Worship God Or Save Souls?

The Highest Purpose Of The Church

What is the highest purpose of the Church? Let me break it down for you— “Soteriology” is “the study of the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ”; and, “Doxology” is “the study of the doctrine of worship and praise.” The debate is over which is the highest purpose of the Church:  the salvation of souls; or, the worship, praise, and glory of God? Let me answer that question with another question— the question that Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” And, Jesus responded:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-39.

Nothing Higher Than Worshiping God

NOTHING is to be placed above our love, loyalty & worship of God! NOTHING! Now, for those of you fearful that I’m kicking evangelism and disciple-making to the curb, your fear is unfounded! Here’s why— because we simply cannot worship God with all our heart, soul, and mind without actively discipling the lost because that is the Commission Jesus has given the Church! And, “If you love me,” Jesus said, “You will keep my commandments.” So, the argument is not whether we disciple the lost or not! We have no option— if we love & worship God we will evangelize and disciple the lost!

It’s Really About Priorities

The debate is really about “priorities”— if we give higher preference to winning the lost than we do to love, loyalty, and the worship of God, we’re guilty of IDOLATRY! We’ve become “man-centered” rather than “God-centered.” If God Himself placed the salvation of souls above the worship of God, He would be guilty of IDOLATRY! When the worship of God is revived in the hearts of His people, God sends a “revival” to His Church! And, out of that revival, His Church becomes obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission to “Go…and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:18-20. God revives the hearts of His people when we worship Him with humble, repentant hearts; and, when we stand in awe of HIS beauty & great worth! John, the baptizer, had it right:  “He (Jesus) must increase & I must decrease” John 3:30.  The word “vive” means “to be alive”; so, “revive” means “to make alive again.”  Like the doctor who “revives” a clinically dead patient, God “revives” the believer who has flat-lined spiritually! And when He does, obedient disciple-making will follow.

The Holy Spirit Does The Resuscitating

Has your walk with the Lord become dormant or stagnant? Have you been lazy about your faith? Has it trickled down to your attitude toward the lost? When was the last time you gave testimony of your faith? When was the last time you were in a disciple-making relationship with someone? Have you ever discipled someone? Pray for personal revival— when God “revives” you, you’ll be engaged, once again, in worshipping Him; and, loving the lost that Jesus came to save! God is so good to start over with us! Let Him make your heart sensitive and broken once again! Let Him remove the leanness that has overrun your soul! Let Him make you painfully aware of your sin! And, then, pray that God would give you a heart for the lost! Pray that He will help you to see them the same way that He does! Pray for His help to see when He’s opened the door to a spiritual conversation! And pray for boldness to share the Gospel with them!

When Will God’s Glory Return?

The Ark Of The Covenant

If all you know about the “Ark Of The Covenant” is what you learned from an Indiana Jones movie, then you need to be brought up to speed! One of the most depressing O.T. Bible stories revolves around Israel’s “Ark Of The Covenant”; and, it’s found in 1 Samuel 4. Israel finds herself at war with the Philistines & they’re defeated! This disturbed them greatly; and, in their debriefing, someone came up with a great idea— “Let’s bring the Ark of the Lord’s covenant into battle with us next time! The Ark will save us!

The Shekinah Glory’s Presence

Now, the Ark was a rectangular box made of acacia wood; and, overlaid with gold.  The top of the Ark contained the mercy seat where the “Shekinah Glory”; or, the manifest presence of God, rested.  For its illustrative value, it’s worth noting at this point that when our children were growing up, we’d remind them that “the way of the transgressor is hard” whenever their sin got them into trouble. Well, it was because of Israel’s sin that God, in His Sovereignty, had allowed Israel to suffer defeat at the hands of the Philistines; and, when they responded by putting their faith in the Ark, rather than God, they would suffer another embarrassing defeat.

The Glory Is Departed

This time, the Ark was also taken by the Philistines; and, Israel left to mourn its loss:  “The Glory is departed! The Glory is departed!” The Ark; and, God’s “Shekinah Glory” had been taken! The Ark couldn’t deliver! God had never intended for the Ark to be used as a “weapon”; or to be propped up as something to be depended on like some kind of rabbit’s foot! Only God, in all His Glory, can deliver & save! It’s a reminder of how subtle the enemy, of our souls, can be—  “Worship the God of the Ark”; or, “Worship the Ark of God”? It’s just moving around two nouns; but, the results were devastating!

