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

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’?

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. 

 

 

IN THE UPCOMING NEW YEAR…Put On Your Seat Belts And Hold On!

IN THE UPCOMING NEW YEAR…Put On Your Seat Belts And Hold On!

SCRIPTURE, JOEL 2:21-27:

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Looking at JOEL, chapter 2 in this BLOG-STUDY, we read that an invasion had taken place in Israel; an invasion of “locusts” that stripped God’s people of everything, and I mean everything (Joel 1:4-20).

What those nasty swarming locusts did to the people, our persistent ‘nasty’ sins will do to us.  Our only HOPE is to recognize God’s CALL:

“Return to Me with ALL your heart” (Joel 2:12)

To those who turn to the LORD in REPENTANCE, regardless of the sins that envelope them, He promised…

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten–” (v. 25)

The Land That Suffered Under God’s Judgement Would Be BLESSED!

There is a “now, but not yet” taste to this passage of Scripture.

Eventually in the new heavens and the new earth, in the consummation of ALL THINGS, the Church will see the total fulfillment of God’s PROMISES here.

RESTORATION is the work of the LORD alone;  “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!”

JOEL maintains a “prophetic” observance forming part of the New Year ritual.

QUESTION:  So how will God RENEW us in 2017?

  • NO FEAR (vs. 21-22):

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FEAR is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  It prepares us either to run from or fight against the presumed danger [ *See footnote [i] ].

The BIBLE uses words like fear, afraid, terror, dread, anxiety, tremble, shake and quake over 850 times to portray the center core of our emotions.

We are fragile beings, given to fears of every kind.  We have a built-in insecurity that no amount of ‘whistling in the dark’ can lessen the anxiety.

FEAR attacks the most precious parts of our life, keeping us from living the life God meant for us.  So God wants to help us overcome our insecurities; our fears as we learn to “FEAR NOT!”

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control”  (2 Timothy 1:7 – AMP).

With everything that’s going on in the world today, the SPIRIT OF FEAR seems to be working overtime!  BUT…the “spirit of fear” doesn’t come from God, crippling to anyone who holds on to it.  SATAN wants us to be overwhelmed so we cannot accomplish the things we need to do.  Remember, if God is for us, no one (including the devil) can be against us!

The Land Had Suffered…

The prophet Joel has vividly pointed out the impact from the drought connected with the locust devastation on the land; BUT NOW…the call is to JOY and GLADNESS.  Things are now reversed.  Instead of mourning, exaltation; instead of sadness, there’s joy and gladness; instead of ‘the day of the Lord’–the very great and terrible FEAR, there is “FEAR NOT”!

We can conquer our fears!

To admit that we are afraid is to admit that we are human.  But to admit being afraid and then trusting the Lord and going forward will take the FEAR out of FEAR.

FIRST MONTH OF FORMER/LATTER RAIN (vs. 23-24)

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ISRAEL has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, rainless summers and relatively short, cool, rainy winters.  Rainfall is unevenly distributed, significantly lower in the south of the country [Wikipedia].

Bible history also shows that the patriarchs, like Abraham, dug wells wherever they went with quarrels of water.  Thus, RAIN was directly correlated with the livelihood of the people in Israel; their survival was threatened when it didn’t rain!

THE FORMER RAIN–

The FORMER RAIN should fall enough to yield a good harvest for the upcoming year.  

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Since there is no rain during the dry season, it’s impossible to cultivate farmland unless it rains.  That is why the FARMERS wait with anticipation for the FORMER RAIN while getting ready to farm for the year (James 5:7):

[7] Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn ans spring rains (NIV).

The former and latter rains, which comes at the right time for farming in Israel, is a BLESSING from God.  So most of the RAIN recorded in the Bible figuratively, represents God’s GRACE & BLESSINGS poured out on His people.

Physical farming in ISRAEL, controlled by RAIN, represents the GOSPEL work of God spiritually (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-40).

The two special rains in the farming season–the former and latter rain (Autumn & Spring rains)–represent the Holy Spirit that God gives us in spiritual farming.

THE PROPHECY OF THE LATTER RAIN–

The coming down of the “latter rain” at the HARVEST TIME is to be fulfilled through the work of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, God POURS OUT on us for the Gospel Work of gathering God’s people represented by the WHEAT, from the ends of the earth, in the SPIRITUAL HARVEST TIME.

Now is the age of the Feast of Tabernacles–

It is the spiritual fruiting season–when we should ask our Heavenly Father, who rules and manages ALL THINGS, to pour out on us the Holy Spirit of the latter rain.

As gospel workers, we are to accomplish the amazing work of the Holy Spirit by preaching the “good news”–the Gospel; boldly being clothed with the abundant GRACE of the Holy Spirit our Heavenly Father has poured out.

This is what we need church in our day!

  • WE NEED the Lord to open the windows of Heaven to erase the spiritual drought we’ve been living under of late.
  • WE NEED Him to send the heavenly RAINS upon us one more time.
  • WE NEED Him to give back everything the enemy has tried to take away from us.
  • WE NEED revival of His manifest presence among His people.
  • WE NEED power in our services.
  • WE NEED a revival of holiness in the church.

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WE NEED REVIVAL!!!

Oh that God’s people would SEEK His face and ask Him for the move of God we so desperately need in these last days.  This should be at the top of our prayers!

RESTORATION (vs. 25-26 a.):

Whatever the ENEMY has taken away from you, God wants to RESTORE IT!  God wants to make it better than before!!  That’s the kind of Father He is.

Every day we have CHOICES put before us.  We can be tempted to get hurt, wounded, or sometimes, depressed.  And believe me, I’ve been down this beaten path before over my lifetime.

We can complain and remain in the same awful condition, OR…we can PRAISE God and be raised up.

ISRAEL’S CROPS had been destroyed by a LOCUST INVASION

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AND, the impact lasted more than one year.  When locust destroyed the crop, they wiped out the SEED saved the previous year and the HARVEST of the current year and the SEED that would be used the next year.  It was a multi-year impact on the people.

