nahum 1:3 says, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished…”. 

Proverbs 11:21 also says “Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.”

Just so I don’t leave you with an inaccurate view of God, we need to understand that the Bible balances the fury of God’s vengeance against the sinner with the greatness of His mercy on those who repent of their wicked ways.  This includes the nations of the world as well.

Our God is incredibly merciful!

In Psalm 116:5 it says, “The LORD is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion.”

In 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.” [AMP]

For in Jesus and the Cross, the full expression of God’s MERCY and GRACE is made available for us–for in the CROSS and the shed BLOOD of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for sin, the remedy for our sin and the judgment of God we all deserve.

As the time came for Babylon to be punished and experience God’s wrath against her, so the time approaches for the people in our day to experience the same.

Without a doubt, the Day of Judgment approaches.

In Hebrews 10:30-31, it says “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  [31] It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And again in 2 Peter 3:10 it says,  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a tremendous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  [AMP]

There’s a reason for this happening:

  • BECAUSE of the wickedness of mankind.
  • BECAUSE OF OUR SIN.
  • BECAUSE of peoples refusal to live as God requires us to.
  • BECAUSE the justice and righteousness of God demands that sin and rebellion be punished.

While the great Day of Judgment approaches, the Bible also teaches us that after we die and face judgment, each one will appear before the LORD and give an account–and to Heaven or Hell one will go for all eternity.

I know, most pulpits today are not preaching this.  And why?  “People that come through our doors don’t want to hear negative sermons,” as it’s been noted in churches across the land.

Here is something to note:  The one who will judge, the one who determines where one’s eternity will be spent…IS JESUS!

John 5:22-23 records Jesus saying,  

TWO THINGS as it pertains to the coming Day of Judgment:

For most, the Day of Judgment will be a terrible day for them–for they will experience the LORD’S hand against them.

For the few righteous, the children of God, a glorious day, the Day of the Lord shall be!

For all the saints a day of celebration and praise will take place.  Along with the angels of Heaven who will declare “True and just are your judgments O Lord.”  [See Revelation 16:7, and note Jeremiah 51:48. ]

The Required Preparation for the Day of the Lord.

  • The only way to be prepared is to be right with God.  The only way to escape the coming JUDGMENT is to be at peace with God.
  • The only way to be right with God is to be a follower of Jesus.  As Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • The only way to have peace with God is to humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sin, mourning over it, and embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

THE GLORIOUS NEWS OF THE SCRIPTURE–

For those who are right with God–meaning they’re disciples of Christ on the Day of Judgment–they shall not experience condemnation of God. 

Romans 8:1 (NIV) says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

As the angel of death passed over the houses of the Jews and the blood of the lambs spread on their doorposts, so the destruction of the Lord will pass over all those identified and spiritually marked with the shed blood of Jesus–the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS!

Like the ancient Hebrews, many Christians have misapplied the doctrine of divine vengeance using it as an excuse for holding on to the “getting even” against others.  Jesus has clearly spoken out against this:

Likewise in Romans 12:17-21 the Apostle Paul by the Spirit of God, commands us saying, 

Since VENGEANCE and REPAYING EVIL is God’s domain, we need to ask:

  • Is there someone you are holding a grudge against in the present, or in the past?
  • Is there someone in your life who you would like to get even with?

If you are struggling with a grudge, with unforgiveness, and with a retaliation spirit, then confess it now and ask the Lord to forgive you and to give you the mind of Christ, which is LOVE for your enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who trespassed against you.

As much as I or you hate injustice in our society and wrong sinful behavior, God hates it 1000 times more.

GOD HAS MADE A PROMISE:

He will not let the wicked go unpunished,

His HOLINESS AND COMMITMENT to justice demands this.

The only way to escape the AVENGER’S wrath is to flee to Jesus Christ who took upon Himself the punishment for sin that you and I deserve.

On the CROSS He endured the wrath of God for our sins and that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The more injustice and evil abound, the greater the comfort comes from this doctrine we have looked at in this study will be to us.

While our God is a God of vengeance, an AVENGER, we need to remember it’s held in the perfect balance of His rich and undeserved mercy (1 Thessalonians 4:6).


VENGEANCE IS GOD’S BUSINESS, NOT OURS

We need to learn to turn the other cheek and to wait upon the Lord–for He will AVENGE the wicked–they will not go unpunished.

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CREDITS:

Encyclopedia:  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – Avenge; Avenger.

Dictionary:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

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

 

 

And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

[1]  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

[2]  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It’s difficult to know when reading passages of Scripture in the Bible whether God’s GLORY refers to His actual glory or to human recognition of it.  This is true, for example, when Scripture speaks of the earth being full of the GLORY of the Lord.

In Isaiah 6, we see the call and commissioning of Isaiah, the prophet.

We don’t know for sure, but we assume that Isaiah was in the earthly temple.  However, the temple described in verse 1 is the Heavenly Temple.

In the year King Uzziah died it may be like saying the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, in the year JFK was shot, or in the year the Bomb was dropped.  This was a time in the nation of crisis and change that the prophet came face to face with the King of Kings.

HOLINESS tells us that Jesus is the exact representation or image of God.  What many have lost is the holiness of God.  God has become “the man upstairs”, or “the God next door”.  Max Lucado said it well:  “Immanuel, God with us.”

In Jesus Christ, God came near.  Something of the awesomeness and greatness– His GLORY has been forgotten.  The church culture has so allowed the culture around us to shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has invaded our churches we have to be sure not to offend anyone– WORSHIP is all about them.

Here in Isaiah, we see that WORSHIP is all about God.

When we see and sing the words on the Big Screen in church or out of a hymn book, we need to remember the songs are all about Him.  When you read History in the Bible, you need to remember, it’s His story.  What Isaiah got was probably more than he bargained for in a worship service.

God’s High Position (6:1) – Beholding His Glory

[1]  IN THE year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.  [John 12:41]  (Amplified Bible).

Isaiah was reminded that God is sovereign.  When God showed up, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up.  He saw God in His greatness and holiness.  With everything that was happening, God was in complete control while sitting on His throne in heaven.

Here in Isaiah 6:1, looking at several different Bible translations, you can see Lord spelled in all caps–i.e., LORD; and others, Lord.  I just had to dig deeper here.

LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term “YHWH”, while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “to be”; “the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign or supreme one.”  It suggests that God simply is i.e., He possesses an underived existence; He is the eternal “I AM”.  This name became a special designation–emphasized in God’s relations ship to the nation of Israel.  [“LORD and Lord – What’s the Difference? by The Christian Courier] 

John 12:37-40 clearly tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus on the throne!

Isaiah saw God on the throne with His hand on the throttle in complete control.

  • When it says DISEASE–God is on the throne!
  • When the boss says you’re FIRED–God is on the throne!
  • When our children DISOBEY–God is on the throne!

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, but he also heard the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

The Holiness of God is, His being in a class by Himself with His perfection and greatness and worth.  All His perfection and greatness and worth are distinct and separate–we’ve been taught that HOLY means separate–His in a class by Himself.

HIS HOLINESS IS WHAT HE IS AS GOD THAT NOBODY ELSE IS –

His quality of perfection can’t be improved upon, can’t be imitated, and that determines that He is all of that and nothing is determined from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”–the next thing they say is this:  “The whole earth is full of His”…and you might think “holiness” would be the next word.

But he doesn’t say holiness, he says GLORY!

Essentially, “holy”, essentially holy, and the whole earth is full of His GLORY.

I stab a definition here by saying the GLORY OF GOD is the manifest beauty of His holiness.  It’s the going public of His Holiness.  It’s the way He puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

Read the words from Leviticus 10:3:  God says He will be shown to be HOLY among those who are near Him and before all the people He will be honored.

I will be shown to be holy,” He says.  “And among ALL the people” — say it another way–“I will be glorified.”

