Isaiah 1:4-20 From Sickness to Health

Have you ever met someone who refused to go to the Doctor even though they are sick? Some people when sick will refuse to go to a Doctor but have no problem going around to other places spreading their germs. What is worse is if someone who is sick that does not know they are sick. Some people have had things like cancer growing in their bodies but they did not feel the effects of it until it was too late.

Isaiah is addressing people who are sick but they do not see themselves as being sick and will not accept his prognosis of their lives.

To go from Sickness to Health

1)   Admit that You are sick

Isaiah 1:4-9 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord,  they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. 5 Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.7 Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. 9 If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.

This was the chosen nation of God that Isaiah was talking to not some rebellious nation that sacrificed their children to idols. In our day we would say these were church going people who were doing some good works and were worshiping God. What they did not realize is that they have allowed sin to corrupt them to the point that they no longer saw the things they were doing as sin. Many times in life we make excuses for what God calls sins. We call them mistakes, bad habits or we even say things like “this is just the way I am” or “this is just how I was raised”.

Isaiah used the terms; Sinful Nation, Evil Doers, Corrupt, Forsaken the Lord, and rejected the Lord to describe who they were. This would have been a shocking revelation to them because they thought they were good people who were on good terms with God. Isaiah then paints a picture of a person who is totally beat up to show how God viewed them. The people were like the Religious leaders of Jesus Day who thought their outward actions covered the fact that they were really dead inside. (Ephesians 2:1)

We do not see the full effect that sin has but from God view sin is like an enemy that has burned the place down and left it destroyed or like a person with untreated oozing sores that are so disgusting that you cannot even look at them.  Sin is so deceptive that we do not see the full outcome of the path it is leading us down. (Proverbs 16:25)

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Genesis 3:14 Satan told Adam and Eve that they would not die if they disobeyed God. No one sees the end results of sin like God because God can see from beginning to end. We, like the people Isaiah was addressing, do not see ourselves as that bad but if we do not accept the diagnoses that God says about us then there will be no chance for healing.

Because the people did not listen to Isaiah he tells them they will be like Sodom and Gomorrah. I want you to imagine a prophet walking up to you and accusing you of sins that were taking place in Hollywood or in politics. Many of us can see the wrongs that actors and politicians and how corrupt they are but we cannot see how corrupt we really are.  We tend to think of those places as evil while our own actions are good and we tend to see the sin in others while ignoring it in ourselves.

Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

When we have the wrong view of sin then we will allow things into our lives that we do not realize are leading us toward death.  We are not good people who need to correct a few things in our lives to be healed we have a terminal illness that has to be miraculously healed.

Isaiah 1:10-15 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching[b] of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers,  I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

2)   Realize you cannot heal yourself

All the religious activities that they were doing meant nothing to God. We live in a society that thinks they can make up for some sins by doing a few good things but a bunch of Sacrifices do not please God when your lifestyle shows no remorse for how you are living and how you are treating people. You cannot give money to a church and give of your time and energy and then live however you want. This was exactly what the people in Isaiah’s time were doing. They felt like since they worshiped and sacrificed how they lived the rest of the week was not important. God was sick of a ritualistic religion that had no heart relationship with God and no change in behavior and Isaiah was letting them know what God thought about their lives.

God told them that “Your Hands are full of Blood” because all of their religious activity did not make up for how they were acting outside of the temple. How they were treating people an how they ran their businesses were all things God hated yet when they came to worship Him they thought they could just do all the religious activities to make up for all the things we have done. The biggest lie people believe is to think that by their works they can please God or make up for the wrongs they have done.

 

Galatians 2:21 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[a] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

If we could do all the right things to earn Gods favor Christ died for nothing. This is also true for those who believe that all roads lead to God. If all roads lead to God then how cruel that Jesus had to die a gruesome death for our sins for no reason. Christ died as the perfect sacrifice because we could not be in a right relationship with God on our own accord. People do not see how separated from God we really are and that is why they think that they can do a few things to make up for wrong behavior.

Isaiah lets them know that they are so separated from God that He cannot hear their prayers and He will not look upon the worship they were giving to Him. This was a shocking statement then and this is a shocking statement now to be told that God is separated from you. The only reason we can in a right relationship with God is because Jesus did something about our sins. He did not just forgive our sins He paid for them. (Others verses by Grace and not by works Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16)

Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,  learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

3)   Change our ways

Isaiah is now calling on them to change the way they live when he says “Wash Yourselves”.

Although our salvation is through Christ we do take part in the cleansing process in our daily lives.  We are called to get things out of our lives and to also add things to them.

2 Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

We are called to accept the free gift of salvation that is only possible through Christ but then we are asked because of what Christ has done to get rid of things in our lives that are not pleasing to God. If I had heart problems I would go to a heart surgeon and if he fixed the problem then it is up to me to stop eating certain things and then add to my life exercise. Christianity is similar in that we cannot heal ourselves but once we are healed we are told to add things that benefit our calling and to remove things that can damage us. Those who say they are Christians but do not change any of their behaviors that are unpleasing to God have to really search their hearts to see if they are truly Christians. How we live in light of what Christ has done for us shows us how we love Him.

James 2:14,26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 1  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

You can say you love someone but if your actions do not show love then you do not love them. If you say that you have faith in Jesus but your actions do not change then you do not have faith in Jesus.

Jesus, being The Vine,(John 15:5)  will flow through you to change you to be more like Him. Our part to play in all of this is to get rid of the things that are hindering our growth just like a farmer would remove toxins and weeds and add fertilizer and water.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Sin is a weight that weighs us down or a vine that clings to us and slows us down.  Are there things in your life that are not pleasing to God?  No one says they want  to be controlled by a sin but when those things come into our life and we do not get rid of them they will wrap around us and slowly destroy us. Many addicts did not start off wanting to be addicts instead they thought that the thing they were participating in was under their control until they realized they no longer controlled it but it controls them. Sin is deceptive and will lead you down a path of destruction but will keep you blinded to the destruction it is doing to you.

Read Isaiah 1:18-20 Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

4)   Accept the offer to get well

Even though Isaiah said to get rid of those things that were making them sick he also knew that this was not something they could do by themselves. Isaiah did not want to leave the people without hope so he lets them know that they can be back in a right relationship with God because of God. They thought that they were good with God and yet they were told they were like Gomorrah, a pagan city that Gods wrath came against. They thought their religious practices were good and they were told that God hated them. They were told that they had to change their life and discouragement was setting in because they knew in and of themselves they could not change. Isaiah then offers them hope by letting them know how to be in a right relationship with God.

Come Let us Reason”: means to test what is right. You have to decide if you want to take the offer from God that is on the table. You can choose to reject it but you will also be accepting the consequences that will follow. “White as Snow”: God can do what you are incapable of doing.

 

Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Isaiah was letting them know that this is not something you can do it has to be done to you. God will then remove your sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) God is Holy (v4) and the only way we can be in His presence is if we are Holy and the only way we can be Holy is if He makes us Holy.

In order for us to be in right relationship with God is to have our sins removed and only God could remove it.  If you are willing (19) it is a decision on your part if you want God to restore the relationship with Him.  But if you refuse: the punishment is death (the sword)

Do you think your actions of worship, tithe and service have been enough to please a Holy God? You have to accept the free offer of salvation that is promised through Jesus Christ in order to be made Holy.

The Bad News is you cannot be good enough and the Good News is you cannot be bad enough because Jesus took care of every sin on the cross that was separating you from God. We are sick people who the only cure is through Jesus Christ and to reject that cure is to face separation from God for all eternity.

 

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Isaiah 1:1-3 Speak the Truth

The book of Isaiah is the second most quoted book in the New Testament only second to the book of Psalms. The Apostle Paul either quoted it or alluded to it 80 times and Jesus quoted Isaiah 42:7,and 16 when He addressed Paul on the Damascus Road.  The Name Isaiah means “The Lord is Salvation”

The book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before Jesus arrived and has many prophecies in it that only Jesus could fulfill perfectly. Isaiah is a book we can learn from because what Isaiah was dealing with in his day is something the church is dealing with today.

There is a lot of talking that takes place in our world and most of what we are hearing either gets drowned out by other distractions or does not really get listened to in the first place. Everyone is talking and no one seems to be listening because there is a battle for our attention which is constantly bombarded with various messages.  Media is constantly fighting for our time and attention but we must know who we are and who we are not going to listen to. Who you listen to is important because when they speak they speak a world philosophy even if it is not something that is outwardly noticeable. Many Athletes and Actors are used to promote products simply because people like them so they believe what they are saying or selling. Who is going to get your attention is big business and unfortunately the church is susceptible to having their attention drawn away by other voices. Isaiah was called to speak during one of these times when people had lost their focus and were being influenced by other people and even other religions.

We have a responsibility to speak the truth to people even if they do not want to hear it. We live in a culture that is trying to redefine truth by saying that truth is not equal. There are many problems with saying that truth is subjective because it means that there really is no truth. If we are going to speak the truth then we must learn from Isaiah to speak the truth to a culture that is making up its own truth.

Read Isaiah 1:1-3 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children[a] have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know,  my people do not understand.”