JOEL 2:25 now complements the preceding verse, which says,

And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust…”

Joel has used the LOCUST INVASION as an illustration of God’s judgment.  In His promise to “restore/replace” the years lost to the locust, God is pledging to RESTORE His repentant people with a place of BLESSING after judgment.

THE TEXT describes other positive things that would take place during this RESTORATION:

  • GREEN PASTURES for livestock in verse 22.
  • TREES & VINES that bear fruit–verse 22.
  • THE SPRING & SUMMER RAINS would come as needed for a good crop in verse 23.

And the RESULT of the RESTORATION would be physical and spiritual:

— THE PHYSICAL:  “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full” – verse 26.

— THE SPIRITUAL:  “You will praise the name of the Lord your God” – verse 26.

God’s ultimate desire is not to punish His children, but to RESTORE them!

He PROMISED to send new wine, grain and oil.

He PROMISED never to make them an object of scorn among the nations.

In addition, He PROMISED to drive the “army.”

NO DISGRACE HERE!  (vs. 26 b.-27).

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The prophet JOEL is talking about the FUTURE PROSPERITY of the church–the ABUNDANCE of spiritual food that the church will not be in shame or sorrow.

BUT…when much is given–much is required from us.  There is an EXPECTATION from God; ALL these plentiful provisions we enjoy are going to testify that there is only ONE God–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is also the ‘Great I AM.’  In no way or form will the body of Christ (the CHURCH) be disgraced.

In today’s headlines, we see many nations trying to DISGRACE Israel…but not entirely.  Their negligence of God, by cutting Him off from their lives, has escalated them to this position.

Our nation is walking down the same road that Israel took centuries ago and lost all their blessings.  So it becomes imperative that the church rises up and takes hold of their responsibility in leading the people in a godly way and direction so that they are RENEWED!

The PROMISE of ‘no shame’ to God’s people.

This PROMISE is mentioned twice in this passage of Scripture, solidifying the seriousness of God to bestow this on His people.

If we are going to call ourselves ‘children of God,’ we can’t take this lightly–but should hold tight to this assurance and allow God to RENEW us in the New Year.

Now the ROAD to get there at times may be rough–we may be deceived by the enemy; that we will not be granted with this BLESSING, but when God is with us, we will surely get there!

My desire is to be a ‘BARNABAS’ [*Bible Study Tools, Barnabas meaning] to my readers in the upcoming New Year by encouraging and articulating in the year of 2017, bringing RENEWAL and ABUNDANCE that God offers to all of our lives!

For that FIRST and FOREMOST, we must…

  • Fear not!
  • Enjoy the blessings of the latter and former rain.
  • Accept God’s restoration plan for our life.
  • You shall not be put to shame and know that He alone is God and there is no other!

So get ready, and buckle up, and hold on!!!

 


CREDITS & fOOTNOTE:

Footnote [i]:  Google Dictionary for FEAR.

Photos:  Google IMAGE Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified bible (AMP), unless noted in the text.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

“RECKLESS GIVING” In the Upcoming New Year

“RECKLESS GIVING” In the Upcoming New Year

MARK 14:3-9 (King James Bible):

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One my favorite things to do is to activate my imagination while writing a script for a play, using stories in Scripture as the base.  The story in the above verses was no exception.  So let me start by SETTING THE SCENE.

I can only imagine how the TABLE CONVERSATION must have transpired.

LAZARUS speaking to Simon the Leper:

‘I’m thanking you for allowing me to come in your house.  I can’t think of any other place I would rather be–but to be here with you!  And since I’m her Scaly, I want to ask you a question, tell me–how was life before you met Christ?’

SIMON THE LEPER must have said,

‘Let me tell you that nobody would talk to me.  In fact, my life was on a narrow ledge.  I have no relationships or reputation with other people.  I only hang around with other people who were just like me.  And then one day, I heard that this Wonder Worker, JESUS, was coming through town and that He worked the night shift and that He made house calls–and all I know is that He spoke to me and my skin began to transform, like the skin on a newborn baby…You’ve asked about MT encounter Lazarus, what about you?  How did it feel being dead, sleeping in the grave?  How did that feel?’

The SCENE as they exchanged stories together:

  • The DISCIPLES sat there at the u-shaped table…
  • MARTHA was serving as Martha always does.

And Conspicuously Absent…

Martha’s sister, MARY, as usual.  MARY only had TWO cameo appearances prior to this one.

  • One, when Jesus visits the household of MARY and she sits at His feet.
  • And then again in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, when she rushes Jesus and says, ‘Jesus, please come and save my brother.’

And here in this passage in Mark; MARY does something out of the ordinary–

  • Because if you want to get what you’ve never had, you have to do something that you’ve never done.
  • God works at His best when we are bold enough to step outside of the box of human conformity.
  • If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.
  • Staying in the box of conformity and a narrow mindset doesn’t impress a God Who already declared that He’s more than enough!

The Extravagance of God’s GLORY is Connected to The Recklessness & Liberality of My Giving”  [Quote by Kraig Pullam, Pastor/Chaplain]

LEARNING HOW TO MODEL THE COST OF MARY’S GIFT –

Mark 14:3:  “a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment (perfume) of pure nard, very costly and precious; and she broke the jar and poured [the perfume] over His head.”

In my study this week, I found that MARY is mentioned 3 times in Scripture and each time she’s found at Jesus’ feet!

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  1.  LISTENING.  Luke 10:39.
  2.  SORROWING.  John 11:32.
  3.  WORSHIPING.  John 12:3.

And at His feet she found BLESSING; she brought her burdens, her cares, her fears, her anxiety, and she GAVE at His feet her best.