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

What on earth does all this have to do with our worship?

EVERYTHING!!!

If you divorce or separate God’s holiness from worship, all you have is entertainment.  Why start on time, why do things in order, why not distract others during the song service and preaching?  Because we should be focusing on the greatness of God!!!

WHY THE CROSS?

The cross was ultimately the result of God’s Holiness.  Sinful man can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God took care of the ‘sin problem.’

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

[21]  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

This God that’s HOLY and separate is the God we need to see in our worship–in our everyday living.

Isaiah’s Posture of Humility in God’s Glory and Holiness –

“Woe to me!  I am ruined and undone…”  (6:5)

To Isaiah’s peers, he was upright. a righteous man, a man of unmatched integrity.  AND then just one glimpse of God’s greatness changed his whole self-perception.

It took God to reveal his guilt, it took a picture of deity to reveal Isaiah’s filthiness–his sin.

Have you ever seen God in such a way that revealed who you really are?

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner that’s separated from God without hope?

That’s what the VISION did for Isaiah.  It revealed reality to him–God sees us as we are, where we are in life right now!  He sees your heart!!

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

The Hebrew word for “undone”:  to come apart at the seams.  Isaiah was totally exposed for who he was before a holy God.

CONFESSION –

A vision of the holiness of God that brings true conviction of sin is always followed by the confession of sin.

I love Billy Ricks’ slant of this fact:  “Regardless of excuses, sin is a prison from which you can never be freed until you admit it’s your own fault that you were thrown in the slammer.”

CLEANSING –

Because Isaiah came clean he was made clean.  The cleansing power of God went to work on Isaiah’s behalf.

God is HOLY and also merciful.  When we confess our sins to Him, God goes to work.  He cleanses us with the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What is the big deal about WORSHIP in Christian America today?

To me, it’s about seeing God in all of His manifested GLORY.  Let me break that down just a bit.  When someone says, “Look at the wind blowing outside,” and when you peer out the window you can’t actually see the wind.  What you see is the effect that the wind has on the objects it’s blowing on–the trees, a flag, a hat blown off one’s head.  So when God breathes, you can’t visibly see His breath, but you can see His GLORY manifested in your surroundings.  Just look around you!

In seeing God for who He is we can see ourselves as we truly are.  The church culture of today has so allowed the culture around us shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has infiltrated our churches.

Here is a heavenly worship service where Isaiah saw a fresh vision of God.  From this vision of God’s HOLINESS, Isaiah was inspired to pen words like Isaiah 40:8.

What churches and Christians in America desperately need is a fresh vision of God’s holiness and His Glory.  We don’t need a new revelation because all that God is and has for us is revealed in Christ Jesus.

We give God the GLORY!!!

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CREDITS

Commentary:  John Piper’s “What Is God’s Glory” at desiringGod.org.

Music Video:  “I SAW THE LORD” by Dallas Holmes – YouTube.

Images:  Google Image search.

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

JUDGMENT is Good! (Last in the series)

Micah 6-7

Corruption, it seems, is alive and well.  We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia, typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States,  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions,  When people make stupid decisions, and over a lifetime of 76 years, I’ve made plenty–they have to face the consequences.

Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like maybe fire and brimstone?

Usually, yes; that is unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for immorality in the Book of Micah.

Let’s look now at the last two chapters in Micah.

Micah 6:1-8

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama:  “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

THE SCENE IS SET –

I can just hear a lawyer yelling this now–“God is demanding that the people explain their actions.”

At this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt.

A REVIEW OF MICAH –

Chapter 2:8-9  (NIV)

[8] Lately my people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without care, like men returning from battle.

[9] You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes.  You take away my blessing from their children forever.

Chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically:  verses 1-3

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics!  verses 2-3

[2] The faithful have been swept from the land; no one upright person remains.  Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.

[3]  Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

So in Micah 6:1-8, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen.  They are the JURY!

[1]  “Hear now what the Lord says:  Arise, contend and plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  [2] Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and you strong and enduring foundations…”

The book of Luke in the Bible says that if we’re all silent the rock themselves will cry out in praise–so I don’t think it’s a reach that they could serve as a jury if asked by their Creator.

He then begins to list off what he has done, when it says in verse 5, God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous and saving acts of the Lord” (AMP).

What comes next is such a human action!  The people want to jump to the extreme!

They got from not listening to God’s Word at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and their first-born child (vs. 7)?

Really?  That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?  But this is how they thought!  They were like the criminal when, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.  And in my opinion, the Israelites deserved every one of those things.

They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to simply point His finger and ZAP THEM with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone.

But He doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what He wants:  That’s it!

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“…to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

God doesn’t care about these huge outward displays of guilt.

He’s God!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not!

All He wants is for you to follow Him in all of His ways.  That’s the very definition of MERCY.

Going back to the courtroom for a moment…

This would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing.”

What if in the military trials, with suspected terrorists, ended like that?  “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.”  That would never happen, right?

But God’s MERCY is so much greater than ours that we can’t really understand how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again!

That’s right–after all this, after the courtroom, the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK!  I’ll continue to bless you, and this is how.”

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV)

[11]  The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

So what does this mean for us today?  It means if you sin, if you do anything to disrespect God, to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.

When you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in self-pity and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep.

Just be honest with God–admit you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.

THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!

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CREDITS –

Credit:  Law and Order (1990-1991) Theme – Youtube video

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search – settings, advance search.

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

 

 

 

Moving Forward In Spite of the Past

Scripture Study:  HEBREWS 4:14-16

ILLUSRATION:

One man said to his friend:  “Say, you look depressed.  What are you thinking about?”  “My future,” was the quick answer.  “What makes it look so hopeless?”  “My past!”

Our past does tend to put a cloud around our future.  Good, bad, or otherwise.  Our past sometimes determines the path we take in the future.

When we look back over our lives, we all have things we’ve tucked away in our hearts and minds that we would like to delete, the Bad, the SORROWFUL, and remember and even increase the joy-filled times.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (MSG-The Message Bible)

[14-16]  Now that we know what we have–Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God–let’s not let it slip through our fingers.  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.  So let’s walk right up to *Him and get where *He is so ready to give.  Take the mercy, accept the help.  [* Capitalized because of what He is, the spotless Son of God]

MERCY and GRACE, two great things we all need!

When it comes to the pain of the past, we must ask God for MERCY in order to get over it.  These are the same things that we find that are hard to handle,  and hard to overcome, such as:  losing a loved one in death, divorce, abuse, financial loss, etc..

We must ask God with confidence and boldness for MERCY, to put an end to our suffering over these things that are holding us back.

Sometimes we’re tormented in our spirit for years over such things.  But our God is merciful.  We must ask for Him to be merciful in that boldness and He will demonstrate it.

And next, we must ask for GRACE to keep us moving forward.

Every day when I wake up in bed, as sleepy as I may be, I know that I am here by the Grace of God.  We exist by His Grace.  Good things come our way–His FAVOR, by the GRACE of God.  We are only able to forgive by the Grace of God.  And of course, we are only FORGIVEN by God’s GRACE.

We’ll never move forward in life without the GRACE of God!

Our country is in the process of always looking back and well, it should.  We are looking back on that horrendous day of September 11, 2001.

Everything points to the Lord. 

By Him, we live and survive.  And with Him, we die.  

Without Him, we cannot live or live abundantly as He planned in our lives.

John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy…”

CATCH THIS…

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

And we certainly don’t want to die without Him!

In light of September 11, 2001, we must remember, honor and trust.

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM REMEMBERING THINGS?

Who doesn’t?

And personally, the problem seems to increase with age.

The other side of the coin is this:  We are pretty good about remembering certain things.  Things that deal with our own experiences; our own likes and dislikes.

