Thanks to Cheryl for these pics from my dad-in-law's birthday dinner at Casa Mexicana ...
My Sunday School lesson for March 1, 2015 ...
Sunday we started our three-month study of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, beginning with Nahum ...
*** God has the last word.
--- Do you know someone who always has to have the last word? Is that you? Think it isn't? OK, how about this? White and Gold? Blue and black?
--- When you argue with God you get nothing but frustration.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** During the next three months our the study will focus on the Minor Prophets, beginning with the Book of Nahum.
--- The Book of Nahum opens with an affirmation of God’s characteristics, specifically His jealousy, sovereignty, goodness, and justice. Nahum used God’s characteristics to assure the Hebrew people of God’s power to relieve the storms they were experiencing at the hands of their enemies.
--- The Book of Nahum is a poem, written prior to the Babylonian exile, to be a constant reminder of God’s attributes and what God will do to unrepentant sinners.
--- Almost nothing is known of the prophet Nahum. We do know the book was written before 612 B.C. when Ninevah and Assyria were taken over by the Babylonians.
--- We don’t know precisely when or where he lived. Nahum came from the city of Elkosh. No one knows with certainty where ancient Elkosh was located. The city was probably situated somewhere in ancient Judah. However, another possibility is that Elkosh was located in an area of the Assyrian Empire to which Nahum and his family had been deported.
*** Nahum prophesies against the city of Ninevah, the capital of Assyria.
--- Remember, God was going to blot out Nineveh until Jonah (at first unwillingly) sparked a revival there over 100 years before, but clearly the revival was over.
*** The ruins of ancient Nineveh lie beneath the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. (Now under the control of ISIS.)
*** Nineveh and Assyria were the center of paganism and one of history’s cruelest armies, plundering, raping, pillaging, and enslaving enemies. You know the saying “They needed killing?” Well God decided that Nineveh and the empire was ripe for divine judgment.
JEALOUS (Nah. 1:1-3a)
1 The oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. 2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath. The LORD takes vengeance against His foes; He is furious with His enemies. 3a The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will never leave the guilty unpunished.
*** v. 1 - Nahum's burden.
--- The literal meaning when it says "oracle" is “burden.” It describes the weightiness of the prophet’s message from God in this brief, three-chapter book - dark and terrifying prophecies that depicted the violent overthrow of the superpower in the world of that day. It is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to various kinds of burdens such as a heavy load placed on the back of a donkey (see Ex. 23:5), sacred items of the tabernacle to be transported by a particular family of Israelites (see Num. 4:24), and the weighty responsibilities associated with protecting or caring for another person (see 2 Sam. 15:33).
*** v. 2 - God's jealousy is different than ours.
--- Nahum proclaims four of the greatest truths of the Bible:
1.) The Lord is a jealous God. - To say that God is jealous doesn't make him sound petty or insecure. God is protective. God deeply cherishes His relationships with us and wants nothing to get in the way, just as a spouse cannot pretend to be unconcerned if their marriage vows are broken. Nahum wasn’t the first or last prophet in the Bible to talk about divine jealousy. That message had been circulating since at least the days of Moses (see Ex. 20:5), and it was affirmed by other prophets (see Ezek. 5:13; Joel 2:18; Zeph. 1:18; Zech. 8:2). The message also carried over into the New Testament (see 1 Cor. 10:22).
2.) The Lord is an avenging God. - He punishes wrongdoing. He still does (Romans 12:19 - Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.).
3.) The Lord is fierce in wrath.
4.) He is furious with His enemies. - The truth is, God counts some people as enemies, and sometimes He acts with rage against them. He did so against Ninevites.
*** v. 3a - God uses his powers for good.
--- The Lord is patient. Thankfully. He’s going to let us pout and fume for a bit. It comes with a purpose. In the New Testament, the apostle Peter declared that God is patient toward sinners, because He does not want people to die in their sins. He wants them to repent (see 2 Pet. 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.).
--- God’s display of patience may appear to us at times to allow shamelessly wicked people to escape His justice. But God’s justice will ultimately prevail (see Ex. 34:7).
SOVEREIGN (Nah. 1:3b-6)
3b His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea so that it dries up, and He makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither; even the flower of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before Him, and the hills melt; the earth trembles at His presence—the world and all who live in it. 6 Who can withstand His indignation? Who can endure His burning anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, even rocks are shattered before Him.
*** “The greatest single distinguishing feature of the omnipotence of God is that our imagination gets lost when thinking about it.”
--- God can do it all. ALL. Can we fathom that?
*** Respect the polygon.
--- When there's a killer storm bearing down on the Mid-South, where do you go? Do you have a storm shelter or safe room? Do you go to a community shelter? Yet some storms overwhelm even our best efforts to prepare.
--- QUESTION - Have you ever spent time in a shelter or safe room during a storm? If so, what did you think and feel before reaching the shelter? What did you think and feel while sitting in the shelter?
--- The people of Bible times were no strangers to the destructive power of nature. The same thunderstorm that brought rain for parched fields could also produce a flood that washed away houses and drowned livestock. Whirlwinds, earthquakes, droughts, and pestilence often struck without warning, leaving the land decimated and survivors in distress.
