Let’s Start Listening to the WHOLE Story

POST’S SCRIPTURE:  HOSEA 5:1 – 6:3

I was feeling a bit nostalgic the other day while writing down thoughts towards my next blog.  I started THE WORD DETECTIVE blog-site over 5 years ago, relating many personal stories throughout my life.  But it struck me (that’s a funny choice of words) this morning that I hadn’t revealed the story about when I was once stabbed.

It was a regular work day in January 1999.  There were 7 of us in a room–myself, three other men, and three women.  One of the guys was talking about his upcoming vacation when one of the women handed him a knife and he stabbed me in the chest!  The last thing I remembered before I passed out was a woman working to control the bleeding.  I woke up in a 5th-floor hospital bed with an oxygen mask over my entire face at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

I GUESS I BETTER TELL YOU THE WHOLE STORY–

I wasn’t at work.  The room was a surgical room and the six other people in the room were my anesthesiologist, my surgeon, and his PA (Physician’s Assistant), and three nurses.  They were there to perform Heart Bypass Surgery, which is why the doctor stabbed me in the chest.

Fortunately, he had my best interest at heart (no pun intended) and nice enough to have his PA sew me up when he was finished.

You see if you don’t LISTEN to THE WHOLE STORY You May Get the Wrong Opinion. –

The ACT of a surgeon cutting into you with a knife sounds quite traumatic and who would opt for that?  But for someone who has cardiovascular disease and in need of relief in my breathing, a loss of energy, and everyday existence, it is a welcomed wound.

I’m telling this story as an introduction to God’s solution to the problem of UNFAITHFULNESS.

“HOW DOES GOD GET OUR ATTENTION?”

Those who don’t HEAR THE WHOLE STORY might only hear that the Lord will tear into us and go away, like a lion.

On that basis, people reject God, thinking of Him as a vengeful judge who wants to destroy all of us who don’t OBEY His commands.  But in my thinking, it is more appropriate to describe God as a divine Surgeon, who indeed cuts into us, but also binds up our wounds.

Job 5:18:  “For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

Lamentations 3:32:  “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

Deuteronomy 32:39:  “See now that I am he!  There is no god besides me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” 

HOSEA CHAPTER 5 ~

Hosea chapter 5 describes the surgical work of God in detail.  It describes how God gets our attention and removes the spiritual blockage left by our UNFAITHFULNESS.

The relief of the symptoms I acquired over time came through surgery, which was painful at the time, but critical for relieving my symptoms and ultimately my life.

Hosea 5:1-2 (Amplified bible):

[1]  HEAR THIS, O you priests!  And listen, O house of Israel!  And give ear, O house of the king!  For the judgment pronounced pertains to you and is meant for you, because you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor [military strongholds on either side of the Jordan River).  

[2] The revolters are deeply sunk in corruption and slaughter, but I [the Lord God] am a rebuke and a chastisement for them all.”

Hosea was called upon by God to get Israel’s attention so He could address the “rottenness”–the “decay” that came as a result of the nation’s sickness of SIN.

IN VERSE 3, God charges Ephraim [the northern ten tribes] with prostitution and corruption.

IN VERSE 4, the words reveal a HEART CONDITION of Unfaithfulness.

IN VERSE 5, the symptom is ARROGANCE–“pride and self-reliance”. 

VERSE 6 talks about going “with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,” meaning these people were bringing their animals for Sacrifice, but it was empty worship.  Outwardly they were “worshipping,” but inwardly they had a heart condition and were far off from God.

These were a people, like us, who were sick with SIN of self-seeking and self-centeredness and assumed they were self-sufficient.

THEY SOLD OUT…their bodies as well as their moral and religious convictions like a prostitute.  They were UNFAITHFUL to God

They were UNFAITHFUL to God as Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful to her husband.  Even their sad attempts at WORSHIP was empty and void of meaning.

So am I referring only to ISRAEL here, or am I pointing a finger at us–the CHURCH today?

Do you see your own sickness in ISRAEL half as clearly as I see my own?  I see signs of DECAY showing up in our BEHAVIOR.  At times I have to admit that even my own worship experience on Sunday morning is just an act–going through the motions which then leads to repentance.  Or should “lead to repentance.”

The DIAGNOSIS is clear, God goes to work as a SURGEON.

From verses 8-12, we find a series of pronouncements that cut at ISRAEL like the perspective wounds of a SURGEON’S knife:

  • “Sound the trumpet…”
  • “Raise the battle cry…”
  • “Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning.”
  • “I will pour out my wrath”
  • “I am like a moth…”
  • “I am like rot…”

These don’t sound like words from a loving-God, any more than a six-inch cut down the chest sounds like the wounds of a healer!  But that’s exactly what they are.

For even God can be like a LION; His presence is that of a RESTORER and HEALER.

Coming to an Understanding…

This interaction between God and Israel through His prophet HOSEA, we are given the ability to recognize how God is at work to RESTORE us as INDIVIDUALS, as the CHURCH, and even our NATION.

Recognizing the Ways God Comes To Us to Get Our Attention So He Can Heal Us ~

FIRST, He comes like A MOTH or We Rot!

IN VERSE 12 He says,  “I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.”  ISRAEL, represented by the divided kingdoms of EPHRAIM and JUDAH, already were in a state of decay.

It was a slow decay much like the slow, natural damage a MOTH does when forgotten sweaters folded in the closet are noticed after slipping them over my head.  And then my wife would notice the damage and say, “Looks like we have MOTHS in  the closet!”

GOD had allowed the natural consequences of Israel’s UNFAITHFULNESS to ROT their NATION.

Next, GOD Would Come Like A LION (verse 14).

Courtesy of Photo Pin

If the people couldn’t see the signs of DECAY…or just ignored them, God was warning through His prophet Hosea, He was next going to come and tear them to pieces–carry them off in exile with no one to rescue them.

But notice there would be a PURPOSE in this.  God would do this until…until they would admit their GUILT.

He would become like a LION so they would seek His face:  “in their MISERY,” He said, “they will earnestly seek me”  (verse 15).

 THE RAIN, It’s a Comin’!  – (Hosea 6:1-3)

 

Ultimately, God LOVES us and He wants us to experience Him in the SPRING RAIN.  He will let you ROT in your choices for a time if you insist and if you’re stubborn He will come to you like a Lion.  But His ultimate purpose will always be to RESTORE you.  It will always be to PROSPER you and not harm you.

His PURPOSE is to give you HOPE and a FUTURE.

Today in our nation, God is like a MOTH and like RUST.  He’s allowing us to DECAY because in general, we’ve forsaken Him.  And if we refuse to turn to the gentle rain of Jesus, we may soon know Him as a Great Lion.

Our nation, your nation, will crumble as with any dynasty that has gone before us.  Unless we change, the Western church will be torn apart.

So the question arises before each one of us:  How do you see God at work in restoring you personally?

This very week, have you lived in HIS PRESENCE and experienced His GRACE-like a SPRING RAIN?

If the answer is “NO”, then look carefully to see if God has been like a MOTH to you in your life.

