Decluttering Our Hearts and Spaces

Yesterday, I said good-bye to four large boxes of Santa Claus figurines, which I’d collected over 30 years. God nudged me about them last Christmas as I struggled again with where and how to display all of them. I used to find joy in placing them around our home. The past three years I noticed a distinct lack of joy and a mechanical approach to putting them out.

All summer I struggled with those Santa’s. Their twinkling little eyes stared back at me every time I turned the light on in the storeroom and I wavered a bit, but I knew my season with them was over. Please don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with hunting for and collecting special items then displaying them. I simply had too much of a good thing.

I appreciate all that Marie Kondo and others did to awaken people about decluttering their lives, in this last decade or so, but God has been dealing with me about this for many years. This isn’t the first collection I’ve given away.

In different ways, God keeps teaching me the same lesson about living uncluttered, peacefully. I am to manage well the homes, yards, cars and possessions he allows me to own but they should never hinder me from achieving God’s purposes for me because they use up too much of my resources. My current season of life doesn’t allow for dozens of hours for Christmas decorating without robbing time from other things with higher eternal priority.

Every day, in small ways, we must make the choices for the best over the good. Honestly, I felt joy about all my Santa’s one last time, when I dropped them off at the mission thrift store. The delighted looks on the faces of the volunteers, used to sorting through a lot of donated junk, made me grin.

Too much of anything of this world, no matter how good or valuable, can sidetrack us away from higher callings and obeying God. Modern civilization didn’t invent this problem. Fallen human nature did. Even in ancient times, God’s people messed up their priorities and valued temporal things more than the eternal. This is what happened to the people of Judah, to whom the prophet Haggai prophesied.

Haggai holds the unique distinction, among all the minor prophets, of being the only one Israelites listened to enough to change their ways. The prophet wrote the book shortly after the people of Judah returned home from their humbling, sixty some years in Babylonian captivity. God commanded them, before they even arrived home, to rebuild his temple. The people obeyed for awhile but then became caught up in their own pursuits and abandoned the project, according to Ezra 4:24. Sixteen years passed, and Haggai delivered this message from God.

 “Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!” Haggai 1:3-6

Can you make out the picture of these people? In a short time, they restored themselves to beautiful homes and surroundings but apparently did not enjoy their lives. Why? I believe the Lord became angry with their stewardship and disrespect for his priorities and so removed his blessing from their crops and incomes. The people of Judah loved their homes and stuff too much and ignored God’s direction to rebuild his temple first.

God’s agenda hasn’t changed. The temple in Judah was to function in the center of a society that God created to be a light to the rest of the ancient world. In the same way, he will always prioritize our primary 21st century mission, to bring souls to the saving knowledge of Jesus and teach them to be disciples, over anything else. We are designed to be world changers. Can we use beautiful church facilities, lovely homes, cottages and even Christmas decorations to accomplish that mission? Yes! Of course! We are to be ambassadors of God, in every way, in this darkened world, and that includes representing his love of beauty in all things.

Beauty is diminished though, in the presence of clutter, whether it’s in the physical realm or in our hearts and minds. Whether it’s too many Santa’s or too many activities, I’ve learned that de-cluttering my life is an ongoing process for me. I used to live amidst too much stuff, with a too-full schedule, trying to maintain too many hobbies and relationships. My ability to hear from God, obey him and to live peacefully, yet powerfully, became elusive. Here’s some suggestions I followed that helped me to change:

My “Why”

Read the following scripture then ask God where he wants you to start. Without a biblical, Christ-centered “Why,” decluttering anything is just a nasty chore, not a life change.  1 Corinthians 14: 33 and 40, Ecclesiastes 3:6, Matthew 6:19, Mark 4:19, Matthew 19:22, Matthew 6:21, 1 John 2:15, Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 5:9, Philippians 1:21, Colossians 1:10

My “Where”

  • Start with whatever God impresses on your heart. Whether it’s home, job, relationships or schedule, begin with only one area. Don’t try to change everything at once. You’ll simply create more stress.
  • . If you have a spouse and/or child, you need to share your thoughts before you start canceling dinner dates and giving away Santa’s. Share the above scriptures with them and talk about your desire to live a more balanced, available-to-God existence.

