Never Under-Estimate What God Can Do Through You!

 

A Bible Commentary –  Haggai 1:13; 2:1-19

We see in the Scriptures that God uses different people in different places, over different periods of time, for different purposes.

When Solomon was king of Israel, he built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem.  People from all over the world came and saw this wonder.  The Jewish people treasured the Temple because it was the place where God dwelled with a man and the place where they WORSHIPPED Him.

But as time went by, the nation began to turn from God, turning towards gods from the surrounding nations.

Civil war broke out and the Nation of Israel split into two kingdoms.  The Northern Kingdom (Israel) rapidly went downhill and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) followed close behind but at a slower rate.  The result of this turning away from God was Judah’s captivity by Babylon.  When the Babylonians came in, they destroyed the Temple that Solomon had built for God.

70 years passed, then God moved Cyrus of Persia to allow the Jews to return to their homeland.  About 50,000 people went back to Judah and when they arrived, nothing had changed.  Everything was in shambles.

Immediately, the returnees set about to rebuild the temple and re-laid the foundation during a great celebration; but then came opposition.  The Samaritans (who hated the Jews) didn’t want to see the Jews prosper, so they kept hitting back at them until finally, they stopped rebuilding the Temple altogether.

As the years passed by, slowly but surely, Jerusalem came back to life.  Homes were built, stores were opened, commerce re-established, fields planted, crops harvested, and life began to resemble something of a normal pattern, BUT there was a problem.  The Temple foundation still lay in ruins, overgrown with weeds.  Every time the Jews passed it, it stood as a reminder of their failure to take care of God’s house.

This situation remains for 16 long years.  Finally, God sent a prophet named Haggai to wake the people up.

From what history reports, Haggai’s ministry lasted only over a span of 4 months (Hag. 1:1; 2:1,10, 20).

We don’t know where he came from, we don’t know his lineage, his family – all we know is that he has come out of exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel.  God had a purpose for him after 70 years in captivity, and God had only 4 months for this man to minister.

And the effect of his ministry?

In just 24 days after his message, we see the people (led by their leader Zerubbabel and Joshua their high priest) started work again and reconstructing the Temple of God (Hag. 1:14-15).

THE WHOLE NATION turned around and completed God’s task because one new man spoke on His behalf.

This leads right into my title: Don’t Under-Estimate What God Can Do Through You!

GIVE TO GOD THE SMALL THINGS –

Fred Craddock, professor, and New Testament Emeritus says, “We think giving our all to God is like taking a $1,000 bill, laying it on the table and saying, ‘Here’s my life, Lord.  I’m giving it to You.’  But that’s not how it works!

God sends us to the bank to cash $1,000 bill – for 50 cent coins.  Then He asks us to give 50 cents here, and $1,00 there; to teach a Sunday school class, volunteer you help a hospice, or just clean up the sanctuary.”  The Small things!

So the question is – are we as prepared to be used by God?

  • It’s good to pause and think – what has God been calling you to do?
  • Does God expect anything from me?

What’s wrong with the people of Israel?

They’ve returned to their homeland Jerusalem more than 16 years earlier (586 BC, from captivity in Babylon).

  • They actually started rebuilding the Temple after their return with all good intentions.  [We all start out with good intentions, don’t we?]  But the work was suspended because of conflict with their Samaritan neighbors (Ezra 3-4).
  • They refused to let the Samaritans work on the Temple, the animosity grew, and the Samaritans fight back.
  • As a result, the work was halted and nobody bothered any attention to the unfinished work for another 14 years.

When God is out of mind, He’s out of your life.

The people had gotten indifferent about re-building God’s house.  They build “paneled houses” (1:4) for themselves.  It wasn’t a lack of resources; they have the time and the means to do it.  It was a lack of heart.

The Bible tells us where your treasure is for there your heart is also.  You can call it apathy, or being lukewarm, or just being lazy.  Whatever it is, God is neither in their mind nor in their lives.