Consider that your spiritual desert might show that you’re in a slowly developing state of DECAY.  Like the folded sweater lying unnoticed in the closet–not seeing the things changing before your eyes, but before you know it, you realize that the clothing of righteousness you once wore has been eaten away by the natural consequences of your choices.

If you are not spending the necessary time in the presence of God each day you have in essence locked your spirituality in a closet infested with MOTHS.

My fear is that you may try to pull it out later and only find it has been eaten away.

BEWARE OF APATHY!  Because APATHY will ROT your spiritual life–like RUST on a nail.

Maybe some who are reading this Blog-study have felt Him tearing at you like a lion ripping at his prey.  Perhaps the consequences of your choices have you confused–a struggling marriage, the loss of a job, an addiction. Maybe the pain of sickness or the mourning of death has reminded you of sin’s curse.  It could be the activity of the Holy Spirit has you weighted down concerning your own SIN, and the weight of GUILT is more than you can bear.

If God has been like a GREAT LION to you this week, do not despair!  He will BIND up your wounds!! –

JESUS came to Peter like a roaring lion with the crow of a rooster.  He came to Paul like a roaring lion in the midst of a blinding light.  Yet He came to them both like a refreshing RAIN restoring them to places of great significance in His divine plan.

SPRING RAINS ARE A COMIN’

Knowing the WHOLE STORY, will you let Him wash you like the RAIN?

There is only ONE WAY to God’s presence and that’ through to the CROSS of JESUS CHRIST.  Let Him tear apart your self-seeking–self-sufficient ways and RESTORE your spirit.

REJOICE, THE GREAT SURGEON COMES!

He brings HEALING on His wings.

He RESTORES us.

He is JESUS, our SAVIOR…AND He wants to operate on you.  Will you let Him?

____________________________________________

CREDITS –

Photo Credits:  Google Advanced Image Search and Photo Pin.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Out On A Limb Might Be Risky!

CHEERS is an American sitcom that ran on television from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993.  The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meets to drink, relax, and socialize.  The show’s main theme song, written and performed by Gary Portnoy lent its famous refrain “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” is the show’s tagline.

CHEERS, (from left): Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, Paul Wilson, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, 1982-93. ©Paramount Television / courtesy Everett Collection

Everyone likes to be known by their name.

Everyone likes to know that someone knows their name and knows their name and knows them.  It shows intimacy; it shows that the person has put in some effort to actually get to know you.  Unfortunately today, we seldom are known by our names, but rather by a number.  You have to know your ID number by heart: When you complete forms you have to enter your ID number.  When you complete your Tax Return you have a number that was given to you, and you only.  We have become numbers to people and it’s impersonal reflecting an unwillingness to know you as a person.  And even if they know your name, they probably are not willing to spend the time to get to know you better.

There is no personal relationship!

I understand that it’s impractical to suggest that everyone we meet can’t have a personal relationship.  It’s just impossible.

But with JESUS, it’s a different story.  For JESUS we are not just another name.  JESUS knows my name and He knows your name and He knows us! He knows our innermost being!!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 19:1-10:

WHO WAS ZACCHAEUS?

Zacchaeus is a Jewish name (it means he was a Jew) AND…it means “Pure One.”

Not only was this man a tax collector, he was the Director of the tax collectors…CHIEF among the publicans (KJV).  The Greek term indicates that it seems Zacchaeus was a tax commissioner over the district of Jericho.  He more than likely purchased this position from the Roman authorities.

The local JEWS hated those who worked for Rome because often if not always, overtaxed them.  That’s how they made their money.  They didn’t receive a salary but received either a percentage of the tax they collected or…Rome would give them amount to collect and anything more was theirs.

So we know and see Zacchaeus was a powerful man and he was a very rich man.

The GOSPEL also tells us something else about this man…

This I believe, is extremely important, but often taken as just another piece of information.

Zacchaeus was a short man.

WHAT DID ZACCHAEUS DO WHILE BEING IN A TREE?

He tried to see who Jesus was.  He couldn’t see Him because of the crowd and because of his height.  I think it was even probable that the crowd might have noticed him trying to see Jesus, standing on his tip-toes, but they blocked him on purpose because of who he was.

They hated him!

Because of this, Zacchaeus climbed a nearby TREE to see Jesus better.

He was a JEW and he knew about the prophecies.

  • He probably heard about Jesus and that he was the Prophesied Messiah.
  • He heard that THIS MAN was the savior of the Jewish people
  • He heard that THIS MAN was the savior of the Jewish people.
  • He heard that this man had performed miracles and healed the sick.

He wanted to see who this man was…but nobody wanted to give him the opportunity because of who he was.

So he climbed a tree and Jesus called him and told him that He wanted to go to his house and stay there.

AND HERE COMES THE THING…

Zacchaeus was glad to WELCOME Jesus into his home.

Luke 19:6 – The MESSAGE Bible:

“Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him.”

WHAT DID THE CROWD DO?

The people voiced their disapproval at Jesus eating at the house of a sinner.  Remember, a tax collector was seen as a SINNER; they were not allowed in the synagogue or the Temple.  “Sorry, but you are not welcome at church!”  So the Rabbis and the people rejected these people.

What it meant that Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name.

JESUS SHOWS THAT HE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE!

Even if you hide, He knows where you are.  He knew where Zacchaeus was.

Zacchaeus was probably HIDING IN THE TREE when Jesus and the parade of people came by; He knew exactly where Zacchaeus was!  I’m sure that he didn’t want anyone to see him in the TREE because it could have damaged his standing in the community.

So Zacchaeus was hiding in the tree, hoping to get a glimpse of Jesus as He passes by.  He was HAPPY with only a glimpse of Jesus.

But then Jesus does the unexpected!

Jesus stood still under that tree and He called him.  By doing this Jesus recognized that He knew where Zacchaeus was.

As hard as Zacchaeus tried, he wasn’t invisible to Him.  Maybe the CROWD missed him there out on a limb, but Jesus didn’t!

JESUS KNEW WHERE HE WAS.

But not just that, Jesus knew the situation he was in:

JESUS KNEW his past…

JESUS KNEW his childhood…

JESUS KNEW all his secrets…

JESUS KNEW all the pain he had to endure and still endures.

JESUS saw all the tears that flowed when Zacchaeus was growing up regarding the importance of mentioning his size.  It was important to mention it in order to explain why he was in the tree in the first place.

But I wanted to go deeper in thought about Zacchaeus’ character.

I believe that Zacchaeus was probably MOCKED as a child growing up because of his stature.  I’m sure the neighborhood kids during his time were much like children today.  They can be cruel by belittling other children.  In today’s culture, they call it “bullying”.  Because of the “bullying,” not all children grow up forgetting these experiences.  Some children grow up with these experiences and the hurt grows with them, in them.  They never heal from it.  Some of them will even go to the extreme

Some of them will even go to the extreme and dream of one day being in a position of POWER and then they will show them.

I believe that Zacchaeus was one of those children.  He was MOCKED because of being ‘altitude challenged’ and that’s why he eventually became a tax collector.

THE PROBLEM…NOTHING can really fill that void of HUMILIATION, EXCEPT JESUS!!

Zacchaeus tried but never succeeded…and then Jesus called him by name.

“Zacchaeus come down!  I must stay at your house today.”