My “How”

There are so many wonderful books and podcasts available to help you declutter everything from your mind to your kitchen cabinets. Look on my Facebook page,” The Pastor’s Feisty Wife,” for some helpful book recommendations. There is no need for you to feel overwhelmed by the how, if you take things step by step, day by day. It takes time for us to set unhealthy life patterns and time to undo them. This post is merely a kick start to get you moving in a right direction.

Whoever is following behind you, whether it’s a church, a family, a group of friends or co-workers, you are intentionally or unintentionally teaching by example. What is your life communicating about priorities, peaceful living and God’s kingdom values? If people imitate your everyday life, what will that look like?  I know I need more of Jesus radiating in my choices, speech and behavior, and a lot less of me. His supremely focused, obedient and sacrificial life inspires me to allow him to change me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Connection Between Holiness and Happiness

“What makes a people holy, will make them happy.” When I encountered this statement in Mathew Henry’s commentary on Zephaniah 3: 14-20, my first response was, “Huh.” I’d never heard that equation before, that a state of holiness and a state of happiness are shared ground. Past seasons of unhappiness paraded through my mind like:

  • The years when I longed for a teaching job but could not find one
  • Some long-term conflict situations in churches where my husband and I served
  • Sitting home with pneumonia several winters in a row

Henry’s statement caused me to view those times with fresh eyes. I wondered how I stepped away from holy ground and its privileges, which Henry says include happiness. Digging deeper into the chapter, I found clues in verses 1-6 where the prophet compares the sinful behavior of God’s people in Jerusalem and the righteous actions of God. Look at the contrast between verse 2 and verse 6.

(Speaking of Jerusalem) “She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God” Zeph. 3:2 NIV

“The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice and every new day he does not fail…” Zeph. 3:6 NIV

Verse two rang with conviction as I considered my behavior during those unhappy seasons. I used the failing of the Israelites as a personal checklist.

  • Obedience

Truthfully, I didn’t comply with God’s commands about several things. For example, I didn’t fix my mind on all the lovely and true things God graced into my life (Philippians 4:8-9).  Instead, I focused on troubles and disappointments. Rather than counting trials as joy and character builders (James 1:2), I fumed, fussed and moped, not all the time, but too much.

  • Accepting Correction

When the Holy Spirit or a family member pointed out an ungodly attitude about my situation, I often justified it instead of repenting.

  • Trusting God

I knew many verses, like Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 84:11, plainly told me that God’s hand is generous toward me and that he will never keep good things from his children.  I questioned the truth of those promises being specifically for me. I felt jealousy when God granted the things I desired, to others, but not me. I wanted answers but God wanted my unwavering trust.

  • Drawing Near to God

Typically, I spent more time talking to people about my troubles and sorrows then communing with God, listening carefully for his voice and insights.  Times of pain are the times when we should pull our chairs in closer to God than ever. Sometimes I did that, but not consistently.

My conclusion?  I was the architect of my own unhappiness, not my circumstances, health or other people. Me. God made tables for me in the wilderness (Psalm 78:19) but I didn’t dine with him nearly enough.

Dear one, if you find yourself in a place of great unhappiness right now, use Zephaniah’s yardstick as a measure of your own attitudes and responses to life. God wants your feet planted firmly on holy ground, in His presence, where there is fullness of joy. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I breaking one of God’s commands by action or inaction?
  2. Am I receptive to suggestions or criticisms about my behavior and attitudes?
  3. Am I trusting God completely, regardless of the loneliness of the desert of disappointments, or the choppiness of the sea of troubles?
  4. Am I deliberately drawing nearer to him, spending more time in prayer in the Word?

What makes you holy, will make you happy. Can you see it? Ask God to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit in you. (Psalm 51) Jesus promised us troubles in this world but in the same breath assured us that he overcame them. I don’t think he equated overcoming with instantaneous problem resolution. Instead, I think he meant that our spirits can soar above whatever circumstances attempt to drag us off the high, narrow road down into the pits.

That’s why I love Psalm 103 and often say it out loud when I sense I’m being tempted into an unhappy state. I encourage you to use this one or another similar verse attesting to God’s goodness. Use your mighty sword of the Spirit, as soon as you find yourself slipping off the holy ground.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

 

 

Trying To Love God With A Divided Heart

Growing up Baptist in the 1960’s and 70’s meant no movies, dancing, playing cards, smoking or drinking. Externally, I obeyed these rules, but internally, I chomped at the bit, certain I missed out on great times. On my own in college, I followed friends to bars and nightclubs and learned to enjoy different forms of alcohol.  I never took up smoking (it tasted horrible!) and I never once became intoxicated. I formed a new set of morals that seemed to be very high road compared to the low road on which many of my college friends lived.

