The “They”[s] of Narcissistic and Entitlement Behavior

Question: WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC BEHAVIOR?

Health professionals agree that it is a lack of feeling loved, which in turn, leads to insecurities, even narcissistic attitudes.  It is also the term in psychology to describe a preoccupation with SELF (Mayo Clinic Study 2013 – Narcissistic personality disorder).

It is a Greek term taken from the mythological NARCISSUS, who fell in love with his own IMAGE; doomed to die because he wouldn’t turn away from it.

Today, the obsession for taking “selfies” could be called narcissism.

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So, in a nutshell, I’m referring to a people who display a high level of SELFISHNESS, VANITY, and PRIDE in their life.  He, or she, sees everything from a “how does this affect me?” perspective.

And when it comes to Christianity–SELFISHNESS, VANITY, AND PRIDE– can lead to a deprived mind and a counterfeit FAITH.

STUDY BIBLE TEXT:  2 Timothy 3:2-8 (NLT):

[2] For people will LOVE only themselves and their money.  They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful.  They will consider nothing sacred.

[3] They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control.  They will be cruel and hate what is good.

[4] They will betray friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

[5] They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.  Stay away from people like that!

[6] They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires.

[7} (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.)

[8] These teachers oppose the truth just as Jammes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have deprived minds and a counterfeit faith.

 

Smoke Woman Gazes into mirror
Smoke Woman Gazes into mirror

[*NOTE:  I am not going to address every characteristic that Paul addresses in the 8 VERSES listed but will point out ones the Holy Spirit directed me to emphasize in this BLOG.]

THE “BOASTFUL” & THE “PROUD”

A reason people don’t feel they need Savior or forgiveness is because PRIDE tells them they are “good” people or have a “good” heart.

PRIDE also blinds people to their own responsibility and accountability for SIN.  

So, NARCISSISM (pride), makes SIN, whereas the GOSPEL reveals the TRUTH that leads to remorse for SIN!

AND, narcissistic traits can be dangerous because, at their worst, they lead a person to destroy others to satisfy the LUST of the flesh (2 Timothy 3:28).

“IN THE LAST DAYS…” – The Identified Characteristics of Society  

EUGENE PETERSON sums it up:

“As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderous, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addictive to lust, and allergic to God.  They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals.”

OUCH!!!

The Heart of the Apostolic Charge Paul is telling Timothy that people will be “lovers of self” in the last days.

The Apostle to the gentiles had in view the growth of the apostate church which, though bearing the marks of evangelism to the surrounding community would nevertheless be spiritually DEAD.

The church which Paul foretold exalts external religion, yet denies or lacks the interest of the Word of God.  This Laodicean church is indeed coming at the end of the [Church] age! [Rev. 3:14-17]

Whenever SELF is exalted, lifted up to a position of honor, GOD is no longer worshiped.  God cannot be worshiped if we are exalting “self”.

  • SATAN loved himself more that he loved GOD; his self-love was the genesis of rebellion in heaven.
  • ADAM and EVE exalted “self” on the throne of their lives and plunging the WORLD into ruin.

SELF-LOVE ON DISPLAY:

One of the most frightening developments, in my opinion, is many contemporary churches are making enthusiastic declarations of SELF-LOVE, not only as allowable but as being the basic virtue.

SELF-LOVE has many offshoots–

  • self-esteem, self-worth, self-fulfillment, positive self-image…

The claim is made that one cannot properly LOVE God and/or other people unless he loves himself.  That is purely destructive thinking which comes from antibiblical psychology.

GOD MUST BE LOVED SUPREMELY!!!  SELF-ABSORBED people grow overly confident spiritually.

Spiritual Superior, meaning they are SELF-ABSORBED–boastful in their spiritual depth (1 Timothy 1:7):  “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently confirm” (NIV).

As a bible teacher, I need to take heed to Paul’s words.  Confidence in God’s word is important, but not to the degree of superiority.

“Contemptuous of parents” (v. 2, “disobedient to…) –

Contemptuous of Parents
Contemptuous of Parents

Society will produce children who are “contemptuous”.  

Too many parents think that Bart Simpson is cute when he disses his parents.  But SELF-WILLED children, their “cuteness” will one day come back to the parents of teenagers, with sometimes devastating consequences.  All because you thought it was “cute” when they were small.

And this can lead to the attitude of ENTITLEMENT.

ENTITLEMENT DEFINED: The fact of having a right to something; the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

In America, people feel ENTITLED to abundance, simply because they can claim the title of being a U.S. Citizen.

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ENTITLEMENT can be based on such things as age (The “Millenials”), seniority, credentials, family name, etc…

ENTITLEMENT is demanding something for nothing and permitting laziness.

ENTITLEMENT tells you that you deserve what others have because YOU (Self), deserve what others have because you’re just as important.

ENTITLEMENT lies to you, distracting you with GREED and feelings of JEALOUSY.

ENTITLEMENT can hide behind the guise of EQUALITY, yet they hold nothing in common.

SELF-CENTEREDNESS ABOUNDS –

Self-centered people are “ungrateful”, imagining that they but receive their due whenever a courtesy is shown toward them.  The UNGRATEFUL PERSON despises the idea of GRACE, and because of their ungratefulness, God’s wrath is on display against their behavior.  [see Romans 1:18, 21]

The Unholy…

“Ungrateful” people are “unholy” people, no matter how religious they may appear in society.  The word translated “UNHOLY” isn’t so much the idea of ‘irreligion’ as of extreme indecency.

The UNHOLY PERSON is driven by SELF-LOVE (narcissism) to gratify his/her lust and passions in different areas as fully as possible with no thought of decency.

An “Unbending” Nature, another form of NARCISSTIC BEHAVIOR

The word “unbending” speaks of an individual who cannot or will not come to terms with another.  The word literally means “without a treaty.”

Convinced that they are right, they refuse to be reconciled because they must be seen as right in every instance.  No compromise here, regardless of the consequences, even to the point of destroying their own lives and the lives of their family member.

The Apostle continues with three characteristics depicting HUMAN PRIDE and HARMFUL DEALINGS with others before summarizing their relationship with God.

VERSE 4:  “TREACHEROUS” – not dependable–here today and gone tomorrow “RECKLESS [rash] – not careful with relationships; instead of valuing them. 

The passage of Scripture concludes with the first of a long list of complaints of the wicked character:  “lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God”  (Amplified bible).

Literally, the people in view have the outward form of true religion [eg. Christianity] even while denying its HOLY SPIRIT POWER.  These people can be church “members”, but they are lost.