1)   The Authority in which we speak

Vision: Divine Revelation from God

The book of Isaiah starts off with the fact that this was not just a man speaking but a man speaking on behalf of God. This means that the words he spoke were not his words but Gods and so the message carried with it the authority of God

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The mistake we make as followers of Christ is when we speak for Christ in our own authority instead of just announcing what He has said. Some of the things that Jesus said are not popular to our culture but our job is to declare what He has said and not how they respond to it. One of the things that is addressed in the book of Isaiah is that so called people of God were seeking other gods for answers. They were going to another authority rather than going to God and Isaiah wanted them to realize that he was not just sharing his opinion but what he was saying was coming directly from God.

One of the issues we are starting to see in our churches is that people are not communicating Gods word as it is written and they are communicating what they want it to say and they are distorting the message. Isaiah communicated Gods message, no matter how difficult and unpopular it was. Isaiah spoke to the righteous King, the wicked King, the proud and the powerful and he rebuked and encouraged knowing he was speaking the words of God. Our words are not our own because we speak on behalf of the authority of Jesus.

2)   The Reason We Speak

“Hear O Heavens! Listen, O earth!” The way it is written shows that God is calling on two witnesses which were required to present a case against someone in court. (Deuteronomy 30:19; 31:28; 32:1 and Psalms 50:4) Every person will be held accountable to God for what they knew about God and for what they could have known about God. Not searching and not listening will not be excuses to be used in order to not be judged by God.

Romans 1:8-21  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

People are suppressing the truth of God and although they may not worshiping golden Idols they have given their lives to other things that demand their time, money and worship. Because of the language that is used some believe it is a court room analogy while others think it is an arraignment before going to court. In an arraignment if the defendant makes a plea deal then they will not stand trial. If we take the analogy that it is before the court case then the reason we speak is to keep people from standing before the judge guilty because once people stand before the judge then the time to repent and make a plea deal is over.

Revelation 20:11-15  Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Those who have accepted Jesus Christ will not be judged by God because Jesus took the penalty of sin that we owed.  Those who have not accepted Jesus at the arraignment will be judged by all their works and fall short of being allowed into Heaven. I hear many people who tell me that they are ready to stand before God for the good things they have done. What they do not realize is that their actions in and of themselves will never be good enough to overcome the sins they have done. Isaiah says that the people are rebels which mean they have broken a contract with God. The reason we speak is because people do not want to stand before God in the state they are in but they may not realize the severity of their actions.  God is appealing to them through Isaiah to repent and turn back to Him and God wants us to be used by Him to appeal to those around us.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

If we have to be reconciled then that means we are separated from Him which is not something many people believe. Our sins have separated us from a Holy and perfect God who cannot be in the presence of sin. Just because our sins do  not offend us does not mean that they are not offensive to Him.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Just like Isaiah we are the mouth piece of God to speak to a generation of people who have turned from God to worship other things. We are called to tell people that because of the sins in their lives, no matter how big or small they may think they are, that they will face separation from God unless they are reconciled back to Him through Jesus Christ.

3)   The Frustration of Speaking

“My People Do not understand” Isaiah says in verse 3 that even an ox, which could be stubborn, and a donkey, which was considered dumb, would eventually give up their stubbornness and listen to their master for food but the people have not turned back to God. Isaiah wants them to see the correlation between them and their farm animals but he actually calls the farm animals smarter.  We will come frustrated with people at times because it will seem as though they are not listening or do not believe what we are telling them. We must speak the truth in the hopes that they will one day understand.

Ephesians 4:17-19  Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

The more people reject the things of God they more callous they become and the more callous they become the more they do not see that they are stubborn and dumb. Those of you who are waiting to surrender your life to God because you want to live your own life need to realize there may come a point where you no longer hear the voice of God or the drawing of His spirit. (Hebrews 3:15) For those of us who are trying to reach people you have to remember that they are blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and so we have to help guide them home just like we would a stubborn ox or a dumb donkey.  It is a spiritual battle for their souls and we need to have patience and persistence as God is using us in their lives to draw them to Him. People believe many lies about God and it takes time and energy to show them the truth. It is not my job to change someone’s heart but it is my job to speak the truth.

4)   What we Speak

1 Corinthians 15:3-5 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

This is our message to the world; Christ lived, Christ Died, He was buried and He rose again. It’s a simple message but everyone has to do something with the Historical figure named Jesus Christ. Every religion has a statement about what they believe about Jesus and so people believe many things about Him and we have to speak the truth because so many people believe lies about Him. Jesus was God in the flesh who came to pay for sins we could not pay for by being a perfect sacrifice and taking the wrath of God on our behalf. It is the great exchange that Jesus takes our place just like He took Barabbas. (Matthew 27)

But to be true to Christ, they must not dilute their message, whitewash difficult Bible passages, or present Jesus as something He is not. …We dare not change one word of Scripture to make ourselves more comfortable… Scriptures purpose is not to make us more comfortable, but to show us how inadequate and lost we are apart from our Savior and to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) (The True Jesus, David Limbaugh, Pg. 8-9)

We are God’s Ambassadors to a world that has rebelled against Him and it is our duty to speak the truth in love.  Many people will not understand that they are separated from God and so patience and perseverance will be needed as you speak truth into their lives. God wants to use you in the lives of others so they can hear the truth that they are separated from Him.

 

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Family

“As the family goes so goes the Nation.” Dr. Gary Chapman

Family is important but who gets to define what family is? In the Lego batman movie they say “Friends are family” In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy 2 they say “We are not friends we are family” There are many people who would say that those closest to them are family and even growing up I remember calling people Uncle and Aunt who were not technically my blood Uncle and Aunt. Although the Bible talks about family and there are many directions you can discuss this topic I want to break it down to three simple categories. Our Eternal family, our earthly family and our church family. For some this will be oversimplified since some theologians give sixteen definitions of what the family is.

1)   Our Eternal Family

The first thing we have to realize is that our true family is those who belong to Christ. Jesus addressed this when His mother and brothers came to get him from a house He was teaching at.

Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

There were some legitimate reasons they had to go and get Jesus one being that the religious leaders were already planning on getting rid of Him and secondly Jesus brothers did not understand that He really was the Messiah and were probably embarrassed. For Jesus to deny His family at this moment would have been shocking in a Middle Eastern Jewish culture. In America we read that as if it is not appalling but in that culture Jesus would have really made the point that there is a difference between our earthly and our eternal families.

One of the things we need to remember as Christians is that there are people we will be with for eternity that are not our blood relatives. There was closeness in the church in the book of Acts because some of those people were kicked out of their own homes for following Jesus. The people at church were all they had. Most churches in America do not have this closeness because we treat church like a sporting event where we come, sit, watch and leave. We do not know those who are around us and we do not make an effort to get to know people. Some of the problem of closeness is due to the fact that people move more than in the past some is due to the fact of the business of our personal lives keeps us from getting to know people who we will spend eternity with.

Luke 14:26  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Compared to our love and commitment to Jesus the love for our personal family should seem like hate. The word hate here means to love less and Jesus is calling us to put our earthly family in second place of our lives. In America this is not always needed but in countries or families that will not allow you to worship outside the family’s religion of choice it can cost you your family.

The church is a reflection of what Heaven will be like when we all get to heaven and we sing, and enjoy one another’s company while being in perfect union with God and unity with each other. So our eternal family is a family and we can have a bond with them that will last for all eternity.

2)   Our Earthly Family

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (See Also: Psalm 78:4-7; Proverbs 1; 8, 6:20, 22:6; 31:1, 36)

“The fact that the form is singular urges the conclusion that Moses did not give this responsibility to some abstract group of fathers in the community but to each individual father. It does not take a village, it takes a father.”  Youth Ministry that Last a Lifetime, Richard Ross, pg 81)

The book of Proverbs puts the mothers teaching next to the fathers teaching and it shows that as parents we have the responsibility to pass down our beliefs to our children. Many people think that if they take their children to church that they have done their duty as parents. Our busy schedules as well as giving away our role to the church have robbed us from being the primary teachers of our children.

Many of our parents did not model for us how to pass on our faith so many of us as parents now are clueless on what we should do. My generation was brought up in church and we had many church activities and so our parents would busy us with church programming hoping that we were getting the Bible stories and spiritual training needed for us to continue following Christ. The church, with all good intentions, was trying to help but what they wound up doing was taking the Biblical role away from parents. I’m not saying Church attendance is not important but how a child views the importance or non-importance of their faith comes through how they perceive their parents living out the faith they say they believe in.

“In frequency of church attendance therefore children seem to model themselves after the behavior of parents who attend church frequently- or who don’t attend at all. What’s intriguing is that we see relatively little decline over the pasty thirty five years in the similarity of parents and their adult children in frequent church attendance- weekly or more often- as overall rates of church attendance in the United States have declined during the same period. (Families and Faith, How religion is passed down across generations, Pg 63)

You produce who you are so the question then becomes, “What would your child’s faith look like if it resembled yours?”  The book Families and Faith, How religion is passed down across generations by Vern L. Bengtson is a thirsty five year study of how religion is passed down to children. The main factor was what the parents believed the children believed even when they got older. The study also showed that a close relationship with the father  and a warm home environment were also keys to passing on one’s faith.

Ron Hunter The CEO of Randall House publishing says we need to TALK to our Kids if we want to pass down our faith. Ron gives the letters T.A.L.K. as an acronym for us to remember.

Try and be a part of their Hobby

Your kids may not be just like you and therefore you may have to step into their world by simply spending time doing what they enjoy doing. They will know you may not understand why they love it but they will appreciate you trying to be with them.

