Archive for April, 2013

Micah 1

Micah 1 begins the prophecy of Micah.  We learn first thing that he is connected with God.  “The word of the Lord that came to Micah”.  He was on a direct connect plan with the Lord.  God was obviously speaking to Micah, and he was listening.  That really is one of the key attributes of God’s prophets and priests – they paid attention.  They listened to God, and were seeking His truth.  They did not let God’s word fall on the earth but captured it with their ears and hearts so they could share it with the people they were to serve.

Micah addresses “you people, all of you; pay attention”.  Obviously the people of that day were oblivious toward God.  They weren’t listening, they paid no attention, and they were just doing their own thing.  How true that is for many of us today as well.  We get wrapped up in our own little world and put self as the attention focus, and we just ignore or forget or even intentionally disregard what God is saying or has said to us already in His Word.  We don’t want to hear from God unless we are in trouble.  So we pay no attention, just like those Micah was speaking to.

Was the message important?  You bet it was.  Micah was warning them that God was coming to clean things up.  “The Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth”.  God was coming out of His place to address the people and deal with them. Why?  “All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel”.  Sin, that’s why.  Because the people were living their lives in absolute neglect of God’s commandments and His word to them.  They were living in la-la land and God was coming down to jar them out of that complacency.

The visit wasn’t going to go well.  In fact, disaster was coming as the Lord came down.  There would be death and loss of everything.  Their transgressions were causing God to take action.  Sin does that.  God can’t ignore it.  Not then.  Not now.  Micah tells the people “Make yourselves bald and cut off your hair….make yourselves as bald as the eagle”.  People in these times shaved their heads when they were in distress, often at the death of someone close.  That is what was coming – and all because of self getting in the way and causing sin.  God is coming to punish their sin.

Isaiah 12

Isaiah 12 is a short six verses.  Isaiah describes the relationship we have with God.  It resembles much how we may feel about our kids, or others in our life.  He begins with a focus on thankfulness.  “I will give thanks to you”.  We need to wake up every day with that attitude.  God is worthy of our thanks. He deserves to hear it from us all the time.  Far too often, our first action with God is to list our complaints or what we think we need.  We treat God as a genie rather than as the Creator of the Universe.  He has already given us all we need.  We need to recognize that and thank Him.

Isaiah then describes the relationship dynamic that we often face as humans.  We are disappointed, and even angry, with what others have done.  Failures to meet expectations, bad choices and decisions, we get frustrated in many ways by those in our patch.  Well the reality is that we do the same to God.  We mess up. We fall short.  We sin.  Yet God loves us anyway.  “Though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me”.  The reality is, that God loves us no matter what.  That love does not mean that He turns His head the other way when we sin.  But it does mean that He is there ready to love us when we come back to Him and repent.

Here is the truth: “God is my salvation”.  That is the message of scripture and the truth of eternity.  God alone is our salvation, and His never ending love for us means that offer is there all the time.  It is about what we will do with it.  Jesus went to the Cross to provide a way of salvation to any and all who will receive His gift of grace.  Will you do as Isaiah?  “I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation”.  That is the beauty of God’s love.  Salvation is free to us if we choose to make Jesus Savior and Lord of our life.  Have you?

Isaiah ends this short chapter reminding us again to:

–        “give thanks to the Lord

–       call upon His name

–       make known his deeds among the peoples

–       proclaim that His name is exalted

–       sing praises to the Lord

Our relationship with God is not to be done in a bubble.  We are to let the world know.  “Let this be made known in all the earth”.  We are to shout and sing for joy before all the people.  Our relationship in individual and personal – it is between us and Jesus – but the outcome should be public and shouted from the rooftops.  We need to give thanks and let the world know we belong to Him and our eternity is secure!

Isaiah 11

Isaiah 11 has a beautiful prophecy of the Messiah.  Isaiah gives us great insight into what was to come, and now that we also have the New Testament to describe Jesus as He was and is, we see this prophecy in a very clear light.  He begins by reminding us that that Messiah is coming, not as part of a great ruling family, but He “shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit”.  Jesus heritage is clear, the lineage is defined in multiple ways in scripture.  But let’s face it, God didn’t choose to send His Son with the fanfare of the world as a factor.

What God did do was anoint the Messiah in a very special way.  Check out the description of His character:

–       “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

–       the Spirit of wisdom and understanding

–       the Spirit of counsel and might

–       the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord

–       his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord

Pretty clear that the Messiah will be very Spirit filled and tuned in to the Father.  God is giving His Son every possible tool to live a life that is connected with and pleasing to Him.

