Revive Thy Work

LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.  O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.  Habakkuk 3:2 (N.A.S.B.)

A revival does not happen just because meetings are planned but because we seek to know God for who He is and not just who we are comfortable with Him being.  Have we honestly said to ourselves what do you require of me, and then are we willing to be obedient.  Habakkuk reminds the people that they have heard about the Lord and honor, respect, and yes even fear.  The Lord is just and can and will punish disobedience and sin.

Habakkuk also asks that the Lord revive His work in the midst of the years.  Habakkuk is asking for God to revive His work and allow it to live again in a real-time and place, in the midst of these years.  If we look around today, do we see the work of the Lord evident?  Are we allowing God to work in and through us to revive this land and these people?  The revival of the land cannot begin if it does not first begin with the revival of His people.  We must be alive and one fire for Him.  We must see His kingdom as greater than our own, and His glory and legacy greater than our own.  A revival is that we would have new life not because of what we can do but because of what God is doing in and through us.

To make known the work of God in these years brings each of us to a higher level of responsibility and accountability.  We may not want to pray for what Habakkuk prayed.  It is a prayer of risk but also a prayer of hope.  Habakkuk then asks that as God revives and makes known that His wrath would be tempered with mercy.  In knowing His will and standards we acknowledge that He is right and so are His ways.  He is also just and so He must punish sin, but the hope is in wrath the He will remember mercy.  That mercy today is granted to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

It begins with us His people.  We need to take seriously the victorious life we have in Him.  We will never likely know a time in our country or in any country that all people would know Him and do as they should, but it must begin with us.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14 (K.J.V.)

Notice Chronicles begins with if my people will humble, pray, seek, and repent, then God will forgive and heal their land.  Perhaps we should be more engaged in seeking a revival of the people of God to heal our land than to the heated political arena.  Trust God and allow Him to work in and through us, to revive His work in this land by reviving it in our hearts.  May you hunger and thirst for righteousness and find your cup overflowing with the blessings of God, and share those blessings with others.

Habakkuk 1-Sept. 26, 2012

Habakkuk-Background-September 26, 2012

It is a book about God’s desire that human beings live together in joy and security and righteousness, in a community ordered by his divine will and faithful to his divine lordship.  Most of the evidence for dating the work seems to point to around 609-600 B.C.  This book has its original roots in the Babylonian domination of the Palestinian land bridge.

Habakkuk is a book for all faithful people, of whatever era, who find themselves living “in the meantime”-in the time between the revelation of the promises of God and the fulfillment of those promises-in the time between their redemption, when God made his purpose clear, and the final time when that divine purpose will be realized in all the earth.  It speaks of that faith and to that faith which lives in the world as it is and yet which knows that the world is not all there was or is to come.

Habakkuk’s message is heard by faith, it still speaks and shall ever speak to those of us who live “in the meantime” and who look forward to that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,/ as the waters cover the sea” (2:14).

Habakkuk 1:1

Some have suggested that the role of Habakkuk was that he was functioning as an intercessor for his worshiping community.  Still others have suggested that the book is to be understood against the background of an autumn New Year’s festival in Israel.  The prophet doesn’t pray for himself alone; his responsibility for his community rests heavily upon him (2:1).

His name may be a nickname, drawn from the Akkadian hambakuku– the name of a plant.  The name appears in the Apocrypha but does not seem to in any way resemble this prophet.  We know only that he was a prophet in Judah at the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth centuries B.C. and that, in answer to his laments, he received from the Lord a “burden” (1:1 ; Isa. 13:1; Nah. 1:1)- the oracles and woes and visions now found in his book.

Habakkuk 1:2-4

The initial complain has to do with the Hebrew word mishpat translated “justice.”  Habakkuk’s complaint is that the people of Judah, in the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C.), have abandoned the righteous order intended by God for their society, despite the fact that they renewed their covenant with the Lord and underwent sweeping religious reform only twelve years earlier in the time of King Josiah.  God revealed this desire for order through the Torah (law), her traditions of what God has done in her past life, and the ongoing guidance afforded her day by day through the preach and teaching of priests and prophets.

