Monday, May 18, 2015

True Hope

My Sunday School lesson from May 17, 2015 ...

What's your favorite movie about love? "The Notebook?" "Titanic?" "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days?" "Star Wars?"

What's the same about all these lovey-dovey movies? To me it's that every one of them would be only 15 minutes long if there wasn't any conflict. They would "meet cute," fall in love and that would be it. But there has to be something unsaid, a dumb argument, or misunderstanding that makes the movie 90 minutes long.

Today wer'e going to talk about how God’s love has everything to do with His message to the Israelites through the prophet Malachi.

If the Israelites had just followed God’s will and if they’re hearts were pure in worship, their movie would have been 15 minutes long without conflict.

What really happened is that in their story, in spite of a history of disobedience and His need to correct their disobedience, God continued to be faithful to His people.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Malachi is the last of the minor prophets and the end of the Old Testament canon (though not the last book written). Jewish tradition identifies him as a member of the Great Synagogue that collected and preserved the Scriptures.

*** It is unclear when Malachi was written. Clues probably put it around 450-430 B.C. during the times of Ezra's and Nehemiah's ministries.

*** The exiles returned 100 years earlier and rebuilt the temple, but in the decades since the people were slow to show faithfulness by embracing God's commands. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah reveal that the people struggled with marrying pagans, violating the Sabbath, and many more issues (see Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 13:15-27).

TRUE LOVE (MAL. 1:1-5)

1 An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the LORD’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob.” 3 “but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 4 “Though Edom says: “We have been devastated, but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of Hosts says this: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called a wicked country and the people the LORD has cursed forever. 5 “Your own eyes will see this, and you yourselves will say, ‘The LORD is great, even beyond the borders of Israel.’”

*** God’s love.

--- The history of Israel is important for understanding the Book of Malachi.

--- God promised great things to Abraham for his people, and delivered over and over again despite their unfaithfulness.

--- Even still, Israel is still not convinced that God loves them. These verses are His response to their doubts.

--- QUESTION - Why would the people doubt God's love?

*** God can also hate?

--- It's Biblical:

Psalm 5:5 - The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;
Isaiah 61:8 - “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Amos 5:21 - “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”

The Scriptures teach us that God hates wickedness because it is against His nature - holy, pure and righteous. And yet He loves believers with the love of a father for his children, the love of a groom for his bride. "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" (Ezekiel 33:11).

*** QUESTION: What is the difference between God’s hate and people’s hate? (Does it bother you to say that God hates?)

*** Jacob and Esau, a rivalry through the ages.

--- Jacob was chosen to be the ancestor of Israel while his twin brother Esau was rejected. (Before the twins were born, even, the Lord had revealed to Rebekah that her younger son would receive God’s covenant blessing. Gen. 25:23. Nevertheless, God did bless Esau with numerous descendants (see Gen. 36:1-30).)

--- God is not a fan of Esau's descendants. (“Hate” in this case could also have the sense of “second best” or “not loved as much.”) The context suggests it means active rejection and displeasure that demanded judgment.

--- Remember our study of Obadiah, when the prophet delivered the message to the Edomites warning of their destruction. Esau’s descendants were prideful and arrogant during the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the exile of the people.

--- Therefore, although Israel has experienced the Lord’s wrath for just a little while, Edom is a “people with whom the Lord is angry forever” (1:4). Furthermore, while Israel is heir of the everlasting promises of their covenant Lord, Edom will never rise again. And it was indeed judged and wiped out.

*** “Beyond the border of Israel.”

--- The Bible asserts again and again that the Lord God of Israel is King of kings and Lord of lords (see Rev. 19:16). He is sovereign over the other nations whether they know it or not.

TRUE WORSHIP (MAL. 1:6-10)

6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says Yahweh of Hosts to you priests, who despise My name.” Yet you ask: “How have we despised Your name?” 7 “By presenting defiled food on My altar.” You ask: “How have we defiled You?” When you say: “The LORD’s table is contemptible.” 8 “When you present a blind animal for sacrifice, is it not wrong? And when you present a lame or sick animal, is it not wrong? Bring it to your governor! Would he be pleased with you or show you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. 9 “And now ask for God’s favor. Will He be gracious to us? Since this has come from your hands, will He show any of you favor?” asks the LORD of Hosts. 10 “I wish one of you would shut the temple doors, so you would no longer kindle a useless fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Hosts, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

*** Corrupt spiritual leadership.

--- These verse concern God's rebuke of the priests.

--- Here we go again. During the time of Malachi the people became complacent again. They thought their relationship with God could be maintained by formal ritual alone, no matter how they lived.

--- Apparently the people weren't bringing their best animals for sacrifice, and the priests were allowing it. This is a big-time offense to the Lord and showed that their hearts were impure.

--- The Lord says that if they won't bring that mess to their governor, why with Him? If your boss is coming over for dinner, do you give him the juiciest steak or do you give him pig lips and whatever potato chips were at the bottom of Aldi's bargain bin?

--- In verse 10 God even says that the priests might as well just shut the doors to the temple rather than burn another lame sacrifice.

*** QUESTION - How might we feel today if God closed the doors of the church because He longer respected our worship? What are some evidences that a person has fear and reverence for the Lord?

*** When we come to worship and we don't bring our best - whether it's our tithes, time or talents, then we're not doing any better.

--- 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul sums up our attitudes of giving: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

*** QUESTION - Why do you suppose the Hebrew people showed respect to one another—a son to a father and a servant to a master—but God, who is also the Father and Master of the Hebrews, received no respect?

TRUE GREATNESS (MAL. 1:11)

11 “For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.”

*** His name is great!

--- Worship of God is useless if it is not rooted in humble adoration of God, who is our source of all things great and small.

*** QUESTION - How does God want to be worshiped?

--- John 4:24 - God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

--- Years ago, Henry Ward Beecher, was one of the most famous preachers in America. People from all over the nation came to worship at his church. One Sunday he was absent, and a visiting preacher substituted for him. When the visiting minister came to the pulpit the people realized that Henry was gone. Some of the people started for the doors. The minister said, "May I have your attention. All those who came this morning to worship Henry Ward Beecher may now withdraw from the church. All who came to worship God may stay."

People may come to a worship service for many superficial reasons: to hear a certain preacher, to watch their children perform, to visit with their friends, to fulfill an obligation, to enhance their business opportunities, to see what everyone else is wearing. But only one reason is acceptable - to give honor and praise to God. Worship is not an attempt to entertain worshipers or to stir their emotions. Worship is not an attempt to manipulate minds and hearts. Worship is not an attempt to indoctrinate. Worship is, first of all, an attempt to focus our attention on God, to honor Him.

Would that describe our worship today? Do you come to church and say: "How long is this going to last? Do we have to sing so much? Why is the preaching so long?" Do you come to worship and make a mental list of what you're going to accomplish when you get home?

What can you do to change?

*** The new covenant.

--- If the priests and the people of Israel would not worship God in spirit and truth, then God would find His worshipers among the Gentiles, beginning 450 years later.

--- Jesus first came to secure our salvation through His death and resurrection. He will come a second time to establish His kingdom over all the earth.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Think of when you grew up and your parents took you to extracurricular activities. We, as our parents were then, are their coaches, teachers, mentors. The emotional connection is important to how kids grow up into well-adjusted adults.

All too often we have a sentimental grandfatherly view of God. We think He winks at our sins, and no matter what we give Him He says, "Oh, that's great. Thank you so much."

But God doesn’t deserve our leftovers, the time we only give when we feel like it.

What does it mean to give less than the best?

--- It's when I spend an hour in an evening playing Words With Friends on my Kindle Fire and then in the five minutes before I fall asleep I read God's Word.
--- It's when we focus on our careers and think nothing of working overtime, but when it comes to serving in the church we either sit on the sidelines or look for something that requires the least amount of energy.
--- It's when we spend a lot of money on ourselves for a summer vacation, but when it comes to giving God an offering we look at the budget and say the cupboards are empty.
--- It's when we watch Memphis score a touchdown and jump up and down to celebrate, but in worship we sit passively.
--- It's when we love our kids so much there is nothing we wouldn't give them, but if we're honest our heart doesn't beat that fast for God.