Looking At What Mary Gave (Verse 3):

In Matthew (26:7), it is called “very precious” or “costly” fragrant oil–“alabaster jar” or “flask” is made of marble and very expensive itself; breaking it was a sign that ALL was to be used.  The custom in the East was, if a glass was used by a distinguished guest, it was broken so that it would never again be touched by the hand of any lesser person.

So Mary was giving Christ her BEST and her ALL!

“Ointment (perfume) of pure nard, very costly…”

VERSE 5 teaches the value of the gift was “more than 300 denarii”…almost a year’s salary in the 1st Century.  For example, it was estimated that the 5,000 men, plus women and children, could have been fed with 2/3 of this amount [Mark 6:37; 200 denarii].

Mary with her lavish heart and hand–not cautious in giving, but RECKLESS!

QUESTION:  When was the last time YOUR GIVING could be regarded as “RECKLESS”?

When I say “reckless,” it’s not the value of our gifts which He regards, but the LOVE of the heart which gives them!  LOVE is not concerned to see how little it can decently give.  There seems to be a RECKLESSNESS IN LOVE which refuses to count the cost.

This woman acted on the impulse of LOVE because she knew in her heart of hearts that if she didn’t do it then, she would never do it at all.

Mary in the moment acted with absolutely controlled adoration for her Lord and Savior; she lost all sense of restraint and economy.

THE TRUE WORSHIPER & STEWARD GIVES JESUS WHATEVER HE HAS…knowing it is nothing compared to what has been received from Him.

MARY had lost herself in Jesus and as a result, wasn’t even conscious of others or her surroundings in her giving.

Our GIVING should always reflect the gratitude–our LOVE–toward the object of our affection.

After 52 years of marriage to the same woman, each year my GIVING daily is the reflection of my love towards her.  It is never about the dollar value of the gift.  It’s doing the unexpected!  It’s even EXTRAVAGANT at times!!

Extravagant Giving is what you should desire to give toward God because your desire for God is to be extravagant with YOU!

Look at Sis. Mary and her commitment–EXPENSIVE OINTMENT/PURE NARD.

– she didn’t just sprinkle a little bit of ointment on Jesus,

– she didn’t just take a small portion of the perfume out and place that on Jesus,

– she didn’t just measure it out so carefully, no, she POURED it out on Jesus.

IN OUR SERVING THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WE DON’T MEASURE IT OUT.

If you are going to SERVE, don’t just see how little you can do for Him, or how little you can GIVE to Him and get by.

If you’re going to SERVE THE LORD JESUS, then POUR IT OUT upon Him-

  • Give Him ALL you got!
  • Give it ALL you can give it, because that’s the kind of SERVICE that Jesus demands!

For some, our GIVING has become conformed to our level of COMFORT–COMFORT GIVING.

  • We tip God (the better our week went, the bigger the tip!).
  •  We tease God (make God think we’re about to give Him part of us–and then, change our mind).
  • We trick God (we give to Him because He has something we want–and we at least have enough sense to know, He’s in the BLESSING business–so we’ll give to Him because we want a house, we want a car, we want a man, we want a woman…you get the idea).

You see, when you TREASURE Him–He becomes the FIRST thing that crosses your mind beginning every day!

When JESUS is your TREASURE–

Your GIVING is not limited or relegated to what is convenient for you; but by what God has not only required of you–but you want to give Him even more because He means just that much to you.

When you TREASURE Him–

Then your LIFE connects to the law of mutual dependency–where He gives me “treasure” so that I can break whatever it is that can release the “treasure” He gave me–so that I can give it back to Him–and the MIRACLE in MY LIFE is realized as He POURS His purpose in me through ABUNDANCE–because I was willing to POUR MY HEART into Him through my obedience.  I hope all this makes sense to you.

See, when we are POURING, then you recognize that YOUR CONDITION ISN’T YOUR CONCLUSION!

–Whatever you SOW, you shall also REAP!

  • IF you sowed during affliction, you shall reap!
  • IF you’ve sown during pain, you shall reap joy!
  • IF you sow in tears, you shall reap in laughter!
  • IF you sow when you didn’t have anything, you shall reap and have it all!
  • IF you sow when you were last, you shall reap when God makes you first!
  • IF you sow during your times of darkness, you shall reap during the light!

SO, WHAT WAS MARY DOING?

Mary, in a real sense, was in WORSHIP.  To her, it was worth it to POUR OUT ALL of what she had upon the Most High God.

“WORSHIP” as you might know, and our word “WORTH” are closely connected.  In fact, the Old English spelling of worship is “worthship”  [More Than Worship, It’s Worthship, Craig T. Owens June 24, 2010].

WORSHIP is realizing the “worth-ship” of a thing or a person.

The QUESTION becomes, “How much is JESUS worth to us?”  I can tell you what He’s WORTH to me–but “How much is He WORTH to you?”

  • It’s not a WASTE to pour your life out on Jesus.  HE’S WORTH IT!
  • It’s not a WASTE to wake up in the morning and enter holy conversation with a loving God.  HE’S WORTH IT!
  • It’s not a WASTE to come to the Lord’s house and drive 5 minutes or even 5 hours–to come into this house to gather in His name and WORSHIP Him.

What makes GOD worthy is because He is WORTH IT!

— You kiss up yo your boss, but is he or she worth it?

secretaries-kissing-boss-b6f67b

— You work so that you can make more to impress everybody around you, but are they worth it?

— You sacrifice your time because you want to get bigger and finer things accomplished–but are those bigger and finer things worth it?

My ANSWER is… NO!

— Your boss didn’t die for you.

— Your paycheck isn’t what makes your heart tremble or make the sun from light you see every morning shine.

— The bigger and finer things won’t answer you when you PRAY about your sickness or your fractured marriage, broken relationships or that prodigal child who strayed from home.

You better LEARN like Mary did; how to build your hope on things eternal while holding on to God’s unchanging hands.  All because His hand is the ONLY hand big enough to give you an 100 fold return on time, talent and resources that you have already given by Him.