Ask Questions

Many of our students get asked difficult questions in college that they have never heard before and because of that they can sometimes doubt their faith. Many students want answers to the difficult questions of life and about the Bible. You do not have to know all the answers but you can go on a journey with them to help discover the answer. If you do not ask them the questions their college professors or classmates will.

 “The College classroom should not be the first place they hear challenges of Christianity.” Josh McDowell.  Josh McDowell goes onto say that kids will not stay in a faith they cannot defend.

Listen:

When you do not listen then you are telling them that what they are saying is not important. Parents we blame our children about being distracted but we can allow phones and shows to be just as much of a distraction to us as our teens do. The average adult watches television 2 hours and 40 minutes a day and that is not counting online activities on computers or cell phones. We are distracted and we need to shut off the distraction so we can listen to our children.

Konnect:

Find a place in scripture you can encourage and coach them. Not every single situation will call on you to find some spiritual meaning behind it but you will know the times when you can say what the Bible teaches. Watch for conversations that can turn toward Christ and use them to instill into your children what you really believe. Remember, “I think” is opinioned based “The Bible Says” is based on what God has revealed to us.

The best place to talk is in the car because you are shoulder to shoulder and not face to face which can be intimidating especially for teenagers. Only 1 in 8 teenagers talks to their mom about faith and even less with Dad. (pg 95 Richard Ross, Student Ministry that last a lifetime) Fewer than 10% of Christian families read the Bible together or pray together besides meal times. Parents you have to view yourself as your child’s first pastor and if you do not preach to them then the world will. Every commercial, movie show and music as a world philosophy and those things are being preached to our children every day. We cannot assume that we are doing enough to instill into them the truths we believe. It is not about adding one more thing to your to do list, it is about opening up time for Christ in what you are already doing.

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

“Teach them diligently” or as some versions say, ”Impress upon them” is like a person carving a message into stone with a hammer and a chisel. We have to continually know that it is going to be a slow purposeful process of passing down the faith to our children.

Exodus 20:5-6 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Your impact as a parent will go farther than you can ever imagine and last longer than the lifetime that you live. Never underestimate what God can do through you even though you may feel as though you have failed at times. You are in a spiritual war for your children and you must not forget that as you pray to God for the salvation of your children. Parents are not responsible for the decisions their children make about receiving or rejecting a relationship with Jesus Christ because every person young or old stands before God on that issue alone.

Parents it is your job to present the faith to your child in such a way that they realize that your faith carries out in every area of your life. There is not a church life, a home life, a work life and a world life. Your life has to be consistent with what you say you believe or your children will think what you believe is not worth following.

3)   Our Church Family

“Teenagers who leave High School with little love for the Bride will eventually walk away from the groom.” Dr. Richard Ross

We know that there is a breakdown in the family so what part does the church play in helping train and instruct the next generation. All the research is pointing to the fact that students that worship in multi-generational worship are more likely to continue worshiping after they leave for college.

Richard Ross says, “We have tried silo ministries in church for 60 years so it might be time to try something else.”

Psalm 148:12-13 Young men and maidens together, old men and children! 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.

Jesus said in Mark 10:14 let the children come to me and he was not married or have children of His own.

Tim Elmore reports that teenagers today spend about sixty hours a week with their peers and about sixteen hours with adults. For most of human history, the reverse of that was true.

Teenagers need adult relationships in the church and this is true for those who come from single parent homes or with non-believing parents. In Titus chapter 2 Paul calls for the older men and women to teach the younger men and women. Grandparents have added 33 years of life since 1900 so how are you going to spend it?  Grandparents are crucial in passing down the faith to the next generation and many have come to a relationship with Christ not because of their parents but because of their grandparents.

Job 12:12 Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.

Adults with grown children you have a lot to offer children, youth and the younger adults in the room. We need a group of people who are committed to pass on the faith to the younger generation. You have been through the trials and tribulations in your lifetime and the wisdom you have gained needs to be passed down.

Students who sit and do not serve for 18 years will not automatically start serving.  Like wet cement you cannot wait to shape and form them. We do not believe teenagers are the church of the future we believe they are part of the church now and every believer in Christ is gifted to serve the church with that gift. In his book “The Myth of the teen brain” Robert Epstein says “We know from extensive research both in the U.S. and elsewhere that when we treat teens like adults, they almost immediately rise to the challenge.” Teens have much to offer their churches and it is time that we stop putting them in other buildings to do their own thing and invite them to come and get to know people they will be spending eternity with.

The difficulty of change is something most churches do not want to face but Dr. Timothy Paul Jones sums it up perfectly when he says,  “You’re not doing this to get results; you’re doing this because it is the right thing to do.” The reality is the way we are trying to do church is not the most popular or easiest but I am tired of talking about how 80% of our students leave the faith when they leave for college. It is clear from research that involvement in Worship with other adults is crucial for children and youth yet we settle for entertaining.  I want the church to produce disciples that change the world so that we can prepare them to pass on the faith not just to their children but to the world.

The early church did not say Look at what the world is coming to, they said look at what is coming to the world.” Dr. Timothy Paul Jones.

 

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Abide in the World

Have you ever wondered why God leaves you on earth? Have you ever wondered why you might live in a place you do not want to live or work in a place that you do not want to work? There are many times we want to escape our circumstances and our surroundings but we need to have a bigger perspective on our lives and how God is going to use them no matter the difficulties we are facing.

We are going to talk about Abiding in the World but when it comes to defining the word “World” in the Bible there are several definitions and some authors have even given sixteen definitions of the word “world” in the Bible.  I am going to break the word “world” into just three categories to  simplify the discussion.

 

  • Physical World: includes everything that was created. (Acts 17:24)
  • Human World: all of humanity. (John 3:16)
  • Moral World: Those who are hostile toward God. (1 John 2:15-16)

 

Although this is a simplistic way of speaking we have to understand when we read the Bible what is meant by the word World in the passages that we are reading. As followers of Christ we are called to be in the world but not of it but we have to know what exactly that means. One of the prayers that Jesus prayed for all of those who would follow Him is that God would not remove them from the world.

John 17:14-1814 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Jesus is asking that we do not get removed from the Physical world even though we are not a part of the Moral world. Jesus came into the Physical world to save the Human world from the Moral world. There seems to be two different extremes when it comes to Christians and even the Christian church.

The first extreme is to look so much like the world that they see that “Christianity is cool” or that “Jesus is a good guy” or something along those lines in order to try and introduce people to Jesus. Although they may have a pure heart and good intentions sometimes people begin following the wrong view of Jesus and eventually leave Him when things are said they do not agree with. (See John 6)

The other extreme is that we separate from the world so that we do not allow it to influence us in any way therefore removing any influence we may have on the world. God did not call us to be monks in a monastery where we hide ourselves from the temptations of the world. Although there may be time of retreat for spiritual introspection the fact remains God called us to be in the very world where the temptations exist.

The problem with both of these approaches is that they do not resemble the prayer of Jesus or the life He lived. 1 Corinthians 5 says that we should not hang around immoral people that call themselves Christians but we have to hang around immoral people who are not believers. Matthew 9 shows us Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners showing that we are not to remove ourselves from the world. Jesus has called us to be in this world and if we are going to be ready for the world there are a couple of things we have to know that the Bible says about our impact on the world.

1)   To Impact the World you have to be in the Word

“I have given them your word” We have already talked about abiding in the Word of God a couple of weeks ago so I will not go into great detail but we cannot forget that God’s Word was given to us for correction, reproof and for doctrine (how we should live) (See 2 Timothy 3:16). We are branches in the Vine (john 15:5) and we have to be in God’s Word for the nourishment we need to withstand the heat and the storms that life can throw our way. The World can deceive you into its philosophy of life and the only way we can make sure we are not being deceived or pulled away is by being in God’s word. In Jesus prayer it is clear that the gift of His word is important for them to be able to stay in the world and not be affected by it so we must also take the prayer of Jesus seriously by staying in His word.

2)   You will be hated by the world

“The World has hated them because they are not of this world”  Churches that are trying to make Jesus acceptable to all will struggle with this statement by Jesus. We think sometimes that if we just present Jesus a certain way or if we do not act like “Certain Christians” that we will be able to be liked by the world while still being a follower of Jesus. The reason that we will be hated by the world is because Christians should have different priorities than those who do not follow Jesus Christ. It is our allegiance to Jesus and not the things of the world that will put us at odds with them. We will not love the same things they love. We will not focus on the same things they focus on. Our views will be different and so will our priorities and that will make us hated by the world. Even the fact that I say that everyone is not right with God can be a point of contention or that Jesus is the “Only Way” is viewed as wrong. (John 14:6)

Thou shalt not criticize another person’s life choices or behavior. Our public square is rapidly devolving into a place where sharing opinions, especially those that make another person uncomfortable, is off limits. (Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Pg. 108)

The world says look out for number one but Christ says to put others above yourself. The World says and eye for an eye but Christ calls us to forgive. Christians that try and make “Jesus Appealing” have a tendency to take away from the Jesus in the Bible and what He really said and meant. (Jesus spoke some difficult things) The reason for the hatred is because we are not to conform to the world’s ways.

“Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” Sanctify means to set apart for a sacred purpose and we are separated for the sake of the world. As we are in God’s word we will be more and more set apart from the rest of the World as we read and take to heart what God is called us to be. Your actions will cause others to notice that you are different and they will act different around you, may be drawn to Jesus through you or even hate you.  If you are asked to change the numbers for a business report and refuse you will be hated. If everyone is picking on someone and you choose to love and accept them for who they are you will be hated. We live in a society that says “Live and let live” but the reality is they are pushing an agenda on people that if they do not buy into then they get criticized and even hated. It’s the word of God that develops our conclusions about Marriage and Gender but to say that those things are wrong in today’s society is quickly becoming hate speech.

I want us to understand that if our goal is to be popular or to be liked Jesus tells us that if we abide in His word and by His word then we will be hated. (Even by some Christians) The Early Christians suffered broken families, loss of Jobs and hatred simply because they believed that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah that was predicted in the Old Testament. They were hated by religious people who were looking for the Messiah to come. Matthew wrote his gospel with his Jewish brothers and sisters in mind in order to help them understand Jesus met all the Old Testament prophecies and was truly God in the flesh.

John 8:31-34  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin.

If you ever watch drug or alcohol intervention shows you will see  people who think they are free but are really in bondage. They do not see that the drug or alcohol has now trapped them in a lie that is destroying their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Everything that God calls a sin works the same way in that people who believe that they are free are really in bondage (prison) to that sin. Sin is a bondage that can only be broken by Jesus Christ but many people do not believe that they are in bondage. Hebrews 11:25 tells us Moses would rather be mistreated than give into the fleeting pleasures of sin. Sin is fun for a time and it lures us into thinking that it is providing something without any consequences. Whether it is overeating, overdrinking alcohol, taking too many prescription drugs or even living a carefree sexual lifestyle eventually people see that those things have led them to bondage and not freedom. Most people say that Christians are in bondage because they think that the restrictions God gives us are there to take away our fun but in fact they are there for us to enjoy life to the fullest. Who has more freedom the person who disciplines themselves to eat healthy or the person who has allowed food to control them to the point of being in a bed full time? The restrictions God ask for us to follow lead us to freedom not bondage.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

People are in bondage because they do not have the truth and they believe that the world does. Only as we live out the truth in our lives will the world see the truth. If we do not live out the truth then where will people go when they realize they have believed a lie?

3)   You have to stay in the world

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world” We sometimes talk about how we wish Jesus would just come back and get us and we quote Revelation 22:20.

Revelations 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

I know I have said that many times but I think there are times that Christians get and escape mentality from the very world that God has called them to reach out to. Jesus, God in the Flesh, came to earth to reunite us back to Himself and we are left on earth for the very same purpose.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Most people do not believe that they are separated from God because they have the wrong view of God. Because they believe God loves the world they think that they are on good terms with God. Are you on good terms with everyone you love or is there some issues that are separating you from having a relationship with them? Just because God loves us does not mean that we are not separated from Him. Jesus came to reconcile us back into a right relationship with God and so that alone tells us that we are separated from Him. Also Christians are left to reconcile other people back to God which means the problem of separation continues to this day.

One of the mistakes I believe churches have made is creating so many programs that we have no time to be in the world.  We have made church about entertaining the saints rather than equipping them for the world. We ask if  the children have fun in bible study instead of what they learned. Was the worship music great, was the sermon too long, and did everyone have a good experience are more of our concerns in churches than if God’s word was taught and was God glorified. No matter how good we make our service and how appealing a sermon topic may be the only way we can reach the world is by being in it and not separated from it.

“Increasingly, in a “post Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them….”Nones”, as they are called, do not casually make their way into churches- for any reason. We have to think of them as we would people of a completely different religion.” (Gaining by Losing, J.D. Greear, Pg 29-30)

America has changed and we can either complain about it or be prepared for how God is going to use His church to bring people back in a relationship with Him. You need to realize you are on mission to tell others about Jesus being the only way. In order for them to be reached with the truth we have to realize that we are God’s instruments to be used in the world because they are not coming to church.

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

The People we are around need to know about Jesus Christ and God has placed them in our lives for that very reason.

We think of missionaries as God’s “super servants”, Jesus’ Navy Seals. The word “Missionary” is never used in the Bible, however, not even once. That’s because all of God’s people are sent, all of God’s people are commanded to go. There is no “special class” of sent ones. So the question is no longer if we are sent, only where and how.” (Gaining by Losing, J.D. Greear, Pg 34)

If you are on a travel team then be on that team with a bigger purpose than just competing. Parents have you ever thought that the parents right around you may be hurting? Have you ever thought that one of them may have just received divorce papers or a bad report from the doctor? Is your coach someone that needs to know about Jesus? If we will realize that God has placed us around certain people for a reason than it will change our outlook as to why we are there.

The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” F. H. Henry

Will everyone accept the good news? Of course not but our job is to share. People are not going to church in America like they used to and so we have to see ourselves as being sent by God to reconcile people who are separated from Him.

How can I be on Mission?

  1. A) Be in God’s Word every day
  2. B) View everyone as being in your life for a reason.
  3. C) Pray for everyone you work with. (Pray for 5 People)
  4. D) Look for opportunities to love others and share about Jesus Christ.

 

Posted in Listen, Encourage and Live the Word | Leave a comment

Abide with others

Have you ever wondered if Church was really necessary? Have you ever thought to yourself how much easier your life would be if you did not attend a church? You could sleep in another day or go to the beach and you would also not have to deal with some of the people at the church. You may have even thought, “I can get closer to God in a hunting stand or on a beach so why do I need a church?” or “I can go and serve others at local food pantries and other charities so why be a part of a church since there are so many other organizations taking care of those in need?”  You may also think that you have friends outside of the church that you can have deep spiritual conversations with and so going to church is really not something that is beneficial to me.

I think we have lost something about the church and mainly because we have forgotten the purpose of the Church and why it is important to belong to one. Many people treat churches like fitness centers that they join, pay their dues and come sporadically till they find another fitness center that is more convenient and that has more options. Why is it important that we meet together?  Is the Church something that is necessary for me to grow in Christ?

Acts 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

We see the early church was devoted not only to Gods word but to the fellowship or a group of people they would meet with regularly for encouragement and accountability.  Coming together on a Sunday Morning is supposed to be more than us just sitting, singing songs, Listening to a sermon and then leaving. Church has to be more than just showing up at a place for a couple of hours and then leaving because if it is not then it is no better than showing up at a sporting event where you never get to know the people you just rally around a common purpose which is your team winning.

The Bible gives many illustrations of what the church is and how it should function and we need to understand what the purpose of the church is or we will not take it seriously and not commit to it.

1)   The Church is a Body

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Many people treat the church like it’s a take it or leave it activity dependent on their feelings or mood. We say things like “I don’t feel like going today” or “I am super tired from a busy schedule so I will just stay home and rest”. Paul uses the illustration of the church being like a body because the church is something we cannot separate from as followers of Christ. Those who down play being a part of a local church have to do something with all of the verses that call us to be a part of something that is not just about us.

1         Corinthians 12:27-30  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You are an individual who is part of something that is bigger than yourself. God established His church so that we would need each other to accomplish the task He has assigned us. God established the church so that we not only rely on Him but on others as well. All of the “One Another” verses in the Bible are used to show us how we need to treat one another and use our gifts for one another. I have always said that the church may be limping along because people are not joining a local church or body of believers. If you are a Christian than you have a spiritual gift and if you are not using that gift for the Glory of God then there is a problem because either you have fallen away or you were never really a Christian. God did not give you gifts to be used for yourself but for a church body that can benefit from your gift.

Many churches have people on their rolls that are labeled inactive. The problem with that is that this is not something that can really happen. Can you imagine your arm deciding it was just going to be inactive one day? You would go straight to the hospital to find out what is wrong with your arm. The same is true when people become inactive in church; there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The Bible leaves no room for inactive church members.

2)   The Church is a Bride

Ephesians 5:25-33  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Paul goes into this talk about marriage to demonstrate our relationship with Christ as the Church. He seems to go back and forth and at the end he clarifies that he is talking about Christ and the church. From this passage we see several things.

A) Christ gave Himself up for the church

The first question you need to ask yourself is why would you not want to be a part of something that Christ gave His life for? If we are to be Christ followers (Christians) then we need to be concerned about the things He was concerned for and one of those things was the Church which He calls a bride.  One of the reasons many people have given up on church is because the church is trying to be something it was not designed to be. The Church is  a vessel that God uses to redeem the world back to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:20) When the church tries and work within its own power and not in His (Colossians 1:28-29) then we start to use the people in the church to make a product that is not of Him. My friend Brent Gambrell in His book “Living for Another” calls it a “Fake Fruit Factory”. He goes onto say that a vineyard is quiet and fruit is produced naturally but a Fake fruit factory is noisy and smelly and what it is producing has no value to those who need nourishment from it. Many churches look productive and busy but in reality what they are doing is really just burning people out who then leave the church. Jesus purpose was to make the church Holy and presentable to God by the washing of His word so the world would see it as His Bride and not a manufacturing plant.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to hold each other accountable and spur one another on to good works especially if we think He is coming soon. To be in a church means to give yourself away just like a married couple gives part of their lives away to each other.

B) We should love the church like we love ourselves

If we are going be the church that we are called to be then Love has to rule but the reality is that people irritate us. Part of the irritation is God using them in our lives to get rid of things that are not like Christ. We say things like “That person irritates me” but have you ever wondered why you are irritated by them? Have you ever thought that the problem might be you and not them? We all have areas in our lives that need some work to become what we are called to become but if we just abandon them then they will not get any better.