Things had gotten so bad that even the priests began to ignore the laws and began teaching their own opinions or the soothing words that the people wanted to hear (Jeremiah 2:8; 23:9-40).  The result of abandoning of God’s mishpat in Judean society is chaos.  We still today see evidence of this very thing in society.  In the other case a distortion of mishpat satisfies the wicked that they are doing God’s will but that only further frustrates the righteous.

There are faithful persons in Judean society during this time, but they are helpless to reform that society.  Habakkuk turns to the only source he knows for setting things right.  He turns to God in prayer.  So in his time and ours how do we live out our faith in the mean time?

Habakkuk 1:5-11

The answer comes that God is at work and still working.  God’s working leads finally to good for all creation. Babylon became a tool of God because the people had rejected God’s mishpat and so they are given back what they have done.  God is able to use any of these actions for moving forward His kingdom.

Habakkuk 1:12-17

Babylon is God’s punishment for Judah’s sing and was also widely mentioned as such by Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and in Isaiah.  Human actions result in particular events, to be sure, but human actions are always also accompanied by God’s effective actions as he works out his purpose.  This judgment will not end in their destruction, but rather their correction.  He wishes to refine and purify them, so that they walk in his ways and obey his will and serve his purpose.

Habakkuk therefore asks this further question:  How long, my God, are you going to allow this reversal of your purpose?  How long are you going to seem to move away from your goal (1:17)?  It is not the question that Habakkuk asked in the beginning (1:2).  That was a question of how long God was going to put up with Judah’s wickedness.

Habakkuk longed for the end of Judah’s evil, in 1:2-4.  God’s answer, in 1:5-11, promised Babylonia’s greater evil (cf. Jer. 12:1-6).  The prophet’s principle questions therefore still are, When is it all going to end?  Are you, O Lord, going to fulfill your purpose on the earth?

Where Do Your Interests Rate?-Sept. 23, 2012

Where Do Your Interests Rate?-September 23, 2012

Scripture:  Mark 8:27-38

We find here in Mark’s gospel that time was not wasted with Jesus that even as they walked from one place to the next Jesus teaches them in a relaxed manner bu asking them questions.  Not all teaching is communicating information but is rather seeing how the information is understood processed and incorporated is the highest form of education.  Jesus then asks His disciples this question, “who do people say that I am?”  To put it another way, one might ask what are people saying about me. what have you heard?  It’s important to note that just because you have heard something also doesn’t mean that it is accurate or truthful.  It is possible to use logic of their day and come up with the same ideas that others said about Jesus but they are not the truth revealed.  Today there are many opinions on Jesus’ identity.  Who is He?  Some think a great teacher, a good moral man, a prophet, the greatest human being that ever-lived.  While there is some element of truth in these statements they are not the full truth revealed about His identity.

Jesus after listening to what the disciples said that others thought about Him (realizing they could be expressing person opinion) asks them directly, “who do you say that I am?”  He now has addressed them, and they are to give an answer the answer will reveal their hearts, and also their ability to be able to discern the truth revealed in Him from the speculation from the world.  Do you want your answer to come from the world that is guessing, or from the creator who is Lord over all.  Peter, is never one to go half-way, jumps in with the answer without necessarily thinking about the implications of his answer and that is exposed in great detail further in the passage.  He understood the truth revealed but had his own supposition about what his statement meant and had not considered the cost.  Peter’s response was “Thou are the Christ”, which is a staggering thought in and of itself, but with it is a deeper understanding of what the cost of such a statement could mean.

Jesus then tells the others not to share this information with others, and then begins to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  Hold the phone what did He just say?  Peter just acknowledged you are the Christ and now rather than fighting or using your awesome power you are talking about suffering and dying.  Dying…is something that we all know will befall us.  Dying is something I believe the disciples where willing to do if they could go down with a fight, but to just give up and die?  The man they expected to be there conquering hero is now talking about dying without a fight, this can’t be.  Peter thinks Jesus must be mistaken and pulls Him to the side and begins to rebuke Him.  At this moment if Peter believes Jesus is all that He claims to be then He must honor and worship Him as Lord and follow Him in obedience.  Peter was not so sure He wanted to follow Jesus into sacrificial death.  So he pulls Jesus aside trying to get Him to change His comments.