*** Think of any part of your worship that is lacking before God. Find what you need to change to be pleasing to Him.

*** Read Psalm 96 this week, a joyful song of how great it is to worship the Lord.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seek Him First

My lesson for May 10, 2015 …

Be honest: do you have some books on your shelf that you started, but have not finished?

Are there half-complete craft projects on the work table in your garage?

Did you start a blog with the intention of updating it regularly, but forgot that it exists until this second?

Sometimes we start things with great zeal and then lose our enthusiasm. This is similar to Israel’s work on the temple when Haggai was first written.

"Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. … Usually the first one to lose out on your crowded time is God." – Francis Chan

Thankfully, God finishes what He begins.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Haggai [HAG -eye] prophecies in the period after 40,000 exiles returned from Babylon in 538 B.C, and faced troubles in rebuilding the temple that was destroyed in 586 by Nebuchadnezzar.

*** In 520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah were commissioned by the Lord to stir up the people to not only rebuild the temple, but also to reorder their spiritual priorities. As a result, the temple was completed 4 years later.

*** Haggai is the second shortest book in the OT (Obadiah is the shortest). It takes place over just a four-month period.

REALITY DEFINED (HAG. 1:1-9)

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “The LORD of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.” 3 The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways: 6 You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. You drink but never have enough to become drunk. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.” 7 The LORD of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways. 8 Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. “Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

*** 1:1-2 - God asks Haggai to speak to leaders first.

--- Recall the context here. God used the kings of Persia to release the Israelites, but once they reached Jerusalem they found the city in ruins. When they began to rebuild the temple they faced opposition and stopped.

--- Haggai brought God’s direct message to two key Jewish leaders: Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest.

--- The objections to rebuilding may have been economic, because their land was in trouble; or religious, because they thought the Messiah would rebuild the temple; or even timing, they thought they weren't supposed to build it yet. Such excuses showed that they were not pursuing God’s kingdom and righteousness.

--- QUESTION - What are some common ways we fail to put God first in our lives?

*** 1:3-9 - Now Haggai speaks to the people, giving them a message that God is not pleased.

--- QUESTION - What did the people choose to do instead of rebuilding the temple?

(Spent their time on their own desires like material things that never truly make them joyful; it's never enough. Verse 4 says they were living in paneled houses while God's house lay in ruins.)

--- Not rebuilding the temple was no little thing. The temple was the dwelling place of God’s special presence with His people.

--- 1 Kings 8:27-30: 27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

--- As important as building God’s temple was, what God really wanted was a change of heart for His people. He wanted the people of Judah to reflect on what they thought was more important. Matthew 6:25-34 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of the same issue: priorities. We the people get focused on the little things. We do not put God’s desires and the things of God first. It speaks to our spiritual health.

*** QUESTION - Consider the motives of the Israelites. Were they procrastinating or disobedient? What is the difference? How does the difference matter to God?

DISCIPLINE DEFINED (HAG. 1:10-11)

10 “So on your account, the skies have withheld the dew and the land its crops. 11 I have summoned a drought on the fields and the hills, on the grain, new wine, olive oil, and whatever the ground yields, on man and beast, and on all that your hands produce.”

*** "Acts of God" get the Hebrews' attention.

--- In Deuteronomy 7:13 God promised that as the people followed Him that He would bless them and increase their numbers: He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

--- Just as He could use nature to bless them, God used drought and other natural disasters to discipline the Hebrews because they arrogantly stopped rebuilding the temple and instead began to restore their own houses and land.

--- Today, as then, not all natural disasters are God’s discipline (see Luke 13:4-5). In the case Haggai described, however, God revealed that He was using the people’s difficulties to prompt their thinking about priorities.

GLORY TO COME (HAG. 2:5-9)

5 “This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and My Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.” 6 For the LORD of Hosts says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD of Hosts. 8 “The silver and gold belong to Me”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts. 9 “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the LORD of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.

*** A call to spiritual restoration.

--- Haggai’s initial speech to God’s people brought results (see Hag. 1:14-15). The Lord stirred up Zerubbabel’s spirit, along with Joshua’s spirit, and all the people joined in to work on God’s house.

--- God promised that because the Hebrew people finally got their priorities back in order and returned to rebuilding the temple, He would fill the temple with His glory.

*** The power of God’s help.

---Verse 5, God reminds the people that He is just as much with them as when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt 900 years earlier: Exodus 29:45-46 - 45 I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am Yahweh their God.

*** The provision of God’s assets.

--- Verses 6-9 promise that God will provide the things they desire now that their priorities are in order. He affirms that He alone has sovereign control of all the nations and the ability to “shake all the nations so that the treasures will come.”

--- All we have comes from God. There should be no sense of entitlement that God has to meet our wants. We are stewards of His resources.

*** The promise of God’s affirmation.

--- Verse 9, what the people really want, peace. This is more than the absence of war, but also shows that the people will feel completeness, wholeness, life as it was meant to be. ((Isn’t that what we all really want?))

--- What ultimately gives us that peace? In the new covenant we can look to Jesus Christ, the greatest manifestation of God’s presence and glory.

As Christians, we must rise above the mere pursuit of happiness in this world and live for an even higher purpose, loving God and using the things He has given us to seek His kingdom. This is the real secret to satisfaction, fullness, and lasting joy.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Today we talked about Haggai’s message to the people about their choosing to focus on self-centered pursuits and not work on the rebuilding of God’s temple.

Think about these if/then statements:

If the Hebrew people had their priorities in order in the first place, then _____.

So, if my to-do list was organized by God, then I would do ______ more.

We have a tendency to become confused about the things that really matter. A recent news story illustrates this well: in January 2014, a 26-year old man dropped his cell phone into the frigid waters of the Chicago River. He climbed over a fence to retrieve it and fell into the icy water. His two friends climbed over the fence to help, but they fell into the water as well. By the time authorities arrived, the first man was dead, and one of his friends, a woman, had disappeared into the water. Her body was found two days later. Only the third friend survived. Speaking to the media, one passerby made a profound comment: “I guess I can understand the impulse. You cell phone is sort of part of you, [and] we are kind of tied to it. But it’s only a cell phone. To risk your life is incredible.”

Life is too short and too fragile to spend it chasing after the wrong priorities. This is why Jesus encouraged his followers to make God’s kingdom our greatest priority.

*** Think about your priorities. How high is God on your list?

*** Is what you believe displayed in how you live?

*** What difference would quick obedience to God make in your spiritual life?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Cooper's tumbling class

Earlier this week Cooper had parent day for his tumbling class as the Mother's Day Out year comes to a close. Penny did it, too, but Val went and I forgot to give her the camera. :(

Monday, May 04, 2015

Awestruck

My Sunday School lesson for May 3, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** What is awesome?

This week, everyone in the Mid-South decided that was is truly awesome is the $191 million renovation of the Pyramid to put in a 535,000 square foot Bass Pro superstore.

In addition to the sales floor, there is a cypress swamp with live alligators, a bowling alley, archery and shooting ranges, a restaurant, an observation deck and a hotel. Ducks Unlimited has its own space for a museum. Right in the middle is the tallest freestanding elevator in America.

Today we’re going to continue our study of Habakkuk and figure out what is truly awesome.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Habakkuk prophesied about the same time as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zephaniah, around 600 B.C. as the Babylonians were taking over the region.

*** The book is essentially a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk had some hard questions for God, and God responded with even harder answers.

--- The prophet struggled to understand and accept the answers God gave him - namely that God would use the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment against Judah.