The Idols Of Human Strategy

I find the parallels, to the Church, to be haunting! Are we not guilty of worshipping the idols of human strategy & technique for doing church? Like Israel, have we not become focused on the “horizontal”—adopting human wisdom & logic—rather than the “vertical”—seeking the power & glory of God! The Church has become weak and anemic because we’ve “settled”—we’ve “settled” for the glory of what we can do instead of the glory of what an awesome, limitless God can do.  And, what He can do is above & beyond anything we could ask or think! It’s impossible for us to even imagine the power & wisdom of God! What He does is always perfect & right because He listens only to His own perfect counsel! He works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).

The Rest Of The Story

As I read the rest of the story, my attention was arrested by what happened “after” the Ark was taken— what happened was a national “revival.” Israel repents & returns to the Lord; and, the Ark is recovered; and, the place of God’s glory comes home! And, that’s where I find hope—in GOD! There is hope for the Church in America— NOT at the polls: NOT by electing certain individuals to public office; NOT by passing laws in an attempt to legislate righteousness! Our hope must begin at the altars of our churches! Let judgment begin at the House of God! Nothing is happening in America that a “glory to God” revival couldn’t fix! Let us repent of our idolatrous fascination that politicians can save us!  And let us fall on our knees and ask God to bring revival to our churches! Our only hope is in the Lord! Can I get an “Amen”?

How Important Should Politics Be?

-The Reaping & Sowing Principle

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout— as a “Moral Majority”— could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve discovered the accuracy of God’s word in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It’s the reaping & sowing principle!

-A Biblical Theology Of Politics

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy of the “Moral Majority” of the 1970s and 80s, has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. However, let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary, and it’s not a Biblically acceptable response either! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.” Our Theology; and our Doctrine always have to begin with God! He’s the starting place for everything.

-Government Was God’s Idea

The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it—  “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  The principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).  There’s an element of man’s free will involved.

-Personal Responsibility Required

He’s made us a free moral agent; and so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some personal responsibility required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials as we do here in the United States of America. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments— “…for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work…” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

-Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in its proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and my home country!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize! At the same time, we’ve been blessed with the privilege and responsibility to vote! And we must vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of our Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness toward leaders that God has installed for His eternal purpose! Now we pray for those leaders!

The Humility Of Christ

-We’re Usually So Full Of Ourselves!

For Jesus, to become a man was the most humbling experience God could ever endure! How foolish we are when we lift ourselves in pride as though we were really something! We won’t grasp how insignificant it is to be human unless we see ourselves as God’s image bearers! We are usually so full of ourselves; so self-centered & self-absorbed; and narcissistic, that we just don’t get the reality of our existence. Jesus’ humility, however, went way beyond lowering Himself to become a man! He died the most humiliating death ever devised to kill a criminal— Crucifixion! The pain was excruciating & the public shame beyond comprehension.

-Jesus Humiliated Himself To Serve Us!

It was especially true for this one, Who was God! For, He had created the very tree that was used to crucify Him. He humiliated Himself in order to serve us at our greatest point of need—we desperately needed a Savior because we could not possibly save ourselves! So, as we’ve talked about being Gospel lights over the last several posts, we will shine as we let God’s Holy Spirit change our attitude to the mind of Jesus Christ; even if that means humiliation in the service of others! And, church, that will only happen as we live in search of God’s approval! We will only shine as Gospel lights to our city as we seek the approval of God alone!

-We Were Created To Bring God Glory!

That was Jesus’ attitude—pleasing the Father! “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” Philippians 2:8. And, because of His obedience to the Father’s will, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vs.9-11). Edward Welch wrote a great little book titled “When People Are Big & God Is Small.” In it, he reflects on how broken & distorted is the image of God that we reflect because of our sin. We were created to bring HIM glory! We were designed with certain “needs” and “desires” that only God can fulfill. But, when we replace that “God-Shaped vacuum” in our life with the created things in this world, we take glory away from God & transfer it to that thing that becomes an idol! And, because of our sinful brokenness, it can be so easy to be caught up in idolatry; and not even be aware!

-We Need Jesus’ Attitude!

