A Public Spectacle

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)

The apostles, according to Paul, were treated like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. For the sake of Christ, they were treated worse than garbage. They were not winning any popularity contests, for sure! What did they endure for Christ? Can we picture the humiliation, rejection and mistreatment they lived through for the cause of Christ?

That makes me uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable is that Jesus told us to rejoice and consider ourselves blessed when we are treated that way.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:10-12)

I was reading Isaiah 20 recently. Isaiah was asked to walk around naked and barefoot for 3 years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia (Isaiah 20). Whatever that specifically meant for Isaiah, commentators have debated, but I can gather from chapter 20 that it meant shame and public humiliation for Isaiah. It was a sign, prophecy and warning of the shame and public humiliation that those two evil nations would experience. Isaiah was allowed to be shamed and humiliated for God’s glory and righteous cause.

Paul wrote in his next letter to the Corinthians that he had learned to be “content” with such things as insults and persecutions for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 12:10). He knew that through such trials Christ’s strength, not Paul’s strength, would work in him.

Are we willing to become a public spectacle for Christ’s sake? Please don’t think that I’m saying we should go around and intentionally try to bring attention to ourselves and make a scene. But when we live and stand for Jesus, the insults and humiliation will naturally come (2 Timothy 3:12). Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hates the light.

When you walk away from sin, your friends and family will notice. Those closest to you may mock you and insult you for your stand. Don’t cave in because you want to fit in. Lovingly stand for Jesus.

The apostle Peter must have struggled with this desire to cave in and make nice with others. It is a natural human instinct to avoid pain. Peter did it when Jesus was on trial (Mark 14:66-72), and he did it later in life when the Jews put pressure on him to shun the Gentiles (Galatians 2). Peter knew the temptation to avoid mistreatment and persecution, but as a mature older man in Christ he said the following things about the treatment you will receive as a Christian and how to behave and think when it happens.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:12)

…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:16-17)

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
(1 Peter 4:3-5)

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
(1 Peter 4:14-16)

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
(1 Peter 4:19)

Be patient

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
(James 5:7-11)

“Be patient” is the repeated teaching in this section. Be long-suffering. The previous verses in chapter 5 talk about how some were mistreating others. Rich people were oppressing the poor people, and those being hurt really did not have the power or means to do anything about it.

The Lord is coming (vs. 7,8,9). How do we focus our minds to have the long-suffering during adversity and mistreatment? Remember the Lord is coming. It is “at hand,” meaning it is drawing near. Deliverance from evil, and God’s judgment of the wicked will come soon. Trials will soon be over.

Be patient. The Judge is standing at the door, so be very careful as to what you say about each other, even those who are mistreating you.

Be patient, and think of the prophets. Consider what they endured as they stood for God.

Be patient, and remember Job. Remember how “steadfast” he was through all that he faced?

Be patient, and see the purpose of the Lord. What ever His “purposes” are, they come out of His compassion and mercy toward you and me.

Hold on. Wait. Endure. Jesus is on His way. But not only that, Jesus is with us today. He promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).


So I bought her for myself

Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.”
(Hosea 3:1-5)

Hosea married a woman (Gomer) who played the harlot. God used Hosea’s marriage to illustrate vividly His relationship to Israel as their loving and devoted Husband.

In this book of Hosea, we see the broken heart of God hurting for what Israel is doing to Him and to herself. Yet, He lets Israel go her own way. The loving Husband allows his wife Israel to sell herself to other men. The “raisin cakes” of pagan religion are just too alluring to resist. Children are born, most likely they are other men’s (Hosea 2:4). He watches in agony as she begins to reap the consequences of her idolatrous ways.

It leaves Israel broken, poor, used up, empty and destitute. The image in Hosea is of a harlot that had been used so much she is only worth half the price of a slave. Can you imagine Hosea walking up to that slave market? Can you picture when their eyes first met? What did she look like at that point? How did Hosea view her? With what kind of heart and attitude did Hosea approach his wife?

With love. With mercy. With grace. With acceptance.

God, because of His great love, redeemed Israel and brought her back to Himself. He “allured her,” “spoke kindly to her,” and blessed her richly even after this devastating betrayal (Hosea 2:13-19).