Camouflaged Hearts
Camouflaged Hearts

HOW SHALL WE LIVE AS WE AWAIT CHRISTS’ RETURN?

There is little in contemporary society today that deters me from the understanding that we’re living in the LAST DAYS, perhaps even the final days!

The cult of “SELF” has grown so strong and become so ingrained that many professing Christians are oblivious to the pressure towards Narcissistic Behavior except when we look into the mirror of Scripture.

As the Apostle continued his instruction to the pastor of Ephesus, Paul insisted on the way Christians MUST LIVE in the Last Days.

2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NIV):

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

The ANSWER to how we must live is found in the words at the end of this Chapter:

Paul writes,  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  ALL SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”  [2 Timothy 3:14-17 New International Version].

Looking at modern society, it becomes obvious that the dams that hold back destruction are now cracked, now threatening society with a momentary flood.

And no matter how hard “I” try to fix the leaks, it will FAIL every time.

The California Department of Water Resources stopped the spillway flow on Thursday morning to allow engineers to evaluate the integrity of the structure after water had been released at 20,000 cubic feet per second through the night. (Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources).
The California Department of Water Resources stopped the spillway flow on Thursday morning to allow engineers to evaluate the integrity of the structure after the water had been released at 20,000 cubic feet per second through the night. (Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources).

INSTEAD of trying to stick fingers in the dike as crack after crack appears, we need to look to God and the POWER of His Word.

We need to realize that ALL fellowship is ultimately based upon doctrine and not upon how we feel about ourselves–how we feel about others or even about the conditions we face.

We are to SHARE our lives through sharing TRUTH; we share our lives through determining to OBEY God and to honor Him.

ECCLESIASTES 7:29 (NIV):

“This only have I found;  God created mankind upright, BUT they have gone to search of many schemes.”  [“but” not capitalized in the original text.]

Either we look to God, or we can attempt to “fix” things ourselves by putting our fingers in the dike.  But be aware that the “dike”, or the DAM in the above photo, is crumbling and springing multiple leaks.

Just as we are seeing the state of culture being overwhelmed by the cult of “me”, so it is impossible to “fix” what is dead.

What is DEAD must be abandoned.  We don’t have enough fingers.

Therefore, look to God!

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!

While Jesus’ popularity grew, John the Baptist friends felt a little slighted for the prophet.  John the Baptist, however, said about Jesus,  “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less”  (John 3:30 NLT).

We all may be tempted to be NARCISSTIC AND ENTITLED in some ordinary circumstances.  It has happened to me way to often and that might be the reason God’s Spirit prompted me to write on the topic.  Okay, forget that I said “might be” and replace it with “is”.

I read a story in my studies this week about a man who was flying from Tampa to Chicago every week on a work assignment.  At the end of a certain week, he was tired and ready for a quiet and relaxing flight home. It wasn’t going to happen.  That day a large group got on the plane who were having a noisy celebration of some kind.  Instead of getting angry and upset, the man who was already tired just sighed and smiled as he told himself, “Apparently today is not about me.”  [Story from William Earnhardt’s – Bible Cures for Narccism]

The CURE may just be that simple.  Remember that “IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME.”

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

What Does The Bible Say About Narcissistic Behaviour? The 3 Faces Of Evil by Christine Louis de Canonville.

Narcissism?  gotQuestions.org.

Photo Credits:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

God Is NOT An Emasculated, Mushy God!

EZEKIEL 9:1-11 (Amplified Bible – AMP):

[THE SPIRIT] cried in my ears [in the vision] with a loud voice, saying, Cause those to draw near who have charge over the city  [as executioners], every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.  [2] And behold, six men came from the direction of the Upper Gate, which faces north, every man with his battle-ax in his hand; and one man among them was clothed in linen, with a writer’s ink bottle at his side.  And they went in and stood beside the bronze altar.  [3] And the glory of the God of Israel  [the Shekinah, cloud] had gone up from the cherubim upon which it had rested to  [stand above]  the threshold of the [Lord’s] house.  And [the Lord] called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s ink bottle at his side.  

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[4] And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the midst of it.  [5] And to the others He said in my hearing, Follow [the man with the ink bottle] through the city and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ant pity.  [6] Slay outright the elderly, the young man and the virgin, the infant and the women; but do not touch or go near anyone on whom is the mark.  Begin at My sanctuary,  So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple [who did not have the Lord’s mark on their foreheads].

[7] And He said to [the executioners], Defile the temple and fill its courts with the slain.  Go forth!  And they went forth and slew in the city.  [8] And while they were slaying them and I was left, I fell upon my face and cried.  Ah, Lord God! Will You destroy all that is left of Israel in Your pouring out of Your wrath and indignation upon Jerusalem?  [9] Then said He to me,  The iniquity and guilt of the house of Israel and Judah are exceedingly great; the land is full of blood and the city full of injustice and perverseness; for they say,  The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see [what we are doing].

[10] And as for Me, My eye will not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their wicked doings upon their own heads.  [11] And behold, the man clothed in linen, who had the ink bottle at his side, reported the matter, saying,  I have done as You have commanded me.

THE UNSEEN IDOLS (Ezekiel 8:5, 10, 14, 16).

When EZEKIEL 9 begins, God is instructing His angels of destruction, to KILL!  And so I must ask myself the question,  WHY?

In EZEKIEL 8, it is obvious that God shows Ezekiel in a VISION the extreme idolatries that were going on in Jerusalem.

FIRST, was the image of JEALOUSY (v. 8:5)

SECONDLY, was the leadership of Israel worshipping animals” (v. 8:10)

THIRD, the women weeping for Tammuz [ a Babylonian god, who was supposed to die annually and subsequently be resurrected] at the temple.

FOURTH, finally, the leaders of Israel, were at the inner court worshipping the sun-god with their backs to God.

And then the climax, “thumbing their noses” at God, even more, they then returned to God in order to have the appearance of GENUINE RELIGION.

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“IDOLATRY is worshipping anything that ought to be used or using anything that ought to be worshiped” – AUGUSTINE.

WHAT IS YOUR GOD?

“Whatever you LOVE most, SERVE most, SEEK OUT most, GIVE to the most, WORSHIP the most, and CARE about the most is your god.”

Your “god” is whatever you allow to control you, to be the ultimate guide in decision-making.

God doesn’t take IDOLATRY lightly!

Let me get personal here.  Most of my “idols” are what I think, as good things.  I have no intention of making idols out of them.

Mark Driscoll says, “We take good things and make them God things, and thus they become bad things.”