For example, my wife has expected over the years, that I should take care of servicing her car.  Several years back, I would tell her when she filled up the car with gas, that the station’s attendant would ask if he could check under the hood [ I did mention “several years back”].

“if it needed oil, remember to tell them your husband would add the oil.”

One day she mentioned her car’s oil was down by a quart and she decided that she could add the oil.  After all, how hard could that be?

I asked her if she had any problems and she answered with confidence, “No problems.  But it took a long time to add the oil.”  Scratching my head and asking, “Why did it take so long?”

She explained that after she took the dip-stick out and putting a funnel in the little hole, it took forever to drain the oil can.

After showing her why she had experienced the ‘slow draining’, with both laughing, and thanking God she hadn’t put the oil in the radiator.  Obviously, I had not been taking care of her car.  Would I do that to MY car?  Probably not.

We could apply this though in many areas of our lives.  And we’d all be guilty.

We are quick to take care of ourselves, watch out for ourselves, feed ourselves whether anyone else gets fed or not.

One of the worst things in the world is SELFISHNESS, and one of the saddest things in the world is to forget people.  And it’s extremely sad to forget them in their suffering.

Luke 10, “The Good Samaritan” story.

There was only one good Samaritan.

The priest passed by on the other side, avoiding the injured man he saw in pain.  The Levite also passes by on the other side.  The stranger, the foreigner, the Samaritan took pity on the man and had a strong compassion.  He tried to take care of the man’s wounds…actually took the man to a place where he could be cared for.

If we could be really honest, most of us are like the priest and Levite.  We’re too self-centered, too self-absorbed, or too busy with our own lives to REMEMBER others.

Hebrews 13:3

REMEMBER THOSE WHO SUFFER.  AS IF YOU YOURSELF WERE SUFFERING.

It could be US instead of THEM!

If it weren’t for the GRACE and GRACIOUSNESS of God we all could be in prison!  We all could be some of those families in New York who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center.

Romans 12:15 (NIV Bible)

[15]  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

We must REMEMBER the suffering of others.

We must not be without SYMPATHY and COMPASSION for those who hurt.

May God help us to remember others.  May God help us to have the compassion of Jesus.

The Importance of HONORING –

Romans 12:10 (AMP)  “Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.”

Romans 13:7 (NIV)  “Give everyone what you owe him:  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Philippians 2:25, 27, 29 (NASB) 

[25] “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;  [27] For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.  [29] Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;”  [HONOR]

Some people deserve to be honored.  Not the high and mighty, the rich and the famous, but those who SERVE, those who do, those who care, those who give, those who love, those who die for others without bringing attention to themselves.

It is always right to give HONOR to who HONOR is due!

Think about those around you who deserve your HONOR, your PRAISE, your THANKS, and your BLESSING.

AND THEN GIVE IT

  • TRUSTING 

There’s an old story of a father who took his young son out and stood him on the railing on the back porch.  He then went down, stood on the lawn, and encouraged the little guy to jump into his arms.  “I’ll catch you,” the father said confidently.  After much convincing, the little boy finally made the big leap.  When he did, the father stepped back and let the child fall to the ground.  He then picked his son up, dusted him off, and dried his tears.  “Let that be a lesson,” he said sternly.  “Don’t ever trust anyone!”

That’s a heartbreaking illustration of the world’s attitude on not trusting others in our lives.  The world says, “Watch out for number one, yourself.  Don’t trust anybody, not even family members.”

Without seeming too negative, I wanted to bring awareness to a strong and powerful truth.

HERE IT IS:  Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

None of us like to think that we are “evil”, but in a real sense, we have an evil side, a dark side to us, and it’s called the FLESH.  If we ‘dark-sided’ people are good to our children, how much greater is God, our Father, to us!  If we can be trusted in some form, how much more He can be trusted!

2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)  “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

At our very worst times of unfaithfulness, God is still FAITHFUL!

He is for us!  He loves us in spite of who we are or in what we think or do!

I realize that concept is hard to comprehend because all we know basically is human love.  And “human love” often fails.

Hebrews 13:5

God is saying to each one of us:

“Why get so engrossed in making money!  I’m here for you.  I will provide for you and your family.  There’s more to life than money!  I’ll take care of you, feed you, put a roof over your head.  Quit wanting more.  No matter how bad your situation gets, no matter how deep in debt you find yourself, I’ll take care of you!  You’re My kid.  Please let me be your Father!  Please trust Me!”

Proverbs 3:5-6

TRUSTING is a hard lesson to learn.

There’s probably not a person in my life who hasn’t failed me in some form or another:  parents, siblings, mate, children, Christian friends.  And I’ve failed them as well.  I didn’t want to fail them, but I did.  I have and I probably will again.

All I’m saying is, that we FAIL one another.

BUT WE HAVE ONE WHO NEVER FAILS US NOR FORSAKES US!

Romans 8:28 (AMP)

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

Romans 8:31-33

The famous preacher Dwight L. Moody once said,

“Trust in yourself and you are doomed to disappointment.  Trust in your friends and they will die and leave you.  Trust in money and you may have it taken from you.  Trust in your reputation and some slanderous tongue may blast it.  But trust in God and you are never to be confounded in time or eternity.”

The only way to live is by faith, by trusting God as our living, heavenly Father.  And by trusting in Christ as our Savior.

If we want to live as successfully as possible, as joyously as possible, we must live by FAITH.

WE MUST TRUST GOD.

Remembering, honoring, trusting and loving God.

Making these your commitments will keep you moving forward!

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CREDITS

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); The Message Bible (MSG); New International Version (NIV); New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Dwight L. Moody Quote:  201 Dwight L. Moody Quotes by ChristianQuotes.info

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Revelation 6:1-17

SINNER MAN –

I first heard this song on the car radio the year after my wife and I were married, in 1965.  I was struck by the question in the lyric, “Sinner Man, Where You Gonna Run To?”  I discovered later that the song originated from an African American spiritual song that had been recorded by a number of performers (Bob Marley, Peter, Paul and Mary, Les Baxter and more).

The lyrics go on telling the story with…He [the sinner man] runs to the rock, to the sea, to the Lord and ultimately to Satan because he comes face to face with the wrath of God and he’s so frightened he’s looking for ANY way to avoid God’s anger.  But there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide because he had rejected God for so long there was no longer hope.

I thought to myself, now where would the writer for this old spiritual song get his idea?

Right here in Revelation 6.

That’s pretty scary stuff!

These SINNERS are running from God.  They’re RUNNING from the wrath of the Lamb.

In my reading of John’s words here, something just didn’t seem to correlate with my knowledge of the bible.  John 3:16 tells us that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And Jesus spent His time among the tax collectors, and the prostitutes and the SINNERS.

Over and over again we read throughout the New Testament hearing the message repeated and it all seems to be summed up in 2 Peter 3:9.  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to yo repentance.”

BUT in our passage in Revelation Chapter 6, we have sinners running from the Wrath of the Lamb.  They are running from the wrath of the very One who died for them.  What’s going on here?

After re-reading and meditating on the previous verses in the chapter, the answer is found in verses 9 thru 10:

I see two things in play here.  1st – the scene here shows God’s vengeance on mankind.  As Hebrews 10:30 tells us and we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”

The major focus in Revelation 6 is GOD’S JUDGMENT on those who’ve persecuted and slain His people in the name of His Son Jesus.

Jesus, while on this earth, told us what was going to happen when He said “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22).

AND Luke 21:17 – “And you will be hated (despised) by everyone because [you bear] My name and for its sake.”  [AMP]

John wrote in 1 John 3:13 – “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”

DID IT HAPPEN?

Yes!  Within the first 3 years of the EARLY church’s existence.

  • The Apostle James was executed.
  • Peter was thrown into prison.
  • Philip was stoned to death.
  • And a man named Saul had Christians arrested, jailed, beaten and even killed.

And that was just the beginning.

Down through the ages Christians have been murdered and tortured for their FAITH.