A Critique of the Crowd’s Stupidity –

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There will always be people who identify themselves as followers of Christ Jesus–who say that they are friends of the kingdom, but in reality, they are enemies.

There will always be people who tell you, ‘Now it doesn’t take all of that!’

There will always be people when it comes to the giving of your time, talent and treasure–‘God understands’ (Well if God understood, then He wouldn’t have told me to do it!).

Let me just say here, that GOD’S WORD IS FLAWLESS and it is the FINAL AUTHORITY, period!

The WORD is the WORD and there will always be people who will try to best God’s Word.

— Either you BELIEVE that God was playing when He said you sow what you reap or you don’t.

— Either you BELIEVE that God was serious when He said present your body as a living sacrifice or you don’t.

— Either you BELIEVE that God owns it all or you don’t.

— And when it comes to STEWARDSHIP, you are either choosing true or false; multiple choice isn’t an option.

Watch the TEXT:  VERSE 4

“To what purpose was the ointment thus wasted?”

Now I thought it was interesting here, to know who was asking the question.

gospel-of-john-21-reaction-to-lazarus-resurrection-5-638

JUDAS’ criticism here sounds ‘spiritual’ and even though Judas spoke out, the DISCIPLES were “indignant”–“they answered and reproved her.”

JUDAS is a reminder to ALL of us every time there’s criticism of Christian generosity, that somewhere behind the CRITICISM there may be a JUDAS.

I don’t know about what your thinking while reading this account, but I think Mary must have been hurt, confused with emotions running wild.  I know I would have been.

The text doesn’t say it–but Mary must have thought in her mind, ‘Why are they criticizing ME?  They are the ones who are supposed to be His disciples!’

Adopting the Commendation of Jesus’ Word.

The DISCIPLES became “indignant”  (vs. 4).  In the Greek, it’s the sound of snorting horses.

And Jesus responds to the “snorting” with COMPASSION in His word.  The word COMPASSION means to step into someone else’s skin.

Jesus steps into her skin in a moment to empathize with her pain at the insult of their response.  And Christ responds in VERSE 6 by saying,

“Let her alone; why are you troubling her?”

We know that He is addressing ALL of the disciples, but more specifically, He’s addressing JUDAS.  It was Mary’s LOVE that motivated her to give her best; but JUDAS couldn’t take it.

MARY’S REWARD for her sacrificial gift was a moment of COMMENDATION.  

She couldn’t be a Pastor, or a Disciple, and she couldn’t write a book of the New Testament.  All she could do was this:  “She has done a good and beautiful thing to Me [praiseworthy and noble].”

And that’s all the LORD expects of us.  Jesus praised the LOVING NATURE of her GIFT.  She had done what she could and He knew it was done from LOVE!

Our GIFTS should be a SURRENDERED GIFT –

When we GIVE of our talents, our time, our resources–it shouldn’t be a GIFT that’s pulled out of you.  It should be a GIFT that you WILLINGLY surrender (Romans 12:1) and that “surrender” should be because you love Him.

ILL –my daddy got me a pinata.  I kept swinging.  He said, ‘Son…the name of the game is you have to break it; but you have to break it in the right place!’

MARY had been broken in the right place.  That’s why she could give what she had!

Some of you who are reading this–God is breaking you!  But He wants to get you in the right place!!!

  • ATTITUDE needs to be changed.
  • GRATITUDE needs to be altered.
  • CONDUCT needs to be modified.
  • CHARACTER needs to be sharpened.
  • STINGINESS needs to be destroyed.

GOD is breaking me as I write these words and He’s breaking you in the right place as you read this blog.  

AND JACOB WRESTLED!

Do you remember the bible story when JACOB wrestled with the “angel of the broken-vesselsLord’?  That angel said, ‘Let me go…for the day is breaking.’  But JACOB said…’I won’t let you go until you BLESS me.’  And all we know is the morning came and JACOB was on the ground.  But now he had a different walk.  Because when he takes a step forward, he discovers that he’s been changed.

“You can’t be BLESSED until you’ve been broken!”

 


CREDITS:

Bible Dictionary:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  King James Version (KJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified bible (AMP).

A Glimpse of GLORY

TEXT:  MATTHEW 9:2-13

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A school music teacher asked her class the difference between LISTENING and HEARING.  At first there was no response.  Finally a hand was raised and a youngster offered this wise definition:  “Listening is wanting to hear.”

As Christians, we should believe that the Holy Spirit is always speaking to us; (And He does not need to shout!).

The KEY here is that we must want to hear Him (Are we sensitive to the Spirit’s Voice).  Remember , He doesn’t waste His voice–He speaks to those who are willing to obey and listen!

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In this Scripture passage, God speaks; but it appears there’s only one out of the four people who is actually listening!

vs 2:  “Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves…”

Previously, there had been a watershed moment (8:29).  Simon Peter replied to Jesus’ question to the disciples “Who do you yourselves say that I am?”

[29] “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

From that time on, Jesus then explained to His disciples that He must die!  This is the FIRST TIME He had declared this news to His followers.  From now on, His direction is set for Jerusalem and the Cross.

THERE IS A PURPOSE FOR EVERYTHING!

Luke 9:22-23 (Amplified Bible):

[22] The Son of Man must suffer many things and be [deliberately] disapproved and repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be put to death and on the third day be raised [again].

[23] And He said to all, “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me” [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].

For both Jesus and the disciples, these six days prior was a time for reflection and this secluded mountain gave them time for contemplation.

For the disciples, each day that past week, the disciples must have pondered and discussed Jesus’ words about His death and resurrection.  No doubt they tried to figure out how this related; to the Old Testament promises of the kingdom of God.

Also, if Jesus was going to build a Church (i.e. Matthew’s gospel); what would happen to the promised kingdom?

For Jesus, it too was a time for reflection.

Luke in his version of this same event tells us (chapter 9 verse 29); Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  He had to be thinking through the situation that was ahead of Him in Jerusalem.