ALL SIN is actually worshiping issues (sex, food, appearance, attendance, smoking, internet–functional saviors).  And to put any of these “things” before God Himself is IDOLATRY.

In Chapters 8 & 9, the recurring phrase is, “the Lord does not see, and has forsaken the land,” which is wrong, but fulfills Deuteronomy 31 to the letter!

So what are your IDOLS? Not do you have any, but what are they?

What do you VALUE more that Christ according to your checkbook, your date book, your friends, your clothes?

The Certainty of JUDGMENT (v. 8:18-9:2).

Just like Deuteronomy 31 promised, the anger of the Lord will be stirred up upon the COVENANT BREAKERS, and not only curses of that book come into being, but JUDGMENT & DEATH will come.

GOD PROMISES here in Ezekiel, JUDGMENT without MERCY!

These angelic messengers are instructed to carry battle axes into the city to strike down old and young men, maidens, women, and children.

And there is but one reason: God is a HOLY God that will not tolerate or ignore spiritual infidelity at any level.

And note that JUDGMENT will begin in the house of God with those who are highest in their level of accountability.

A. W. TOZER:  “It was a common thing in other days, when God was the center of human worship, to kneel at an altar and shake, tremble, weep, and perspire in an agony of conviction.  They expected it in that day.  We don’t see it now because the God that we preach is not the everlasting, awful God, ‘mine Holy One,’ who is ‘of purer eyes’ than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.”

Old fashion thoughts?  I don’t think so!

In my bible study this week I was reading the story in Scripture about UZZAH (1 Chronicles 13:6-13).  You know, the story where Uzzah touched the ark, and God “smote him because he touched the ark; and there he died before God” (v. 10).

How can we explain such JUDGMENT?  How can a God of LOVE bring about such things?

I’ve heard those questions asked by many believers over the years, and this is my explanation, although a bit simplified:

LOVE isn’t His only attribute.  We need to get back to the HOLINESS of God in being our foundation in doing everything.

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AND GOD WILL BRING FORTH RETRIBUTION!

We must realize that if we, THE CHURCH, are truly saved, we will be spared “wrath” per se, BUT…the JUDGMENT of GOD upon our stewardship, our servanthood, is sure, and, to harbor IDOLS is sure to bring us the loss.

Where have the lessons on RIGHTEOUSNESS, on HOLINESS, and JUDGMENT of God gone?

Our GOD isn’t the mushy, emasculated god, but a God that will pour out WRATH upon ALL unrighteousness among the nations–active and passive.

The Only Remnant (v. Ezekiel 9:4):

So bad is the JUDGMENT, Ezekiel cries out, “Will you destroy ALL the Remnant?”

But God told the one angel, who is dressed like a Hebrew scribe, and who might be the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to put a MARK (Hebrew letter “taw”, written like an X) on a small group of people who will escape death.

God says to find the people who sigh, or gasp, or shutter, as well as those who mourn or weep at the abominations of the people of God.

God said to mark those to spare who are truly broken over the sins of the SAINTS.  These are the ONLY REMNANT that will be left.  We are never told how many if any are marked.

*[See Revelation 7:2-3, 9:4, 14:1; Daniel 9:3-5; Neh. 1:5-9; Isa. 57:15; Matt. 5:4].

To MOURN means to have a BROKEN HEART–

In the GREEK, to have a deep inner pain which occurs when something tragic happens, like a death of a loved one.  It also means to have a desperate sorrow over evil and suffering.  *(See Footnote [i] )

What we need today is NOT ANGER but ANGUISH.  The difference being a BROKEN HEART.  

It is easy to get angry, especially at somebody else’s sins; but it is not easy to look a sin, mine included, and weep over it.

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The prophet had no time to PREACH a message, to WEEP, or INTERCEDE, BUT we do!  I don’t mean to simply talk about how it used to back in the ‘good old days’.

REPENTANCE IS A LIFESTYLE, AND NOT AN ONE TIME EVENT!

Where are the Daniel’s and Nehemiah’s, whose regular practice was CONFESS their sins and the sins of the people?

Is there ever true sadness on our part when we see SIN in the midst of the church?

Are our HEARTS so hardened that we feel no pain to see brethren caught in the grip of SIN?

“For A Time Is Coming…” (1 Peter 4:17 – AMP):

“For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God?”  (v. 4:17)

I am convinced, as Shane Edelman pointed out in an article, that ‘the majority of the churches in America are seeking to please the masses rather than preach the Gospel truth.’

“REPENTANCE is rarely sought and sin often excused.  We want to build a church rather than break a heart.”  *[See Footnote [ii] ]

“If the church today had as many agonizers as she has advisors, we would have revival within years” (Leonard Ravenhill).

You might ask, “What’s the big deal?  We’re doing just fine!”

 BUT… 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says otherwise,  

[1] “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lover of pleasure rather than lovers of God–  [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with such people.”

Sounds a lot like the conditions in the days of Ezekiel to me.

EZEKIEL 14:6 (AMP):  Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn your faces from all your abominations.”

TRUE REPENTANCE is when by the convicting POWER of God’s Holy Spirit, the sinner finally has a sense of… and Godly sorrow for the condition of SIN in his or her heart and comes empty–un-defensive, without pretension or ceremony, in the most personal and submissive posture he’s ever taken…

man making a disgusted face
man making a disgusted face

from a SINCERE HEART that says, “I’m sorry”, to the only One who can truly claim offense at sin; Holiness Himself, the God of the ages…Who alone can FORGIVE and REDEEM and REGENERATE and RECONCILE?

I want to make it clear here, that the Bible clearly teaches that ALL MEN, both living and dead, SAVED and UNSAVED, must give an account to Christ.  JUDGMENT isn’t saved just for the unbeliever.

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

The JUDGMENT of the believer’s works called the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the Bema Seat; where a judge sat in ancient Greece, not to punish contestants but to present awards to the victors (Romans 14:10).

2 Corinthians 5:10 makes it even plainer:

“For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body,whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].”  (Amplified Bible)

The Great White Throne Judgment (Unbelievers JUDGMENT).

I don’t want to get away from Ezekiel, so, IF you want to do some “Word Detective” investigation on your own regarding the unbeliever’s judgment, I’ll list some Scripture references to help guide you in your search:

[Revelation 20:11-13; Matthew 12:36-37, 10:15, 16:27; Luke 12:47-48; Rev. 20:12-13, 22:12; Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Rev.  3:4-5].

bema-vs-white-throne-judgment1

Have you made a commitment, or will you make a commitment?

**NOTE DISCLAIMER:  Sourced material for this study has been gleaned from many different sources.  I have attempted to credit these sources wherever possible.  [See CREDITS & FOOTNOTES.]

