Prophecy and The Church Today

Scripture Study, 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; Ephesians 4:11

PURSUE LOVE AND DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, BUT ESPECIALLY PROPHECY

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY is the most predominant of the Spiritual gifts in that it’s a gift manifested most often.  In Acts 2, Peter says that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues isn’t the result of too much wine, but is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Prophet Joel (Joel 2), a sign of the end times (Joel 2:17-18).  This is significant because, in the Old Testament, only the priests and prophets prophesied.  But not so in the New Testament.  Sons, daughters, women, men from all walks of life are prophesying and speaking in tongues.  (1 Corinthians 14:31)

In our scripture passage, we have the apostle Paul’s words on the subject, but caution must also be exercised.  Because the gift of prophecy is the one most used, it’s also the gift most misused. 

Paul does go on to say that believers should covet prophesy.  It ministers to the entire church.

So what is Prophecy?

Prophecy is divinely inspired utterance concerning past, present or future events in a known language to the church or to people, or even to places or things.  God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains.

The gift of prophesy is exercised when God (not man) anoints a believer to be His vessel.  He speaks through your vocal cords but it comes from divine inspiration.  It’s not something that you can go to school or a church seminar to learn how to prophesy.  It’s a Spiritual Gift from the Holy Spirit.

Many confuse the gift of prophecy with the ministry office of prophet found in Ephesians 4:11.

The gift of prophecy doesn’t make you a prophet.

There are certain characteristics (Numbers, chapter 12) that will distinguish the ministry office of a prophet but that doesn’t characterize one who has the Spiritual gift of prophecy.

The purpose and usage of the Gift of Prophecy is a message to the church sent to edify (to build up); to exhort (a calling near); and to comfort (to bring consolation, especially during a time of trial or distress, to cheer up!).

Prophecy can also be instrumental in bringing an unbeliever to conviction.

 

1 Corinthians 14:24-25

“But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,   [25] as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare.  So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”  (NIV)

Abuses of the Gift of Prophecy; What the Gift is Not!

The gift of prophecy isn’t to be used as a personal prophecy to others – NEVER!  Years ago, my wife and I were fellowshipping at a small church nearby.  A personal friend and pastor invited me to be his associate because of his busy schedule.  One evening we attended a pot-faith supper at a home with a prayer vigil afterward.  Before prayer began, pastor Anthony was called away on an emergency call. leaving me in a room of 15 people along with a self-confessed “prophet” who pulled up a chair in the center of the room.

And then the hair on my arm stood straight up!

Several people began to ask the “prophet” for personal prophecy.  Thoughts rang in my ear as the Holy Spirit was speaking to me to leave this gathering and leave my responsibility hanging on the doorknob as we left.  This wasn’t a prayer meeting, it was ‘fortune telling’!  This is the area where the gift is probably abused most often.  I don’t want to say that those who practice this are under the influence of a deceiving spirit.  It’s most likely just the flesh.

The gift of prophecy isn’t to give direction or settle arguments.

The gift of prophecy isn’t to teach or introduce doctrine to the church. 

The gift of prophecy isn’t to rebuke the body of Christ. 

It isn’t to bring correction.  The Word of God is supposed to do that.  When the Lord corrects or rebukes the body, generally it’s through the Word and through the pastor.  So don’t rebuke the body through prophecy unless you’re 100 percent certain it’s “thus says the Lord.”

The gift of prophecy isn’t to predict the future.

There can always be exceptions to what I’ve already mentioned.  God is ALWAYS in control in every situation and can use anyone in any way that He sees fit.

The Believer’s Attitude toward this gift is to “Covet (desire, be eager to have) the gift.”

Sincerely desire that God will use you.  This gift can be freely exercised by women as well as men:  “…and your sons and daughters shall prophesy…”  (Acts 2:17).

In my study this week I found something interesting that I had overlooked in the past.  That seems to happen quite often these days.  Maybe it’s because I’m older?  I digress.  When women do prophesy, they should do so with their heads covered. [Reference: 1 Corinthians 11]

Be anointed when you prophesy!

The anointing brings a compulsion to speak; an anointing of power within you.  You will know when you’re anointed and so will the gathered assembly.  Generally, you won’t know all that you’re going to say when you step out in prophecy.  It’s a step of faith!  Certainly you’ll have a few words and an idea and the general direction God is leading when you step out to prophesy, but it will be a step of faith!

Order In the House

I remember growing up,  my mom and dad repeating the phrase, “Mind your manners.” – Don’t start eating at the table until everyone is seated. – Asking to be excused from the table after a meal. – Calling adults by their last name and not their first. –  Not walking into a room and interrupting a conversation before waiting for an empty space. –  Walking on the outside of a walkway when with a young lady,  and opening doors letting women enter first, including car doors.  I still do this today!

