Slow to Anger, Great in Power

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
(Nahum 1:1-9)

We were studying the book of Nahum last night in our Bible class. Nahum was sent to pronounce the final judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. Jonah had been sent around 100 years prior to this, and the people of Nineveh repented. However, they have gone back into their violent and wicked ways. God was slow to anger, but now there is no remedy. He will come at them with an overwhelming flood of judgment and punishment.

The phrase I want to focus on for just a moment is that God is “slow to anger but great in power.” A question that was posed last night in class was, “What if God was fast to anger and great in power?” We all agreed that there wouldn’t be much left of us and it wouldn’t take long for God to do it. He would snuff us out in a hurry.

Look at the passage above. Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger?” When God is full of wrath, there is no place to hide nor any shelter strong enough to withstand the blast (except the shelter of the blood of Jesus, of course). “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken in pieces by Him,” Nahum added.

Are you great in power? What I mean is, are you in authority over people? At work? At home? In organizations? How about in the church? What do you do with that authority and power? Do you run rough shod over people? Are you quick to anger, or are you slow to anger like God is? Is your wrath poured out quickly and instantly known by others (Proverbs 12:!6)? Are people around you intimidated and scared to set you off? Do others walk on egg shells around you because of your hair-trigger temper?

God is great in power, but slow to anger. He has the power to do whatever he wants to you and me, but His lovingkindness governs His power. Have you ever driven a truck that had a governor set where you couldn’t go over a certain speed? I think we need something like that with our anger and all our passions and emotions. What regulates my power and strength? Does God’s love, mercy and kindness rule my authority so that I do not take advantage of those who are accountable to me?

The people under your authority may not be able to escape. They have to endure that anger and face those blasts of wrath because they have to keep coming to work everyday or they have to live with you everyday. When you go off on a rant, they may have to just stay there and take it. But that isn’t fair to them is it? Should they have to endure that kind of abuse because you can’t control your temper?

If you are that person who has that kind of anger issue, please work with God to get to the root of the problem. Sit down with wise, godly people who can help you work through your anger and give you the tools to control that anger and put it in its proper place. It will take humility to admit you have a problem, and even more humility to seek out help to work through it.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:19-22)

What Love Is and What Love Isn’t

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; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Please meditate upon this section of Scripture today. Below are some simple questions and commonly used approaches to this text, but they are helpful to ask ourselves. We all need to reconnect with this passage occasionally.  I know I do. It certainly would help to read it everyday.

  • What is love? What are some things love is NOT? It certainly is not a feeling, is it? This is about rising above your feelings and doing what is right regardless of how you feel.
  • How does Jesus/God demonstrate these qualities? Look throughout Scripture and consider your own relationship with God as well. How do you see God being kind? Was Jesus arrogant and rude? Aren’t you glad that He doesn’t keep a score on you? Your record of sins has been washed away by the blood of Jesus because of His great unfailing love for you.
  • Do I have these qualities of love in my heart? Am I patient? Am I kind or am I rude? Do I insist on my own way? Am I irritable or resentful? Is my goal to be right or to be reconciled with my loved ones? Do I keep score in relationships? Am I happy when someone messes up so I can have an, “Aha! Gotcha!” moment? Do I look for the good in people or do I work up the worst possible motives about them in my mind? Am I hopeful for the best outcome in relationships?
  • Can I visualize how these qualities of love would look in my relationships? How do I specifically live out these qualities? What about when my wife gets snippy because she’s under a lot of stress? How do I talk to that person at work who is always self-centered, worldly and rude? What about the person under my authority who questions my decisions and approaches? How do I respond? How would I begin a conversation with someone that I am odds with if I had this kind of love working in my heart and soul?

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old (Psalm 25:6).

God Laid It On My Heart

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21)

There are times when someone will preface what he or she is about to say or do with, “God laid it on my heart.” If I really feel passionate about saying something or going a certain direction, I might feel like God is leading me and is behind these words or actions. It may be that God approves of what you and I are about to say and do, but how will you confirm that?