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i]:  (Strongs #3996) StudyLight.org GREEK THOUGHTS pentheo

Footnote [ii]:  “JUDGMENT Will Start in the House of God” – Charisma News.

Photos:  Shutterstock & Google Image Search.

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

GOD’S WORD and The Shoe Box

A Crushed Shoe Box
The Shoe Box

This week I decided to sort through all my “stuff” in the walk-in closet, going through the clutter and no longer needed clothing for a fresh start in the new year.  It’s a rotten job, but someone’s gotta do it!

I grabbed what I thought was an empty SHOE BOX tucked behind some old sweatshirts hanging up that I’ll never wear again and when I removed the lid from the shoe box–SURPRISE!

crumpled-money

Inside was a wrinkled twenty-dollar bill staring at me.  “How did THAT get in there?” A better question might have been, “How did I forget that it was there, and was I getting forgetful in my old age?  A lost twenty-dollar bill?” And, was what I found in the shoe box even salvageable–would anyone still accept what I found in this condition?

A Lesson Learned!

The next day while reading God’s Word in my bible, I asked the Holy Spirit, “Might there be a hidden message for me in that forgotten shoe box?”  I often get ideas for Blogging For God with questions that arise in my daily walk with Jesus.  How about you?

HEAVENLY ANSWER:  If I tried to alter what I found in the shoe box, it may no longer be accepted and would be worthless.

  • God’s WORD is worth much more than the twenty dollars.  Altering it can cost many people Heaven itself!
  • Unaltered, that WORD will accomplish what God wants.

BIBLE TEXT:  EZEKIEL 2:1-5 New Living Translation (NLT):

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[1]  “STAND UP, son of man,” said the voice.  “I want to speak with you.”

[2]  The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet.  I listened carefully to his words.  [3] “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.  They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day.  [4] They are stubborn and hard-hearted people.  But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says!’  [5] And whether they listen or refuse to listen–for remember they are rebels–at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.

AS CHRISTIANS, you and I need to see ourselves as much a sinner as those outside the church environment to whom we can speak God’s WORD.  And when we do get the Holy Spirit opportunities to speak God’s Word, we need to fight against every ounce of self-righteousness in ourselves.  Maybe we haven’t committed exactly the same sins, but your sins and mine are just offensive against God as their sins, if not more so since we ought to know better.

HUMBLY see your SIN and then see JESUS, your Savior, who takes away your SIN.

Maybe the idea of the SHOE BOX might help you, as it did me, to be HUMBLE in speaking God’s Word.  The shoe box isn’t worth anything–it’s easily crushed.

What gives the shoe box value is what is inside.  Apart from God, we are but empty shoe boxes–worthless, and powerless.

BUT GOD has placed His WORD into your heart.  As you speak that Word, HUMBLY remember that your strength comes from the Lord, not from yourselves.

WE ARE JUST SHOEBOXES!  SPEAK His Word Faithfully, Knowing It Will NOT FAIL!

What God said proved to be TRUE.

The people would know that the prophet was speaking for God when the WORD came true.  That’s what God tells him,  “And whether they listen or fail to listen–for they are a rebellious people–they will know that a prophet has been among them (Ezekiel 2:5 NIV).

Many would REJECT Ezekiel’s message, but he wouldn’t change it to make it sound more acceptable to the people.

There’s a principle for churches today to glean from and the New Testament gives a great reminder and a WARNING:

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2 Timothy 4:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

[3]  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

[4]  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

How do we do that?

Through reading your Bible, coming to worship, joining a bible study group, and… keep on learning more and more what God’s Word has to say.

Don’t give in to pressure compromising God’s Word, because someone might not like it.

UNALTERED, that WORD will accomplish what God wants!

SPEAK HIS WORD FAITHFULLY!!!

Finally, SPEAK GOD’S WORD BOLDLY–

The LORD wants us to SPEAK His Word BOLDLY!

He makes it plain to Ezekiel that he will face opposition.  The LORD tells him,

(Ezekiel 2:4 AMP)

[4] And the children are impudent and hard of heart.

I send you to them and you shall say to them,

‘Thus says the Lord God.’

Knowing this ahead of time, it still didn’t stop Ezekiel.  He was to speak God’s WORD BOLDLY, regardless of the circumstances.

So, what gave Ezekiel the BOLDNESS to speak?

I have asked myself the same question after SHARING Christ with others: “Where did I get the “boldness” at that specific moment?  And I always receive the same answer from the Holy Spirit–

(Philippians 2:13 AMP)

[13] “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who

is all the while effectually at work in you [ener-

gizing and creating in you the power and desire],

both to will and to work for His good pleasure

and satisfaction and delight.”

As fellow Christians, we are bold to speak because we KNOW His Word won’t fail.

ISAIAH 55:11 says it best:  [11] “so is my WORD that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I declare and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

This should give us BOLDNESS even in the face of surrounding opposition and rejection.  There had been many times that opposition and rejection intimidated me when opportunities to share God’s Word arose.  My confidence began to dwindle, fear would begin to raise its ugly head…and then I would remember the words in Philippians,  “Not in your strength for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you…”

Each one of us, in our own private lives, has been CALLED OUT of the darkness of SIN to FAITH in Christ Jesus.  So, SPEAK HIS WORD!

With your TRUST in the Lord and the AUTHORITY, He has given each one of us as believers the CONFIDENCE to SPEAK HIS WORD!

Let me leave you with this message found in 2 Corinthians 5:20 in the New Living Testament (NLT):

[5]  So we are Christ’s AMBASSADORS; God is making his

appeal through us.  We SPEAK for Christ when we plead,

“Come back to God!”

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CREDITS –

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

HOPE OVERFLOWING!

BIBLE STUDY TEXT:  ROMANS 15:4-13

imagesThere are probably some who are reading this BLOG ON HOPE that is not feeling a lot of Hope in your life right now.  Maybe on different occasions, you have had your Hope built up in things and they let you down.  Trust me, I’ve experienced this almost rehabilitating feeling in my own life in the past.

Maybe you have had your HOPE IN THE WRONG THINGS.

Maybe you have had your HOPE IN GOD, but what you expected God to do, didn’t happen.

Maybe you have lost HOPE or afraid to put your HOPE in anything for the fear of being disappointed.

Hopefully, this Bible Study in Paul’s Letter to the church in Rome will give you or someone you know to live in HOPE, because HOPE is absolutely essential for LIFE and FOR LIVING!

ILLUSTRATION: Wharf Rats Drowning.