--- Habakkuk had two choices: he could either become proud and arrogant, refusing to believe God’s way was best, or he could choose to live by faith In the end, Habakkuk chose to believe God’s way was best and to live by faith in God.

STAND IN AWE (HAB. 3:1-2)

1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. According to Shigionoth. 2 Lord, I have heard the report about You; Lord, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy!

*** The persevering prayer of Habakkuk.

--- Even as God in chapters 1 and 2 told Habakkuk of His judgment on Judah and the prophet has trouble accepting it, in this prayer poem we find how Habakkuk learns to praise the Lord anyhow, no matter what.

--- The meaning of the expression according to Shigionoth [shig ih OH nahth] is unclear. Some Bible students suggest that it designates a musical notation. It may be an instruction to recite the prayer with feeling or with a free flowing melody and rhythm.

*** Habakkuk reflects on God's past works.

--- Using the Holman Bible transition I looked up “awe,” “awesome,” awe-inspiring” at Bible Gateway and got 56 results, including:

Isaiah 8:13 - You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe.

Exodus 34:10 - And the Lord responded: “Look, I am making a covenant. I will perform wonders in the presence of all your people that have never been done in all the earth or in any nation. All the people you live among will see the Lord’s work, for what I am doing with you is awe-inspiring.

2 Samuel 7:23 - And who is like Your people Israel? God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts, driving out nations and their gods before Your people You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt.

*** QUESTION - What were some of the deeds of God to which Habakkuk stood in awe?

*** Mercy!

--- At the end of verse 2, Habakkuk adds a little note to say, "God I want You to do Your work," and then he sort of adds a P.S. "God in wrath remember mercy." He says, "God I know You've got to do it, but could You just remember mercy?" You want to know something? God always does, doesn't He?

TREMBLE IN HIS SPLENDOR (HAB. 3:3-6)

3 God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise. 4 His brilliance is like light; rays are flashing from His hand. This is where His power is hidden. 5 Plague goes before Him, and pestilence follows in His steps. 6 He stands and shakes the earth; He looks and startles the nations. The age-old mountains break apart; the ancient hills sink down. His pathways are ancient.

*** "Theophany."

--- Theophany means a visible representation of the presence of God using the highest human terms possible.

--- His majesty is described as a brilliant glory of light and brightness. The mountains tremble violently; the earth quakes; the people are afraid.

--- The power of nature is one of the easiest ways we can understand the omnipotence of God. If He can control the force of a hurricane or destruction of an earthquake like the one that killed thousands in Nepal last weekend, then He can take care of me and you.

--- David wrote in Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.”

--- As the VeggieTales sang, “God is bigger than the boogeyman, He's bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV, oh God is bigger than the boogeyman and He's watching out for you and me!”

CELEBRATE HIS VICTORY (HAB. 3:11-13)

11 Sun and moon stand still in their lofty residence, at the flash of Your flying arrows, at the brightness of Your shining spear. 12 You march across the earth with indignation; You trample down the nations in wrath. 13 You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed. You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him from foot to neck. Selah.

*** God is a Mighty Warrior.

--- Habakkuk knows that God would conquer His enemies, make everything right and vindicate His people.

*** The sun and moon obey Him.

--- Recall when Joshua prayed for the sun and moon to hold in place so that Israel might completely defeat God's enemies (Joshua 10:12-13).

--- The Lord had promised David that if his descendants were faithful, He would preserve David’s dynasty (see 1 Kings 2:4). This led the line of David to pass to Jesus, the Messiah. In contrast, God's wicked enemies would be crushed.

*** God battles on His terms.

--- He never tires, he never lets His guard down. Whatever the enemy is God's ready, God is vigilant, God is ready. It’s a tremendous picture of God's defense of His people.

--- We should never rely on ourselves to fight His battles. We get tired. Our determination wanes. Remember the song "The Warrior is a Child" by Twila Paris?

Lately, I've been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I'm amazing strong beyond my years
But they don't see inside of me, I'm hiding all the tears

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

Unafraid because His armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I'm amazing never face retreat
But they don't see the enemies that lay me at His feet

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and and cry for just a while
'Cause deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
'Cause deep inside this armor, deep inside this armor
Deep inside this armor the warrior is a child

*** QUESTION - Does it scare you more or encourage you when God talks about leaving His throne to come down to earth and do battle?

REJOICE IN FAITH (HAB. 3:16-19)

16 I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood. Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls. 18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! 19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!

*** Habakkuk rejoices in faith as he commits himself to God's purposes.

--- The Book of Habakkuk began with Habakkuk questioning God because of injustices but closed with Habakkuk praising God and recommitting himself in faith to trust God in the difficult times to come.

--- Think of Job 13:15 when Job said, "Though He slay me, what, yet will I trust Him."

*** Trembling.

--- Habakkuk confessed that the thought of what God's judgment would do to him and to Judah shook him to the core. His lips quivered, his bones ached, he trembled. Have you ever literally felt sick about something troubling you?

*** No matter what.

--- Even under the worst possible scenarios, Habakkuk chooses to triumph in God and rejoice.

*** QUESTION – What scenarios today can we choose to walk in faith and trust in His plans, no matter what?

(Financial troubles, failing marriages, job losses. Nationally, the gay marriage debate, religion under attack in the schools. Internationally, Christians killed for their faith.)

--- Follow up question - When we choose to trust God in all our circumstances, how will it impact our attitude and actions?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Sometimes your life can seem like a Memphis Grizzlies game. Sometimes you're Vince Carter diving for a loose ball, sometimes you're Courtney Lee draining a critical three-pointer, and sometimes you're Mike Conley getting your face broken by a dude's elbow.

Whatever adversity the Grizzlies find, they know you have to grit and grind to win. Nothing's handed to you.

Habakkuk stood alone against the injustices of his day, but he realized God was in control and is worthy to be praised and worshiped.

James writes in chapter 1, verses 2 and 3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Someone once wrote, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” There will be trials, oppression, and misunderstandings. And when you become a Christian, you do not become immune to these things.

Trials are a part of life, but how Christians behave in response is what causes an unbelieving world to sit up and take notice.

Now, open yourself to some accountability and get someone to judge you honestly: “How would you rate the way I have responded to trials in my life this year on a scale of 1-10? ‘One’ means I’ve been thankful for the opportunity to learn patience, and ‘10’ means I’ve been resentful for every speed bump my vehicle of life had to pass over.”

How are you responding this week to the difficulties in your life? Thankful for the opportunity to learn patience? Or resentful for every speed bump your vehicle of life has to pass over? You can tell the size of a Christian by what it takes to stop him.

*** Do we act as Christians like we truly believe God has the power as described in Habakkuk's prayer? If not, what would it take for their belief in God’s power to grow?

*** What insights into God’s power do you have? What is some of the awe you have experienced?

*** It is a challenge for believers to choose to trust God when they look around and see virtually no reason to do so. But when they do so, they have won the victory.

Say it loud and proud: "I don't care what happens, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation."

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Refined People

My Sunday School lesson for April 19 ...

Back in 1990, Iben Browning received notoriety for his erroneous prediction that a major earthquake would occur on the New Madrid Fault around December 2 and 3, 1990.

His prediction freaked a lot of people out. I remember having earthquake drills specifically for this prediction.

Of course, no earthquakes occurred.

The Jehovah's Witness cult is popular for their specific dates for the end of the world and Jesus' return, especially in 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975.

The book The World's Worst Predictions lists some of history's all-time prophetic goofs:

--- King George II said in 1773 that the American colonies had little stomach for revolution.

--- An official of the White Star Line, speaking of the firm's newly built flagship, the Titanic, launched in 1912, declared that the ship was unsinkable.

--- In 1939 The New York Times said the problem of TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average American wouldn't have time for it.

--- An English astronomy professor said in the early 19th century that air travel at high speed would be impossible because passengers would suffocate.

Prophecy is hard. And false prophecy is punished harshly.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** After two weeks in Luke to talk about the resurrection, we’re back to study the minor prophet Zechariah.

