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).

 

 

 

“Oh, Oh, Not ‘Leftovers’ Again!”

[The First in the Series on The Book Of Malachi]

Malachi 1:6-14 Commentary

Do you like leftovers?  I asked myself the same question and my answer varied somewhat.  I love leftover cold pizza for breakfast the next morning, and if there’s enough leftover, the following morning too.  But if I wasn’t too crazy about a particular dinner meal the first time, I certainly didn’t want leftovers the next day, or any other day, for that matter!  But how many of us would dare to serve our leftovers to an invited honored guest for dinner?  It might just be delicious, but we simply couldn’t do it.  Instead, we most likely want to make an impression and give our very best!  We want to make it memorable for our guests.

And so, we should also strive to give our very best to God!

Malachi is speaking to a nation that has compromised many of the standards set down in God’s Word.  They’ve gotten comfortable with life in the world and put God in the backseat.  They are dishonoring God and not giving Him their best.  And this brings me to this passage of Scripture in the Book of Malachi.

Malachi 1:6-11 (NIV)

[6]  “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty.  “It is you priests who show contempt for my name.  But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?”

[7]  “By offering defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’  “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible.

[8]  “When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.

[9]  “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will He accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.

[10]  “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.

[11]  “My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

Malachi reveals a conflict marked by the bickering, the complaining, from God’s chosen people on one side, and the stern warnings of a holy and righteous God on the other.

Have you ever bickered or complained to your parents?  Of course, as children, that’s hard to look back that far, we were always right and our parents were always wrong.  Especially as teenagers.  As a parent on the receiving end, it can certainly be a frustrating experience.

In Malachi, we see the people bickering and arguing with Almighty God!  Look once more at verses 6, 7, and 13:

  • (1:6) “How have we shown contempt for your name?”
  • (1:7)  “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you’?”
  • (1:13) “And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously”

I can just imagine the rolling eyes on that one.  The people had developed their own faulty attitudes and opinions of WHO GOD IS and on the PURPOSE OF WORSHIP:  (1:14b.)  “For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name is terrible and to be [reverently] feared among the nations.”

GOD IS HOLY and RIGHTEOUS, A Mighty King whose name is to be feared!

The people had somehow in the comfort found in the ‘same-O, same-O,’ attitude that they had lost their focus on who God is.  They got caught up in themselves and the rituals of worship and lost sight on the purpose of their worship.  Their attitudes toward God and toward worship had strayed from the Commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5…

The people began to bicker or argue with God.  They adopted an attitude that they were more righteous and more holy than God Himself.  When confronted with their offensive attitude and actions, they were, in essence, saying to God,

“Are you talking to me?  Surely you’re not talking to me!  I’m doing just fine!”

They refused to hear from God!

They refused to believe they could be wrong!

They refused to swallow their pride and turn back to God in repentance!

Now I know.  It’s easy to point fingers at these hypocritical people, saying, “Wow…They just didn’t get it, did they?”  But what about us?

What is our attitude toward God and toward worship? 

Are we holding on to our arrogance and pride instead of listening to the Holy Spirit? 

Our attitude toward God and toward worship has an impact on others around us.  They might not say anything to us, but they’re watching.  As Christian believers, we are being watched with great scrutiny.  Our attitude will either cause others to stumble or will draw them closer to God.  Keep in mind that according to God’s Word in 1 Peter 2:9, we as believers in Christ Jesus, are now a royal priesthood…“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 

Don’t you just love that last part?  Instead of an attitude of bickering, complaining, or arguing, God will be honored and revered when we proclaim His praises!

Malachi 1:11 again…”For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and indeed a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”

Did you get that? “A pure offering”?  Arguing, bickering voices “aren’t gonna cut it” in the life of a believer!  Our purpose is to proclaim God’s praises because His name shall be great among the nations.

The bickering wasn’t the only characteristic of their worship.  As we can see in the passage of Scripture in chapter one, the worship of the one true God had become burdensome… (v. 13a)

“You say also, Behold, what drudgery and weariness this is!”

The WORSHIP had become an empty ritual that they engaged weekend after weekend, day after day, to maintain tradition rather than to please a holy and righteous God.  It was being done out of obligation instead of being done out of love.

Have you ever asked your children to do the dishes after dinner, and you get a little “attitude” in return?  Oh, the dishes eventually get done, but they did the absolute minimum to meet their obligation.

You mean to tell me they didn’t do it with a cheerful attitude full of love and gratefulness to you as their parent?

With that in mind, now scale it up into the priest’s attitude in their worship of God.  It was bad enough that the people of God lost their first love.  What made it worse was that they actually thought their religious performance was acceptable to Him!

God’s desire is for us to worship Him and serve Him with pleasure, with joy, with cheerfulness.

A question I’ve often asked myself over the years, do I find real joy in worship, or is it just a ritual?  Do we “do” certain things, like go to church for example, because it’s something your just supposed to do or is expected of you?  Do you find yourself wanting to do less and less for God?  It’s very easy to become burned out spiritually, physically, and emotionally from serving.  If you only use 20% of your body, you’ll burn out those over-used parts while the unused parts of your body atrophy.  This isn’t the way God intended for a healthy body to function!  Similarly, if a church body continues to use the same 20% of its members, they’ll burn out as well while the rest of the body atrophies!

God has a function and purpose for each one of us to fulfill in the body of Christ.