So what’s the result of the God- absent life?

READ 1:6, 9-11

[6] “You have sown much but you harvest little”

Because the people had pushed God out the center of life, they were now suffering in every other area.  They had fields without produce, action without satisfaction. and labor without profit.  These occurrences appear to be a correlation between the blessings of life and our worship of God.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 (AMP),  “But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.”

When our priority isn’t right, then we’ll see it in our lives, the fruit of our labor.

We can read a similar message given to the prophet Malachi.  The people had drifted away from God and no longer bringing their tithes and offerings into the storehouse – the Temple of God.

And God says in Malachi 3:10-12…

WHY WOULD GOD DO THIS?

He allows us to suffer the results of our wrong choices in life to wake us up, convict us of sin, and to lead us to repentance.  The longer they put it off, the longer they deprive themselves of God’s blessing.

Let’s stop procrastinating when God shows us what is right and good.  By putting it off, you’re just delaying God’s BLESSING in your life!

It’s interesting to note that God told them what they were thinking (1:2), “This is what the LORD Almighty says”

God not only knows the situation, He knows what you’re thinking!  He knows the condition of the heart!

So when God speaks to you and me, during the reading of His Word in the Bible, He’s addressing a NEED He sees in us.

A thought came to me, about the time when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan women at the well in John 4.  He was able to tell her of five husbands, and the woman said, “I can see you are a prophet.”  And when the conversation ended, she ran back to her village crying, “I can see a man that told me all that ever I did!”  The woman came for the water, but that wasn’t her greatest need.  She needed the LIVING WATER, and Jesus spoke to her need!

When God speaks through the prophets in the OT, He’s addressing the NEEDS of the people directly.

God was telling the people in Haggai’s time the real cause of their misery in life.  It pays to listen attentively to God when we are moved by a message.  We find this phrase repeated again and again (1:2. 3. 5. 7. 13; 2:1…):

“This is what the LORD ALMIGHTY says; the word of the Lord came through…”

Today God is doing the same thing – He is constantly speaking to us!

It may come as COMFORT, a WARNING, a word of WISDOM.  God is addressing a NEED in you, in me, or as a church.  And the result is the same – our heart is being stirred.

Being “stirred,” that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter!  Taking the Word of God and showing it to us, convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).  

So when God speaks, listen!  Don’t listen to – rely on, a sermon for someone’s sake.  The LORD says repeatedly, “Give careful thought to your ways” (1:5, 7; 2:15).

This is the right response to His Word.  Ponder carefully – to think about; reflect on, consider especially a matter soberly and quietly – and respond to Him.

1:12 says the “whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the prophet Haggai because the LORD their God had sent him…”

  • They recognized it as a message from God, not from Haggai, not man’s suggestion.

This one decision – to heed God’s Word – changed them completely!

You may have been indifferent to 14 years, it really doesn’t matter.  What’s important is to take note of what God’s saying to you and act upon it.  It might just be a simple decision, but you need to MAKE IT!  Procrastinate and you can find yourself still in misery for another 14 years.  “Someday” is the devil’s tool to keep us from growing in the Christian life.  It’s not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of a heart.  Many Christians know what’s right and good, BUT…just couldn’t…wouldn’t act to doing it.

There’s a legend that’s worth repeating because it contains an important truth to this study.  *[See CREDITS]

Satan held a passing out parade at the spiritual academy.  During the day he questioned 3 of his evil spirits.  To the first, he said, “When you get out into the world, what are you going to say to the people?”

“Oh,” the evil spirit replied, “I shall tell them there’s no God.”

“That’s no use,” said the devil, “Creation tells people that there is a God.  Not many will believe you.”  Then he said to the second evil spirit, “And what are you going to tell the people?”

“I shall say that there is not going to be a judgment,” was the reply.

“That’s not much use,” answered the devil.  “Conscience tells them about judgment.  Not many will believe you.”  Turning to the third evil spirit he asked, “What about you?”

