Jeremiah 7:1-11 (The Message)
1 The Message from God to Jeremiah: 2 “Stand in the gate of God’s Temple and preach this Message. 3 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, has this to say to you: 4 Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here – “This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!” 5 Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, 6 only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods – 7 only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple. 8 “‘Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you’re swallowing them! 9 Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market 10 – and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, “We’re safe!” thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? 11 A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see what’s going on.'” God’s Decree!
A friend sent me photographs of twenty beautiful churches through-out the world. Located as far apart as Iceland and India, each of them is architecturally unique. The most beautiful place of worship in Jeremiah’s day was the temple in Jerusalem, which King Josiah had recently repaired and restored (2 Chronicles 34-35). The people were fixated on the magnificent building (Jeremiah 7:4), and they foolishly thought that having the temple there meant that God would protect them from their enemies. Instead, Jeremiah pointed out the sin in their lives (vv.3, 9-10).
God is not impressed by beautiful buildings constructed in His name if there is no inward beauty in the hearts of those who go there. He is not interested in an outward legalistic worship that is not matched by inward holiness. And it is wrong to think that God protects people just because of the religious things they do.
Just because we’re reading the Bible, praying, and fellowshipping with other believers doesn’t mean that God is somehow then obligated to do something for us. He cannot be manipulated. The purpose of those external activities is to develop our relationship with the Lord and to help us live differently than those in the world around us.
Lord, with all the funny business associated with faulty doctrines and church leadership, help us to remember that you are most interested in an obedient heart. Change us when we think you’re obligated to us because of our religious acts of worship or service. Give us a pure heart Father in Jesus name Amen….
God cannot and will not be manipulated!!!!!!
Gay activists love to point to the changes in public opinion regarding same-sex “marriage,” announcing triumphantly that this is a sign of moral and even spiritual advancement. In reality, it is part of a larger trend toward immorality, a sign of moral bankruptcy and spiritual apostasy.
According to a May 13 Gallup report, “Just three years ago, support for gay marriage was 44 percent. The current 53 percent level of support is essentially double the 27 percent in Gallup’s initial measurement on gay marriage, in 1996.”
But let’s put that data into a larger, cultural perspective. A May 20 Gallup report is headlined, “In U.S., Record-High Say Gay, Lesbian Relations Morally OK,” with the subtitle reading, “Americans’ tolerance of a number of moral issues up since 2001.”
What exactly is meant by “tolerance”?
The report states, “Americans’ views toward a number of moral issues have shifted significantly since 2001. Their acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years—to a record high of 59 percent today. Americans’ tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater, up 15 points since 2001 [actually, 2002], to the current 60 percent.”
Oh yes, “tolerance” is alive and well!
So, the America that increasingly deems homosexual relationships to be morally acceptable is the same America that increasingly deems having children out of wedlock (once called “illegitimacy”) to be morally acceptable. And this is supposed to be a sign of progress?
According to the poll, American approval of fornication—or, as the poll put it, “sex between an unmarried man and woman”—was up 10 percent (from 53 percent to 63 percent), while support for polygamy actually doubled, from 7 percent to 14 percent (keep your eye on that stat in the coming years). This is something to celebrate?
In 2001, Gallup didn’t even ask the question of the moral acceptability of teenagers having sexual relationships, but in the current poll, only 63 percent found it morally wrong, while 32 percent expressed their moral approval. How enlightening!
The pollsters used the following script: “I’m going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you should think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong.”
Interestingly, while the word sex was used with reference to “sex between an unmarried man and woman” and “sex between teenagers,” and while the word affair was used with reference to “married men and women having an affair,” no such explicit or derogatory term was used with regard to homosexual practice. Rather, that was referred to as “gay or lesbian relations.”
I wonder if the response would have been different if the pollsters had asked about “two men or two women having sex”—unless, of course, “gay and lesbian relations” are all merely platonic. (Please forgive my sarcasm.)
But I digress. What is clear is that American sexual morals are in steady decline, and there is very little that shames us these days. After all, this is the nation in which a young woman’s quickest ticket to fame is a best-selling, graphic sex tape. Sometimes the girl’s parents even gush with pride at their daughter’s achievements, and at the risk of sounding trite, we can honestly say that what used to shame us now makes us famous.
It is against this backdrop that public approval for same-sex relationships continues to increase.
And let’s not forget that the same media that incessantly pushes the cause of gay activism also promotes shows like Teen Mom, glamorizing young women who have children out of wedlock, along with shows like Big Love and Sister Wives, normalizing and even celebrating polygamy. And this has no effect on the public’s perceptions?
Leading the way in these changing views toward gay and lesbian relations is the younger generation, aged 18-29. According to Gallup, in 1996, 41 percent of them supported same-sex “marriage”; today, that number is up to 70 percent. But this is the same age group that believes that roughly 30 percent of the population is gay or lesbian—an error of 1,000 percent! (The best studies put the number at roughly 3 percent.) Does the media have nothing to do with these skewed perspectives?
We should also remember that Barna polls conducted over the last 15 years indicate that only 0.5 percent of Americans aged 18-23 held to what Barna defined as a biblical worldview, in contrast with about 10 percent of the population as a whole. Is it any surprise, then, that they are so strongly supportive of same-sex relationships?
As for our country’s increasing “tolerance,” it is not happening quickly enough for 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt and her family. She has been arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, one which her father says was consensual.
The Daily Kos reports, “Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, is seeing her young life turned upside down and her future jeopardized simply because she fell in love. Unfortunately for her, she fell in love with a younger girl who has vindictive bigots for parents.”
Her father, Steven Hunt, wants prosecutors “to drop the two charges filed against his daughter in February. A rainbow-colored ‘Stop the hate, free Kate’ page on the online petition site Change.org had more than 56,500 supporters calling for prosecutors to drop the charges Monday afternoon, and a similar ‘Free Kate’ Facebook group page had more than 30,000 members.”
Well, just give it a little more time. Soon enough, these things will be accepted too. Immorality is trending.
The Message (MSG)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped. Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!
Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great King Solomon. Can you see the majestic cedar? It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds! The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew. Birds have built their nests in its branches, weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms. And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!
We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled truck. Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground. We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature. We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen…!(Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.
We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram King of Tyre” (2 Chron.2:3) take it down the mountainside. From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean. And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God. As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the Almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting? The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house”(Hag.2:9)
So many people are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare, and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances. But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His heavenly Zion> And He says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”(Isa.62:3). I don’t ask my cross to understand, my way to see-Better in darkness just to feel Your hand, And follow Thee.
Exodus 26:1-11 (The Message)
1 “Make The Dwelling itself from ten panels of tapestry woven from fine twisted linen, blue and purple and scarlet material, with an angel-cherubim design. A skilled craftsman should do it. 2 The panels of tapestry are each to be forty-six feet long and six feet wide. 3 Join five of the panels together, and then the other five together. 4 Make loops of blue along the edge of the outside panel of the first set and the same on the outside panel of the second set. 5 Make fifty loops on each panel. 6 Then make fifty gold clasps and join the tapestries together so that The Dwelling is one whole. 7 “Next make tapestries of goat hair for a tent that will cover The Dwelling. Make eleven panels of these tapestries. 8 The length of each panel will be forty-five feet long and six feet wide. 9 Join five of the panels together, and then the other six. Fold the sixth panel double at the front of the tent. 10 Now make fifty loops along the edge of the end panel and fifty loops along the edge of the joining panel. 11 Make fifty clasps of bronze and connect the clasps with the loops, bringing the tent together.