We can choose to tackle our purpose grudgingly (or not at all), or we can choose to pursue it with great expectations!  God knows that we can fall into a trap of becoming tired and discouraged in ministry, yet He wants us to push on with joy as we can see in Hebrews 12…

I want to examine more closely what was being offered to the Lord…(v. 8a)

“When you [priests] offer blind [animals] for sacrifice, is it not evil?  And when you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil?”

They offered God their leftovers, their hand-me-downs and expected God to bless them for it.  Not only were these blemished sacrifices offensive to God, but He called them “evil”!

Take a look at the last half of verse 13 and the first half of verse 14…(Amplified Bible)

(13) “…this you bring as an offering?  Shall I accept this from your hand?” says the Lord.

(14) “But cursed is the [cheating] deceiver who has a male in his flock and vows to offer it, yet sacrifices to the [soverign] Lord a blemished or diseased thing!

The word “deceiver” is the Hebrew word, “nakal”, which translates as a deceiver, swindler, or cheat.  God calls such a person  a cheater, one who can give better sacrifices but chooses not to.  Instead of honoring God with their best, they kept the best for themselves and gave God the worst of what they had,  What a slap in the face!

God’s LOVE is so extravagant for each one of us, that He chose to sacrifice the most precious thing He had, in order to redeem us, His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  And the LOVE we show in return for His GRACE & MERCY amounts to some leftovers we found in the back of the Fridge, then emptied upon the altar as a worshipful sacrifice to Almighty God?

These ritualistic, blemished sacrifices are so offensive to God, that He prefers no sacrifices at a…(vs. 10)

[10]  “Oh, that there were even one among you [whose duty it is to minister to Me] who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on My altar to no purpose [an empty, futile, fruitless pretense]!  I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from your hand”  (Amplified Bible).

Just close up shop!  Shut it down!  Better no worship at all than empty rituals and offerings that fall well short of our best.

So the answer is “YES”…God continues to expect our sacrifices. 

Not just any sacrifice…it must be the BEST we have!

King David knew about acceptable sacrifice…(2 Samuel 24:24-25)

According to God’s Word, a SACRIFICE isn’t a SACRIFICE in less it cost something!

In the NT Gospels, SACRIFICE was costly as well –

  • A woman poured costly fragrant oil to anoint Jesus’ head as an expression of her love, the devotion of her worship.   (Mark 14:3-9)
  • The widow came to the Temple and gave from her poverty all that she had as an offering to God to express her love, her devotion, her worship.  (Luke 21:1-4)

They Got It!!!

They understood in their hearts what SACRIFICE really meant to a holy and righteous God.  Their love for God prompted them to cheerfully give their BEST without hesitation!

There are so many lessons and warnings to take in the message of Malachi. 

God sent Malachi to stir the people up in their spiritual stupor, to exhort them to return to the living God.  Instead of approaching God with voices and attitudes full of bickering and complaining, we are to proclaim His praises.  Instead of treating our service to God as burdensome, we are to serve Him with hearts full of joy.  Instead of offering to God sacrifices that are blemished, we are to present to Him offerings that are pure!

But no matter what we do or sacrifice, it will never be acceptable to God without LOVE; extravagant love for God that overflowed into our praises, compelling us to offer our best!

And finally, how authentic is our relationship with God?

How much of what we do for God has become an empty ritual versus sincere heartfelt worship?  I’m so guilty of this at times.  Am I truly giving God the absolute that I have to offer Him every day?  Or, am I giving Him the leftovers, the crumbs off the floor, hoping it pleases Hum?  I want to smell the aroma of fresh bread taken from the oven.

Are you experiencing JOY in your service and ministry to God, or are you finding it to be wearisome, even a burden at times?

You only have so much talent, so much time, so much ability, so many resources.  All God wants is YOUR BEST – that’s your form of a SACRIFICE of PRAISE to Him that brings Him glory and praise.

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CREDITS –

Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon –  Strong #5230, “deceiver,” Heb. “nakal – naw-kal’.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or, as noted in the text, or photo/images.

Never Under-Estimate What God Can Do Through You!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the effect of his ministry?

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

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

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

GIVE TO GOD THE SMALL THINGS –

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with the people of Israel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ 1:6, 9-11

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

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

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

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

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

And God says in Malachi 3:10-12…

WHY WOULD GOD DO THIS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

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

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

In my recent studies in Amos, I’ve seen how God used His prophet to warn the people of Israel.  Israel was going through an almost unprecedented period of prosperity and in the process, had forgotten God.

They certainly hadn’t forgotten about religion.  They were still a very religious society.  They still went to worship in their places of worship.  They still offered all their sacrifices, and they still tithed their money.  As a matter of fact, they went over and above what the Law required.

Today, we would say that churches with these qualities and directives would be a successful church.

But like so many times throughout their history, Israel still didn’t get it.  They thought they were OK.  They felt perfectly at ease and comfortable in Zion.

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

He promised all the horrible events that would occur some 30 years later.  Assyria would invade and destroy Samaria.

All the woes,  All the promises of affliction.  All the heavy prophesies and messages given by Amos builds to a crescendo in this last chapter of the book.

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

The differences are well worth noting at this point.  Up to now, Amos’ prophetic messages have pointed to Assyria’s invasion of Israel.  That was an example of God afflicting His people in bringing them to repentance.  Repoentance is more than saying, “Sorry, God.”  It’s changing the direction you’ve been heading–a 180 degree turn from sin.

