Everything In Life Has Terms Attached To It

Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.

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

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

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

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

SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13

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

That’s what ISRAEL did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now fast forward to today.

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

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

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

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

VERSES 4-5

THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

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

Could this be Church today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):  

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

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

WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?

Well, He tells us in verse 2:

His terms are HOLINESS.

His holiness is the terms He swears by.

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

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

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

Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

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

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

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

Has God given us WARNINGS as well?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!

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

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

Everything in between is His persuasion.

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

UNTIL RECENTLY.

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

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

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

God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.

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

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

Finally, I want you to see what happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How then, do you intend to meet God?

On your terms, or His?

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CREDITS:

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

Video:  Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.

 

It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

What Should A Church and A Charging Rhino Have In Common?

I love hearing kids telling stories of events that have happened in their day.  They seem so intent in their observations.  But I really enjoy the smiles on children’s faces when they have heard a “kid’s joke”, dying to tell it to you by asking the set-up question:

“How do mice kiss?”  ANSWER:  Mouse-to-mouse (mouth-to-mouth).

“How did the patient get to the hospital so fast?”  ANSWER:  Flu.

And then I heard this riddle the other day which gave me an idea for this BIBLE STUDY:

How do you keep a rhinoceros from charging?”  ANSWER:  Take away his credit card.  [See Footnote [i] ].

BLOG-STUDY VERSES 1-24

KEEP YOUR EYES ON A ‘CHARGING’ CHURCH –

Anytime that people, the CHURCH, undertake to BUILD…there will be challenges, there will be opposition…

There will be challenges…

There will be opposition…

There will be trials and troubles.

BUT we must give a “full court press” (a basketball term)–never giving up in the process.

  • The CHURCH (the people) must charge forward…
  • The CHURCH must be built.
  • The CHURCH must grow.

I’m not referring here to church BUILDINGS.  I’m pointing out something vital to the CHURCH–THE PEOPLE,

WE MUST CONTINUE TO BRING PEOPLE INTO THE “FAMILY OF GOD” BY THE WAY OF SALVATION!.

BUT, sometimes, the church DOES stop growing.  And that’s NO JOKE!

It happened in EZRA…and, in looking at what happened to the people of God in Ezra chapter 4, I pray that the people of God in our communities avoid the same pitfalls.

Ezra 4:1-6, 23-24

[1]  When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel,   [2] they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said,  “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”  [3] But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered,  “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God.  We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

FIRST of all, there will be opposition to moving forward.  The church will not grow while her enemies look on, doing nothing.

We see here in the following verses that the ENEMIES of God heard about the goings on…so they put their heads together and they came up with a very cunning plan.  They came to the leaders of the Church, and offered to HELP them!  I’m pretty sure that the leaders would have been tempted by their offer.  Who wouldn’t want some help in any rebuilding effort?

They even gave a believable explanation why they were offering their services.  They said, “WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU…”  and we know, from reading God’s Word that they DID sacrifice to God.

BUT…that wasn’t the WHOLE truth.

We find the REST of the story in 2 Kings 17, where we read about the people who settled in the area; how they came to arrive there and some of the trouble they got into.

And in 2 Kings 17:33 (AMP) we find the rest of the story –

[33]  They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods, as did the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

So, when the Samaritans, “the enemies” came to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders, their offer to HELP would have been tempting…who wouldn’t want some help.

AND their statement about worshipping God was also true.

But they also served other gods as well, and their MOTIVE in offering help, WASN’T so they could be helpful, but their offer to help was so they could get in on the inside–

  • SLOW IT DOWN.
  • DISRUPT THE WORK
  • TRY TO THROW A WRENCH INTO THE WORKS
  • CLOG IT UP!

I might point out here that this plan has been copied over and over again right up to today where individuals or groups are trying to infiltrate the Church–

  • To change it from within…
  • To dilute the message…
  • To try to stop the church from charging forward…
  • To soften the message…
  • To change our stance on issues.

We’ve already seen some church denominations embrace certain practices that are against Scripture.  One such example is homosexuality.

