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!

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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.

 

Don’t Let Your Ashes Put Out the Fire

SCRIPTURE – Numbers 4:13; Ezra 4:12

NUMBERS 4:13 (AMP)

[13] And they shall take away the ashes from the altar  [of burnt offering]  and spread a purple cloth over it.

Biblically, the origin of the ALTAR goes clear back to Genesis in the bible when Noah built an Altar and then offered SACRIFICES after the flood (Genesis 8:20).  

Now in Old Testament times, there were many restrictions concerning the Altar.  In Exodus 20:24-26, for instance, the ALTAR was made “of earth or stone that had not been shaped or cut with human hand” AND… “there were to be no steps up to the altar.”

Now the ALTAR was used to make animal sacrifices to the LORD–The PURIFICATION of the Altar was accomplished by sprinkling BLOOD upon it.  Often Altars were erected in places where the LORD had accomplished some great work or had delivered some prophetic message.  Later, the Israelites had ALTARS in the tabernacle in the desert and once Solomon’s Temple was built the Altar was in the Temple.

But the ALTAR’S MAIN FUNCTION, and this is important to remember, was… SACRIFICE and WORSHIP–

And special care had to be taken to keep it Holy– And part of the special care was to “GET RID OF THE ASHES THAT ACCUMULATED ON A DAILY BASIS.”

As a “Word Detective,” I had to discover why this ritual was so important.  Although I have a gas fireplace in my current home, I do remember in the previous house having a wood-burning fireplace insert and heating the entire structure through the Fall, Winter, and Early Spring months.  If I didn’t clean the ASH out of the insert…if I wasn’t careful removing the ASH, I would have to explain to my understanding wife why there was BLACK SOOT everywhere!  If I didn’t remove the ASH daily, the ash would smother the FIRE and cause the flame to be extinguished–NO SPARK, NO FLAME, NO HEAT!

NOW WATCH THIS HERE:  One of the jobs of the priests in the OT was to never let the FLAME on the ALTAR to go out because the FLAME represented God’s Presence.  Since the ALTAR FLAME burned continually, the priest [on a daily basis] would have to go to the ALTAR and scrape the ashes off–because if left there, the ashes were subject to put-out the FIRE and bring down punishment and judgment from God on them and the entire camp and then the priests would have to redress the ALTAR with purple cloth.

That’s it!  Another Holy Spirit moment!!  Many of us need to go and get in a proper WORSHIP POSITION and scrape-off the stuff causing us to miss our deliverance and causing our FIRE to go out.

Some of you reading this might be wondering why you CAN’T get your breakthrough right now.  It is probably because you’re trying to come to God for A BLESSING, but you’re holding onto a mess in your life!

–  You want God to BLESS your finances, but you’re still playing the lottery!

–  You want God to FIX your marriage, but you still want to sleep around.

–  You want to be used by God to minister in the church on Sunday, but you haven’t learned how to get along with the people you see every day.

–  You want that new car or a new house, or a new job, but your BLESSING is being delayed because God is waiting for you to SCRAPE-OFF your ashes!

Have you ever cooked out on the grill and accidentally dropped a piece of meat down through the slots in the grill?  Be honest…if no one was looking, you probably fished it out with tongs, and put it back over the fire, finished cooking it, then took it off the grill, put it on a plate and served it to your guests–but you made sure [when YOU ate] you didn’t get that real black, crusty piece, because you know what it would taste like,

WELL GUESS WHAT…God wants to feed you with the goodness of His Word.  But before you can enjoy the GOODNESS of the Word, you’ve got to remove the ASHES!

Here’s what I’ve learned about ASHES:  I’VE LEARNED THAT ASHES ARE BITTER!

No one, in their right mind, enjoys eating ashes because ashes are BITTER.  Some of us have been eating the ASHES of painful relationships and past experiences for so long, that now, we’re just BITTER all the time with everyone we meet.