You see, that’s how affliction is different than judgment.

In my charge as the Bible Detective, I find that there are only two times that God has or will JUDGE mankind.

  • The first was at the flood.
  • The next will be the final judgment.
  • One concluded with destruction by water.
  • The other will conclude in the destruction by fire, and NOT by Climate Change.

Anything in between those two judgments is affliction rather than judgment.

Affliction is for the purpose of showing God’s mercy and grace!

Judgment is for the purpose of showing God’s righteousness and holiness!

Up till now, Amos has spoken of God’s promised affliction.  These promises of God were fulfilled.

Then A Change in Focus Occurs – Amos 9:1-3

Amos starts off with a simple statement:  “I SAW THE LORD.”  It’s simple, but oh, how profound!  God revealed Himself to Amos.

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a small child?  My wife and I sure did when our kids were little.  It sounds funny, but little children think that when you cover their eyes, you can’t see them.  That’s about as silly as we are when we try to hide from our heavenly Father.

God told Israel through Amos that there was no place they could run to.  No place they could hide from His judgment.

It brings to mind the scene unveiling in the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, the opening of the sixth seal:

When God pours out His JUDGMENT, there’s NO PLACE TO HIDE!

If you climbed to the top of Mount Everest or dive to the bottom of the sea in a nuclear submarine, GOD IS THERE!  There’s no hide and seek with God.  Wherever you may try to run, He will SEEK and FIND you with conviction.

David’s words in Psalm 139 remind me of Amos’ words here.

After all the sin in David’s life, God sought him out.  He knew David’s innermost ways and thoughts.  He sought him and convicted him.  And after reading these verses, look at how David reacted and responded to that conviction.

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

Then instead of afflicting us to bring about conviction, God judges us.

And when it comes time for JUDGMENT, there’s no place to hide!  We can’t hide, because the Lord is a seeking God.  He either seeks in conviction or seeks in judgment.

He’s not only a seeking God, But He’s also a sovereign God –  (Amos 9:3b.-8)

Definition:  SOVEREIGN – Greek 3841, pantokrator – Almighty, Omnipotent, the all-ruler… [Bible Hub].

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

I’ve got news for you.  There’s no such thing as coincidence! 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, ever has or ever will happen to you that hasn’t passed through God’s hands.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

This was a best-seller in the ’80s and still very influential in the populous.  It was authored by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.

Several years ago, if you remember, a bridge collapsed over a  river in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Within days, the book’s author was on the radio trying to explain the tragedy to people.  He explained that bad things like a bridge collapse happened because God doesn’t control the laws of nature.  He is powerless to do anything about evil events.  Kushner, I’m sure, said these things to try to comfort the people.  What an empty comfort that is!  I just can’t imagine the God of Amos that he had seen on the ALTAR had been Kushner’s god.  A god who is powerless to stop evil, as you and I are.

My God of the Bible is a SOVEREIGN God!!!

The LORD that Amos saw is the same LORD that the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:15-18 (NIV)

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  [17]  He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.  [18]  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

He is Lord overall.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

None of those surprised any more than Assyria surprised God when they destroyed Samaria and carried the Israelites into exile.

VERSES 7-8 tell us that God isn’t surprised by the actions of nations.

The Ethiopians (Cushites), the Philistines, the Syrians. 

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

Although this is difficult teaching, most of us, I think, see God’s sovereignty over circumstances, and nations.

But here’s one that will stretch your thinking.  God is sovereign over our rebellious behavior.  See the last part of verse 8:

God said that He wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel; that He would preserve a remnant.

Not because they deserved it, but because He promised it!  He would preserve them for His namesake–not theirs.

As rebellious as they were, God had promised to preserve a remnant.  And he would keep His PROMISE because He’s sovereign.  Even over rebellious people.

The Lord is a seeking God and He is a sovereign God.  But there’s more.

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

When I first looked at this passage, I pictured the process of separating the wheat from the chaff described in the Bible (Psalm 1:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17).  I thought that not one grain of ‘good stuff’ would fall to the ground,  But that’s not what it’s talking about here.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was called “winnowing.”  The “sifting” would follow the winnowing step.

During the winnowing, all the chaff was blown away.  Everything heavy fell to the ground.  That included the good grain, stones, and pebbles.  The stones and pebbles were separated from the grain using a sifter.

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

So instead of all of Israel sitting safely in the sifter of the Lord while the impurities pass from them,…ALL of Israel is the one that has to pass through the SIFTER.  They are the ones who will be sorted and sifted through affliction.

They are the ones who will pass through the affliction of God in order to be purified.  The stones and pebbles of SIN AND IMPURITY are the things left in the sifter.  And that’s a good thing…because everything that’s left in God’s sifter will be destroyed in JUDGMENT!

The SIFTER of God in Amos compares to the FIRE that Paul mentions in First Corinthians :

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.  And guess what?  Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat.  Even though Peter initially failed miserably when Jesus convicted him of his sin, he repented.  The sifting purified him.  Purified him to the point that he went from a coward to a bold witness of Christ in a few weeks time.

The promise of the New Testament says that if you’ve trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be SAVED.  But Paul says,  “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

God sifts you so you will let go of your sin.  So that even the smallest sin in your thinking, will be separated from you.