1 Peter 4:8-11 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Those we love we tend to overlook their faults but those we hate we remember every little annoying thing they do. This is similar to someone who when dating a person they overlooked many things but once they were married all their faults were visible. A church just like in marriage is having people in your life that will help shape and form you to be more like Christ.

The Love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 is read in many weddings that I have performed but the chapter was not written to married couples (although it applies to them) it was written to the Church.

Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends.

Imagine if this is what the Church demonstrated patience and not remembering wrongs done to them what the impact on the world would be. I know there are many people who have left churches because of how they were treated and I understand but maybe if we loved people the way Christ loved us then we could overlook some of the things they have done to hurt us. I know there are times to leave a church and I am not asking you to put yourself in harms way but some people leave a church over small offenses not taking into a count that the person who hurt them is hurting themselves. The NIV version say “Keeps no record of wrongs” but I know many church going people who keep a list of things that have been done to them. In John 13:35 Jesus tells us that by our love for one another people will know we are His disciples. The church in America has not shown the love of God to the world because we have not loved our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of a church for God’s glory not our own and when we love others the way Christ loves us then the world will take notice and see that there is a God who defines true love.

C) The Church should be unified

We have to remember that the Apostle Paul is talking about marriage while talking about the church. A man and woman in marriage should cling to each other in unity and not allow little things to tear them apart because Love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14).

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

1 Timothy 5:13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

Have you ever been a part of a church that was having problems and people were leaving? Did you get a phone call from someone who is just trying to tell you why you should side with them? People that go from “house to house” whether physically or through phone calls should know that they are hurting Christ bride. Matthew 18 gives clear instructions on how a matter should be handled among Christians but many churches tend to do things the way of the world.

When a team is not unified the mission suffers and we have to remember that we are on mission with Christ to point people to God. Eternity is at stake and many people will not hear the truth of Jesus Christ simply because brothers and sisters in Christ did not love each other the way that Christ loved them. Whatever takes away from the Mission or the great commission is a distraction from what we are called to do.

3)   The Church is a Representation of Heaven

In Ephesians 5: 32 Paul said he was referring to the church. I always wonder if those who hate the church think that Heaven is going to be any better. The Church represents what is to come but in a perfect way. The friendships we form here on earth will last for all eternity. Some of the people you sing with you will be singing with for all of eternity.

Churches should be known as a place where friends meet yet so many people who attend church do so but do not want to really get close to anyone. I believe it is because of a lack of close connected friendships people find themselves being able to go to any church to hear a message and sing songs. If the church is supposed to be a place where we are truly the Bride of Christ because we are a “Body of Believers” then people are going to have to make an effort to make friends and not just acquaintances

.

How to build Friendships in Church

A) Prioritize friendships: You have to be a friend to have a friend. If you do not know anyone in the church what are you doing to get to know some people?

B) Build Unselfish Friendships: Do not seek people to build your business or your network.

C) Beware of Substitute Friendships: Social media is not a substitute for having face to face friendships.

D) Prepare for Disappointments: People will let you down but the risk is worth the reward.

E) Be Transparent: To know someone you have to be known. (Use Caution and not too quickly)

F) Make Friendship about spiritual growth: How can I pray for you? How are you struggling?

G) Know your limits: You cannot be friends with everyone.

He created marriage. It’s a shadowy outline that points to the real reality-Christ and the Church. The same is true, I believe, for all the biblical metaphors for the church. They are the shadows of something even greater. Think also of Paul’s reference to the heavenly Father ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name’ (Ephesians 3:15) God place earthly father on earth so that all the world would have a shadowy outline of what our relationship with the heavenly Father is to be like. Why do you think God has created brothers and sisters? Again, so that everyone gets a dim sense of the true reality that begins now in the local church and awaits us completely in glory.” (Church Membership, Jonathan Leeman, PG 76)

We are the salt and light of the world that is to show people the way, the truth and the life. When we live in love and unity with each other we show people there is a better love than what the world has to offer. When we function as the Body and Bride of Christ we point people to God through Jesus Christ. The World does not believe our message because they do not believe our lives.

 

John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

What is keeping you from being committed to a local church? Is it selfishness or bad experiences?

What is keeping you from having meaningful friendships?

Would you pray that God would show you how you are to be a part of the body of Christ?

Would you pray about some of the hang ups you may have about church in general and what might be keeping you from joining one?

 

Posted in Listen, Encourage and Live the Word | Leave a comment

Abide with God John 15

John 15:5  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

When it comes to our lives we tend to let the urgency of the moment distract us from what is really important. We do this because we think that anything we do is going to depend solely on our productivity with our passion and perseverance. Although I believe we should be passionate and persevere to see results I think we have a tendency to think that the results of our work are solely our doing. I agree that we reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7) but I also believe there is something more to our Christian walk than hard work.

Some versions of the Bible say abide and some versions say remain but both convey the message that Jesus wants us to adhere to and that is our strength and guidance comes from God and not of our own doing. Meriam Webster’s dictionary has several meanings of abide but the one that I think is fitting for this passage is, “to continue in place.” The Idea of abiding with God is to be in a place with God as you rest in the fact that He is in control. The idea of the Vine is that the branches only can grow and produce fruit as long as they are connected to the Vine. Israel was known as a vine (Jeremiah 2:21) , although an imperfect one, and Jesus ties in that He is the ultimate vine that we need in order to produce lasting fruit that He longs to see in our lives. Branches have no life in and of themselves and are dependent on the vine in order to do anything but so many times we think it is by our own effort and ability that we forget who we really are dependent on. We need to learn what it means to abide in Christ and what we must do that will produce eternal fruit with our lives.

Abide in His Strength

If you look at our nation and the world you realize that the problems we are seeing are because of spiritual problems. Church attendance is down, young adults are walking away from the faith, the largest religious organization outside of Baptist and Catholics are called “Nones” because they have no affiliation with any denomination or church.  Part of the problem we are facing is because we have taught that Christianity is behavior modification instead of life transformation and each week we have given everyone a list of things they should and should not do.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“I no longer live but Christ lives through me” If you are like me when I became a Christian (Christ follower) I thought I had to go and earn my keep or prove myself worthy to be on “God’s team”. I tried and tried not to sin and to do the things that church asked me to do the problem was I kept failing and I would grow discouraged and tired. I had to learn (and I am still learning) that I am a branch and it is Jesus power and Holiness that lives through me. For those of you who have a works mentality of Christianity this is going to be difficult for you to understand since you think that you are to go out and charge the gates of Hell with a squirt gun. We have to realize that the Christian life is not for us to live but for Christ (The Vine) to live through us (the branches). This idea that we can produce our own fruit is because we believe it is about our own activity and works. My friend Brent in his book living for another explains the life of a branch lived in a vine this way.

“It needs to be said here that his fruit is produced naturally. Like breath, we only expel what is put in us. We breathe in the things of God and expel the things of God. The old saying goes, “Trees don’t grunt to grow! I am certain you’ve never seen a tree grunt to pass and apple! The roots go deep and the fruit comes naturally. A plastic fruit factory is loud and hectic and smells bad. But a vineyard is quiet and peaceful. When we try to produce our own “plastic” fruit, we become louder, more hectic, and sooner or later our lives stink.” Brent Gambrell, Living for Another, PG. 39)

Many Churches and Christian  are loud and hectic as they are producing fake fruit thinking they are doing what God commanded them to do. We have separated time with God with activity for God and it is a common mistake we all can make over and over again. It “FEELS” productive to be busy, tired or burned out doing ministry but is that really what God called us to? Yes there will be times when your energy will be zapped as you minister to others (Luke 8:46) but that is even more reason we cannot rely on our own strength or resources.

I am for spiritual disciplines, as we will talk about in a moment, but when we think it is about our working harder or doing better than we miss out on the greatest relationship we can have which is with Jesus Christ as He works in and through us to accomplish His will. We have become religious leaders who are busy doing acts of righteousness by our own power and for our own glory while missing out on Jesus.

“The focus of the Bible is not on the question, “What would Jesus do?” but on, “What has Jesus done?” (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing back into Grace, Pg 14)

Christianity is the story of what Christ has done not what I am doing and when we get this backwards we become the religious leaders instead of serving out of a love relationship with God.  You cannot make God happy by your works because your greatest works are still gross to Him (Isaiah 64:6) and this is what the religious leaders of Jesus day could not understand. They thought all their rules and all their sacrifices would be accepted by God but they failed to realize that even our best efforts are tainted by sin. We have to get this right or we are going to find ourselves burned out and frustrated and useless as we work tirelessly to serve Him. We have to learn to abide with Him if we are going to see Him do things in and through us that no one but Him can get the credit.

Abide with Him Daily

Abide means to Continue in a Place and so many times our time with God gets pushed out by things that seem more productive and more of a priority than Him. We may not ever say that in our churches but the fact remains we allow other things to take precedence over God every day. One of the reasons we do not take time to sit with God is because we start with the wrong view of God. We do not see God in light of how He has made us acceptable to Himself by dying on the cross for us and therefore we have become a friend of God.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Do you have people in your life that it is easy to hang out with and talk to? Many Christians have a faulty view of God and therefore they do not spend time with Him on a daily basis and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) as if He went with them throughout their day. The only way that you can become more like Christ is to spend time with Him because it is His life that is lived through you but if you see God as a taskmaster asking you to do the impossible for Him then you will not want to spend all day abiding with Him.  When we understand God’s Love, His Grace and the friendship we can have with Him then we realize that our service to Him is not as a servant but in a love relationship.

