Monthly Archives: August 2016

Blow the Trumpet!

This blog will focus on the book of Joel. The book is a clarion call to the nation of Judah, but also to the believers today, especially in America. From the onset of the book we find that Joel speaks of the devastating condition of Judah. “Has anything like this happened in your days, or in your fathers days?” Already there has been captives taken to Babylon, the city is falling apart, the enemy is camped outside the walls. Jerusalem has not fallen yet, but it is only a matter of time. I know that many have ready Joel and relate a future prophetic message only,but scripture cannot mean something today that it did not mean then. The church is in trouble today, just as Judah was on the brink of total disaster. The wonderful Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey is now a waste land. The vines are broken down, the fields lay barren and wind worn. No crops to feed the people, no hope for a better day tomorrow. Yet with all the devastation clearly in eyesight, the people are sleeping or worse drunken with a stupider and oblivious to what is going on around them. This continuation of the message from Jeremiah, still falls on deaf ears.

When we think of the Baal cultic worship, this agrarian god that promise fertility of crops and vats of wine flowing from the wine presses, and all Judah has to show for their idolatry is a waste land. For a people so dependent on the Land, the absurdity that they will not turn back to Jehovah, who gave them the Land  is ironic.

A repeated phrase “for the Day of the Lord is coming” declares that such a time is conducted at the hands of God. When I think of the apathy, apostasy and anarchy that pervades our country and world today I grieve for the Lord to heal us. But I also know that there must be a brokenness within us. We have to come to our senses, as the Prodigal son did before he returned to his loving father. What will it take for the people of Judah, even America to come to their senses? Is it too late for Judah in Joel? Is it too late for America today? The trumpet call that needs to be sounded in the assembly alarm, the calling together of the people. Like in the days as a child we had civil disaster sirens that caused us to assemble in a designated place, we must assemble at the clarion call of the Holy Spirit. We and Judah had to respond to the alarm, sadly Judah did not – will we go the same way in our stubbornness? In Joel 1:14-15 and Joel 2:15-17 declares the necessary actions for the people to avert disaster. But it cannot be just to avert punishment and calamity, there must be a humility and passion to return to the God who loves us, and to our blessed Savior.

Needed today is for the “trumpet to blow” for the people of God to come together for an out pouring of prayer and repentance – needed today is a “Holy Ghost revival!” Nothing short of a solemn assembly will do. A solemn assemble is a called meeting for a specific purpose. I recently called for a “solemn assembly for my church. It is time to drop what is in our hands and fall before the LORD. Call the elders, all the inhabitants to the House of the Lord your God and “Cry out to the LORD” – alas the day for the day of the Lord is near. God is drawing all things according to His plan. Judah is told to come and PRAY in the HOUSE of the LORD – come to the TEMPLE people!

Every great revival began with a small group of people who were broken for the Lord and over their sin – the Shantung revival in China occurred because the missionaries were broken before the Lord in prayer. Prayer is incense in the nostrils of God – let’s make is a sweet-smelling aroma.

With the call to come to the House of God, proclaim a fast and prayer; the end result “who knows whether He [God] will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.” (2:14) Judah had the chance, but they refused – let us learn from their hard heart refusal and Call on the Lord.

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Crying Out Loud

Book of Lamentations – the five funeral dirges.  The year is close to 587 BC, the first round of captives have been taken to Babylon from Judah. All that God had said in Jeremiah, was come true in Lamentations. The book is authored by Jeremiah – the Weeping Prophet. No matter how much Jeremiah warned the Southern kingdom of Judah, the would not listen to the pending judgment of Yahweh. While there is admitted guilt about the rebellion and immorality entrenched within Judah; there is still the request for mercy or as is sometimes translated lovingkindness. Chapter 3:21-25 is a clear example of HOPE for the mercy of God. I found it interesting that while punishment was being implemented, Judah was not crying out in repentance, but in anguish for being punished. I can remember as a child that I could start crying and wiggling around even before the spanking started – crying out I wouldn’t do it again, but never admitting that I deserved what punishment I was getting. In Crisis of our lives, we too often focus on the repercussions more that the offense. In Lamentations, Jeremiah is weeping or crying out loud about the truth of God’s judgment upon the “daughter of Zion.” I had to look up “daughter of Zion” to have a more full understanding of the phrase. It has to do with the relationship of Judah [IE. Israel] to the Father. SO a relationship is being expressed in “daughter of Zion.” Since we know that God “birthed” Israel from an old and man and woman beyond child-bearing years, the Heavenly Father can call Israel not only His people, but treat her as His child.