One day all the sifting that Israel has gone through over the past 6000 years will result in only the purest grain.  The LORD is a sifting God!

Finally, the LORD is a SAVING God!  (verses 11-15)

As I’ve already mentioned, this chapter in Amos is all about future promises to the nation of Israel.  God made a PROMISE to Abraham back in Genesis 15.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation.  A nation that God would choose to call His special people.  And God also promised Abraham that He would pour out His GRACE on those people and give them a land filled to overflowing rich blessings of God.

And He sealed that promise, A Covenant, by Himself.

In Genesis 15, God had Abraham set up a traditional ceremony, where both parties would contract together for something.  The ceremonies were often SEALED by the blood of a sacrificed animal.  In those contracts, if one party or the other broke the agreement, the contract would be null and void.

God had Abraham to set up that ceremony but He didn’t allow him to participate in it.  He put him off to the side and performed the ceremony Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I see God in the grace business.  He knows we fall short.  He knew that Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain with Him.  So He graciously called them out anyway.  He made them His people.  And He will graciously pour out His blessings on them as His people.  Not because of who they are or how special they are, but because of who He is!

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

“And all the nations who are called by My name.”

THAT’S US!  All the nations in the world who aren’t Israel.

In other words, Gentiles.  THAT’S US!!

By His GRACE, God promised the same blessings to the Gentiles who are called by His name as He will give to Israel. 

HOW? 

Through the BLOOD of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

These wonderfull promises that God made to Israel are available to us today because the Lord as a SAVING God.

The entire book of Amos has been a warning.  It was a warning that Israel didn’t pay attention to.  But it serves as a warning to us all.

  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE SIN.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE FALSE WORSHIP.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE HYPOCRISY.
  • He doesn’t tolerate SIN and REBELLION in His house.

Among His people, He seeks out sin.  He’s SOVEREIGN over all things.  And He will sift us.

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

At times God sifted Israel with trouble and ar rimes, And at times, He sifted them with prosperity.  So whether we’re having trouble or having prosperity, it doesn’t tell the story where we are in God’s eyes.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “How does the Lord see us?”  “How does the Lord see our church?”

If we don’t see Him as He has revealed Himself as a seeking, sovereign and sifting God, He will show Himself as JUDGE.  And I don’t think any of us want that.

But if we do see Him as He’s revealed Himself, He will show Himself to us as Savior.

QUESTION:  Where do we all start to see God as He’s revealed Himself?

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King Jmaes Bible (KJV); and other translations used in the photos/Images.

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

Becoming A Loser!!

Scripture 2 Peter 2:7-8

Seriously, I pondered giving this blog its title.  You might think it’s little unkind in thought.  However, my point in the title wasn’t unkindness, but to simply summarize the overall outcome of Lot’s life.

Lot lost everything of any value in his life.  To put it short, it’s the result of Lot putting his WANTS ahead of God’s WILL.

Lot is an example of a Christian who tried to live as close to the world as they could with the mistaken idea it wouldn’t affect him.

Many Christians today are doing much the same as Lot.  Trying to live as close to the world as possible without being affected by it.

It’s living a tightrope existence.

It is attempting to live with one foot in the WORLD and one foot in God’s KINGDOM.  But this way of living can’t be done.  Inevitably, it will lead to a fall!  Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)

He also said, “No one can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24 a.)

The point is that you can’t live for self and the world while at the same time being committed and pleasing to your heavenly Father.  It’s a spiritual impossibility.

Trying to walk with the world and with the Lord at the same time simply can’t be done.  Those two ways of life cancel out each other!

You might ask at this point, how is trying to walk with the world makes Lot a “spiritual loser”?

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:  [1]  HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.

He had great assets and wealth  (Genesis 13:5-6)

NOTE:  The Bible doesn’t condemn anyone for having riches.  Scripture does say however, there’s condemnation for our trusting in riches  (1 Timothy 6:17).

[17]  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  (NIV)

Lot’s problem wasn’t his riches, but his ‘worldly’ attitude.

Like the world, Lot had the idea that the value of his life was dependant upon what he possessed.  He had relegated first place in his life to what he had accumulated.

Great Assets Won’t Make Up For Weak Devotion to God.

Riches in and of themselves will not make one happy, as this true story illustrates [*See Footnote [i] ]:

Many people think money is security, but 1 Timothy 6:9 warns that it can be just the opposite.  A few years ago, columnist Jim Bishop reported what happened to people who won the state lottery:

Rosa Grayson, of Washington, won $400 a week for life.  She hides in her apartment.  For the first time in her life, she has “nerves.”  Everyone tries to put the touch on her.  “People are so mean.  I hope you win the lottery and see what happens to you.”

All the “WINNERS” hoped and prayed for sudden wealth.

All had their prayers answered.

All were wrecked on a dollar sign

“If the child of God is to be successful by God’s standard, the love of their life must be Jesus.  That’s true whether you are a pauper or a millionaire.  Most of us are richer than we know”

[By Chuck Rasmussen.]

Lot Had No Altar Of Worship

Genesis 12:7-8 (AMP)

[7] Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,  “I will give this land to your posterity.”  So Abram built an altar there to the Lord, Who had appeared to him.

[8] From there he pulled up ][his tent pegs] and departed to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

Even when Abram (Abraham) strayed, he always came back to the ALTAR  (Genesis 13:1, 3-4).