AND THAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE.

Maybe you find yourself hiding out on a limb of a tree.

Maybe you are struggling with certain things in your life right now.

Maybe you are living a sinful life and cannot comprehend that JESUS would even look upon you, much less talk to you or call out your name. You can’t think that He can forgive you for what you have done.

HERE SOME GOOD NEWS for you!

JESUS is standing right next to you where you are and He is calling your name…

Low Self-Esteem –

Maybe there are things in your life that have broken down your self-worth, your self-esteem.  You might be in an abusive relationship with your husband or wife, physical or psychological.  You might not enjoy life as it is supposed to be enjoyed (John 10:10).  You are being abused and it has hardened your heart towards everyone, including God.

Maybe you blame God for what’s happening in your life…

MAYBE HE HAS ABANDONED YOU…

He hasn’t.

He sees you.  He sees what you are going through.

He sees your pain and He cries with you.  Tears are running down His cheeks.

AND YET, GOD IS CALLING YOUR NAME!

“Get out of that tree.  I want to stay at your house.”

Some people are happy with getting a glimpse of Jesus as He crosses their path.

BUT JESUS WANTS MORE THAN THAT FROM US!

Jesus is calling your name where you are.  So, you will have to come down out of that tree and meet Him on a personal level.

Understand this:  It is not us who called Jesus.  He called us first!

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16] You did not choose me, but I chose you…

Ephesians 1:4 (AMP):

[4] Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world…

He calls us first and on that CROSS He called out your name.

All you have to do is to give heed to His call and come!

ZACCHAEUS was carrying a heavy load.  All it took for him was to listen to Jesus’ call.

“Zacchaeus, come down…I want to stay at your house.”

ISAIAH 49:16 (NIV):

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

When Jesus was nailed to the CROSS, your NAME was engraved on His palms.  ENGRAVING is a process that is permanent.  That’s how much He LOVES you.  That’s how much He CARES for you.

HE KNOWS YOUR NAME BECAUSE HE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE!

Jesus Recognizes and Sees the Potential in All of Us–

Zacchaeus means Pure, Righteous.  But the people didn’t see him as “pure” and “righteous”.  However, JESUS saw the REAL Zacchaeus–He knew who he was supposed to be.

WE HAVE PURPOSE!

Jesus doesn’t see who we are, He sees who we are supposed to be.

The world sees us as they want to see us.  They see us because of what we do, what we portray, who we are.  They see only our number or title.

BUT JESUS SEES WHO WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

He sees Zacchaeus as pure and righteous.  He sees POTENTIAL.

You see, you and I were created for a PURPOSE: Romans 8:28-20 (NAS):

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

YOU ARE ALREADY CALLED!  YOU WERE PREDESTINED!!

The question now becomes…Will you listen and take your calling with both hands?  ZACCHAEUS DID!

When Jesus came to his house that day he had a change of heart because for the FIRST TIME in his life somebody saw the REAL him.

For the FIRST TIME, someone ate with him.  Not because of what he had, nor because of his power or money or status.  But because of who he was. At that moment the void in him was filled–he knew that he was worth something more than money.

JESUS SHOWS THAT WE ARE PART OF THE FAMILY (v. 9):

[9] Today salvation has come to this house…

Zacchaeus lineage didn’t bring SALVATION, but his FAITH, evidenced by public confession, sure did!

JESUS sees him as part of the family.

But people will not always look at you that way.  When you repent of your sins and you accept JESUS as your savior, then you reveal your Family Relationship, your true identity.

When Jesus Called Zacchaeus’ Name He Showed That He Knew Where He Was.

He showed that he had PURPOSE and…He showed that he was part of the Family of God!

Somewhere on your journey, you may have lost that sense of family.  But JESUS is calling you right where you are.  HE’S CALLING YOU BY NAME!

JESUS wants you to come down from your tree and to accept Him into your home, into your life.  He wants to dine with you.  He wants to feed you and protect you.  But He can only do this if you LISTEN to His CALL.

AND HE IS CALLING YOUR NAME!

____________________________________________

CREDITS:

Harper’s Bible Dictionary: PUBLICANS, pg. 84.

Sermon Notes from Searching For Answers? A Candid Look At The Life Of A Seeker by Mike Dankson.

PHOTOS:  Google’s Advanced Image Search.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

 

A “KODAK MOMENT” of Calvary

In photography, a snapshot concept was introduced to the public on a large-scale by Eastman Kodak, which introduced the Brownie box camera. Kodak encouraged families to use the Brownie to capture moments in time of perfect images seen through the viewfinder.

And I remember receiving the gift of a Kodak Box Camera, a Brownie Hawkeye, no less,  from my parents before going on a family vacation one summer.  It was easy to operate, even for a young boy–point, look through the lens at the object to be photographed, and “SNAP!” No fancy adjustments.  Just point and shoot!

So here I am in this blog-Post, taking a snapshot of a moment in time by viewing the biblical landscape in Genesis 22.

An ‘Abraham and His Son’ moment:  Genesis 22:2, 6 and 8.

“Take now your son”…”Abraham took the wood…laid it on Isaac his son”…and Abraham said, “My son”.

Just as Abraham had a son, so God the Father has a Son.

  • God the Father offered His Son, by the POWER of the Holy Spirit:

“How much more then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:14 ~ New International Version – NIV).

So you can see that the TRINITY (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is plainly in view and involved in our SALVATION–

The FATHER PLANNED it…

The SON PROVIDED it…

And the SPIRIT APPLIED it.

Furthermore, by sharpening our FOCUS, we can see He was the Father’s lone Son – “your only son”.

Of course, Abraham had other sons, but the only one like Isaac–he was his unique son.

Next, we see through our lens, the Father’s LOVE for His Son.

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” (vs 2)

  • The LOVE Abraham had for Isaac was only a subdued love, compared to the LOVE God had for His Son.

This is the FIRST MENTION of LOVE in the Bible and a VIEW of God’s LOVE for His Son:

The first mention of LOVE in the Gospel of Matthew is “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased”  (Matthew 3:17).

The first mention of LOVE in Mark’s Gospel is again, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased” (Mark 2:11).

And Luke… “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased”  (Luke 3:22).

And finally, the first mention of LOVE in John’s Gospel, “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).

SPURGEON: “JESUS was God’s Son, his only-begotten Son, whom he loved more than any of you can ever love your sons or daughters, for the love of God towards him is ineffable, immeasurable.  It is not possible for me to tell you how much God loved his Son, but that Son who had always given him delight, in whom he was well pleased, that Son must endure shame, and agony, and death, if sinners were ever to be saved.  How could the Father give up his Son for such a purpose?  I have felt sometimes as if I could almost rush in, and say, “No; it must not be, the price is too great to be paid for the rescue of such worthless worms as we.”  Yet, to ransom every one of us, the Son of God must be sacrificed, and sacrificed, as it were, by his Father, for thus it is written, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”  This, there is one point of resemblance between the offering of Isaac and the propitiatory sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, it was the father who had to offer up his son who he loved so dearly.”

A SNAP-SHOT of the Landscape–The Land of Moriah (Gen 22:2;  2 Chron. 3:1).