We also are reminded that Jesus will be sitting in a place of judgment.  “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness”.  He has only one standard – and will not be swayed by anything else.  That means the standard has been set and Christ will merely apply God’s standard to each of us.  And it is set very high, beyond reach for any of us on our own, which is why Jesus had to come to earth that we might have a way to be pardoned from our own sin through His death on the Cross.

That can happen because “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins”.  We can be covered by grace and His death because He did meet the standard God set.  He did live a life that was without sin and fully obedient to the Father, even down to being willing to go the Cross and suffer a cruel and undeserved punishment.  It was the spilling of His blood for our sin that allows us to enter into a personal relationship with Him that can set us free from the outcome of our life.  What remains for us is to make that choice – will I allow the Savior to cover me, or will I stand before the judgment seat on my own merits.  One will end well, the other choice not so much.  Are you decided?  Have you got your eternity in order?

Isaiah 10

Isaiah is prophesying the destruction that is coming, and it is aimed right at God’s people.  He is warning of the reality of who God is, a holy God that is not going to sit back and allow evil to run free forever.  And when that punishment comes, there will be no hiding.  We can’t escape.  “Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still”.  God is not going to be swayed.  He will deal with everyone by the same standard.

Isaiah makes that clear when he says “shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images”?  God’s people don’t get a pass either.  Where there is sin, there will be punishment.  And what is the root of that in us as humans?  It boils down to one letter: “I”.  We forget who is God and we put ourselves on that throne in our life, and then we lose perspective and direction and soon are walking in the path of evil and idols and focusing on the wrong things.  It is a slippery slope that will lead us to death.

Isaiah calls out the kinds of ways that self-manifests.  “He will punish the speech of the arrogant heart….and the boastful look in his eyes….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….I bring down those who sit on thrones….so I have gathered all the earth”.  What do you see here?  The focus is on self.  It is about me, myself and I.  And God is nowhere to be found.  God is not even considered.  He has been pushed completely out of the picture.

This kind of attitude and living will bring destruction.  That is the message Isaiah had for the people then, and for us today.  When we get our priorities out of line and make self the center – bad days will be ahead.  God is serious about our character.  “The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down”.  He is going to clean things up and remove those who push Him aside.  It won’t go unnoticed, or unpunished.  “A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return”.  God will deal with sin.  We need to make sure we keep Him first and on the throne of our lives.  He is King!

Isaiah 9

Isaiah 9 has prophecy of what is to come.  It contains some of the most famous verses in all of scripture about the coming Messiah.  God is delivering this truth through Isaiah at a time when his people were on the wrong tracks.  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined”.  They aren’t listening or paying attention.  They aren’t focused at all on walking with God.  And when we choose disobedience, we live without the light.

But in spite of how poorly we treat God and how self-centered we are, God still loves us.  And He gave Isaiah a prophecy to remind us of that reality, even in the midst of a people who were ignoring His commandments and just doing their own thing.  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.  God promises the coming of His Son Jesus, and Isaiah prophecies it here.  Jesus is the answer to our sin problem.

Isaiah goes on to say “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore”.  God is going to establish an eternal king.  Talk about legacy, this establishes it.  Jesus will be sitting on the throne for eternity.  And His kingdom will grow and multiply and never end.  It is a perfect kingdom and the crazy thing is that we will have the opportunity, with some conditions, to be part of it.

So how might that happen?  By building a relationship with the Savior and then spending eternity with Him.  It is about starting with an acknowledgement of who Jesus is, followed by an understanding of what He did.  He came into this earth in human form to walk among people and then be falsely accused, punished, and crucified for sin other than His own.  He went to the cross for your sin and for mine.  He died carrying our burdens on His shoulders.  But the rest of the story is that He overcame death and was resurrected.  He came back to life and offers us that opportunity as well, to arise and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  We have to receive His gift and make it our own, but we can know our eternal destination for certain if we will only receive, believe and then live for Him.  Are you ready to do that?  The people in Isaiah’s time were not.  They continued to live a rebellious life.  They continued to be absorbed about self.  “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still”.  And God continued with the punishment as they failed to repent and come to Him.  Don’t make that mistake.  Run to Him.  Let Him set your legacy in stone!

2 Chronicles 27

2 Chronicles 27 gives us a look at Jotham, who took over as king following his father Uzziah at age 25.  He sat on the throne for 16 years.  Scripture tells us his mother’s name as well – Jerushah.  We don’t often get both parent’s names, but we do for Jotham because he was a good boy.  His folks had lots to be proud of.  Scripture tells us “He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done”.  Jotham was a good king.  But it didn’t’ happen accidentally.  His father taught him well.  And he taught him by example, not just word, but by what he had done.