Ephesians 2:21 (The Message)
21 that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God,
Too long, Too short. Too big. Too small. Too tight. Too loose. These words describe most of the clothes I try on. Finding the perfect fit seems impossible. Finding a church that is a “perfect fit” poses similar problems. Every church has something that’s not quite right. Our gifts aren’t recognized. Our talents aren’t appreciated. Our sense of humor is uncomfortable.
We feel as if we don’t fit. We struggle to find our place. We know, however, that God wants us to fit together with one another. The apostle Paul said we are being “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives” (Eph. 2:22 NIV).
The believers in the church today, like the tabernacle in the days of Moses and the temple in the days of Solomon, are the dwelling place of God on earth. God wants us to fit together-for there to be no divisions in His church. This means that we, the building blocks, are to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement”. No church will be a perfect fit, but we can all work at fitting together more perfectly.
Christ’s love creates unity in the midst of diversity.
Paul prays #1 for STRENGTH. Tonight we will look at some additional requests in this prayer that ends the first half of the book of Ephesians
Years ago there was a song that went, ‘My love is higher than the highest mountain, softer than a sigh, my love is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than the sky, my love is brighter than the brightest star that shines every night above, and there is nothing in the world that can ever change my love’.
We would all agree that this person has a highly exaggerated expression of human love but if you change the words from My love is to God’s love is then you suddenly have a song that reflects truth instead of exaggeration.
PAUL SECOND REQUEST IS THAT OF LOVE
REQUEST #2: LOVE (17) …and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,..
· Three things necessary for Paul’s kind of love
1. FIRST: It is something we are to be rooted & grounded in
a. This means to be established/stabilized in the
Superior love that comes from God.
b. The world has it’s own brand of love which is very
self -centered. Paul prays that we will be
established by God’s definition of what love really is.
Two words: One is agricultural while the other is architectural. One means to get our roots solid into the soil. The other means to be stable so as to not be collapsible. Our love is firmly rooted in our relationship with Jesus and the storms of the world cannot make our love fall apart.
c. It is one thing to be rooted and grounded in doctrine or
even in service in the church but being grounded in
God’s kind of love is an even deeper walk with God.
Parallel verse to this would be Romans 5:5 ‘the love of God has been shed abroad/poured out in hearts through the Holy Spirit’.
Thought of swabbing the decks, pouring water everywhere, or for us today ‘laying carpet’. Covers every area, ‘wall to wall’. Missing 6 inches on one side would look odd.
We are to be so rooted/grounded in love that it effects every part of our life. Every relationship, ministry, attitude, action.
SOMETHING WE ARE TO BE ROOTED AND GROUND IN
2. SECOND: Something we strive to know the extent of.
Able to comprehend what is the breadth, length, height,
a. ABLE – idea of being a full strength, full capacity.
When we are spiritually at optimum place then we
begin to understand some tremendous things about
b. Comprehend means more than just to know something
but it literally means to lay hold of something so as to
make it your own, to know and to feel.
To understand it to the point that it has a deep impact
upon who you are as a person.
You might tell somebody a joke and ask, ‘Do you get it?’
Louis Armstrong said about JAZZ, ‘Man, if I’ve got to explain it, you ain’t got it’.
We get our word for a monkey’s tail from this word.
b. Comprehend(grasp 4 things)
The Breadth of Love: wide enough to encompass all mankind
The Length of Love: long enough to last for eternity
The Heighth of Love: high enough to take us to heaven
The Depth of Love: deep enough to reach the most
CAN YOU EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THAT KIND OF LOVE
AND TO MAKE IT YOUR OWN.
AND TO LOVE LIKE THAT YOURSELF.
Paul prays that you do. Imagine a church like that.
Comprehend with all the saints..
SOMETHING TO BE ROOTED AND GROUNDED IN SOMETHING TO KNOW THE FULL EXTENT OF
3. THIRD: It is something we see the fullest expression in
Jesus. (19) and to know the love of Christ which
a. This is actually a pretty funny statement by Paul.
He is praying that we will know what is unknowable.
The love that is in Christ is beyond human knowledge.
Lit. ‘to throw beyond’. I am playing shortstop but God’s thought keep going over the center field fence. I will never catch them, they are too far beyond my position.
b. KNOW is an intimate word like the love between a
husband and a wife. Paul prays that we will have an
intimate knowledge of the love of Christ.
Don’t ask me to explain the love of Christ but if you ask me if I know what it is then I can say I do, I have experienced it.
REQUEST #3: FULLNESS (19) …that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
1. Paul prays that we might be filled with God’s fullness.
This word for filled means to be filled over the top, a full
a. Paul is praying that we will be overwhelmed the
presence of God. Think that sounds like an inviting
b. To pray this prayer means that we want God to so fill
us with Himself that there is nothing left of me.
Demonstrate this kind of attitude by some men who were called the Cambridge Seven.
In 1884 they were seven of the finest cricket players in England and were each students at Cambridge University.
They each gave up wealth, privilege, and comfort to bring the gospel to the people of China.
This would be equivalent to a Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Ken Griffey Jr. quitting baseball in their prime to go to the mission field.
The most notable was a man named C.T. Studd who also gave up a sizable inheritance to serve as a missionary in China, India, and Africa for 45 years.
Verse 20 is a wonderful verse that opens up the truth
about the heart of God towards us. If we can just get
self out of the way then look what God is waiting to give
when we embrace His fullness. Illustrates Paul’s fourth
REQUEST #4: Glory (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (21) to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. AMEN
1. This great prayer of Paul that we would have God’s
strength in our service, have God’s love in our hearts, and
have God’s fullness in our lives is all for a purpose.
That purpose is to bring glory to God.
a. It is all meant to draw attention to the one behind the
curtain who makes the kind of life we live possible.
2. When we live DYNAMITE CHRISTIAN lives then verse 20
describes the kind of God the world will begin to see.
a. HIM WHO IS ABLE – That will be the testimony our life
teaches. God is able in all of life’s struggles, He is
more than sufficient
b. ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY BEYOND:
1) TO DO: create, perform, bring forth. No matter
what the challenge God can bring forth lemonade
out of lemons, healing out of hurts,
2) EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY BEYOND: three
straight superlatives. Beyond was used to describe
a river above capacity or at flood stage.
Exceedingly beyond capacity. God can do more
than our life could ever contain.
Like the little boy asked by his grandparents about how big the grand canyon was, ‘Way big, way way way way big’
c. BEYOND ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK: More than our
life could contain and more than our minds could
imagine. I don’t know about you but I can think of a
lot of things but God is able to do more than that.
CONCLUSION: The world knows God can do these things because He is doing them in the lives of His people. Those who:
1) Those who surrender through faith to His Spirit so that His power might strengthen our lives.
2) Those who experience the extend of His Amazing Love and so share it with the world
3) Those who are filled to overflowing with His presence as they lose themselves in Him.
All these things bring Him glory in the church…to all generations forever and ever.