Jesus then tells Peter to get behind Him and calls him Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”  The issue was not that Jesus believed Peter himself to be Satan but he was doing the work of the adversary trying to look to any other interests than those of God.  The interests of God are priority, not just one in the top of a list of priorities.  The really is only one priority to do the will of God to bring Him glory.  Where do your interests rate?  Do you love something more than the interest of God?  Perhaps sports, money, your appearance, television, and the list could go on and on.  We have those things that are priority when we invest our time and money in those interest.  Is it still true now that you have now interests beyond God?

The further instruction to the disciples mentions that they must deny themselves and follow Him, putting their interests to the side for the interests of God.  Trying to hold on to the things of this world and their own life, they will lose both in this world and in hereafter.  However, in giving up your life for Him you are trusting both the time here and the hereafter to Him.  The God of all can be trusted both for our eternity and our daily living.  Using another financial analogy Jesus asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  The question is pointed and implies a double loss, because whatever we have in this world will eventually be lost to time or death, there is nothing permanent, and the second loss is that our soul would be lost to Him for all eternity.  What a devastating blow.

Those that feel shame about Jesus now and are unwilling to be lights to the world are in reality not His anyway.  This world needs the people of God to boldly be the people of God and live in such a way as to demonstrate that to the world.  Furthermore, Jesus says that our failure to acknowledge Him in the world will make Jesus ashamed in His glory to acknowledge us.  Be the light of the world, count the cost, and follow Him.

I John 5-Sept. 19, 2012

I John 5-September 19, 2012

Whoever believes that Jesus is God’s Son loves the Father and also the Son.  As God’s children through faith it is necessary that we love one another and keep His commandments.  It’s not the same is keeping the law, it is obeying the Father, and therefore a family matter.  It is not a burden to keep them because those who are born of God have overcome the world through faith.  It is faith the Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  We can know and have certainty about who He is and who we are in Him.
How can we know for certain? John’s letter tells us because of reliable witnesses.  Who are these reliable witnesses?  The Father gave testimony through the water at His baptism.  This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  The cross of Christ also bears witness to His identity.  Lastly, the Spirit bears witness because the Spirit is truth.  The three, the Spirit, the water, and the blood are in agreement.  In the time of Jesus two or three witnesses were required to give exacting testimony to the validity of the statement.  All three are in complete agreement that Jesus is the Son of God.  What better witnesses could one have?

It is striking that in spite of these witnesses that there are those who will not receive as truth their testimony.  It is interesting that many seem far more willing to trust the testimony of men or the world than what God testifies concerning His Son.  If the witness of man is important how much more is the witness of God concerning His Son.  Choosing not to believe the witness of God concerning His Son is the same as calling Him a liar.  He cannot rule and reign in our lives if we believe Him to be a liar.

The witness bears out further that those who acknowledge Him as God’s Son can have eternal life.  Eternal life is in His Son and not an external thing that can be accomplished by works but by receiving Him as He is the Son of God, and allowing His life to be lived through us.  He who has the Son has life and the one who does not have the Son does not have life.  John wrote this letter that we may know that we have eternal life.  It would be awful to only acknowledge with our lips but neglect the true peace that comes from knowing who’s we are in Christ.

We can have confidence to come asking Him in prayer.  This pattern of coming to Him in prayer also helps us to be continually connected to Him in intimacy.  We should also pray for our brothers that they do not fall into sin that leads to death.  We will pray for the needs of others, their health, their families, but often we do not pray for their souls.  It would be important to pray always for one another in the big and small things of life.

God keeps and protects those that are His own even though the rest of the world may be controlled by the power of the evil one.  We can have confidence that we are His.  He has come that we can understand He is truly God’s Son and that by trusting in Him we can have eternal life.  So don’t be led astray by the things of the world that prop themselves up as god but are only temporary things without true life or breath that gives eternal life.