“Remember your manners when you’re away from home,” my folks would repeat over and over again.  And good manners…Order in the house applies in the church today – or it should!

And we must not forget, there’s to be “order” in the house in the giving of prophecy.  God isn’t the author of confusion and the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.  Therefore, there shouldn’t be interruptions during the teaching moments, etc.   A proper time for the manifestations of the gifts should be given in each service.

In any particular church meeting, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (1 Corinthians 14:29).

The most likely interpretation of the controversial passage is the silence of women in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35.  And yet, at the same time, Scripture reveals that women may prophesy (see Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5) but not publically judge the prophetic words of men in the congregational setting.

Prophets were always to be in control of their speech (1 Cor. 14:32) as an expression of God’s desire for peace (1 Cor. 14:33).  And as important as this ministry is in the body of Christ, even those claiming to be prophets must be subject to the final authority of the spiritual leadership (deacons, elders, pastors).  (1 Cor. 14:36-38).

I believe that everything we need to know as Christians is found in the Bible.  It’s a sufficient source of revelation for each one of us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

The Bible is the firm foundation that God has given to us all.  All other ground is sinking sand.  This is the source of truth on which we need in our lives.

Yet, we must be willing to listen if God chooses to speak to us in an “uncommon way” – in a way we don’t expect.  By that I mean if He chooses to speak to us outside of the normal channels of the Scripture, we need to be still and listen to what God says.  Just because there’s a lot of abuse by people who falsely claim they have received a message from God, doesn’t mean we need to slam the door shut on any possibility of God speaking to us in that way.  Oh, I suspect it might be wise to slightly shut the door, but we need to leave it ajar so that if God has something to say to us and to let it be known to others, we are able to hear Him.

And yes, it’s true, the Bible contains all we need as Christians.  But our gracious and generous God sometimes chooses to give us more than we think we need!  Sometimes He may choose to communicate with us in another way in order to provide special encouragement when we need direction trying to make a decision.  I’m seeking that encouragement and direction in a matter right now that I’ll share in a later blog.  I’m not going to pretend these uncommon messages from God always make us comfortable.  Many of us like the status quo.  If someone says he or she has a message from the Lord on a Sunday morning which requires us to do something new or different, we probably won’t want to hear it.  But if God is speaking to us, we’d better be willing to listen!

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT are never to be made the focus of congregational life.

Make Us Aware…

Worship and the Word are the focus, and the gifts flow under God’s direction, not men.  The great, final purpose of all spiritual gifts in the church, including PROPHECY, is the edifying of God’s people.

Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here should be the focus of our minds and on our lips when we enter the House of God.

True Prophecy in the Church to remember – by Derek Prince

  1. All true prophecy agrees with the letter and the spirit of the Scriptures. (2 Tim. 3:16)
  2. All true prophecy centers in Jesus Christ and exalts Him. (John 16:13)
  3. True prophecy produces fruit in character and conduct that agrees with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23)
  4. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit, gives freedom and not bondage. (Gal. 5:1)
  5. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit gives life and not death. (2 Cor. 3:6)
  6. True prophecy, given by the Holy Spirit agrees with the Holy Spirit within each believer who hears it. (1 John 2:27)

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CREDITS –

Music Video:  Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here – by Heavens Mutambira & Amplified Praise.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

True Prophecy by Derek Prince (pdf): Giving, Receiving and Testing a Prophetic Word.

Commentary:  What Does Scripture Teach About the Office of Prophet and Gift of Prophecy by Sam Sorm @ TGC; October 8, 2015.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV); New Living Translation (NLT); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

Caught Up to Heaven [A SERIES]

PART ONE – PAUL’S EXPERIENCE

[1]  I must go on boasting.  Although there is nothing to be gained.  I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

[2]  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know–God knows.

[3]  And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

[5]  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

[6]  Even if I should choose to boast, I could not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do, or say…

[The New International Version Bible (NIV)]

What Paul says in verse 1, he is forced to say so that the Corinthian church members might look at him from God’s perspective.

Paul’s restraint increases as he discloses what was probably the most intimate and sacred of all his Christian experiences.  Paul repeats that he is speaking of himself only because circumstances have compelled him to do so.

What Does the Bible Tell Us About the Experience of Death and About What Happens Next?  [2 Cor. 12:2-4]

“The Journey to Paradise” – Revelations, and Visions:

Revelations are apocalypses, literally “to remove the cover, to unveil.”  It’s the unveiling of something hidden which gives light and knowledge to those who see it (Eph. 3:3; Rom. 16:25).  