“I shall tell people that there is a God and a judgment to come,” answered the third evil spirit.  “But I shall add there’s no hurry.”

“Excellent,” said the devil.  “Many will believe that!”

People believe that there’s no hurry about accepting Christ, turning to God and putting things right.  The truth is – the time is running out fast, and the time to respond to God’s voice may just be now.

____________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Legend Story:  “There Is A Legend” – June 18, 2007, Sermon Central.com; Mark Sutton, Missions Today.

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Dictionary:  Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary – To “ponder”

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

A Matter of Life and Death

Safe from the FIRE
Safe from the FIRE

Jude 1:22, 23:

(NIV Bible)  “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Effective witnessing saves people from God’s judgement.  

What is meant by “witnessing” or “witness”?  According to The Free Online Dictionary, a WITNESS is “one who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced.  [b] One who furnishes evidence.”

We WITNESS as true believers to some through our compassion and kindness; to others we WITNESS as if we were snatching them from eternal fire.

My dad retired as a City of San Diego Fireman many years ago.  At the age of 98, he still enjoys reminiscing over his experiences of fighting fire for over 31 years on the job.  I can remember growing up, when dad would come home in the morning after being on duty for 24-hrs..  I could smell the smoke permeating from his hair and skin.  Even his uniform sometimes reeked from an early morning brush fire.  Dad wouldn’t have time to take a shower after the fire, so he would wait until after work and at home.  Mom made sure of that; there wouldn’t be the SMELL OF SMOKE in the house on this particular day!  I guess you would have to know my mom.

I like the way The Message Bible reads.

Jude 1:22, 23:

(The Message Bible)  “Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith.  Go after those who take the wrong way.  Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.”

To hate “even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” means that we are to hate the sin, but we must witness to and love the sinner.  Unbelievers, no matter how successful they seem by worldly standards, are lost and in need of SALVATION.  We should not take WITNESSING lightly–it is a matter of life and death.

In trying to find some common ground…

It is good to find some common ground with those who don’t see, or want to see their final destination in eternity.  However, in trying to find something in common, we must be careful not to fall into the quicksand of compromise.  When reaching out to others, we must be sure that our own footing is safe and secure.  Be careful not to become so much like non-Christians that no one can tell who you are or what you believe.  Influence them for Christ–don’t allow them to influence you to sin!

There Is A Simple Choice to Make–

“I call heaven and earth to WITNESS this day against you that I have set before you LIFE and DEATH, the blessings and the curses; therefore CHOOSE LIFE. that you and your descendants may live”  (Deuteronomy 30:19 AMP).

GOD wants all to make that “simple choice”; Life or Death?  He wants us to present His choice to unbelievers today in this world surrounded by the fires of life.  GOD, because of His love for all (sinners included), wants for them to choose life.  But He is a righteous God, full of justice, and the penalty of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).  

Equipment for Witnessing:

Before a fireman can approach a pending devastating disaster, he must be equipped: knowledge, application, protective equipment (helmet, mask, fireproof clothing, etc.).  As Christ’s WITNESSES, we also need to be equipped.  EQUIPPED with the power of the Word of God.

1.  MAN is a sinner by nature.  (Romans 5:12).

2.  MAN is a sinner by choice.  (Isaiah 53:6).

3.  Sin is appealing to ALL MEN.  (Ephesians 2:1-3).

4.  Sin alienates man from GOD.  (Isaiah 59:2).

5.  Sin produces spiritual death.  (Romans 6:23).

6.  GOD will eternally condemn the unrepentant sinner. (Luke 13:3).

7.  GOD desires that ALL SHOULD BE SAVED!  (2 Peter 3:9).

8.  GOD completely forgives the repentant sinner.  (1 John 1:9; Isaiah 43:3).

IN THE MIDST-Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned (part two)

(Part Two) – Looking Further Into the Qualities of God in Remembering:

GOD’S IMMANENCE: God’s presence in Creation–a personal and relational God.

