Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Burdens, Three Shepherds...

Two burdens and three shepherds sounds like the start of a really bad joke. But it is an apt description of Zechariah 9-14.  Sunday we will begin working our way through what has been deemed by many as the most complex six chapters in the entire Bible. It is also six chapters which contain the greatest concentration of messianic truth found anywhere in the Bible.  In these pages we see the Prophet Zechariah reveal two burdens. Zechariah unveils the Messiah to his listeners and to us as the humble King, the loving Shepherd, the mighty Warrior, the gracious Savior, and the righteous Ruler who will reign on earth as King and Priest.

It will be quite the journey and may at times seem overwhelming but I promise you it is worth it to simply begin the process of sifting through these crucial verses.

The first of the burdens we will explore begins with a promise of judgment against Israel's enemies and ends with Israel's hope for the future. A hope rooted in the coming Messiah. A Messiah who will bring about judgment but also restoration.

Finally, we see three shepherds illustrated in Zech 11, wailing shepherds (or the rulers of the nation who have led the people astray and are now paying for their sins), the true shepherd who was rejected, and the false shepherd.

Make sure take the time this weekend to read Zechariah 9-11 so it won't be so new come Sunday!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fast or Feast

One of the most common roadblocks facing a church is tradition. Now don’t get me wrong tradition is a useful and necessary part of society. It helps tie generations together and keeps us moving forward in a united way or at least it should. Every one of us has various traditions to which we hold to. They may involve the way we eat, the way we dress, our family hierarchy, how we treat our families. Tradition helps to stabilize things for us, guiding us in the choices that we need to make. Unfortunately, too often tradition gets in the way, it creates problems especially when times have changed, and people are unwilling to adapt.

Zechariah faced this same obstacle in the rebuilding process of the temple. Two years into the work project, the people are in an uproar over whether to fast or not to fast.  You see the Law of Moses only required one national fast, that was on the annual “Day of Atonement” (Lev. 23:16-32). Individually they were free to fast as often as necessary, but the requirement wasn’t there on the national level.

In Zechariah 7-9, however, the people were up in arms because to commemorate the events surrounding the destruction of the temple there had been four new fasts added to the religious calendar. One in the tenth month, when the Babylonians had begun their siege, one in the fourth month, when the walls were broken through, one in the fifth month when the temple was burned, and one in the seventh month when the Jewish governor Gedaliah was assassinated.

The question was now that the temple was being rebuilt, “was it necessary to continue the fast in the fifth month?”

I love Zechariah’s response to their inquiry. He didn’t tell them yes or no, he answered a question with a question. Smart man! He was trying to get them to draw their own conclusions. He asked them “when you fasted, did you do it for the Lord or for yourselves? And when you feasted, as it for the Lord or for yourselves? What was in your heart?”

Zechariah wasn’t condemning their traditions, rather he was imploring them to search their hearts for the reason behind the action. The prophets had long taught (dating all the way back to Samuel in 1 Sam 15:22) that the Lord wanted their obedience, not their sacrifice.

Zechariah wanted them to understand that a true spiritual walk is not simply switched on or off at our convenience.  Zechariah is trying to get the people to understand that if they fast let it be for God if they feast let it be for God. Ultimately, we see in Zechariah 8:19 all four fasts one day will be turned into feasts.

So, how does this impact us? How does this lesson affect us in the church today?

Well, the danger of tradition is that it can easily turn into traditionalism. Traditionalism is going through the outward motions instead of honoring the Lord with our hearts. Far too often in Christianity today we allow traditionalism to take hold, we do things one way because we have always done them that way, we sing songs because those are the songs we grew up with and our parents or grandparents sang them.  

We outwardly take part in a religious event but fail to have an inner spiritual experience.
We attend church, sing the songs (or don’t), might even drop whatever change that is in our pocket in the offering plate, but we aren’t doing it because we love the Lord we are doing it because it is what is expected of us as a good Christian. Notice I say we here a lot? That’s because I must examine my motivations just as you do each and every day!

I love the way Warren Wiersbe phrased it that “it's easier to have a religion of habit than a religion of the heart.”[1]  

We need to ask ourselves that important question of “why.” We collectively, be it in the larger church body, our family, or our own heart, need to examine the heart of why we do what we do. As you are inwardly questioning your heart and asking yourself why you believe what you believe and do what you do, I beg of you don’t try and lie to yourself. Be brutally honest. Because God will be brutally honest with you in the end when you face him in judgment.

Are there any cherished traditions in your life that need to be turned from a fast to a feast?