*** Zechariah was a priest, a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. Zechariah was born in Babylon and was part of the group of 50,000 exiles who first returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. when the Persians allowed it.

*** Zechariah chapters 1-8 were written about 520 B.C., while chapters 9-14 are thought to come from later, about 480-470 B.C.

--- Up til now, Zechariah prophesied about the coming Messiah. Today Zechariah reveals the Lord’s cleansing and restoration. No matter what the Israelites have done, God is still a God of forgiveness if the people will go to Him.

THE FOUNTAIN THAT CLEANSES (ZECH. 13:1-6)

1 “On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity.” 2 “On that day”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“I will erase the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.” 3 “If a man still prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will say to him: You cannot remain alive because you have spoken falsely in the name of Yahweh. When he prophesies, his father and his mother who bore him will pierce him through.” 4 “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive.” 5 “He will say: I am not a prophet; I work the land, for a man purchased me as a servant since my youth.” 6 “If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends.”

*** “On that day.”

--- Used 20 times in Zechariah. Chapter 13, verses 1, 2 and 4 all begin with that phrase, and it indicates the fullness of God’s judgment of the world and the final salvation of His people.

--- God has in mind a wonderful day coming for Israel. Zechariah calls it the cleansing of Israel, for the wealthy and the everyday people alike. In chapter 13 and verse 1 he says, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."

--- Wednesday night in 180, Daniel talked about Jesus as the living water, pouring ourselves out and filling up with the Spirit. He then played the Casting Crowns song “The Well”. My favorite part is near the end, when the lead singer sings "Leave it all behind," and the woman sings these lines between:

Your pursuit of perfection
Your fear of rejection
Your temporary pleasures
All of your earthly treasures
Dried up empty religion
Rusty chains of addiction
All that guilt that weighs you down

--- The picture of a cleansing fountain indicates forgiveness of sin and impurity. Ultimately we find that abundance of forgiveness in Jesus and his blood shed on the cross, as he said in John 7:37–39 - 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

*** What are the two sins singled out to be cleansed?

--- False idols and prophets did a lot of harm to the Hebrews. They seemed to fall for it hook line and sinker over and over again.

--- The Bible provides us with several instances of false prophets who misled the Israelites. The people too often loved to hear the lies promised by the false prophets (see Jer. 5:31).

For example, during the days of King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel, the queen hired 850 false prophets—450 devoted to the male god Baal, and 400 devoted to the female deity Asherah [uh SHEE ruh] (1 Kings 18:19). These and other false prophets were ultimately discredited and dealt with severely (1 Kings 18:40).

*** “On that day,” the false prophets will shrink into the background and try to hide his shady past.

--- “Oh no, I didn’t say that. I’m just a farmer. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

--- These pagan prophets would even lacerate themselves to gain favor with their false gods. But in the day of cleansing they'll have to pretend that they ran into a wall at a friend's house or something else.

*** QUESTION - The major sins of the Hebrew people were the worship of false idols and following false prophets. There was also an unclean spirit that dwelt in the land. Are these issues of concern today?

THE STRIKE THAT FREES (ZECH. 13:7)

7 “Sword, awake against My shepherd, against the man who is My associate”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will also turn My hand against the little ones.”

*** God strikes His own chosen Shepherd.

--- Jesus called it:

Matthew 26:31-33 – 31 Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
32 But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
33 Peter told Him, “Even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away!”

(Peter, of course, denied Christ three times and then went into hiding.)

--- Jesus used Zechariah’s prophecy to refer to what would happen to Him and predict the disciples’ reaction.

--- Zechariah gave no clear identification of the little ones against whom the Lord would also turn His hand. Since “the sheep” is a reference to Jesus’ disciples, the phrase “little ones” probably foreshadows the early converts to Christianity who also faced trials and persecutions for their faith.

THE FIRE THAT REFINES (ZECH. 13:8-9)

8 “In the whole land”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“two-thirds will be cut off and die, but a third will be left in it.” 9 “I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: ‘They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God.’”

*** I've got good news and bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first.

*** "Two-thirds will be cut off and die."

--- The judgment sifts the true believers from the untrue.

--- It’s hard to nail this down. Could it refer to Greek or Roman conquest, or Nazi gas chambers? Anyone’s guess. Or, this is still a future event of the Great Tribulation, God’s divine judgment on sin at the end of time.

--- To gain a sense of the scale of this destruction, compare it to the pandemic bubonic plague that struck Europe in the mid-1300s. That massive outbreak of disease was responsible for about 20 million deaths, one-third of Europe’s population at that time.

- In the 1800s Memphis had six outbreaks of yellow fever. The 1878 outbreak was so bad that 30,000 Memphians fled the city (that was half the population), and of the 19,000 left, 17,000 caught the fever and 5,150 of those died. Twelve Catholic nuns, 9 priests, 4 Episcopalian nuns and 10 Protestant ministers died. Survivors had to face the city's bankruptcy and the loss of its charter. It wasn't until 1900 that it was figured out that yellow fever was brought on by evil mosquitoes. Memphis began to recover quickly after 1878. Its artesian water supply was discovered and turned into one of the purest water supplies in the nation in the 1880s. Its charter was restored. Its sanitation and sewer systems became models for other cities. Between 1900 and 1950, Memphis almost quadrupled from 102,350 to 396,000 residents.

*** QUESTION - Why do you suppose there are so many in the two-thirds group?

Jesus was honest about the prospects of saving the majority of the world:

Matthew 7:13-14 - 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Ask yourself, which road do you tend to walk on?

*** The good news: Out of this judgment emerges the true people of God.

--- God uses the fire of adversity to purify us like silver (“as silver is refined”); God uses the fire of adversity to prove us like gold (“test them as gold is tested”).

--- The process of refining silver means that the metal is crushed, melted to nearly 1,800 degrees, cleaned of impurities, heated again (over and over) and removed of impurities until the refiner looks into the pot and sees his reflection.

*** QUESTION - What tools does God use to refine believers? What factors impact how a person interprets God’s use of those tools?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

Think of your favorite shirt that is stained, or those work pants you only use when you are working in the yard.

What would you recommend to remove the stain and clean the clothing?

Why is the stain of sin so resistant to cleansing that it requires God to do such a radical act of sacrificing His Son?

What are some long-lasting effects of sin?

*** The message of God through Zechariah is a message of hope, forgiveness, grace, and refinement for His people.

*** No matter how far you wander from Him, no matter how great your sin is, and no matter how much you have followed other gods, His message today is the same message He gave through the prophet.

*** But don’t be surprised when the fires of refinement come your way. It is the forging of your faith. It is God shaping, cleaning, and testing you in order to strengthen your relationship with Him.

*** Peter said it this way: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cooper and Penny's Easter

Every year we take an Easter picture at Val's grandmother's before the annual lunch and egg hunt. Here's how our family has progressed since Cooper was six months old ...

The Promise Fulfilled

My Life Group lesson for this Sunday ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever wished to be the proverbial “fly on the wall,” with others oblivious to your presence?

We see it in tales all the time, of princes and princesses dressing as the common folk to walk among them and see what life is like. Celebrities go incognito to hide from the press and stalker fans. Or maybe you just feel unrecognized like that Mindy Kaling ad where she walks through New York as if she's invisible?

Have you ever had a close encounter with a famous person? If so, did you recognize the person at the time?

This week we’re going to talk about how Jesus hid his identity from two followers for several hours as they talked about Him until He was ready to reveal Himself.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Last week we studied Luke 24:1-12, when the women have the resurrection revealed to them. They then raced back to tell the disciples. *** This week we'll talk about the biblical theme of prophecy and its fulfillment. *** What is a prophet? What is prophecy? Consider several insights from just three New Testament verses.