The only effective way to train others is by example.  We can speak truth into others lives all day long, but if they don’t see that truth in action, it likely won’t sink in very far.  Actions always speak far more loudly that words.  Uzziah trained up his son by living right before God in a way that was transparent and obvious to Jotham.  As parents, we need to train up our kids the same way.  Scripture promises us that if we train them up in the ways of the Lord, they won’t depart from it when they get older.  That foundation is critical to a long term walk with the Lord.

But we also have to realize that every person makes their own choices around how they will respond to what they are taught and the life that is modeled before them.  In Jotham’s case, “the people continued acting corruptly”.  He did what was right, but they didn’t follow.  Often people follow the negative things that we might do.  We have seen that all through the scriptures where leaders and kings did not do what was right in God’s eyes, and the people followed them blindly into that sin.  But getting people to follow us when we do right is not as simple.  Our human tendency is to choose the wrong response far too often.

But in spite of the fact that the people didn’t follow, “Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God”.  He wasn’t swayed by the people.  He just kept on doing what was right.  He led well, as they defeated enemies and received spoils form them.  He had his house and life in order before God, and walked with Him in a way that was pleasing.  Jotham doesn’t show any signs of being prideful or excessive, but just a solid leader that focused on doing things God’s way.  That is where the power is, when we simply walk with God and live a simple life of obedience!

Amos 9

Amos 9 paints a pretty clear picture of how God will deal with sin.  He’s going to wipe it out, as well as those guilty of it.  Amos makes it clear that God’s cleansing will be complete.  “Not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape”.  Often people believe that God isn’t all that interested in what is happening here on earth.  That somehow He’ll forget about their little part of evil, or that they’ll slip under the radar some how.  It is very clear that isn’t happening.  “I will fix my eyes upon them”.  God is not only watching, He will pursue evil and clean it up.

Ah but can He really do it.  This is a pretty big planet and there is a lot going on.  Maybe God will just miss some of what I do?  Maybe I’ll slip past His notice?  Check out how Amos describes God’s ability:

–       “touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn

–       all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again

–       builds his upper chambers in the heavens

–       founds his vault upon the earth

–       calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth

Let’s be clear.  God is more than able to see all, do all, and be all.  He is not limited in any way.  Evil will not flee and escape, or fail to be noticed.  And as Amos describes the amazing God of the universe he caps it by saying “The Lord is his name” just so none of us forget who we are dealing with here.

Still wondering what lies ahead.  “The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground’.  This is pretty clear and plain.  God isn’t going to issue a pass just because of who we are or where we live.  His standards are set and judgment is coming.  “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve”.  We’re going to be measured.  We’re going to have to give account for what we have done.  And the outcome is clear: “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword”.  The idea that a loving God would never hurt anyone – well you just need to read scripture to know that is not how it works.  Evil will be removed.

There is good news as Amos wraps up his part of scripture.  “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and 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”.  God is in the restoration business.  He is all about redeeming people and bringing them back to Himself.  He pursues us and we will face Him one day, so the question is what that will look like.  Will we stand there clothed in righteousness?  That happens if we have a saving relationship with Christ and have His blood over us to cover our sin.  Or will we stand before Him on our own merits and fall short, way short, of what is required?  It is our choice.  It is our decision.  There won’t be any discussion about how unfair it is for God to have a standard so high we can’t meet it on our own.  Holiness is the standard.  Are you ready for that conversation?  Without Jesus, you aren’t.  It is very much time to get this right in your life!

Amos 8

Amos 8 continues his prophecy for the people.  He relates it to them as seeing “a basket of summer fruit”.  You can imagine it can’t you.  Big basket heaping with ripe and juicy fruit, just sitting there for the enjoyment.  Only one problem….they aren’t going to get any of it. In fact, God says “the end has come upon my people; I will never again pass by them”.  They aren’t going to enjoy the fruit of God’s blessing, in fact what lies ahead is a long way from anything that is even close to a summer fruit basket.

So what has God so irritated?  Disobedience….it almost always comes down to this.  Amos calls them out as “you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end”.  They are taking advantage of those in need.  They are not living as God has commanded them.  And they also are cheating people “we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances”.  All the while I’m sure they thought they were getting away with it.  Take advantage of those who can’t protect themselves.  Line their own pockets deceitfully by being liars and cheats.  God is not amused.