In my research, for this study, I came across some statistics that shocked me. [See Footnote [i].]

Every month…

  • 255 Christians are killed.
  • 104 are abducted.
  • 180 Christian women are raped, sexually assaulted or forced into marriage.
  • 60 churches are attacked.
  • 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned.

And this isn’t a new situation for BELIEVERS.  Christians have been suffering and dying for their FAITH for centuries!

And Jesus’ Revelation to John is telling us that God knew this would happen and it made Him angry.

And He was so angry that He said:  “Vengence is Mine”.

You REALLY don’t want to be on the receiving end of that kind of anger.

Paul wrote:  “God is just:  He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you”  (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

I literally feel sorry for the people who try to harm God’s people because I know the truth of Revelation 6.  You don’t mess with God’s people!

Hebrews 10:31tells us “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

So the 1st thing I see in Revelation 6 is THIS:

  • God will bring JUDGMENT on those who hurt His people.

But there is something else here that I almost missed:

God’s JUDGMENT isn’t just about VENGEANCE, it’s ALSO about reaching out to the lost!

In the Youtube video presentation at the beginning of this Blog, listen to this verse:

RUN TO THE LORD

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

RUN TO THE LORD

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

RUN TO THE LORD.

“Lord, won’t you hide me?”

“And the Lord said ‘sinner man’ – you shoulda been prayin.”

Do you know what this verse is saying?

It’s saying, it’s too late Sinner Man…you shoulda been a prayin!  BUT you didn’t, so don’t bother me.  You’ve messed up big time and now there’s no hope.

I have a real problem with that thinking.

Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.  Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

As Long as the wicked are willing to REPENT…God will forgive. 

That’s the MESSAGE throughout Scripture.

Hebrews 9:27 tells us “And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment”  [AMP].

But these guys (in Revelation 6) aren’t dead yet!  Until they die they still have the opportunity to REPENT.

And besides, it doesn’t say that the “Sinners” were appealing to God.  These folks weren’t running TO Jesus…they were running AWAY from Him.

Revelation 6:15-16 says they “hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains”

These folks aren’t appealing to God to hide them, they “called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne’.” 

They were calling on the rocks and Mountains to fall on them and protect them.

I remember growing up in a home where the punishment my folks dealt out to my brother and I definitely got our attention.  So much so, that even a slight look of dissatisfaction was all that was needed.

And there are times in Scripture where God disciplined entire nations in order to get their attention to REPENT–“turn from their wicked ways”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Psalm 32:4, we see David speaking about how God dealt with him after he had sinned with Bathsheba.  He wrote: “For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me…”  (AMP).

It was a repeated theme throughout the Old Testament.  God would slap the people in order to wake them UP!

And God hasn’t changed.  He’s still working on sinners NOW as He did back then.

One of my favorite bible verses is where Jesus says:

What does Jesus mean when He says the Holy Spirit (“the Helper”) will CONVICT?

It means that someone has been convicted of their GUILT.

It means to make a person FEEL their Guilt.

AND that’s the Spirit’s job–to CONVICT people of their SIN.

CONVINCE them of the need of RIGHTEOUSNESS and remind them of the coming judgment.

Now, how’s the Holy Spirit going to do that?

As my mother would try to explain when I was a child:  “That small voice inside of you will make you very uncomfortable, Mel, when you are doing something you shouldn’t.”

Being AWARE…

Being aware of what the Spirit of the Lord is trying to get your attention for.

Be open to receiving His correction and what He is showing you that you need to REPENT of and change direction in your life.

The word REPENT means to turn in the direction you were headed; change the way we did something or the direction we are thinking of proceeding.  [See Footnote [i].]

Remember always, the Holy Spirit is CONVICTING and NOT CONDEMNING us! 

That’s what the enemy does.

HOLY SPIRIT is NOT going to badger or nag us about the same thing.  He is going to show us the MISTAKE–laying it on our hearts to REPENT and ask for forgiveness and then… He is going to expect us to move on.  He will keep on until we do something about it!  That’s not “nagging,” that’s the Father’s LOVE for us.

In reflection and asking myself the question. who do I know, or don’t know today who are living in the ‘spiritual caves’ right now while shaking their fists at God?

Should I be praying that the Holy Spirit might CONVICT them to REPENTANCE?

QUESTION:  “But aren’t these people really God’s enemies and if they are God’s enemies, they have to be mine too? And shouldn’t God’s enemies be put in place–PUNISHED?”

MY ENEMIES–GOD’S ENEMIES deserve to be punished!!

Well, here’s the deal.

If I rejoice when my enemy falls, I prove I’ve missed something.

You see, Jesus came to die for SINNERS.  Now–are my enemies…SINNERS?

Yeah!  I’m pretty sure that’s part of the reason they’re my enemies.

There’s an interesting passage of Scripture from Proverbs 24:17-18 (AMP).

[17] Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles or is overthrown.  [18] Lest the Lord see it and it be evil in His eyes and displease Him, and He turns away His wrath from him [to expend Thit upon you, the worse offender].

There’s a hint given in the verses at the fact that your ENEMY is being punished for a reason.

THE REASON is this:

God is punishing your enemy so that you can show them GRACE.  You see God punishes your enemies so that you can come into their lives and show them God’s LOVE for them which lends to REPENTANCE.

You and I need to be constantly reminded by God’s Spirit that we were not SAVED so we could be pampered.

We were SAVED because we were going to HELL!

We were SAVED because we didn’t stand a chance without God’s MERCY!

It’s not that God doesn’t want you to have a better life than you’d have if you didn’t become a Christian; it’s just that God has SAVED us to become something more than just self-centered and self-serving individuals.

GOD SAVED you and I–and enlisted us to be His Ambassadors (His missionaries) to a lost world.            (2 Corinthians 6:20)

Now here’s the deal–you may be thinking that you are not qualified–not important enough to become a missionary–an ambassador.  But if you are willing to go to the “sinner man” during their struggles and SHARE with them the LOVE of God and HOPE of His forgiveness…then you have a chance to change the world!

Are you willing to take a chance?

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Statistics –  https://www.opendoorusa.org/christian-persecution/

Credit:  Charisma News – Discerning the Difference…Between Holy Spirit Conviction and Demonic Condemnation.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  The New International Version (NIV), or elsewhere noted in the text.

Media:  Sinner Man by the Seekers, 1965.  Courtesy of YouTube. 

 

Unconditional Election

 

Well, here I sit at my laptop computer, television cable news on low volume in my ear, and trying to focus on the message coming from Scripture, all at the same time.

imagesIt is season of ELECTION here in the United States, and between the robocalls, car bumper stickers, political signs placed in front yards, and every television and radio station broadcasting partisan campaign rhetoric…it’s still over two months from election day.

It is hard to accept all the hype of the campaign’s politicians.  But at the same time, the outcome of the election can’t change one’s acceptance of the results–positive or negative.

Accepting God’s Unconditional Election – A Study in Romans 9

My hesitancy, even my personal objections to this topic fell apart as I studied and meditated on God’s Word.  I could no longer explain away Romans 9.

What is UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION?

John Piper, Founder and Teacher of desiringGod.org states the definition as…

“God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors He will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them and adopting them into His everlasting family of joy.”

My public Prayer:

Father, I need your Spirit to enlighten me in explaining Your word on this sometimes difficult topic.  May I be clear in explanation and stay out of the “rabbit holes.”  Thank You in advance, Amen.

GRACE & ELECTION –

The real question is NOT “Why are only some saved?”, but “Why are any saved?”

Without God’s ELECTION, none could, would or even should be SAVED from His judgment.

The true children of God, God’s election of His family, is not determined by the will of mankind, but by the eternal decree and divine counsel of Almighty God Himself!

Let me state right up front, that there are some hard things to understand in the Bible–like Unconditional Election or the Calvinist approach to predestination.