Miracle On The Mountain.

Scripture doesn’t name the place where this miracle took place; so we don’t know (but of course doesn’t stop people from guessing).

If you read the bible commentaries, they tell you that you have a choice of THREE; although no-one knows for sure!

map-transfiguration-location

Tradition says Mount Tabor, but Mount Tabor is quite small (1900 ft. high).  Not quite the “high” mountain described in Mark 9:2.  Also Mount Tabor was also topped with a fortified city which would hardly give the peaceful setting Jesus was looking for!

Mount Hermon (my personal choice), because both Matthew and Mark tell us it was a “high mountain.”

Mount Hermon is 9400 ft. high.  More importantly, it’s only 14 miles away from Caesarea Philippi where Jesus and His disciples were staying six days earlier.

Mount Jebel Jermak (or Jermuk) which is in upper Galilee is another choice (not on above map).  The highest elevation in that entire region (rising 4,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea).  Again, from this mountain, it was a relatively short distance to Capernaum where Jesus and the disciples had been staying.

So there you have it.  THREE MOUNTAINS to choose from.  But no one knows with any certainty.

THE DISCIPLES:

PETER, JAMES and JOHN regularly emerged as an inner group among the twelve. Once more, if we are honest, we don’t know why these were chosen!  We can only guess, and that’s what I’m going to do through my Scripture investigation.

  • PETER – In view of Peter’s great confession in chapter 8 verse 29, it is probably no surprise he was chosen to go.
  • JOHN – John had a special relationship with Jesus; a real close bond.  He is referred to as “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.  Of course Jesus loved ALL the disciples; but John seemed to enjoy an affinity with Jesus.
  • JAMES (John’s brother) – James was the first of the 12 disciples to be martyred for Christ.  Maybe, this warranted this special ‘mountain top’ privilege.

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan (Jesus.org) points out that on THREE occasions, Jesus took these same disciples aside to go with Him.  All three occasions dealt with DEATH.

  • They would be with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane when He surrendered to DEATH.
  • And here, at the Transfiguration where Jesus taught them that He would be GLORIFIED in DEATH.

The Voice of Prophecy —verses 2-4 in the (Message bible):

In a Light-Radiant Cloud

[2-4]  Six days later, …Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain.  His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes.  His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them.  Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus.

transfiguration

The PHYSICAL ILLUMINATION clearly wasn’t easy for these men to put their experience into words, and the gospel writers describe what happened to Jesus in slightly different ways.  Remember, the brightest artificial light they knew was a feeble candle or an oil lamp.

  • They knew nothing of powerful spotlights.
  • The sight before them must have been breath-taking.
  • It was both frightening and impressive and they were stunned by it.

The SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION –

What the disciples saw was SPIRITUAL as well as PHYSICAL.

The VEIL of Jesus’ humanity was briefly drawn back.  

These 3 men saw Jesus in a way they had not done ever before.  This was a one-off unique occurrence and the only time while Jesus was on earth that He revealed His GLORY in this way.

I remember when I was a young boy in school, when the teacher held up a jar with a “cocoon”, as she called it, attached to a stick, walking up and down each row, making sure that we could all see the phenomena up close.

She mentioned that a caterpillar made the cocoon, then would change into a beautiful butterfly.  She called it, “metamorphosis”.

 

“METAMORPHOSIS” is the Greek word translated into English as “transfigured.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside.

Pupa of crow butterfly (Euploea sp)
Pupa of crow butterfly (Euploea sp)

For a few moments, Jesus’ physical body was TRANSFORMED into the likeness of what His resurrection body was to become in the glorified state [Young’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 802].  Jesus was “metamorphosed,” or ‘transfigured’; the change was on the outside that came from the inside.  THE GLORY of Jesus wasn’t reflected; but radiated from within!

CONSOLIDATION TAKES PLACE!

Question:  Why did this experience on the mountain take place?

Answer:  To consolidate, to reinforce, to strengthen the disciples.

They had to learn the important TRUTH…that SUFFERING and GLORY must go together.

Apart from Jesus’ suffering and death on the CROSS, there could be no GLORY–there could be no future kingdom!  All through this story, from start to finish is ‘GLORY’:

  • e.g. Matthew in his gospel records (Matthew 17:1-9):  Jesus’ “face shone like the sun.”
  • e.g. Mark tells us in verse 3:  His clothes became “dazzling white.”
  • e.g. In verse 5, we read about a “cloud”; Matthew in his gospel calls it “A bright cloud.”

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And consolidation for Jesus…?

“And Elijah appeared to them, accompanied by Moses, and they were holding a conversation with Jesus”  (Mark 9:4).

Have you wondered about what they were saying in conversation?  Well I did and I found the answer to that question in Luke 9 verse 31:

[31] “…and they were speaking of His exit [from life]…”

They spoke about His exit from life which He was about to bring to realization in Jerusalem.  They appeared to encourage Him to go on with His mission. Remember, in them (Moses & Elijah), ALL ISRAEL’S HISTORY recognized Jesus as its own fulfillment!  They recognized and knew Jesus as the One they had dreamed and spoke about!

And in all stories, there’s COMPLETION (verse 3).

THESE THREE MEN; Moses, Elijah and Jesus represent God’s dealings with mankind; Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament:

  • MOSES, THE LAW.
  • ELIJAH, THE PROPHETS.

The LAW and the PROPHETS was a description given to the whole of the Jewish Bible, the part we call the Old Testament.

Both men are the last Old Testament men mentioned in our English Old Testament:  Malachi 4:4-6, they both get a name check.

A Mistake is made (verse 5):

[5] Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good and suitable and beautiful for us to be here…”

Peter’s words here, are one of the great understatement of the Bible:  “It’s good to be here.”  This was an experience that both himself and John would never forget.

John would one day write (John 1:14b), “We [actually] saw His glory, such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace and truth.”