We’ve got to be more like Zerubbabel and Jeshua!

We must stand for what’s right and stand for the truth…NOT truth as WE see it, but the truth as God sees it.

So, how do we know God’s truth?

It is REVEALED in His Word!

Thankfully, God’s people in Ezra’s day DIDN’T allow compromise to affect the CHURCH.  And we see that Zerubbabel and the others said “NO”!

And the Church kept charging forward!

When those opposed to the Church were unsuccessful in getting the Church to compromise, they resorted to DISCOURAGEMENT and INTIMIDATION.

BUT THERE’S MORE…

They even hired antagonists (“counselors”) to work against them.

Psychological warfare has been used in battles for centuries and here, we see that those OPPOSED to the church began using psychological warfare against the church.

  • Perhaps they tried to slow down the shipments of building materials from Lebanon to the building site.
  • Perhaps they just continued chipping away at them to the arena of public opinion.

The USED whatever means they could when compromise didn’t work–using fear-mongering, intimidation, and discouragement.

The OPPONENTS to GOD’S WORK use the same methods today–

They try to create public distrust of Christians and Christianity:  “we certainly can’t have prayer in schools”…we’ve got that ‘separation of church and state’ thing.”

“We can’t post the TEN COMMANDMENTS in public areas because that’s a ‘Christian’ thing”…

“We can’t have a Nativity or sing Christmas carols in school…BECAUSE ‘God forbid’ someone actually starts to follow Christ.”

So the enemies of God’s people create fear and distrust OUTSIDE the Church, and it appears they have been quite successful at it.

But I’ve been concerned for some time that the enemies of God’s people are making inroads into the churches–creating fear and distrust WITHIN the Church.  Making us afraid to take a stand; making us fearful to stand up for the TRUTH and making us afraid to speak out in the name of Christ.

And the psychological warfare continues on.

Finally, we read that the enemies of God resort to POLITICS to stop the CHURCH from charging forward.  In EZRA 4:11-16, we can read a copy of a letter that the enemies of God wrote to the king.

And in Ezra 4:17-22 we READ the king’s response:

[17] The KING sent this reply:  To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:

Greetings.

[18] The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.  [19] I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition.  [20] Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute, and duty were paid to them.  [21] Now issue an order to these men to STOP WORK, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.  [22] Be careful not to neglect this matter.  Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?

THE RHINOS ARE STOPPED!

We see that while COMPROMISE was an ineffective tool against the church…and see that DISCOURAGEMENT & INTIMIDATION slowed things down, we now see that through the POLITICAL process, the church was stopped in its tracks.

As soon as God’s enemies, Rehum and Shimshai and their associates had their ammunition loaded against them, they went to God’s people and forced them to STOP building the church.  And we find those fateful words in verse 24.  “That put a stop to the work on The Temple of God in Jerusalem”  (MSG).

I found it interesting to see who these ENEMIES of God’s people were.

Verse one calls them the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin”, it doesn’t say, “the Chaldeans”, or “the Persians”.  Matthew Henry’s commentary calls them “the rebels of the 10 tribes and the foreigners that had joined themselves to them”  [See Footnote [ii] ].

I dare to mention that the enemies of God’s people are the same today.  They’ll take Christianity, mix it and match it with all sorts of other thoughts and philosophies so that people today are then quick to say they BELIEVE in God– “But there are many ways to God…Budda, Mohammed, the worship of nature…”

But we stand on God’s Word, and God’s Word, in the words of Jesus Himself, says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”  (John 14:6).

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!

The Church has always faced opposition,

There are people who don’t WANT the church to charge forward, and SOME of these people may even be people who USED to follow Christ Jesus.

But NOW, they’ve gotten sucked into worldly thinking–the church becomes just another sociological experiment, or the church becomes a pawn in political maneuvering.

But I SAY the Church is simply God’s people, going God’s way, and if we as the CHURCH start letting the opposition get a foothold, we’ll see the church come to a complete standstill, just like it did at the end of EZRA 4.

Is this a way then, to stop those who wish to STOP a ‘charging rhino’, the church?