So let’s look at this whole account a little closer:

[1]  Abraham journeyed down to Egypt (a type of the world in scripture), to escape the famine in the land of Canaan.  And because he had disobeyed God in this, he had nothing but trouble from the time he arrived there.  But the first thing Abraham did after coming out of Egypt was to return to the ALTAR art Bethel (which means “the house of God’).

A Good Trip to the Altar is the First Step in Shedding the Influence of the World Upon One’s Life.

In total contrast to Abraham, Lot’s main concern was his assets, not the ALTAR.

I couldn’t find from Scripture the slightest hint that Lot was really committed to God, although he was a believer.

He was extremely weak in devotion to God.  It was this flaw in Lot’s life that resulted in his eventual ruin.

A Christian who is weak in their devotion to God is an easy target for Satan.  Many Christians today have great assets, even many spiritual activities,  BUT NO ALTAR!  Everything else in life is rather meaningless without fellowship with the LIVING GOD!!

His Worldly Departure From God.

It all began with division (Genesis 13:7)

It revealed Abram’s dignity – Genesis 13:8 (NIV)

[8] So Abram said to Lot,  “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.”

Notice the submissive spirit that’s demonstrated by Abraham.   It’s a characteristic of one who is walking with God in a cooperative attitude.  I don’t mean cooperation at all costs; but in general with the desire to help and minister to others, rather than demanding for one’s own way.

According to the custom of that day, Abraham had the right of FIRST CHOICE for he was the eldest of the two men.  But it’s precisely here that the maturity and dignity of Abraham that shinned.  He permitted his nephew, LOt, to have the right of FIRST CHOICE.

It Revealed Lot’s Worldly Desires – Genesis 13:10

[10] Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.  (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah).

I can just imagine at this point that Lot, in thinking to himself, “Uncle Abram is a fool to give me the right of first choice.  But that’s his mistake.  I’m going to get the best I can, while I can!”  However, this brings out the trusts of the two men.  Abraham trusted the God of the Altar, while Lot trusted the greatness of his assets.

It Resulted In Lot’s Wrong Decision (Genesis 13:11 – Amplified Bible)

[11] Then Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley and [he] traveled east.  So they separated.

Sin and worldliness are always a CHOICE on the part of the Christian.  The Bible bears this out in Paul’s writings, when he says,   “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires”;  “For sin shall not be your master…”  (Romans 6:12, 14a)

Let’s look at the progression of Lot’s worldliness:

  1. He LOOKED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:10).
  2. He CHOSE the plain of Jordan, where Sodom and Gomorrah were located (Gen. 13:11a).
  3. He JOURNEYED toward Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:11b).
  4. He then PITCHED his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 12:12).

Have you ever ‘flirted’ with sin?  To trifle or toy, as with an idea you knew was a sin?

Holy Spirit made a point in mentioning that Abraham “lived in the land of Canaan” (v. 12a), the land of promise, while Lot CHOSE to pitch his tent “…toward Sodom” (v. 12b), a city where its reputation was well-known for lustful pleasures.

His Wicked Dwelling Place Among the Godless.

Lot chose to live among a promiscuous, unprincipled in sexual matters, society.  Notice God’s description of the men of Sodom (Genesis 13:13):

Now “the men” weren’t merely your so-called “good ole boys” having fun on Saturday night.  They were sexually depraved, bad to the bone, criminal types (Genesis 19:2)

This city was wholly given over to deviant sex (Genesis 19:4-5)

[4] But before they lay down, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, ALL THE MEN from every quarter, surrounded the house.

[5] And they called to Lot and said,  “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us, that we may know (be intimate with) them.”

Later in the story, Lot offered his two virgin daughters to this depraved mob, who ignored his offer altogether (Genesis 19:8).

It just blows my mind to think that Lot would have stooped so low to make such an offer.  But this just reveals how badly Sodom had influenced Lot’s heart and mind.  Rubbing elbows with SIN produces a calloused heart.

Can you imagine a BELIEVER living in a place like this and being comfortable with it?  Don’t forget–it happened gradually.

He Lingered Though Judgment Loomed.

Genesis 19:14-16 (NIV)

[14] So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters.  He said, “Hurry and get out of this place because the LORD is about to destroy the city!”  But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

[15] With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry!  Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

[16] When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.

There’s A Sad Truth Here:

Whether or not people will listen to your message depends on how you have lived before men.

Just because you’re telling the TRUTH, it doesn’t earn you the right to be heard.

Lot’s own family thought he was crazy when he started to talk to them about God and Judgment, because he had lived without regard for God for so long, and everything he said seemed like a joke.  His walk didn’t back up his words.

He Lost All That Was Dear To Life.

#1.  Lot lost his wife. (Genesis 19:26)

#2.  Lot lost his relatives in the destruction of Sodom.

Genesis 19:14  (His sons-in-law wouldn’t listen to him.)

#3.  Lot lost his integrity as a child of God.

Genesis 19:30-38  (Lot’s two remaining daughters got him drunk and committed incest.)

All of this now brings us back to my title:  BECOMING A LOSER

Lot became a spiritual loser because of:

  • HIS WEAK DEVOTION TOWARD GOD.
  • HIS WORLDLY DEPARTURE FROM GOD.
  • HIS WICKED DWELLING AMONG THE GODLESS.

Maybe it’s time for you to come back to the ALTAR!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  “Won The Lottery” by Bible.or.