Here are three passages of Scripture to read and meditate on:  Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11.

Romans 8:29 (KJV):  For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Ephesians 1:5 (NAS):  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Ephesians 1:11 (AMP):  In Him we also were made [God’s] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained  (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will.

If election is true, what happens to human responsibility?  And, If some are “predestined” to heaven, then why bother with evangelism in the church?  How can people be guilty of sin, since they are doing what they were predestined to do?

This topic of conversation can–has, caused friendships to fracture, churches to split and divide Christians into different doctrinal groups.

Let me give you my understanding, and you can agree or disagree.  I have a simple mind, so this might not be satisfactory to everyone reading this.

God is supremely SOVEREIGN and we are responsible to our response to His calling.

The word “sovereign”, “Sovereignty of God”, is the biblical teaching that ALL THINGS are under God’s rule and control, His authority, and nothing happens without His direction or permission.  [See footnote [i] ]

Romans 9 emphasizes the SOVEREIGNTY of God while Chapter 10 emphasizes man’s foundational response (I’m sticking with Chapter 9 for this blog).

The apostle Paul doesn’t seek to relieve the tension, nor does he fully explain the working out of election and responsibility of his listeners in this chapter.  He seems to be more interested in pointing out the pompous hearts that dares to question the Creator.

Election and Responsibility as taught by Jesus in John 6:37:  

“All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me” [divine election]; “and the one who comes to Me” [human response] “I will most certainly not cast out {I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]” (Amplified Bible in italics).

THIS BLOG’S BIBLE TEXT:  ROMANS 9:19-29

In my study this week on the above passage, I found 7 different questions in regards to UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.  While Paul doesn’t specifically answer each of these questions, there’s at least 3 answers that are given.

God DESIGNS with purpose (vv. 19-21)

[19] You will say to me,  Why then does He still find fault and blame us [for sinning]? For who can resist and withstand His will?”

Paul has given reference to Moses as an example, where he states that God will have MERCY on whom He will have MERCY and COMPASSION on whom He will have COMPASSION (v.15).  Paul further states that the MERCY is God’s gift (v. 16) and not on one’s own willingness nor works.

Paul then contrasts MERCY with STUBBORNNESS, as with Pharaoh’s condition of an unyielding heart (vv. 17-18):

[17] For Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in [dealing with] you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over.

[18] So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses) and He hardens whomever He wills.

Paul’s not concerned with the person’s question in verse 19, as much as his concern for the “attitude” behind the question.

Paul’s seemingly agitated response in verse 20 is to the point:

[20] But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? 

In the New International Version of the bible, it reads “talk back”.  Paul was putting the person’s attitude in his place for “talking back” to God.

It’s not wrong to ask questions of our Father God, but we cannot presume to correct Him.

We should be reminded of what God said in Job 38:2-3:

[2] Who is this that darkens council by words without knowledge?  [3] Gird up now your loins like a man, and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me.

Job is put in his place in 40:2:

“Shall he who would find fault with the Almighty contend with Him? He who disputes with God, let him answer it.”

I love the way Job responds in verses 4-5:

[4] Behold, I am of small account and vile! What shall I answer You? I lay my hand upon my mouth.  [5] I have spoken once, but I will not reply again–indeed, twice (have I answered), but I will proceed no further.

It is hard for us at times, just to be still when God declares His will.  Many of us want to have the last word with God.

God has the absolute rights of ownership.

By putting together passages from Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-6, Paul shows that as Creator, God has the absolute rights of ownership (v. 20 b.):

“…Will what is formed say to him that formed it,  Why have you made me thus?”

He then expands the analogy of the Potter and the clay (v. 21)

the-potters-choice-romans-91433-10-638

[21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?

God Delays punishment (verse 22-23)

God DESIGNS with a purpose and He also DELAYS punishment to some, in order to show His MERCY to others.

[22]  What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction?

[23]  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–  (NIV).

Notice the two uses of the phrase “What if…”

Paul states 2 categories of people here.  The Bible often uses extreme terms to separate people into two groups.

  • The SAVED and the LOST,
  • Children of God and children of Satan,
  • Light and darkness.

The last words in Verse 22 make it a tough passage to deal with–“prepared for destruction”.  It is written in the “passive voice” for grammatical correctness.

It shows that people prepare themselves for DESTRUCTION by their sins.  It’s not that God makes people sinful, but that He leaves them in their sin unless they REPENT and receive Jesus.  If people resist and reject God, they end up preparing their own destruction.  If, during the time of “divine delay,” any individual repents and receives Jesus, he or she becomes an “object of His mercy.”

EZEKIEL 18:30-32 SAYS,

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So, who then, are the OBJECTS (“vessels”) of MERCY?

God gets the GLORY either way!  He even uses Israel’s unbelief to further His purposes.  Actually, He uses ALL CIRCUMSTANCES to promote His Glory.

VERSE 23 (AMP):  And [what if] He thus proposes to make known and show the wealth of His glory in [dealing with] the vessels (objects) of His mercy which He has prepared beforehand for glory.

There’s the grammatical construction in verse 23, that’s different–we don’t prepare ourselves for glory because we are “prepared beforehand for glory” by God.

God is delaying His JUDGMENT so that you will repent and receive Jesus.  But He won’t wait forever.

At the beginning of this POST, I made the comment that God is supremely sovereign and that we are responsible for our response to His call.

So SALVATION starts with God and ends with God.  If UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION is true, then it means that we can never claim any credit for our SALVATION, or anyone else’s SALVATION.

We don’t even get points for seeking the Lord, because He sought us before we sought Him.

Someone may say “Why should I bother responding?  If I’m “predestined”, God will save me when He’s ready.”

The Bible says that God SAVES those who place their FAITH in Jesus Christ.

Henry Ward Beecher, a Congregationalist clergyman during the 1800’s, used to say the ELECT were the “Whosoever wills” and the non-elect were the “Whosoever won’ts.”

If you are wondering whether God has chosen you to SALVATION, just answer this question.  Have you ever placed your FAITH, your TRUST, in Jesus Christ–and in Him alone for your SALVATION?  If you answered “Yes,” then you have been “Unconditionally Elected” (“chosen”) to enter Heaven.  But what if the answer is “No”?

One reason God has delayed His punishment is to give you more time to be SAVED. If you go to hell, it won’t be God’s fault.  He’s done everything necessary to make sure you go to heaven.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION simply put…God chose you first and if He didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen Him.

In other words, God so arranged the circumstances, when the moment was right, I had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus.  That occurred in the evening, August 15, 1972.  I was 30 years old, and God had been calling me for an unknown period of time but I was stiff necked in responding to His call.

Our CHOICE is a FREE CHOICE, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to BELIEVE and be SAVED.

 


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i]:  Definition of God’s Sovereignty from Theopedia.

Bible Translations:  King James Version (KJV); New International Version (NIV); New American Standard (NAS); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Photos:  Google Image Search. 

Wrong Choices Do Have Their Consequences!

[Bible Scripture:  2 Samuel 16:1-13; 19:16-18, 19-20, 23; 1 Kings 2:36-38, 39-46]

“First Impressions Are Often Lasting Impressions” – (A Proverb) 

His Name is SHIMEI – (2 Samuel 16:1-13)

I believe we are all confronted with “first impressions” and the  questions that arise in our minds:

Was his handshake firm, or like a wet dish rag?  Does that family really let their daughter wear revealing clothes to church on Sundays?

Can our first impressions of people we run across everyday, without really knowing them, leave us with an impression that sits in concrete forever?

SIMEI introduced in 2 SAMUEL 16 – Scene One

The first impression I got of this man was not a good one.  King David is forced to temporarily leave the throne, along with his family, friends, and servants from Jerusalem.

The reason for the hasty retreat –

David’s son Absalom had conspired against his father, gathered to himself a bunch of malcontents, and is bent on overthrowing his own father’s role as King.