The writer tells us in the letter to the Hebrews (12:15):

[15] Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it–  Amplified Bible.

THE STRANGLING ROOT OF BITTERNESS

 

IN OTHER WORDS, I believe the Apostle Paul is telling us, that the ROOT OF BITTERNESS will not only defile us but also the people around us. 

When we FEED on ASHES, that is to say, when we allow the cruel things that were done to us yesterday affect how we feel and function today, we become BITTER, not only within ourselves but to every person we come intact with.

Personally, I’ve discovered over the years, that the ENEMY loves to keep in my face, stuff that hurt me yesterday so that I might be miserable and bitter today.  But thank God for Jesus!  Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” ~ John 10:10 (AMP).  

In other words, Jesus is saying that:  “I’ve come to take off what the devil has put on and to put on what the devil has taken off!”

Have you ever noticed how intensely and ferociously the devil attacks you after you’ve had a divine revelation or experience?  Satan doesn’t usually bother you much while you’re sitting around watching television, or out at the mall shopping, or relaxing on the front porch with a tall glass of ice tea in your hand.  NO…he waits until:

  • YOU JUST CAME OUT OF A BIBLE STUDY!
  • YOU JUST FINISHED LIFTING YOUR HANDS IN PRAISE AND GIVING A SHOUT!
  • YOU JUST MADE UP YOUR MIND TO BECOME A GOOD HUSBAND, A GOOD WIFE, OR A GOOD DAD, A GOOD MOM!

That’s when the DEVIL tries to carry you back to where you’ve just come from causing you to sit down around the Old Campfire and EAT ASHES!

Not only are the ashes bitter, but ASHES PROVIDE NO STRENGTH.

Here’s a known FACT:  There’s absolutely no nutritional value in ashes!

In fact, we’ll grow weaker each day if we “FEED ON ASHES”,

Psalm 102:4 (NIV)  My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forgot to eat my food.

Psalm 102:9 (AMP)  For I have eaten the ashes [in which I sat] as if they were bread and have mingled my drink with weeping.

In other words, David is saying:  “I became so busy dealing with yesterday’s junk that I forgot to eat the bread of life.”  

We all know what happens when we forget or skip a meal.  We grow WEAK!  Likewise, when we fail to eat the fresh bread of life each day, we begin to decline and wither like the grass!  That’s why we need to begin each day with personal Bible study and meditation on God’s Word.  You need to understand that your spiritual strength is directly proportionate to how much fresh spiritual bread you eat daily!  It doesn’t matter how much you consumed yesterday, today’s strength hinges on today’s meal!

ASHES WILL MAKE YOU SICK!

In Exodus 16, when the Lord gave Moses instructions concerning the MANNA FROM HEAVEN, He said, “Gather of it as much as you need, let none of it be left until morning”  (vv. 18, 19).  

However, the Bible lets us know that some people ignored the instruction and kept some overnight and the Bible says that it, “bred worms, became foul, and stank.”

But watch this:  When they followed God’s instructions and gathered FRESH MANNA EVERY DAY, the Word  says in Numbers 11:8 that:

“The people ground it in mills or beat it with mortars, and boiled it in pots,

and made cakes of it, and it tasted like cakes baked with fresh oil.”

 

Anytime you see OIL mentioned in the Bible it represents “The Anointing of God!” – HOLY SPIRIT!

So what I’m saying here is YESTERDAY’S MANNA breeds worms and stinks, and if we try to eat it, it will make us sick, but TODAY’S MANNA will taste fresh and strengthens us!

So you’re going to need to make up your mind despite yesterday’s stinking situation…TODAY you’re going to seek a fresh ANOINTING in your life!

  • TODAY…you’re going to go to a higher level in your RELATIONSHIP with God!
  • TODAY…I am going to get in a proper position so I can HEAR from God!
  • TODAY…I am going to get a fresh ANOINTING!

“I WANT A FRESH ANOINTING AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!”

ASHES on the Altar produces in us Bitterness, Weakness, and Sickness.