Didn’t end with Paul or the Apostles. This prayer was not just for the Churches in that day but for every generation forever and ever. IT IS FOR US!
God alone deserves glory for He alone is glorious.
Today the major English-speaking nations watch as a storm of problems draws ever nearer, a storm created by hostile forces that blurred and weakened their sense of morality. Does the Bible indicate where we will go from here?
A recent article in USA Today captures the essence of present discontent in the United States. It laments: “In poll after poll, two-thirds or more of Americans say the country is on the wrong track. Oil prices are near an all-time high. The president’s popularity hovers near record lows over a deeply unpopular war. Millions of homeowners are in danger of losing their houses to foreclosure. And many more Americans fear the loss of their jobs”
The article goes on to compare the country’s plight today with its tumultuous national picture in the 1970s: “Americans were shocked by the ’70s. We seemed to be running out of everything: oil, beef, even toilet paper. Prices were rising, and so was unemployment. Both the president and vice president resigned from office. The long struggle in Vietnam ended in a desperate retreat from Saigon by helicopter.”
Comparisons with recent history can be very instructive, but we should not ignore ancient times. The biblical “song of Moses” also invites historical perspective. It reaches down through the generations and suggests meaningful comparisons with the past: “Remember the days of old , consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7
, emphasis added throughout).
If young and middle-aged Americans were to ask the country’s “greatest generation” of World War II what they thought of our current cultural behavior, what would the answer be?
Would they be full of praise for our national conduct? Are they pleased with what passes for entertainment on television during the evening of their lives? Would they not think that what’s really wrong with the nation is its steep moral decline over the last half century?
The other day I was talking with a man who is worried about his 15 year old daughter. His concern came when he found she was seeing a young man of 21 in an inappropriate manner, and his daughter could not see anything wrong with the relationship no matter how hard this man tried to explain it. And as we were talking about this at a function weeks later, one of the teenagers who overheard our discussion on the topic also saw no problem, and went on to inform us how things like this occur on a daily basis in and away from school, and began to boast how he could have sex with just about any girl from the age of 14 on up with no problem.
He explained the different sites where ads are put out for free, where anyone can write about anything that can be concocted in the human mind, and get replies. I asked him for the site, and he gave it to me. It was then I decided to browse through and actually see one of the most shocking sites I have ever seen. On the outside, it looks like a fairly innocent trader magazine type site, with people selling cars, furniture, electronics, and labor services. But one can go to the Personals section and look under the various types of personal ads beginning with the typical men and women seeking each other, etc. Then it goes into the homosexual and other misc. sections. What I saw were people posting their ads, some with nasty pictures included, requesting things with other people I had no idea of. But my teenage friend was correct. The ads had young women and men attempting to sell themselves for money or drugs, and whatever else.
The appalling thing to me was that this site is free, and has nothing except a button that allows the user to claim they are of legal age before entering. Any child can easily walk right in and read some of the most deranged postings that can be conceived. But it was not just the teenagers that bothered me; I saw many posts for married people looking for trysts and other strange requests. Many of these people were between their mid-twenties and on into their forties.
There were young women who wanted to stay married, yet wanted to glean extra money on the side by selling their various services, and married men who posted desires to exchange money for those similar acts. I will not even get into the rest of what was there. But it made me look deeper at why so many people, especially our youth, are so enamored with sex and money to the point they would cheapen themselves and think it perfectly alright. And of course there are many reasons I believe. The Liberal views that took root in the 60’s have begun coming to full fruition. The Sexual Revolution as the Women’s Movement called it took hold. How they ever figured it would benefit women is beyond me, but they pushed it. Then the Gay movements arrived, and took hold in a militant form that has an agenda to have our children taught that their lifestyle is just fine, and should be explored. Reading some of those ads, it also became evident that roots had strongly taken in our society. It is quite evident that having “fun” is more important than traditional; values such as hard work and fidelity.
Then the massive thrust of television and theaters that taught these same people that sex, and alternative lifestyles, marital infidelity, and divorce are all to be accepted as normal. The violence from Hollywood has also inundated the minds of our society, and has taken root as well. And even further, is the Liberal PC movement that takes into regard many of these lifestyles and embraces them as acceptable, all the while bashing Christianity and its value system. We have allowed in this nation to have the Bible, and mention of Christian values taken from society and have allowed all these other immoral and destructive behaviors and lifestyles to become seen as normal.
Yet, women are finding now that the militant Feminist movement has trapped them rather than liberated them. We now have many more abortions, many more single women trying to raise children due to divorce, or never having been married at all because for decades, this has been rewarded by one sided divorce rulings that offered no consequence for infidelity or real abuse. Why commit to marriage when divorce is so easy and so profitable?
We have allowed Hollywood to flood our homes with garbage sitcoms and movies that endorse and glorify these strange values. And we have allowed the alternative lifestyles to be taught to our children as acceptable, because God forbid we ever be called Homophobes by the Left thinkers.
And in this age of technology and mass media where we have to power and ability to use these things for the good of our society, we use them for its corruption and degradation. And we see the battle everywhere now, in our homes, in the office, in schools, in the court systems, and in our politics. And for anyone who has a sense of decency and morality, this is heart breaking at best.
And the Conservative Voice must be heard again in this nation. We need to disregard PC, disregard the small minority who wants God from our society and gladly pay for one way tickets to a Communist nation where those ideals are favored. We need to demand a moral government and we need to hold those politicians responsible for their example. Bill Clinton himself no doubt had a huge impact when he basically proclaimed that what he did was no big deal. To cheat on ones’ wife, to humiliate the office of President, to lie about it, our children saw and absorbed. After that episode, I talked to many teens who felt it was no problem as well and also took on those traits. Our children, our future, and they are of the mindset that infidelity is acceptable and just run from problems by divorcing or aborting human life is just fine when the going gets tough. We see our daughters and sons degrading each other, and we see wives becoming prostitutes and husbands refusing to live as men as an example to their children and wives.
We see a nation of self centered ideology where the upcoming generations desire all their parents have without the hard work. We have a very large population of young men in their 20’s and 30’s still living at home with little ambition. Because they know when the parents are gone they will inherit what they now have. Why become educated? Why work? Just have fun until Pay Day arrives in the form of a funeral. Why get a job when there are so many men willing to pay for a woman’s body? Why stay married when things get shaky, when a divorce and another spouse will make everything better?
We have seen to roots of Liberalism take a strong hold, and we are now reaping the fruits of it in our society. Because a nation is no stronger than its family structure I do not care how wealthy or powerful. Rome fell to decadence and Liberalism, and extreme taxation, and they last for 1200 years. We have achieved that decadence and immorality in just 200 years. This in the area of mathematical probability means we will also fall much faster if we do not return to our original roots. And as it says in Deuteronomy about the nation that walks from God, our children will be servants of the foreigners, our food that we grow will be eaten by those who do not inhabit the land, we will see diseases that cannot be controlled or cured, and eventually we shall ebb into the past where Babylon, Alexandra, Rome, and others have passed before us.
Or we will reclaim our roots and our morality and take back what has been stolen from us by the Liberal and immoral tenets that have soaked the minds of the generations coming up after us.
Or the roots that we now step over will strangle the life of this nation.