Sundays, I attended a church near the college, logging extra spiritual points for getting up early and going, even when I stayed out late the night before. Although I didn’t consciously think this at the time, I believe that I thought I lived the best of both worlds. I enjoyed all the security of knowing my heart belonged to Christ while still kicking up my heels with some of the world’s pleasures.

What fruit did I produce during that season of life? I earned a bachelor’s degree. That’s it. Unlike high school, I led no one to Christ, nor did I disciple anyone.  I dare say, many college folks who intersected with me didn’t know I was a God-follower.  How would they?  I was home from church on Sundays before most of them rolled out of bed and never once invited a soul to attend with me.

The illusion that we can live with one foot in the presence of God and the other dancing with the world, is just that, an illusion. The prophet Zephaniah dealt with people in Judah, much farther down the road with this divided kind of lifestyle than myself, yet who knows how far I might have gone had the Holy Spirit not grabbed onto me like a tenacious Rottweiler?  They still worshiped in the Jewish temple while offering their children in the fires of Moloch and Baal.  I doubt that’s where they started, but it’s certainly where they ended up.

Maybe it began with a house god on the kitchen window by the herbs. Or perhaps their entrance to evil living started as a spectator at one of the many pagan festivals the godless nations around Judah hosted. Small sins grew to large ones over time until they became as perverse as their pagan neighbors.

I’m not endorsing legalism. That’s a different sin in which we adhere to rules more stridently than we passionately seek God. There is, however, a call on the life of all who profess Jesus as Savior and Lord, to love God best, before anyone or anything. Then, our obedience to him flows out of love and gratitude, not obligation. Honestly, it’s not as complicated as we make it. I spend time with God in scripture and prayer then listen. After that, I do what he says and stop doing what he dislikes. Ancient Judah forgot how to do that.

Zephaniah is the last prophet, in a series of nine, that warns God’s people of impending doom if they do not repent.

“I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,  those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom (the king of Judah) those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him”
Zephaniah 1:3-5.

Like me, I think those folks thought they could ride the fence between God and the world, but that’s an untenable life. Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Zephaniah 1 says, “If Satan have half, he will have all; if the Lord have but half, he will have none. Neglect of God shows impiety and contempt.”

Obedience to God is an all or nothing thing and will look different for you than it does for me.  This is the problem with rule-oriented living. One set of rules does not fit all. For example, playing card games with face cards doesn’t lead me into sin. For my grandfather, a reformed gambler, those cards had completely different meaning.  This is why the Pharisees had like a bajillion rules, covering all bases for all people all the time. That’s some crazy living.

On occasion, I dip my toes in sin’s pool with poor media choices, but I found that I recognize quickly now when I’m grieving God and step out. There’s a sensitivity to the Spirit of God I want to develop even more deeply where I won’t stick my toes in at all.

Zephaniah’s first chapter is not just a prophecy against wicked Judah, it is a call to assess our walks of holiness, as 21st century believers. The pagan culture around Judah perceived THE God of heaven and earth as just another god because of the behavior of his people. What are the godless in our society understanding about our God by watching you and me? What are the people following behind us in the body of Christ learning about being a God-follower  by observing me and you?

 

 

Trusting Our Righteous Judge

Receiving a summons to appear in court, is a knee-quaking moment. The sheriff at my door seemed jaded and looked at me as if he believed me to be guilty of the crime represented in the envelope. I felt like a criminal.

Years ago, we unknowingly hired an unscrupulous lawyer to take care of some legal business for us. He handled the business satisfactorily, but his disorganization concerning billing and contracts led him to believe that we signed a contract for him to do further work for us. When he tried to bill us for work, we didn’t agree to, and he hadn’t done, we called repeatedly and explained to his part-time secretary that he was mistaken, and no such contract existed.

The foolish man insisted on suing us, and we appeared in court. As defendants. Suspected criminals.  Our assigned judge asked if we minded him handling a couple bail cases before he proceeded with ours. Like we would say no? This provided more time to try to stop our hands from shaking.