Genesis 22, Verse 2:  “go to the region of Moriah”

The importance of Mount Moriah is established by a number of KEY historical events which have taken place there:

  • Abraham offers Isaac (Gen. 22:2)
  • The Site of Solomon’s Temple.  King David was instructed by God to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite which occupied this site.  So David purchased the land which later became the site of Solomon’s Temple.
  • The Crucifixion of Jesus.  On the very mountain where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his “only son”, God sacrificed His only Son.

The LAW of the Burnt Offering (22:2).

This LAW was spelled out in Leviticus (Lev. 1:3-9), much later than what we see here in Genesis 22.  Actually, the term is first used of the sacrifices of Noah (Gen. 8:20), predating Abraham’s day.

The LAW spells out that the SACRIFICE is not to be a Second-rate offering:

#1.  It must be sacrificial–from the herd or flock that is domestic not of a wild animal.

#2.  There was to be a relationship between the OFFERING and the one offering it ~ “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

#3.  The SACRIFICE must be the Strongest of the flock–a male animal (John 1:29).

#4.  It must be Spotless–without blemish (1 Peter 1:18-19):

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

JESUS WAS SINLESS!

#5.  AND…It must not be Stiff-necked; used of an uncooperative animal–it must be a VOLUNTARY Offering (John 10:17-18)

A SACRIFICE was made to BALANCE our account (Romans 4:35 & 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Romans 4:25 (AMP): 

Who was betrayed and put to death because of our misdeeds and was raised to secure our justification (our acquittal),  [making our account balance and absolving us from all guilt before God].

The SACRIFICE was SLAIN by the one who brought it.

Ultimately, it was God the Father who brought Jesus to CALVARY who slew Him for our sins (Matthew 27:45-46). 

The BLOOD from the SACRIFICE had to be Sprinkled (Hebrews 12:24):

[24]  And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy] a better and nobler and more gracious message that the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance]  (AMP).

The SACRIFICE was a Sweet Aroma to Father God (Ephesians 5:2):

[2] Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

A Lapse of Time occurred…(Genesis 22:3)

ABRAHAM rose early in the morning…on the THIRD DAY–he did not offer his son immediately but had to wait for 3 days.

Those had to be 3 difficult days and mindful of what he was about to do.

  • JESUS waited some 3 years before going to the CROSS and it was ever before Him!  (John 2:4; 7:30; 12:27).

LOOKING FOR A RESURRECTION (Hebrews 11:17-19):

Abraham came to the conclusion that he was going to see a MIRACLE because God can’t lie!  God had previously said this son of his, Isaac, would be the one whom He would fulfill all His promises (Gen, 12:2, 3 – “The Abrahamic Blessing”).  Therefore the son must live or God would be found as a liar.  And yet God commands that THIS SON (Isaac) be put to death.  Since there is no contradiction in God, He must be planning on raising Isaac from the dead.  All this…a SNAPSHOT of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

All this…A VIEW of what JESUS would actually do–die and then be raised back to life!

The Laying Of Our Sins Upon Christ –

The WOOD that is laid upon Isaac (Gen. 22:6) becomes a PICTURE of Jesus carrying His own cross (John 19:16-18).

The FIRE (Genesis 22:6-7) that Abraham carried in the fire-pot for the “burnt sacrifice” becomes a snapshot once more of God’s Holy wrath upon Christ (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The KNIFE (22:10) depicts His being pierced with nails and the spear in His side…

And FINALLY, the LAMB (Genesis 22:8; 11-14).

GOD DID PROVIDE A LAMB FOR HIMSELF AT CALVARY (Romans 8:32):

[32]  “Certainly not God. who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all!  He gave us his Son–will he not also freely give us all things?”  (GNT- The Good News Translation)

Why did God tell Abraham to offer his son?

Abraham was an Old Testament PROPHET (GENESIS 20:7)–one who by the grace of God have us a glimpse into future events.

JESUS said ABRAHAM hoped for “My day [My incarnation]; and he did see it and was delighted”  (John 8:56).

This MOMENT, this event in history becomes a SNAPSHOT taken to illustrate God offering His only Son at CALVARY.

From 1935 to 1962, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a daily newspaper column writing her opinion on various world events.  One quote I especially took to heart is from an article she wrote in 1946:

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

God will never ask us to do something He is not willing to do Himself–and that includes SACRIFICE.

ISAAC is the beginning of the CROSS, and a shining example of how God will always do the same thing He expects of us.

Isaac was the RESULT of A PROMISE, through his birth that allowed God’s presence to reach a new nation of people–ISRAEL.

And JESUS was also the RESULT of a PROMISE, and through His DEATH, BURIAL and RESURRECTION allowed God’s presence to reach the entire world!

____________________________________________

CREDITS FOR THIS POST:

Genesis: A Devotional Exposition by Donald G. Barnhouse.

Commentary:  Pondering Scripture – An Uncommon Commentary, Genesis 22:5.

Kodak Brownie photo:  Snapshot (photography)–Wikipedia.

Other PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations used for this blog-POST:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

Is “Sabbath-keeping” Today Really A Big-deal?

POST SCRIPTURE – Luke 6:1-10

I have been residing in the small town of Lynden, Washington now for almost fifteen years.  It is a small rural town south of the Canadian border.  I have been hearing stories from residents and have become interested in how the town’s history all began with the early pioneers.

There Are Really Two Lynden’s –

The historic downtown part of the city was settled in the 1870s by Baptists, Methodists and THREE DUTCHMEN who, legend has it, wrote back to their families in the Midwest that LYNDEN was “just like home.”

They were right and by the early 1920s, the Dutch were the majority. Soon. Lynden stores closed on Sundays, reflecting the Christian Reformed church belief that one day of the week should be set aside for rest.  And boy, did they “set aside the day”; abstaining from all other activities was as-much-a-part of observing the Sabbath Day, as was, going to church.

At one time, the city of Lynden held the world record for the most churches per square mile and per capita although unsubstantiated.  [Lynden History Museum]

I heard long time residents tell me stories of the “Christian Dutch Mafia” who would respond to church members reports of “mowing lawns” on the Sabbath or reading the newspaper on front porches; checking out the reports, then telling the so-called ‘violators’–“The Sabbath is holy, so you should be holy.”  No strong-arming–just a verbal warning.

Front Street in Lynden, Washington

Things are different in this small little Dutch town today.  On October 20th, 2008, liquor is now sold on Sundays in local grocery stores and local restaurants. And even the local Family Bible Book Store opened its doors for business on Sundays.  [Note: The Family Bible Book Store has closed their doors.]

Before I go any further…let me say that these particular church members of their day were no legalists.  The didn’t make and keep rules just for the sake of making and keeping rules!

SABBATH DEFINITION:  Google online Dictionary defines “Sabbath” this way:  “A day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians (my add: ‘whatever “most” Christians mean’) on Sunday.”

Somehow…some way, these THINGS had become commitments for them; deeply rooted personal commitments that emerged in the course of living and applied their faith day-to-day, week-to-week.  And I think that’s what we wanna do!  Having FAITH,…believing in God,…trusting that God has forgiven us through the redemptive work of Jesus: that’s the one thing.