David fears for his safety, and that of his family, friends and servants.  He knows that at this point and time, it’s best to flee, and fight later!

It must have been a sad day as they all gathered their belongings, and fled from their home.  Although a different story, it reminded me of the 1971 Musical and movie, Fiddler On The Roof, where the leading character Tevye and his family, friends and neighbors were forced to leave their town of Anatevka, Russian Empire in 1905.

513c051c87912-fiddler-on-the-roof-review-2
Fiddler On The Roof

The story found in 2 Samuel 16, the exodus was made even more difficult because Absalom, the King’s son, was the one causing the problem.  And I’m almost certain there wasn’t a Fiddler following this group with the king.

As David, his friends, family and servants exit, they cross over the River Jordan, and over the Mount of Olives.  It’s on the other side of the Mount of Olives that David encounters SHIMEI.

070812-david-unforgiven-2-samuel-16-dale-wells-10-728

CURSING THE KING –

Talk about kicking a man when he is down!  That’s what SHIMEI does here.

To be threatened by your own son is as bad as it gets, I would think.  BUT SHIMEI adds insult to injury by coming out of his home, and cursing the King as he came by.

Oh, by the way, he also picked up rocks and threw them at King David and his servants…he called the King names and…charged him with being a violent, and wicked man (vv. 7-8).

“What is this man’s problem?” 

He is a relative of Saul the King, whom the Lord rejected, and the one from whom David inherited the throne, and just maybe…it’s time to get even!

I don’t know the whole story, but I wonder if SHIMEI lived in fear of King David, or…could this have been a reaction from all the anger, bitterness, and jealousy that he allowed to build in his heart over the years?

I wonder how many times he said,  “It’s just not fair!” 

How many times in your life over the years have you said,  “It’s not fair!”

Vengeance Is Obviously Something Shimei Had On His Mind (v. 8):

[8] The Lord has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hands of Absalom your son. Behold, the calamity is upon you because you are a bloody man!

Notice David’s response.  He could have killed him, or had him killed.  In fact, one of his faithful servants Abishai [David’s nephew] volunteers to do it for him (v. 9).

Yet King David allows him to live.

David knew what it was like to find MERCY.  David also knew the need to show MERCY!

How good are we at showing MERCY to those who wrong us?

SHIMEI COMING TO THE KING – (2 Samuel 19:11-18)

The THREAT is over.  The CONSPIRACY has ended and Absalom is dead.  A great victory for the people of Israel, but a tragic loss for King David.

The Return of The King

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After a time of mourning for his son, David begins the journey back to Jerusalem where he is restored to power.  

As he crosses the Jordan River, who do you suppose comes out to meet him.  The ‘Cursing Rock Thrower’.

I’m not sure how much common sense SHIMEI has, but one thing he does have is nerve!

2 Samuel 19:19-20 (Amplified Bible):

[19] Let not my lord impute iniquity to me and hold me guilty, nor remember what your servant did the day my lord went out of Jerusalem [when Shimei grossly insulted David]; may the king not take it to heart.  [20] For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore, behold, I am today the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.

SHIMEI confesses his SIN to the King!

He is now willing to be a SERVANT!

He does not refer to himself as being a descendant of Saul, but of the house of Joseph!

SHIMEI CLEARED BY THE KING 

There is nothing wrong with Abishai’s memory!

“Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?”

Notice the words of MERCY out of David’s mouth (v. 23):

[23] “You shall not die” [at my hand].  And the king gave him his oath.

What welcome words to the ears of a sinner!

CALLED BY THE KING SOLOMON (1 Kings 2:36-37):
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King David is dead now, and his Son Solomon assumed the throne of his father.

Solomon sends for SHIMEI, and as he comes to the King, Solomon tells him to build a home in Jerusalem.  However, there’s a catch; there are boundaries that come with the promise.

Reminded me of when I was a young boy growing up.  My mother would give her consent for me walking to the nearby theater for Saturday Matinees with specific instructions–“come straight home afterwards, because moms always have ways to find out when little boys break the rules.”

Solomon specific instructions to SHIMEI–don’t travel out of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron Brook.  If you do, the consequence shall be DEATH!

Although my mom never put the consequences of disobedience with death, in a young boy’s mind, I wasn’t going to take the chance.

SHIMEI agrees and promises to abide by the King’s wishes.

“BUT AFTER THREE YEARS…” (verses 39-46)

The agreement to the terms of his mortgage is forgotten.  

Two of SHIMEI”S SERVANTS run away and Shimei decides to saddle up his donkey and pursue them. Perhaps he thought the King has forgotten or never finds out!

Caught In The Act!

Word comes to the King and he calls for SHIMEI, to remind him of the OATH he originally made three years earlier.  He also reminds him of the CONSEQUENCES OF MAKING POOR CHOICES!

sin

Don’t think for a moment that OUR CHOICES do not have consequences!~

SHIMEI DIES as a result of DISOBEDIENCE to the King!  (1 Kings 2:46)

We Too Have Cursed the King!

We have sinned against Him!

We have thrown rocks at Him every time that we have rejected Him!

Every time that we have forsaken Him, and every time that we have questioned His authority over our lives!

Here’s the GOOD NEWS!

We can come to the KING!

We can find MERCY at the feet of the King!

IF…we will CONFESS,

He will FORGIVE!

MAKING RIGHT CHOICES –

If you are reading this and are already SAVED, as a Believer, you have a responsibility to the KING.  He has placed LIMITS upon us and there are certain things that He expects from His own children.

 


CREDITS:

Photo Credits:  Courtesy of Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted in text.

 

LIVING AS A WANDERER vs. AS A PILGRIM

GENESIS 4:13-16 (New International Version – NIV):

hiding-from-god-theme-2Cain said to the LORD,  “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the LORD said to him,  “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

In 1952, John Steinbeck wrote the novel, East of Eden.  It’s a book that wanders through the subjects of depravity, beneficence, and yes, love.  It goes to great lengths to detail human struggle for acceptance, greatness, and freedom.  Also, it relates to man’s capacity towards self-destruction.

Despite being considered a great book, East of Eden hasn’t come close to the total number of sales of the BIBLE, nor lasted through thousands of years like the GENESIS account has.

As The Word Detective, I’m always curious to the origin of unfamiliar words; their meaning and sometimes, the geographical significance to the story.

Gordon-MacRae-Falsely-Accused-Priest-Land-of-Nod-East-of-EdenThe Land of Nod  (Hebrew: eretz – Nod) a place mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, located “on the east of Eden,” where CAIN was exiled by God after Cain had murdered his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8).

“NOD” is the Hebrew root of the verb “to wonder”–therefore, to dwell in the Land of Nod is usually taken to mean that one takes up a wandering life.

In English, to “nod”  is to fall asleep suddenly.  Consequently, in the United Kingdom, to go to the Land of Nod is to go asleep.  [Footnote [i] ]

CAIN was worried, in despair, about the PUNISHMENT that had been handed down by God.  Based on our laws today, the sentence was less than it deserved perhaps.

In his anger, Cain kills his younger brother over jealousy:  “…And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering,   But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed”  (Genesis 4:4-5 AMP).

Ah, that old SPIRIT OF JEALOUSY and ENVY had gotten hold of Cain that day.

JEALOUSY is a feeling of discontent because of what others possess.  Jealous people view someone else’s success as a threat to their success–their existence.

ENVY on  the other hand, is proof that the SPIRIT OF JEALOUSY is present in your life and as a result, there will be negative consequences.

In CAIN’s future, he certainly faced in his wandering, negative consequences, spiritually and physically.

Although JEALOUSY is a tool the devil uses in our lives at times, there are ways in which you can open the door to that spirit.  I’ve been down that road myself too many times before.