--- Hebrews 1:1— “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways.”
--- James 5:10— “Brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience.”
--- 2 Peter 1:21— “No prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

*** Prophets were active in the history of God's people from its earliest days. Here are nine key insights about prophecy and prophets:

(1) Prophecy was God’s idea, not man’s.
(2) The prophets’ words were actually God’s, not their own.
(3) Prophets were human beings who served as God’s messengers.
(4) The Holy Spirit moved in the lives of the prophets to provide them with their messages.
(5) The prophets faithfully attributed their words to God.
(6) The recipients of the prophets’ messages were other human beings.
(7) God delivered His messages through many prophets over a long period of time.
(8) The prophets delivered their messages using a variety of techniques and styles.
(9) Prophets suffered at times for their faithfulness.

*** Prophecies throughout the Old Testament pointed to Jesus’ life, atoning death, and resurrection. These prophecies not only help us understand the meaning of the events in Jesus’ life but also bolster our faith in the risen Lord.

THE QUESTIONS RAISED (LUKE 24:19-24)

13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place. 15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.
18 The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” He asked them. So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.”

*** The Road to Emmaus.

--- The disciples weren't Jesus' only followers. Here we see two of them, Cleopas and an unnamed follower as they walked to Emmaus, about 7 miles from Jerusalem. This happened the day of the resurrection, and they were talking about the empty tomb and the angels announcement that He was alive.

--- 24:16 says that they were "prevented from recognizing Him."

From Adrian Rogers: “I believe God held back Jesus’ identity from them for a while on purpose. He was soon to leave earth and return to the Father and would no longer physically be with them. What He is doing on the road to Emmaus is transferring their dependence upon His physical presence and moving it to the Word of God. As He opens the Word—the law and the prophets—He is opening their eyes to see Him now not after the flesh, but revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. Do you understand why He did this? He’s going back to Heaven, but He’s leaving the Word. Today we need the same thing. We don’t have Jesus before us in physical form. But we do have the Word of God. The written Word is what we have today to bring Jesus Christ to us and make Him real.”

--- Verse 21 makes it clear that despite the women proclaiming that Jesus is alive, that the tomb was empty and Peter and John found folded linens instead of a dead savior, these followers still had doubts about Jesus being resurrected, that their hopes had been dashed.

After all, He was supposed to be the chosen one (not like Anakin in "Star Wars"). They had expected Jesus to be the political Messiah who would deliver Israel, like the angels proclaimed. They’d been looking for a King, but they thought His mission had been cut short. That misunderstanding led to disappointment. Disappointment led to doubt. Doubt led to discouragement. That can happen to us, when we don’t understand the Word of God. So many Christians get discouraged because they don’t fully understand the Scriptures or believe all that the prophets have spoken.

--- While skeptical about the events of the morning, what they didn’t realize, of course, was that they were walking and talking with Jesus right then!

--- Would they be walking back to Emmaus if they thought that Jesus was actually alive and possibly ready to meet with His followers as they were gathered together around Jerusalem?

THE OLD TESTAMENT FULFILLED (LUKE 24:25-27)

25 He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

*** Jesus was astonished.

--- Jesus called them "unwise" and "slow" to believe! Not only did they not believe the women, they didn't believe the prophecies that pointed to Jesus' resurrection.

--- Jesus taught the two disciples that as prophesied by the prophets, the Messiah had to suffer before He entered His glory, although His followers refused to believe it.

Isaiah 53:3-5 - He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

*** Jesus schooled the followers on the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah in what must have been one of the greatest Bible studies ever.

--- How would you like to have a recording of Jesus going through the Old Testament, saying, “Now, here’s Jesus. Here’s the Messiah. Here’s the Messiah in this passage. And here’s another one.”

Without Jesus, the Old Testament is

--- a book of unexplained ceremonies that won’t make sense
--- a book of unfulfilled prophecies
--- and a book of unattainable standards

If you try to live by the Old Testament without the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot make it.

*** QUESTION - What are some reasons that people today give for not believing in the resurrection? What Bible passages would you use to help someone move closer to belief and to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior?

THE MESSIAH REVEALED (LUKE 24:28-32)

28 They came near the village where they were going, and He gave the impression that He was going farther. 29 But they urged Him: “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight. 32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?”

*** The followers' hospitality.

--- The disciples got to their destination late in the afternoon, and even as this Stranger was going to keep traveling, they urged him to dine with them and stay overnight. They probably wanted to hear more from Him as well.

*** Jesus revealed His identity.

--- After a day of traveling with Him, the followers were now ready to believe what they couldn’t believe that morning.

--- When Jesus took the bread, blessed it and gave it to them, He peeled away their doubts. They realized why were their hearts were on fire on the road as Jesus explained the scriptures to them.

*** QUESTION - What might Jesus reveal about Himself to you at a meal? During the Lord’s Supper at church? During a time of reading the Bible?

THE RESURRECTION PROCLAIMED (LUKE 24:33-35)

33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, “The Lord has certainly been raised, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

*** The disciples hightail it back to Jerusalem.

--- Now that they believe that Jesus has returned, they can’t wait to share the good news, the greatest testimony in history. They couldn’t even wait until the next morning to get back and let their grieving and confused friends know what happened.

--- The Eleven were already discussing their good news, that of Jesus appearing to Peter.

--- According to the law of Moses and Jesus’ own teaching, crucial testimony needed to be established by two or three witnesses (see Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16). With the arrival of Cleopas and his companion, that requirement was met.

*** QUESTION – Think of something that excited you so much that you had to immediately share it. Now understand the excitement of the two disciples. What has Jesus done in your life that excites you and compels you to tell others about the gospel?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

My project at work this week was to make a Standard Operating Procedure for the directors. This includes a checklist to run through before a show starts:

Mark show and rundown in iNews.
Load show on switcher:
--- Stillstores are correct for the specific shows.
--- Call up e-mem that sets the show (98 for the morning show, 00 for the evening show).
--- Auto Recall is lit.
--- Holds are cleared.
Show is loaded in XClyps 1B. Run animations to make sure they are working.
Correct graphic is set for XClyps 1A.
Load correct backgrounds and graphics in XClyps 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B.
Duet 2 is on with the time/temp bug playing.
WeatherFeed is running.
Ticker is loaded as needed.
TDOT is running.
Studio Countdown monitor is counting down breaks.
Correct sources on the Aux Panel are feeding the Ham, Tree and rolling monitors.
Weather center monitors are being fed the correct sources from the Aux bus.
Show has been mon-loaded.
Camio responsibilities are taken care of (Graphics are on the correct show and playing; CAW has been started and the correct show is reserved; Duet 1 is running.)
UpConverters are on the sources you need.
Correct lights for the anchors.
Live shots are up.
Audio checks all microphones and live shots.
Camera operators are in place and cameras are set up in the right spots.
The teleprompter is loaded and on the correct show.
Print rundowns, hand them out to all who need them.
Scripts have been printed by the producers and given to all who need them.
The foot pedal is running the timer.
All anchors and meteorologists are in place.

The Bible provides a list of prophecies about Jesus as the Messiah. If you see a list it seems authoritative, that there is a good reason to go into all that detail. For my job it means a show may run smoothly. For the Bible it means we can point to Jesus Christ as the One, the son of God, the focus of some 300 prophecies.

*** We are all on a journey of faith and Jesus is walking with each of us. Think about where you are on your journey.

*** Think about any questions you would have asked Jesus along the road to Emmaus. Now get into some quiet time reading the Word, and when you pray, ask those questions.

*** The Bible is our source of truth about the resurrection and everything that pertains to Christ. We should use it every day to equip us to speak to people who don’t know our living Lord.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Declaration

My Sunday School lesson for Easter!

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** April Fools!

So who fell for one of those this past Wednesday? What were some of the best ones you saw or heard of?

CNN detailed some of the best on the web:

- In the most inevitable development, Honda announced the all-new HR-V Selfie Edition. With 10 cameras across the interior and exterior, the HR-V Selfie Edition allows drivers to snap self-portraits while the car is in park.