A) Abide by Listening to His Word

Going to church is important. I say that right away because our culture has changed thinking they do not need to be in a church. We have taken the phrase “a personal relationship with God” to mean we are to live the Christian walk on our own. We need each other but we need each other to share Gods word together.

“We do not seem to appreciate the extent to which we ourselves are seduced by the idols of our own culture and require in-depth, continuous, dedicated deprogramming by faithful teachers. … the church’s ministry needs to prepare us for real life in the adult world. (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing back into Grace, Pg 21-22)

Acts 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

The only way we can make sure we are not straying into the deceitful ways of the world is to stay in God’s word and with other brothers and sisters in Christ who can help guide us in ways to make sure we are not twisting God’s word to say what we want it to say.

B) Abide by Reading His Word

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say read your Bible? Some people say things like, “I don’t understand it all, or  I fall behind and give up, or I know I should but it’s difficult to understand”. When you look at reading the Bible as a chore instead of a letter from a friend it can become difficult and there are some difficult things for us to understand. In fact there are many things we may not understand this side of Heaven but that should not keep us from reading it and understanding what we can understand.

 

2 Peter 3:15-16 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

People only complain about the Bible being difficult to understand even though there are many things in this life we do not understand. Did you understand  every subject in school growing up? Were you allowed to quit? No we pushed ourselves to understand what we could and sometimes (not all the time) we understand those things later as we grew and matured as adults. The same is true with God’s word it is simple enough for us to get the basic concepts down but some things we will not understand until we grow and maturity. We are also a very distracted people and just like physical exercise we need to train our brains.

They say if you really wanted to you could read the entire Bible in 72 Hours. They say if you read for 15 minutes a day you would read the entire Bible in a year. This may or may not be true for all of us but those numbers are probably pretty close to being true. Before the reformation it was the priest who had the Bible and they would tell people what it said and what to think. Martin Luther fought for the average person to read their Bibles and after the reformation people would take their lunch times and time with family to read the Bible together. I’m afraid that we have gone back to just waiting for someone to read the Bible to us and tell us what to think even though we have Bibles that we can read on our own.

Hebrews 5:12 -13  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

If we are going to have the faith that we need to walk in this world then we have to be reading Gods word on our own. Just like when you start a subject at school you may not get it all right away but you will eventually as you continue in it. The good news for Christians is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us (John 16:13) kind of like having a tutor who is available at all times.

I would encourage you to read your Bibles on your own by having a reading plan and by setting a consistent time of the day that you will read.

C) Abide by Memorizing His Word

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart,  that I might not sin against you.

Some versions say hidden but stored is better because it means you have abundance. What is the Word of God in the arsenal of Spiritual warfare?  Ephesians 6:17 says that the sword is God’s word. Some of you will not leave your house without your gun but you do not take a more important weapon with you which is God’s word. If you are struggle loving someone get a passage of scripture that talks about forgiving. If you are struggling with fear memorize a passage of scripture that deals with that. Whatever you are dealing with then memorize scripture about that so that you can be ready when the enemy attacks. The old adage goes “when do you need a fire extinguisher? When you need one” the same is true for the Bible verses you need because you never know when the enemy will attack.

Some of you might say that you do not have a good memory. You can memorize what you work on so do not buy into the excuses that you do not have a good memory. Can you remember your phone number or your Address? Then you can memorize scripture.

Memorization will help you minister to others as well. Remember we do not exist for ourselves and the verse you memorize by just be the word from God that someone needs.

D) Abide by Meditating on His Word

When we think of meditating we many times think of yoga practices of emptying one’s mind. We are never called to empty our minds and I would encourage you to never do it. Christian meditation is thinking about Gods word not thinking about nothing.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Meditation is more like pondering and slowing down to think about what you just heard or read. I would encourage you to write down and think about something from your reading.  Sometimes I forget what my time with God was about so I jot a note on a piece of paper and review it throughout the day. That is meditation, thinking and remembering what God has said.

If we are going to Abide, continue in place with Jesus, we need to Listen, Read, memorize and meditate on the word of God. If you spend time with Jesus (The Vine) you will see Him do things in and through you (The Branch) that can only be explained by a supernatural working of God. Many people get confused about what God will do through you but we know in scripture the fruit that He said He would produce through us.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This is the fruit you will gain when Christ works through your life.  In this crazy mixed up world I wish I could demonstrate these entire all the time and I can as long as Christ lives through me and not by my own power. Our world needs to see Christ working through us and in order for us to be the salt and light to the world we need to be a people that learns to abide (remain) with Him.

 

 

Posted in Listen, Encourage and Live the Word, What We Believe | Leave a comment

Amos 9:11-15 The Point of No Return: Hope

We all wish for God to make things right and fix the evil that is in the world.  We all see it and we are frustrated that God is allowing it to continue but our hope is that one day He will make all things new.

When we hope for something we sometimes think of things we want to happen but we are not sure they will. “I hope I get the job promotion” or “I hope I make the team” is not the kind of hope we are talking about. Hope means more than just wishful thinking especially since God is involved. Hope means to expect with confidence. Because all the prophecies of the Bible have been true so far we can trust what it says about the future. When we hope someone does something we base it on their character and on their previous actions. With God our Hope is different because we know God is perfect, He does not lie and everything He has promised He has fulfilled.

At the end of all the warnings that the prophet Amos was giving God wanted to give Hope to those who were living faithfully among those who had a form of spiritual life but who were rebelling against God. The prophets would always have a message of hope mixed in with their announcements of judgement to remind the faithful that God sees and to encourage them in their righteous living. Judgment is always supposed to lead to a changed lifestyle but it is something that offers hope since God will right all the wrongs and judge people for what they did. Today we are going to see the hope of the righteous people and so we can find hope in a world that seems to ignore the pleas of God to come to Him for salvation

 Amos 9:11-15 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.13 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, band they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them, says the Lord your God.

 

Our Hope is in the future

“In that day “This section is in first person reemphasizing the fact that God Himself is making the promise of all things being renewed. Because God is the one making the promise our trust in the promise is assured.  We are to look past our present situation knowing that one day God will renew the world back to His original design and remove evil and sin forever. Everything in our world is allowed to happen for a time but the day we look forward to is coming for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

“Today may be terrible, and tomorrow may bring more sorrow than any one person should have to bear, but there is hope because God exists and has a plan to bring this world to a wonderful end.” (The NIV Application Commentary, Gary Smith, PG 416)

If you are lacking hope and your world seems to be dark there is hope that is on the horizon when God makes all things new. The book of Amos ends with a promise so that people lift their heads and focus on the future and not on the pain and suffering they will be experiencing.

Our Hope is not in the Temporary

“The booth of David” The booth of David was a way of showing that the kingdom they thought was so great was really just temporary like the booths they would set up for shelter in the desert. The Davidic Kingdom, the greatest kingdom in their mind, is compared to a temporary booth. This is not our best life now and we are to not see the world we are living in as anything but a temporary situation.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are to keep our eyes on the future that we have been promised and by doing so we will experience the hope that the world without Jesus cannot.  Our bodies are temporary housing just like the booths that were made of sticks and palm branches they will one day wither away but one day all things will be made new. Our situations, no matter how good or bad they are temporary and will not compare to the glory of God and what He has planned for those who put their trust in Him.

 

“When the plowman will overtake the reaper “

For a farmer to hear that the plowman will overtake the reaper was an insane statement.  When things are renewed there will be no lack of food and the harvest will be so plentiful that they will not even be done reaping the fruit before it is time to plant again. There will be so much wine that it will literally be running down the hillside. These are unheard of statements whether literal or not the fact remains that God will take the temporary struggles and make them seem like nothing when the new day arrives. Our hope is not in this world and how long it last  but in our God who has saved us for all eternity to experience a new world that is beyond our comprehension.

 

1 Timothy 4:10  For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Are you setting your hope on the temporal or the eternal? Jesus is the savior for all but only those who believe in Him will be saved and ushered into this wonderful new world that will be awesome because the presence of God will be there like never before.

Hope is for those who have His name.

“All the nations that are called by my name. “ To be called by God’s name meant He had ownership of them and they submitted to Him. “What” God is going to do is just as important as the “Who” God is going to do it for. We sometimes have a tendency to get focused on what God is going to do and we forget that not everyone has that hope because they have not placed their salvation in Jesus Christ. We have to make sure that our focus is not just on our destiny but also on the destiny of others and the hope they can have in Jesus Christ.

The disciples quoted this passage of scripture in Acts 15:16-18 when discussing the Gentiles being a part of the church because they knew that it was always Gods plan to include all people into His kingdom and not just the Israelites. They knew that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord can be saved. (Acts 16:31)  The Hope that God promised to the people may have persuaded some people in Amos day to join the righteous and walk away from the sinful practices of the people of that day.

 

Jeremiah 15:16 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts

When a child is adopted they take the name of the family who is adopting them. When we trust in the work of Jesus then we are put into the family of God not because we have earned it but because we were chosen by God and we accepted His calling.