I was reading this week about this experiment by some behavioral scientists did once with some rats.  They put some WHARF RATS in a tank of water, observed them, seeing how long they would survive before drowning.  The average time was 17 minutes.  Then, they repeated the experiment, but this time they “RESCUED” the rats just before the point of drowning, dried them off and returned them to their cages, fed them and let them play for a few days, then repeated the drowning experiment.

This time, the average survival time for these same rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours!  The scientists explained by pointing out the second time around the rats had hope.  They believed that they could survive this because they had done so before.  [See Footnote [i] ]

HOPE ETERNAL – 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV):

[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  [4] and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

NOW THAT IS AWESOME!  Awesome that we have that LIVING HOPE when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing in Him.

And how can we forget Jesus’ words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16).

We have this ETERNAL LIFE, not based on what we do, but solely based upon our BELIEF in and receiving of Jesus Christ.

LIVING IN THIS “HOPE” THROUGH HIS WORD!

Romans 15:4 (NLT):

[4] Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us.  And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

Through reading God’s Word on a daily basis, we can see and are taught how God has been faithful to His people, even in the middle of difficult circumstances.

God IS Faithful!

In 1985, my family was going through some “difficult circumstances”, in that I had lost my management job due to a company buyout.  Although we had food and shelter, other necessities were going to have to wait until I could get back on my feet with new employment.

The church we were attending at the time had mail slots for each member that hung on a back wall in the foyer.  Special bulletins, upcoming meeting notices, and anything else that needed to be circulated in accordance with church activities.

One Sunday morning, proceeding to check for mail, in the designated slot there was a white legal-sized envelope with our last name on the face.  I curiously opened the envelope and found an unsigned note paper clipped to a hundred-dollar bill that read,  “Buy some clothes for the kids, or yourselves…something personal to enjoy and not on bills!”

It is through reading His Word that our circumstances don’t necessarily change, but that He gives us strength and encouragement to stand in the HOPE that we have.

Earlier in Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:2-5). through His Word, we’re reminded of His PROMISE.

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Through His Word, we are told of God’s FAITHFULNESS to past generations.

Through His Word, we can be encouraged to live in HOPE, while rejoicing in our trials and sufferings.

GOD HELPS US TO LIVE DAILY IN HOPE…

Not only does He help us in our HOPE through His Word, but also, God helps us live in HOPE through His church (15:5-11 NIV):

[5] May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,  [6] so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[7] Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  [8] For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and  [9] and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.  As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

[10] Again it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

[11]  And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

Paul talks about having a spirit of UNITY and the ACCEPTANCE of people as the Lord accepted us.

Sometimes we can confuse being “accepting” with condoning sin.  The Jewish Christians were struggling with the Gentile Christians with what they had to do to be part of the church.

  • Did they have to get circumcised?
  • Did they adhere to the dietary laws?
  • If they didn’t, could they really be part of the community of FAITH?

All these differences could destroy the church in the building up of the believers in HOPE.

But Paul tells the Jewish Christians that God has ALWAYS declared that He would bring the Gentiles to FAITH.

And notice how the apostle quotes from the Historical Books–the LAW, the WRITINGS, and the PROPHETS to make his point to the Jewish Christians that God’s plan was always to include the Gentiles so they should accept them too!

So God helps us through His Word and through His church, reminding us of the HOPE we have, but at the same time, we must remember OUR HOPE is only found in His Son.

HOPE IS ONLY FOUND THROUGH JESUS CHRIST (Romans 15:12):

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him, the Gentiles will hope.”

Titus 2:11-14

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Standing In That HOPE

I love Natalie Grant’s song lyrics that came to mind while studying the verses:

IN CHRIST ALONE-

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song.

This Cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ, I stand.

GOD gives us OVERFLOWING HOPE through His Spirit (v. 15:13):

[13] May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may OVERFLOW with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.

cup-overflowing

It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit that those who TRUST in Jesus have, that our HOPE cannot just help us endure, but that it can OVERFLOW from our lives and we can thrive with that overflowing HOPE!

But you might be thinking, “Isn’t the ‘overflowing’ of anything a big waste?  When I overflow my car’s gasoline tank at the gas station, it always leaves a big mess!”

Not in this case.

As the Holy Spirit FILLS you with HOPE as you grow in FAITH through the Word, through the fellowship of other believers, through having your eyes fixed on Jesus and the SALVATION He has given you now, along with the INHERITANCE that never perishes, never spoils or fades, kept in HEAVEN for you…THAT HOPE you have, OVERFLOWS, spilling on to others around you!

As you interact with others in this world and live in the HOPE that you have, and speak to them of the HOPE that you have, it OVERFLOWS so that they want what you have in their life.

While you endure and persevere in difficult circumstances, the HOPE OF GLORY that the people see will want what you have even if that means their circumstances are not great.  That’s because HOPE is essential to life and to living.

If you have great circumstances in life but no HOPE, you really won’t be living!

All we have to do is look at so many famous people walking down the Red Carpet, who seem to have all kinds of great circumstances, but struggle with LIFE & LIVING.

CONCLUSION –

Do you have HOPE today?  Is your HOPE, an overflowing hope?

Have you trusted Christ as Savior?

If not, then that’s the step into HOPE you need to take!

But if you have TRUSTED Him, and not experiencing the HOPE He gives, then maybe you are not taking advantage of the things He has given us to help us to LIVE in that Hope.

Get in His Word!

Connect with a body of believers, in REAL RELATIONSHIPS, through Bible studies and serving in the community.

And as God POURS OUT that HOPE in you, SHARE that and experience the OVERFLOW HOPE of the Holy Spirit as He uses you and me to SERVE His kingdom.

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  The New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Footnote [i]:  The Remarkable Power of Hope by Joseph T. Hallinan, Psychology Today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PASSION FOR A “HEART RELIGION”

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IN ROMANS 10:1, the apostle Paul says “Brethren, [with all] my heart’s desire and goodwill for [Israel], I long and pray to God that they may be saved” (AMP).

What is your heart’s desire?  

I think every person has desires in life, and often, intense desires.  I’m not sure its knowledge or wisdom, however, like Solomon asked for in 1 Kings 3:7-14.

My heart’s desire?

There are certain days when I want wisdom and knowledge, especially when reading God’s Word and preparing a bible study lesson.  But for the most part, it is probably not my greatest desire.  I seem to instead, get in my own way with selfishness.

THE “HEART” ( Hebrew lablab/lab, Greek cardia):

The word “heart” occurs over 1,000 times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in Scripture.  It denotes a person’s center–physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities (See footnote [i] ).