--- In Scripture, the fury of nature is often described as nothing less than the power of Almighty God on display. God's power to enforce His commands is staggering.
--- v. 4 - Bashan and Carmel were symbols of agricultural prosperity in ancient Israel (see Jer. 50:19; Ezek. 39:18; Zech. 11:2). Lebanon, a fertile land situated to the north of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea, was also idealized as a place of great forests and fields (see 2 Kings 19:23; Ps. 72:16).
--- When Jesus died God showed His power and control as "darkness came over all the land for three hours," and in Matthew 27:51-53 - At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
*** QUESTION - In what ways do the sovereign acts of God cause fear today?
GOOD (Nah. 1:7)
7 The LORD is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him.
*** Acts of God cause fear, so Nahum shifts to focus on the Lord's radiant qualities:
1.) The Lord is good. - This truth was so valued by the ancient Israelites that it was mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament (see Pss. 25:8; 34:8; 100:5; 135:3; 145:9; Jer. 33:11; Lam. 3:25).
2.) The Lord is a stronghold in a day of distress. - Earthly fortresses may fail to protect those who hide in them, but God’s strong presence will not fail in times of trouble. God never promised to put some kind of magical dome over believers that protects them from every sort of physical, financial, and emotional trouble. However, just as an ancient rock fortress was large, strong and protective of the one who stayed in it, so we who are believers will find God to be an unfailing source of strength and confidence as we live in faith.
3.) The Lord genuinely cares for those who take refuge in Him. - He knows every detail of our lives, inside and out, past, present, and future (see Ps. 139:1-12). More than that, with the utmost of sensitivity He takes all of who we are or will be into account as He works out His will in our lives.
*** He does all this even though He doesn't have to do anything to prove Himself to us or to be worthy of our worship. His promise is not that we will have riches in this world, but that if we believe in Jesus and glorify Him that we will spend eternity in heaven.
--- God is aware of those who trust Him.
*** God's goodness to those who are repentant is evident in Joel 2:12-14 -
12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.
--- QUESTION - How has the Lord been good to you? How has He cared for you in a time of distress?
JUST (Nah. 1:8)
8 But He will completely destroy Nineveh with an overwhelming flood, and He will chase His enemies into darkness.
*** God doesn’t bluff.
You know those Grizzlies growl towels that say “We don’t bluff?” Well, God doesn’t bluff.
--- Verse 8 presents a harsh ending for the Ninevites, as well as for unbelievers who turn away from God. More complete and accurate than any security camera’s videotape, God keeps a record of every person’s words, actions, and thoughts. Everyone is accountable (see Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 12:36; Luke 12:2).
--- It wasn’t long after that God the Babylonians in bringing the capital city of the Assyrian empire to a catastrophic end in 612 B.C.
TAKE AWAY POINTS
We talked about chapter 1 today, but chapters 2 and 3 of Nahum remind me of "The Princess Bride." Do you remember when the Dred Pirate Westley insults Prince Humperdink? The prince says that no one has dared to talk to him that way, like when Westley says, "I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon" and "It's possible, Pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. But, then again... perhaps I have the strength after all."
Check out Nahum 3:5-6 when God speaks against Ninevah, he tells the Assyrians in terms they aren’t used to hearing:
“I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your shame.
6 I will pelt you with filth,
I will treat you with contempt
and make you a spectacle."
*** God doesn’t bluff. Today we learned that God has revealed His characteristics so that we can know Him and trust that He is in control.
*** What are some ways that you and we can serve as a God-given place of refuge for someone experiencing a storm?
*** To be against God is to be damned, and yet for those who seek Him we read in 1 John 4:8 - Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. God is holy and He is love, but not in the sense that we are holy and loving. His holiness and love are perfect. Because of His perfect love, God has provided a way for the sinful world that He loves to escape His vengeance and wrath. That way is through His Son, Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus can we find refuge from the storms of life.
Cooper's joy all night was so much fun to be around. I mean, I like Monster Jam and it was a great show, but doing it with my son was awesome.
Before the show started they had a bunch of people out driving around remote control Monster Jam trucks, which really kept Cooper's attention for a good 15 minutes. Which was also the number of times he let me know that he'd really like one of those sometime.
FedExForum is tight quarters for monster trucks, so they can't do as many tricks as the football stadiums, but it was still a great show ...
The trucks started off with a Wheelie Competition, plus they had a Donut Competition and raced before doing the ultimate freestyle round ...
We bought some headphones that day that are made for going to gun ranges, which was good, because it was so loud Cooper actually requested to wear them the whole time ...
Max-D doing his thing ...
Cooper was very much impressed with the Freestyle Motorcycle guys who jumped the ramps and did tricks, flips, all kinds of sweet moves ...
Then there was Megasaurus, a tank that turned into a dinosaur to "eat" a car while breathing fire. Cooper wasn't sure whether it was super cool or super terrifying ...
Saturday, Feb. 14 I took Cooper to see his first Monster Jam show in person at the FedExForum here in Memphis ...