- Virgin founder Richard Branson announced that the British company's U.S. operations would move to the heartland city of Branson, Missouri. He claimed Virgin would name its latest plane "Jolene" in honor of the song by Dolly Parton.

- Tesco has revolutionized the supermarket shopping experience by introducing "trampoline inspired bouncy aisles" to help you shorties reach the top shelves.

- Reverse April Fools - A dealership in New Zealand put an ad in the paper claiming that the first person to come in and "ask for Tom" would be able to swap their old car for a new BMW. One woman gave it a try and came away with a new car.

- Cottonelle unveiled a new version of toilet paper for left-handed users.

- Researchers used the Large Hadron Collider in Europe said that they had discovered the Force.

--- What makes us fall for April Fools? It is kind of like email spam, the temptation to open messages the say something like, "Don't pass up this unbelievably amazing too-good-to-be-true offer!"

It's the Fear of Missing Out. What if there is big money waiting for you just a click away? What if this story is true?

If you have been burned, what these scams also do is to make us distrust all claims, even legitimate ones.

--- 2,000 years ago there was a group of women who came upon a scene that they couldn't believe, and it changed the world for eternity.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

--- We’ve been studying the minor prophets this spring, men who wrote over 500 years before Jesus walked the earth and yet foresaw His life and work through divine revelation.

--- In today's lesson, we fast-forward to about A.D. 30 and the fruition of all of those prophecies. The ancient empires of Assyria, Babylon and Persia are gone. The Roman Empire is the superpower in control of Israel.

--- Jesus knew all along He would have to die and accepted it according to God's will:

John 10:17-18 - 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”

THE EMPTY TOMB (LUKE 24:1-3)

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

*** The third day.

--- Jesus' body was taken down from the cross on Friday and placed in a cave-tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. His followers rested on the Sabbath Day as the law commanded. Before sunrise of Sunday, a group of women returned to anoint Jesus' body with fragrant spices similar to those placed by Nicodemus on Friday.

*** They observed their final Sabbath.

---The Sabbath as the disciples understood it would now be changed. With the resurrection and the new covenant, no longer would the strict laws of observing the Sabbath need to be followed. --

*** The unexpected.

--- The stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. The soldiers, who were supposed to make sure it didn’t happen, had been left unconscious with fear. In fact, they were so afraid of the angels “that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) Throughout the Bible, when angels appear to people to encourage them in the Lord, they say not to fear. Not so with the soldiers!

--- By the way, the angel did not roll the stone away to let Jesus out, he rolled the stone away to let the people in. Jesus could walk through walls.

*** The women can’t believe what they’re seeing.

--- The soldiers were gone, the tomb's open and Jesus isn't there. The emotions would have been numerous: Surprise, dismay, confusion, anger, fear, anxiety and grief. In fact, they didn't even know what they were supposed to see. While they were observing the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees had imposed upon Pilate to secure the tomb with a Roman seal and with guards.

THE RISEN LORD DECLARED (LUKE 24:4-8)

4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered His words.

*** Like a rhinestone cowboy!

--- Not dressed in “bedazzled” clothes, but "dazzling," two men show up out of nowhere with the brightness of lightning. The term translated dazzling is the same word found in Luke 17:24 to describe the brightness of a lightning flash. In other words, standing close to these beings was like standing next to two lightning bolts! Matthew as well as John explicitly referred to them as angels (see Matt. 28:5; John 20:12).

*** The women bowed, knowing these were supernatural beings from God.

--- The angels asked “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” That was a big tipoff that things weren’t what they seemed.

--- “He is not here, but He has been resurrected!” Remember, the last the women saw of Jesus, He had been taken off the cross after being tortured by the Romans, stabbed by a spear to make sure He was dead, and wrapped and placed in a tomb.

*** They remembered the words of Jesus.

--- There are several instances of Jesus telling His followers about his fate, including Luke 18:31-34 - Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

--- Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His followers three important things about His impending death:

1. It would be necessary. It was part of God’s eternal plan (see Isa. 53:4-12).

2. It would be ugly and brutal. The Romans had not invented this form of execution, but they had perfected it. It was a slow, excruciating, public death designed to strike terror in its victims as well as in onlookers.

3. It would not be final. To be sure, it would be real. He would truly die, ceasing to breathe and giving up His spirit, yet He would rise on the third day.

SURE WITNESSES (LUKE 24:9-12)

9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.

*** The disciples were shocked!

--- The women hurried back to where the remaining 11 disciples were staying to tell them what they had seen and heard.

--- It is remarkable that the first witnesses were women. Teachings of Judaism in this period did not allow women to serve as witnesses even in minor legal proceedings. So why did God choose these women to be the first to proclaim the Good News? (He affirmed the value of all people, women and men, in His plan. Think of the ways God has used Christian women in our church!)

--- Imagine the scene, the women rushing in, excited and still in shock, their faces could even have had a little glow from the effects of the angelic encounter. Thus the disciples ... didn't believe them.

*** Nonsense!

--- Jesus hadn't been shy about telling His followers what would happen to Him, and what would happen three days later, so why didn't they believe it at first?

*** QUESTION - What do these passages say about the faith of Jesus’ disciples at that time? (The disciples had deep respect and devotion for Jesus because of all they had experienced and learned during the approximately three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.)

*** Run, Peter, run!

--- Peter was surely still feeling very guilty about denying Jesus three times. He also knew that what the women were saying seemed crazy, but needed to be investigated.

--- John ran with Peter, as told in his gospel. They saw an empty tomb and the burial cloths were the only things in there. Where Jesus was, they still didn't know. But Peter knew the truth.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Opening day for the baseball season is this week! (Go Sox!)

When Spring Training began in mid-February, every team invited about 60 players to participate. By today every team has to set their final roster with 25 players on each team. The other players will be assigned to minor league teams or released.

Imagine the emotions felt by those last few players to be told they did not make the Major League team roster.

In our study today, we find an angel and others declaring the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the emotions expressed as the news of Jesus’ resurrection was shared.

If you were one of the final players to make the team, who would you tell first? How would tell them?

Think of how would you react to making the team compared to how we react to the resurrection of Jesus. Our reaction to the resurrection should be greater than our reaction to other good news we may receive. Consider who you need to tell and how you will tell them about Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to them.

*** Faith in Jesus means we trust Him today as the resurrected and living Lord.

--- Jesus’ resurrection means that one believes God has the power to raise the dead to life. Just as He resurrected Jesus, God will resurrect those who place their faith in Jesus as Savior.

--- 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, Paul explains the importance of the resurrection: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

*** Jesus death on the cross for our sins means we can be forgiven.

--- Think of the sin in your life that haunts you. Just that one thing you did. The one that if anyone in here found out about, you'd crawl under the chair to hide. Now know this: Jesus defeated sin on the cross and in his resurrection. You are forgiven. Now forget it. He has.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Promised Messiah

My lesson from March 29 ...

Trust not in the things of this world, but eternal things. Zechariah told the Israelites of the coming Messiah, who wouldn't be there in their lifetimes but would be what matters most.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** Zechariah was a priest, a member of the Great Synagogue, a council of 120 originated by Nehemiah and presided over by Ezra. Zechariah was born in Babylon and was part of the group of 50,000 exiles who first returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. when the Persians allowed it.

*** Zechariah chapters 1-8 were written about 520 B.C., while chapters 9-14 are thought to come from later, about 480-470 B.C.

*** Zechariah, along with the prophet Haggai, roused the people from indifference about their faith and helped to get the temple rebuilt with calls of repentance and assurance of future blessings.

*** Zechariah is second only to Isaiah in the number of prophesies about the coming Messiah.

*** Primarily, the book is a prophecy about Jesus Christ, focusing on His coming glory as a means to comfort Israel. Prophecy was soon to be silent for more than 400 years until John the Baptist, so God used Zechariah to bring a rich, abundant outburst of promise for the future to sustain the faithful remnant through those silent years.

A PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

From Love Worth Finding, how we can look to the Old Testament to find Jesus:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)

In Luke 24:27, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two forlorn followers and began teaching them the secret to Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. The Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ. Every story and every event leads directly to the Savior.

In John 5:39, the Lord Jesus told His followers to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Of course, the New Testament had not yet been written, so Jesus is telling His disciples to explore the Old Testament writings, because they all point toward Him.

As you read through God’s Word, see how it points you to Jesus.

--- Christ is the Seed of woman and in Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.

--- In Exodus we find the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.

--- In Leviticus we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people, and Christ has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.

--- In Deuteronomy Moses prophesied of a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself. Jesus is that Great Prophet.

--- In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord's host. That man is Jesus Christ.

--- The judges were leaders who delivered God's people, each of them typify­ing the Lord Jesus.

--- Boaz, the kinsman who redeemed Ruth's inheritance, is a picture of Christ.

--- David, the anointed one, pictures Jesus and Jesus is described as being the Son of David.

--- In 2 Samuel when the king is being enthroned, the entire scene is descriptive of the Lord Jesus.

--- The books of Kings speak of the glory of God filling the temple and the Chronicles describe the glorious coming king, both referring to Jesus, the King of Kings.

--- Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers.

--- Job says clearly that the Redeemer is coming!

--- Esther offers a picture of Christ interceding for His people.

--- Christ appears time after time in the Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd.”

--- Isaiah details His glorious birth.

--- Jeremiah reveals that He will be acquainted with sorrows.

--- Joel describes Him as the Hope of His people.

--- Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations.

--- Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom.

--- Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.

--- Zephaniah says that He will be the king over Israel.

--- Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt.

--- Malachi is the one who calls Him the Son of Righteousness.

Can you see it? The entire Old Testament points toward Jesus as Savior, and if you miss that, you've missed the entire point of the Scriptures. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy.

FAITHFUL (ZECH. 8:1-8)

1 The word of the Lord of Hosts came: 2 “The Lord of Hosts says this: I am extremely jealous for Zion; I am jealous for her with great wrath. 3 The Lord says this: “I will return to Zion and live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, and the Holy Mountain.” 4 The Lord of Hosts says this: “Old men and women will again sit along the streets of Jerusalem, each with a staff in hand because of advanced age. 5 The streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in them.” 6 The Lord of Hosts says this: “Though it may seem incredible to the remnant of this people in those days, should it also seem incredible to Me?”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. 7 The Lord of Hosts says this: “I will save My people from the land of the east and the land of the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem. They will be My people, and I will be their faithful and righteous God.”

*** "The Lord of Hosts."

--- "Hosts" is another word for "Armies," showing that God is all-powerful and has enough resources to make sure that all of His decrees are carried out.

When God calls you to do something, if you don't do it He can call anyone else from His stable. But wouldn't you rather be a part of His great plans?

*** He is jealous for us.

--- God has full committed Himself to those whom he has a covenant relationship, and expects us to be exclusively committed to Him as well.

--- Many verses in the Bible describe God as a jealous God with great wrath and passion:

Exodus 20:5 - Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 34:14 - For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

Deuteronomy 4:24 - For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 5:9 - Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me

*** The message here promises:

--- The return of intimate spiritual fellowship between the Lord and His people.

--- Jerusalem’s residents would experience peace and security. It’s a Norman Rockwell All-American image of elderly men and women lounging peacefully, meaning that they didn’t die in battle or of famine, and live blessed lives of comfort. Another image of children playing means there are families in the city, unafraid of war and disease.

*** v. 6 is simple: Nothing is impossible with God:

Matthew 17:20 - Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

*** How would this prophecy have served as a source of hope for the people of Zechariah’s day?

KING (ZECH. 9:9)

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

*** Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a King.

--- Matthew 21:1-11:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

*** As Zechariah prophesied, the Israelites cheered Jesus’ triumphal entry.

--- Why did the Jews rejoice? First, God’s people would once again have a King, the first since Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Second, this King would be One of impeccable character.

--- Zechariah foretold that Israel’s coming King would enter the city riding on a donkey. The Jews of Jesus’ day would have been familiar with Zechariah’s messianic prophecy. They understood the claim that Jesus was making for Himself.

*** Righteous, victorious and humble.

--- Zechariah provides three key traits of the coming King: Jesus was righteous because He was without sin (see 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15). Jesus was victorious in that He destroyed the works of the Devil (see 1 John 3:8). And although He was God the Son, Jesus humbled himself by dying on a cross (see Phil. 2:8).

CREATOR OF PEACE (ZECH. 9:10)

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. The bow of war will be removed, and He will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will extend from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

*** From sea to shining sea!

--- Jesus would enter Jerusalem as King of the Jews, but he would reign around the world.

--- Jesus will rule a peaceful kingdom in His second coming, because once he has conquered His foes, peace will be proclaimed to the nations.

VICTOR (ZECH. 9:11-12)

11 As for you, because of the blood of your covenant, I will release your prisoners from the waterless cistern. 12 Return to a stronghold, you prisoners who have hope; today I declare that I will restore double to you.

*** You are free!

--- We have victory over captivity by sin because the “blood covenant” was fulfilled in the new covenant established by Jesus through His atoning death on the cross:

Matthew 26:28 - This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Heb. 9:15 - For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

--- We can only find peace, freedom from sin, and restoration through faith in Jesus.

TAKE AWAY POINTS

*** Have you ever seen a grand entrance? Have you ever witnessed the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the president of a country, a royal person, or the pope?

If you’re a husband, you should say yes right away, thinking of course of when your bride entered the room on your wedding day. Maybe you’ve also been fortunate enough to witness an opening ceremony at an Olympic Games. There you saw a grand spectacle as thousands of elite athletes and their coaches marched into the stadium.

Zechariah foresaw the Messiah’s grand entrance into Jerusalem more than five centuries before it occurred.

As we prepare for Easter, take time this week to think about your personal walk and figure out where Jesus is most important in your lives.

*** God intends peace for anyone held captive by sin. How can you work to promote God’s peace and hope to those in your community who need His rescue?

*** What does victory in Jesus mean to you? How does His promise to believers of victory over sin and death give you hope?

*** As God spoke through Zechariah, look to a time beyond your immediate circumstance to the time when there will no more war, God’s enemies will be vanquished, and the earth will be a peace with Jesus as the rightful king.

Family Pictures, pt. 2

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Family Pictures, pt. 1

When we were in Jeffersonville a few weeks ago we took pictures with all of my family. Here are some of them ...

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Compassion for Lost People

My lesson for March 22 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Have you ever been on the road and had another driver blow past you, fast enough that you hope that a cop is ahead to catch them? And then it turns out they do in fact get caught and you get a little thrill, that the driver "got what they deserved?"

The Germans appreciate this feeling so much they have word for it: Schadenfreude, or “pleasure derived by someone from another’s misfortune.”

While the belief that justice was done might be warranted in some situations, the attitude of compassion takes a different approach. A person of compassion humbly admits, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

When we view another’s judgment, we may think we’re viewing it through a window when actually we’re looking in a mirror. An attitude of compassion helps us remember that from which we ourselves have been delivered.

*** QUESTION - When we rejoice over someone else being judged, what does that reveal about how we see ourselves in relation to them?

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

This week we continue our tour through the minor prophets of the Old Testament. We've talked about Nahum and Zephaniah, this week we'll talk about Obadiah.

*** Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament.

*** Nothing is known about the author. Obadiah means“servant of the LORD” and occurs 20 times in the OT, referring to at least 20 other OT individuals.

*** It was written about 586 B.C., right after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem.

*** Now the judgment focuses on Israel’s neighbor, Edom, which was a kingdom populated by the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s twin brother).

*** Obadiah prophesied against the Edomites for acting with prideful disdain toward the people of Judah during the Babylonian invasion.