Let’s take some time to ponder the concept of God laying things on our heart. Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

Within Scripture I know for sure what God has laid upon my heart. We know that Jesus promised the apostles before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15). Having that truth, the apostles then wrote it down, and we have in the pages of the God-breathed Scripture the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As Paul said, when we read we learn the revealed mind of God (Ephesians 3:4).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Not everything going on inside of me is from God. We are in a spiritual war between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), so not all leadings and impulses I have within are from God. Paul tells us that we have to bring all thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that tells you not every thought we have is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are those Paul said who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Several different opinions, interpretations and directions arise from people claiming that God laid something on their heart. A problem arises when you and I choose our words and pathway based upon what we believe God is laying on our heart. The problem is that so many are saying that but are going in completely different directions spiritually. Remember that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). We can know for sure that God is not laying contradictory things on different hearts. Let’s be careful of crediting God with something that He may have had no part in (Jeremiah 23:32).

We are to test all things by the standard of God’s word, and that includes any promptings or thoughts I may have within. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bereans were praised by God because they tested what Paul said by comparing it with Scripture (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the same way the hearts of men are misread and misinterpreted, the word of God is also misread and misinterpreted. Knowing that, Peter warns us to be very careful not to twist the Scriptures to fit with our own desires and interpretations (2 Peter 3:14-18).

My conscience is there to help me as a guide, but it must be trained and conditioned by the word of God. Go back to the verse from Isaiah at the beginning of the article. This passage says that people will hear a word behind them telling them which way to go, to the right or to the left. I’ve often hear this passage quoted to go along with the concept that God lays things on your heart. Yes, God is speaking today and yes, He is telling us which way to go, but how does He do that? The voice of God is clearly speaking today in His word, and the apostle John wrote that if we follow His commandments, our hearts can be assured that we are one with God.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:18-22)

So, if I end up by the providence of God in a situation where He wants me to be, what do I say? Do I let my heart lead me? Have I prayed for wisdom to speak the truth from God’s word that this person needs to hear? Have I diligently studied God’s word so that I can be approved of God when I step up to speak for Him (2 Timothy 2:15)?

If I feel prompted to go a certain direction in life, have I tested that with the word of God to make sure this is the way God wants me to go? Have I sat down with wise, godly Christians to seek their counsel as to which way I should go (Titus 2:1-5; Proverbs 1:5; 24:6)? Yes, God may be leading you that direction, but He is calling you to check His word first, pray about it, and seek godly counsel. If that impulse or thought you have is not in line with God’s word, then you know it wasn’t from God.

 

Go home to your friends

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:18-20)

Here is a very rare occasion where Jesus told someone he healed to go out and tell everyone about it. Usually Jesus strictly and sternly forbade anyone he healed from going around and talking about it (Mark 1:34,43-45; 5:43; 7:36; Matthew 12:14-21). Of course, no one really listened to Jesus and went out and told everyone anyways!

Whenever someone would broadcast the news of a healing, Jesus would be so crowded and pressed about that he could hardly move. But in this situation in Mark 5, he was leaving the region. The formerly demon-possessed man really wanted to go with Jesus. I think we can understand that. Not only did this man have a really bad history with the people in that area, but come on, it was Jesus, of course he wanted to go with Jesus. He could go get a fresh start with Jesus.

But Jesus wanted him to stay put. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Isn’t that a very simple plan for evangelism? Go to your friends and talk about how God is good to you and His mercy is great upon you. And look at the impact this man had on the people in his region. They believed!

So guys, let’s take that simple thought with us today out into the world. What was asked of this formerly demon-possessed man is the same thing asked of each one of us who were bound by Satan and sin. Talk about the goodness and mercy of God.

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
(Psalms 96:1-4)

Holy Ground – My Influence

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view our relationship to the world.