But when you get a fresh touch from God you receive just the opposite:

– BITTERNESS is replaced with SWEETNESS!

– WEAKNESS is replaced with STRENGTH!

– SICKNESS is replaced with HEALTH!

– And HUNGER is replaced with SATISFACTION!

FRESH OIL is what we need, NOT day old oil!

Before the children of Israel could receive God’s approval concerning the offering of the SACRIFICE, Verse 13 says,  “And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon.”

Before the SACRIFICE could be made, God’s instructions say that yesterday’s ASHES from the Sacrifice must be cleared away and the kingly color of purple had to be draped over the altar.

Before they could receive God’s FAVOR, His BLESSINGS, they had to get rid of the leftover residue and dress the Altar fit for a king!

If you’re needing a fresh anointing from God…PAIN in your body that you had yesterday and may have even woke up with today, but you’ll be able to endure it with a smile because you’ve gotten the ASHES off your Altar!  You should be saying to yourself,  “I want a fresh anointing Lord, and I want it right now!”  The Apostle Paul compares his sharing of the Gospel Message with an ATHLETE1 Corinthians 9:23-27:

 

So what’s Paul saying here?  Simply this:  I must keep my experiences fresh so that after I have fed others around me the good foods of the Word, I don’t wind up “FEEDING ON ASHES!”

“Whatever it takes, come hell or high water, I WILL put forth the effort to build a fresh ALTAR, and keep it clean that I may partake of the ANOINTING of God every day of my life!  Whatever the cost!  I can’t afford to let my ALTAR get ashy!!”

“DON’T LET YOUR ASHES PUT OUT THE FIRE!”

 

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CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Advance Search Settings.

Comparative Bible Translations:  BibleStudyTools.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

“Whew, I Need Another Drink!”

going-without-water-21309806
I Need A Drink of Water!

Scripture:  Isaiah 12:2-6; John 4:4-15

Do you remember that moment when you were first SAVED; became a Christian, accepted JESUS as your Lord and Savior?

I remember not only the “moment”, on August 15th, 1972, I remember the next day, the next week after.  I wanted, I had to share with everyone I came in contact with, what had happened in my life.  I sure the people who knew me were thinking, “Yeah, sure things are different in his life.  We’ll see.”

I had no idea what “evangelism” was, nor was I familiar with the Bible; although I knew ‘about’ the book, but never read it.

Bubbling Springs
Bubbling Springs

There seemed like there was a fountain of living water, like a fresh water spring bubbling up and flowing out of me.  So much so, a young woman who sat next to me in the office, came to Christ that same week from the ‘bubbling over’ , the JOY, the exuberance of my spirit!

I’m sure many of you who are reading my story could share similar conversion stories.

So, what happened?  What happened to all the JOY, the EXUBERANCE we once demonstrated in front of others?

I’ll tell you what has happened, you STOPPED DRINKING the Fountain of Life!  

YOU NEED ANOTHER DRINK!

You stopped eating The Bread of Life!

YOU NEED TO EAT!

ISAIAH 55:1-2 (NIV Bible):

“COME, ALL you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

ISAIAH 12:2-6 (AMP Bible):

[2] “Behold, God, my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and song; yes, He has become my salvation.  [3] Therefore with joy will you draw water from the wells of salvation.  [4] And in that day you will say, Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name and by means of His name [in solemn entreaty]; declare and make known His deeds among the peoples of the earth, proclaim that His name is exalted!  [5] Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done excellent things [gloriously]; let this be made known to all the earth.  [6] Cry aloud and shout joyfully, you women and inhabitants of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

MATTHEW 5:6 (AMP Bible):

“Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied!”

An Old Testament Scenario Keeps Repeating Itself –

Over and over we read in the Book of Judges, “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

We LEARN from reading of the Book of Judges, Jews repeatedly fell in a cycle of SIN–

A CRY FOR HELP–OUTWARD REPENTANCE–DELIVERANCE THROUGH A JUDGE–A TIME OF PEACE–BACK TO SIN AGAIN.