Music Video:  “O Come To The Altar” – Live Elevation Worship – Youtube.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

Credit Commentary:  Lot: From Sodom To Salt Sermon by Carl Allen – 2 Peter 2:4-10.

 

 

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

I received a message on Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago from my great grandkids with a question for their great grandpa.  Well, it was actually from their mother since Jaxon is 5 years old and Talon is only 3,

THE QUESTION:  “I challenge you to answer the boy’s question in your next blog:  Why is God so cool?  And what about Jesus too?”

It has been a long time since I’ve used the slang word, “Cool”, so before answering their questions, I decided to go to the internet to see if the definition of the word had changed over the years:

“COOL is an acronym abbreviation or slang word meaning AWESOME, GREAT.” (thesaurusyourdictionary.com/cool/awesome – slangs]

Now I’m sure there are many books and commentary written to answer the question of why God is so awesome, so great, so “cool”, but the best book ever is written gives exhaustive reasoning to my great grandkids question is the word of God, the Bible.

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 38:4-8; Isaiah Chapter 40:3-8 (9-24); 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Psalm 34:18-19.

The Book of Isaiah tells us that God described himself to the Israelites because their king (Hezekiah) was a fickled king who couldn’t make up his mind whether to be loyal to God or not, consequently, the people were questioning their relationship with God.  It was then that God thundered to the people who He really is.

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

[9] O you who bring good tidings to Zion, get up to the high mountain.  O you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

[10]  Behold, the Lord God will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  [11] He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.  He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.  [12] Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, marked off the heavens with a [nine-inch] span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

The largest seas in the world are nothing but a handful of water in God’s hands.  That’s AWESOME!  And really “cool” to a five and three-year-old.

Yet, have you ever been in a ship out in the ocean where you can’t see land?  Makes you feel rather small and helpless.

But to God, all those seas are like water in the palm of His hand.

The distance between planets and stars is far in our observance.

How far are galaxies from other galaxies?  If you are traveling at the speed of light as Luke Skywalker was able to accomplish in the Star Wars movie series, you couldn’t reach the end of the universe in your lifetime.

But the Bible tells us that God measures the diameter of the universe with the span of His fingers.  Yet God knows how many grains of sand that are on that beach you collected shells on last Summer.  Now that’s really “cool’!

Verses 13-14 asks:  “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?  Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?”  [NIV Bible]

These verses tell us about God’s omniscience.  He’s ALL-KNOWING!

Where did God get His knowledge?  

Sometimes we’re impressed by people’s Ph.D.’s or those whose IQ is more than 200, but God’s IQ is infinite.  And here we are trying to make God fit into our prefabricated boxes instead of just opening ourselves up, dispensing with our vanity, and just asking Him to tell us about Himself.  Now that may be difficult to explain to a five and two-year-old boys, but reading out loud verses in the Bible with children about what an awesome God He is a good place to start.

Verse 15 declares:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”  [NIV]

Our God governs the universe and yet, He’s intimately involved in each of our lives.

Be careful not to think too highly of nations or those who govern.  Some people are tempted to elevate their leaders or governments to the level of God.  But the Scriptures tell us that they’re DUST particles on a scale–or found on a dust mop.

There are some educators today who relate God to the laws of science.  But God’s not a scientist who obeys scientific laws.

He’s the author and finisher of ALL laws and more.  This we see in Isaiah 38:1-8.

In case you don’t know what it means, turning back the sundial ten steps, it’s the same as adding two degrees–or forty minutes–to the length of day.  How “cool” is that?

In other words, our God not only created the universe, but He’s still actively in control of the universe.

He controls the movement of the planets and of time itself!  As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I think that’s where many Christians get stumped.  We know, in the abstract, that God can do anything, but we run into a problem that He’ll do anything for us.

The God of the Bible is a living Being–and a very personal one at that.

The Philistines worshipped gods as made of stone or wood.  The Israelites had forsaken God.  But to David, the Lord of all creation is a living God.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, David said to King Saul,  “I, your servant have killed both a lion and a bear!  Goliath the Philistine who is not circumcised will be like the lion or bear I killed.  He will die because he has stood against the living God!”  (International Children’s Bible).

The idea that God was real and alive had not entered the minds of the Philistines and most of Israel either.  They were worshipping gods of stone and wood; god’s devised by their own imaginations.

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t see Christians doing these things.  Wouldn’t it be a little weird to see your neighbor praying to his apple tree?  Or watch him peel an apple then offer it to a rock?  But that’s exactly what Isaiah’s talking about in ancient idolatry.

Today, there’s a different kind of idol worshipping.  Anytime you or I make a person, a god, an institution or anything else that’s equal to or higher than the LIVING GOD in our loyalties, our priorities, then we’re committing idolatry.  

That’s what IDOLATRY is; giving to anyone or anything the loyalty and devotion we should render to God and this includes anything that we feel deserves our time and resources more than our worship of God.

Did you know, we’re all born to be worshippers–even so-called atheists?  They may claim that they worship no god, but in God’s eyes they worship themselves or whatever it is that gives them pleasure.

If you think about it, Isaiah has a real sense of humor.  In verse 20 for instance, he’s saying, “Some of you are poor and you say that you don’t have gold to cover your idol.  Well if that’s the case, be careful of the wood you choose!  Your god may be eaten by termites.”  [paraphrased]

Then he says, “And by the way, be sure to nail your gods down or they may just fall off their pedestal and break!”