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You’ve seen the commercial, “Can you hear me now? Good!” 34 year old Paul Marcarelli of New York City got the nod to represent 50 people who drive 100,000 miles a year to test the reliability of the cellular network. Yes, those are his own glasses, too!But now the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” has become part of our vocabulary.
And its certainly a phrase that God could ask of us. Do you hear God talking? This is a question that is so often abused and mis-used “God told me” I am al-ways so leery and reluctant to say, “God told me” I don’t want to put words into God’s mouth.
But this is an important question. How does God talk to us to-day, and what does He want us to do? We’re going to spend two separate weeks on it, in fact. Our Key Verse for today: “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” — Isaiah 28.23
I. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CREATION
A. God reveals Himself in a gen-eral way through what He has made.
1. “For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his in-visible qualities¡Xhis eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.” — Romans 1.19-20 (NLT)
2. “The heavens de-clare the glory of God; the skies pro-claim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” — Psalm 19.1-3
B. Show photos of cosmos
1. And what do learned people say? “Wow! How cool that all this just happened like this!”
2. “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies.
So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever — Romans 1.25 (NLT)
3. Grand Canyon: “Nice job, God”
II. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH EVENTS
A. The Bible says that there is a reason for everything un-der the sun
1. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Ro-mans 8.28
2. If He works all things for good, then there is purpose behind all things!
B. We don’t want to over-analyze every single thing that happens in our lives, but rather to be more sensitized to the work of God in our lives.
1. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” — Proverbs 16.9
2. “That’s a God thing”
3. Is God trying to tell me something?
III. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH BLESSING
A. We are a blessed people.
1. The poorest among us are so much better off than in other parts of the world
2. What we consider ne-cessities are considered luxuries elsewhere
3. That leads to “taking it for granted”
B. Job’s experience
1. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Na-ked I came from my mother womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”Job 1.20-21 What we have is from God
2.Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2.10
3. Deuteronomy 8 from out-line
C. When good things happen to us, when God blesses us, we need to train ourselves to go to God and say,
a. “Thank you”
b. “What do You want me to do with this?”
IV. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH TRIALS
A. Trials happen. They are a part of life, not an aberration in life.
1. 1 Peter 1.6-7 on outline
2. Hebrews 12.11 on outline
B. What is God saying to us when trials come into our lives?
1. “I love you right where I found you; but I love you too much to leave you there!”
2. SHOW BASEBALL BAT — It takes a lot of planning, sanding, cutting, carving and shaping to make this (BAT) from a tree.
3. How much molding and shaping is it going to take to make you into Jesus Christ?
„« “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son– Romans 1.29 (NLT)
V. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH PAIN
A. CS Lewis called pain, “the megaphone of God”
1. When we hurt, it directs our attention to God
2. Psalm 69.1-3, 13, 16 on outline
„« see also Psalm 77
B. We try and drown out, dull down and hide from pain
1. God sometimes has to turn up the heat, turn down the screws, or lay us out flat on our backs to get us to listen
2. We can complain, yell, get angry but ultimately, eventually, we need to ask, “what is it, Lord?”
3. And remember, our great-est source of pain, may be our biggest opportunity for service
VI. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH STILLNESS
A. We live in a noisy world
1. The quietness of Arizona; Grand Canyon
2. “I can’t hear myself think!”
B. God sometimes speaks softly so we have to listen intently
1. “I wait quietly before God, for my salvation comes from him… I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”– Psalm 62.1, 5 (NLT)
2. Sometimes we just need to “shhhh. Be quiet.”
3. “Then Job answered the LORD: ¡§I am unwor-thy how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I will say no more.¡¨” — Job 40.3-5
4. Elijah and the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19)
„« not the wind, earth-quake, fire
5. God sometimes speaks to us with a gentle nudging, persistent prodding, quiet urging do you hear Him?
VII. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
A. God has spoken. Verbally. Audibly.
1. God’s Words were codified.
“can I get that in writ-ing?”
2. They were written down, collected, preserved and passed down, so we have an inerrant, infallible rec-ord of what God said.
3.teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” — Hebrews 8.3
B. God often warns us and pleads with us not to forget His statutes, His law, His words.
1. “All Scripture is God-breathed — 2 Timothy 3.16
2. This Word we take so granted; we ignore; we use as a leather-bound paper-weight, is the breath of God.
3. Are you listening?
VIII. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS SON
A. But the Word is not the final goal.
1. The written Word leads us to the living Word (not to make us Bible scholars)
2. Hebrews 11.1-3 on outline
3. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often says, “but I say to you”
4. Jesus shows us God.
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father¡¦s side, has made him known.” — John 1.18
If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
B. “The Spirit of God, takes the Word of God, applies it to the Child of God, to make us more like the Son of God.”
God is still speaking today. Ultimately, God is driving every-thing toward His Son, Jesus Christ.
1. Do you hear His voice? “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” — Mark 4.23
2. Don’t harden your heart. “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ¡§Today you must listen to his voice. Don¡¦t harden your hearts against him — Hebrews 3.7-8 (NLT)
Listen for God.
Listen to God.
We need to learn to:
a. See God’s fingerprints
b. Read God’s handwriting
c. Hear God’s voice
Can you hear Him now?
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The Message (MSG)
The Second Test: Health
2 1-3 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan also showed up. God singled out Satan, saying, “And what have you been up to?” Satan answered God, “Oh, going here and there, checking things out.” Then God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.”
4-5 Satan answered, “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”
6 God said, “All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”
7-8 Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes.
9 His wife said, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!”
10 He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”
Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.
Job’s Three Friends
11-13 Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering.
I am so glad that I spent devotional time with Jesus this day. He revealed to me that eternity is for those who confess and believe in their heart that he died and rose in three days for the remission of their sins. My life is a mess in the natural. A violator of life’s contract- “Felon” living in a unforgiving society coupled with a recession designed to purge society due to the governments lack of stewardship. Living under oppression concealed by bills and legislative tactics I find myself perplexed beyond measure today, but the storm is almost gone because I can see the “Son” peaking through the clouds due to time spent in this word that became “The Son” of Man.
One day in my past, my toddler who has taken the great sleep exclaimed, “I love you dad!” I was curious about what makes a three-year-old tick, so I asked him why he loved me. He answered, “Because you play cars with me.” When I asked if there was any other reason, he said, “Nope. That’s it.” My toddler’s response made me smile. But it also made me think about the way I relate to God. Do I love and trust Him just because of what He does for me? What about when the blessings disappear?
Job had to answer these questions when catastrophes claimed his children and demolished his entire estate. His wife advised him: “Curse God and die!(Job2:9). Instead, Job asked, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (v.10). Yes, Job struggled after his tragedy; he became angry with his friends and questioned the Almighty. Still, he vowed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.
Jobs affection for his heavenly Father didn’t depend on a tidy solution to his problems. Rather, he loved and trusted God because of all that He is. Job said, “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength”. Our love for God must not be based solely on His blessings but because of who He is.
Shall we accept the good from God
But fuss when trials are in sight?
Not if our love is focused on
The One who always does what’s right.
Focusing on the character of God helps us to take our eyes off our circumstances. I am of “Anointed Pedigree” how about you?
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The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.
So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the dollar’s fall, and the consequences
Why the Weak Dollar?