The very language of the book is descriptive of the prophetic message given Jeremiah before the captivity and exile. I do not know why we wait so long before we pay attention to the trouble that will be ours when we sin. Of course Israel, Samaria were deserving of the m=punishment they received, but Judah, it seems to appear was appalled that they were being punished.

Clearly represented in the “anger and wrath” of the LORD on Judah. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed and ransacked by the enemies. Things were so bad inside the walls of the city, women boiled their children and ate them to stay alive. Famine, sword and pestilence just as they had been warned would occur, did – yet they still are complaining about their situation rather than acknowledge there is justification for their plight.

In each of the funeral messages, we find the depth of the punishment and wrath of God. The people of Judah were compared to the sins of Sodom, but considered worse, this being because they knew better.  While reading of the lament and sorrow of Jeremiah, I couldn’t help but think of 2 Chronicles 6 & 7, where Solomon prays to the LORD about the sin of rebellion Israel would potentially get entrenched in. Solomon asks the LORD to remember and forgive the people. The LORD answers Solomon’s prayer with an emphatic YES in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The exile and destruction of Judah is only comparable to the destruction of Jerusalem again in  70 AD. The land had become so polluted with the excesses of sin and immorality, God was compelled to “cleanse the land.” the Message to us [Americans] we cannot think we are above Israel and exempt from punishment. Arrogance and pride caused the fall of Judah and Israel; it will be the downfall of America as well. In our day we are hearing warning after warning to repent and return to the LORD. Will we heed the warnings or will we relive Lamentations “Crying out Loud” in sorrow for our unrepentant hearts over the judgment of God upon us?

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When it’s all said and done

Jeremiah 48-52; we conclude our reading of Jeremiah this week. It is obvious why he is called the “lamenting or weeping prophet.” Next week we will continue with Jeremiah’s writing with the book of Lamentations. .The last chapters of Jeremiah explain the demise of the foreign countries that mistreated Israel during the “disciplining of God’s people.” While we have learned that God uses “non-believing” rulers as instruments of His wrath and punishment, He still will hold them accountable for HOW they implement His punishment. Starting in chapter 46 – 51, we find each nation is judged by Jehovah. When I first started reading the judgments, I thought of Jesus’ message to the 7 churches in Revelation. However, that illustration breaks down rather quickly. While the nations are not the people of God Israel, they are not too far removed ancestrally. Egypt is implicated in chapter 46, as bible students we know enough about Egypt and the on and off wars with the Jews. They get punished for harboring Jews who have deserted Judah, also taking advantage of the plight of Judah’s discipline. Most of the judgement comes at the hands of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar. The image that portrays Babylon as the greatest kingdom, with the Persians-Medes, Greeks and Romans in descending order, is reflected here with Jehovah “giving” the nations to Babylonian power.

Next is Philistia, or the “giants of the coast.”  In chapter 47:5, we find a hint of Elijah and Mt. Carmel, with the “gash yourselves.” Then we move to Chapter 48, and Moab, just a way of understanding better, who is Moab? Moab is one of the children that resulted from the  incest  relationship between Lot and his daughters.  Moab, not from the chosen line of Abraham, find themselves worshiping the Canaanite gods – Chemosh [i.e. Molech and child burnt sacrifices]. Remember that when Israel tried to pass through the Moab land, they were forbidden, God pronounced a judgment on them then.  Now Moab is located in the East and South, or as we would know today as Jordan. Ruth was a Moabitess which God used to bring forth the lineage of David through Boaz.  Right behind the judgment of Moab is his brother Amon – the other part of the Lot and daughters actions. Essentially the same can be said about Amon that has been said about Moab. Even though God is going to give over these kingdoms to Babylon, He finishes His pronouncement by telling them that He will “restore their fortunes.” I have been amazed at the grace and mercy of God in Jeremiah, for while God will punish the nations and His people for their sins, He will restore them back to a right relationship with Himself. This is true about the believer, we do fall into sin patterns, but Our God will restore us to fellowship if we will repent and turn from our wicked ways.

Moving on to Chapter 490, we encounter Edom or Esau; this is a lot closer to Israel that the other nations. However, Edom is not chosen of God – Jacob was. The mistreatment by Edom while Israel was in the wilderness is repaid here. Edom will be a horror to all who witness their destruction. No promise of restoration is given to them. By the way – Edom becomes 1st century Idumea the heritage of King Herod. Think through that for a moment. Later in the chapter we read of two kingdoms, obscure at first but highly significant – Kedar and Hazor. The significance is they are the root ancestry of Mohammad, Islam and Muslims. Known as the “men of the east.” These two places will be haunted, desolate and uninhabited.  God continues His punishment of the nations with Elam, which is the capital of Susa, better known as Iran. [of course we have the story of Esther and how God used her to save the Jews] Finally at the end of the book, while all along God has been telling Jeremiah that Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar are the instruments of God for disciplining Judah, we find that God will also take away the kingdom and posture of Babylon. Why? Because of the “over the top” actions towards Judah. The lesson here is God may use who ever He wants, but there is still accountability for how we implement His plans.