We need the attitude of Christ! Because He willingly left His throne in Heaven! Because He took the form of a slave! Because He lived His entire life here solely for our benefit! Because He stopped & lowered Himself even to the humiliating death on a cross to serve our needs! And, because of all of that, God has highly exalted Him & given Him a name above every name! In fact, that word in v.9 literally means “super exalted.” God super exalted Jesus! This is the only place in Scripture that that word is used! Everything Jesus did was for God’s glory! And, our attitude is most like Jesus when we are God-Centered in everything we do! Casting aside our personal agendas! Letting “Christ In Us” restore the image of God that we were created to reflect! God uses the church that is full of people who live their lives like that! He uses them for His glory! We need to pray that way! That God will transform our churches to live like that!

Overcoming Habitual Sin!

-Taking Some Vacation Time: Next Post July 6th-

-Some Used To Live In Habitual Sin!

In Paul’s first letter to the Church of Corinth, he informed them that all habitual sin can be overcome by God’s Spirit. Look at this! He wrote of them: “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (ch.6:11). He says that some, in the church, used to live their life a certain way. But, they’ve been washed, sanctified & justified by Jesus Christ and God’s Spirit. So, what kind of lifestyle was he referring to? Look at the previous verses: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom” (v.9-10).

-Some Used To Practice A Sinful Lifestyle!

In context, Paul is reminding some of them that they used to “practice” a habitual lifestyle of sin! Some used to practice a “homosexual” lifestyle! Some used to be “adulterers.” Some used to be “idolaters”, “drunkards”, “thieves”, “verbal abusers” and “swindlers.” But, that’s no longer their way of life.  Jesus has set them free from their habitual sin. Later, Paul also wrote this same church: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). There is the hope of freedom from all these debilitating sins. There is hope for anyone in the homosexual community. Don’t ever give up on any friend or loved one practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or on anyone caught up in a habitually sinful lifestyle. Never quit praying for them! Love them well! Love them like Jesus loves them!

-Don’t Demonize Those Caught In Certain Sins!

It’s alarming that many in the church have demonized individuals caught up in homosexuality as being more deviant, in nature, than the sins of others. It’s just not true! This text absolutely levels the playing field on sin. God’s word informs us that believers must humbly see themselves as equally depraved. Here’s a quick word to anyone who struggles with a special antagonism & judgment toward those in the LGBTQ+ community. Look at all the deadly sins that God condemns on an equal par with homosexuality in this Scripture. “Sexual immorality”— that includes all heterosexual sin! “Idolaters”— who has never been guilty of loving something more than God at one time or another? “Adulterers”—for those who’ve never actually slept with someone you weren’t married to, have you ever lusted after someone? Busted! Your sin is on this list! “Thieves”— ever stolen anything? Even a cookie from mom’s cookie jar? “Greedy”— you lie if you say you’ve never been greedy!

-The List Of Deadly Sins Continues!

Have you ever been “drunk”; or “verbally abusive” or “swindled” anyone? If you’ve ever lied to the boss about the hours you worked; or withheld information about a car or something else you were trying to sell, you’re a swindler. That’s swindling. We’re all on this list! Every one of us! You’re acting like the Pharisees if you judge anyone, on this list, as more deserving of hell & God’s judgment than are you! Let me challenge you with a new response on this subject if you need it. I once held animosity toward anyone living a homosexual lifestyle as though I were above them! What’s helped me overcome those feelings is to rehearse often— with God in prayer— how equally repulsive God found all my particular sins.  Even though homosexual sin was not one of my sins, I am equally as depraved and broken! I can take no delight that my sins were somehow less offensive to God! I am totally depraved  & in need of Jesus!

Speaking Truth With Grace!

Today Is Last Post Until June 15th

-Uncomfortable Subjects!

Over 40 years of ministry, I’ve learned that if I’m going to be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God’s word, I’m going to have to deal with some passages that will make my audience uncomfortable to hear it; and me, uncomfortable to preach it. 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, is one of those passages; and as much as I would love to avoid it, the Spirit of God compels me to preach it and to teach it. It addresses a topic that I cannot sidestep & neither can you. You & I need this message because we need to hear from God on this subject; and if you ever hope to disciple individuals caught up in certain sins, as the Apostle Paul outlines here, they’ll also need to hear what God has to say.

-No Inheritance In God’s Kingdom!