The Book of Ruth starts out, “IN THE days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land.”  

Why was there a FAMINE in the land?  The reason for the famine in the land was because of SIN in the land!

“NO BREAD IN THE HOUSE”!

Bringing the BREAD home!

Bethlehem MEANS “House of Bread.”  In Hebrew, Beth-lehem is two words: means “house” (Beth as in BETH-EL, “house of God”) and “bread” (lehem).  [See Footnote [i] ].

The reason Elimelech took his wife and kids and moved out-of-town was because the was no bread in the house!  (Ruth 1:1-7)

One reason people are not going to church in America anymore is there’s no BREAD in the house!

And the reason there’s no bread in the house is….there’s SIN in the house!  The same reason God sent a FAMINE in the time of the JUDGES.

GOD WANTS TO PUT BREAD BACK IN HIS HOUSE…

BUT…we’ve got to pay the price!  REPENTANCE–TURNING WHOLEHEARTEDLY BACK TO GOD!

THE BREAD OF LIFE –

It’s no coincidence that JESUS was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, because JESUS is the BREAD; He is the Bread of Life and you can’t live without Him!

Coming back to JESUS and satisfy your spiritual hunger. 

Many spiritual functions parallel physical functions.  As our bodies hunger and thirst, so do our souls.  But our souls need spiritual food and water.

WATER AT THE WELL (John 4:4-12 & Isaiah 12:3):

“Give Me a Drink”

 Isaiah 12:3; John 4:4-12
Isaiah 12:3; John 4:4-12

Pausing and reflecting on what JESUS said to the Samaritan woman in verse 10:

“If you had only known and had recognized God’s gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.”

*If you want to satisfy your thirst, you must ask for it; you must be earnest in PRAYER to God for it.

Those who have the right knowledge of Christ Jesus will continually seek Him out, and if we fail to seek Him, it is a sign that we don’t know Him.

Psalm 9:10:

And they who know Your name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who SEEK YOU…

Then JESUS continues speaking in verses 13 and 14:

“All who drink of THIS WATER  will be thirsty again,  But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling)  [continually]  within him unto (into, for) eternal life

Obey your thirst!”  

All of us church know, we have access to this spring of living water.  But we’ve got to continually drink from the fountain!  If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves as the man in the introductory image of this blog.

It’s not enough to LIVE on our past experiences with JESUS; not enough to know the ‘spring of water’ is there; it’s not enough to drink once from the fountain of life!

Church, it’s time to get another drink!  It is time for all of us to get another drink of the Holy Spirit!

“If anyone is thirsty”

“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said,  ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'”  (John 7:37-38 NAS).

Then John the Apostle explains what JESUS meant by His words (verse 39):

“But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Back to the Woman at the Well –

John 4:19-26:

[19] The woman said to Him, “Sir, I see and understand that You are a prophet.  [20] Our forefathers worshipped on this mountain, but you [Jews] say that Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary and proper to worship.”  [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither [merely] in this mountain nor [merely] in Jerusalem.  [22] You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshipping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshipping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understand],  for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews.  [23] A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.  [24] God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).”  [25] The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming, He Who is called the Christ (the Anointed One); and when He arrives, He will tell us everything we need to know and make it clear to us.”  [26] Jesus said to her, “I Who now speak with you am He.”

The lights are beginning to turn on for the Samaritan Woman –

She recognizes JESUS as a prophet because He had supernatural insight into her personal life, exposing SIN.

The next thing she does is to bring up the issue of multiple religions and whose right.

When we’ve  ‘WITNESSED’ to people, they frequently bring up this topic:  They say something like,  “There are lots of RELIGIONS in the world, what makes your religious beliefs the only one?  Who’s to say you are right and they are wrong?”

Then they will usually say something like, “I believe there are good things to be gained from ALL religions and that no one religion has the exclusive rights to eternity.”