In chapter 52, the fall of Judah is complete, the exiles are taken, the Temple is destroyed. A remnant remains – out of all the Jews only 4600 are captive and will be the nucleus that God uses to rebuild and restore the nation.  So begins with the close of Jeremiah 70 years of exile. Why? The people would not listen!! He that has ears let him hear what the angels says to the churches.

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Hearing, You hear not; Seeing, you see not

Our reading for this week is Jeremiah 43-47, the overwhelming thought kept coming back to me; even though Jeremiah kept telling them what was going to happen, the reason it was happening, they still refused to listen and return to the LORD. Matthew 13:13 is the title this week. Jesus spoke in parables for the same reason – the people hearing, couldn’t hear or see because of their blindedness and deaf ears to the Word of God.

I am a hearing aid wearer, I know what it means to be unable to hear. There are often times when I hear people say things that they didn’t say, or at least not what I thought they said. This means that I can get the wrong message because of my disability. Having a hearing disability is different that “not wanting to hear the message.”

With Jerusalem and Judah destroyed already by Nebuchadnezzar, and many taken into exile in Babylon; one would think the Jews would get the message. However, rather than listen to Jeremiah, they listened to their own words. Even though Jeremiah preached to them the “why” of their situation, they refused to repent and return to the LORD. The city lie in ruins, but rather return to God, they determine to go to Egypt of all places. God had delivered them from the slavery in Egypt – but here they are willingly going to return. This is significant, for in ministry I have found that believers will often return to the captivity that the Father had delivered them from. It doesn’t make sense that after given freedom, that men would seek to be incarcerated again. Going to Egypt is not the answer! Judah had developed alliances with Egypt, felt that they would be better offs there then in the ruins of Judah. But even though they saw the ruins, it never dawns on them that their sin of Baalism is the reason. So now that they have ruined the “Promised Land” they move on. Sin is like that – it is never content with destroying a single place or person, it wasn’t to engulf the entire world and families. It is clear that the women who serve the “queen of heaven” did so at the permission of their husbands. The entire family was involved in this cult worship. While reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think of today when people worship “Mother Earth” instead of the Father. Even though Judah had been scattered, and Jerusalem is an empty wasteland, the Jews come together to go down to Egypt. God is omnipresent – He knows where you and I go. He promises through Jeremiah, that the same result will occur in Egypt, that it did in Judah. Until the sin of rebellion and idolatry are properly reconciled with God, devastation, famine and sword will be used. Rather than repent, the people “bow up” and tell Jeremiah we will listen to our words.

The short chapter 45 is rich with truth. Baruch lamented because it seemed that God was adding greatly to the sorrow of the day. But the father reminds him that it is the sorrow of God over His people who refuse Him. God had enough. Even in Egypt, there would be few left. Those that “escaped” from Judah would meet their death there, very few would return. In Jeremiah 52:30, it list only 4600 people taken into captivity. From that remnant God would build Israel again.

In our current world situation, and most directly America, I struggle with trying to communicate to the “church” the great need for the people of God to repent and rejoice. When I think of the great devastation done to Israel and Judah for refusal to listen to God, I cannot but think that “our land” is being purged and judged because the “church” has lost is first love. We hear about all the problems in our own country, the world countries,; yet we will not be humbled. America is entrenched into a political abyss with the election looming. I watch “Christians” line up on either side of the political aisles. Rather than fall on our faces before God, we still are listening to our own words.  I am familiar with the statistics of church decline and death – 800-1000 will close their doors this year just in SBC churches. Are we guilty of “hearing but not hearing, seeing but not seeing?” I think the hand writing is on the wall!! Daniel 5:25-28

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What Are You Aiming At?

“Knowing when to pull the trigger for Church Revitalization,” I am going to rely on my hunting experiences to address the topic.

First and foremost is the fact that “pulling the trigger” is the easiest act of hunting, and probably for Church Revitalization. Once the “trigger is pulled” the hard work begins. But long before the hunter/revitalizationist pulls the trigger there are major steps to be taken.