Here’s what Paul writes to the local church of Corinth: “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). If Paul was writing this letter in our day, it most certainly would have been addressed to the Churches of America. Of the 12 NT epistles, with Paul’s name on it, the sins he calls out the Church of Corinth for most closely resemble our own culture. As I open up this volatile “can of worms” my greatest fear is NOT any negative backlash I might face for taking up a Biblical position on the subject matter! My greatest fear, in presenting this message, is being misunderstood & being portrayed as hateful, mean-spirited & unloving toward the LGBTQ+ community.

-We Neither Celebrate Nor Hate!

The dominant culture today tells us we have only 2 choices; that there are only 2 possible camps! You either “celebrate” LGBTQ+ sexuality, or you’re “haters.” If you don’t support them, you hate them. On Biblical grounds, I reject both of those camps! God gives us a better way! If we grasp the truth of the Good News of the Gospel, then we have something better to bring to this discussion. As followers of Jesus, we cannot base our belief system or our worldview on public opinion! That’s shifting sand! Public opinion is a moving target; but we’re called to live by the immutable, unchanging Word of God. And, as God of the universe, He is the final authority on every matter, including our sexuality. He created us “male” and “female” according to the creation account in the book of Genesis. In other words, He created us gender-specific. In the same creation account, God instructed the “man” to leave his father and mother & cleave to his “wife.” It was God who created marriage; and, we dare not change it!

-So How Do We Respond?

As followers of Christ, then, how do we respond to a prevailing culture that has rejected the absolute truth of Scripture? As followers of Christ, how do we respond to a culture that insists on normalizing sexual behavior that is labeled as sin in God’s Word? The key part of that question is “…as FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ…” How do we respond as followers of Jesus Christ? I’ve often been amazed at how Jesus never compromised the truth of God’s law; and yet He was loved by sinners! No one ever lived a more righteous life. No one exalted God’s standards more than Jesus. So, how could He also be called the “friend of sinners”? It was because He was full of truth AND GRACE! And, in a sex-crazed & sexually-confused world that’s exactly how we’ll respond if we’re following Jesus. When encountering anyone caught up in sexual sin, we act most like Jesus by showing them truth AND GRACE! Every sinner needs truth mingled with love AND GRACE!

Ungodly Men & Ungodly Laws!

-We Don’t Have To Take Care Of Ourselves!

The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, viewed himself as nothing more than God’s humble servant. He didn’t take himself too seriously! He saw himself as just one piece in God’s sovereign plan for the world! Though life circumstances, no doubt, made him fearful at times; fear did not control him! When we get over our fear, we can kind of “let go” & “let God” use us however He wants. I don’t have to take care of myself. God takes care of me! God shows us, in Daniel’s story, how we ought to respond when ungodly men make ungodly laws.

-Bow Down & Worship!

In Daniel, chapter 3, Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, builds a 90’ tall gold statue of himself; and, demands that everyone bow down & worship it; or, be thrown into a fiery furnace. That would be a problem for Daniel’s 3 Hebrew friends— Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah! They had been raised in good Jewish homes. They knew the commandments Yahweh had given to Moses in Exodus 20— “I  am the LORD your God; do not have any other gods besides me; do not make an idol for yourself; You must not bow down to them or worship them.” So, here they were between a rock; and, a hard place! Obey the King & face God’s judgment; or, obey God & face the fiery furnace.

-An Awkward Moment!

Get the picture? There are probably thousands of people, representing all the nations that Babylon had subdued; all, waiting for the sound of the music. They hear it; and, everyone bows down & worships the gold image except 3 men. They had to know that their insubordination wouldn’t go unnoticed. And, it wasn’t:  “Some of the Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse them” (3:8). So, they are made to stand before King Nebuchadnezzar; and, they “…replied to the king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question.  If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up’” (3:16-18).

-God Is Able To Deliver!

Enraged by their insubordination, the king demanded that they be thrown into the furnace. But, they determined to obey God rather than the king; and, trust God to do whatever he willed. They had faith that God was able to deliver them; but, even if He didn’t, they would not bow to the king’s image. There is a great application to take from their example—we need to be careful we don’t make claims for God on His behalf! We may think that God has to respond in a certain way; but, our knowledge is finite! His ways are higher than ours! So, don’t make promises for God that He doesn’t make!

-How Our Story Ends!