In PART ONE, we discussed how in the midst of circumstances–when we become disappointed, perplexed (baffled, confused, mystified), and disillusioned with where we find our self in life.  FEAR often sets in to our spirit; of what is going to happen to us and our family.  We get the wrong images of and misbelief about who God is, which then keeps us from God’s presence.

FEAR Casts out LOVE–

“There is no fear in love, [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!  For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love”  (1 John 4:18 AMP).

GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16):

God’s IMMANENCE is how He is unwavering; determined to be with us. close to us and for us.  We have a LOVING COMPASSIONATE GOD who chose to be attentive to our pleading cries IN THE MIDST…forgiving and merciful.

‘God Believers’ in Old Testament (First Kings 8)–

GOD shows His goodness through fulfilling everything He promised David.

There were visible signs of encouragement!

— a throne…Solomon reigning.

— a new magnificent Temple.

The people were EXPECTING God to not only stay or tabernacle with them as before; not to actually dwell, but abide–settle permanently in a House as it were (Solomon’s Temple).  Or as The Message Bible reads: “move into the neighborhood”–to stay with them forever!

Yet, was there some selfishness to this motive?  Did they want to keep God for themselves under their control somehow?  Do we?

How patient and longsuffering do you think God is?

Most believe that God would bless us if obedient and good; did what God wanted, but do you believe God would bless you with His goodness, even if you chose the total opposite of what He wanted, even when you failed Him over and over again?

I made an amazing discovery in my WORD Detective investigation from this Biblical story,  God does just that…remembering that prayers are inspired by God’s Spirit; a gift of His grace & prompting…we see very interesting words God puts in Solomon’s mouth (1 Kings 8:22-53).  Solomon actually prayed for God’s mercy from all the consequences the nation of Israel were going to experience from the people’s sins.

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The people disobeyed ALL THE WARNINGS; chose curses instead of blessings.  But God already knew this, since He spoke about this very thing through Moses in Deuteronomy 28–warning the people of the consequences and rewards of disobedience and obedience–through blessings and curses. 

God’s Presents Us with Choices and His Recommendation:

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you LIFE and DEATH, the BLESSINGS and the CURSES; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live  (Deuteronomy 30:19 AMP).

Wrong Choices Made–

Everyone of the disasters that Solomon prayed about in 1 Kings 8, actually happened as a consequence of wrong choices & actions:

— Defeat by Enemy Forces,

— Drought,

— Famine,

— Pestilence,

— Natural Disasters,

— and Plenty of Wars.

Do any of the items listed above sound familiar in our world today?

It all culminates in a nation of God’s people, going into exile… and as Psalm 89 says, rather than becoming a nation where foreigners are attracted to come and pray, Israel and Jerusalem become an object of mockery and ridicule (just as God warned Solomon in 1 Kings 9:6-9):

[8] This house shall become a heap of ruins; every passerby shall be astonished and shall hiss [with surprise] and say,  Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?  [9] Then they will answer,  Because they forsook the Lord their God,  Who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have laid hold of other gods and have worshiped and served them; therefore the Lord has brought on them all this evil  (1 Kings 9:8-9 AMP).

The people were in a long-term state of sinning against God and yet…God turned this kingship into a blessing and fully redeemed it through JESUS; who is the true Son of David, the Promised King of Kings–whose reign of shalom peace will never end.  He is the anointed Savior, who sacrificed himself for us; extends His forgiveness to full restoration to you and I.

A LEGACY TO DAVID:

God gave the throne and enduring kingdom, a legacy to David in spite of his sinfulness.  God allowed Solomon to build the temple and promised to all–His presence to be present in this man-made temple, even though He couldn’t be contained, even in the vastness of the universe.  All of this in spite of Solomon and the mixed motives of the people trying to box Him in–to domesticate Him for their own benefit.