He does the same for us today. It is precisely the picture of grace that God shows to you and me.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
(Ephesians 2:4-5)

The church is like that bride. We are Gomer. We all have sinned, played the harlot and left the loving husband, God Almighty. Yet in love He purchased us back to Himself, not with 15 shekels and bushels of poor man’s grain, but with His own blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Let’s think about this over the weekend. May it renew our love for our wonderful God and remind us of how we should think of each other.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:1-7)

Why Do We Sing?

Why do we sing as Christians? Lately I’ve been doing research into singing and all things related. It seems to me that we can get all into the mechanics and melodies of singing, while at the same time blow right by why we are even singing in the first place.

Why we are singing is not about:

Whether or not we like singing and have great voices. Some guys like singing, in fact some guys like me really geek out on it. Other guys don’t care for it at all. But this is not about whether or not you are a singer and like music. The best singers in the church may not even be able to carry a tune in a bucket. In fact, that brother may be the one you want to sit a few pews away from because he’s so off key; but God loves to hear him sing!

We like to hear the kids sing. Man, I love to hear the kids singing in the worship service. I love to be upstairs in the auditorium during our Bible class and hear the kids singing downstairs in their Bible classes. Awesome! But we are not singing because we like to hear the kids sing.

It’s what we’ve always done. There are a lot of things that people have “always done” religiously that they shouldn’t be doing. This is not about tradition (Matthew 15:7-9; Colossians 3:17).

Everyone else is doing it. “I don’t want to look weird because I’m not singing, so I lip-sync and try to fit in with the group.” No, God wants you to sing and He wants you to see your place in the body by encouraging others through singing.

The good feelings we get. Really any kind of music has a powerful emotional effect on someone. Just stand in a big-time football stadium on a Saturday in October or November and listen to the marching band play. Or listen to a string quartet play Canon in D as a beautiful bride walks down the aisle with her father. A small group of mourners singing Amazing Grace by a graveside moves everyone to tears. Music powerfully impacts our emotions, and singing hymns to our Lord can have a wonderful and positive impact on our emotions. However, that is secondary to why we are singing. Remember that feelings can be deceiving.

We need filler or transition material in between the “really important parts” of the worship service. Singing is not just something we do before the Lord’s Supper or a sermon. It is teaching and encouragement all by itself. In our congregation we sing around 6-8 songs on a Sunday. If you have 2-3 minutes per song that can add up to the length of a sermon (well…depending on who’s preaching).

Why Do We Sing?

God asks us to, and He sings with us. I know that sounds simplistic and maybe even legalistic to some, but just understand from the start that God wants us to sing to Him as part of our worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Even God sings, and while He does it loudly and rejoices (Zephaniah 3:17)! Jesus sings, too (Matthew 26:30; Hebrews 2:12)! It is a sacrifice when our lips bring forth the fruit of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).

“For…” Look at the Psalms. The Psalmist said to sing and praise God, and it is very often followed with the word “for” (Psalm 33:4; 96:4; 98:1). We sing because God is awesome, loving, powerful, kind, forgiving, true, righteous, holy and just. We truly stand in awe of the Creator and Savior and our hearts and voices reflect that.

It is a reflection and outpouring of what God has done within us. Compare Ephesians 5:18-19 with Colossians 3:16. Paul most likely wrote these two letters at the same time while in prison in Rome. Ephesians 5:18 says to be filled with the Spirit, and Colossians 3:16 says to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. And in both passages the result is the same, what’s down in the well comes up in the bucket. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s word “richly” dwells within us, what flows from us is praise to God and encouragement to others in our singing. We have drawn from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12), and others benefit from that living water that comes from our spirit through our voice-box (John 4:14; 7:38). If living water is flowing from Jesus out of us for the specific purpose to benefit others, should that not also be reflected in our singing? Again, whether or not you think you are a great singer is irrelevant. If you heart is set on fire by Jesus, and you sing with that kind of heart, then you are a great singer to God!

It has a powerful life-changing effect on those around you. Please consider Acts 16:25 today and meditate upon it. Paul and Silas were unlawfully and unfairly treated. They were arrested, beaten and put in stocks for simply teaching the gospel of Jesus. How did Paul and Silas respond? By singing hymns!

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).

No songbooks, no fancy church building with all the luxuries. Just two men with hearts set on Jesus were lifting their voices. But notice the end of the verse! “And the prisoners were listening to them.” Their singing had an evangelistic impact. Our kids are listening, our neighbors are listening, our co-workers are listening. Your singing can have that same impact on others, men.

