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Why? If you know these things You don’t act

Habakkuk is a book of prophecy, one of the 12 minor prophets. Habakkuk writes from a different perspective.  Rather than being a voice of God to the people, He addresses God about the people. The overwhelming word in the 1st chapter is Why? This in itself isn’t surprising, especially in our day and age. I find myself asking the WHY question over and over again. This calls into question the omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience of God. We feel so many times that if God is God why do the things happen as they do.

Habakkuk is asking God the very question in this short book. Now Habakkuk wrote about 605-586 BC, this is prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of the captives. It is an odd time because there was just a period of “good” because of Josiah. But Josiah has died around 609 BC, so things are relatively stable. Yet Habakkuk asks the LORD “how long will I cry for help and you not answer?” Many of us have been such a situation – we call on God, and it seems that He is turning a deaf ear to us. I know today I ask so many times “Lord what is going on?” I get the same response as Habakkuk got – 1:5 – look at the nations, observe! Be astonished and wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – you would not believe it if you were told. The world we live in is in great turmoil and upheaval. Where does it all end? How do we make sense out of all this? As a believer in Christ I must put my lack of understanding aside and know that the Father in Heaven has this! Even if He was to answer our questions and tell us what He is doing, we just wouldn’t get it.

With the many atrocities that happen routinely today, we ask, Why God have you not done something to stop or prevent this? I have had to understand that God isn’t necessarily ‘doing” as much as He is “allowing” us to be the brunt of our own poor choices. Now we all have read the end of the Bible, we know what is ultimately going to happen. But the questions comes too many times, Is this the End? Or is this just a bad time in our life?

God is going to raise up Babylon to be His instrument for punishment and discipline towards Judah. Judah didn’t heed the warning of the fall of Israel [Northern Kingdom] nor did they heed the warning of Nineveh falling [Assyrian capital] in 612 BC.

While it appears there is still hope of revival and renewal of the Kingdom of Judah, the plan is already in motion for Judah’s captivity. Habakkuk is in dialog with God about what is going to happen. There is no record that Habakkuk survived the 586 BC siege of Babylon. Yet God does give the hope of a future after the punishment events.

Habakkuk 2:4 is a wonderful verse that has made the carry into the New Testament. [Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11-12] The Just shall live by faith.

Questions – Will Judah be punished – yes. Will Babylon be punished yes. Is there a future – Yes. Even though Habakkuk doesn’t understand all the details or working of God, he has to live within that hope in God’s providential redemptive plan.

I find myself asking many of the same questions today about America. Is America going to be punished – yes. Will we survive – yes. One thing about Judah and America, neither nation will ever be the same after the disciplining of God. Many prophets/preachers have drawn a line in the sand to say that this is the End Times, and ultimately the end as Bible prophecy in Revelation speaks. But that is Man’s opinion, not God’s. Nations have risen and fallen, but God was still at work trying to redeem creation from the Fall. Now if this is the end as in Last days – then if we know that and have understood God is at work, why do we thwart God’s working? If this is the End Times or if it is just a time of pruning and purifying, so be it – We [I] must still live by Faith.

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The Final Chapter

This week we begin the final chapter of God’s revelation to believers and the world in the reading of the book of Revelation. The first two chapter will be our focus. In the first chapter we find the glory, power, authority and sovereignty of Jesus the Son of God revealed. Passages such as Colossians 1:15-18; John 1:1-4; Hebrews 1:2-4 and 1 John 1:1-4 reflect the final revelation to mankind through the Son Jesus Christ. In these first two chapters we begin to get a clear insight into the final culminating plan of God. However, we must not limit our thoughts to only the book of Revelation. The reader, to get a valid understanding of End Times and Eschatology must look at the Old Testament as well; Specifically, the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel and other Minor Prophets. Of course the New Testament books of Matthew, Luke, 1/2 Thessalonians are necessary too.