We got there early to enjoy the Pit Party where fans can get up close to the trucks and meet the drivers ...
Cooper's favorite heading in is Captain's Curse, so that's where we went first to meet Alex Blackwell ...
That's Tom Meents back there, driver of Max-D (Maximum Destruction). This was Meents first time in Memphis, and it was awesome. Meents is one of the top three exciting drivers on the whole circuit. He drives a monster truck like you would drive a remote control car - crazy, fun and somehow never gets destroyed.
Bounty Hunter is always good for some cool tricks. That's Jim Cretin. His wife was next to us, Dawn Cretin, driver of Scarlet Bandit.
This is Lee O'Donnell, driving NEA Police that night. He used to drive Iron Man, which Cooper loved, but Marvel ended their agreement with Monster Jam recently, so O'Donnell is freelancing. I just loved that in person the truck looked like the spaceship from "Flight of the Navigator."
Sunday we continued our study in Nehemiah, moving into chapter 9 when the past sins of the Jews were revisited in an acknowledgement that they messed up a lot and needed reconciliation with God.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** The people repented.
--- In the last session (Nehemiah 8), the people had listened and understood as the law was read to them; they had been away from God’s Word for a long time. As a result of hearing the law, the people realized their sin, both personally and as a group, and they began to confess their sin to God.
THE GREAT GOD (Neh. 9:32)
32 So now, our God—the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant—do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all Your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today.
*** Confession is good for the soul.
--- The Israelites acknowledge their sin and dependence on God.
--- Nehemiah’s people recognized that their ancestors and they had behaved arrogantly, rebelling against their benevolent God. Time and again they turned aside from God and His loving direction. The people’s sin resulted in chastisement and bondage, yet God remained forgiving and merciful. He fulfilled His promises despite their sin. When the Israelites forsook the Lord, He removed His protective hand and they suffered under oppressive enemies. When they cried to God, He rescued and redeemed them. This cycle continued over centuries, yet God never abandoned His people.
--- Once the people had confessed and were forgiven, they could see God in this fresh, big way – “great, mighty and awe-inspiring.” God’s greatness is intimately related to His goodness.
--- We, too, can call on the Lord in our times of trouble. Our great God loves us and wants to restore us as we turn from our sins and return to Him. However, we must approach God in repentance, with reverence and awe.
--- In a simple way, confessing sin is recognizing sin as God does—with no sugar-coating or excuses. Have you ever tried to withhold a confession, as if God wouldn’t know?
*** QUESTION - Why is it easy to identify and point out sin in other people? Why is it hard to identify and confess sin in our own lives?
THE CONFESSION (Neh. 9:33-35)
33 You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commands and warnings You gave them. 35 When they were in their kingdom, with Your abundant goodness that You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land You set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways.
*** It is by God’s grace that we are saved.
--- Nehemiah and his people understood that the only way they might seek God’s forgiveness and restoration was in God’s goodness and grace. You are not entitled to a problem-free life regardless of how you act.
--- Verse 33 stresses that while God acts faithfully, we act wickedly, therefore we need to confess. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
--- QUESTION - What does unconfessed sin do to our relationship with God? How does prompt confession of sin impact our relationship with God? (Unconfessed sin always breaks our fellowship with God.)
--- C. S. Lewis said: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” In what ways have you seen sin be a gradual, slippery slope?
--- Even when the people sinned, they remained His people. Whenever they repented and returned to the Lord, He graciously received them as a forgiving father receives a repentant son (see the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20 - So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.).
--- QUESTION - Why do we reject God’s warnings? What makes us keep sinning?
*** Two steps forward, one step back.
--- Nehemiah chapter 9 looks back at the history of Israel and a history of spiritual failure. They would be blessed, then get stiff-necked and fall into sin. God would have mercy and save them. Then it would start all over again.
THE REQUEST (Neh. 9:36-37)
36 Here we are today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are—slaves in it! 37 Its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.
*** QUESTION - What was the “great distress” the people were experiencing? (They were slaves where they should have been free, they paid taxes that left them poor, their “abundant harvest” was taken by the kings).
--- The people’s words of confession were honest and heartfelt. After confession comes their request. After God had worked to get the Jews back to the Promised Land, rebuild the Temple and restore Jerusalem, they were still under foreign control. How could they enjoy the land that God gave them if they were practically slaves in it? Yet they took responsibility for their predicament.
*** The New Covenant provided the ultimate way that confession is good for the soul.
--- Romans 10:9-13: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
TAKE AWAY POINTS
*** Evaluate your prayer life this week. Is there a heavier emphasis on “asking” in your prayer time? Is there enough emphasis on “confession?”
*** Carve out some quiet time this week to ask God if there’s any unconfessed sin you need to address.
*** Thank God for his forgiveness and grace that allows you to be saved despite your sins.
Gabriel practicing his trumpet, Cooper on the Wii, everyone else relaxing.
Celebrating Gabriel's 15th birthday!
Lunch at A Very Nice Restaurant. No, really, that's the name.
Cooper really enjoyed dessert at the cupcake shop.
Cooper and Nate playing on the Wii.
Big breakfast on the morning we had to go home.