Though God knew of Solomon’s upcoming actions, even though he was given the gift of wisdom–even wrote the Book of Proverbs–yet he would later live foolishly, turning his heart away after many other loves and hundreds of wives and concubines–worshiping false idols from many nations that came along with them.

GOD, His name, the temple and the worship of God is not a commodity to be used as a means for our own selfish ends, yet that is what Solomon and the people of Israel made them.

You might be asking the question at this point of the series, “What’s all of this have to do with me and my life as it is right now…IN THE MIDST, as you call it?”

Wisdom Given…

WISDOM is not a possession!  It is a gift and we can lose it… if we let go of the reverence for God, the Lord of our lives.  It’s a slow fade when we give ourselves and our hearts away.

No one demonstrates this erosion in his life more fully than king Solomon:

He did everything that God warned the kings not to do–

Solomon Examples: misusing power; amassing weapons, riches, wives; let his heart go astray; lost his reverence for God; turning away from following the Law…

All of the above and more, because he proudly considered himself better than other people (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

And yet, God is still merciful–

Later in life, Solomon writes Ecclesiastes, realizing all the mistakes he has made in the past; how he’s wasted his life chasing after many dreams and desires that turned out to be illusions…all is vanity and futility without God.  He repents and at the end of his life realizes that worshiping God is indeed, above everything else.

You can also regain WISDOM and God’s MERCY and His relentless LOVE restored IF…you return to God, the source of ALL GOOD THINGS, including wisdom and love.

God even blesses us when we choose to go against Him.  Are you surprised?

The Israelites wanted a king

God never intended for His people to have or need a king.  But the Israelites saw their neighbors had kings, so they prayed to God…We need one too!  Kind of like keeping up with the Jones of the neighborhood.  God even told them if He gave them a kings, they would be sorry.  My mom and dad told me the same when I was a child–You will be sorry Mel.  They knew ahead of time the consequences that came along with my request.

Our Heavenly Father lets us have what our flesh desires…even when He warns us about the harmful consequences to us.  And it breaks His heart and hurts Him in the process.

In His heart of LOVE, He is constantly waiting for you, aching with yearning for your return to His presence with outstretched arms, ready to give you a ‘big hug’!  [The Parable of the Prodigal Son–Luke 15:11-32]. 

Is it too late?

Maybe you are reading this blog series, thinking that it’s too late.  You’ve failed miserably in this mess you call life–disappointed, perplexed and disillusioned.  You might be feeling there’s no turning back, or some sinful habits or patterns or ways that you think or believe about yourself–in the midst of all of what you’re going through right now.  Feelings of rejection, low-self-esteem, hurts, trauma; that keeps you emotionally bound–STRONGHOLDS–that plague your life that you just can’t seem to overcome.

THE PROMISE:  With Our God Comes GRACE, MERCY, HOPE, FORGIVENESS–

With our God, who is patient and kind, full of Grace and Mercy, there is HOPE!  God will hear and He will FORGIVE:

2 Chronicles 7:14, God gives the PROMISE:

If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves,

pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face

and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven,

forgive their sin, and heal their land.

I like to think that God’s promise in the above verse is conditional — with the use of the word...”IF”:

IF…YOU HUMBLE YOURSELF,

IF…YOU PRAY,

IF…YOU SEEK,

IF…YOU CRAVE,

IF..YOU REQUIRE OF NECESSITY OF GOD’S PRESENCE–HIS FACE,

IF…YOU REPENT–TURN FROM WICKED WAYS,

THEN–and only then, will God hear from heaven, forgive sin, and heal their land.

Back to the beginning–The story of Adrian Plass (part one):

The youth worker’s life was seen as a field of overrun weeds and bramble…a wasteland…and he was feeling hopeless.  But the man of God goes on and says,

But wait…I see fire burning up the weeds and then ashes being put back into the soil and now the soil is enriched with all that was burned up.  And the Lord puts a sign over this field…

“NOTHING SHALL BE WASTED”

Philippians 3:13-14 AMP:

I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.