How then, should we handle this question?  

The same way JESUS did!

THE ARGUMENT–Samaritans vs. Jews (John 4:20):

The stated comment in verse 20 highlights the fact that altars were built at Mt. Gerizim [Abraham – Genesis 12:7; Jacob – Genesis 33:20].

Mt. Gerizim was the scene of THE BLESSING of the people (Deut. 27:4); with the tradition that Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac took place on this mountain.  Also, where Abraham met Melchizedek at.  No wonder this was an issue of heated conversation.

How does JESUS handle it?

He simply refuses to be drawn into the argument.  Instead, He predicts that a time is coming when worship will be possible in neither place.

The Samaritan woman appealed to the example of “our fathers” but JESUS points her to the one Father.

JESUS IS CALLING…

What JESUS is calling this woman at the well to do–and also calling us to do, is to learn to WORSHIP the True God, our heavenly Father–not at a particular place, but in spirit and truth.

We must be careful not to consider it WORSHIP just because who showed up on Sunday, Saturday and other days of the week.

Just because we went into a building designated for worship doesn’t mean we worshiped.

We need to LEARN to worship in “SPIRIT and TRUTH.”  This means we need to come into God’s presence with complete sincerity and complete honesty.

The OPPOSITE of “TRUTH” –

You can’t lie your way into the presence of God and expect to get away with it:

  • IF YOU want God to touch you?
  • IF YOU want God to feed you?
  • IF YOU want God to satisfy your thirst?
  • IF YOU want God to move supernaturally in your life?
  • IF YOU want to bring spiritual excitement back into your life?
  • IF YOU simply want more God?

Then you NEED to get right with God!

No more “fake it till you make it” approaches to your WORSHIP.  You need to confess your sins, change your lifestyle.

If you do WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH and you want more of God, then choose to seek His face.

If you find yourself today in a ‘spiritual wilderness’ and you are thirsty…there’s hope!

The fountain is flowing and I don’t know where you are right now in your spiritual life, but for me and my house…“Whew, I need another drink of water!”

A Bubbling Fountain
A Bubbling Fountain

 

 

 


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i] :  www.desiringgod.org/articles/bethlehem-house-of-bread

Photo/Image Credits:  Google Image Search; Photo Pin.

Commentary:  Sermons From John – The Gift of Living Water.

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

Where is God when things go wrong?

habakkuk-2-ptr-vetty-gutierrez-10am-morning-service-1-638

TEXT for this Blog: Habakkuk 2:1-20

This weeks blog-post all began with a question my nephew-in-law proposed.  He was commenting on and trying to get a discussion started on Facebook.  Now there’s a challenge.

The QUESTION:  “If God is real, why would he create us to watch us destroy ourselves and the world?”

It was interesting to read some of the comments and answers to his question–which in turn, prompted me to search out answers found in God’s Word: Where IS God when things seem to be deteriorating all around us?

When you ask a question, what do you want?  

I know what I want–I want an answer!  Not only that, I am fussy.  I would like the right answer as well!!

In the Book of Habakkuk, we notice right away, there is a DIALOGUE going on between the prophet and God.  In today’s religious circles, we might call it, CONVERSATIONAL PRAYER (I do, anyhow).

We can plainly see that Habakkuk is looking for ANSWERS from God.  As he watches the faithlessness of his nation’s people, he wonders why God doesn’t change it.

So, HABAKKUK complains about God’s seeming lack of concern.

But…

IN CONTEXT– When the prophet COMPLAINS of God’s INACTIVITY, God gives him an ANSWER that distresses him even more.

JUDGMENT!!!

God is going to send the wicked nation of Babylon as an instrument of judgment.  Now that is definitely NOT the answer Habakkuk was looking for.

In fact, he finds it hard to believe that God would use an even more sinful and evil people to establish His righteousness (Do you know any people, leaders who you think could be evil?).