Here is what Amos tells the people from God.  “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds”.  Does anything stand out there in God’s word to them?  For me, it is the word “never”.  God takes a long view on things.  He doesn’t forget.  He never forgets.  So when we sin, it doesn’t go away over time.  It never goes away, unless it is completely erased.  And the only way that happens is through Jesus.  His blood can cover our sin and remove it.  Otherwise, God doesn’t forget…..never.  Have you got any sins that are hanging around your neck?  You do if you haven’t accepted the grace of Jesus’ blood on the cross.  You’re in the exact same spot as these people were – facing God’s punishment.

So what will that look like?  Amos gives a pretty nasty list of things that I wouldn’t want to sign up for:

–       “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight

–       I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation

–       I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head

–       I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day

–       I will send a famine on the land

It doesn’t bode well for those who aren’t obedient.  God doesn’t take it lightly, and He never forgets.  But this ending statement really says it all: “they shall fall, and never rise again”.  We need to get right with God.  We need to clean up the sin in our lives.  We need to live a life of obedience and walk with Jesus every step of the day!

Amos 7

Amos 7 has Amos delivering some rather strong prophecy to the people and rulers of Israel.  It begins with God showing Amos what is to come – locusts that would eat the grass and devour the land.  The thing that jumps out at me is that God was “forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout”.  If you ever wonder if God is in control and sees the entire picture from end to end, you can stop wondering. He does.  He is in control from beginning to end.  He has all the details in His hands.

Amos shows us the power of intercession here as he cries out “O Lord God, please cease” as God continued to reveal the judgment that was coming for His people.  We see intercession from godly men throughout scripture, when people stand in the gap between God and another or others and seek His grace and mercy.  And like we have seen elsewhere, Amos’ intercession works.  “The Lord relented concerning this”.  God changed His course of action.  He didn’t change His standards or expectations, but He is giving His people yet another chance to get it right.

We get a really good visual of what God’s expectations are here.  “I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel”.  Let’s be clear.  God has a measuring stick for our lives.  We are going to be measured by it, and every last one of us is going to come up short.  Sin will not allow us to be ‘plumb’ in God’s economy.  The rulers at that time, particularly Jeroboam whom this was directly written about, were furious.  Their answer wasn’t to correct their living, but to get rid of the messenger.  He wants to kill Amos and shut him up.

Isn’t that how we are?  When we don’t like the message, we want to silence the messenger.  Amaziah who was priest warns Amos.  He tells him what the king is saying: “The land is not able to bear all his words” and advises Amos to “go, flee away”.  Rather than address the real issue, which was obedience to God’s commands, the answer was to get the messenger out of town and quiet.  If we don’t have to hear the truth, we can ignore it.  That isn’t true, but it is how we think.  There are many churches in America today that take that approach.  If we only talk about love and grace and mercy, and never mention sin and hell and death, it won’t apply to us.  That is so far from the truth, and so many will get surprised someday when they stand at the judgment throne and try to enter heaven based on wrong doctrine that they were fed in a church.  Don’t fall for it.  God’s truth is not easy, but it is the plumb line we will stand next to.  Are you ready?  Are you plumb?

Amos 6

Amos 6 has some strong words for the people.  “Woe to those” is how he begins.  That can’t be a good message.  Yet it is one that we often need to hear.  Unfortunately for many of us in the church today, the focus is not on woe but grace.  We’ve moved away from the reality that God is a just and holy God and there will be punishment for our sin.  We focus on the grace and mercy and love nature of God, and completely ignore the truth that he also is holy.  But not Amos, he is front and center with the message that things are not going to slip through unnoticed.

What was going to cause woe?  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain….who lie in beds….eat lambs….sing idle songs….drink wine….annoint themselves with the finest oils”.  Woe is coming because they are focused on self and being consumed with their own comfort.  They fell prey to the lie of the enemy that they were the source of their own blessing.  It is not the case.  God is the giver of all good things.  He alone is the source of goodness and we must never lose sight of that.  The minute we start to believe that we do anything to bring it upon ourselves and dwell in the midst of self, we’re on a very slippery slope.

Amos calls them out about what they were focused on.  They were at ease and enjoying themselves, but were “not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”.  God’s desire is that we are overcome with our sin.  Jacob’s sons were living it up while they put Joseph into a pit and then sold him into slavery.  To top it off they lied to their father.  Amos gives God’s word to this sin: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it”.  God doesn’t ignore sin.  He deals with it.

We tend to twist things to our own benefit.  “You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood”.  We make excuses for our actions and convince ourselves that God will let it go.  But He won’t.  He can’t.  And we will come face to face with Him some day having to answer the question of why we lived as we did and chose to disobey and sin.  It won’t be a good conversation, and unless we have something beyond our own lame excuses, it will be short and decisive.  Amos warns us of what lies ahead.  Sin will be addressed.  Are you ready for that conversation?

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