Revelations are more general than visions.  You might have revelations without having visions but one never has visions without revelations.

Visions, dreams, and trances are hard to distinguish.  A vision comes to one in an ecstatic state (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 12:27) and brings revelation knowledge.  The experience points to a special awareness of God concerning what He is doing or going to do.

Several years ago I was asked by a local pastor if I could write a play for the upcoming Resurrection Sunday.  I was given two months to put everything together.  And by the way…I’ve never done anything like this before.  So lacking confidence, not knowing where this was going, I began to pray for guidance.  NOTHING!

Then, perhaps out of desperation and lack of faith, I found myself lying face down on the carpet pleading for God to give me inspiration.  And then I heard in my spirit, “Mel, get up from the floor, and wait.”  “Wait?  I have a month to put this all together, Lord!”  His response was “Just wait”.

That night in my sleep, I felt a nudge to my shoulder and thinking that I was dreaming, rolled over to the other side.  Again a nudge, but harder this time.  As I sat up on the edge of the bed, the voice returned:  “Mel, get up and go to the dining room table.  Get a pen and a paper tablet and I will give instructions on what I want you to accomplish.”  This was at 5:30 AM.  Was I still dreaming, is this really happening?  I got up and followed His guidance and instructions and at 7 AM the outline was finished.  The storyline, the set design, the title….everything but a script!  Yes, God even took care of that.  Was this a dream, a vision, a revelation?  All I do know is, the experience showed me what He was doing and going to do!

Background To The Text [2 Corinthians 12] –

Most Bible scholars believe Paul had a near-death experience.  Paul mentions that at least on one occasion he was left for dead.  As he writes he speaks of this experience and says some guy he knew had it.  Writing about something that happened to an author and inventing a second person to deliver a message is common literary practice.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden of this conversation prepares us, not for death, but for the events that take place between our dying and our final destination.

Caught Up To Heaven (verses 2-4).

One vision which Paul recounts stands out from the rest in its extraordinary character.  His ecstatic episode which he was transported to Paradise began in VERSE 2.

Paul is sure his remarkable experience occurred but uncertain whether the “caught up” [RAPTURE] experience was in the body or out of the body.

BODY RAPTURE is not regarded as impossible.  TWO instances are recorded in the Old Testament, Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (1 Kings 2:11; Mk. 9:4) and in the New Testament, Jesus was bodily raptured into heaven.

At any rate, such a one was caught up (Gk. harpazo, “to snatch away”).  “Caught up” is a form of the Greek word harpazog, the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which in reference to the RAPTURE of the Church.

Paul was “raptured” to the third heaven.

The Third Heaven

The third heaven designates a place beyond the immediate heaven of the earth’s atmosphere of clouds and beyond; the further heaven of outer space and its galaxies and into the presence of God Himself.  (Heb. 4:14, 7:26; Eph. 4:10)

The FIRST HEAVEN is atmospheric, the SECOND HEAVEN is composed of the stellar universe, and the THIRD HEAVEN is the unique dwelling place of God–a different dimension.

In VERSE 3, Paul again clarifies his mystifying experience to his readers.  He’s uncertain if he was in a bodily or disembodied state.  Whether his soul was separated from the body for a time and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he wasn’t sure.

[3] “And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows–“

VERSE 4 teaches us that human words are inadequate to tell us about heaven.

[4] “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell”

If the THIRD HEAVEN describes the place of his rapture, then Paradise specifies the wonder of his rapture.  [The third heaven of v. 2 and the Paradise of v.4 are one and the same.]

Paradise is a Persian word for an enclosed park, garden or pleasure ground used only three times in the New Testament.  In Luke 23:43 with the thief on the Cross, and in Revelation 2:7.  In the Old Testament, this term is used in Genesis as the Garden or Paradise or Eden.

I believe Paul witnessed the state of the spirit-souls of the redeemed who had died are “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), but still in a “celestial body” so we won’t feel naked until the day when we are covered with the glorified and incorruptible resurrection body (2 Cor. 5:1-3. 1 Cor. 15:42, Phil. 3:20-21).  Then the REDEEMED of the Lord will shine forth with full splendor of eternal Christ-likeness.

Paul heard unspeakable (“inexpressible”) words.

Unspeakable word is an oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken, for even in the heavenly state it is beyond words.

Human language is too inadequate to describe things that transcend all knowledge and understanding.

We often speak about Paradise trying to describe its state and heaven to define its features and whereabouts, but the truth is that we are stepping over the threshold into another dimension, a reality not of this world, infinite, spiritual and only distantly sensed by us in our earthly tent.  And yet as born-again believers in Christ, we know with assurance that one day we’ll be at our permanent home.