There is, and I had to search closely for it all the way back to VERSE ONE where Scripture tells us, “the exiles were building a Temple for the Lord”.

It seems innocent enough at first glance but when we read it from the KJV (King James Version), it adds one more description:

“the children of the captivity built the temple unto the LORD”

It doesn’t say, “The children of GOD were building the Temple”…it says, “The children of the CAPTIVITY”.

I don’t believe that I’m reading too much into Scripture when I say this points to their thinking.  They viewed themselves as “children of the captivity”, even though King Cyrus had issued the DECREE to allow the construction to begin.

These people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin still felt the oppression of 70 years of captivity upon their shoulders.  They still felt that these foreign rulers had AUTHORITY over them, and while for the most part, they did have CIVIL authority over them.  GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!

GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!

And they had, not only a DESIRE to worship God together, but they had an OBLIGATION to worship God.  No civil or government authority can take that away UNLESS we let them.

In EZRA’S day, they allowed the ENEMIES of God bring the Church to a standstill.

WHY?  Because they were thinking like children of the captivity.

What does that mean for us today?

That meaning seems quite obvious to me.  The KEY goes back to our thinking.

Do we think of ourselves as children of the captivity?  People under the rule of governments and nations?

Or, do we think of ourselves as God’s children?

Scripture says,  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and what’s is God’s is our WORSHIP.

AS GOD’S PEOPLE…

We are OBLIGATED to see the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to spread like a ‘charging Rhino’; we will NOT allow the enemies of God cause us to compromise–TO BE STOPPED!

So, how’s YOUR thinking?

Are you a child of the KING, or a child of captivity?

The ANSWER to that question will determine the direction of the Church!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i] :  Oddball Riddles – Kid’s Jokes

Footnote [ii] :  Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 2.  EZRA 4.

Photos:  Google Image Search, Advance Setting.

Bible Translation (s):  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every WEB Begins with a Single Thread – (Part 1 of 2)

TEXT:  1 Corinthians 10:13:

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear].  But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature],  and He [can be trusted] not to let you be TEMPTED and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [ALWAYS] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing-place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.  (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)

The WEB of TEMPTATION
TEMPTATION’S WEB

“Why Spiders Decorate Their Webs”

Stabillmentum (singular):  The word means, “a single zigzag line or combinations of lines or even a spiral whorl in the web’s center.”

But why do spiders decorate their webs?  Well, I am certainly not an ARACHNOLOGIST (an expert on spiders), but in my detective investigation, I found that there are multi-purposes for the Spider’s Web and they begin with a single strand:

1.  STABILITY.

2.  VISIBILITY.

3.  CAMOUFLAGE.

4.  PREY ATTRACTION.

5.  MATING.

Are you beginning to see where I’m going in the Spider Web analogy of temptation?  The WEB of Temptation that lies in front of each one of us: It is often camouflaged; sometimes attractive because of the light being reflected off the “stabillmentum”; even the opposite sex being a distraction of what can’t be seen at the moment of the attraction.  Hey, it happened to King David, to Sampson and others in the Bible.  The “spider” is always waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A TRIAL AND TEMPTATION: 

A TRIAL is different and can be sent from God in order to deepen your walk with Him or to bring about God’s plan for your life.

A TEMPTATION is never directed by God, for rather its purpose is destructive.  It is not a sin itself, for JESUS was tempted in the wilderness.

TEMPTATION can make us stronger if…successfully overcoming it.

Facts About TEMPTATION:

FIRST of all, it’s going to happen!

Luke 17:1-2:

“AND [Jesus} said to His disciples…”

Hold it right there for a moment.  Jesus is addressing ALL of His disciples, His followers…He is talking to BELIEVERS in the 21st Century.

“Temptations  (snares, traps set to entice sin) are sure to come, but woe to him by or through whom they come!”

[Verse 2] “It would be more profitable for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were hurled into a sea than that he should cause to sin or be a snare to one of these little ones [lowly in rank or influence]”  (Amplified Bible).