There are several reasons. First, there’s the difference between the interest rate in the United States — the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent — and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.
When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.
Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.
What Effect Does This Have?
Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.
Oil-producing countries don’t want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it’s worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar’s value.
One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.
What Does This Mean in the U.S.?
The news is mixed. It’s good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they’d pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.
For years now, the collapse of the dollar has been in the cards. Recent developments show mounting pressure on the dollar’s reserve currency status. With a major international deflation going on, the threat of inflation through money printing is unreal. However, should the dollar’s reserve currency status end, the repatriation of trillions of petro- and Eurodollars could lead to a strongly inflationary scenario.
The roles of a reserve currency are to finance international trade and to function as a store of value for Governments. Until the second world war it used to be the British pound, but with the demise of the British Empire, the pound lost its international relevance and was overtaken by the dollar. This was formalized in the 1944 Bretton Woods system. All other currencies were fiat currencies, but pegged to the dollar, which in turn was pegged to Gold at 40 dollars an ounce and redeemable for international trading partners.
We are seeing the advent of the new currency order. There will be a number of more or less equal blocks: a dollar zone, a Yuan/BRICS zone and the euro, with the Yen and the Pound as lesser entities. These will later be able to converge to even more ‘cooperation’, in the Money Power’s relentless march towards World Currency.
These units will be at least partially Gold backed, implying long term deflationary pressures. Central Banks are buying Gold in major quantities, creating the interesting question why Gold prices have not risen in the last 18 months.
Well it looks like we’re heading into some really tough economic times. You’ve already heard much about these high profile banks that have failed and a few others have merged just to survive. Perhaps you haven’t heard just how many other business mergers have been proposed in these tough times. For example:
1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. are set to merge. The new name will be: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2.) PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zest Crackers will join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMM Good.
4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Doofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa
5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!
8.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.
Well OK, that’s not happening. But I thought it might be good medicine to laugh a bit because these days, when it comes to the economy, we’re all a little panicked and afraid. And I don’t blame you. One friend of mine last month was trying to enjoy a wonderful vacation in Europe with her grown children when the news came of the stock market tumble. She said to me, “I just couldn’t enjoy the moment Aaron, because I was thinking about what percentage of my nest egg was blowing away like smoke.”
She’s not the only one in that situation. Small business owners in my church are concerned about laying people off. Some of you have been laid off. Milgard, laid everyone off. Bayliner is done in 60 days kicking over 600 unemployed workers into the job market. A person I spoke with this week, losing their dream home because they’re upside down on their mortgage.
WE FORGOT GOD’S PRINCIPLES
So now we have Republicans and Democrats jockeying for political position to look better than the other in the aftermath of this mess. I’m a bit weary of them all, frankly. Tons of fears and angry thots run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race.
– Who allowed this to happen?
– What will the candidates do to fix it?
– What’s going to happen next?
– And in a pessimistic moment, we might even ask:
o Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?
So now, I want to weigh in on this, not as an economist but as a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. You’ve had an anxious few weeks. You’re mad at the pride of our leaders. You’re mad at the short sighted selfishness in all of us that lead to this subprime mortgage mess. So there’s two parts to God’s wisdom to heed in our fear and anger. The first relates to the world of your finances and the second relates to the world of your heart.
A. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
I want to read some bible verses to you and I want you to imagine these were hung on the offices of every bank, every mortgage office and every home in the country.
– Prov 22:7: the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Prov 17:18: It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s
– Prov 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer
– Ps 37:21: The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.
– 1 Tim 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Have we lived by these principles? No. Not personally and not nationally. And now the piper must be paid. We cannot escape these principles, friends. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows. With God’s laws, you don’t break them. If you disobey them, they break you. And now, they may break our economy. If we keep going down the path we’re on, one Christian financial consulting firm put it like this:
Failure to heed the principles God has plainly established for our own good will destroy the good faith and credit of the United States government. Should that day come, the consequences will be dire. Our entire economy will collapse with sudden speed, bringing mind-numbing consequences to world order. To avoid the pain, we can print more money, bringing on devastating hyperinflation.
That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.
B. GET OUT OF DEBT
So what can you do? One, save.
Two, the time is now to get out of debt. The Bible does not forbid debt, as it gives rules for how to repay it. But if ever there was a good time to be in debt, now is not that time. And the Bible gives us so many good reasons to want to avoid it:
First, the simple truth, Crown of Life, Kansas Ave and communities abroad is that whenever you sign up for a debt of any kind, you’ve just surrendered a slice of your freedom. The Bible says, Proverbs 22:7: The borrower becomes the lenders slave.
A friend of mine was complaining about how they attempted to garnish his wages for a debt he owed that he had fallen behind on. So he closed his bank account to stop them. He didn’t like them just taking it. He wanted to be back in control.
Well this guy just didn’t get it. Debt takes control over you. It puts you OUT of control. The lender is not obligated to be nice to you. It’s a voluntary legal contract you enter into. And it’s a type of slavery. You don’t get free, until the debt is gone. So if you choose debt, don’t get mad when your freedoms are diminished.
Second, debt enslaves you to excessive earning pressures. Hag 1:6 says, “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Debt is simply more holes in your money purse. The more holes, the faster and more frantically you have to pour in.
Third, debt enslaves us to Joylessness. PROVERBS 12:25 says, an anxious heart weighs a man down. There’s nothing like debt pressure to rob you of sleep.
Fourth, debt ties your hands when opportunities to do good come along.
So what I’m driving at is that there are many things about the gov’t’s spending habits that might make you mad, but today is a good day to look in the mirror. Many things you can’t control, but this you can. You can seek to get out of debt as fast as possible and start to save.
Whatever the economy is going to do, this is what YOU can do.
So, friends this is a good time to take some radical steps:
– One, make a RADICAL DECISION TO END YOUR SLAVERY. No one “drifts upstream.”
– Second, analyze your current situation to see where the holes are in your purse:
o House is too big, car is too new?
o Hobbies, vacations? clothes?
o Credit cards?
– Third, get on a repayment plan. Good Sense is available. Sign up.
– Fourth, be generous with God. God invites you to invite him into your financial picture. The Bible says this over and over. Prov 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth…; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” Now, with the economy bad? Especially now! Tithing is an act of faith that invites God to bring supernatural power to reverse your situation.
– Fifth, please consider God’s financial laws as you decide who to vote for in this upcoming election. Anyone, at any level, running for office who isn’t talking about REAL and considerable cuts in government programs – and by that I mean, from the welfare state to the warfare state – is either a fool or lying about what’s coming.
So that’s very practical. But some of you are mired in this thing spiritually and emotionally and I have some even MORE practical news from you, from the Christian gospel. It’s good news! It will cheer you up and give you tremendous hope, if you receive it.
A. ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
First, this time of financial insecurity is a chance to get focused on forever things, and not temporal things. The American dream isn’t ultimate goal the Christian is shooting for. Neither is seeing America survive as a national, financial and military power. In fact, when some of those temporal things are taken away, we may get closer to our REAL goals.
“what will it prosper a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? …For where your treasure is, there will heart be also.”
It’s not an all-together bad thing to get a hard reminder that if we gained all that this world tells us we should gain, wealth, security, comfort… that that still isn’t what REALLY matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save money for retirement. You should. No one wants to be a drain on their kids or the system.