The Scriptures will occasionally part the mists of our earthly existence and grant us brief glimpses of the GLORY yet to be revealed.  (2 Cor. 5:11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 1:21. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

From Paul’s experiences, we are granted a view of the indescribable GLORY that lies ahead and thereby secured him to patiently endure all the severe suffering in his ministry.  He thus knows that the sufferings of this present age were not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Someday we will arrive in heaven realizing that everything we see and experience is new and indescribable in earthly vocabulary.  I’m so thankful that God used illustrations that we could understand that gives us just a glimpse of eternity.

CURRENT EVIDENCE (verses 5-6)

Paul could have boasted, as his rivals do, of impressive religious credentials, experience, and achievements, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he speaks only of his weaknesses.

[5] “Of this same [man’s experiences] I will boast, but of myself (personally) I will not boast, except as regards my infirmities (my weaknesses)”  [AMP}

Paul’s weaknesses, trials, and tribulations he went through for Christ’s sake, that had left him broken of body, mind, emotion, and spirit.  For these areas became the very places where God could do His greatest work in and then through Paul.

Paul wouldn’t be like his opponents who glorified in their earthly state or pride.  For God alone is due to all the glory!

Though boasting includes many lies, in verse 6 Paul affirms his trustfulness.

[6] “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say”  [NIV]

Although all of Paul’s boasts were true and about true occurrences, not to mention all the other reasons he could boast, he didn’t dwell on those things.

And the reasons why?

Others might think too highly of him.  He didn’t want to be judged by the past, or what he said about himself, but that men should judge him by what they presently heard and saw.

[NOTE:  I will continue this study, being CAUGHT UP, with Part Two in the Series – The Leading Up To Our Final Destination.]

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV); or as noted.

 

 

 

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! (Part One in Series)

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH

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

Micah 1:1 (NIV)

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

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

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

A PERSONAL ‘God-moment’ STORY:

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

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

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

Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who does God call as the witness against the peoples?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reality of God’s Judgment.

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

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

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

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

IDOLATRY IS NOT OUTDATED!

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

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

God’s people had committed sins against the LORD.

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

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

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

God’s judgment brings destruction

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

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

Human beings must beware of what they call security.

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

God’s JUDGMENT can bring disappointment

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

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

God discloses His aching in judgment in verse 8:

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

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

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

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

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

JUDGMENT WAS ABOUT TO COME!

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

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

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

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

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, Settings advanced.

Youtube:  Law & Order theme music from television.

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

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

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

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CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted in images or text.

 

 

 

 

A VISION of the ‘Little Big Horn’

SCRIPTURE READING – Daniel 8:1-27

So what is a VISION?

A “VISION” is a clear mental image of a preferable future, imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstance.  [See Footnote [1] ]

Based on this definition, there become three aspects of having a VISION:

(1)  GOD – Your vision comes from God, it is not something you thought overnight;

(2)  SELF – Your priorities and spiritual gifts will help you focus on your vision;

(3)  CIRCUMSTANCES – Your vision begins where you are now; so you must face and solve your problem and then overcome all barriers to fulfill your dream.

For Daniel, this was one of his many visions and his most troubling, even after the angel Gabriel explained it to him.  Notice Daniels reaction in VERSE 27:

[27]  “I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”  (NIV Bible)

However, as we stand today on the other side of this PROPHECY, its one of the easiest for us to understand.  What Daniel prophesied in Chapter 8 was FUTURE for him, but much of it is HISTORY for us and we have ample historical evidence of the exact fulfillment of this VISION.

One reason I enjoy this section of Daniel is that I love to study history, and this is one of the best places in the Bible to compare history and prophecy.  When we see things predicted in the Bible that have already come true, it should give us great assurance that those things yet to happen in God’s Word will also come true.

The Basics of Daniel’s Dream –

Daniel dreamed of a mighty Ram with two massive horns, but one horn was bigger than the other.

The Ram was powerful and it charged with beating every other animal.

But then Daniel saw a strange-looking Goat approaching the Ram.  It had one horn growing out of its forehead (almost like a Unicorn, but probably more like a rhinoceros).

Well, this one-horned goat whipped the ram and trampled it down in the dirt.  But suddenly its horn was snapped off, and growing in its place was four other horns and growing out of one of those horns was another little horn.

Daniel 8:13-14 reads,  Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?  He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be constructed.”  (NIV Bible)

Daniel himself was troubled and confused, so VERSE 16 tells us that Gabriel comes to give him a clear interpretation.

Today, Christians have been given by God the Holy Spirit to bring wisdom and understanding to the spiritual mysteries.