What Are We To Do?-Sept. 16, 2012

What Are We To Do?-September 16, 2012

Scripture:  Romans 12:1 & 2; Psalm 19; Philippians 4:8; Micah 6:8

Today is a day where we will set aside one of our own for the service of Deacon.  Although we will set her aside and affirm her through the laying on of hands, we are all as His followers called to serve.  The larger question then looms what are we to do?  This may sound like a graduation message to some of you, but I believe that it is the question that should ground us in Him and allow us to honestly look at where we are at in relation to our living for Him.  When looking at this question it should not be something that we look at only once in a while, but the answer to this question should be a daily guide for living.  I believe God’s Word is the place to look for such answers.

In Romans 12:1 & 2 we are encouraged to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.  Our daily giving of our whole selves to Him is a spiritual act and is how we worship Him.  Which is not just for Sunday.  Does God cease to be God on other days of the week?  If not, then why should our worship of Him cease during the week as well?  It should not.  Live for Him each day, for your call Him Lord, and it is worship to do so.  Secondly, here in Romans this cannot be done by following lock step the ways of this world, but by transforming our minds, to God’s acceptable will.

Psalm 19:14 mentions the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts are to be acceptable in the Lord’s sight.  So it goes much deeper that just what we do or don’t do, but rather not only what we say be the dwelling of our hearts should be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.  This isn’t just a message for deacons but for all believers.  Those who call Him by name.  We should dwell in Him and allow Him to abide in us.  This indwelling will mean that we are different because Christ lives in us.  Is this not the message of the gospel?

Philippians 4:6-8 states that we should not be anxious for nothing, rather commit them to prayer, and allow God’s peace to rule and reign in our lives.  Then shift our thinking.  Do not participate in stinking thinking.  Finally, Paul writes, the things that are true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, of good reputation, excellent, and worthy of praise let your mind and spirit dwell on these.  Too often it is easy to get caught in the mire, and spin our wheels getting stuck worse rather than seeking God, trusting Him, and dwelling on the good.  These are good words for any deacon or Christian.

Micah 6:8 instructs the believer in this way, seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.  We should seek justice for those without a voice to help those that the world neglects, to be a part of the solution rather than adding to their problems.  Loving mercy is a very difficult thing.  We often love the mercy that is given to us, but are not often merciful to others.  The acknowledgment of loving mercy is one that does not just include ourselves but may mean that we may be agents of that mercy to others.  In doing so we are giving up our right to ourselves and our justice to shine His mercy on all.  Lastly, this is not possible if we are not walking humbly with God.  An attempt to walk arrogantly with our God is to not really know or understand the fullness of who He is, or to be bold enough to scoff at it.  We then walk with the creator of the universe humbly.  Our good friend Job was reminded of this when God basically asked Him was he there when God created all.  What a humbling moment.  We must humble ourselves before the Lord.

We have talked about what are some things that we should do, but doing should come from being.  We must be first.  In Acts 6:1-7 we note that there are at least three practical things a deacon should be.  They should be assistants to helpers in the pastoral ministry, servants to the church, and witnesses to the world.  The church in a time of ordaining a deacon also has a responsibility to pray for, encourage, and follow the deacons example in service.  It is a blessing to serve the Lord and to be set aside for this special task, but it is equally blessed to be what He needs each of us to be.  Service truly is the mark of fellowship, it draws us closer to the heart of God, closer to one another, and draws the world closer to Him.  God bless you all as we serve Him together.

I John 4-Sept. 12, 2012

I John 4-September 12, 2012

In this time of unrest in John’s community one of the distinguishing features of dispute was the identity of Jesus.  A group within the community began to teach the Jesus was not God’s Son.  It is because of this that John tells them not to believe everything they hear, but test it against a true measuring stick, which is what does God say in the matter.  The test is this, those who acknowledge Jesus in the flesh is from God.  Those who do not acknowledge this stand in opposition to and are taking a stance against the will of God.

Children of God you have overcome these because the one living in you is greater than this world.  It would stand to reason that the world would listen to this group because they are speaking to their own.  After testing the spirits we are able to know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.