THE WARNING:

The warning comes to those who become a stumbling block to someone else.  Rather than being a stumbling block, we need to seek to build up–restore the one who has stumbled.

“BRETHREN, IF any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin in any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit]  should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also”  (Galatians 6:1 AMP).

TEMPTATION Comes from Within–

I was watching a news segment on the NBC’s TODAY Show last week regarding the idea of legalizing DRUGS and PROSTITUTION in America.  America seems to have the mindset, as many other countries in the world, that if you can’t defeat something…LEGALIZE IT!

Temptation comes from within, from the devil, from the worldview that the devil promotes sinful people to accept.

It is never directed by God  (James 1:13)–

“Let no one say when he is TEMPTED,  I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one.”

God is never effected by sin and doesn’t make any decisions effected by sin because of His character…WHO HE IS!  He is totally pure and Holy!

TEMPTATION is an individual matter–

“But every person is tempted when…” [ Here is where that “spider web” comes into play].  “he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions)”  (James 1:14).

Billy Graham has said, “None of us should deliberately place ourselves in a position to be tempted.”  Satan will always attack where we are the most vulnerable.

He goes on to say, “But each one of us is TEMPTED when by his own evil desire, is dragged away and enticed…”  Was Mr. Graham seeing the same Spider Web as I?  Perhaps.

Temptation will always follow the same pattern– 

A thought enters the web and we pamper it….it germinates and grows into an evil act…and that’s where the devil has a pattern of attack.

TRUTHS of 1 Corinthians 10:13:

1.  Our TEMPTATIONS are not unique.

“For no temptation, has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man…”  (v. 13).

2.  There is a way to stand up to and over temptation–

“Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun  (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry  (of loving or venerating anything more than God)”  (verse 14).

3.  GOD KNOWS my limits.  He is not unaware of my situation!

John MacArthur tells a story of a friend of his that I think illustrates this point:

A friend of mine told me one time, that he had taken a new job, with a very important company–he was very excited about it.  He had only been on the job for a little while.  Everyone had left the office one night and on his desk someone had left a HUGE sum of money.  He immediately took the money, put it in his briefcase, and thought I am going to have to return this.  He wrapped it up the next morning and brought it back and when he came to work he immediately walked into the bosses’ office and put the money down on the desk and said,  “Somehow, someone left this money on my desk and I don’t know who it was or who will be missing it, but I wanted to turn it in as fast as I could, so no one would be distressed by its absence.”  The boss looked him in the face and said, “I put the money there–it was a TEST–you passed.”

How would you have reacted to the TEMPTATION?  If your answer is,  “That depends…”, then keep reading this blog-post.

We OVERCOME TEMPTATION by:

Looking for a way to avoid the temptation–

In one sense every TRIAL (or TEST) is also a temptation that affords the opportunity to FAIL!

Alexander Maclaren distinguished being TEMPTED  and being TRIED or TESTED like this:

“TEMPTATION says,  ‘Do this pleasant thing, do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’  TRIAL or PROVING says,  ‘Do this right and noble thing, do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful’.

AVOIDING THE “WEB” OF TEMPTATION:

An Old Testament example is found in Genesis 39:12.  Joseph flees from Potiphar’s wife when she wanted to commit adultery.

1.  FLEE FROM THE SITUATION IF POSSIBLE.

Submit Your Thoughts to God  (James 4:7; Philippians 4:8):

We should take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5:

“[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought captive into the obedience of Christ  (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

MOST OF OUR THOUGHTS could be characterized more as captivating us rather than being captivated.  I need to watch what my mind is dwelling on.  We aren’t so much as seized and we seize the thought.

2.  SUBMIT YOUR WILL TO GOD’S.

Most sin is grounded in selfishness.

We must commit ourselves daily to God according to Romans 12:1-2 and by daily confessions Colossians 3:2:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you;  Taking your every day, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life–and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you”  (Romans 12:1-2 The Message Bible).

“And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth”  (Colossians 3:2 AMP).

BREAK  *SEE Part Two for the continuation of the The Differences Between a Trial and Temptation.