Peter would one day write (2 Peter 1:17-18):  [17] “For when He was invested with honor and glory from God the Father and a voice was borne to Him by the [splendid] Majestic Glory [in the bright cloud that overshadowed Him, saying], This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased and delight.  [18] We actually heard this voice borne out of heaven, for we were together with Him on the holy mountain.”

In VERSE 5, Peter seemed to be enjoying the experience so much that he wanted to prolong it.

  • Let’s build some shelters and we can stay here all night!

His intentions might have been good ones, but they were also wrong.

Notice that Peter wasn’t selfish in his words.  He suggests they build 3 shelters, one for each special guest.  Not 4 (including one for himself), or even 6 ( a shelter for everybody!).  It was a foolish statement!  As if Jesus and the two visitors had no other means of protecting themselves against the cold.

Notice next, God does what Peter could not do; God Himself provided a SUPERNATURAL COVERING for them (VERSE 7):

mark9_7

GOD’S VOICE spoke different things to those present on the mountaintop:

For Jesus, it was encouraging to have Moses and Elijah sharing with Him; telling Him that what He was doing was right.

But now, He had the VOICE of God, His Heavenly Father, publicly declaring what He was planning, by going to Jerusalem, was the right way.

The lesson for the disciples–JESUS is not just a successor but was superior to Moses and Elijah.  He is the FULFILLMENT of both the Law and the Prophets.

“JESUS ONLY” is God’s pattern!

So the SUPERNATURAL guests disappear!

Our Journey with the Disciples Down the Mountain.

Ah, yes, it happens!  Over the years of my Christian life, I’ve enjoyed many ‘mountaintop’ experiences.  But I would eventually find myself once again living in the ‘valleys.’

We are to use the truths and inspiration gained on the MOUNTAINTOPS as the disciples did; strengthening us for life down in the valley.

Jesus will be GLORIFIED as we serve Him daily…

So Jesus invites us to be His SERVANTS:  “SERVICE (servanthood) is not a list of things we do, though in it we discover things to do.  It is not a code of things, but a way of living.  To do specific acts of service is not the same thing as living in the DISCIPLINE of service”  [Richard Faster, “Celebration of Discipline”].

You see, it’s all about servanthood in the valley.

The Christian life is not primarily about moments of euphoria or periods of ecstasy, as nice and important as they are, but about being like JESUS in the real world.

GLORY COMES THROUGH SERVANTHOOD–

I love how God manifests His GLORY.  He manifested His GLORY on a mountain, and of course, He manifested His GLORY in a manger as a servant.  It’s the way God’s GLORY is seen today.  And through our SERVING, you and I are TRANSFORMED!

As Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 3:18):

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CREDITS & REFERENCES

The New Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form by Norman Lewis.

Bible Translations used:  Amplified Bible, unless otherwise stated (PHOTOS).

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

When Someone says “BUT,” Start Listening!

When Someone says “BUT,” Start Listening!

“HAVE I CROSSED THE LINE?  HAVE I COMMITTED THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN?”

I’ve heard these questions from people over the years, asking what the “unpardonable or unforgivable sin” is and there are some strange interpretations floated out there of what it is.

Today, if you look around, you’ll find groups who WORSHIP God the Father only, not believing that JESUS IS GOD.  And, some groups focus on JESUS only.

This might be the most ridiculous thing you’ve read or heard–BUT, You can’t worship the Father and not the Son and you would be right!  

But you see, we can be critical of such groups, but if we’re not careful, we might end up in the same boat.  All to often, we put little value upon the Holy Spirit who is one of God’s THREE equal persons.

WHOEVER MAY BLASPHEME AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT – Mark 3:28-30 

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Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“Common too common, is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit…the Church will never prosper until more reverently it believes in the Holy Spirit.”

SO…What is the “UNPARDONABLE SIN?  Didn’t Jesus say, “All sins will be forgiven?”

Let’s put things in context by looking at what was happening at the time.

Christ Jesus was performing miracle after miracle, healing physical diseases as well as the demon possessed.

People were amazed at His teaching and the works He performed and His popularity was growing at an alarming rate.  This troubled the RELIGIOUS leaders of the day, who also witnessed what Jesus was doing.

Those who witnessed these mind-blowing events responded in one of two ways:

  • Some were amazed and saw it as proof that Christ was the “promised One,” the Messiah.  Matthew’s account reaffirms the reactions of the people, in Matthew 12:23:

“And all the [crowds of] people were stunned with bewildered wonder and said, This cannot be the Son of David, can it?”

  • Others accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub”. Beelzebub may be a variant of Baal-zebub (2 Kings 1:2-3).  This is the name of an ancient Philistine idol, meaning “the god of flies”.

The “BUT” (s) in Scripture.

A wise man once said that when someone says “but,” start listening, for the part prior to the “but” is the setup.  The part after the “but” is what the person really came to say.

Let me toss this thought up in the air for a moment.  Jesus didn’t say that the RELIGIOUS leaders, the Scribes, had committed the “unforgivable sin.”  What He was saying was “BUT be careful, because you are about to cross the line.” (v. 29)

This wasn’t about what they had done, BUT what they were in danger of doing.

So far we read and see that:

  • They had rejected the witness of Jesus’ words.
  • They had rejected the witness of Jesus’ works.
  • BUT…they had NOT rejected God’s final witness, the HOLY SPIRIT, not yet anyway.

The Holy Spirit at this point in time, had not yet come.

The ONLY unforgivable sin is to REJECT the witness of the Holy Spirit and accepting Christ Jesus.  The Holy Spirit comes to CONVICT us of our sin and CONVINCE us that we need SALVATION.

Jesus is saying to these men, “If you treat the Holy Spirit like you do Me…If you reject Him like you do Me, you will NEVER be forgiven.”

The reality of it all is this:  IF you treat the nudging of the Spirit with a closed mind and closed heart, you’ll NEVER receive forgiveness…even though it is offered to you.  It is the SIN OF REFUSING forgiveness!