And what about life and living when it comes to the Sabbath?

What difference does it make how I spend my days…how my time is organized and spent during the week?

That’s what SABBATH is all about!

We don’t keep the Sabbath in order to be a Christian; …But we keep the Sabbath because we already are Christians!

In other words, …the motivation, …the impulse to recognize the Sabbath doesn’t arise from a desperate hope to be acceptable to God; …but it springs from a HEART OF GRATITUDE that we’ve already been accepted by God.

QUESTIONS arise when investigating what the SABBATH is all about:

  • What was God thinking when He established a Sabbath-day?
  • Why should we observe the Sabbath in today’s society?
  • What does it mean to “keep the Sabbath”?

Looking up in my Bible concordance, I found the word “SABBATH” appearing 151 times!  94 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament.  So, I’m thinkin’ that it was pretty important to the biblical writers.

The Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8)

Bible scholars have pointed out that the first 3 commandments given deal with our relationship with God…and the last 6 deal with our relationship with others. The 4th Commandment becomes a bridge.

So if “keeping the Sabbath” is in the Top 10 of God’s Commandments, it must be important.

I thought about that for a while and reasoned why it’s an important thing for us to practice because, by the time Jesus stepped onto the scene of human history, Sabbath-keeping is an issue that keeps coming up.

Over and over again, JESUS is answering questions, providing new teachings, handling complaints, and the SABBATH is one of the main points of argument between himself and the religious leaders of the day.

If Sabbath-keeping was something Jesus talked about a lot, it must be a pretty important thing for us to understand.

My whole purpose of this exploration of “Keeping the Sabbath” is to challenge and to inspire us all to a greater appreciation…a deeper understanding…a stronger commitment to Sabbath-keeping.  And by-the-way, I had to do some soul-searching as I hope you will also, in getting a clearer picture.

We may find some stuff that has been working beneath the surface,…that really has held us back to embrace the GIFT of the Sabbath.  When we don’t observe the Sabbath,…we are really subjecting ourselves to BONDAGE–SLAVERY!  Does that sound pretty harsh?  Well…it is!

But as Galatians 5, verse 1 says:  “IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].”  (Amplified Bible)

SABBATH-KEEPING IS A BIG PART OF EXPERIENCING FREEDOM IN CHRIST  (Luke 6:1-10):

TWO incidents happen…involving JESUS and those who were considered “religious leaders” of the day.

The FIRST involved picking and eating some grain (verse 1); the SECOND involved healing a crippled man’s hand (verse 10).

Both times, Jesus was put on the spot.

Both times, the implications was:  JESUS was breaking the Sabbath command.

Both times, Jesus used the opportunity to shed new light on what Sabbath-keeping was really supposed to be about.

Giving the Pharisees the Benefit of the Doubt –

The prize of the Ten Commandments was their greatest desire and not to break any of God’s commands.  And so, in order to protect the commandments, they designed an elaborate and detailed system of additional RULES,…not so much because they liked a bunch of rules, but because they really didn’t want to break the BIG ONE!

Look at some of the RULES that we’ve come up with at home.  We don’t want our children to get their hand burned by touching a hot stove.  But, we add RULES so they are protected from ever getting close enough to the stove to get burned.

So we tell the children they can’t come into the kitchen when Mom is cooking.  The KITCHEN is off-limits!

Is the kitchen such a bad place for kids that we have a RULE saying they would have to stay out?!  NO!  The only reason why the kids must stay out of the kitchen is to make sure they don’t break the really big rule:  “Don’t touch a hot stove!”

That’s the kind of attitude that the Pharisees had.  They started coming up with layers and layers of RULES & TRADITIONS.

And so, when we read about them getting their feathers all ruffled with Jesus picking grain, or healing a man’s crippled right hand on the Sabbath…we must realize that they had developed these extensive, and elaborate rules to guard against breaking the Sabbath Command!

If you pick a handful of grain as you walk through the fields, the next thing you know, you’ll break out the combines and open a 24-hour bakery on the Sabbath!

If you heal one crippled hand on the Sabbath, the next thing you know, you’ll open an emergency care clinic on the Sabbath!

The Pharisees saw it all as a slippery slope.

They weren’t going to stand for Jesus and His disciples flaunting their “disregard” to the traditions and the laws of their fathers!

In their efforts to protect and preserve the LAW, the religious leaders added greater burdens that obscured the BLESSINGS that God wanted to give through the covenantal Law.  Their intentions were initially good. But, over time, the pharisaical restrictions…their interpretations became the focus, rather than the HEART of the Law.  And because they had lost focus, they ended up arguing with and despising Jesus.

So was Jesus then a RULE BREAKER?

Was He a trouble making, rabble-rouser?  Did He snub His nose at the good rules that had been in place for generations?  Did Jesus think He and His disciples were better than them?

Keep in mind that JESUS came to fulfill the LAW, not to abolish it!  (Matthew 5:17)

So how do we understand these events, and particularly Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath?

JESUS GIVES US THE BOTTOM LINE.

He says that He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 5).  In other words, the SABBATH is all about Him!

Keeping the Sabbath is all about walking with Him; it’s about submitting to His Lordship.  So, whatever else it means to “keep the Sabbath”, this we can be sure of:  JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE DAY, He is the focus!

JESUS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT.  It is a “holy” day because we treat it differently from all the rest!

IT’S A “HOLY” DAY BECAUSE GOD, MADE IT HOLY (Exodus 20:8-11):

AND…that’s why we should treat it differently from all the rest.

We keep it HOLY when it is distinct from every other day.  It has a HOLY origin…really going back to the SEVENTH DAY of Creation:

It is a HOLY day, …with HOLY beginnings, …and a HOLY purpose.

And, Keeping It Holy!

So back to my earlier question:  “Was Jesus a rule breaker?”  Well, if you’re talking about man-made rules and traditions…I guess He was.

But when it comes down to it, how can He, …be a Sabbath-breaker, if He is the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’, as Scripture tells us?

It begins with Him; it focuses on Him, and it ends with Him.

The Pharisees had done the old ‘switcheroo’!  Instead of putting the emphasis on the One who instituted and established the SABBATH, instead of focusing on the One who gave humanity this gift, instead, their focus had shifted to man-made rules and regulations and traditions.

Those things are fine for what they are.  We all set up these kinds of things in our lives, in our households, and in our work ethics.

BUT, our RULES, TRADITIONS, AND REGULATIONS…

Being more specific…the particular ways that we practice Sabbath-keeping are not more important than the One who gave us the SABBATH and blessed it!

MY MESSAGE in this Post regarding the SABBATH is a simple one:

#1.  It is to get our focus in the right place…or better yet, on the right Person!

We start exactly where we need to start:  on the Lord Jesus!

We don’t start with man-made rules or traditions.  We don’t start with our own personal preferences.

We start with the Lord…the Lord of the SABBATH!

The SABBATH is a gift from God for us to enjoy.  So let’s CELEBRATE the Giver of this good gift;

Let’s CELEBRATE the Lord of the SABBATH!!

____________________________________________

CREDITS & SOURCES:

The Seattle Times:  Change Comes to Lynden by Robert T. Nelson.