I want to focus here on the HEART as the Center of hidden emotional-intellectual-Moral Activity in this bible study.

  • In 1 Samuel 16:7, the LORD says to Samuel that the Lord looks at the heart.
  • The king’s heart is unsearchable (Proverbs 25:3), but the LORD searches all hearts to reward all according to their conduct (Jeremiah 17:10).
  • In the time of judgment, God will expose the hidden counsels of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5).

JESUS says that the HEART’s secrets are betrayed by the MOUTH, even as a tree’s fruit reveals its nature (Matthew 12:33-34)–“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” says Solomon (Proverbs 16:23).

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS –

One deserved criticism tossed at me over the years in my ministering has been not being tactful at times.  But I saw how carefully thought out and tactfully worded Paul was in his letter to the church in Rome.  I’m still learning the lesson.

He spoke of UNITY in the body of Christ, and how we as members of that body belong to one another as he spoke of living in harmony. 

In the land of the Jews, it was the beginning of unrest and ultimately leading to rebellion, the destruction of Jerusalem.

Paul spoke of the different groupings within the Church, as the “weak” and the “strong.”  Some Jewish Christians had problems about what they might and might not eat.  Some kept particular solemn days in accordance with their Jewish traditions.  Paul encouraged the strong to be patient with the weaknesses–the spiritual immaturity of the weak.

Paul made it a point of the IMPARTIALITY of God and His dealings with JEWS and GENTILES.  ALL were under SIN, so what right had one group to feel superior to the other?

I found it amazing to see the passion of Paul in his words; the Apostle to the Gentiles, on behalf of his people Israel.  There was no doubt in his mind the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH bound up with the HISTORY OF ISRAEL.  It was “to the JEW first” that the gospel was preached.  As Jesus said, “salvation is of the Jews.”  

Paul’s own missionary procedure on arriving in a new city was to go first to the synagogue with the gospel and only after that to the gentiles.

However, the other nations would in time take part in the BLESSINGS of the GOSPEL MESSAGE.

Paul spoke of the UNITY of the Jew and Gentile within the church (Romans 15:8-9).

PROMISES WERE MADE –

The PROMISE to Abraham was…in him, ALL the families of the earth would be BLESSED!

In the meantime, Paul saddened by the fact that many Israelites had refused the GOSPEL.  He taught the Gentile Christians in Rome to bear with the infirmities–the shortcomings–of their Jewish brothers and sisters since the CHURCH wouldn’t exist without them.  Paul fervently prayed that ISRAEL might be SAVED!

The TRAGEDY of his people?  

They were seeking their own RIGHTEOUSNESS by the works of the Law.  Yet God’s LAW is impossible to keep; we are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

We cannot cancel out sin, our rebellion against God by multiplying our good deeds.

The ONLY WAY is….through Christ Jesus, who is “the end of the law” (Romans 10:4).

If we are to be made RIGHTEOUS before God, it’s only through RIGHTEOUSNESS of our LORD JESUS.  We RECEIVE righteousness by FAITH in Him alone!

Moses envisioned a place in time, that the children of Israel would have broken the LAW and been driven from their land.  Yet God still addresses His ancient people by calling them back to Himself, not through WORKS but in the spirit and in FAITH.

According to Paul, the OBJECT of the FAITH can only be the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10):

romans-10-9-10

No longer able to fulfill the LAW by works of righteousness, we are called to A HEART RELIGION.

WHOEVER BELIEVES in Christ JESUS will not be ashamed.  

WHOEVER CALLS upon His name will be SAVED!

I’ve never understood why, when pastors ask at the end of a church service for hands raised in accepting Christ, then asks that every head should bow (‘no peeking, please!’).  The bible says, “If you  CONFESS with your mouth”…THAT’S WORDS spoken with lips. 

Perhaps they don’t want the person to be embarrassed.  But if that is truly the explanation–the reasoning–then Romans 10:11 makes no sense:  “No man who believes in Him will ever be put to shame…”

HEART BELIEF –

Heart Belief is a sincere and personal acceptance of the TRUTH which God has revealed.

The WORD OF GOD near to us is in our mouth and in our heart; testifies to our inability to keep the LAW OF GOD; testifies our sinfulness; it testifies that the wages of sin IS DEATH–which is eternal separation from God.

It TESTIFIES of our NEED for a savior…

It TESTIFIES that Jesus Christ is the ONLY SAVIOR of sinners!  He laid down HIS LIFE for our SINS and God raised Him from the dead so that we might live in Him.

Thus FAITH is not merely an arrangement of facts of the Gospel.  Even the demons believe in the TRUTH of the Gospel–and tremble!

SINCERE FAITH leads to public confession of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is not an easy CONFESSION to make, as the community in Rome during Paul’s stay can attest to.

On one hand, an opposition of those within the synagogue; on the other, the civil authorities and state religions feeling threatened by claims of Jesus’ Lordship.

CONFESSION OF FAITH strengthens the new believer.

It brings with it the ASSURANCE, the confidence that we are on the side of the Victor.  It’s a clear announcement of intent within the spiritual warfare and it is a challenge to those who hear!

BAPTISM–One way in which we CONFESS our FAITH.

With the waters of BAPTISM, we PUBLICALLY & OPENLY say farewell to our old way of life and initiated into the community of believers.

To be BAPTIZED into Christ Jesus is to DIE TO SIN, TO BE BURIED in His death, and to RISE again in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-5).  

“Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul was concerned that the GOSPEL–THE GOOD NEWS was heard by both Jew & Gentile.

FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the WORD of God, so it is necessary to proclaim the name of the LORD to the world.  His name is JESUS. (10:17)

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QUESTION:  How can one hear unless someone speaks or preaches?

That question certainly puts a lot of responsibility on us as believers–to make sure what we say in person or what we say on Social Media…is what JESUS would say!

The word translated “PREACH”, evangelizo, is a word with rich meaning.  The word can be translated, HERALD.

A HERALD acted as a public announcer, delivering a message from a King.  The MESSAGE was given to the HERALD from the King and the Herald took the message to the community–The HERALD spoke for the King!  When the HERALD was speaking, it was as though the KING himself was speaking.

But there’s a CATCH!

The Herald was simply to proclaim the MESSAGE he was given by the King. The HERALD couldn’t ADD, SUBTRACT, ALTER OR CHANGE the Message in ANYWAY!

So when we PREACH to others, we are speaking for JESUS, but ONLY when we speak HIS Message.

So are we willing, is it our HEART’S DESIRE to be seen as some’s BEAUTIFUL FEET?

