Showing posts from April, 2023

Finding Hope in a Disintegrating World

Finding Hope in a Disintegrating World Micah 7:1-7 “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation My God will hear me.”               Micah saw the world around him collapsing.  No longer were people pursuing righteousness.  No longer were they seeking to obey God.  As Micah looks about him, he feels like a fruit picker who enters the harvest fields and finds the harvest barren (vs. 1).  He laments that the godly have perished from the land. There is no longer any upright person (vs. 2).  Instead of pursuing righteousness, they have embraced evil (vs. 3).  Even the family was collapsing as children rejected the instruction of their parents (vs. 6).               As we look about us, the condition of Micah’s day parallels our own.  No longer are people pursuing the truth.  Biblical morality, which has served as the bedrock of our society for generations, is now rejected as old-fashioned as we embrace immorality. In Romans 1:32, Paul descri

What Does God Desire From Us

What does God Desire From Us Micah 6:7-16 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?               The fundamental question of all religions is, “How do we live in a right relationship with God?”  For some, the answer is found in religious rituals and activities.  Living in a right relationship with God involves following the rules established in our religious practices.  We go to church, read the Bible, and participate in church and community activities.  For them, religion boils down to following external rules and regulations.  But this was the approach of the Jews.  For them, all God required was to follow the rules and regulations established in the law.  Today many substitute the external rituals of the Jews with external acts of social justice and social activities.  To please God, all we need to do is feed the poor, fight for the rights of the downtrodden, and actively enga

From Insignificant to Manificent

  From Insignificant to Magnificent. Micah 5:1-6 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His going forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”               Micah 5:2 is the most familiar of all the verses of the book.  When the Christmas story of the visit of the Magi is read, it is this verse that the religious leaders quoted to guide the wisemen to find the birthplace of the Messiah.  While the verse is often mentioned in relation to the coming salvation of Christ, the passage itself promises both judgment and salvation.  In verse 2, Micah predicts the siege of the Babylonians when King Nebuchadnezzar will defeat Zedekiah, the last king of Judah.  It would be a time of great despair when it seemed God had abandoned Judah, and the nation was coming to an end. However, in contrast to the weak rulers that led Israel to its downfall, there would arise a new leader, one who would f

The Search for Peace

The Search for Peace Micah 4:1-5 “Then they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift a sword against nation, and never again will they train for war.               People are in an endless search for peace.  They believe that if we can elect the right leader, we will no longer have wars, and the money we spend on national defense can be dedicated to helping those in need.  But just when we think peace is coming to the nations, the rumors of wars rear their ugly head.  World War I was described as the war to end all wars, yet the peace that ended the war sowed the seeds that would lead the world into another global conflict.  When World War II ended, people thought that the world could not live in peace, yet once again, the treaties signed by global leaders only set in motion the events that would lead to the Vietnam War and the wars conflicts that affected eastern Europe even to this day.               Today we see again see the

Confirmational Bias and Self Deception

The Danger of Confirmational Bias Micah 3:5-12 “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray.”               The age of information has become the age of misinformation.  The amount of information that is available on the internet is mind-boggling.  It is reported that 328.77 million terabytes of data are created daily on the internet, and around 120 zettabytes of data will be generated this year.  To put this in perspective, using a two-terabyte hard drive as the basis of comparison, the information that will be added today on the internet will be the equivalent of approximately 160 million external hard drives. It is estimated that in 2023, 120 zettabytes will be added to the internet.  A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes.  This year there will be added to the internet the equivalent of 60 billion external hard drives.  So how does the internet sort through all this information to give you the answer you desire when you search the internet?  The search engines

The Complaint of a Successful Preacher

The Complaint of a Successful Preacher Jonah 4,  “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.”   I have talked with many pastors who are discouraged in ministry.  They faithfully proclaim God’s message and call people to turn back to God and become discouraged when people reject their message. One of the number one reasons pastors quit the ministry is discouragement.  They struggle with a sense of futility. Yet, in all my years of ministry and talking with other pastors, I have never met one who resigned because his preaching changed people’s lives-- except Jonah.  He is probably the only preacher in history who was angry when his preaching brought about a revival. To understand Jonah’s frustration, we need to delve into the history of Nineveh.  The Assyrians were marked by gross idolatry and vicious brutality against the people they conquered.  To intimidate their enemies, they would brag about how they would torture their enemies, cutting off their limbs and gouging out the

Judgment Pronounced, Forgiveness Offered

  The Judgment Pronounced, and Forgiveness Offered. Jonah 3 “When God saw their deeds, that they turned away from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it.”               We often read the prophets with a degree of reluctance.  Much of the prophecies recorded center upon the coming judgment upon the nations because of their sin and rebellion.  The prophets would denounce corruption and proclaim the coming judgment of God, and this does not fit our desire for positive and uplifting messages.  We want messages that encourage us in times of trials and offer hope in the face of adversity.  We want messages that are centered on the love and grace of God.  As a result, some avoid the prophetic literature altogether.  Nevertheless, we must recognize that God is a righteous and just God.  Sin cannot go unabated and unpunished.  Even in our judicial system, we realize that justice requires a penalty for sin

The Pursuit of God

The Pursuit of God Jonah 2 “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.”               Many critics of the bible point to Jonah as an example of a fabricated story.  They point to science and the impossibility of a person living for three days in the belly of a whale.  The problem is not their science and their understanding of marine biology.  The problem is their failure to understand God.  The God who created the universe and natural law is a God who has both the power and authority to supersede natural law to accomplish his purpose.  The issue is not the size of the whale; the problem is the size of God.  Jonah 1:17 begins by stating that the Lord appointed a great fish.  The word “appointed,” which refers to something or someone selected for a specific purpose, is used four times in this book (the fish, the gourd, the worm, and the hot wind), pointing to God's complete control over the events that were transpiring.  This

