Monday, February 23, 2015

The Book of Micah - Prophet of Promise!

Most prophets declare the coming 'doom and gloom' because of the sin of mankind. And indeed, Micah, an Old Testament Prophet around 735 BC, did have harsh words against sinning and the destruction it would bring. But, surprisingly to me, Micah spends a lot of his time sharing about the coming of Jesus and the promise of good for those who choose God and obey.

Reading Micah

I must say after reading Isaiah and Amos, I was so happy to read Micah. Matter of fact, I spent almost all of last year in Isaiah chewing over it slowly, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. I would say it is a serious book of the Bible because the largest portions of Isaiah teach about the coming punishment/judgement for sin.

I love how the books of the Bible have a personal flare; the author--though each were inspired by the one and same Holy Spirit to write--gives his unique voice, as each other should! Too many authors today try to follow a formula that has been successful in being profitable and this is pushed by the fact that publishers seek authors that follow the formula for recent success. But it is my belief, if a person has to labor too much over voice/style, they are not being genuine and therefore they have failed themselves regardless of the amount of audience or success they achieve.

Micah, like Amos, is called by God to be a prophet out of the countryside. The Bible does not tell us his previous profession before he became a prophet. We simply know that he was obedient to God, and spoke what he heard, and gave his own response, particularly when God asked for one. I do not like to go to outside sources (extra-Biblical books) to discover more about a book I am reading because I don't want to be influenced by another human until I have gleaned all that I can from the Bible itself. So I have nothing more to share with you than what is disclosed within the Book of Micah.

Arise In Micah

Three times in this book I read the word 'arise'. I am sure this stands out for me since this year God gave me the theme of 'rise' for 2015. In Micah 2:10, God says,
"Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled, it shall destroy you, even with utter destruction."
In this first time 'arise' is used God has just explained that the cause for His coming judgement is sin.
"Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them. So they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance." (Micah 2: 1-2)
But quickly after God issues this warning and tells His people to arise, he gives a promise of future restoration:
"I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many men. The one who breaks open will come up before them; They will break out, pass through the gate and go , out by it; their king will pass before them, with the LORD at their head." (Micah 2: 12-13)
All too often we think of the remnant as being such a little group but God says, "they shall make a loud noise because of so many men." Does that not make your heart want to shout, "Glory to God!" Jesus, the LORD, will be at their head leading them. He truly is our good shepherd.

In Micah 2:10, God is warning His people that they have sinned and are living in sin. He calls for them to arise and depart. Through sin they have lost what was given to them and generations prior to them. God gave them the land, but they are to keep it on the condition that they remain obedient and honoring to Him. Is this not a stark warning to the church of America? We cannot pretend to play church and think that God is going to be pleased. He is looking for us to minister to, teach and heal those around us. Too many get cozy in the world as though this world was our resting place, but we need to keep an view of our eternal home always in mind. God is our inheritance - nothing on this world can substitute for Him.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Book of Amos - Judgement, Yet Promises

The Book of Amos is a pretty small Book of the Old Testament in the Bible.

Will we be fruitful for God?
Not surprisingly, today we rarely, if ever, hear a sermon based on the Amos because the majority of the book is telling about the judgements of God. "Sin, Judgement, and Repentance" fall into the "doom and gloom" theology of old that no one wants to hear about anymore. Yet, simply because it is not taught about does not mean it goes away. God's Word is Eternal, and what He says shall come to pass regardless of whether we read about it or believe it.

Amos began life as a shepherd, 

until God spoke to him and asked him to Prophecy to both Judah and Israel. I am certain his job as a herdsmen was much easier. Dealing with animals can usually be more peaceful than communicating to humans. Besides a "bah" here or there, or a nudge. You can't get into too much interpersonal conflict with a herd. You also spend a lot of time alone and in nature, so you are able to communicate to God, if your heart so desires. But, Amos had a complete change in career. He went from the life of a daily shepherd to the challenge of telling people God's displeasure with how they were living. He became a shepherd of a different sort, a shepherd of rebellious people.

God makes it clear that he will judge sin:

You--only have I known (or chosen)--of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:2)
The more you know God, when you become part of His family and sit under his teachings, you will be held to a higher standard: all of your iniquities will be punished. Since you will know more clearly what is sin and what is not, God will hold you accountable for what you know. Children and young adults raised in a church with godly parents, need to take heed of this warning.

In the Book of Amos, God proclaims judgement on many: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel.