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If no one goes, then there is no MESSAGE delivered.

We are living in a dying world that is depending on YOU to let them HEAR Jesus through YOU!  And that should be our HEART’S DESIRE…OUR PASSION!!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i]:  bible study tools.Dictionary

Photos:  Google Image Search.

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

Bible Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

More STUFF from the Minor Prophets: WHEN STUPID DECISIONS ARE MADE…WHAT THEN?

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH:

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Back in 2005, the FBI received reliable information about a sitting member of the U.S. Congress illegally using his official position to solicit bribes from American companies.

The congressman in question was William (Bill) J. Jefferson, who had been serving Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district since 1991.  In the FBI investigation, it was revealed from 2000 to 2005, Mr. Jefferson sought hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and other co-conspirators from companies whose success depended on the approval of certain U.S. and West African government agencies.  Mr. Jefferson ended up pocketing more than $478,000 but wasted significantly more in U.S. government resources to further his illegal claims.

During the investigation, the FBI–while serving a search warrant on his residence–found $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer.

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In August of 2009, Mr. Jefferson was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.   [See Footnote [i] for source.]

CORRUPTION IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL!!!

We hear similar stories to this of BRIBERY in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia all typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to happen in our own backyard.  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making STUPID DECISIONS!

When people make stupid decisions, they have to face the consequences–a trial in a courtroom perhaps–but in Bible times,  bad decisions meant something even harsher, like FIRE & BRIMSTONE, right?

Usually, YES; that is unless you count the time that GOD brings Israel to court for IMMORALITY.

LOOKING AT THE BOOK OF MICAH, Chapter 6:

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In Chapter 6, verses 1-8 are read like a courtroom drama: “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

You start first with the PROSECUTION, in verses 1-5:  I can almost hear a southern lawyer, yelling this today–‘God is demanding that the people explain their actions!’  You see, at this point, the ISRAELITES were extremely corrupt and in self-denial.

In Micah 2:8-9 (NIV)–the EVIDENCE presented:

[8]  Lately My people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without a care, like men returning from battle.  [9]  You drive the women of My people from their pleasant homes.  You take away My blessing from their children forever.

In Chapter 3, God calls out the LEADERSHIP specifically–verses 1-5 (Amplified Bible):

[1]  And I [Micah] said, Hear, I pray you, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!  Is it not for you to know justice?–

[2]  You who hate the good and love the evil, who pluck and steal the skin from off [My people] and their flesh from off their bones;

[3]  Yes, you who eat the flesh of my people and strip their skin from off them, who break their bones and chop them in pieces as for the pot, like meat in a big kettle.

[4]  Then will they cry to the Lord, but He will not answer them; He will even hide His face from them at that time because they have made their deeds evil.

[5]  Thus says the Lord:  Concerning the false prophets who make My people err when they have anything good to bite with their teeth they cry, Peace; and whoever gives them nothing to chew, against him they declare a sanctified war.

In Chapter 7, God lists more specifics!

Micah 7:2-3 (NET):

[2] Faithful men have disappeared from the land; there are no godly men left.  They all wait in ambush so they can shed blood; they hunt their own brother with a net.

[3] They are determined to be experts at doing evil; government officials and judges take bribes, prominent men make demands, and they all do what is necessary to satisfy them.

Sounds a bit like William Jefferson did!

So in Micah 6:1-5, the JURY is selected…and, the PROSECUTION begins.

The LORD’S Case Against Israel

“Listen to what the LORD says;  “Stand up, plead My case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.  Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.  For the LORD has a case against His people; He is lodging a charge against Israel.”  (Verses 1-2, NIV Bible).

The “mountains”, the “hills”, the foundations of the earth” are selected for the unshakable JURY.

In the Gospel of Luke (19:40), it says if we’re all silent, the “ROCKS” themselves will cry out in praise–is it then too much to think that mountains, hill’s and the foundations of the earth serve as a JURY if asked to by their Creator?

NEXT, God is asking the defense,  “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?”

He then begins to list off what He has done like it says in VERSE 5–God wants to make sure the Israelites “know the righteous acts of the LORD”–[Num. 23:7-24; 24:3-24; Josh. 3:1; 4:19].

What comes next is such a human reaction to the charges–

THE PEOPLE want to jump to the other extreme!  They go from not listening to God’s commandments at all–to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil…”TEN THOUSAND RIVERS”?  REALLY?  Perhaps a little dramatic?

But this was their thinking.  They were like the criminal who, overcome with GUILT, tells the cops to throw him in jail, throw away the key and let him starve to death in solitary confinement because he did something wrong.

And you know what?

The Israelites deserved every one of those things.  They disrespected the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to point His finger and zap them all with lightning bolts!  BUT…as a loving Father, He doesn’t.

IN VERSE 8, God tells them what He wants; what He requires.

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That sums it up!

God doesn’t care about these huge, outward displays of GUILT–HE’S GOD!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your GUILT is legit or not.  All He wants is for you to follow Him.  That is the very definition of MERCY!

Let’s go back to the Courtroom Drama with the lawyers and the jury.

God says, It’s OK!  I will continue to BLESS you, and this is how.”  

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV):

[11]  “The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.”

So what does this all mean to us–today–right now?

It means that if we sin–if you do something to DISRESPECT God or to ANGER God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.  And when you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in SELF-PITY and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep:  

“God, I’m so sorry that I cheated on my math test that I’m going to eat nothing but bread and water for the rest of my life!”  I think you get the idea.

Instead, just be honest with God–admit that you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.  THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!!!

 

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i]:  https://www.fbi.gov/news/…/a-look-back-at-the-william-j-jefferson-corrupotion-case/

Photos:  Google Image Search & Freezer Photo taken from Footnote [i] story.

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

What’s the ‘FINAL STRAW’?

Well, it’s finally the end of football season except for the playoff games and of course…The Super Bowl.  We all have our favorite teams, and I’m no exception.  My Seattle Seahawks, again are in the playoffs, and the 12’s, the Seahawk Fans, are ‘Ready for some football’!

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The old Monday Night Football song featured Hank Williams Jr. singing, “Are you ready for some football?”, was something I looked forward to every week.  And for the most part, the games were absolutely worth waiting for.  They were PREMIER MATCHUPS of equally matched teams, bound to have some wonderful surprises with some extraordinary highlights.

In THE BOOK OF AMOS in the Old Testament, we can also see a premier matchup of teams NOT equally matched at all.  

BUT…there are still bound to be some probably NOT so wonderful surprises but some extraordinary highlights!