For Habakkuk, this seems inconsistent.  It doesn’t make sense.  But he doesn’t give up on God.

Learning to Wait!

WATCHTOWER
WATCHTOWER

(verse 1):  “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the rampart; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.” [N.I.V. Bible]

GROWING CONFIDENCE –

Proverbs 3:5  Amplified Bible:  

“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

“WATCH” = a military term.

HABAKKUK CONSIDERS HIMSELF A MILITARY MAN THAT LOOKS FAR OFF –

The Need for a Better Perspective–

At this point, Habakkuk is reserving any more comment until he understands.  For as confusing as he thought God’s INACTIVITY was, His ACTIVITY is even more confusing.

So Habakkuk comes to the conclusion that not ALL WORKINGS of God can be understood by our own reasoning.  He would agree with Solomon when he wrote:

“TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART

AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING.”

HABAKKUK MOVES TO THE HIGH TOWER –

What a great vantage point in getting yourself above and away from the world’s distractions.  Habakkuk is no longer doing all the talking–he’s listening!  He is no longer arguing–“Why not?”–“What for?”–he is submitting.

So…

God Responds to Habakkuk’s Waiting  (verses 2-3)…

“And the LORD answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint.  Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.”

God wants His ANSWER to be permanently recorded because… of future generations who are going to read it (or, should read it).

God says, ‘Mark my words!  Mark it down!’

I love God’s last statement.  Oh, how impatient we get for answers to our prayers.  God literally says, “Though it delay…it will not delay.”

Simply put; Though the timing is not ours…it is not a delay in God’s timing.  He is in control!!!  There are not random circumstances.

Our CONFIDENCE on Display –

How can we become CONFIDENT in our asking?

GOD IS MERCIFUL:

God gives us a contrast here in Scripture:  BABYLON thinks that they are powerful, but in reality, foolish.

God wants us living by FAITH–

It is not what I do that puts me in right standing with God; I will never be good enough.  But instead, I need to LIVE A LIFE of Dependence on God.

– WE MAKE IT BY FAITH.

– WE MAKE IT LIVING IN ASSURANCE of God’s Grace.

When we are not living by FAITH, God, in His MERCY will go to extraordinary means to get us there!  I don’t know about you, but that sure gives me CONFIDENCE!!

God is always working for our best.  The truth is, however, when God works for our best interest, often we go through a very painful process of acknowledging the TRUTH.

AN “ALLIGATOR STORY” –

It takes DISCIPLINE going through the process…

Several years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a 1437516296_0ccededa8aswim in an old swimming hole behind his house.

Being in a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind his shoes, socks, and shirt on the floor.

He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an ALLIGATOR was swimming toward the shore.

His mother–in the house was looking out the window–saw the scene unfolding before her eyes.  In utter fear, she ran toward the water yelling to her son as loudly as she could.

Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed, making a U-turn to swim to his mother.

IT WAS TOO LATE!

Just as he reached her, the ALLIGATOR reached him.

From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by his arms, just as the ALLIGATOR snatched his legs.  The incredible tug-of-war began.

The ALLIGATOR was much stronger but the mother was much to passionate to let go.

A farmer happened to drive by and heard her screams.  He raced from his truck, took aim, and shot the ALLIGATOR dead!

Remarkably, after weeks in the hospital care, the boy survived.  His legs were extremely scarred and on his arms, were deep scratches from his mother’s fingernails that .dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

A newspaper reporter interviewed the boy after the trauma and asked if he would show him his scars.  The boy lifted his pant legs.  And then, with obvious pride, said to the reporter,  “But look at my arms.  I have great scars on my arms, too.  I have them because my Mom wouldn’t let go!”

We Have Scars, Too!

Some of those scars are from our own foolishness because they are unsightly, causing deep regret.

But some wounds are because of God, in His Mercy, has refused to let go!  He will go through extraordinary means to get us where we need to be, even if it’s PAINFUL.