But what is the true point of life? The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
What is the bible saying, friend? It’s saying, this life is not the end. This life is not all there is to live for. The purpose of this life, is to live and prepare for the next life. And ironically that makes for an even richer life here and now.
My parents are volunteers at a college that trains foreign nationals for Christian ministry – in Hawaii. And these people come from the down and out places on planet earth. Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Peru. And my parents wondered how these people from destitute countries would react to the extravagant lifestyles that we live here, the meals, the cars, the homes.
They were worried that they would be so jealous and envious. They were worried that our wealth would be a stumbling block to them spiritually. They would surely say,
‘why o God did you put me in my horrible country where there’s no MTV? Where I can’t get a Twinkie when I want to, like my American friends? Where I can’t see news of the Brittany Spears saga. Ah, the injustice!”
Well, guess what? They didn’t say that. Friend, this will come a shock to some of you, but those church leaders from around the world look at us and they are overwhelmed with one emotion and it’s not envy. You want to know what it is? It’s Pity.
The pity us. Because they see so clearly that our preoccupation with this life is killing our chance at dying well. They think about dying all the time. In Malawi, the average person dies at my age. They find truth that totally escapes us in what Jesus said,
– Blessed [happy, lucky, favored by God!] are you who mourn
– Blessed are you who are poor
– Blessed are you who are persecuted.
Look, I understand that it’s a rotten thing that some of you might have had your net worth cut in half last month. I feel for you and I wouldn’t be happy about that either. But you and I can have a hope in Jesus Christ that draws us into the Life of God. It’s a forgiven life, a life full of joy and peace and hope for resurrection.
Can I just remind you of how many rich people have gone into depression, dove into drugs or self destruction or even committed suicide because they don’t have what the simplest, poorest Christian has in spades? Peace of mind. Peace with God. A heart full of joy and a family who loves them; Hope for tomorrow and no fear of death. Curt Cobain, Howard Hughes to name two.
Some people would give their fortune for the simple gifts that Christians take for granted.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
B. NO HOPE IN MONEY
I believe Christ might also use the market downturn as an opportunity to remind us that putting our hope in money is a bad idea. Today, I want to challenge you directly. If we are depressed or mad or fearful, then we have likely put too much trust in money and not enough in God. Perhaps this is a chance to ask yourself how you can move beyond.
IN the Bible it says:
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.
Maybe you never heard that before, but do you think God knows what’s talking about now? Does your money seem uncertain to you now? Money isn’t bad, but the Bible treats it like sex and power. Nice gifts that make terrible gods. And God would spare you the trauma of putty all your security into something that could vanish with one decision by the Fed.
So if your heart has been too wrapped up in your financial security, if your computer is following the Markets a little too closely and your heart is going up and down the roller coaster ride, friend, here’s a simple message: get off! You can try and control what cannot be controlled and go insane trying. Or you can trust God more than you trust money.
The Bible asks for us to store for a rainy day. And we should. But when did God ask us to bend our lives and our hearts out of shape to gain perfect security for tomorrow? It’s impossible. You don’t even know if you’ll be here tomorrow. So beyond reasonable measures to save, you will have to trust God for daily bread. And guess, what? That’s just the way God wants it.
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The Message (MSG)
11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”
13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”
14 But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”
15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”
16 God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”
17-18 Gideon said, “If you’re serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you’re telling me. Don’t leave until I come back and bring you my gift.”
He said, “I’ll wait till you get back.”
19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat and a huge amount of unraised bread (he used over half a bushel of flour!). He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and took them back under the shade of the oak tree for a sacred meal.
20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unraised bread, place them on that rock, and pour the broth on them.” Gideon did it.
21-22 The angel of God stretched out the tip of the stick he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Fire broke out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread while the angel of God slipped away out of sight. And Gideon knew it was the angel of God!
Gideon said, “Oh no! Master, God! I have seen the angel of God face-to-face!”
23 But God reassured him, “Easy now. Don’t panic. You won’t die.”
A mother asked her five-year-old son to go to the pantry to get her a can of tomato soup. But he refused and protested, “Its dark in there.” Mom assured Johnny, “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is in there.” So Johnny opened the door slowly and seeing that it was dark, shouted, “Jesus, can you hand me a can of tomato soup?”
This humorous story of Johnny’s fear reminds me of Gideon. The Lord appeared to Gideon, calling him a “mighty man of valor” and then telling him to deliver Israel out of Midian’s hand. But Gideon’s fearful reply was, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house”. Even after the Lord told Gideon that with His help he would defeat the Midianites, he still afraid.
Then Gideon asked the Lord for signs to confirm God’s will and empowerment. So, why did the Lord address fearful Gideon as a “mighty man of valor”? Because of who Gideon would one day become with the Lord’s help. We too may doubt our own abilities and potential. But let us never doubt what God can do with us when we trust and obey Him. Gideon’s God is the same God who will help us accomplish all that He asks us to do.
The Lord provides the strength we need to Follow and obey His will; So we don’t need to be afraid that what He asks we can’t fulfill. We can face any fear when we know the Lord is with us…
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There once was a man who very adamantly believed in living by faith. He believed that, so long as he prayed in Jesus’ name, believing in faith that God would provide his need, he would receive whatever he asked for. One day he stood up in church and declared that from that day forward, he was trusting God to supply all his needs. He quit his job as a high-ranking official in a fairly large company and moved into a dingy little house on the rougher side of town. The first night he prayed very fervently for God to send him some food, because he was beginning to get hungry. The next morning he walked outside, expecting to find food, but nothing was there.
Figuring that he didn’t pray fervently enough, he dedicated the whole day to praying for God to provide food for the next day. The next morning came, and still no food. That day he prayed even more fervently for God to provide nourishment, for by now he was growing ravenously hungry. “God, you must provide me with food, or I will die out here,” he prayed over and over again. The next morning he walked outside, and still no food. By this time he was beginning to get angry with God for not providing He promised in His Word. That afternoon and evening he redoubled his efforts, wailing and rocking back and forth and beating his breast as he prayed. “Dear God, I’m going to starve to death unless you feed me. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink in 4 days!” When he had prayed all he could pray, and was exhausted he fell back on the bed and stared at the wall. In the silence, he heard a small voice calling out his name. “Bill! Bill!”
“I’m here Lord,” he cried. “Are you finally answering my prayer?”
“I’ve been answering your prayers,” the voice replied. “You’ve just been looking in the wrong direction.”
“What do you mean Lord? I don’t understand,” he exclaimed, exasperated.
“Walk outside,” said the voice.
Bill walked outside, looked all around on the dirty porch, but still found no food. “There’s nothing here, Lord. I don’t see any food.”
“You’re looking in the wrong direction. Look up.”
Bill looked up, and there right above his head, pasted onto the building next to him, was a huge billboard with big black print that said, “DAY LABORERS WANTED! LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED.”…
Phil. 4:19 ….according to His riches.
God’s Provision For our Needs Is Not Dependent Upon A Prosperous Economy!
This principle is illustrated throughout Scripture:
For example, God doesn’t need a healthy, normal womb for a woman to conceive and bear a child.
Judges 13:2-3 (conception and birth of Samson) “2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.”