Gabriel explains the dream to Daniel, v. 20-24

[20]  The ram you saw having two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.  [21]  And the shaggy and rough he-goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between his eyes is the first king.  [22]  The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.  [23]  In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise.  [24]  He will become very strong, but not by his own power.  He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.  He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people.

A VIOLENT RAM:  Medo-Persian Empire 

When Daniel received this VISION, the Babylonian Empire was still in place, but God showed him a new empire on the horizon, one that God would use to fulfill the PROPHECY to all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

This Ram had one horn and was larger than the other.  This symbolizes the Persians, always the more powerful of the two nation coalition.

A UNI-HORN GOAT:  The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great –

The GOAT represents the Greek Empire, and the single horn, Alexander.

Alexander has always fascinated me.  When Alexander was a boy, his father enlisted Plato’s disciple Aristotle to be his personal tutor.  At the age of 18, Alexander was already leading armies into battle.  When he was only 20, his father was murdered (some say, Alexander, had a hand in it) and he became ruler of the Greeks.  His decisive battle against the Persians took place near modern Syria at the battle of Issus, which he won in 323 B.C. at the ripe old age of 23.  Within the next ten years, Alexander conquered the entire world from Italy to Egypt and to modern Pakistan.

Alexander and his army headed south towards Egypt after his victory at Issus.

As Alexander and his army approached Jerusalem, he was planning to destroy the city.  Remember, the city had just been rebuilt 100 years earlier by Ezra and Nehemiah.

Josephus writes that while Alexander was considering the destruction of the city, the High Priest went out from the Temple with a scroll of Daniel 8 saying that he and his army (the GOAT) were destined by God of the Hebrews to conquer the RAM (the Persians).  The account says Alexander was so impressed that instead of destroying the city, he enriched it and then bypassed it on his way to capture and control Egypt.

God is always active in His plans for mankind.

It always exciting to read the Bible and realize PROPHECY is being fulfilled at that moment.  That’s the way I’ve felt ever since the resettling of Israel in 1948 and the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967, both events examples of PROPHECY fulfillment in our times.

So Alexander is this UNI-HORN on the Goat.

But at the height of its power, this single horn is suddenly broken off.  Even so, Alexander the Great died suddenly at the age of 33.

THE FOUR HORNS:  The four generals who divided Alexander’s territory –

Alexander made no plans for the continuation of his kingdom.  He had children, but he cared little for them and never designated an heir to his empire.

When he died suddenly, a conflict between the leading generals finally arrived at a questionable agreement of dividing the empire.  This is merely history for us to take in, but remember Daniel predicted all of this almost 300 years before it happened.

This ‘Little Big Horn’:  Antiochus Epiphanes IV –

He is a forerunner, as a type of the Antichrist.

This man Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphanes means “Great”) is a wicked and vicious ruler.  He hated the Jews and they hated him.  He demanded crowds of people honor him by crying out, “Epiphanes”, whenever he would pass by.  Instead, the Jews had nicknamed him, “Antiochus Epimanes”, a play on his name: Epimanes means “madman”, or “idiot”, and so they shouted “Epimanes”, when he passed by driving him even madder.

Here are just a few of the low-lights I found in the study of his treatment of God’s people.  He forbade circumcision, he outlawed the Sabbath observance and made it a criminal offense for anyone to possess or read the Jewish scriptures.

As you can imagine, Jews rebelled against him, and his punishment was quick and brutal.  On one occasion, Antiochus forced a Jewish mother to watch as her seven sons were fried to death, then her eyes were blinded so that would be her last thought.

He was cruel, vicious, and he was evil.  He slaughtered 80,000 Jews on a single occasion.

But the vilest thing he did from a Jewish standpoint was to set up an image of Zeus in the Jewish Temple (the statue had a striking resemblance to, who else? Antiochus).

He ordered the Jews to worship the image, and horror of horrors, he personally sacrificed a hog on the sacred altar and sprinkled the blood of the hog all around the holy place and this became a monthly ritual.  In doing this he defiled the Temple.

It is in VERSE 13, we read “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

That means the faithful Jews left or deserted the Temple, so it became “desolate”.

In this dream (VISION), Daniel predicted Antiochus would invade the Holy Land and desecrate the Temple and cause the sacrifices to cease.

Daniel 8:14 reads “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary will be reconstructed.”

Just as today, a morning and evening make one day, so if you divide 2,300 by two, you get 1,150 days.

History says that Judas Maccabees and his sons rose in revolt and led the people of Israel to retake Jerusalem, cleansed the sanctuary and restored the offerings at the end of 1,150 days, exactly as predicted!

The rededication of the Temple on December 14, 164 B.C. is the reason our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah each December.