In the hunting scenario, you have to know what you are hunting. I won’t bore you with the statistics of how many cows and horses have been tagged as someone’s deer. The hunter has to know something about what he is hunting. He needs to know what are the living patterns and environmental conditions which the game animal lives. In other words what is the animals’ habitat? This is true for a church that is potentially going to be tried to be revitalized. What make the church tick? What are the demographics of the area, the animal and the church live in the area on purpose! The research for the hunter will increase his ability to “bag” the game he is hunting. Likewise it can be said for the revitalization attempt. The more you know about the “creature” the better your chances. Too often in hunting as in revitalization, those attempting the task haven’t thoroughly investigated the situation or “hunting grounds.” It would make sense that if you are going to hunt deer, that the location you’re hunting actually has deer. What I mean by this is that not all locations are suitable for revitalization/renewal. Sometimes the ground is vacant of a church/spirit and the church must be allowed to die. A hunter cannot “shoot at anything that moves” nor can a revitalizationist just start the process.

I liked hunting in Texas, they have plenty of game to hunt, and I was usually very successful. But before we donned our hunting gear for the hunt, we had months of preparation to do. We set up cameras in the field to get a good view of what was in the area. We tilled up the ground for a food plot, and of course we made sure the deer stand was in good condition. Likewise with a revitalization situation, much leg word has to be done. The congregation needs to be studied and viewed. If you don’t know their patterns of living, you can easily mistake what needs to be done. Observation is key; “pulling the Trigger prematurely is what we call “Buck Fever.” Identification again of the game is essential. The Fish and Game warden doesn’t care whether you made a mistake, if you shoot the wrong animal you lose!

Once the decision on what Game to hunt; the next decision of importance is “what am I going to use to hunt with?” This could range from black powder, rifle, crossbow, shotgun or pistol. Varying regulations and limits apply for each. Additionally, the hunter must determine what caliber of rifle is going to be used. This isn’t as easy as one would think. If you use too big a caliber, you not only kill the game, but destroy the meat – for example you don’t hunt rabbits with a 30.06! But the opposite is also true; you don’t hunt bear with a 22 rifle! I would equate the Weapon of choice for hunting to the process to be implemented in the church for revitalization. There are many tactics to hunting and also with church revitalization. Applying the wrong process to a situation could just “wound” the church or worse yet destroy it. This is where some more preparation comes in – I have to check my sights and accuracy before I go on the hunt. I must be familiar enough with the rifle so I can know what it can do, but also my limitations with it. The Church Revitalization process must be known and capably implemented. If there is unfamiliarity with the rifle/process, the hunter could be the one who is shot!

So the game has been investigated sufficiently, the location has been scoped out, the preparation of the field; deer blind and such has been checked and re-checked. It’s time to get up early in the morning for that first day of hunting. There is excitement in the air, we just know that we are going to be successful our first day out! A word of caution here; one of the greatest benefits of hunting is the hunt. What I mean is the joy of being out in nature, watching it all come alive. I have learned that there is more to hunting then bagging my buck the first day. I have on too many occasions shot my limit of one buck an hour after hunting season began. I was done, even though there was more hunting time, I was done. When we think of church revitalization, we can’t always have in the forefront – “fix the church.” The journey of revitalization has greater rewards besides that if we will be patient.

Church revitalization is for a “season” not a day. This brings me to my next point. Too many hunters shoot the first thing that walks into their sights, pull the trigger and they’re done. It doesn’t matter what size or quality of the animal at that point – the animal is down and the limit is filled. A smarter hunter/revitalizer will patiently watch and see what is in the area. Remember the church and game live there on purpose. Sometimes my greatest pleasure us watching a group of deer frolic in the autumn breeze without thinking about “pulling the Trigger!” Sometimes we can be in such a hurry we miss the joy of the process. But let’s say that you have watched a certain buck coming in and out of the hunting area, you have all you preparations completed, even having some “scent” out so they won’t recognize your odor. [Word to the wise here, not matter what you do, you’re not a deer!] You make the decision to “pull the trigger.” But pulling the trigger takes practice. I have missed my target too many times because I “jerked the trigger, rather than pulled it. In hunting and revitalization, how the trigger is pulled many times determines how the shot was effective. We can do all things right, but if we “blow the shot” we may never have another opportunity. When taking a shot, the field of view has to be clear, if there are things blocking a “good kill shot” or “launch,” take care of them, or pass up the shot.

SO now you are leaned over your rifle scope, ready to pull the trigger, breathing must be right, a rhythm must be reached. Revitalizer – Breathe, accuracy depends on it. Once all is in harmony, squeeze the trigger on purpose, with expectation of hitting the target.  But learn this great lesson – know when to pass up the shot! If there is something that prevents a clear unhindered shot – don’t shoot. Wait for a better day.

Revitalization is hard enough with all things “appear” to be right. Hunting is the same way; sometimes the animal gets away; so it is with churches. One thing about it, there is always more deer and more churches to pursue. Happy Hunting!

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