The Case of the Missing Prophet

The case of the missing prophet Jonah 1 “Then the men feared the Lord greatly and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”               The brevity of Jonah 1:1-3 only serves to heighten the irony.  In verse 2, the Lord says, “Arise, Go unto Nineveh!”  In verse three, we find the response, “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish!”  For those unfamiliar with the Ancient Near East, Nineveh was located in the northern regions of the Tigris River, where the modern city of Mosul is now.  Thus to travel from Israel, Jonah would have traveled 550 Northeast from Joppa (the location is in the present town of Tell Aviv).  Conversely, Tarshish was 2500 miles west, located in the southern region of modern-day Spain.  In other words, Jonah fled to the farthest possible place in the opposite direction! Jonah wanted nothing to do with any interaction with Ninevah (who were enemies of Israel and a threat to Israel's existence.  In his folly, he thought he could escape God’s purpose.         

The danger of false security.

The danger of false security. Obadiah 1-21 “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you.”               Edom was located in the Negev desert region of what would be today Southern Israel and Jordan.  The capital of Edom was Sela.  Some have suggested that the site of ancient Sela may have been where Petra is now found, although this has yet to be established with any certainty.  It is more likely located near the town of Tafilah in Jordan. It was a country that was situated in rocky mountainous regions that made invasion difficult.  Furthermore, it was off the beaten path, so the powerful nations of Egypt and Assyria often overlooked it.   The government itself originated from the Esau.  Thus they were referred to as the brothers of Israel.  However, when Israel fled Egypt and traveled through the region to the promised land when they arrived at the border of Edom, Edom refused to let the Israelites pass through (Numbers 20:18-21).  As a result, even though they were descendants of Is

God Calls A Farmer

God Calls a Farmer Amos 1:1, 7:10-17 “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.”                Amos has long been my favorite prophet.  He did not arise from the aristocracy.  He did not come from a wealthy home.  He did not come from a priestly family.  He was a farmer from Tekoa.  While I did not grow up in Tekoa, I did grow up in the small town of Tensed, which was only 20 miles from Tekoa (not Tekoa, Israel, but Tekoa, Washington). Furthermore, he did nothing spectacular, nothing that gained the recognition of others. He was a farmer and rancher.  Nothing special. Even after he settled into his prophetic ministry, he refused to be called a prophet, but merely as a herdsman and a fruit grower (7:14). Echoing the words of Amos,  I have always stated that I am not a prophet nor am I the son of a prophet (7:14). But I was

The God who Restores

The final restoration  Amos 9:11-15 “I will restore….”               The discipline of God is terrifying.  Understanding the totality of God’s character requires that we recognize his justice. God is holy and hates evil, for it violates his nature and dishonors him, distorting his perfection. The psalmist affirms, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psa. 5:4).  We also read in Psalm 11:5, “the Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”   Because he cannot be associated with or tainted by sin, he will bring judgment upon sin.  If he failed to do so, then it would mean that God either condones sin or, worse, God promotes sin.               However, herein lies the paradox of scripture—the God who is holy and is the God who forgives sin.  The God who brings a famine of the Word is the same God who came to earth not just to communicate his word but  is  the word (John 1:1).  The God who pronounces th

A Famine of the Word

The Famine of the Word  Amos 8:7-14 “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God, When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.             Famines are devastating and destructive. It has been estimated that 70-120 million people died from famines worldwide in the 20 th  century. It is estimated that 9 million people die yearly from hunger and hunger-related diseases.  This is both tragic and unnecessary in an age of mass food production.   According to experts, the reality of famine is not a result of not having enough food but a result of human mismanagement and lack of action rather than natural disasters.                 The spiritual famine sweeping across our country is equally tragic today and even more devastating.  This famine is the famine of the Word of God. As much as food and water are The Famine of the Word  Amos 8:7-14 “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God, When I will send


RBNO or RART Amos 5:18-24 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”               Social pundits have coined the anacronym SBNR, which stands for  spiritual but not religious .  These individuals identify themselves as spiritual but do not claim any specific faith. Today approximately 30% of Americans classify themselves this way.  This starkly contrasts 60 years ago when only  2-3% of Americans were unaffiliated with any religion. While the SBNRs are becoming prevalent in our culture, there is also a rising segment in the church who are RBNO, i.e.,  Religious but Not Obedient  (to coin another anacronym).  These individuals claim to be Christian and even may regularly attend a church but are not obedient to Christ and his word.  They are the individuals who attend but are never transformed.  They outwardly follow the church's religious practice

Seeking God before Judgment

Seek God before Judgment Amos 5:1-7, 14-15 “Seek the Lord that you may live.”               The Book of Amos begins with a series of pronouncements of impending judgment.  In chapter 1, God warns the neighboring nations around Israel of coming judgment. He condemns them for four sins that demand judgment: They have inflicted war upon their neighbors (vs. 3), they deported people from their land and sold them into slavery (vs. 6), they abandoned treaties (vs. 9), and they killed infants in the wombs of their mothers (vs. 18), all for the sake of their gain.  In chapter 2, God turns his attention to Judah and Israel.  Just because they were God's chosen people does not mean they are exempt from God’s judgment.  They had rejected God’s law and pursued the lies their ancestors had followed. Furthermore, they had embraced sexual perversion (vs. 7).  When confronted by the prophets, they rejected their warnings and sought to silence their message (vs. 12).  As a result, God pronounced ju