But consider this interesting point:

You cannot have mercy without judgement. Read that again: "You cannot have mercy without judgement." Just as there is no need for forgiveness or grace without sin, there is no need for mercy without judgement. A debt must be owed, before it can be paid or cancelled. Thankfully, God's grace is sufficient. We can never out-sin God's ability to forgive us. His grace abounds, even more so, to those who need it, and especially to those who recognize their need. 
His Grace Abounds to Us

The Angels will never know what it is like to be forgiven and to be restored by God's grace. But as humans, we can know God in this intimate way. We can know Him as our Restorer. We can love Him for redeeming us and wanting a relationship with us even though we are sinners.

God looks to each new generation to make their own decisions for their family:
I will not turn away Its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray. Their lies after which their fathers walked. (Amos 2:4)
I have a strong affinity for first generation Christians. I am one, therefore, I know it is not easy to turn from the way you were raised to build a family on design that is new to you. It takes great commitment and a lot of study to know God's Word. As always I am thankful that God is merciful and will add to what we do; He will make up (provide grace) for areas that we are short and He will correct points that we get wrong. We simply need to walk by faith that He is bigger than we are, and much more capable.

If you turn to God, and lead your family in His ways, you are not held accountable for the sins of your fathers. Every individual has an opportunity, no matter how they were raised or what horrible things they have experienced in life, to make their own personal decision to follow God and to receive His promises.

But beware, God is not fooled by half-hearted lip service. 

He knows whether you are gathering at church to socialize or to dedicate your life wholly to Him. He knows if a church is all about building an organization or about ministering to each member that makes up the living organism of a vibrant relationship with God community.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Submission - Who Do You Submit to?

Submission is a noun. The end.

Who do you submit to?

Don't you wish submission could stop there? I do sometimes. Well, that is, if it is me being asked to submit. Long ago in being trained in a literally Biblical church (some would call it legalistic, I might even today), I heard a lot about "submission". Some of it was truth that can be supported by the Bible; some of it was hogwash that was even cruel and chauvinistic, although it was taught with all sincerity and with a good heart intent.

We all submit to someone. Even if that someone is ourselves. But, often we submit to people, and frankly, what they ask us to do is sometimes not right or good for us.

The very good news is that ultimately the only person in life that you and I ever have to be totally submitted to is GOD! Whew! And that is very, very good, because God is not cruel or chauvinistic. Anything He directly asks of you will be for your good and at the right time. He knows what you need and when you need it. (Now, I am not going to have time to teach mutual submission of believers and submission of a wife to her husband since he is serving her sacrificially as Jesus gave His life for the church. Those two are completely two separate articles that can be followed up on.)

This is the HUGE difference between legalism and a personal relationship. In legalism, religious leaders study the Bible and prayerfully discern what all church members should obey. Basically they outline rules that according to their best understand they believe are Biblically sound and therefore they deem these rules should be followed by everyone in the church. Overtime these rules can be added to or subtracted, but most commonly added to and even many years down the road people can even forget the original reason why the rule was instituted. Everyone simply knows if you attend that particular church it is what is acceptable or not.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sacrifice and Servant - Motherhood, Sisterhood

The truth is I do not know the first thing about sacrifice and servanthood. I like to pretend I do. I talk like I do and I can give accounts in my life when I have both sacrificed what I wanted and served others. And in fact, it is true that I have done both at times in my life. But it is not natural for me. In the moments when no one is looking but God, I often am irked that I am asked to do something that is not what I was hoping to be doing.

Being asking to do something can be a literal pain in the neck!

I want my own time and I want to do what I want to do. 

This core desire run complete perpendicular to God's desire for me and my life. So when I am interrupted, cutoff from my intended direction, asked to wait because someone else needs or wants something, who am I fighting with? What am I fighting with?

Selfishness is a core sin that compels us to do so much. In a survival sense, selfishness can be lifesaving, but only if you are alone. In life on earth being alone is a rarity. So everyone all day long gets opportunities to make a choice, am I going to sacrifice and be a servant to God and others or am I going to do what I want to do.

And I do not know about you, but I can get angry, really ticked off, by the simplest thing that I might be asked to do. Matter of fact, big things can be motivating; they can stroke our ego that we are needed or wanted to tackle a job that others are not able to do. But not emptying the cat litter, or folding a load of laundry or cleaning a toilet! Even preparing dinner night after night gets very mundane for me, especially since I have a very limited number of items that I can make that please my family.

I want to be free. I just sang songs at church this morning about being free. Jesus sets me free. And then I walk in the back door and get asked to do a menial task and my insides crash. I want to explode because I was already planning how my next few hours were going to go. And taking 15 minutes to do something for someone else was not calculated into that plan.

What a hypocrite! 

Is God using this to show me that I am not all that I think I am. Or even worse, now I remember something I prayed at church today. I asked God to show me my sin. Oh, boy, I knew how horrible that felt the last time I asked God to do that about 25 years ago. What in the world... that is just it... it was not of the world. That prayer was Holy Spirit inspired, because I would never have asked God to do that!