Lynden History Museum.

The NIV Complete Concordance by Edward W. Goodrick & John R. Kohlenberger III

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

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

Learning To Be Patient from the Life of A Preteen? Really??

Scripture Reading – Luke 2:40-52 (AMP):

[40] And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him.  [41] Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Passover Feast.  [42] And when He was twelve years [old], they went up, as was their custom.  [43] And when the Feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem.  Now His parents did not know this.  [44] But, supposing Him to be in the caravan, they traveled on a day’s journey; and [then] they sought Him [diligently, looking up and down for Him] among their kinsfolk and acquaintances.  [45] And when hey failed to find Him, they went back to Jerusalem, looking for Him [up and down] all the way.  [46] After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

[47] And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies.

Now Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Feast of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, today known as a “preteen”, the family all went according to custom [Exodus 12:1-11].  PASSOVER was a New Year’s celebration on the Jewish Calendar for Israel.

A traveled day’s journey in Biblical times was estimated 20-25 miles [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia].

My idea today for celebrating New Years is to watch the fireworks at the Seattle Space Needle…on television.  Are we spoiled or what?

And when the Celebration has ended, as they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem.

His parents didn’t know it, but supposing him to be in the group, traveled approximately 24 miles before they noticed his absence.  In today’s culture, they would have sent out an AMBER ALERT.

Joseph and Mary then began to search for him among relatives and acquaintances in the caravan and when they couldn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days…

After a frantic search, they found their boy in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

The childhood and youth of Jesus were normal in many ways.

As a Jewish boy, he experienced the same things that other children experienced at his age.  It was customary for Jewish families to go to Jerusalem for the Passover each year.  Even though it was required only of men, many times it became a family excursion.  So the family of Jesus followed this Jewish custom.

During the twelfth year of a boy’s life, they begin to assume the responsibilities to the LAW.

On the 13th birthday, a Jewish boy is accepted as a full “son of the Law” [Bar mitzvah – son of law].  He became responsible to obedience to the law.

Normally a boy would be taken to the Passover during his twelfth year preparing him for the responsibility of observing the law.  This is the significance of the incident in the life of Jesus at the age of twelve.

Leaving Jesus Behind.

The leaving of Jesus behind in Jerusalem is a kind of thing that could happen to any family in a large, overcrowded environment.  It didn’t suggest neglect on the part of his parents.  Ordinarily, the women would leave before the men on a journey because they walked slower, and the men and boys would follow later.  So Mary assumed that Jesus was with Joseph and the men, while Joseph assumed that he was with Mary and the children.

It wasn’t until they met at the end of the day that they noticed Jesus wasn’t there.   It made it necessary to return to Jerusalem and search the city for three days until they found him.

The unusual thing about THIS twelve-year-old was where they found him.

But there he was!  In the Temple taking advantage of the opportunity of learning from the teachers of the Law.

What more than likely amazed the learned teachers gathered about was that any twelve-year-old boy knew the Torah.  But this twelve-year-old boy not only knew the Law, he knew it inside out understanding the meaning–THAT was remarkable!

JESUS Is Our Model –

First We Can Learn About Our Priorities In Our Lives (vv. 48-49 KJV):

This exchange between Joseph and Mary with Jesus needs close attention.  

It was a REBUKE by Mary, because of the anxiety she felt from Jesus’ disappearance–losing your child’s presence and then finding them.

Naturally, Mary was very upset and worried when she finally found Jesus in the Temple (v. 48).  She might have said even more had the circumstances been a little different.  It may have diluted her response a little because they were in the Temple in the presence of scholars of the Law.  But her words expressed how she felt.  Real ANXIETY looking for him.

Evidently, Jesus had been so absorbed in the experience of listening to the teaching in the temple that he was oblivious to almost everything else.  He was amazed that his parents wouldn’t understand his interest in and presence in the Temple (v.49):  

“Why is it that you were looking for Me?  Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  (NAS Bible)

This statement reveals the RELATIONSHIP THAT WILL RECEIVE PRIORITY.

Mary spoke of Joseph as the father of Jesus.  Joseph was the one who had the fatherly responsibility for him, but Jesus reveals a much deeper awareness.

He speaks of “My Father”.

The words spoken by Jesus suggest that He is committed to giving relationship PRIORITY over every other relationship of His life.

As the adult life of Jesus’ life unfolds, this is obviously the PRIORITY by which He lives; but it didn’t begin when He was an adult.  It began in the early days of His life voiced by Him when he was twelve!

In VERSE 49, Jesus is emphatic when He says, “I had to be in My Father’s house.”  

Literally, it would read “My Father’s things.”  This meaning is the same essentially whether you understand “things”, or “house”.

“Had to be” in some translations is a strong word from the Greek language.  It’s the word that speaks of “divine necessity.”  

The word “MUST” is the better idea.

Jesus realizes at the age of twelve that his first responsibility in life is to do the will of His Heavenly Father–and His first interest must be the things of the Father.

The most important house then must be the Father’s house!

I learned when I was a young father many years ago that children can begin to determine their PRIORITIES very early in their lives:  Going out to brunch after church on Sundays; cleaning of their rooms before going outside to play…

We are not told that Jesus established them at twelve, but we are allowed to see they are already in place.

For all of us, and especially young people now is the time to determine what comes FIRST in your life.  If you’ll get the PRIORITIES in place, the other decisions that arise in life will fall into their proper position.

What We Can Learn from Jesus about the Value of Submission (vv. 50-51 NLT):

[50] Yet his parents did not understand the remark he made to them.  

[51] Then he went with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.  But his mother kept all these things in her heart.

This action doesn’t conflict with the PRIORITIES that have already been established.  In fact, they are an expression of the priorities that He has just stated.

The FIRST submission of Jesus was to God, and then to His parents.

Jesus’ submission to His parents was voluntary.  And children who do not learn to SUBMIT their lives to God, usually have difficulty submitting their lives to their parents.

There is no suggestion that Jesus’ response to His parents was to the pressures they put on Him.  Rather, as a part of His daily life as a twelve-year-old, He voluntarily gave Himself to a life of OBEDIENCE to His parents.  This is the only kind of submission that has any value.

SUBMISSION that is forced can actually have the same qualities as REBELLION.

Every young person, every child needs to learn a valuable lesson here from Jesus.  His parents were not perfect, but He knew that they were God’s appointed GUARDIANS of His ways, so He submitted to them.  This SUBMISSION was part of the preparation for what God had sent Him into the world to do!

We Can Learn from Jesus about Growth in Our Lives (v.52)

[52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in the favor with God and man.  (NIV Bible)

In VERSE 40, Luke had written,  “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”

This faces us with the mystery of Jesus’ life.

We know that He was the INCARNATION of the living God, the Son of God. Yet the incarnation was such that growth was necessary for His life.

He grew just like every other child must grow and we can learn from His growth the importance of balance.

LEARNING TO USEFUL –

Dr. Luke points out that He grew physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially:

  • He grew physically for “he grew in stature.”  Physical growth is important.
  • He grew mentally for He “grew in wisdom.”  Through His study at the feet of Mary; His involvement at the local synagogue; His visits to the Temple as He grew in His understanding of the Truth of God.
  • He grew spiritually, for He grew “in favor with God.”