Well, God can’t be compared with a physical or human icon–a politician, movie star, or musician (the”American Idol”).  He’s very much alive, and He’s without faults, imperfections, or with failures.  All that He declares is accomplished.  And anything or anyone we put ahead of Him is bowing to deaf and dumb idols of ancient times.

Nevertheless, we do tend to put material things ahead of God.  Every time we make our jobs, our leisure time, our worries or our friends more important than our WORSHIP of God, we show that our view and estimation of God is lacking.

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

  • Don’t you know? …Hasn’t it been told to you from the beginning?
  • It is HE who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants like grasshoppers (READ to your children the verses with “awe”!), (HE) who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in…

God is not only incomparably “awesome” compared to idols, but He’s incomparably great in His relations with the rulers of this world!

  • …Who makes princes into nobodies, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing  

How “cool” is all that, Jaxon and Talon?

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

#1.  God is all Powerful, all Knowing and He’s everywhere! 

“His arm rules for Him.”  

God’s arm, His Son Jesus Christ, shows us God’s power.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible – be it mountains moved, problems to solve, or bodies to be healed.

He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Big words for a 3 and 5-year-old.  It means ALL powerful; Knows everything; He’s present everywhere, all at the same time.

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

God is a very personal God whose greatest desire is a RELATIONSHIP with you.  He knows every pain (“owie”) you will have and sorrow as well as every joy and triumph that you’ll experience.  And He even listens to you–even if you don’t make sense.

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

He shows you that He’s powerful…yet tender as a shepherd who will not abandon His sheep, and wherever He leads you, take you to His perfect PEACE.

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

Recognize that God is an AWESOME God in your daily lives.  And when you continually recognize and demonstrate His care for you, your children will follow.

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

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

 

Our Perception of Divine Sovereignty

BIBLE STUDY:  AMOS 9:1-15

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY

The FIRST question before getting into this study is to ask ourselves the question “What does it mean that God is sovereign?”

God is described in the Bible as ALL POWERFUL and ALL KNOWING (Psalm 147:5), outside of time (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2), and responsible for the Creation of everything (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).  These divine traits set the minimum boundary for God’s Sovereign control in the universe, which is to say that nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission.  God has the POWER and KNOWLEDGE to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so anything that does happen must, at the very least be allowed by Him. [From gotQuestions?org. ].

After studying in the Book of Amos, you might begin to wonder, “Is there any good news?”  It seems as if all Amos can talk about is death and destruction.  So many ways Amos tried to get his message to the Israelites, the talk, the sermons, and finally, the personal visions he had for himself.  In all of this Israel wouldn’t listen–in one ear and out the other ear.  The people of God had wandered so far away from God, they couldn’t find their way back.  And even worse…they had deceived themselves into thinking that because they were God’s people who He would threaten JUDGEMENT but not carry the threat through.  How mistaken they would be.

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

And frankly, over the last few years, I have the same fear about the churches in America than anything else.  With the loss of REVERENCE of the power of God, comes a loss of dependency on Him.

We think we can go about our lives and do it on our own.

We devise our own IDOLS, our own centers of worship.

We decide that on Sundays, instead of actually worshipping God, we’re going to go to a ball game instead.  And whats worse, we’re making a public witness that it’s all right to do.  The center of our WORSHIP ceases to be in church but rather at the ball field or wherever.

There are similarities between the people of Israel and the people in America today.

If the people of Israel were to see JUDGEMENT of their transgressions, how can the churches in America fail to expect the same judgment?

So how can taking a book that’s so negative and find the roses that are planted in it?

I believe we’ve forgotten the element of JUDGEMENT.

Judgement and punishment traditionally have been seen as negative.  We want people not to do a certain activity, so we PUNISH them for doing so.

Children may be able to recognize that we LOVE them when we punish them but their view of PUNISHMENT is still not to do a certain thing.  There is an element of restoration that happens as a result of the punishment and judgment.  Just as parents, God disciplines or judges His people to bring them back into a good relationship with Him.

So God’s Judgment in His SOVEREIGNTY can correct the political, the religious, the cultural conditions that allowed for the people to turn from God and shows that He still wants a RELATIONSHIP with His chosen people.

WE ARE THE CHURCH!

Amos knows why the judgment is to come.

It’s a vision that God shows Amos the extent of the JUDGEMENT,

The very foundations of Israel are to be destroyed.

All of the people were involved.

Their land, their buildings, all were involved and destroyed.

WHY?

One reason is that it establishes the sovereignty of God.

Just as a child challenges his parent’s authority.  When the PARENT doesn’t answer the challenge by discipline, then the CHILD doesn’t fear the AUTHORITY of the parents.  How the parent exercises that DISCIPLINE affects the challenge.

When my first-born daughter was a child, a good strong word or a timeout on the couch would be good enough.  For my other two children, that would do no good at all!

For some, nothing but a spanking will do.  They see that type of discipline as either a strength or weakness on the part of the parent.

If DISCIPLINE is to be effective it must present the PARENT in a sovereign position over the child, and not visa-versa.

The same is true of God.  He doesn’t send judgment just for the sake of judgment.  He sends it to exert His SOVEREIGNTY on a people who have challenged it, or no longer believes it.  He allows us to know who is really in control of this world; that it is the Creator, not the created.