Psalm 113.9 “ He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Luke 1:5-37 Elizabeth, old age & barren ; Mary, young and know not a man God can bring a child out of a barren womb.
So God doesn’t need a healthy economy, to be able to supply our needs!
God can multiply the resources that we have. John 6:1-13
Many of you know by experience how
God can do more with 90% of our income than we can do with 100% !
God can sustain us through extended periods of need in our lives. I Kings 17:1-16
God frequently provides just enough at just the right time. Exodus 16:1-35
*Stop expecting God to supply ahead of time
God can make bitter water sweet. Exodus 15:22-27
God can bring water out of a rock. Numbers 20:1-13
God wants daily trust in Him, not trust in our reserve funds.
* The Model prayer…”Give us this day our daily bread” (not weekly, monthly, or yearly)
* Yes, plan for the future,…but trust God with the future!
* In fact, it’s unwise not to invest for the future,….not to save for the unexpected.
Prov. 21:20 “20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.”
God can supply our needs in a bad economy just as easily as He can in a prosperous economy!
*Since the days of the “great depression” we Americans have lived in a relatively prosperous country. It is possible, those days could return again. If they do, perhaps our lives will be a little less comfortable than they presently are, but our needs will be provided for.
* In the future, Social Security may be there and it may not be….But God will always have enough for our needs.
*God’s resources are inexhaustible and limitless!
* Stop worrying about your future needs,…let God take care of it!
* God can still do the miraculous. He specializes in miracles.
* God’s provisions are not governed by American economics!
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Paul in chapter 12 laid the foundation – that we are all part of a system and that to do God’s work we need to let the Holy Spirit work through us collectively in whatever way or with whatever gifts He chooses. There are no Lone Ranger and there are no Superstars. Each part of the body and each gift is just as important – even if it is not as “flashy” as others.
Paul ends chapter 12 by saying: And now I will show you the most excellent way.
No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time.
That, of course is love. 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It’s quoted as weddings routinely. So much so that it begins to sound like the trite phrases of a Hallmark card. “What the world needs now is love sweet love” as if just saying the word “love” is all that’s needed.
This chapter is far more than that – it is far more challenging than you may have imagined.
The Need for Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
No matter how much I know – or how much great wisdom I speak, no matter if I utter incredible mysteries that wow the masses – I might as well be just honking my horn in bumper to bumper traffic unless I do it with love.
No matter what I can do – healing, miracles – without love it is meaningless.
This one really kills me – no matter how much I give of myself – I can be the humblest most giving person on earth – even give up my life for my faith – but if I am not flowing in God’s love I might as well not do it.
What kind of love is this? Every time the word “love” appears in this chapter it is the word “agape.” This is different from the other forms of the word “love” in Greek. Phileo is the idea of brotherly love or friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name from this word. Eros is the idea of sexual love – we get the word erotic from this word. Agape as a word didn’t really appear until the New Testament. It is selfless love – the love of God towards Jesus and towards us. It’s not a love of word but a love of action without regard to self interest.
It is the character of God. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Everything you strive for, who you want to be, what you want to do, how you want people to think of you, what you want to accomplish – everything should go through this filter – “am I doing this with agape love?”
And before we go on – remember that it is from the Holy Spirit that we get the power to live this kind of life. Don’t think you can find it in worldly philosophy or philanthropy or religious piety. Only a person who says “Jesus is Lord” can exhibit this kind of love.
So now let’s look at the character of this love.
The Character of Love
Paul defines for us what agape means. He does it in terms of what it is and what it is not. There are 8 things it does, 8 things it does not do.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
The 8 things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices in truth, Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres, Never fails.
The 8 things love is not: Envy, Boasting, Pride, Rudeness, Self seeking, Anger, holding grudges, delighting in evil.
You could form these around four basic concepts:
How you deal with others (patient, kind, protects, vs. rude, angry, grudges)
How you deal with life (patient, hopes, trusts, perseveres, never fails)
Your relationship to yourself (never fails, patient, kind, vs. envy, pride, self seeking, boasting)
Your relationship to God (hopes, perseveres, rejoices in truth, vs. pride, self seeking, delight in evil)
Let’s look at these one at a time:
This comes from two Greek words: “long” and “tempered”. Vine’s expository dictionary says patience is “self restraint in the face of provocation … the opposite of anger.”
Do you have a short fuse? Do you get easily frustrated when things don’t go your way or don’t happen fast enough? Do you retaliate easily and quickly against those that hurt you? That’s the opposite of patient.
Patience means you wait out trouble and you don’t strike out against adversity. I like how Peter describes it in his letter:
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
You wait under God’s hand – you don’t from trouble or run from God. Certainly God is patient with us, isn’t He? That’s love.
The Greek word for “kind” means “to show oneself useful.” Taking patience one step further – not only are you long tempered against trouble, but you actually reach out with a benefit to someone else. It comes from a root word that means “employed.”
It reminds me of something Paul emphasizes over and over in this letter:
1 Corinthians 10:33 For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Most of the time we think “what’s in it for me.” But kindness thinks, what can I do to benefit you? That’s love.
Paul next strings 8 negatives together. Often we learn by contrast – we see what love is by carving away what it is not – and when we find ourselves acting in these ways we know we are not acting in love.
It comes from the word “to boil.” It’s kind of the bolstered idea of “what’s in it for me,” in the sense of “it’s all about me.” When we become so self focused that anything anyone else has that we don’t have makes our blood boil and is the opposite of wanting to benefit another. Envy is when we only want to benefit ourselves at the expense of others.
Boasting is really a corollary of envy – “if you’ve got it flaunt it – even if you don’t have it, pretend like you do.” The Greek word has the connotation of “play the braggart.” Often times boasting is playing a part – something we are not but want to be or think we are.
This is the same word Paul uses in chapter 8 – “knowledge puffs up.” It means to inflate – like a bag of hot air – no substance but a lot of fluff. It’s increasing your sense of self importance well beyond your hat size.
The word here is “unshapely.” You could say “not pretty to look at.” Do people have a hard time being around you because you do things that are unpredictable or embarrassing or unbecoming? That’s rudeness.
This could be rendered “worship yourself.”
Not Easily Angered
It means to “exasperate.” The Greek word can translate “to sharpen alongside.” This is really the opposite of patience.
Keeps no record of wrongs
The suggestion from the original here is thinking poorly of someone else – or really pondering and dwelling on someone else as evil. The old story goes that Santa Claus keeps a list of whose naughty and whose nice. Sometimes we keep those lists too. How quick are you to forgive?
Does not delight in evil
It means to be happy when an injustice or wrong occurs. In a sense this is the ultimate form of “anti-love.” We want, we get, we hurt others to get it – and we’re happy that we stomped over them to get what we really deserve in the first place.
The thing that all these negatives have in common is that they all focus on us – what we want, who we are, who bad everyone is in comparison to us, what bad things people are always trying to do us – me me me! This is the opposite of love.