When the Jews of Nehemiah’s day had finally finished the walls of Jerusalem under much opposition and adversity, they sang and rejoiced. Take special note that the sound of this joy was heard far away.

And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away (Nehemiah 12:43).

We are teaching, admonishing and “speaking to one another” through our singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Through our song, we teach lessons that will seldom be forgotten. By singing we comfort hearts that are down. When we join our voices, we unify our hearts on our common purpose and fix our gaze upon heaven.

…and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name” (Romans 15:9).

His Servant Jonah

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
(2 Kings 14:23-28)

My Veggie Tales memories are coming back…”Jonah was a prophet…ooh, ooh! But he never really got it, sad but true. And if you watch it you can spot it, a doodley do, he did not get the point!”

Jonah was a prophet of God during a really great time for Israel. And what I mean by that is that Israel as a nation (not spiritually) was on the rebound. They were getting stronger and more prosperous. Possessions and lands that they once owned were now being restored. We can see in the above text that borders and cities were restored.

So then, what was the spiritual condition of the country? Wicked. Every king of the northern kingdom of Israel from the first King Jeroboam to the destruction by Assyria (931-722 BC) was evil. Jeroboam II (not a son of the first Jeroboam) was no different. The Bible says here in 2 Kings 14 that he was wicked just like all the other kings, and Israel followed right along with him in these sins.

Where is God in all of this? How did God see Israel? With what kind of heart did God watch over Israel? Again, in the text we see that God saw that Israel had no “helper.” The merciful God saw that Israel’s affliction was “bitter.” “He saved them” by the hand of the wicked King Jeroboam II.

Which prophet is right there by God and the king’s side through all of this? Who willingly prophesies to the king and is part of this great national restoration? Jonah.

Can you put yourself in the sandals of Jonah during this time of restoration and hope for Israel, and now God calls you to go to your sworn enemies, the Assyrians? God wants you to preach to those wicked and violent people? They want to destroy you! Nineveh, according to a later prophet, Nahum, was a “bloody city.” Why would God call you to preach to the very enemies that seek to destroy what God has been working to rebuild?

Because God is merciful. Jonah saw this clearly with God’s interaction here in 2 Kings 14 toward Israel. This is precisely why Jonah did not want to go to preach to Nineveh. He knew God’s heart of mercy and compassion.

Look at what Jonah said after he finally preached to the people and king in Nineveh and they repented of their sins.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Even after Nineveh repented, Jonah sat outside the city expectantly waiting in self-righteous hope borne out of his religious bigotry that God would still wipe out the city and destroy the Assyrians (Jonah 4:5).

Did you see how Jonah said “when I was in my country?” First of all he was wrong, it was God’s country. Secondly, it displays the heart that is not outward focused and concerned with every soul wherever that soul may be.

I’m not sure if the Veggie Tales song about Jonah is right that Jonah “never really got it.” We don’t know. The book ends with God speaking, as it should. Whether Jonah finally understood what God was trying to teach is between God and Jonah.

The question is, do I get it? Do you get it?

  • Will we be like Jonah, knowing of the grace, compassion and mercy of God and still try to flee to the farthest place possible to avoid teaching those God has called us to teach?
  • Will we be so filled with nationalistic pride that we fail to see that God is not an American?
  • Will I willingly go and preach where God calls me to preach only  if I agree that these people are worthy of God’s (and my) acceptance?

The Lord is able to give you much more than this

Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger.
(2 Chronicles 25:5-10)

King Amaziah is said by the Scripture to have done “what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2).

As we see in the above passage, Amaziah tried to hire 100,000 soldiers from their evil neighbors to the north, the nation of Israel. God sent a prophet (a man of God) to tell him, “Don’t do that!”

An interesting exchange happened between King Amaziah and the man of God. The King asked, “But what about the money I’ve just invested?” What is the response of God through the prophet?

“The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

What a powerful statement. Amaziah was concerned about money and what he would lose. God is concerned with obedience and trust in His provision.

King Amaziah had invested cash in soldiers from a wicked nation. Clearly he had not asked God’s advice on this prior to taking this action. So, now he has a choice, doesn’t he?

Do I follow my current course because I do not want to lose out on my investment? What will happen when I tell those Israelite soldiers to go back home? Will they get angry?

Or do I trust that if I follow God, He will more than provide for anything I have lost in investing in the ways of sin?