WE CAN BE CONFIDENT BECAUSE GOD IS MORAL (verses 5-19) –

(verse 14):  “But [the time is coming when] the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

God desires to REVEAL Himself…

As we know Him better, we discover He is holy!

When we know God, we understand HIS STANDARD.  He is a holy God and rightly condemns SIN.

Throughout this section of Chapter 2, we find the description of SIN as practiced and lived by the nation of BABYLON.

God is telling HABAKKUK that He knows they’re bad–they are evil.  And yet, God’s own people were headed down the same PATH.

God hast to stop them, discipline them. get them back where they belong…LIVING BY FAITH!  They needed to be a people who live by faith!!  (2 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 11:6).

So…

GOD REVEALS THE FAITHLESS PATHS THAT THE COUNTRY IS ON:

polls_Wrong_path_0727_660578_poll_xlarge

HEADING DOWN THE WRONG PATH IN OUR LIVES:

THE PATH of GREED (5-8):

Babylon is never satisfied.  It is always gathering and collecting for itself; It makes itself rich carrying out material pursuits in a way that shuts out all other concerns.

THE PATH OF INJUSTICE (9-11):

I found it interesting in my studying, the verses that the road from righteousness changed direction to a path of wickedness.  A Nation full of people who are outraged by the SIN around them.  And yet, they’re still characterized by INJUSTICE because they tolerate the SIN that is within them.  They not only sin against others, but also sin against themselves.

This is the type of INJUSTICE that is spoken of here:

It’s the breaking of one’s own MORAL CODE.

A PATH OF SENSUALITY (15):

HEARTS that are adrift in sexual permissiveness–

There exist a carelessness in the society during Habakkuk time; of sexual activity, instead of seeing it in its proper sacred place (Sound familiar?).

Finally, the PATH is one of…

DOWN THE ROAD OF IDOLATRY (18-19):

SIN doesn’t go unpunished (verse 16)–

Babylon was serving the creature rather the Creator.

They sought their own substitute which demonstrated their own ignorance of REALITY–

– It was a god of their own making…

– It was a god in their own image…

Yes, there were deliberate failures made when it came down to God’s standards, but they too would learn.  SIN doesn’t go unpunished.

And this was the message that God has for Babylon (16):

“You will be filled with shame and contempt instead of glory…”

Their own SIN will find them out!  God is going to have the last Word!!

GOING DOWN THE RIGHT PATH gives the confidence we need:

WE CAN FIND CONFIDENCE IN GOD BECAUSE HE IS MAJESTIC (20)

Note the end of God’s  MESSAGE to HABAKKUK in verse 20:

“But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth hush and keep silence before Him.”

GOD is very present!!!

– IN HIM WE LIVE & MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING!

We may try to shut Him out, ignoring His purposes over our own.  THE FACT remains–GOD IS THE WITH-US GOD!

WORSHIP IS FOR GOD ALONE –

We continue to be creative in searching for the answers we seem so desperately need in our daily lives.

Perhaps, we are more spiritual in following certain preachers religiously.

Perhaps it is PLEASURE that we really worship or the accumulation of things, with the thinking that, “He who dies with the most toys…wins.”

If you wonder in your WORSHIP, and realize that God is in His holy temple–

CONFIDENCE BUILDERS FOUND IN WORSHIP:

The Lord our Creator, our Redeemer, and the self-existing, everlasting, un-caused cause lives…

No one makes Him…

He’s not a conceived and developed concept…

He is not controllable or manipulated…

In Majesty, He reigns.

WORSHIP IS FOR GOD ALONE, EVEN WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND HIM.  

SO…

Where is God when things seem to be going wrong?  When it’s not going the way we expected…

It is time to trust; time to live by FAITH…  

For…this is how the JUST live out their lives, they LIVE BY FAITH and not by sight!

 isaiah452melindatodd



CREDITS:

Photo Credits by,  Photo Pin & Google Search – Images; Melinda Todd (Isaiah 45:2).

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

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