Looking then at the TIMELINE:

  • Daniel (550 B.C.)
  • Antiochus (170-163 B.C.)
  • Jesus Came (4 B.C.)
  • TODAY

What does all this mean?

Here are but a few lessons that can be learned from this PROPHECY in Daniel 8.

Kingdoms of this world (and presidents) come and go but the Kingdom of God is forever!

Because we find God to be trustworthy in the middle of PROPHECY we can trust Him in the details in our lives right now.

Alexander is a picture of worldly greatness marked by personal failure.

Though conqueror of the world, he was unable to conquer his own passions.  He died of a combination of malaria and acute alcoholism.

Proverbs 16:32 says,  Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Some of you have conquered the kingdoms of your careers.  You fought and won battles but there’s one battle you haven’t won; the SIN BATTLE.  You can’t CONQUER your own sinful appetites and anger.

Alexander is a picture of plenty of people today who have gained worldly success, yet their personal and spiritual lives are running on empty.

Only Jesus can win the SIN BATTLE for you.

2,000 years ago, He carried our sins to the cross with Him and our SINS were nailed to the cross, covered by His BLOOD.

Jesus said,  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?” ~ Mark 8:36 (AMP)

What does it profit a man or woman if they are known as Alexander the Great or John the great businessman or Mary the great salesperson or Tom the great community leader…and they never CONQUER their SIN PROBLEM?  It’s simply a tragic picture of a sad, wasted life.

Antiochus (past) is a prototype of the Antichrist (future).

A clear characteristic of prophetic literature in the Bible often has a dual fulfillment; like peeling the layers of an onion.

ONION LAYERS

That is, it may have a fulfillment in the near future (the outer onion layer), and then it may have another fulfillment in the distant future (the inner layer of the onion).  I believe that’s the case here in Daniel 8.

Without a doubt, the Little Horn in Daniel 8 was fulfilled in Antiochus, but he is also the preview of coming attractions of the future Antichrist.

There are many comparisons.  For instance, reviewing the TIMELINE of the future:  Today’s Antichrist (?? AD);  Jesus Returns (? AD).

RAPTURE –

I want to point out at this point of discussion how long Antiochus’ reign of terror was:  He murdered the Jewish High Priest, Onias III, in 170 B.C. and died in 163 B.C.; that’s SEVEN years.

The future Antichrist will rule for SEVEN years (Revelation 13:5).

Antiochus had an intense hatred for the Jews and so will the Antichrist.

These are all remarkable parallels with what the Antichrist will do in the FUTURE.  Here’s your link: Revelation 13:15.

  • He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the IMAGE of the first BEAST [antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
  • He also forced everyone to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the image of the first BEAST [Antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

He also forced everyone, to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

If you think I’m reading something into this that isn’t there; notice what Jesus Christ Himself said about this future desecration of the Temple in Matthew 24.

Just as Antiochus set up an image of Zeus in the Temple, and commanded the Jews to WORSHIP it, the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that the Antichrist will do the same thing in the future.

CONCLUSION:  Looking through A Camera’s Lens. 

Years ago, I saw a strange episode of the TV show, “The Twilight Zone”.  I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that someone had a Polaroid camera.  When you took a picture, what developed wasn’t that given moment but 24 hours into the future.  It was like having a PROPHETIC CAMERA that revealed the future.

It seems in this episode, everyone who possessed the Camera, died a tragic death.  No one was willing to use their ability to forecast the future for good.

Some of you reading this may make the same tragic mistake.

We know Jesus is going to return (Acts 1:9-11).  We just don’t know when.

We know that those left behind after the Rapture will face a terrible time of tribulation.

We have this information but are we doing anything about it?

We need to get up, get out and do the King’s business!

What is the King’s business?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

A message like this shouldn’t turn you into a ‘star-gazer’; it should turn you into a ‘Soul Winner’!

A message of PROPHECY, on Dreams and Visions, shouldn’t make you smug in your salvation; it should make you a SERVANT of Jesus.

The King’s business is to tell the lost and dying world the only HOPE is Jesus!

My hope and prayer is that God will let Jesus speak to you as he has for me with these words from Mark 13:32-34:

We all have a job to do.  Our job is to keep watching, keep witnessing, and keep working until Jesus returns!!!  

AMEN.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

FOOTNOTE [i]:  The Power Of Biblical Vision by Rodelio Mallari.

SOURCES:  Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI; Daniel’s Prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes by Jason Jackson;  The Book of the Maccabees.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); all other translations used in the study are so noted in the photos or text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your BREAKTHROUGH Is Here!

BLOG TEXT: MICAH 2

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A SHEEP GATHERING

MICAH’S DECLARATION:

Micah declares to the people of the day that the JUDGE was coming, referring to God!!

