Friday, September 01, 2017

The End is Just the Beginning

This week as we wrap up our study of the Minor Prophets, we spend our time studying the last two chapters of Malachi and by canonical placement the last two chapters of the Old Testament. I find it interesting that the last word of the Old Testament is "curse". That word is the word ḥ─ôrem in Hebrew and means appointed to utter destruction. Think about that. If the Bible ended there. If the story was over with that verse would there have been any hope? 

Doesn't appear like it, thankfully the Bible doesn't end there and the story continues the final chapters reveal what we knew to be true from the very beginning, God wins. But more than that the way he ends is spectacular. 

The New Testament was written largely in Greek vs the Hebrew of the Old Testament but we see in 

Revelation 22:3 a promise that every good Jew would have picked up on right away. It says "and there will no longer be any curse". What hope! What joy we should find in this! Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross the curse we had been under since Adam, this appointment to utter destruction has been voided for those washed by the blood of the Lamb of God. 

What a glorious promise! One day every tear will be wiped away, there will be no more pain, there will be no more death or destruction. We will bask in the glory of the King of Kings and LORD of Lords praising him glorifying his name for all eternity. What a glorious promise! 

See ya Sunday! 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sins of the People

There is an old story that has made its rounds in the pulpit. Goes' something like this: "A church member scolded her pastor for preaching a series of sermons on "The Sins of the Saints."
"After all," she argued, "the sins of Christians are different from the sins of other people."
"Yes," agreed her pastor, "they're worse."

This is the heart behind the next two weeks. Malachi is faced with the formidable task of confronting the people and the priests of their sins. Because the sins of God's children are indeed worse. When believers sin, they not only break the Law of God, but they break the heart of God. It would be so easy for us to simply attribute this book to be simply ancient history and not let it affect us in any way but the harsh reality is that these sins not only exist in the church today but they have become prevalent! Let's commit ourselves to the Lord and affirm our love for him today!

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Friday, August 18, 2017

End of the Road (Zech 14)

As we come to the end of the road in our study of Zechariah, we find ourselves pursuing the same subject as in the previous chapters. The day of the Lord, the day the cup of staggering is poured out. Now, there are those who endeavor to make chapter 14 simply a footnote or the attempt to ignore it all together. The great theologian Martin Luther supposedly offered the brief words about chapter 14 “Here, in this chapter, I give up. For I am not sure what the prophet is talking about.” While I find it comforting that others have labored through it as well, we still must honor God’s word and address the contents. So, I implore you, read through this chapter before coming to worship or watching the service online this week! 

To give you a taste of the questions we will tackle look at verses 1-2:
A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence. I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city.” (Zech. 14:1-2 HCSB)

Here is the question: why does God wait until after all this horror to come and rescue?
I mean, He does show up, the very next verse tells us He does fight, and He does win.
But why does He wait until after the plundering, the destroying, the raping, the enslaving, and the spoiling? Why do His people have to suffer first? For that matter why do we? Afterall if Jesus defeated death on the cross why do believers today have to endure these hardships?

The question goes deeper when you look closer at verse two notice what it says, “I will gather…” So, this isn’t even an issue with God’s timing. The verse says God is gathering or bringing these nations against His people.

If God is really in control why all the suffering and pain? Now, this is obviously a huge question, for which I don’t have all the answers but when we look to God’s word for the answer the long and short of it is our perspective which is the problem. Our point of view is that no pain is best; God’s is that suffering is temporary and the result at the end is better than the start. Thus it is worth it. 

Alas, there is a lot more to be said on this and I hope you show up or tune in on Sunday as we deal with this and some other critical questions in our lives today!

Friday, August 11, 2017

On That Day...

Resuming our study of Zechariah this week. The final three chapters take us to end times. We see the description of Gentile nations attacking Jerusalem, the Jewish people experiencing severe trials, and the Lord returning in power and great glory to deliver His people. We see the phrase "in that day" used 16 times in these final chapters. "That day" is "the Day of the Lord," which we see described in Joel 3 and Zephaniah 1, a day in which God's wrath and judgment would be poured out upon the earth.

In Zechariah 12-13 we are reminded of the meta-story of God. A story that begins with God, who created. Humanity, who rebelled. Jesus, who came. And us, who respond with repentance.

We then live lives of hope – hope that “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor 4:17); hope that God’s “love for (his people) is passionate and strong; (He is) consumed with passion for (them)!” (Zech 1:14, 8:2); and hope that determines that we will live for Him, not for ourselves.

What do you hope in?

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Real Shepherd

On occasion in the Old Testament, the Lord calls His prophets to “act out” the message. Ezekiel was told to lie on his side for 390 days and make a dirt map and dirt walls and put an iron skillet in the middle (Ezekiel 4). Isaiah walked around naked and barefoot for 3 years (Isaiah 20). Hosea was told to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1). And here, in Zechariah 11, our prophet is no different he is instructed to act out the role of a good shepherd and then a few verses latter to take on the role of a bad shepherd. 

Ultimately, we see the picture of Christ in these verses. Jesus tells us in John 10:11 "I AM the good shepherd..." Zechariah 11 would have been and still is an essential text for the early church’s understanding of Christ’s ministry. Christ was God’s intended shepherd, who set out to care for the flock, protecting them from poor shepherds and abusive owners. For thirty pieces of silver, he was removed from his leadership, rejected by the flock (Jews), shepherds (priests), and owners (Romans).  Yet, God used this rejection to bring salvation for his flock… Thank God for that! 

Take some time this weekend and read Zechariah 11:1-17 in preparation for Sunday! 

Open your doors, O Lebanon,
    that the fire may devour your cedars!
Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen,
    for the glorious trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan,
    for the thick forest has been felled!
The sound of the wail of the shepherds,
    for their glory is ruined!
The sound of the roar of the lions,
    for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.”

So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

“Woe to my worthless shepherd,
    who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm
    and his right eye!
Let his arm be wholly withered,
    his right eye utterly blinded!”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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.