The Lord desires to pour out on us ALL THE BLESSINGS and JOYS in Him that we’ve missed or missing IN THE MIDST-Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned.  Yet He doesn’t make it all up with outpourings alone!  These “outpourings” become “overflowing s” in our life:

And the [threshing] floors shall be full of grain and the vats shall overflow with juice [of the grape] and oil”  (Joel 2:24 AMP).

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I [JESUS] came that they [YOU] may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)”  (John 10:10 AMP).

Do We Actually “Trust In God” or Do We Just Say We Do? – [PART 2]

Do We Really TRUST?

PART TWO–Walking In The Divine Path or The Aimless Way:

In Part One, we saw illustrations given by the prophet Isaiah regarding 4- contrasts of  TRUST IN GOD:

1.  Between inhabiting the holy city  and “lofty” ruins (Isaiah 26:1-6).

2.  Between walking the divine path and the aimless way.

3.  Between working with supernatural ability and human inability.

4.  Between rising to eternal life and to judgement.

In PART TWO, I’ll pick up the conversation where I left off in Walking In the Divine Path or The Aimless Way.

“[7]  The way of the [consistently] righteous (those living in moral and spiritual rectitude in every area and relationship of their lives) is level and straight; You, O [Lord],  Who are upright, direct aright and make level the path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous.  [8] Yes, in the path of Your judgements, O Lord, we wait [expectantly] for You; our heartfelt desire is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.  [9] My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly; for [only] when Your judgments are in the earth will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God).  [10] Though favor is shown to the wicked, yet, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and refuse to see the majesty of the Lord.  [11] Though Your hand is lifted high to strike, Lord, they do not see it.  Let them see Your zeal for Your people and be ashamed; yes, let the fire reserved for Your enemies consume them”  (Isaiah 26:7-11 AMP).

Look at verse 7, where it tells us that the way or path of righteousness is level and straight.  Then Isaiah calls God “You, O [Lord], Who are upright.”

The NIV translation of the same verse is a bit different in wording: “O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth”; this is actually the same word but because Hebrew and English phrasing are different.  The idea here is, God’s path is level because God is level; God’s path is straight because God is straight; God’s path is righteous…you get the picture.  In other words, we walk in God’s path by imitating the character of God.  Now I don’t think Isaiah is telling us God’s path is a stroll in the park, but he is saying that the path is easy to find.

–God Repeatedly Reveals His Character To Us.

First, He reveals His character via His WordSecondly, He reveals Himself through the incarnation of Jesus.  And thirdly, He reveals Himself via other Christians around us.  All God is asking us is to imitate Him!

–Every single command God has given us.

His commands are a reflection of some aspect of who He is.  Imitating God may not be easy, but the requirements are clear!  By contrast, the way of the world is aimless and…clueless.

Character Reflection

–Isaiah Gives Us Three Pictures of People Who Refuse to Follow God:

FIRST PICTURE given in verse 10–The Message Bible.

“If the wicked are shown grace, they don’t seem to get it”

SECOND PICTURE in verse 10 (b)–The Message Bible.

“In the land of right living, they persisted in wrong living, blind to the splendor of God”

THIRD PICTURE in verse 11–The Message Bible.

“You hold your hand up high God, but they don’t see it.”

Even though the proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection is evident, people are still refusing to come to terms with God.  The apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 1:18-32.  People who you come in contact with daily know the righteous acts of God; they can see the divine path out in front of them but they willfully refuse to walk in it; then encourage others not to walk in it either.  They choose to walk the aimless way.  Which path are you walking?

THE THIRD CONTRAST: WORKING WITH SUPERNATURAL (divine) ABILITY or HUMAN INABILITY–

[READ Verses 12-18]

Everything that we accomplish in our lives has been done by God working in us.