And God was angry because of widespread SIN of Idolatry and…covetousness, abuses, lawlessness, among other things.

And this isn’t just referring to the nation’s leaders, but to everyone who had cultivated a heart of acceptance to do evil in the sight of God.

The CULTIVATION Effect –

In Genesis 2:15, Adam’s job in the Garden was to “tend and keep”–or “cultivate and guard” what God had provided.

To CULTIVATE is the effort a farmer makes to ensure that he will produce a bountiful crop.

If a FARMER is lazy, if he fails to cultivate the ground, to do nothing to promote growth, nature will follow its course and the farm begins to degenerate.

If we don’t “guard” our hearts; we get lazy in reading and meditating on the Word of God, spiritual weeds (lies, excuses, rebellious spirit, lawlessness) will crop up and choke out any spiritual growth (fruit) that should be developing.

And in the place of SPIRITUAL FRUIT, we begin to nourish (cultivate) our fleshly heart, and sin gets a hold of our thoughts and we wind up at the wrong destination.

In place of FRUIT, SIN will reign in its place and our heart will begin to degenerate.

Proverbs 4:23-26 begins with this:  “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life”  (v. 23).

Apathy can let down your guard…

We are often guilty of pointing a finger at our nation’s leaders, our elected politicians, while at the same time being somewhat complacent–apathetic– on what’s tolerated by society–  “Hey, I don’t support “X, Y, Z”, but I don’t want to be judgmental. There’s nothing I can do or say, so why bother.”

It might become THE LAW of the land, but as true believers, we don’t have to roll over and play dead–forget who we are in Christ JESUS.

What is about to happen isn’t going to be a pretty sight!

So God declares through the Prophet some pretty heavy things that were going to happen from their neglect, their laziness, for what they were doing to the people and for their sins!!

What ever they had taken, God was going to take from them!!!  This also refers to their impending captivity to Babylon.

The whole scene is not a pretty sight

Then in Chapter 2:12-13, the scene abruptly shifts to the LORD’S restoration–A “BREAKTHROUGH”!

I think we can all agree, before we were born again, our lives were under JUDGMENT because of our SIN!

Romans 3:23:  Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.

If we are honest with ourselves, some of us did some pretty ugly things we’re not proud of.

We can look back and remember, some of us were pretty messed up.  Because of that, our SIN brought the JUDGMENT OF GOD on our lives.

Romans 2:5-6:  [5] “But by your callous stubbornness and impenitence of heart you are storing up wrath and indignation for yourself on the day of wrath and indignation, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  [6] For He will render to every man according to his works.”

Romans 6:23:  “For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Then JESUS came into our lives and changed the course of everything!!!  Whether at the time, we weren’t aware of what just happened to us spiritually.  It still happened!!

RECOGNIZING THE FIVE “R’s” AND MORE!

We were REDEEMED, RECOVERED, RECLAIMED, RELEASED, RESCUED…brought back, purchased, delivered, dis-imprisoned, emancipated, liberated, loosened, set free, SAVED by the Precious Blood of JESUS!!!

1 Peter 1:18-19:

[18] “You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold.  [19] But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.”

JESUS is our Savior, our liberator, our salvager, our salvation, THE MESSIAH!!

TRANSITION TO THE BREAKTHROUGH (verse 12):

In the book of MICAH, the people, as well as the leaders of the land, were under THE JUDGMENT of God.

Then, all of a sudden in Verse 12, a transition…a breaking through the Mist of Deception takes place.

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THE BREAKTHROUGH IS HERE!

It is kind of like SALVATION–

First, you are not saved, then in a moment, you open up your heart to receive Christ and confess Him as Lord.

In that moment…YOU ARE SAVED!

Here in chapter two of Micah, we have the JUDGMENT OF GOD, and then all of a sudden, there’s RESTORATION to those that have survived (“overcomers”) all the ugliness and had been broken.

BREAKING THROUGH THE SHEEP’S’ GATE–

Micah 2:12-13 (N.L.T.) – RESTORATION:

[12]  “Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left.  I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock into pasture.  Yes your land will again be filled with noisy crowds!

[13]  Your leader will break out and lead you out of exile, out through the gates of the enemy cities, back to your own land.  Your king will lead you; the Lord himself will guide you.”

GOD CAN RESTORE!

God restores, renews, rebuilds, recovers…heals, cures, mends, retouches, refreshes and revives.

He RESTORES LIVES,

He RESTORES HEARTS,

He RESTORES MINDS,

He RESTORES RELATIONSHIPS & FRIENDSHIPS,

He RESTORES FAMILIES & MARRIAGES.

I think we all know and can give many testimonies that GOD is a GOD who RESTORES!