James 3:14-16 – AMP:

[14] If you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth.  [15] This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, even devilish.  [16] For wherever there is jealousy and contention, there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.

[See also, Philippians 2:3; Proverbs 14:30]

And what was Cain’s outcome, his punishment from God regarding his selfishness?

He was left aimlessly to WANDER the earth as a vagabond; even the ground wouldn’t yield for him.  Whatever he sowed…would fail!

Our bibles make a contrast between the sowing of unrighteousness and the harvesting of FAITH.

Cain sowed the ground with BLOOD of his brother as the result of his JEALOUSY.  

It was because of Abel’s FAITH that his offering was acceptable to God.  [See Footnote [ii] ].

Cain’s lack of FAITH, instead of being converted–a change of mind–through the lessons God had presented, led to the murder of his brother resulting in NO HARVEST at all, even for the duration of his life.

We have exactly the same thing going on in the world today.  Christians are murdered in large numbers for their FAITH by the modern spiritual successors to Cain–the “peaceful” religion of Islam.

But in the end, those faithful Christians will stand in JUDGMENT over those who kill the body but can’t harm the soul.

The WAY of Cain leads to DEATH whereas, the FAITH of Abel last for eternity.

After his sentencing, Cain cried out “from Your face I will be hidden”  (Genesis 4:14).

The greatest honor that can be placed upon a person is to have the face of God shine on their life.  For this reason the High Priestly Prayer found in Numbers 6:24-26 not only includes it, it states it twice–

[24] “The LORD bless you and keep you;

[25] the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

[26] the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

In 1 Peter it says the reciprocal is true for Evildoers –

“For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,  And His eyes are open to their prayers;  But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil”  (1 Peter 3:12).

CAIN understood this in his limited way and cried out at the loss–a loss which he had brought upon himself.

The very first thing I noticed Cain doing AFTER God banished him from His presence, was to continue to defy God after He said, he would be a fugitive and a vagabond.  (4:14).

BUT verse 17 tells us Cain “built a city”.  Apparently Cain still didn’t believe that God’s Words were true.  Cain was attempting to establish a permanent place of settlement, a place for him to find residence after God had declared that he would never find such.

Some Bible Scholars believe that because of God’s punishment, CAIN only started building a city, leaving a legacy, letting his son Enoch to complete his unfinished work.

Despite of CAIN’s SIN, his murder, we see a great demonstration of the LORD’s MERCY.

In order to protect him, the LORD said  “…if anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.” 

Just so you know, CAIN was given a mark to protect his earthly life, but those who call on JESUS, the last chapter of the Bible says we too will have a mark.

The MARK will be on our foreheads and will be the very name of God–an eternal reminder that we have been purchased with the most precious substance in the universe–THE BLOOD of Jesus Christ  (Revelation 22:3, 4).

Revelation 22:3, 4
Revelation 22:3, 4

If you find yourself “wandering” aimlessly…staying away from God’s presence and a rewarding life because you think you’re living under God’s punishment, you are a vagabond in the Land of Nod.

BUT…there is a way to ESCAPE!

Wandering vs. Pilgrimage –

A TRUE BELIEVER’s life is at its very heart a PILGRIMAGE–LIFE on this present earth is not the final goal.

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To be sure, the Christian Pilgrimage, unlike the WAY OF CAIN, while coming with difficulties, can none-the-less be productive and filled with assurance.

God is with us and the best is yet to come!

As BELIEVERS, we must neither wander for the presence of God nor His standards.  In fact, to live a lifestyle of a WANDERER, invites His righteous response in JUDGEMENT.

If we are tempted to do so, let’s be quick and earnest in seeking our Heavenly Fathers’ COMPASSION from a living God (Psalm 103:1-18).  

For He will TRANSFORM our earthly desires into even better ones.  Moreover, to begin WANDERING could lead to further Wandering and take us even farther away from God’s BLESSINGS in our life.  And of course, this could lead to even more punishment, chastisement.  A vicious cycle indeed.

Rather than Wandering, wasting our productive life away from God and following one’s own selfish, worldly desires, BELIEVERS should keep in mind…this earth is not their true home and final destination.  Ours is a PILGRIM’s JOURNEY while we work out our salvation.

Therefore, as the apostle Peter admonishes his readers, 

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”  (1 Peter 2:11-12 – NIV).

BELIEVERS therefore should remember and honor the fact that living as PILGRIMS, we should put away selfish lusts and desires, for it only causes their condition to worsen further.

As Grant Osborne’s commentary on 1 Peter 2 advises,  “We…can trust our lives to our Creator, but we are also at war with our ‘worldly desires’.  Every part of our life is involved–the physical and spiritual, the internal and external–and when one gives in to sinful behavior, Satan is waging WAR against us.”  [Footnote [iii] ]

As PILGRIMS in this world, abandoning self-centerness and personal wandering (not focused) becomes a daily exercise, not a one time experience (Romans 12:2).  

BASK in the full light of God’s abundant grace.

May we be careful in our living and keeping His standards; be living testimonies as His redeemed people, glorifying the LORD by experiencing the BLESSINGS of His presence and His guidance,

I still love singing Old Hymns that used to be sung in the church but not so much today.  I rediscovered the words to a hymn, I think best sums up my thoughts:

‘O Jesus I have promised to serve Thee  to the end,

Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;

I shall not fear the battle, if Thou art by my side

Nor wander from the pathway, if Thou wilt be my guide.


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i] : Land of Nod – Wikipedia. 

Footnote [ii]: See OUR “OFFERINGS”; The “Why’s” and “How’s” of Our Giving – at https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/our-offerings-th…ws-of-our-giving/

Footnote [iii]:  Grant R. Osborn, “1-2 Peter,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, Ill. Tyndale House, 2011; 18 vols.).

Photo’s:

Land of Nod Map: In the Land of Nod, East of Eden – These Stone Walls.com – All other photo’s obtained from Google Image Search.

 

 

 

IN THE MIDST–Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned (part one)

What Do We Do With A False Sense Of Security?

The Story of Adrian Plass–

I want to begin this post with a story of a church youth worker–it could be any dedicated Christian worker involved in ministry:

A youth worker had been involved for years of zealous ministry, burning both ends of the candle in the needs of inner-city youth and he “burnt out”.  He had a complete emotional breakdown, became so depressed, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward to recover.

During his stay he started to keep a diary as part of therapy in reflecting on his past life and present.  At a certain time, he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to seek out a certain man of God who lived in another city.  He made an appointment with the man and traveled there.

This man of God sat down with him to pray, then he paused in listening prayer,  “God has shown me a picture of a field overrun with weeds, thorns and brambles.  THIS FIELD REPRESENTS YOUR LIFE.”

This burnt out young man thought,  “Oh that’s great!  That’s my life alright.  Nothing but weeds.  That’s how God sees my life…a useless wasteland.”

Overrun with WEEDS and BRAMBLE
Overrun with WEEDS and BRAMBLE

A STUDY IN 1 KINGS 8:

Some Questions before the journey begins–

— Have you been perplexed and disillusioned, or even now, experiencing these feelings, of “being in the weeds”?

— Are you disappointed at God in the midst of pain and suffering?

— Are you thinking or have thought God is punishing you for something in your past?

Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned?

You are not alone if you are asking yourself questions.  We have all, at one time or another, been stuck with the WHY’S...why is this happening to me?  I’ve read in my Bible almost every day–I go to church, even when I don’t feel like it–I pray and do good to others–so WHY NOW LORD?

An important exercise to begin–

Reflecting, remembering and looking back over your life can sometimes be trying–making sense of how you started with the promises, the dreams and ideals that God gave you.  Maybe you tried to make sense of  God’s promises in your given given situation, trying to remember how God revealed Himself,  in light of  where He was clearly leading in His promises.  So what went wrong along the way?