See ya Sunday!





[1] Warren Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Heroic (Haggai, Zechariah), (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 463.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Four Down... Four To Go...

Just a short blurb today.... This week we will resume our study of Zechariah. When we left the young prophet last, he had received four visions and their meanings. Each designed to motivate the people in the completion of the temple. We also saw that as God revealed these visions, Zechariah, he also revealed greater things to come pertaining to the Messiah.

The next three chapters reveal four more visions, a gold lampstand with two olive trees, a flying scroll, a woman in a basket, and four chariots. These visions are capped with a command to Zechariah to crown Joshua, the High Priest.

While this symbolic crowning was intended to bolster and encourage Joshua and those captives who had returned to build the temple, there is a clear correlation to the coming Messiah.  While to the children of Israel this was something they were still looking forward to, we have the great fortune to be able to look back and be reminded of our Lord's role as both king and priest. Thus we need to ask ourselves, are we submitting to the Kingship of Christ? Are we making proper use of His intercession as our High Priest?

Your response to His gospel is telling in answering those questions!

Take a few minutes and read Zechariah 4-6 today as you prepare for worship this week!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Spiritual Duct tape?

What a great week! I know I am exhausted but it was totally worth it! For those that might not know we had Vacation Bible School this week and while they were not all here every day we had 41 children registered! That isn't counting the ten teens that were here as helpers throughout the week!!! And we aren't done yet as the kids will be singing and sharing on Sunday so plan to be here to hear and be blessed.

All week the kids were challenged to memorize Colossians 1:15-16

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven, and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

This week as I was preparing to preach I just kept being drawn back to these verses, so this week we will deviate from our regular routine and spend the morning looking at Paul's explanation of the Gospel in Colossians 1. So much you could glean from these verses that we will come back and spend a few months walking through the book after we finish the Minor Prophets series.

One thing that really struck me as I was reading actually came in verse 17: He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together. The longstanding joke is that Duct tape fixes everything right? But here we are told that it is Christ who holds it all together - not some super spiritual duct tape...

As I meditated on this verse I was struck by the complexity of it - I mean stop and think about it. There is nothing in this universe that is held together apart from Him. Let's think on that for a moment. This rock we call Earth is roughly 196.9 million square miles weighing in at an estimated  13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds hurling through space in a nearly circular orbit at 67,000 miles an hour around a huge flaming ball of gas and plasma. Yet we are at the perfect distance from the sun to support life. A little wobble here or there and we burn up or freeze and life is gone. "By Him all things hold together."  

Or let's make this a bit more personal. Consider the human body. If the blood vessels in one adult human body were stretched out, they would cover approximately 60,000 miles – enough to circle the earth’s diameter two and a half times! Or take for instance our synapses, the connections between neurons, which snap together like thinky Legos to create the immense network that is the human mind. The total number of these synapses is a mind-boggling 100 trillion. A number that's 1,000 times greater than the total amount of stars found within our Milky Way galaxy. "By Him all things hold together."

Today let's just sit back and ponder that, can we? We serve a great God whom, "by Him all things hold together"  We might try to use duct tape but duct tape for all its greatness it can't mend the rift between us and God. For that God used the cross upon which His Son redeemed us.

See you guys Sunday!

Friday, June 23, 2017

He is Zealous for Zion!

These next couple of weeks we will be spending time in the Book of Zechariah. This book is a challenge and only in part because the "Z" on my keyboard is broken. Zechariah is the longest of the Minor Prophets and with that also comes the notoriety of being one of the most obscure and difficult books in the Old Testament to understand. Zechariah was preaching at the same time as Haggai with the purpose of encouraging the people to rebuild the temple.

Zechariah however, has a completely different feel to it from Haggai. It is Apocalyptic in nature; filled with symbolic visions much like Ezekiel and Daniel. These visions also lend the book to be very messianic in nature similar to Isaiah. This complexity leads to us spending more time here than we have on the other Minor Prophets. We must approach Zechariah with humility and ask God to help us to understand the contextual meaning of the book, or what it meant for those who were hearing of these visions first hand. There is also a message for us in those very same lines which is why we search its pages today.

The basic message and theme of the book are clear enough: "I am extremely zealous for Jerusalem and Zion" (Zech. 1:14).

When you place Zechariah and Haggai side by side you find that Zech's visions came in between Haggai's second and third prophecies or while the temple was being rebuilt. Haggai had led the people through a period of repentance prior to the start of the work (Haggai 1:12-15). So as Zechariah shares his visions with the people we are reminded that repentance is not just a one-time act.