Rejoices in the truth
This is interesting because the word “rejoice” is a compound word – part of it is the same word used in “delight in evil.” When put together with the other word it means “to sympathize with gladness.” When you delight in evil you are holding yourself apart from the other person – glad they are suffering and you aren’t. Rejoicing in the truth means you are drawing close to someone as they come to know the truth of God and about sin, come to know the love of God, or have something good happen to them.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
This is really neat – these four words form a related pattern. “protects” means to “roof over,” “trusts” means to “put your faith in” something, “hopes” means “to confide in” and “preserves” means “to stay under.” These are all things God does for us – and things we should do for others – throwing a protective blanket, physically, emotionally – over someone else; being willing to put our faith in someone else – be real, confide in them – know that God will work good in their lives – then stick it out with them to see the love of God change their lives.
You see all this business of love isn’t some magical, rose-colored-glasses kind of “feeling.” It’s actually very specific: love and trust God no matter what, seek the best for and the best in those around you – then help benefit their lives as they draw closer to God. That’s love!
So this begs the question – why does Paul put this in here – smack dab in the middle of a section on spiritual gifts? It has application far beyond a discussion of spiritual gifts but it speaks directly to an attitude that believers can have, especially when they start talking about how God has gifted them – that they speak God’s words and bring about miracles.
Hey, if you reached out your hand and someone was healed it might happen to you too – you start to feel pretty special about yourself. Instantly the focus moves off of the real purpose of the gifts – to see others benefited and drawn close to God, even if it means you get hurt or get less in the process.
We as humans are basically selfish. Paul is telling us that God is basically unselfish and will bring about good in others lives even if it hurts Him in the process – and we should be like Him!
So to further illustrate this – Paul says “look – all this neat stuff you are experiencing is going to go away, but the need to love unselfishly will never go away.
The Supremacy of Love
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
We seek to know the deep mysteries of God and think by our knowledge we are better. We seek to do mighty miracles, thinking that we must be more favored. But in reality – when you really being to mature as a Christian, what you find is that love is the ultimate expression of who God is – selfless, other-focused, always giving, love.
Paul says – when you start to see who God really is, what maturity really is about, you see that it isn’t about you after all – its about what God does through for others.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
These three ideas were favorites of Paul – the “essentials” to life. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior, hope of the good things He is doing in our lives and is going to do – but love is the greatest – it is the driving force for everything.
Remember? God so “loved” the world that …
• Love doesn’t happen overnight
After reading this you might be thinking – “man, how can I ever live up to this stuff – I might as well give up.”
Remember what Paul says – “when I became a man I put away childish things.” Growing up in love is a process as we mature. It takes time and experience – don’t beat yourself up, just know that this is the direction your should be heading if you have a vibrant relationship with the Lord.
• Love is an action – but it’s not fireworks display
Let’s not make the mistake that the Corinthians and, for that matter, the Pharisees, made. Showing love means an attitude and actions – but love is more often a very quiet, unobtrusive affair. We don’t need to broadcast the depth of our love and the amount of our selflessness to the whole world.
Don’t expect fireworks to go off as you show and grow in love. But do expect lives to begin to grow and heal and change – that’s the pay off.
• Needing & Asking for things isn’t bad
Acting in love doesn’t mean you take a vow of poverty. James said “you have not because you ask not.” Jesus said (Matthew 7:7)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The problem isn’t with the asking – it’s with the motivation.
James goes on to say: (James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We err when we seek to fulfill our desires from the wrong source – or we ask God for things for the wrong reasons.
So search your heart – then ask – then wait for God to respond to what you really need.
Today we are invited by the Church to witness the climactic scene of human history–the moment on Calvary when Jesus, center of a triple trinity, gives over His Spirit and dies for us. The Holy Father recognizes that this is the central event of the cosmos: “God’s word is . . . spoken throughout the history of salvation, and most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God.” Further, “Christ’s victory over death took place through the creative power of the word of God. This divine power brings hope and joy: this, in a word, is the liberating content of the paschal revelation. At Easter, God reveals himself and the power of the trinitarian love which shatters the baneful powers of evil and death.”
There is a triple trinity on Calvary: Standing by the cross were three women, three Mary’s. On the three crosses were three condemned men, Jesus, the repentant bandit we know as Dismas, and the unrepentant bandit whose name is lost to history. And, of course, Jesus, the God-man, was the second person of the divine trinity always present to us, but especially at this moment, when our redemption was being accomplished out of divine love.
To this scene Jesus summons John out of the crowd of onlookers. We think of John taking Mary to Calvary, but it appears that he was near, but not next to her. Mary’s support were the other two women, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had driven several demons. That was the harbinger of the victory he was about to snatch from the jaws of defeat. But first, Jesus was to create a Church, a new body for Himself on earth, and, like the Creator in Eden, breathe new life into her.
As if to make this even clearer, He addresses His mother as the new Eve: “Woman, behold your son.” Mary probably looked first to Jesus, her natural son. But she saw Jesus nodding to the young man who was coming near to her, and knew that Jesus had a double meaning. The natural son was being taken from her by the will of the Father; in His place there was to be this younger one, and a host of others, men and women, boys and girls, whom she was to mother. As Eve was ironically called “mother of the living,” when what she had bequeathed to them was death, so Mary, the new Eve, was the true mother of the living, because through this great sacrifice her Son was to earn for us true life, and everlasting union with God. Eve had torn us away from the Father; Mary’s “fiat” would bring us back to the Father.
So Jesus then told John, and all of us, “Son, here is your mother.” From that hour, John, and we, have taken her into our home. But, rather, she has taken us into her home, the Church.
Having done everything the Father willed, Jesus fulfilled a last prophecy. He had said at the Last Supper that He would no more take the fruit of the vine until all was fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The irony is that the fruit of the vine–our vine–had soured. So He took vinegar to slake His thirst for the fruit of our work. What we do without Him is corrupt. Even our best intentions, without the will of God, turn to ashes and vinegar. But He takes even that to redeem. He says “it is consummated–fulfilled and sends forth His Spirit. It is this Spirit that brings us together and makes us part of His Body. What was born in anguish will be raised in glory.
The blessings of redeeming love our Savior compared to a precious pearl. He illustrated His lesson by the parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Christ Himself is the pearl of great price. In Him is gathered all the glory of the Father, the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God is expressed in His character. Every page of the Holy Scriptures shines with His light. The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of man can improve the great and precious gift of God. It is without a flaw. In Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3. He is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. All that can satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul, for this world and for the world to come, is found in Christ. Our Redeemer is the pearl so precious that in comparison all things else may be accounted loss.
Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. The light of God shone into the darkness of the world, and “the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5. But not all were found indifferent to the gift of heaven. The merchantman in the parable represents a class who were sincerely desiring truth. In different nations there were earnest and thoughtful men who had sought in literature and science and the religions of the heathen world for that which they could receive as the soul’s treasure. Among the Jews there were those who were seeking for that which they had not. Dissatisfied with a formal religion, they longed for that which was spiritual and uplifting. Christ’s chosen disciples belonged to the latter class, Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch to the former. They had been longing and praying for light from heaven; and when Christ was revealed to them, they received Him with gladness.
In the parable the pearl is not represented as a gift. The merchantman bought it at the price of all that he had. Many question the meaning of this, since Christ is represented in the Scriptures as a gift. He is a gift, but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. We are to give ourselves to Christ, to live a life of willing obedience to all His requirements. All that we are, all the talents and capabilities we possess, are the Lord’s, to be consecrated to His service. When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us. We obtain the pearl of great price.
Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may
obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour’s voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Rev. 3:8, 18.