This is not to say that if we walk away from our sinful path that God is going to send piles of cash and prosperity our way as a reward. But He has certainly promised to provide for us abundantly if we forsake the ways of the world to follow Him. That provision most likely will have little to do with material wealth, but God’s provision (in whatever form that takes) is of infinitely better value than any temporary payoff here on earth (Hebrews 11:24-26).

So, what happens if:

  • We as a congregation have invested lots of time, money and energy into a program, course of action, or “ministry” that we later find out through study has no Biblical authority? Walk away from it, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
  • We as individuals have devoted our lives and resources into a pathway that has taken us away from God? What about the things we will lose when we walk away? “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Luke 18:28-30)

The pride of your heart has deceived you

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.
(Obadiah 1:3-4)

Last Sunday in Bible class, we studied the book of Obadiah which is a short one-chapter book addressed to the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau brother of Jacob.

Of their many sins, including violence, hatred, stealing and taking advantage of Judah’s pain, the one sin God began with is pride.

Pride: other words are arrogant, insolence, presumptuousness.

Interesting that is what God began with in Proverbs 6 when Solomon spoke of 7 things that are an abomination to Him. “A proud look” was the first one listed (Proverbs 6:16-19).

How was pride deceptive specifically in the heart of the nation of Edom? They believed their location and geographical position made them immune from being conquered. “Who will bring me down to the ground?” We won’t fall…it can’t happen to us.

God through Obadiah said otherwise.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Our pride can be deceptive in how we receive advice, but in also in how we give advice (2 Timothy 2:24-26). It can be in how we view our potential to fall into temptation, but it can also be in how we deal with others when they fall into temptation (Galatians 6:1-3; Titus 3:1-7; James 5:19-20). If pride deceived the people of Edom, it can certainly do the same to us today. May we all come to God and to godly counsel to help open our eyes to our own pride. It is an ugly process, but we all need to go through it.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he (Proverbs 16:18-20).

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 18:12).

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor (Proverbs 29:23).

In Faith, Love, and Work

Thank you, Shane, for writing this past week. This article was supposed to go out yesterday (Friday), but some glitch happened. So…here it is. Have a great weekend! God bless.

Who are we if we are Christians? We are those whom Jesus has added to His body as a result of our obedience to His gospel…having understood who we are and the need of salvation we have, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness from our sins, being baptized (literal meaning is immersion) in water symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and becoming a new spiritual being no longer slave to sin but to righteousness endeavoring to serve God faithfully with a repentant heart. We are, as Christians, family and brethren. As such, we should choose to rely on each other (Ephesians 4:16), agree to work together (Acts 9:26-28), be responsible/accountable to one another (Romans 12:4-8), love one another (Romans 12:9-10). This list is not all inclusive but communicates the idea we are in this together, should work for one another, look out for one another, love one another, etc.

There is benefit in choosing to be part of Christ’s body and the lives of your brethren. Chiefly, choosing this fellowship reassures us that we are in fact not alone!

“…knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:9; NKJV)

We are a community which is distinguished by faith, hope, and love. Paul recognizes this in his salutation to the Thessalonians, a body/family in Christ Jesus. “…remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor or love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; NKJV)

Each of these distinguishing marks of identity are outgoing…Faith – Towards GOD – Rests in the Past, Hope – Towards the Future – Looks to the Future, and Love – Toward Others – Works in the Present. Together they focus our lives and we find ourselves being drawn up towards GOD in faith, out towards others in love, and on towards His coming in hope!

Faith, hope and love sound like rather abstract qualities, but they have concrete, practical results.

Each is productive…when you sow there will be reaping! Faith works! Love labors! Hope endures!

“…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 THESS1:9-10; NKJV)

When you chose first and choose daily to be a disciple of Jesus, this is who you are. If you are sowing the seeds of spiritual blessings daily this is who you are. If you choose to die to self and live for Jesus…this is who you are. We make these choices for our Lord and Savior and for the brothers and sisters we serve with in our journey from earth to heaven. We are not alone. Hold the line! Choose victory today!

When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!

What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Why the Church: Looking Up

Why the Church: Looking Up

Today is a sermon for you to take time to listen to / watch over the weekend, entitled “Why the Church: Looking Up” by Ralph Walker, Jr.

Please also read and meditate upon the passage below from Ephesians 3 and what the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote about the church.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:8-21)