HERE’S WHAT JESUS WAS SAYING–God reached down to fallen man, in an act of LOVE, to redeem them.

In Old Testament times, God witnessed to men through His miracles and special revelations and through His prophets (Hebrews 1:1).  But man killed the prophets; stoned them and refused to listen.  We rejected them!

So then, you might say that FIRST, God came.

Then God, in a SECOND act of LOVE, sent His One and only Son (John 3:16).

During the days of Christ, He Himself was God’s witness of SALVATION to the world.

Today, the Holy Spirit is God’s WITNESS to the hearts of mankind.

  • He bears witness of Christ (John 15:26).
  • He convicts men of their lost condition (John 16:7-11).

HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S FINAL CALL!

Every time a person REJECTS His witness/conviction, he moves one step closer to eternal judgment and condemnation.

In study this past week, I remembered the story about the guy who was given a WARNING that a flood was coming.  The news report went out and the people of the community were told to evacuate ASAP!  This man refused to listen and leave, saying “GOD WILL RESCUE ME!”  Then a police car came and he refused it…then a boat came and he still refused…then a helicopter.

"BUT, if you won't listen, you'll drown!"
“BUT, if you won’t listen, you’ll drown!”

When he stood before God after DROWNING, he demanded to know what happened:  “God, how could you do this to me?”  God simply said, “I sent a police car, a boat and a helicopter and you refused each one.”

God Came & People Rejected Him…

JESUS came & people rejected Him…the Holy Spirit is last to come.

I recently read this pastor’s comment:  “The HOLY SPIRIT is not greater than…He’s just later than the Father and Son” [ Pastor Bill Purvis].

The “whosoever wills” and the “whosoever won’ts” 

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We live in a wonderful world of GRACE.  The BIBLE is clear on that.

Through the preaching of the Word and the WITNESS of believers, the Holy Spirit CONVINCES people their need for a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

He calls all who will LISTEN and He SAVES all who choose to RECEIVE His offer, the GIFT OF SALVATION.

God is PATIENT “BUT”…eventually, TIME IS UP!

Here’s the terrible truth…No one knows when God will give His last invitation.

I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write this Blog-study in the Gospel of Mark during the Christmas Season; when hearts are tender and open to the Spirit of God.  Whenever a person puts off receiving Jesus, they are in danger of rejecting God’s final invitation.  If you are struggling with the question of “the unpardonable sin,” wondering if you have “crossed the line,” you haven’t yet committed it.  The unforgivable sin occurs when a heart is so cold and hard toward God and His Spirit, that you have no feeling.  You could care less anymore.

“Crossing the Line” – A Story by Dr. Jerry Vines.

This story I’m about to tell you is about a man who crossed this line and committed the unforgivable sin.

The man told how he would sit in church every Sunday and when the invitation was given to come forward and accept Christ as Savior, he would have such a heavy sense of conviction.

One day he walked out of church with a plan.  He said “God, I hate feeling this way and I don’t ever want to feel like this again.  I will make you a deal right here and now.  If you leave me alone and never speak to me, I will never call on you.”

Around 20 years later, the man told Dr. Vines that so far he had kept his side of the deal; he had yet to call on God for anything, including SALVATION.  He told Dr. Vines that God had kept His end of the deal as well.  He never called on him since and he was happy with that arrangement.

THAT’S CROSSING THE LINE…

Maybe you’re thinking that you are 99% sure you’re SAVED…you are just not convinced.  Let me add this to your thinking if that’s you:

99% SURE IS 100% LOST!

You can be 100% sure right where you are…

In front of a Computer Screen…

On the Commuter Train with your Smartphone or Tablet…

Wherever you might be reading this.

You CAN be 100% sure right now!!

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” ~ John 3:16 (AMP).

 


CREDITS –

Biblical Commentary, Mark 3:20-35 @ Sermon Writer.com

Harper’s Bible Dictionary “Baalzebub”, pg. 86

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible (AMP), unless noted in text.

 

Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration

Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration

SCRIPTURE REFERENCE – Mark 1:1-8

The title I chose for this particular blog’s message, “Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration,” thinking, this was a great way to begin the holiday season.  You know, like going to the garage and dragging heavy boxes of decorations, putting up the tree (3 in my house), purchasing gifts for love ones, doing all the holiday cooking and baking that my wife and I do, and maybe a thousand other things that NEED to be done before Christmas.  I’m exhausted already from listing the “to do’s”!

But that’s not what I mean at all about preparation.

In addition, you may find the Scripture study an unusual choice for a Christmas message, since in the gospel of Mark, we find the only gospel account in the Bible that has nothing at all to say about the birth of Jesus.  In fact Mark mentions neither the miraculous conception nor the birth of Jesus.

Mark begins his account of the life of Jesus in this way (Living Bible – TLB):

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[1]  Here begins the wonderful story of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

[2]  In the book written by the prophet Isaiah, God announced that he would send his Son to earth, and that a special messenger would arrive first to prepare the world for his coming.  [3] “This messenger will live out in the barren wilderness,” Isaiah said, “and will proclaim that everyone must straighten out his life to be ready for the Lord’s arrival.”

Though Mark doesn’t give us a CLASSIC Christmas story when he opens his book, he essentially wraps up the Christmas message with just a few words.

There’s nothing wrong with Christmas trees and tinsel along with the children’s delight at the unwrapping of presents and food and laughter and the making of family memories this time of year.  I am thinking of my own memories as I write this blog.  All those things make Christmas special!

The opening line of Mark is “the beginning of the good news” [the “gospel”].

Our task at Christmas is not to chop down the tree of celebration–rather it is to rediscover the cause of CELEBRATION–“What is this GOOD NEWS?”

Mark doesn’t begin his gospel account with the birth of Christ, but instead, he tells about a rather unusual character named John the Baptist.