Never a moment was He not totally pleasing to God, but in order for that to occur, He must continually GROW SPIRITUALLY.

Jesus was perfectly where a twelve-year-old should be in spiritual growth at the age of twelve.  But at the beginning of a ‘teens’ life, He was perfectly where a thirteen-year-old should be.  And as it was always.

  • And then He grew socially, for he was “in favor with men.”

His ability to relate to others in an acceptable way grew normally and perfectly.

Many of our children today, including our church kids, are not growing in this way.  They may be growing physically and mentally, but the social and spiritual way may be stunted.

JESUS MODELS GROWTH for us all and it should be balanced.

The Growth of The Preteen Jesus Teaching of Patience –

  • Jesus was PATIENT for the process of life to take its course.  He was PATIENT to keep on growing until the Lord God said that it was time to begin His ministry.  He didn’t get ahead of God but waited on Him.  He waited until the age of thirty before He started the mission that the Lord God had given Him and continued not to be impatient for God’s timing in His life.

“My Hour Has Not Come”

This is such an important lesson, one that I continue to learn, and one to learn, especially for young people today!

DO NOT GET IMPATIENT with God and with life.  

Just keep on establishing the right priorities, submitting to the rightful authority and go on growing as a person, and in God’s timing (not yours), He will launch you forward on His mission.  He will open the right doors for you!

No detail of the life of our Lord and Savior is without significance.

The little details are significant for all of us to take in.  It helps us see the PLAN of God for His children and youth today.  Jesus walked the way we should all walk in these matters.

____________________________________________

CREDITS:

Commentaries:  Dr. G. Flattery – Luke 2:41-52; “My Father’s Business” – Global Christian Center.

Growing Up God’s Way by Jeremy Meyers.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life’s Encounters In A “Passionate Church” Enviornment

SCENE from the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In 1962, ‘folk music’  filled the airways and in my opinion, The Kingston Trio exemplified the craze.  Half of my vinyl record collection celebrated their music: M.T.A., Good News, All My Sorrows, and of course my favorite, Tom Dooley; first recorded in 1958.  So when I got the news that this famous trio was going to be in concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!

So when I got the news this famous trio was going to be in a live concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!

After the concert, I asked my date if she wanted to go back stage and see if we could get autographs, or at least see them up close.  I was especially bold that night, most likely trying to show off a little in front of my date. Alright, it wasn’t “a little.”

As we walked backstage, I saw two giants of men standing at the foot of some stairs.  “They surely wouldn’t let us climb those stairs,” I thought to myself.  But they parted, like the Red Sea, and we went to the top and into a small dressing room.  And there, standing in their boxer shorts, was Nick Reynolds, Dave Guard, and Bob Shane.  Our mouths dropped.  How did we get this far without being escorted through a back door into the alley?  Could I actually get an autograph from the Kingston Trio members?

Well, we didn’t.  But Nick (right side of photo) did wave at us over the tops of the news cameras and that made it an evening to remember!  ‘Nick really knows me!’

THAT WAS AN ENCOUNTER.  

However, if Nick…I thought I was on a first name basis seeing him in his “shorts”… had invited us over to his dressing table and invited us to dinner in getting to know us better, my encounter would have given way to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.   That is a huge difference.

I submit to you that most church folks attending Pentecostal churches I’ve attended over the years have become accustomed to ENCOUNTERS with God.

Too many of us have been attending church for years, faithfully, religiously, and we have been experiencing encounters.

  • We SETTLE for weekly ENCOUNTERS with God.
  • We see Him at a distance.
  • We see physical evidence of Him in our life.

But I want to put a CHALLENGE out front–We need more than just AN ENCOUNTER.  We need a CLOSE ENCOUNTER.  CONTACT!

Close Encounters Are Different.

One of the best examples I found is the story of the 10 lepers;  10 get healed, 10 lives are changed!  10 destinies are forever reshaped and marked by the POWER of God!!

However, only ONE had a close encounter while NINE settles for just an encounter.

9 SETTLED for ‘spiritual pornography’

Cheap thrills with no relationship or intimacy. While 1 has a close encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Luke 17:11-19].

So the challenge for most of us as a church body and as individuals is whether we’ll SETTLE for an encounter time to time or will we call it a “good church”; we get goosebumps, get to shout out the AMEN’s, get to show off our spiritual gifts a little.

Or, will we hold out and hold on to a life changing, world wrecking, city shaking, addiction-breaking, marriage restoring, teenager rescuing close encounter with our God?

In order for us to see these events happen, we have to make a CHOICE and a DECISION–we have to determine the type of CHURCH that we are attending will be.

After my personal bible study this past week, I believe there are TWO OPTIONS available that can be found in Scripture.

The FIRST CHURCH is found in Ezekiel 44:11-14:

[11]  They [the priests] may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them.  [12] But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord.  [13] They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices.  [14] And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done there.  (NIV Bible)

The MESSAGE Bible says in verses 13-14:  “They’re fired from the priesthood.  No longer will they come into my presence and take care of my holy things.  No more access to The Holy Place!  They’ll have to live with what they’ve done, carry the shame of their vile and obscene lives.  

[14] From now on, their job is to sweep up and run errands.  That’s it.”

You can have a church like this–

  • We can come in and have charge of the house!
  • We can minister in the house!
  • We can offer sacrifices in the house!
  • We can sing in the house, praise in the house, and do church in the house!!!

BUT never come near Him.

We can have the things of God and never really have God.  That is an OPTION.  We can settle for an ENCOUNTER.

Or we cam make up our minds that it is more than that.  We can make up our minds and determine in our hearts that as members of the body of Christ we aren’t about to SETTLE for sweeping and running errands. There’s got to be more than that.

We have to set our face like a flint and fight for our place of meeting God on Sunday’s like the church described in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14: 

We can have a CHURCH, where regardless of your rank or assignment, 

  • You can be an usher,
  • A janitor,
  • An Elder/Deacon,
  • Or, the Pastor…

And it won’t matter.  You can experience the same amount of GLORY as the next person.

The GLORY will be just as strong in the church parking lot as it is in the SANCTUARY.  Just as powerful in the nursery as in the Home Bible Study.

What really matters is that we are all after the same thing.

We can have CHURCH where the GLORY of the Lord is so strong that none of us can stand it!

We can have a CHURCH where the close encounter is so close…all we can do is stand in AWE!

We can have a CHURCH where the move of God is so profound and so pronounced that A CITY will have to sit up and take notice, sinners will flock to find out what is happening–that the STARVED will find spiritual food as well as physical food, that the DRUG ADDICT will fall short-changed, that the UNLOVED will find the LOVE for which they have so longed for.

WE HAVE A CHOICE

We can SETTLE for the brief encounters that have satisfied us for so long.  

BUT as for me and my house, if we are going to have another Ezekiel 44 church we might as well shut all the doors at church. 

If the people on Sunday Morning or on any day of the week are going to walk in and leave exactly how they entered, broken, devastated, addicted and sick…then take all the equipment back!