We can’t make demands on God about how our personal story ends! They trusted that God would deliver them either by a miracle; or, by death! We have to be careful that our trust in God is not limited to delivery by miracle! Their trust in God was not just tied to delivery from the furnace:  “…EVEN IF He does NOT,” they said, “we won’t bow to false gods!” That’s a gospel response. Sadly, the gospel being preached in the majority of our American churches is all about “me.” It’s man-centered; and, not God-centered! So, if He doesn’t deliver me from the furnace I won’t trust Him! That’s where false teaching begins… with man’s ways! King Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his accomplishments; when, it was God who blessed him with his abilities! I read somewhere that:  “Pride is like plagiarism because it attempts to take for ourselves Glory that belongs to God alone.” God will not share His glory with you! Humble yourself before Him.

Clay In God’s Hands!

Who Was Jeremiah?

Jeremiah, the author of the Old Testament book bearing his name, has been called the “Prophet To The Nations” because God gave him an Oracle— or, a word from the Lord— to speak to 9 different Gentile nations; in addition to Judah! Through Jeremiah’s words, which were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, God reveals Jeremiah’s heart more than any other prophet! From his introduction, in the 1st chapter, v.6, we see that Jeremiah was a “reluctant” prophet— questioning his ability to lead God’s people spiritually. He was also known as the “weeping” prophet— which perhaps proves he was qualified to lead because he wept over the sins of the people; and, over God’s judgment of their sins! He was also a “lonely” prophet because God had told him not to marry (ch.16) because of the dread over the judgment that God was bringing on Judah & Jerusalem; and, he also became known as the “persecuted” prophet as he was rejected, ridiculed, beaten; and, falsely accused; all, because he was faithful to proclaim the truth of God’s word! The key phrase in the book of Jeremiah?

-The Word Of The Lord!

“The word of the Lord” is found more than 50 times! And, the “word of the Lord” was this— that God’s judgment was coming! The patience & long-suffering of the Lord had finally been exhausted! Israel’s idolatry & sinful rejection of God’s word had reached its climax! And, her leaders were arguing with Jeremiah that God would NOT turn His people over to Babylon & King Nebuchadnezzar. And, so, in chapter 18, God gives Jeremiah a parable to deliver to Israel’s leaders:  “This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  ‘Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal My words to you.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do” (18:1-4).

-God Is The Potter!

Have you ever seen a potter at work? It’s quite fascinating! In the parable, God is the potter; and, Israel is the clay! It’s an illustration that God inspired numerous authors of Scripture to use. The potter and clay illustration is also found in the Psalms, in Isaiah; and, in Zechariah. The Apostle Paul also uses it in the New Testament; and, so does John in the last book of the Bible, the book of the Revelation. The concept that God wanted Israel, and us, to grasp is His Sovereignty; or, His absolute, supreme power & authority over His entire creation! That God has the absolute authority to do whatever He wills to do with His creation in the same way that a potter has absolute jurisdiction over the creation he fashions out of the clay! Without the potter, the pottery fashioned is nothing more than a lump of wet dirt; and, that’s true of us as well as Israel.

Molded By The Master Potter!

We are like clay, which has little value until we are molded by the Master potter into the likeness of Jesus! That is a foundational truth that Israel needed to apply! And, that is a foundational truth that we need to apply to our own lives! If you don’t grasp God, the Potter’s, purpose for your life you’ll waste it! You and I are not the Potter! Ultimately, we don’t have any right over our lives. Our lives belong to God who gave them to us! We are a lump of clay & that symbolizes the “potential” we have to be useful to the Potter! But, God, the Potter, has the ultimate right over our lives, to use them as He purposes them to be used! We need to spend some serious time in prayer & meditation on this truth! Will you ask the Potter if He finds you to be moldable in His hands? Will you ask Him to show you where you’re not being pliable; so, that you can repent? That’s God’s point in the parable. Would Israel repent? And, will you repent?

Thinking Right About God!

-The Most Important Thing About You?

What comes to your mind if I ask you:  “What is the #1 most important thing about you?” Ponder that a moment! What is the #1 most important thing about you? Here it is:  “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the #1 most important thing about you.” The heaviest question, in front of us, is always about God Himself! And, our current pluralistic, relativistic, narcissistic, politically correct “culture” shows little to no regard for the accuracy & truth of the God impressions we have floating around in our little self-absorbed minds! “You’re OK & I’m OK” as long as you don’t tell me that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to God! “Whatever you believe about God is OK as long as you VALIDATE what I believe about Him.”  “You have your truth & I have mine.” Those are ultimately idolatrous statements, aren’t they? Any belief about God that is twisted or inaccurate is “idolatry”—they’ve made up their own god in their own image!