“Never again to be uprooted “The promise of eternity goes beyond anything we can imagine because many cannot fathom that once we are in the family of God they are in it forever. Because we still believe that our acceptance with God is based on whether we are good or bad  and not the work of Jesus Christ some falsely teach that you can lose your salvation. My children are my children even when they mess up and they have my name so they will always be my children.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

One of the beautiful promises that we have of belonging to Christ is that we are His eternally based on His work and not our own behavior.  Amos promise to them was a Hope that they never again have to worry about their enemies, disease, sickness, pain and struggle because they belonged to God. There is a hope that goes beyond this world and all of its troubles but only for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

John 16:33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus never promised us a pain free life but He wanted us to stay focused on the hope that we have because He overcame the world.  God wanted His faithful servants to be encouraged that there was Hope beyond this world and no matter what trials or heart ache they faced that they could have hope because a day is coming when all things will be made new.

Where have you placed your hope? Are you placing your hope in God or in the circumstances of this world?  Have you placed your hope in your finances, in relationships and even status? All those things will one day pass away. Are you placing your hope in your own works for salvation and acceptance with God? There is only one way to come to God and that is through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; Acts 16:31)

Your hope is guaranteed because Christ rose from the dead and He not only defeated Sin He defeated death which is how He overcame the world.

Posted in Amos, Old Testament | Leave a comment

Amos 9:1-10 The Point of No Return: Judgment

God is fed up, which means He is filled up with the sins of the Israelites and He has told them through the prophet Amos that they have reached a point of No return God said He would not forget their sins in Amos 8:7 and this means that they cannot be in relationship with God because we have to have our sins forgiven in order to be in His presence. Because their sins will not be forgiven they will mourn which also means to regret. The presence of God  is what they will never experience for all of eternity but God is giving them what they really wanted since they ignored the presence of God on earth.

The word Judgment sounds very negative and for some people on the Day of Judgment it will be a day of regret, pain and sorrow but for some people it will be a day of rejoicing. When a judge makes a verdict someone usually has a favorable ruling and they are happy with the judgement that was given so judgment, although sounding negative does not have to be a negative experience. Amos has another vision from God and although Amos was able to thwart God’s judgment from the people earlier their unwillingness to stop worshiping other gods along with their treatment of people made it where God was done giving them chances. We will all face God one day and that means we will all face judgment. Before we step off this earth we should know what the judgment of God is going to be about.

Read Amos 9:1-6 I saw the Lord standing beside[a] the altar, and he said:“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people;[b]and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape.“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”The Lord God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth— the Lord is his name.

The Lord gives the judgement

“I saw the Lord standing beside the altar” The one standing is the one who is in charge and on the Day of Judgment there will be no question as to who is in charge of the judgments that will be given. The altar was the place where communion with God took place because that is where the sacrifices were made and forgiveness of sins were received. The people would normally look forward to going to the altar of God but what Amos told them would have shocked and in disbelief.  The place where God would meet His people in Grace is now the site of Judgment against them.

Many people tell me they look forward to the day when they will stand before God for their actions but I believe we do not have the proper perspective on the awesomeness of God and just how small we really are. Because we have a low view of God, a high view of ourselves and a lack of understanding of Gods Holiness, we think we will be ready for that day based on our own works and behavior. The story of Christianity is that Christ is the only way we can be prepared to meet God because Jesus is the one who makes us acceptable to God.

You cannot hide from God’s Judgment

“Not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape” Amos let them know that no matter where they went or whatever route they took God would find them. There is not one person who will escape the judgment of God. One of the most beautiful verses about God is that we never leave His presence no matter how dark life gets or what we are going through. All the promises of God to His children are dreadful to those who want to escape Him.

Psalm 139:7-10 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning  and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (See Also Romans 8:38-39)

The end times talk about a similar scenario as people try and escape Gods Presence and remove themselves from His judgment.

 

Revelation 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave[d] and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Hebrews 4:13 says that no creature is hidden from His sight and will give an account. God’s judgement is fair and true because God sees and knows all. Every action, every thought and every intention of our heart is seen by God . This is the reason we have to accept the free gift of Jesus Christ for our sins to be forgiven because God not only sees us as others sees us but He sees us for who we really are.

Read Amos 9:7-10 Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, “declares the Lord.“For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. 10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.

Judgement because of Evil

Are you not like the Cushite’s to me?” The people thought they had special favor with God but God lets them know that they are just like the evil Cushite’s in His eyes. It would be like God telling you that you are just like Hitler or Charles Manson in His eyes. Israel did have a special relationship with God and it was through them that they were supposed to be the light of the world (Gen 12:1-3) and through them that salvation would come to all people through Jesus Christ. Just because God chose to work through the Israelites did not mean they could live however they wanted and just because God brought them out of Egypt it did not mean that they could ignore His standards. The Israelites were on a covenant relationship with God which gave them promises but it came with conditions. The Blessings of God were because of a fruitful, righteous life and the blessings of God were not promised to those who ignored His ways and His prophets.

God viewed them as evil because of their false worship and their treatment of their fellow man.

Some of what they did we would not see as evil but we are not going by our standards but Gods. We all have a tendency to make what we do not a sin and we all have a tendency to live our own lives and make up our own rules but we are called to live by the rules of God. Do you call evil what God calls evil?

The Righteous will escape God’s Judgment

“As one shakes with a sieve” Many of us long for the world to be different than it is and for evil to be done away with, wars to stop and people allowed to live in peace. Roman 8:22 says that even the earth is groaning and longing for the day God will make all things right again. God’s judgment is not about destroying people it’s about removing evil from this world. Judgment is a positive thing and something we all look forward to when God establishes the earth back to His original design. God will shake out those who do not belong in His Kingdom like a farmer shakes out the wheat.

God’s view of us as people is either as sinners or as saints. In our view we may look the same but God is going to sift out those who belong to Him from those who do not and we may be surprised at who is and who is not in Heaven. Matthew 13:24-30 says the weeds and the wheat are growing next to each other until the harvest and then they will be separated. God is always ready to forgive sin but make no mistake your sins cannot be ignored because either Jesus has to pay for them or you will be held accountable for them. God’s grace makes a relationship with Him possible but a relationship means that there are two mutual parties responding to each other. God has reached out to a dying world and provided a way to be back in a right relationship with Him by coming and dying on the cross for our sins. If you continue to ignore what God has done and the invitation He has given then you will be thrown out of His presence. (Matthew 22:13)

Taking sin lightly, not confessing sins are some indicators that you have not responded to God. We all sin but it is our view of that sin that shows our relationship to God. Many people believe in God but live their lives as if He does not exist. This is exactly what the people in Amos day were doing. They were acknowledging God to a point but lived their lives as if He did not exist.

Romans 4:7-8 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Some are falsely teaching that God accepts everyone as they are but we have to be forgiven in order to be accepted. If God accepted us as we are then there would be no reason for Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus died so that our sins will be forgiven by God and to reject the work of Christ on the cross is to reject that forgiveness that is offered.

2 Corinthians 5:21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The great exchange is that Jesus took our sin and we were given His righteousness. For those who have accepted the gift of Jesus Christ God now sees you as righteous and your name will be written in the book of life. God will no longer see you as evil but perfect because Jesus is perfect.

Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

“What binds these millions of people together is the common view that they will be accepted by God on the basis of their goodness. …What these people lack is the righteousness that God requires for entry into Heaven.” (Your Eternal Reward, Erwin W. Lutzer, PG. 161)

Justice in the United States of America is demonstrated by a blindfolded woman which is to show that no matter who you are you are judged fairly.  Justice with God is with His eyes wide open because God is perfect and He judges based on His own character

Amos gives them warnings to try and get the people to change but they do not realize they are not on good terms with God. God’s warnings are not to be taken lightly and sin is not to be as well.  We all have a tendency to not call certain things in our own lives sins but we are to live by Gods standard and not our own. How will the Day of Judgment be for you? Will it be a dreadful day or a wonderful one? If you accept the free gift of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins then all the sins in your life will not be brought up. (Romans 8:1)

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Amos 8:14The Point of No Return: Eternity

Amos is continuing his speech to the Israelites who could not imagine that God was not going to accept them and their worship. The Israelites did not believe the prophet Amos because they were led astray by their religious leaders who were the ones leading them in false worship and condoning their sinful ways. If there is one thing that many people are led astray about it is the false teachings about the afterlife and what happens to us when we die.

Reincarnation is the philosophical or religious concept that the soul or spirit, after biological death, can begin a new life in a new body.

Purgatory is an intermediate state after physical death in which some of those ultimately destined for heaven must first “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” holding that “certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”

Universalism is a centuries-old belief that all people will be saved because of God’s unconditional love.

Every religion and even atheism has an answer for what happens to us when we die. Whatever you accept you accept by faith. With all of these beliefs how do we know which one is correct and who do we believe? Some people will claim that we cannot know and so it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere about it. The people in Amos day were sincere in their worship but that is why God sent His prophet to them to correct them in their thinking and to show them that there is a true way to worship Him.

Amos 8:14 Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’ they shall fall, and never rise again.”

1)   All Roads do not lead to God

We have been talking about religious pluralism which believes that all the religions teach similar things therefore you just need to pick one because God will accept all of them. The people in Amos day were doing exactly that and Amos was trying to warn them about it and that was worshiping God on their terms instead of accepting His terms of how worship should be done.