There is a specific audience John/Jesus is writing to, but specifically the message is to the “church” – and the seven churches of Asia Minor, a mail route in what is known as modern day Turkey. The Seven Churches has gained great commentary of recent years. But it found great application with one John Darby, who along with C.I. Scofield can be considered the fathers of “Dispensationalism.” Darby created an elaborate system of end times thought by ascribing each church mentioned in Rev. 2/3 as a period of time or era of the “Church” history. Darby uses the specifics of the messages to describe a condition of the church as it made its way through time since the Apostles until his day. The Last church described is the church of Laodicea, which is commonly known as the “lukewarm” church. If we are to adhere to Darby’s thought , then the “church” has been living in the last 200 plus years in a lukewarm state.  many have bought into the Dispensational thought, to include many denominational schools. [Dallas Theological Seminary is an example] I hold to a different position. Since Jesus was specifically identifying problems within the churches and He is the Head of the Church; I believe that He was writing to the reader from a perspective of “conditions” churches could find themselves. In other words, rather than a church history; we have been given descriptions of “phases” a church may encounter in the life of the church. This message would find a universal; eternal application for all churches. In the case of the seven churches, not a single one of them endured; they all died. The message is one of warning and example to all future churches, not just the current churches being spoken to.

One of the problems with Revelation is the multiple genres used to write the book. We know that is it historical, narrative, prophetic and symbolic. Even so, when does the reader apply which literary principles to the passage being read? In other words, Revelation cannot be read as all literal, or symbolic or prophetic. This has caused great misinterpretation of the book, because someone applied the wrong literary principles of interpretation to a passage.

Back to our main chapter significance. The identification and description of Jesus is amazing. It was also used and applied to some degree to each of the churches. Some aspect of Christ’s description was used in the opening salutation to the church. Each one had a specific element of Christ that they needed to affirm.

It is interesting, that Jesus is very business like in His Revelation to John. Seemingly absent is the benevolent Jesus of the Gospels. This is to be understood. No longer is Christ bringing a message of love and peace; but one of warning and judgment.

In my writings during this book I will deliberately stay with what Revelation says, rather than try to incorporate a blog on the End times themes.  Next week we will look at the Churches themselves, however briefly.

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And Before I Go

2 Timothy, Paul already knows that his time is short, he has ran his race, and knows that he is going home soon. But before he goes he has more to say to his “son in the Spirit” – Timothy. At this point I would like to include Titus as well, for much of the instruction given to Timothy is given in Titus also.

This blog will take all the “R’s” into consideration. the first is found in chapter 1, Retain  [1:13] Paul has suffered much because of his unwavering stance on the Gospel. Timothy is instructed to pass on the things he has heard from his mentor to faithful men – so that they can then pass on to other faithful men. Paul begs Timothy not to be ashamed of him or the spectacle that has developed around the persecutions for His faith.

Secondly, is the word Remember [2:8]; The essence of the Gospel, Paul admonishes Timothy not to forget the most important thing of all, which is Jesus Christ – who He is and what He has done. Those things Christ has accomplished cannot be changed, but can be forgotten. It would make sense that we remember even in our day the truths which cannot be changed – for as Paul declares the sufferings and hardships he has faced, we to one day may be called upon to face such things. If we have forgotten our faith and eh “author and finisher of our faith,” we may become bankrupt. Jesus came according to the ordinate plan of God. His life, death, burial, and resurrection were no mere accident or coincidence.

Third, word is Remind [2:14], Timothy has word to do, his testimony and actions reflect his character; but the pressing task is reminding the church of not being pulled into meaningless conversations and battles of words. I have often in my younger days displayed a zeal of argument thinking that I was “witnessing”, when in fact I was pulled into an argument that could not be won. Paul is one who will name names when it is necessary; throughout 2 Timothy, he identifies those who lives have been distracted by the adversary – in this case Hymenaeus and Philetus are mentioned. Paul carries this instruction further in verses 23-26; much is said about not engaging in such talk, I can only think that there were many zealous but maligned believers being pulled into such waste of time.