-God Has Left The Building!

I love what A.W. Tozer said many years ago before the world was even close to being as religiously inclusivist as it is today:  “The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.”  And, listen church, the trickle-down from the cultural idolatry & false thinking, about God, is so pervasive in our civilization that it’s made inroads into the church! In most of our mainline denominations, God has “left the building”; because, “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” A.W. Tozer said that too! That’s the post-modern world that we live in, isn’t it? There are no “absolutes” in the world of 2021; and, it’s sad the depths, of foolishness, an unregenerate & hopelessly lost world will go to silence that inner voice of God’s Holy Spirit.

-God Is Not Silent!

Listen, God is not silent! He has not created this place; and, then went off to some corner of the universe to hide out & see what happens! God is alive & well; and, the rumors of His death have been greatly exaggerated! God’s Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to pen these words, in his letter to the Church of Rome. He says the unbelieving world will suppress the truth, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them (It’s INNATE), for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…” Romans 1:19-21.  Scripture insists that everyone knows there’s a God! There is an “internal witness” or evidence! It’s innate! Everyone, in their heart, knows there is a God! They simply suppress the truth! And, there’s also the “external witness”; or, the evidence of creation, Paul says, in this passage from Romans.

Truth Suppressers!

The unbeliever, who refuses to humble himself & admit he can’t know everything there is to know about an eternal God, rejects Him & suppresses the truth about Him! He comes up with all sorts of theories that masquerade as science; but, they’re all lies. So, the answer to the #1 most important thing about you? It’s what comes into your mind when you think about God! And, the consequences, about your thoughts of God, will impact both the quality of your life here & for eternity! Your life will prove to be successful as you pursue the wisdom of God; and, reject the seductive distractions of the world. That requires a leap of faith—not a BLIND leap of faith; because, God has buried evidence of Himself, inside you! The “internal” evidence! And, He’s also left His fingerprints all over the created world & universe! The “external” evidence! So, how do we think rightly about God? Where do we start? We’ll get into that next post!

The Return Of The Exiles

-The Life Of A Refugee!

We see the pictures on the nightly news or our online news sources; and, though pictures may be worth a thousand words, they can never adequately portray what it’s like to be exiled from your native land & to flee as a refugee to a foreign nation! The stories are horrific! The greatest fear, as a parent, is to be separated from your children in such a setting; although, in some cases, where the conditions are brutal enough, parents willingly hand off their children to someone else with the hope that they might survive & have a better life! Most of us, living in this country, simply have no point of reference or experience to draw on when it comes to living like an exile or a refugee!

-Israel’s Refugees From Babylon!

And, while some of the world’s current refugee crisis has similarities to the time of Israel’s exile— as recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles— there are many differences! The majority of exiles today are leaving war-torn nations by their own will, seeking refuge in a safe, neighboring country. Israel’s exile occurred against their own will when, the foreign nations of Assyria; and, then Babylon, swept in like a flood & plundered their homeland; and, then exiled them off to serve as slaves! For Israel, their exile was the more bitter because they had no one to blame but themselves.

-Israel Broke Covenant!

God had covenanted with them to bless them in the land—that He gave them—if they would obey Him & keep His commandments! But, He had also promised a curse if they broke covenant with Him; and, that’s exactly what they did! They abandoned Yahweh & chased after other gods; until, finally, Yahweh abandoned them! The 137th Psalm was written as a lament by those who endured the exile, the slavery & the human trafficking in that day:  “By the rivers of Babylon,” they cried, “there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:  ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ they mocked.  “How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” That’s how the book of 2 Chronicles ends!

-Exiled To Babylon!

It reads that King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, “…deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.  So, Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years; and, God’s prophecy, through Jeremiah, was fulfilled. It was during those 70 years that the Medo-Persian empire overpowered Babylon!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

From there, the book of Ezra picks up the story of the exiles:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing” Ezra 1:1. That verse includes 2 significant details! First, that Jeremiah’s prophecy, of a 70-year exile, was completed in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign in Persia! And, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation! I would encourage you to make a note in your Bible, right there, that says, “Here is an example of God’s Sovereignty over the world.”  Cyrus wasn’t in control! Persia wasn’t in control either! God was directing traffic here! He put it in Cyrus’ mind to issue the proclamation we’ll look at next week!