Following this first message, three months later Zechariah has a series of eight visions in one night. The first four of which we will cover this Sunday and the next four next week. First, we see the rider and the horses, Zechariah sees a man riding on a red horse among Myrtle trees in a hollow, followed by red, sorrel, and white horses (Zech 1:7-9). The horses are further explained as sent by the Lord to patrol the earth to report back to the Lord. Their report to the Angel of the Lord is that“we have patrolled the earth, and right now the whole earth is calm and quiet.” Then "Angel of the Lord," asks how long will God not show mercy on Jerusalem and Judah (Zech 1:12). The Lord's response is comforting words Zechariah is told to proclaim: (Zech 1:13-17)

"The Lord replied with kind and comforting words to the angel who was speaking with me.

14 So the angel who was speaking with me said, “Proclaim: The Lord of Hosts says: I am extremely jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. 15 I am fiercely angry with the nations that are at ease, for I was a little angry, but they made it worse. 16 Therefore, this is what the Lord says: In mercy, I have returned to Jerusalem; My house will be rebuilt within it”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts—“and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.

17 “Proclaim further: This is what the Lord of Hosts says: My cities will again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will once more comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.”


Praise the Lord for His zeal for His people! He is just as zealous for you and I as He is in these verses for Jerusalem and for Zion!

As the explanation continues, however, we see that, while may seem the nations are "at ease" their judgment is forthcoming and God will show mercy to Jerusalem. This vision and the next both confirm the promise made to Zerubbabel by Haggai in Haggai 2:20-22.

"20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah: I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and destroy the power of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overturn chariots and their riders. Horses and their riders will fall, each by his brother’s sword."

The other three visions, the four horns and four craftsmen, the man with the measuring line, and Joshua the High Priest each follow suit, with the goal to stir up the people to complete the temple, and exhorting them to repentance.

As we approach these visions (and the next four) it would be easy for us to simply skim them and point to Christ as the final fulfillment but as with all scripture, we must be cautious in seeking to understand these visions. Unless we have an inspired interpretation provided in the New Testament we should use caution and humility when interpreting them outside their original context!

Hope this helps to lay a foundation for you for this next miniseries through the book of Zechariah!

See ya Sunday!




Friday, June 16, 2017

Priorities

The prophet Haggai's book might be the second shortest in the Old Testament but that doesn't mean it is short on wisdom for us today. As the book opens in the opening verses we find a message that digs right to our own hearts. Take a look - Haggai 1:2-9

“The Lord of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” The word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet: “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” Now, the Lord of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways:

You have planted much but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough to be satisfied.
You drink but never have enough to become drunk.
You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm.
The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”

The Lord of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why?” This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. “Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.

The people had been back in Jerusalem for 18 years and their homes were finished and luxurious but the temple was in shambles. "The time has not come" is the excuse they have been using for all these years while they worked and worked securing their own all while neglecting the Lord's.

The Lord explains through Haggai that all the work they were doing for their own benefit was for naught. When we toil and labor for ourselves and neglect the Lord we expect much from our toils but actually see very little fruit. Why? Because we've neglected the Lord. 

We need to put the Lord first in all we do -- when we do so the result? Well simply put - Haggai 1:13 says, Haggai the Lord’s messenger, delivered the Lord’s message to the people, “I am with you”—this is the Lord’s declaration.

When we put him first he is with us and we find our satisfaction in him and him alone... 

see ya Sunday!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Not Just Roses and Unicorns

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of Habakkuk. Not just because the prophet has a cool sounding name either. But because of the manner in which he views the world. In Christianity today there is a prevailing line of thought that emphasizes the idea that when you trust in Christ all your problems vanish.

This is a myth that needs to be silenced once and for all.

Yes, it is true that when you surrender to Christ your most basic spiritual problem, your relationship with God is solved. But with that solution emerges an entirely new set of problems that you didn't face when you were an unbeliever.  Struggles like: "Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper?" or "Why isn't God answering my prayer?" or "When I'm doing my best for the Lord, why do I experience the worst from others?"

Friends, those who claim to be without problems are either not telling the truth or they are not growing and experiencing real life. Living in a dream world blocking out all reality.

That wasn't Habakkuk. Habakkuk surveyed the land of Judah, and the international scene, he found himself struggling with some serious problems. Thankfully, Habakkuk did the right thing he took his problems to the Lord.

We should follow Habakkuk's example and turn to God when the world seems to fall apart around us.

Hope to see you on Sunday!