Fourth is the word Realize [3:1]; the believer must be on alert and have the discernment of the times and seasons. Too many times people are caught unaware of the reality of an event or worse, duped into believing some strange group who promotes “the coming of the Lord” without credence. The coming of the Lord will happen sooner than later; but has been a topic of many these days. The “last days” have been the last days since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Many are trying to predict when He is coming back – yet forget the admonition that “no one knows.” Last week we had the “Super-moon, and the eclipse, many still proclaiming the accuracy of the 4-Blood Moons scam. People are looking for the end to occur, yet are not looking for the Savior of the End! I am sure that with the condition of our society and the mass killings and political chaos, the predictions and preaching of the “end is near” will continue. My bible tells me, that “as it was in the days of Noah, so will my coming be” – to me I think when everyone is at peace and happy and least expecting His return, that’s when Jesus will come – catching so many unaware and unprepared!

The fifth and last word is Ready [4:2]; with all that Paul had to tell Timothy before he departed earth, the last thing he wanted to make sure Timothy heard was – Be Ready! Not just ready for the “Day of the Lord” but to be ready always to preach the Good News. Timothy was to be like Jeremiah in the Old Testament – preached when no one would listen; no were converted during the 50 years of Jeremiah’s preaching. Even so, we all must be ready to preach the Gospel, even when they try to squelch us. The clarity and concise gospel must be preached without compromise. We in America are subjected to all kinds of preachers, on TV and the radio. Frankly, I am shocked that anyone comes to church anymore when they can sit at home and listen to four or five preachers! But even though the preachers may say the are the messenger of God, they often put forth a Gospel of “Good Works” or “Name it and Claim it.” [Olsteen comes to mind] Yet people want to hear that all is good, and God wants you to have all the things that make up this world. My Best Life is NOT now, it will be when I am in the presence of my Lord Jesus! Paul closes with some more names of people , some to glory others to shame.

May we all heed the words of Paul as we live and have our being here in America – Difficult days are coming, but they do not have to be disastrous for us.

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The Kind Intention of God

Epistle to the Ephesians

Even though not a specific book to the Ephesians, being a circular letter, the contents is valuable to all churches. In preparation for the blog I re-read Acts 19 which tells the story of how the Gospel spread in the city of Ephesus. The pagan rituals and goddess Diana dominated the city. There were magicians and soothsayers in abundance. Paul’s ministry begins with giving a “fuller revelation of the Gospel.” Paul stayed and preached and healing even with a very unorthodox  means of handkerchiefs being used to heal diseases. The Ephesian letter is similar to another circular letter that was being spread through Asia, the Epistle to the Colossians. These two letters hold several like passages.

The first chapter is a remarkable filled passage of revelation of how God was working through Jesus to bring salvation to people. The high christology here is no where else as transparent in the New Testament. The focus is now that we are In Christ, what exactly does this mean? Terms such as lavished, predestined, adopted, and inheritance speak volumes to the believer. God has not only redeemed us from the impending wrath that was due us, but has elevated us to royalty. In Hebrews 1:1-4 passage is filled with the “last days” revelation of Jesus Christ. We can easily gravitate to a minimal opinion about exactly the work of God through Jesus; albeit to marginalization of how great was the Salvation work accomplished by Jesus through His death and resurrection. I find many people think the understand the significance of Christ death, yet fail to live out a faith that reflects the “Changed Person” they are to be. Another problem with marginalizing Christ, it the tenancy to believe that we have garnered something by our actions to please God and obtain for ourselves salvation.

The phrase “IN HIM” is repeated 5 times in the first chapter. The repetitive nature of the phrase should enlighten us to the fact that it is ONLY BECAUSE OF JESUS that we have the standing before God that we do. The Holy Spirit being Promised and the “active agent” in us enables us to know that we are sealed in Christ.