Jesus has the POWER of RESTORATION (verses 12-13)

In the text, there’s a remnant of God’s people spoken of in their land (foretold captivity), but they were broken, wounded, hurt people who were spread out over the land and…the prophet Micah declares to them that God would restore and gather them all together again.

“I will bring them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in the middle of a pasture, they will be so numerous that they will make a lot of noise.”

This is a perfect picture of RESTORATION & HEALING.

The basic understanding here is God wants to restore & heal those who have been BROKEN OR HURT AND WOUNDED!!

As we go to Verse 13, there is something very deep-seated that needs further study.

BREAKTHROUGH!!!

As I studied and meditated on this verse of Scripture, the more I read it, the more powerful it became.  The “Breaker” has come up before them; they have broken up; and…they have passed through the gate and are gone out through it.

It’s like the image I used of the Gathered Sheep in a pen, excited to burst through the narrow gate.

DELIVERANCE!!!

It is a picture of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, sudden and aggressive!  God broke down the gate of their captivity and lead them out of bondage.

It is a picture of deliverance, not conquest.  It’s not just breaking thru a barrier (the obstacle in the way) to get to the other side.  BUT…to BREAKTHROUGH; removing all other obstacles to keep them moving forward…then MOVING FORWARD!!

It’s a picture of being confined, like in prison, and all of a sudden the prison gate was blown open and set the prisoners free!!!

THE OBSTACLE?

And the OBSTACLE which was the gate was removed so they could get out; keep moving forward.

Without getting too heavy here, the basic understanding is God will remove any and all obstacles to get us where we need to be.  It is telling us today that God is the “BREAKER”.  That God is a God of BREAKTHROUGH!!!  He will remove those things that stand in our way of progress.

The Enemy Will Try to Put Obstacles In Our Path…

Satan will try to stop what God wants to do in our lives.  But God the Breaker, the God of Breakthrough, can and will clear a path to overthrow everything that stands in the way that God wants us to accomplish.

I don’t know about your circumstances, but I do know that in my Christian walk with God, when I need a BREAKTHROUGH, He will keep me moving forward.  And He can do the same for you.

We Need Some Breakthroughs Right Now…

#1.  For Our Churches–for souls to be saved and a supernatural move of Holy Spirit to touch the lives of His people.

A BREAKTHROUGH so spirit moved, that it couldn’t be refuted, challenged or denied; you knew, that you knew you were in the Presence of God.

#2.  We need a BREAKTHROUGH of the Holy Spirit Fire!

th_FIRE-1Like the AZUSA STREET REVIVAL.  It began with a meeting on April 9, 1906, led by Wilbur J. Seymour, the one-eyed 34-year-old son of former slaves.  [See Footnote [ii]].

A BREAKTHROUGH so awesome, that men and women would rise up to any occasion and do the work the Lord has called them to do!!

#3.  We need a BREAKTHROUGH in our VISION…

To look further than we’ve ever gone before.  To enlarge, to stretch, to lengthen, to strengthen and not hold back.

A VISION that goes beyond our borders–“Jerusalem” first, then Judea, Samaria…and the World!” (Acts 1:8 – paraphrased). 

This not only applies to the CHURCH as a corporate body, but also as an individual Christian.

You might need A BREAKTHROUGH in your VISION because right now, it’s dull and blurred.

You might need A BREAKTHROUGH so that you can clearly see what God has called you to do.

You might need A BREAKTHROUGH from apathy, indifference, and worst of all…LUKEWARMNESS.

We need a PHYSICAL BREAKTHROUGH!

Some need a FINANCIAL BREAKTHROUGH!

God wants us to know according to the words in Micah,  We don’t have to remain in the sheep pen…in the negative place we’re at, that He can give us BREAKTHROUGH!

God doesn’t want us to stay in captivity to any negative situation we find ourselves in.  He wants to BREAK down the gate and set us free–keep us moving in that direction.

THE GOD OF BREAKTHROUGH –

According to verse 13, God would clear a path for mankind and make a way to Himself.

Thank You Father for Your Son Jesus! 

God makes a way for us to be brought to Himself through His Son Jesus.  Thank God for His wonderful, awesome, amazing grace.

If you are reading this today, right where you are, JESUS wants you to experience A BREAKTHROUGH in your life.

You see SIN has the POWER to hold you captive.

But JESUS has a greater POWER TO SET YOU FREE FROM CAPTIVITY.

He wants to forgive you of all your sins, and come into your heart today.

If you will give Him your old life, He will give you a new one!!!


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i] : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa-Street-Revival

Photo Credits:  Google Images and computer storage/personal Pictures [“fire”].

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible, except where noted in the Text.