Love is the mark that we are born of God.  That love came to us through His Son that we might live out that love through Him.  It is not our love but His great love that He sent His Son to pay for our sins.  Therefore, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  This call to love one another is not because of our effort, will, or desire, but because of the Father’s great love for us.  It is in the living out of this love in community with others that we are able to experience Him more clearly.  Through His presence living in us we are able to be the active presence of God to one another.  This is in some ways like the relational mystery of the trinity.

We are the living relational witnesses to the love of the Father sending His Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses Him as God’s Son has a relationship with God.  God is love so the one who abides in love abides in Him.  The believer can have confidence on the Day of Judgment that as Christ is, so also we may be, because we are His.  Fear does not express confidence but rather implies that we will be judged, but as His children He also shows mercy in His love.  We love because He first loved us.  If one does not love their brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  The command then is that the one who loves God should love his brother.

Persistent in Petition-Sept. 9, 2012

Persistent in Petition-September 9, 2012

Scripture:  Mark 7:24-37

This story in Mark continues a theme found throughout Mark of the Messianic Secret.  The idea that Jesus wanted to keep His identity a secret for a time.  However, by this time in the gospel account it was difficult for Jesus not to be noticed.  After hearing about Jesus a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet.  The catch is she is a Gentile and she not only asked but kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

It is important to note here that Jesus is the Son of God and Israel where God’s chosen people, His children.  A child in many cases does not take no for an answer.  A child will persist in asking, begging, pleading, and understand themselves as a privileged part of family.  A child will ask continually.  It would appear that this woman’s persistence would show her love and desperation for her own child.  She comes to Jesus as if she is a child, persistent and begging.

This also exposes some other truth that is evident.  It is that His own did not understand the position or  privilege  they had and exposes this tragic irony that the people of God did not understand Jesus for who He really was while others, including Gentiles, readily recognize the power and blessing of Jesus.  The contrast is made even more glaring in Jesus’ initial response to the woman speaking of “the little children being satisfied first and that it is not good to give the children’s bread to the dogs.

Let’s pause here.  Did Jesus really just refer to this woman as a dog?  I don’t believe that exactly, but more like referring to how Jews in Jesus’ time thought of the Gentiles in general.  I believe this statement included her but not targeting her while demonstrating a contrast between these two groups.  It also foreshadows the eventual reconciliation and restoration of both groups under Christ.  The common understanding of the New Testament is the people of God became know as those who called Jesus their Lord and God.  It was a new people and a new nation formed in the identity of Christ.  Which implies too that there would be some that are Israel who are not part of the true Israel, the people of God in Jesus Christ.

John 1:10-13 exposes this reality when it says that He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him.  The woman’s response is not to argue but to notice that the crumbs from table are eaten by the dogs.  Even though at that time Gentiles were not considered God’s people even the crumbs were so adequate and substantial.  Emphasizing how His own did not recognize the privilege or blessing they had in Christ and the greatness of God.  Jesus tells her that because of her answer she can go home the demon has left her daughter.  Paul mentions in several place in the New Testament about how Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness.  It was belief that was the mark of righteousness not the law.  Jesus confirms that her answer He sent the demon out of her daughter.  When she got home she found that her  child was well.

Jesus was asked on another occasion to heal a man who had been unable to hear and had difficulty speaking.  He pulls the man aside privately and heals him.  He told those there not to tell but the more He insisted the news spread more quickly.  And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He had done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”  The confirms what Isaiah the prophet had said concerning Him.

The tragedy in today’s time maybe that there are those who call themselves His followers, and yet do not ask or persist in prayer.  Pray without ceasing.  The answer to prayers often fall into a few categories, yes, no, not now, and I have something better.  If we are His we should be praying for God’s will is upon our lives.  Paul prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be removed three times and God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, in your weakness my strength is made perfect.”  There is no place in our lives that God is not completely adequate.  Would we pray for His will upon our lives and accept the answers whether they be yes, no, not yet, or there’s something better?  Would we not only allow God to use our strengths but all the more our weaknesses for that is where His strength is all the more evident?