Paul after detailing all that Christ has done for us, he then begins to speak to our condition without Jesus. Being born dead in sin and living a life of sins, we were people with out hope. But is was God’s “good pleasure” and “kind intention” to us, that we have eternal life. If there was any doubt about the riches of God, they are dispelled by reading the first two chapters of this book. Our almost creed position of “saved by Grace” illustrates that there is nothing that we have done to earn salvation and restored relationship with the Godhead. [Eph. 2:8-10] Even the very idea of salvation as a gift and freely coming from the Father is God’s idea not ours. Now take into consideration the highly religious people who have only known the idolatrous worship practices of days gone by; and how this thought of God being personal and desiring fellowship with His creation. Quite a shock to their thought. The word “formerly” is used to draw the contrast from what was, to what is now true. Formerly walking in the flesh and sensuality of pagan worship, we are now redeemed by God to do good works through Jesus Christ. Once we [Gentiles] were excluded, but now we are included into the Salvation Plan of God.

Paul is careful to make sure that both Jews who have the Law and those without the Law have the same salvation and savior. This does counter the Jews who were trying to create a Jews salvation only – requiring all non-Jews to become like them. Paul calls this revelation “the mystery of Christ] that Gentiles are fellow heirs and partakers of the same salvation. Today this is debated from a different position – not salvation, but another salvation through other means, whether that is works or false teaching. Acts 4:12 – no other Name, but the Name of Jesus. John 14:6 – the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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What’s a country to do?

Tomorrow is National Prayer Day here in America.

I have been inundated by social media, newspapers, newscast and Christian web sites that solidify a “doom and gloom” future for America and the world. There are more books being written about how these are the “last Days.” If these are the Last Days, why are we [the Church] not more concerned about the Lost instead of our own comfort and convenience? The theme passage tomorrow is 1 Kings 8:28 – it is the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple he built. A parallel passage which is more familiar is 2 Chronicles 6&7 [2 Chron. 7:14]. King Solomon focused  not “if” but “when” the people of Israel drifted and departed from worshiping the true God to worship of cults and idols.  He was the wisest man, he knew that the people were fickle and would drift away from God. So he outlined several situations where he knew the people would be found unfaithful, and asked God to “hear their cry” and deliver them from their own generated dilemma.

As we look at United States, much of the news is about how bad conditions are here. There has been a lot of publicity about Prayer and prayer groups. I know in my own denomination there is the rally cry for people to pray about another “Great Awakening.”

Just as God told Israel if they would obey His commands and statutes, they would be blessed and their enemies would receive the wrath of God. However, if Israel wouldn’t obey the LORD, then the wrath intended for the pagans would become Israel’s fate, and the unbelieving nations would receive the blessings.

There is a danger with disobedience and departure from God. I believe that a person, church, community and nation can become so far removed by disobedience, that the Glory of God will depart and eventually God will not hear the cry of His people. In Jeremiah there are a number of passages that tell Jeremiah not to pray for the people for God will not hear their cry. [Jer. 16:5; 14:11; 11:14]

My greatest concern with conditions of America and the world is have we come to the stage of global apostasy and anarchy that God no longer listens, and His wrath is soon to be poured out. Ezekiel 22:30-31, tell us that Judah got to the point where there was no one who had the heart of God, no one was praying and seeking the LORD.

Now that I have painted such a gloom and doom picture; I must still hold out for hope. Passages such as 2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 Kings 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:10-14; give us hope. We must pray, but we must become desperate for the heart of God. Like the nation of Israel in Egypt crying out for deliverance and the Negro spirituals sang by the slaves for freedom; we must desperately seek out and call upon the LORD. We have to come to the end of ourselves and Hope the our prayers are not too late where God has turned a deaf ear!

The Church, the Bride of Christ must quit her adulterous ways – Jesus is faithful always. Faithful to bless, but equally faithful to discipline. Will America turn, will you and I turn from our wicked ways?

 

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