To swear was to take an oath in front of the god that one worshiped and it would be the god that you sacrificed for and placed your trust in. Israel’s problem was theological because they thought that they could add other gods to the worship of the true God. They were to swear an oath to God alone (Deuteronomy 6:13) and when they made an oath with these other gods they were looking to them to fulfill something only God can fulfill.

If all roads lead to Heaven then why did Jesus Christ have to die and why did He say He was the only way to God?

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I start with the words of Jesus because if we are going to be Christ followers (Christians) then we have to accept the words and teachings of Christ. To say that all religions lead to God is to say that Jesus was not telling us the truth.

Acts 4:11-12 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

The Apostle Peter is saying the same thing in front of the religious leaders that Jesus is the only name given that salvation can be obtained.

1Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Jesus is the one we turn to for our salvation. Either He is the way, the truth and the life or He is a liar and all of His teachings should be disregarded.

2)   The Road you choose will be eternal

They shall fall to never rise again.

Amos let them know that if they sought other gods that those gods could not save them. The concept of being separated from God for all eternity is a struggle that many people do not understand nor are the willing to accept. Jesus tells a story to illustrate the point of what happens in eternity and the fate of two different men.

Luke 16:22-26 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[f] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

When Jesus told this story some say it was not a parable because he names the poor man (Lazarus) and the rich man is only known by his deeds. Most parables do not mention any names and if the man was in torment it demonstrates how being nameless means he was forgotten. The man in torment is not looking to get out of his punishment only to have it made a little more bearable.

D.A. Carson says, “Hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good blokes, but they just didn’t believe the right stuff. They’re consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy their maker and want to be at the center of the universe. Hell is not filled with people who have already repented, only God isn’t gentle enough or good enough to let them out. It’s filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying behavior.” (Case for Faith, Lee Strobel, Pg. 193)

There is no indication that those in hell will want out because God gave them what they wanted which is separation from Him. Notice how the rich man thinks he can ask Abraham for something and that he can get the poor man to serve him. He lived a selfish life on earth and in eternity he continues in his selfish ways. He does later say for someone to warn his brothers but he was told that they had Moses and the prophets and that if they did not listen to them then they would not believe if someone rose from the dead.

“A great Chasm has been fixed”

Jesus made it clear that after death a person who did not accept Him would be eternally separated from God and once there you could not leave.

Matthew 25:41 and 46 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We are eternal beings but where we spend that eternity depends on if we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as payment for our sin. Many people find Hell offensive but as I have said before forgiveness is more offensive. For someone who did horrible things to suffer no consequences of those actions are very offensive but it is what is promised to anyone who puts their faith in Christ. To deny the reality of Hell is to lessen the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on our behalf.

“The idea is hard for us humans to take because we do not have the kind of revulsion from sin, evil and wickedness that God has-or that we indeed should have. Even the best of us flirt with sin. We smile and wink at it. We too often forget that one single sin equates to death. “ (The 10 most common objections to Christianity, Alex McFarland, Pg. 168)

Jesus died to fix the problem that existed between us and God and that is we were separated from God because of our sin. Most people do not see themselves separated from God but that is the universal problem that Jesus came to fix. If you put your faith and hope in other religions the Bible tells us that they will not be good enough to earn your salvation. (Acts 11:12 salvation in no one else) If you put your faith and hope in your own works the Bible says that you will never be good enough (Ephesians 2:8-9) But if you put your faith and hope in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross not only defeating sin but also defeating death then we can have eternity with God. (1 John 5:11-13)

Do you believe that what Jesus Christ did on the cross allows you to have eternal life? Do you think you have been good enough to earn salvation on your own? Eternity is on the line and we will all face it one day so what you know and believe about it now matters. You can deny the reality of eternity, hell and even heaven but whatever you choose you choose by faith. Jesus, who was God in the flesh, came to earth and spoke these things about Hell, Heaven and eternity so that we can know the truth about them. Jesus died for a reason and that was to remove the wrath of God off of us and making us righteous through His actions.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

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Amos 8:11-12 The Point of No Return: The Presence of God

The warning of the coming judgment continues as the prophet Amos tells them more about what they are going to face because they have rejected Gods ways and hardened their hearts. Most people do not see themselves separated from God and many believe that most people will go to Heaven as long as they are trying. To be in God’s presence is what we long for and it is what we are promised for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Amos 8:11- 12 Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

1)   God’s word cannot be separated from God’s Presence

When they will no longer hear the word of God then it means they will no longer have Gods presence available to them. To receive no word from God means that God presence will not be found. God’s word is foundational for our relationship with Him and God has spoken His words into what we call the Bible. This is important for us to understand especially since false religions are coming into the church and distorting the truth of God. It is the mystics and the eastern religions that believe that words get in the way of experiencing God in His fullness. We are told to empty our minds and just sit in silence but there is no place in scripture that encourages to not dwell on the words of God.

“God acts through his words, the Word is “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12), and therefore the way to have God dynamically active in our lives is through the Bible. To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God Himself.” (Prayer, Timothy Keller, Pg 54)

Do not buy into the lie that you can experience God on a deeper level by clearing your mind and only sitting in silence. You should always worship and pray with your mind engaged Romans 12:2;

1Corinthians 14:14-15  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

A day is coming for those who will not believe when they will no longer be able to hear the word of God either because they have passed from this life or because they have hardened their hearts to the point they no longer can listen. To ignore the words of God is to ignore God Himself.

2)   Our Souls Long for the presence of God.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written,” ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Knowing that God’s word represents God Himself then we know that our hearts long for a relationship with Him. We were created to be in a loving relationship with God and it is the only thing that will satisfy our souls. The people will want the word of God but it will not be able to be found as it says ,  “They shall wander from sea to sea” looking for it.

                If you ever lost a loved one you know the feeling of wanting to have one more conversation with them, one more hug or to just see their face one more time. We long for a day when we can see them again and reunite with them but for those who are not in Christ not only will they not reunite with their loved ones they will also not be in the presence of God.

Many preachers on Television talk about God as if He is a genie who is here to bless you with Health and wealth. We know the things of this world are temporary and they do not fulfill the longing in our hearts but we are being taught that to follow God means that He will give you every desire of your heart.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

The true desire of our heart is God that is why we should take delight in Him and not in the stuff He gives us. Yes He will provide for our needs but many talk as if God is around to get them every selfish desire they want. If you have ever been used by someone who you thought were your friend then you know what it is like to have someone hang around you selfishly and not for the friendship. When God gave Himself up on the cross He did so to make us be able to be in a right relationship with Him. So the question I have, Is being in the presence of God enough or do you have to have His stuff?

Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

When people tell me that God didn’t (fill in the blank)_______________ so they do not worship Him than that tells me they do not want God they want a genie. The gifts of God have become gods in themselves and they are no longer interested in the one who we truly long for.

Jeremiah 2:13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

My dad’s favorite Hymn was “In the Garden” and it is all about how we have this intimate personal relationship with God. We walk and talk with Him the way He created us to be. Our souls will never be satisfied by the things of this world, although many people try and fill their lives with them, but our souls long for our Creator and our God because He designed us to be in relationship with Him.

Romans 8:15 says we are to have a relationship with God like a son to a father. In Ephesians 5 Paul also likens our relationship with God as to marriage. The presence of God was lost in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned but through Christ it was restored and one day will be restored in its fullness. When you repent and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation we are given His Spirit inside of us (John 14:17) until we get to Heaven when we will see Him face to face. There is no mystical way through silence or chants to get closer to God because God is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you so you are as close to Him as you can ever be as one who has trusted in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Matthew 28) Just like any relationship the more time you spend with someone the more you get to know them. The more time you spend with God in His word the more you will know Him.

3)   God will remove them from His presence

“They will seek the word of the Lord but they will not find it.

The people chose to ignore the warnings of God and decided they were going to live and worship how they thought was best and they lost the very thing that would have fulfilled them which is God’s presence. The worse part about the judgment of God will be the separation people will have from Him.

We told part of the story last time of the people who were given talents by their master and two of them went and were about their masters business. The third one in the parable Jesus taught tells us about people who deny the presence of God.

Matthew 25: 24- 30 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Notice this guy was not said to do anything evil he just ignored God and lived his own life. We said last time that one of the ways that you know you are in a relationship with God is if you care about the things that God cares about. When you have a relationship with God you will desire to do the things God is doing.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[a] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

 “That is why it is a travesty to picture God casting people into a pit who are crying, “I’m sorry! Let me out.” … All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself.” (The Reason for God, Pg 82, Tim Keller)

4)   Heaven is about the Presence of God.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.

If you are not satisfied with or if you do not want to be in the presence of God now then you will not enjoy Heaven. 1 John 3:2 says that we will see God as He is and 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we will see God face to face. That will be a miserable experience for anyone who does not want His presence. Those who put their hope and trust in the work of Jesus Christ will experience the presence of God for all eternity just like Adam and Eve did before they sinned.

When we read the Bible we experience Gods presence because Gods word and Gods presence are not separated. Our souls long for the presence of God so if you are finding yourself wandering from place to place looking for fulfillment I can tell you it will not happen apart from Christ and His word.

God will not force you to be in His presence but He does long for you to be with Him for eternity. Heaven is going to be Heavenly because we will see God face to face in a sinless state and enjoy Him forever.

 

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