TEXT:  AMOS 5:18-24 (NIV)

The Day of the Lord

[18] Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!  Why do you long for the day of the Lord?  That day will be darkness, not light.

[19]  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

[20]  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light–pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

[21]  “I hate, I despise your religious festivals, your assemblies are a stench to me.

[22]  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.

[23]  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.

[24]  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

First, let’s look at the prophet Amos:

Contrary to what you might think, AMOS was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet to begin with(7:14).  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees…actually, a wild fig or mulberry fig tree.

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A DRESSER is better translated as a bruiser.  Sycamore trees had a fig-like fruit.  In order to make the fruit ripen and sugar content, he would take a long stick and tap them and bruise them.  AMOS picked these for a living and since the FRUIT wasn’t particularly good tasting, only the poor people ate it.  [See footnote [i] ]

So while AMOS was tending sheep and dressing trees…he became aware of the conditions of his day.

Today’s awareness of surrounding world conditions, might be around the water cooler.

Amos’ day conditions were discussed around a sycamore tree or while he was herding the sheep as caravans passed along a well-traveled highway.

WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS?

Wealth abounded…actually, it was an either or situation.  On one hand there was luxury and self-indulgence, and on the other…there was absolutely miserable poverty.  I’m sure you have seen videos of the homeless camps fixed under overpasses in our cities today.

  • The GOVERNMENT was corrupt…there was evidence of extortion…there was riots and violence in the streets and CLASS was hated.
  • Dishonesty was the rule rather than the exception and there was also a gross indifference to the suffering.

The RELIGIOUS conditions followed the same pattern

Outwardly, it seemed that RELIGION was thriving in and around the center of population…attendance soared while the treasuries bulged…BUT…inside there was sickness.

The priests were professional leeches.  They would preach exactly what would tickle the ears of the people.

IMMORALITY was practiced in the name of Jehovah God…

There was so much hypocrisy and insincerity in the assemblies while real RIGHTEOUSNESS was hated and oppressed, sometimes violently.

In my study this past week, all this became painful for me to read and understand. This period of PEACE and God’s GRACE…instead of being grateful to God for their peace and prosperity He had given…they used this time to plunge into the pool of sin.

Much like America is today…outwardly it seems like things are going pretty well…BUT on the inside, decay and rottenness.

AMOS saw the JUDGMENT of God coming upon the nation but the greatest threat, then and now, lies in the religious community!!!

In Chapters 1 & 2…AMOS speaks of JUDGMENT on the surrounding nations. The people really like that part.  Notice that Amos repeats the phrase, “For three sins…even four” (vs. 4, 6).

He uses this formula to focus attention on the FINAL ITEM–GOD’S ‘FINAL STRAW’!

AMOS doesn’t list the first three sins, but moves directly to the fourth, bringing the JUDGMENT of God down to the actual audience to whom the message is directed–ISRAEL.

That brings me to the ‘Final Straw’ portion of this blog-study:

THE DAY OF THE LORD (Chapter 5):

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Israelites of Old Testament times looked for the day when God would intervene in the affairs of the world, righting the wrongs and establishing His rule on the earth.

For the first time in Scripture, the concept of the DAY OF THE LORD is introduced. The term appears only in the prophetic.

What do we think when we hear the term?  Do we think of the time when JESUS will come back for His bride, the church?  Or, that glorious time when we’ll leave this old world and go to heaven?  “Oh, what a glorious day that will be!”

AMOS gives us a clear picture of what the Day of the LORD would be like for the people.  1st it would be a time of DARKNESS–not light.  

People thought it would be a bright, happy time of celebration…tickertape parades…dancing in the streets, etc..  Instead, it would be a time of unparalleled hopelessness…There would be no place for them to escape the JUDGMENT OF GOD!

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He says it would be like a man who would run from a lion only to meet a bear; from something ferocious to something even worse!

In desperation this man manages to reach his house–a place of safety and shelter. He arrives breathless, leans his hand against the wall to catch his breath…and as he does, hidden in some crevice, a snake bites him.  The DEATH he thought he would escape awaited him at his own house.  NO SAFETY…NO ESCAPE anywhere!

Verse 20:  Not only DARKNESS…

[20] Don’t you realize the LORD’S day of judgment will bring darkness, not light–gloomy blackness, not bright light?  (NET Bible)

This is a far cry from the joyful expectations the people of Israel had.

In VERSES 21-24, AMOS gives details of some of the things that helped bring on this JUDGMENT…THE FINAL STRAW:

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Each of the ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS of their worship was examined and in each case…they were totally rejected by God.

What God required was not the RITUAL or the OFFERING, but rather RIGHTEOUSNESS in the courts, in the marketplace, in every aspect of their conduct, because this is what it takes to WORSHIP GOD…not the outward show.

But these “saints” all still performed their duty on occasion…and think it will be enough to cause God to overlook the SIN in their everyday life.

But their COMMITMENT to God is revealed in their lifestyles.

They pretended to REJOICE, to Praise the LORD…they had their solemn assembly for their worship.  ALL the right moves…ALL the right notions…

BUT God HATED and DESPISED it.  He said take it away…Get it out! (verse 22).

How About the WORSHIP MUSIC in the Congregation?

Vs. 23 – Away with the noise of your songs…

MUSIC was an important part of their worship, as it is today in our church services.  —HOW COULD THEY MESS THAT UP?

It had all the right words…the music was sweet to the ears, but it wasn’t offered to God…it was just the next step in the process.

–HOW ABOUT US?

When we sing, do we mean what we say?

Now, this has not been all too pleasant reading so far…it’s been pretty negative.  But when God deals harshly with His people, it’s always REDEMPTIVE in nature.

It’s never meant to beat you down…rather, it’s to help us get our focus back on Him.

That brings us to VERSE 24 – BUT…LET JUSTICE ROLL!

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What is AMOS referring to here?

He wants us to do a turn-around!  Act justly.  Be honest!  That means in our everyday life, in our dealings with others…whether business or social relationships.  Don’t take unfair advantage and treat everyone as God Himself would treat them.

It also means being HONEST before God…recognizing our true nature–who we are in Christ Jesus.

RIGHTEOUSNESS like a never-ending stream.

JESUS said, “He that drinks of the water that I give…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters”  (John 7:38 – KJV).

That’s what is available for you and I today.  We need to examine ourselves where we are in life…examine our motives–honestly, and make whatever adjustments the Holy Spirit tells us to do.  And then, and only then, can we truly long for THE DAY OF THE LORD.

 


CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search.

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

Footnote [i] :  Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament, AMOS’ Occupation, June 17, 2014.