CHECK YOUR ARROGANCE (Obad. 1-4)

1 The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord GOD has said about Edom: We have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up, and let us go to war against her.” 2 Look, I will make you insignificant among the nations; you will be deeply despised. 3 Your presumptuous heart has deceived you, you who live in clefts of the rock in your home on the heights, who say to yourself, “Who can bring me down to the ground?” 4 Though you seem to soar like an eagle and make your nest among the stars, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** Pride and prejudice.

--- Through His prophets Obadiah and Jeremiah, God promised Edom would be wiped out: Jeremiah 49:14-16 parallels Obadiah: I have heard a message from the LORD; a messenger has been sent among the nations: Assemble yourselves to come against her. Rise up for war! 15 Look, I will certainly make you insignificant among the nations, despised among humanity. 16 As to the terror you cause, your presumptuous heart has deceived you. You who live in the clefts of the rock, you who occupy the mountain summit, though you elevate your nest like the eagle, even from there I will bring you down. This is the LORD’s declaration.

*** The Edomites showed a prideful heart.

--- Verse 4 says that they saw themselves as above the fray and out of reach of predators. Edom’s capital, Sela, was surrounded on virtually every side by natural fortifications, making it relatively easy to defend. Thus, the Edomites felt they had a secure home on the heights, where no enemy could conquer them.

--- In their arrogance they assumed that their past success and blessings guaranteed future success and blessings.

--- God tells them through Obadiah that you can’t hide from Him. Though these actions would come down the road in our time, for Him judgment was as good as done.

--- As the Edomites had disdained the people of Judah, so the Edomites would feel the sting of being thought of as nothing.

*** QUESTION - How can pride make us vulnerable to calamity and destruction?

*** QUESTION - In what ways might followers of Christ be tempted to display a prideful heart toward some unbelievers? Colossians 4:5-6 - Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. What help can Colossians 4:5-6 offer to believers in their attitude toward lost people?

SHOW MERCY AND GRACE (Obad. 10-14)

10 You will be covered with shame and destroyed forever because of violence done to your brother Jacob. 11 On the day you stood aloof, on the day strangers captured his wealth, while foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were just like one of them. 12 Do not gloat over your brother in the day of his calamity; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction; do not boastfully mock in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you—do not gloat over their misery in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off their fugitives, and do not hand over their survivors in the day of distress.

*** Jacob and Esau’s rivalry continues.

--- The twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau struggled even in your womb, so much that Genesis 25:23 says that “two nations are in your womb.”

--- Their descendants, the nations of Israel and Edom, were perpetual enemies. When Israel came out from Egypt, Edom denied their brother Jacob passage through their land, located S of the Dead Sea (Num. 20:14–21). Nevertheless, Israel was instructed by God to be kind to Edom (Deut. 23:7 - Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you.). The Edomites opposed Saul (ca. 1043–1011 B.C.) and were subdued under David (ca. 1011–971 B.C.) and Solomon (ca. 971–931 B.C.). They fought against Jehoshaphat (ca. 873–848 B.C.) and successfully rebelled against Jehoram (ca. 853–841 B.C.). Herod the Great, an Idumean, became king of Judea under Rome in 37 B.C. In a sense, the enmity between Esau and Jacob was continued in Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus. The Idumeans participated in the rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome and were defeated along with the Jews by Titus in A.D. 70. Ironically, the Edomites applauded the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (cf. Ps. 137:7) but died trying to defend it in A.D. 70. After that time they were never heard of again. As Obadiah predicted, they would be “cut off forever” (v. 10); “and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (v. 18).

*** The Edomites had received compassion and mercy from a God they did not worship. They should have shown compassion and offered grace to the people of Judah, who were suffering the consequences of their own unfaithfulness to the Lord.

--- Judah was their brother nation with a shared heritage. How would you feel if your sibling suffered consequences, and caught you gloating?

*** God gives Edom eight prohibitions:

--- First, the Edomites were not to gloat over the disaster that happened to Judah and Jerusalem. The implication is that the Edomites enjoyed watching the people of Judah suffer.

--- Second, the Edomites were wrong to rejoice over another people’s destruction.

--- Third, they were wrong to boastfully mock Judah in a time of distress. It suggests engaging in scornful laughter.

--- Fourth, the Lord prohibited the Edomites from entering the gate of My people. To join the Babylonians in the plundering Jerusalem instead of extending compassion would have added insult to injury.

--- Fifth, the Edomites were warned further not to gloat over another people’s misery, or affliction. (The Book of Lamentations explicitly describes these horrors of war (see Lam. 4:9-10; 5:11-13).

--- Sixth, the Edomites were prohibited from looting the possessions and property of the people of Judah. Instead of helping, the Edomites evidently joined in the pillaging of a defeated city and nation.

--- Seventh, the Edomites were warned against stopping Israelite refugees who were fleeing from the Babylonians.

--- Eighth, the Lord warned the Edomites not to hand over Israelite survivors to the Babylonians.

*** QUESTION - What attitudes can you cultivate that help curb judgmental tendencies and promote acts of compassion?


EXPECT RETRIBUTION (Obad. 15-16)

15 For the Day of the LORD is near, against all the nations. As you have done, so it will be done to you; what you deserve will return on your own head. 16 As you have drunk on My holy mountain, so all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and gulp down and be as though they had never been.

*** The Day of the Lord is coming.

--- We read a lot about the Day of the Lord in Zephaniah, when God would judge all nations.

--- The prophets Isaiah and Amos described it as a day of God’s judgment against His enemies (see Isa. 13:6-9; Amos 5:18-20). Malachi described it as a day of refining God’s people as well (see Mal. 3:2-4). In the New Testament, Paul described it as a day of salvation for God’s people (see 1 Thess. 5:2-5,9).

--- Obadiah’s warning about judgment for the sin of pride and for ignoring the suffering of others applies to us as well.

*** QUESTION - How dangerous is a prayer for God to grant you justice? When is it appropriate to pray for justice?

LIVE IN HOPE (Obad. 17)

17 But there will be a deliverance on Mount Zion, and it will be holy; the house of Jacob will dispossess those who dispossessed them.

*** A Promise of Restoration.

--- As with Zephaniah, a promise of God's wrath is followed up with a promise that God will deliver His people in the end, and we will have eternal victory. Moreover, from Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, would come the ultimate deliverance from sin when Jesus Christ laid down His life as an atoning sacrifice. In His death on the cross, Jesus took on Himself the wrath of God that we deserved. In His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave.

--- God also calls us as followers of Christ to extend compassion to those who need His salvation or who are experiencing His discipline. God reached out to us through His gospel, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we became His children. We need to ask the Lord to give us compassion for lost people. God cares deeply for them, and He wants to use us to reach them.

*** QUESTION - What does it mean to you as a believer that Christ has made you holy (set you apart) to serve God? To what extent has God’s grace toward you given you compassion for lost people?

TAKE AWAY POINTS

In the mid 80s there was a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who set a world record while playing a convenience store video game called “Tapper.”

After standing in front of the game for fourteen hours and scoring an unprecedented seven and a half million points on the game (all on one quarter), her fiancé called the news and a TV crew arrived to record her efforts.

She continued to play while the crew, prepared to shoot. However, the video screen suddenly went blank. While setting up their lights, the camera man had accidentally unplugged the game, thus bringing her bid for ten million points to an untimely end! The effort to publicize her achievement became the agent of her ultimate failure.

*** Unchecked pride and selfishness is a road to ruin.

--- Choose a path instead that leads to refuge and restoration. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

*** Commit to imitate the compassion of Christ as you encounter others this week.

--- Even after Jesus was tortured and while He was dying on the cross, He still demonstrated compassion for His attackers.

*** How can you show compassion this week to someone who is dealing with the consequences of a bad decision they have made? How can we mourn that bad decision without sitting in judgment over them?