The Israelites were delivered by God out of Egyptian slavery and were on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. In both places, Egypt and Canaan, wickedness and idolatry filled the land. Read the following passage from Leviticus 18.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 18:1-5)

Look at the “you shall” and “you shall not’s” in this passage. Pretty simple: don’t do what they do, don’t walk in their ways, instead, walk in my rules and my ways. If you do this, you will live.

When God prepared Joshua for leading the people into Canaan, his instructions were the same.

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel…Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:1-9)

Don’t turn from God’s law, to the left or to the right. Meditate on it day and night, in doing so we will be careful to do all that is written in it. This will take a great deal of courage, but remember that God is with us wherever we go. He will never leave us or forsake us. So, don’t be afraid.

God places us in this world today, and His encouragement is the same. Even though the temptation may be great to look around the world, try to fit in with the world, and follow the world, we must turn our eyes to Jesus and His ways. When at work, school or in our communities, do not turn from God’s word, to the left or to the right. Do not be afraid of the world, don’t be so enamored with all they have to offer. It may even be intimidating at times when you feel outnumbered and alone. Sometimes the threats are real, and you may want to cave in and forsake God’s rules. But remember to turn your eyes back to Jesus. He is there. Remember His promise: He will be with you always (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6).

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Phillipians 2:14-16)

Standing Like King Hezekiah

We are currently studying the life of King Hezekiah in our adult Bible class at the church building. Last night, we were impressed with King Hezekiah’s leadership, his full-blown commitment to following God, and his trust in God.

Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.
(2 Chronicles 29:1-8)

Here are a few quick observations that we made last night:

  1. Hezekiah chose a different direction than his father. Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, was the wicked king who defiled and defaced the temple, and he closed its doors. Hezekiah watched his father do great wickedness, but he chose to listen to God and His word. You do not have to follow in your family’s footsteps, if they are not walking with God. You can choose your own direction like Hezekiah did.
  2. Hezekiah was prepared to serve when the time came. When Hezekiah became king at 25, he hit the ground running. The first month of the first year, he started making changes. That tells us that before this time, he was preparing his heart to listen to and serve God. It’s not like he didn’t know what to do when he became king; he was already prepared in heart and mind to make the changes God required. He was ready because he was informed, and he was informed because his heart had been searching out the word of God.
  3. Hezekiah did not waste time cleansing the temple and restoring the worship back to God’s way. Again, it was the first year and the first month. It’s like Hezekiah was watching all of this wickedness happen, and the moment he had the reins of power, he starting taking care of business. “This changes today, now!” He had a sense of urgency about getting things right with God.
  4. Hezekiah was young, but made no excuses for it. I’m sure that there were several of his father’s advisers around, and plenty of older men and women around him that were fine keeping things the way they used to be, but that did not deter Hezekiah. Even as a young 25-year old, he stood for God and led a whole nation in restoration. Just like Timothy, Josiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and David, young men can do incredible things for God. There is no defined age for leadership.
  5. Hezekiah made changes that no leader before him made. The Bible said there was no king like him, before or after (2 Kings 18:1-6). 2 Kings 18 tells us that he destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses made because the people were worshiping it. Think about that – it had been 700 years, and no leader between Moses and Hezekiah had destroyed it. Hezekiah went all the way when it came to obedience to God. It didn’t matter how long people had been practicing something, or how deeply entrenched the people were in a religious practice, his commitment was to completely following God’s word.

He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered… (2 Kings 18:5-7).

How Can I Keep from Singing?

The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.

One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.

Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.

Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.

I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it?

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!
(Isaiah 10:15)

In Isaiah 10, God is calling out Assyria for destruction because of their arrogance and pride (Isaiah 10:12). The Lord used the Assyrian empire as the rod of His wrath to punish the nations, including Israel and Judah. But that does not mean that God approved of the Assyrians or that they were righteous.

The Assyrians were very arrogant in their pursuit of power and destruction. You can see the arrogance of the Assyrian kings in that they attributed all of this military victory and dominance to their own strength. God was not recognized nor magnified in their victories.