City Bible Church-North Sound isn’t located here in Lynden, Washington because a small group of Christian believers established it.  God established His Church.  God used (names) to build this church, working through them, gifting them with talents and abilities.  And if this church continues to grow in number, it’s because God will continue to do His work in this place.  For that reason only, God’s name is honored!

–Our Power or God’s Power.

Are we as a church, in the 21st century working in our power, or relying, trusting in God’s power?  Are we as a church just ‘doing’ and our efforts are cast into the wind?   By contrast, Isaiah tells us what happens when we work in our own ability:

[17] As a woman with child drawing near the time of her delivery is in pain and writhes and cries out in her pangs, so we have been before You (at Your presence), O Lord.  [18] We have been with child, we have been writhing and in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth [only] wind.  We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not yet been born”  (Isaiah 26:17-18 AMP).

–Giving Birth!

Isaiah is using the images of a woman giving birth and describing that it takes a lot of effort.  For nine months the child is growing inside the womb and after nine months, the day finally arrives.  Oh, how I remember those joyful days so long ago.  They will always be permanently imprinted on my mind.  The thrill, the joy of being a father, WOW!

Now husbands might think they understand what their wives are going through or went at the time, but not really–right ladies?  I once heard a woman describe what her childbirth experience was like: ‘Taking my upper lip and pull it over my head.” 

Seriously, this image of a woman struggling to give birth in verses 17-18 is the strongest image Isaiah could come up with.  But nothing comes of all that labor.  Imagine after going through labor ladies, this doctor tells you that you didn’t give birth to a baby–it was just gas!

That’s what Isaiah is trying to get across here.  When we work in our own strength we achieve nothing.  Even if we men were to work as hard as a woman giving birth (and that will never happen), our work accomplishes nothing.

3-Questions For The Church:

1.  Are we as a church in God’s supernatural ability or our own inability?

2.  Are ALL the programs we come up with and are doing just programs, making a ‘big splash’ for all to see, taking a lot of effort but accomplishing little?

3.  Are we laboring in God’s strength in accomplishing His plan for eternal salvation?

THE LAST CONTRAST IN ISAIAH 26:19-21:

[19]  Your dead shall live [O Lord]; the bodies of our dead [saints] shall rise.  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  For Your dew [O Lord] is a dew of [sparkling] light [heavenly, supernatural dew]; and the earth shall cast forth the dead [to life again; for on the land of the shades of the dead You will let Your dew fall].  [20] Come, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the [Lord’s] wrath is past.  [21] For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place [heaven] to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also will disclose the blood shed upon her and will no longer cover her slain and conceal her guilt.”

–“Shut the Front Door”!

ISAIAH draws up on the blackboard for us the instructions for this last contrast:  Between the eternal destination of the righteous and the wicked.

God’s people will rise to eternal life in the middle of ‘shouts for joy’; to share in the festivities of God’s final triumph on earth.  The wicked; the lost souls, will rise to eternal punishment.

The previous three contrast:  Inhabiting the city of salvation vs. the lofty ruins;  Walking the divine path vs. wandering the aimless way;  Working in God’s strength vs. working in our own inability–all are choices we have to make.

Grabbing the Door

–ONE WAY, AND ONLY ONE!

In my investigation regarding “TRUST IN GOD” this past week, I uncovered an old children’s song “One Door and only one”.  It goes like this:

One door and only one

And yet its sides are two.

Inside and outside

On which side are you.

I’ll go on with more of the songs lyrics that fits in nicely with the choices that must be made, sooner than later:

One Door and Only One

And yet its sides are two

I’m on the inside

On which side are you?

One Lord and only one

And yet the ways are two,

Right way and wrong way

On which way are you?

And if the contrasts in the song are not enough to convince you by now, let me give you just a few more choices:

One strength and only one,

yet the works are two.

His strength or our strength,

which strength are you?

One eternity, and only one,

yet the results are two.

Eternal life with God or

eternal separation from God,

WHICH RESULT WILL BE YOURS?