The Journey Begins–THE BIBLICAL BACKGROUND FIRST:

The referenced story in The First Book Of Kings, is written by someone who asked himself and his people the same question:  WHAT WENT WRONG?

They’re in EXILE looking back at their history, trying to make sense of where they find themselves.

Jerusalem, their Holy City, has been ransacked and in ruin.  Their Temple has been destroyed by foreign powers, they’ve all been taken captive, including the former King (David’s descendant) and now they are living in a foreign land with resident aliens.  This was oppression of an empire, who usually was not sympathetic to them, their values or their God.

AND NOW… they were trying to think back where God made some important promises of enduring Kingship of David’s descendants, a Temple that was to be the center of worship; where God’s name and Presence remain forever.

Background of The Temple–

DAVID wanted to build GOD a Temple worthy of worshiping Him.  Instead, God promised him a legacy of an enduring house or Kingly dynasty.

GOD also told DAVID that his son would build the Temple.  So David spent many years preparing for that glorious day, collecting materials and articles for this Temple to be.

Solomon comes to the throne–

In the midst of struggle, who among David’s sons would become King?  The aging King David (with God’s prompting), selects Solomon.  Solomon starts construction in the 4th year of his reign and it takes 7 1/2 years and thousands of laborers/artisans to complete the task; including being completely covered…in costly gold.

THE PASSAGE (1 Kings 8):

Finally finishing the task, King Solomon calls all of Israel’s leaders and ‘common folk‘ to join in celebration of the big national Autumn Feast of Tabernacles and the dedication of the Temple; asking God’s Presence to dwell with His people–symbolized especially by bringing up of the Ark of the Covenant–representing God’s Sinai covenant given with the Law to Moses (the Torah) to all the people delivered from Egyptian slavery.

Temple Dedication–

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Solomon’s Temple

This day was one of the most glorious days in the History of Israel.  The people finally have peace (David had conquered ALL their enemies in his 40 years of reign)…and, they had a consolidated kingdom with the pinnacle of success, power, wealth, and international renown.

First, the qualities of God–

Let’s look together at some qualities shown about God in this passage of Scripture.  I hope you have your Bible close by so we can look together.

Wrong images of and misbeliefs about God keep us from God presence, because FEAR CASTS OUT LOVE!

1.  GOD’S TRANSCENDENCE.

I used my ROGET’S THESAURUS for the above ‘fancy word’.  It means, God is way beyond us with all His qualities and attributes–ALL- KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL, MAJESTIC, way beyond our limited understanding to grasp Him and who He is.  That said, in the time of the Old Testament, the acceptable means of worshiping was in sacrificing animals by fire.  The “how big” and “how much” to offer, was in order to express and give a sense of how powerful you imagined this Great God to be and what He is worth.

“King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel who had assembled before him were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, so many that they could not be reported or counted”  (1 Kings 8:5 AMP).

How much did it cost them in money and time to worship God?  How costly is our worship?

A Heavy Impenetrable Cloud and the Bright Shining Glory Filled the Temple–

God’s presence filled the house so much that the ministering priests could not enter to do any work (1 Kings 8:10-11).  In a parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3  says, that after Solomon prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering and sacrifices.

Fire Came Down
Fire Came Down

How would you feel about God in your next week’s worship service or after your prayer time at home, God sent fire down in front of your eyes?

WHEN SOLOMON had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.  The priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.  And when all the people of Israel saw how the fire came down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed with their faces upon the pavement and worshiped and praised the Lord saying,  For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever”  (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

I highlighted the people’s words, for the purpose of remembering in life’s journey, while…IN THE MIDST–Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned.  HOLD THAT THOUGHT.

One way of becoming complacent in our lives–in the midst–is when we lose our reverence for God.  Can you bring to mind right now, specific times that moved you deeply in beauty and awe of wonderment over God and His works?  The bible says the natural created world and the heavens, declare and reveal the glory of the Creator–give revelation of His splendor of His character (Psalm 19:11; 5:11; 108:5; Isaiah 6:3; Romans 1:20).

One Starry Night…

Several years ago, my wife and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary at a B & B (bed and breakfast inn) in Leavenworth, Washington USA.  After dinner in town, we drove back to this wonderful re-created Swiss Chalet, and when we got out of the car, Dianne said Look up into the sky and see what an awesome God we have.

A Stary Night
A Starry Night

In the night sky, looking up was millions of stars, galaxies…millions of light years away…in a vast Universe.  Maybe sometimes, we have lost sight of the awesomeness of God…who cannot be contained because we have so timed and domesticated our view of God.  Maybe we have lost our wonderment along the journey–in the midst of disappointments, perplexities and disillusionment’s.  Just maybe we need to ask God to help us to recover this wonderment.  Only when we realize God’s grandeur, do we realize the tremendous sacrifice He made to stoop to care about us in His vast Universe.  Do we think we can control or domesticate this awesome God, put Him into our own boxes; try to manipulate Him in our agendas, in our timing as if He had to do our bidding?

THE SCENE OF WORSHIP:

It’s hard to believe from that scene of worship presented in 1 Kings, that Solomon and God’s people would so deteriorate into that very same thing I just mentioned.

In Jeremiah, the people eroded to an illusion because they had the Temple; that their salvation was secure and God was somehow bound to bless them–keep them safe–nothing bad would happen–no matter what their behavior was.

The PRIDE of Being Chosen…

In the Hebrew, there are several words mentioned for the English word PRIDE.  One in particular is the Hebrew word ga’on: “arrogance, presumptuousness, haughtiness, conceit.”

There were several reasons the Israelites would give us if we were there for their PRIDE:

— Having the ‘Golden Temple’.

— God’s Presence.

— Kingdom power.

— SUCCESS.

— Well Fed.

— PROSPEROUS.

The people had been lulled into falsely thinking that ALL WAS WELL.  This was their False Security–they took all of God’s blessings and God for granted as a given–that could be demanded as a right.

WHAT IS OUR “FALSE SECURITY” IN THE MIDST?

Ronald Rolheiser in “The Shattered Lantern” states:

“To be a saint [or one of God’s people] is to be motivated by GRATITUDE, nothing more and nothing less.  In the end gratitude is the root of all virtue.  It lies at the base of love and charity…  Essentially the condition is this:  God tells Adam and Eve that they may receive life as a gift but they may never take life as if it were theirs by right…as long as you continue to receive and respect reality as gift, it will continue to give you life and goodness.  Conversely, as soon as you attempt actively to seize it, life will decrease and there will be shame, loss harmony, pain, death and loss of proper connection with God…LOVE can only be received as a gift.”

This mysterious God is GOD…

High above us, so Holy, He will not be domesticated with our agendas.  He wants us to RESPOND to Him, not with fear and distance, but in GRATITUDE and LOVE.

A Dog and Lion Story…

Years ago, I was an owner of an English Mastiff dog.  A dog at adulthood, who weighed 210 pounds and stood at 34 inches at his shoulders.  In coming up with a good name for him, I found in a dog breed book on English Mastiffs, that ‘as a Lion was to the cat family…English Mastiffs were to the dog family’.  So we named him ASLAN.  If you are acquainted with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you get the picture.

GOD is like the Lion, ASLAN:  the King of all Beasts.  He is not tame but He is good! 

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is GOOD TO ALL: and His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145).

God’s MERCY is “over all His works”!  Everything He does is based on mercy.  When He heals you, it’s because of His mercy.  When He gives you the finances to pay a bill, it is because of mercy.  Even your salvation–the act of being born again–is based on mercy.  The apostle Paul said it this way:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:   Not of works, lest any man should boast”  (Ephesians 2:8, 9 KJV).

God’s character shows His goodness, but do we believe God cares that we can approach Him and actually have intimacy with Him?  God’s presence in creation doesn’t mean that He winds up creation like a watch and then sits back to watch it run.

I will continue this series in PART TWOGOD’S IMMANENCE.