My personal choice is to have a church where I have, and hopefully, you will have, a close encounter with God and that stuff will fall off and stay off!

I like when this man said in a statement:

“A church is not a church until God decides that it will become a place of divine visitation.  The building may seem one of architectural splendor and exquisite design, but it is not a church until God issues a certificate of divine occupancy and takes up residence there.”

**[See Footnote [i] ]

So, I present a challenge to all of us where we are.  

Will we stop at an encounter?  Will we be satisfied with a little taste here and there?  Will you wink and say “yeah they have a cool church” or will you make a commitment with me to pursue His presence at all costs.

My hope and prayer are that we will press in until God issues a “certificate of divine occupancy” in a fellowship of believers.  How does this happen?

Ask yourself, as I have asked myself on numerous occasions, are you willing to settle for an encounter or will you ask for more?  

When was the last time YOU had a “close encounter”?

____________________________________________

CREDITD & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Leading Your Congregation through the Wilderness by H. Beecher Hicks.

PHOTOS:  All from Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) unless stated in the text.

HEAVEN’S LAST CALL!

Scripture:  Hebrews 9:27-28

You’ve probably heard the old saying– “The only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes.”  I’m not so sure that statement is absolutely true, however.  With enough deductions, loopholes, and “creative” accounting [one man I know, deducted his “dog” as a dependent], some people avoid paying most, if not all, of their taxes.

So, there’s NO GUARANTEE there, about taxes.  But that still leaves with DEATH to deal with.

God Doesn’t Give Guided Tours to Heaven or Hell.

There have been many who claim to have been to Hell and Heaven. They came back or were sent back to tell us all about it.  

  • Atheists have been to Hell and Heaven.
  • Professing Christians also have been to Heaven or Hell.

Are these valid experiences or things to distract people from the real Gospel and look to second chances or adopt an attitude of FATALISM?

The only sure word concerning “life after death” is the Word of God.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15:

[15] For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death].”  (Amplified Bible)

Now obviously the term “fallen asleep” is softened term to refer to those who have already died.  Paul is concerned for the church at Thessalonica not to be misinformed about what happens after death.

I’ve had discussions about DEATH with people who think when you die, you simply cease to exist.  But that isn’t true according to the Bible.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  This implies an existence after death.

Yet that this body is a temporary dwelling place is a universal truth, instinctively understood by all, until as Ray Stedman says, “They are educated beyond their intelligence and they start denying it.”

Some folks say that when a person dies, they are “reincarnated” into something or someone else.

If you ever see reincarnation in its rawest form such as in India where Hinduism has a firm hold, you will understand that they see reincarnation as a hopeless cycle of endless misery.  Reincarnation, as it is presented today, has been “Americanized”; that means changed to suit the needs of the American culture.

Reincarnation, as it is presented today, has been “Americanized”; that means changed to suit the needs of the American culture.

East Indians understand reincarnation to be an endless cycle whose only HOPE is to finally enter into Nirvana–the place of nothingness.  Now isn’t THAT encouraging.

But looking closely at the words in Scripture, (Hebrews 9:27) you get just one run in life and that’s it!

Some folks think they will “get their life together before they die” or somehow there is a “second chance” given after death.

Although it may sound feasible to “get our life together” first–wouldn’t it be great if we were given a 30-minute warning buzzer, but unfortunately we are not.

DEATH almost always catches us by surprise.  Sometimes death comes when it’s generally expected–after we have lived a long and full life.  My dad died two years ago at the age of 100.  His constant reminder to the family of his 100th birthday celebration was “I’m ready to go!”

But at other times death comes abruptly–far too soon in our way of viewing things.

And by the same token, the person who says “NO” to Jesus in this life, thinking that they’ll be given another chance in the life to come, banking on nothing more than wishful thinking.

The Story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

Both men died as the story is told by Jesus; Lazarus was carried away by angels to Abraham’s bosom [paradise, heaven] and the Rich Man was buried and finds himself in Hades, a place of torment [Hell] – (verse 24).

When the Rich Man is told there are no second chances and he pleads that Lazarus be sent to his father’s house with five brothers residing, to warn them.

The Chasm Between the rich man and Lazarus

The answer is given in VERSE 31:  “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

One day we will die and unless we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior we will face JUDGMENT after we die.

The only opportunity we will ever have to get right with God is the opportunity God gives us in this life.  As the Rich Man learned, there is NO second chance after DEATH.

After dealing with a few misconceptions about DEATH, I want to point to what will occur when we die.

FIRST, Death is A Certainty!!!

Medical science has dome wonders in extending our lives.  New medical procedures–bi-pass clogged arteries, as I personally found out several years ago.  New procedures to filter impurities from our blood, to fight cancer cells and to replace worn out joints.  Vaccines that have eliminated diseases such as Polio and other dreaded diseases of the past.

But no one has discovered a CURE for DEATH.

Despite all the advances that have been made in medical science, it is still true that the DEATH RATE remains exactly as it always has been:  a flat 100%.  Everyone will die.

In Hebrews 9:27 we are told, “Just as people are destined to die once…”, and in Ecclesiastes 7:2 Solomon wrote, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

The question is not HOW can we remain but WHAT AWAITS US when we die.

Death Is Permanent.

A Clipping in Newsweek magazine:  From a letter to a dead person from Greenville County (S.C.), Department of Social Services…

“Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992, because we have received notice that you passed away.  May God bless you.  You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”  [See Footnote [i] ]

The fact is, that DEATH when it comes, is irreversible.  When you cross over, there is no coming back.

Not only is DEATH a certainty but…

SECOND, Judgment Is A Reality.

The Word of God tells us that after DEATH each one of us will certainly face JUDGMENT.

God’s word speaks of TWO entirely different Judgments.

The first is for BELIEVERS – The Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10 – Amplified Bible):

“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].”

This doesn’t concern salvation, for this judgment is for BELIEVERS, that has already been settled.

This JUDGMENT determines REWARDS [“pay”] for service given to the Lord.

THE SECOND judgment is for UNBELIEVERS – The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15):

It is obvious that NO ONE would wish to be a part of that JUDGMENT, but all those who have REJECTED Christ Jesus in this life on earth, will face Him as Judge in the next life.

It will be a horror beyond description standing before Jesus and hear him say,  “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”  (Matthew 25:41).  But on that day it will be too late! Decision-making time has passed!!

Not only is JUDGMENT real but thank the Lord…

THIRD, Salvation Is A Possibility (9:28).

[28] So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

The DEATH OF CHRIST on the Cross, according to this verse applied to “many.”  I underlined “many” in my Bible.

You see Christ’s death doesn’t take away the SIN if everyone.  Not everyone receives the SALVATION that is available through Jesus’ death on the Cross.  Not everyone BELIEVES and RECEIVES, and that’s why ETERNAL SALVATION is only a possibility.  But if we have never done so, there is still time.

HEAVEN IS CALLING!!

TODAY CAN BE THE DAY OF SALVATION!!!

____________________________________

Footnotes & Credits –

Footnote [i] :  Food Stamps – Parrix.

Additional Commentary:  “Does God Give Tours of Heaven and Hell?” by Dr. Ronald Shultz.

Photo Credit:  Google Image Search.

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