Amos Chapter 9 begins by establishing the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD in the first four verses.

AMOS begins to show God’s sovereignty as pictured by the altar with a sword in His hands.

There is no defensive armor mentioned.  He would not need it!  He was to attack as the sword is only an offensive weapon.

After He destroys the Temple, God then continues His JUDGMENT on the survivors.

  • They couldn’t hide in the center of the earth, or in caves.
  • They couldn’t hide in the mountains.
  • They couldn’t hide in the depths of the sea.

The SOVEREIGN GOD would find them wherever they hide.

AMOS continues to describe God’s SOVEREIGNTY in VERSE 5:

[5]  The Lord, the LORD Almighty–he touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn; the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt;

Amos identifies God as the LORD, THE LORD ALMIGHTY.

God who can control the actions of the earth and the water.  We’ve seen this before with Noah and the flood and Moses and the Red Sea.

Having established His SOVEREIGNTY, we then look at VERSE 7:  “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD.

In this VERSE, God establishes the fact that He considers Israel to be the same as the idolatrous Cushites, the Philistines, and the Arameans.  God has in the past delivered countries not His chosen people out of captivity.  They wouldn’t recognize it, but AMOS does here.

But in VERSE 8, there seems to be a dimmer of HOPE for Israel.  God’s SOVEREIGNTY is established in His righteous JUDGEMENT.

[8]  “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom.  I will destroy it from the face of the earth.  Yet I will not totally destroy the descendants of Jacob.”

God also is to destroy Israel from the face of the earth as Israel is recognized as EVIL by God.  The people also show no signs of REPENTANCE by the leaders.

But in His destruction, God makes a PROMISE not to totally destroy Israel or the house of Jacob.

You can’t just talk about the destruction of Israel without looking at its RESTORATION.  In fact, the only time we can speak of JUDGEMENT without restoration is the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

It is here that I can see the ROSEBUD start to develop.

The RESTORATION of ISRAEL:

God had promised in VERSE 8 that He will not destroy the house of Jacob.  This means that while a great number will be destroyed, as we learn from verses 1-4, that not all the Israelites will be destroyed.

In my Bible investigation, this brought up some interesting questions:  Who will be destroyed and whom will be the remnant? And why?

To find some answers to understanding the reasons for destruction in JUDGEMENT I needed to turn back the pages of history at what led up to this JUDGEMENT.

It goes back to the death of Solomon and the division of the 12 Tribes into two countries.

Jeroboam, the king of the northern country, Israel, wanted to make sure that the countries stayed divided.  So he introduced IDOL WORSHIP to Israel so they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to make sacrifices to God.

From then on, things went downhill.

The series of successive kings didn’t look to God for leadership but trusted rather in their own power to lead.  This was the foundation of their problems.  They challenged the SOVEREIGNTY of God and in essence, were saying that we can lead God’s people better than God can.

So all matters of EVIL enveloped Israel for literally hundreds of years.  God wouldn’t stay His JUDGEMENT forever in light of all this.

It’s important to note–not all the Israelites bowed to Baal.  They would all be a part of the JUDGEMENT, but God would protect them.

God also left an opportunity for individual repentance, even though the country would be judged.

With what we know, we can tell who is to be judged:

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

VERSES 11 and 12 tells us that God will RESTORE the fallen tent of David.

[11] “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter–I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins–and will rebuild it as it used to be,  [12] so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear My name.” declares the LORD, who will do these things  (NIV).

God will repair the broken places and restore its ruins.  He will bring out a NEW NATION that is stronger and more powerful than what was there before.

This is a NEW DAY of the LORD. 

One that isn’t a day of judgment but one of restoration.  A day when the people of the House can once again enjoy the goodness of the relationship with the Lord.

Looking at VERSES 13 and 14…

The reaper will overtake the plowman…

The planter with the one treading grapes…

New wine will flow from the mountains and hills…

They will rebuild their cities…

They will make gardens and eat their fruit.

All of the talk of JUDGEMENT at this point now turns to RESTORATION and HOPE!

The Agent of Restoration is Revealed –

It’s not enough to know that RESTORATION was to take place.  We must know HOW that restoration will take place.

The restoration for Israel came in TWO ways.

One is immediate:

This would be their return from captivity and the rebuilding and leadership headed by Nehemiah and Ezra.

The other is or future RESTORATION when Christ comes back:

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

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

That NEW WAY OF WORSHIP would come with Jesus

He came to complete the Law.

With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God completed the RESTORATION of the Law.  The restoration of the Law became the DOCTRINE of GRACE.

The doctrine of grace wrestled control of religion from the hands of men and placed God in control.  It was no longer a “system”, a bunch of rules and regulations that mere mortals could follow, like directions on a roadmap.

SALVATION was now a GIFT open to everyone.  It was based on what God in His SOVEREIGNTY can do for a man, a GIFT that God and God alone could give.

Whit Christ, the RESTORATION of Israel was complete!

CHRISTIANITY was to become the new Israel.

Israel was restored to worship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We are part of the RESTORED Israel.

One day we will be in the land never again to be uprooted as we join Christ in glory.  Oh, what a day that will be for those who are part of the RESTORED KINGDOM!

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CREDITS ~

Commentary:  “What does it mean that God is sovereign?”  gotQuestions?org.

Photos:  Google Image search.

Video:  YouTube time-lapse of a rosebud.

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