In my investigation, with the study of the words spoken here, I noticed THREE things about John:

First, he was an unusual messenger.

VERSE 6 states that “John wore clothing woven of camel’s-hair and had a leather girdle (belt) around his loins and ate locusts and wild honey.”

I get the impression that John. who was Jesus’ cousin, was a bit different?  There are some folks who, if invited to a social function, you would feel somewhat uncomfortable to have them around, John was like that.

John wore clothes made of camel-hair, wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locust and wild honey.  He was a man of the desert, he ate the food of the desert and he wore clothing of the desert.

Secondly, he had an unexpected message.

Mark says that John FULFILLED THE PROPHECIES both Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3-5).  The more lengthy prophecy of Isaiah says,

[3] A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway from our God.  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places a plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

When John the Baptist comes and acts as a Herald or an announcer that JESUS is coming, “prepare the way of the Lord,” the fulfillment of prophecy takes shape.

The word translated “prepare” is from the Greek word “kataskouazo” meaning to “make ready” or “keeping it ready.”

John wasn’t telling them to PREPARE a literal road, but rather he’s telling them to PREPARE themselves for the coming of JESUS.  He says, “GET READY!”

In our love of the CELEBRATION of the birth of Jesus, I think we sometimes get lost.

We love to prepare for Christ because it’s like preparing for a baby to be born.  We get so wrapped up in the manger scene, we forget that He is not a baby anymore!

We think that somehow he is satisfied to see us make our annual appearance at Christmas, singing a few Christmas Carols.  This One Who was born into a crude manger is now a KING!

John the Baptist was telling people, “you need to get ready because someone more powerful than I is coming.”

John the Baptist tries to get the world ready for Christ.

The world of his day was made up of religious and non-religious people, neither of which was READY for the Lord.

THE NON-RELIGIOUS of his day, like our own, liked their SIN and didn’t want Christ Jesus in their lives.

THE RELIGIOUS of that day, like our own, think they don’t need Christ.

So when Christ came, the RELIGIOUS and the NON-RELIGIOUS alike, rejected Him.  They were not ready for Christ to come in their lives.

John’s voice was one crying out in the barren places.

At this time of year people are expected to be happy, but in fact, there are more suicides than any other time of the year.  In the middle of much cluttered activity and “Ho, Ho, Ho ‘ng” in many lives, there is spiritual dryness.

The question is…”HAVE YOU PREPARED YOUR HEART TO RECEIVE JESUS?”

In verse 4, John uses the word “REPENT”:

“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a BAPTISM of REPENTANCE for the REMISSION OF SINS.”  [NOTE: capitalized words for emphasis]

John tells us that PREPARATION that we need to make is to “REPENT”.  The Greek word translated “repentance” (metanoia) is a word that means “a changed mind”; “changing your direction 180 degrees.”

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The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV):

[10]  “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

There are TWO kinds of REPENTANCE possible when you think about it, that’s possible in human experience.

Many of us recognize the unpleasant consequences of our SIN and persuaded of the GUILT that may result in a superficial sorrow–that may lead to a temporary reformation, but not to a genuine turning to Christ for forgiveness.

“Godly sorrow” on the other hand, accompanied by CONVICTION of SIN , which is the work of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:37), comes about from the realization of offending a holy God, which in turn, leads to genuine repentance.

REPENTANCE may begin with a “sorrowful heart,” but to be GENUINE, must lead to a determined action.

The CALL to REPENT is one of the most important things we will hear among the sound of exchanges of CHRISTMAS GREETINGS, the singing of Carols, and the shouts of JOY as presents are opened.

Not only did John have an unexpected message…THIRD, he had an extraordinary ministry…

In verse 5 we read“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (NIV Bible).

“A once lonely man,” Story:

It was a bright Sunday morning in 18th century London, but Robert Robinson’s mood was anything but sunny.  All along the street there were people hurrying to church, but in the midst of the crowd, Robinson was a lonely man.

The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life.  It had been years since he set foot in a church, with years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved.

That love for God–once fiery and passionate–had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.

Robinson heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse-drawn cab approaching behind him.  Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver.  But then he saw the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in finery for the Lord’s Day.  He waived the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped.

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“Sir, I’d be happy to share the carriage with you,” she said to Robinson.  “Are you going to church?”

Robinson was about to decline, then he paused,  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I am going to church.”

He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the woman.  As the carriage rolled forward, Robert Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions.  There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name.

“That’s an interesting coincidence,” she said, reaching into her purse.  She withdrew a small book of inspirational verses, opened it to a ribbon-bookmark, and handed the book to him.

“I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson.  Could it be you?”

He took the book, nodding “Yes, I wrote these words years ago.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” she exclaimed.  “Imagine!  I’m sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines!”

maxresdefault-1But Robinson barely heard her.  He was absorbed in the words he was reading. They were words that would one day be set to music and become a great hymn of faith, familiar to generations of Christians.

He could barely read the last few lines through the tears that brimmed his eyes.

“I wrote these words–and I’ve lived these words. ‘Prone to wander…prone to leave the God I have.”

The woman suddenly understood.

“You also wrote, ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it!’  You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson.  It’s never too late!”

[See FOOTNOTE [i] ].

IF your greatest need had been for INFORMATION, God would have sent us an EDUCATOR.

IF our greatest need had been TECHNOLOGY, God would have sent us a SCIENTIST.

IF our greatest need had been MONEY, God would have sent us an ECONOMIST.

IF our greatest need had been PLEASURE, God would have sent us an ENTERTAINER.

BUT HE DIDN’T!

Our greatest need was FORGIVENESS…God sent us a SAVIOR.

Has your Christmas Preparation really begun yet?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Ron Lee Davis, Courage to Begin Again [Harvest House, Eugene, Or. pp. 145-147] – http://www.crossroad.to/Victory/come-thou-fount-of-every-blessing.htm

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY of Old and New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.