For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”
(Isaiah 10:13-14)

In verse 15, we see a piercing question asked by God:

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?

Listen, buddy, God says, you are just an axe in my hands. I’ve never seen an axe or a saw strut around and boast. They are just wood and metal, instruments in the hands of the master. That is the point of God through Isaiah here, Assyria was merely an instrument in the hands of the Almighty and Righteous God.

Please keep this in mind today, guys. There is no cause for boasting in anything other than the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31; Galatians 6:14). Be very careful of your words and who gets the credit and glory for who you are and what you do.

We are merely instruments of His righteousness.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
(Romans 6:13)

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?

Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead–(Galatians 1:1).

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10-12).

We just finished a gospel meeting with my great friend, Jason Salyers. He preached from the book of Galatians. He drew our attention to the theme that “the gospel is not from men.” There were men in that Galatian region who were trying to pervert and twist the gospel. At the same time those very men were aggressively oppressing and persecuting those who stood for the gospel. Both Paul and those who stood for the gospel could have made life a lot easier for themselves if they would have just caved in and went along with those false teachers. As Jason pointed out, even the false teachers were teaching these things because they wanted to avoid persecution (6:12).

Here are some things about Paul in the book of Galatians to remember when it comes to being a people-pleaser versus a servant of Christ.

  • Paul understood his relationship and position with Christ did not come from men, but through Christ (1:1).
  • He also knew that seeking the approval of men was the same as turning his back on Christ (1:10-12). It isn’t that he didn’t try to accommodate the consciences of others and become all things to all men (1 Cor. 9), but his focus was first on pleasing Christ. He could do nothing for men that would not please Jesus.
  • You can’t yield when it comes to the truth of the gospel, not even for a moment (2:5).
  • Don’t try like Peter did to play both sides of the fence and make everyone happy (2:11-19). That’s just being a hypocrite, and it will have a strong influence to lead the faithful astray (2:13).
  • Understand that those who are “influential” added nothing to Paul. God shows no partiality and Paul didn’t either (2:6). Just because that person is a big time somebody doesn’t mean you cower and cave. God is not impressed by status, nor should we be.
  • Know that when you stand for truth, friends may become enemies (4:16).
  • Think about whether you are trying to make a “good showing in the flesh” or trying to please Christ (6:12).
  • Paul did not seek to please men, because he understood that being crucified with Christ meant that the world had been crucified to him as well (6:14).

There are several other verses from Galatians that tie in to this point, but this is enough for today to think about.

Thanks again, Jason, for the lessons.

Take a Few Minutes to Understand

I had two recent encounters with people in the retail business and both left me with the same lesson.

One is a manager of a farm store that I frequent. He has been pretty short and seemingly disinterested lately when I talk to him and ask him about various product questions. Come to find out, he recently slipped on a boat dock, hit his head on the concrete and he passed out. On top of that, he was underwater and his eleven year old daughter couldn’t move him to safety. He told me, “I don’t know why or how I woke up, but I did.” This led to a discussion about God and His relationship with Jesus, so please pray for this to lead to his coming to Jesus.

Another example was this morning as I was at the cell phone store dealing with a phone issue. We had two bad experiences at previous stores, had been on customer service for a long time last night and this morning, and I finally go to another of the store locations to get help. The young lady who helped me was very quiet as she did her job. Not very personal at all. About 10 minutes into working on a new SIM card, she said, “I’m sorry I’m quiet. My 14 year old dog is at home dying and I can’t get my mind off it.” It led to a good discussion, and I told her our family can certainly understand.

Now, the reason I bring these two examples up is because it would be easy to make a snap judgment about these two people and say they were rude, or didn’t care. We could walk away telling everyone how we received poor customer service. But what is the backstory? What’s going on in their lives? Did we take any time to think or consider what else is going on in their lives that may lead them to behave this way?

It is just another reminder for me, and I hope it helps you. Don’t be so hasty to make a judgment about someone. We certainly don’t like it when others do it about us.