Beefy sheriff’s deputies escorted two ridiculously large prisoners into the courtroom, both in hand and leg shackles, and seated them five feet away from us. All the movies and stories I knew about jailbreaks, prison shanks and such ran through my mind. I silently prayed while trying to appear unfazed by this terrifying development. We didn’t find this turn of events calming.

At that time, we felt no peace to spend more money on lawyers and Ken represented us himself before the judge. The smug look across the aisle, on the face of the lawyer representing our dishonest lawyer, made us question that decision. Truth isn’t always enough to prove innocence.

Quickly, it became clear how disorganized and mistaken our lawyer proved to be.  No documents could be produced proving his case and we possessed many that proved ours. The judge scolded the representing lawyer and we enjoyed a David beats Goliath moment, as the judge ordered us to pay only our agreed-upon fee.

I recalled those feelings of terror in the courtroom, when I read through the book of Micah.  A prophet to both Judah and Israel, Micah carried the message of God’s anger and impending judgement to sinful Jews.  Chapter two reminded me of our plight as defendants along with all the stories I’ve encountered about people who’ve lost homes, businesses and savings through fraud.

Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them.  They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance” (Micah 2:1-2)

Our dishonest lawyer caused us weeks of stress and many hours of time as Ken organized our case. God observed similar scenes in Judah and Israel, and his rage boiled. Wicked Hebrews stole houses, lands and fortunes from their own people, apparently with forethought and glee.

Just as in ancient Israel, fraudulent behavior is not limited to the world but sometimes crops up amongst believers also. Churches and relationships are fractured as a result. This type of behavior is contemptible to God. He expects better of his children.  To the evildoers of Judah and Israel he said,

I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves” (Micah 2:3).

God’s nature and character are unchanging.  What angered him three thousand years ago still lights him up today. Delayed judgement sometimes leads people to think it will never come. God’s laws of sowing and reaping will always apply however, and as Hosea said, “They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).

If you are a victim of fraud, cheating, being lied to, etc., God sees it all.  He’s recorded every penny, relationship, possession and job taken from you. You may be living in reduced circumstances due to the sin of others.  Although our case with the disorganized lawyer ended well, at another time, a large corporation our business affiliated with, cheated us and other agents, out of significant sums of money through illegal business practices. The loss of revenue forced us to reduce our staff and move to smaller offices.  Years later, when a case came before a judge, on behalf of agents, he ruled for the corporation, unjustly.

Remember, your heavenly Father, who sees the fall of every sparrow, cares deeply. Confronted with the choice between forgiveness and bitterness, with God’s grace, Ken and I chose the process of forgiveness. Please note I said process. As a result, we maintained our peace and intimacy with God and made room for him to work restoration in our lives.  You can choose the same.  Pray for those who wronged you. They are walking in unawareness of impending judgement, which never turns out well.  Read any of the minor prophets for confirmation of that.

When my heart is right and clean before God, it’s easy to hear his voice. He shares wisdom and insight with me concerning instances where I’ve been wronged.  Sometimes he tells me to let it go and assures me that he will deal with those individuals. The other agents, in the situation above, paid big dollars to take their case to court. God did not give Ken and I a green light on that because he knew the outcome and didn’t want us to waste our money. Bitterness might have led us into a case God didn’t want us involved in.

Other times, God directs me to confront people and hold them accountable for wrongdoing, like the unscrupulous lawyer. We could have paid his dishonest fee, and he would have dropped the court case. In that instance God told us to stand and fight.

I’ve discovered there are no simple formulas for responding to those who sin against me. Only intimacy with God empowers me to forgive and go forward in knowledge and discernment concerning those who wrong me.  I encourage you to start every day with God speaking to you through His word and prayer. I trust my Righteous Judge to empower me to deal with every complex, unfair circumstance that intersects with my life, and you can too.

Lamp and Sword

****Further resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

If you are currently dealing with or trying to recover from circumstances in which you were wronged, I encourage you to read the following Bible accounts. Understanding how God directed these folks to behave towards their enemies helps me understand His ways and methods in these types of situations.

  • David, God’s chosen king for Israel, runs from King Saul’s murderous rage for many years. Check out his attitude in these portions of his story found in I Samuel, chapters 24 and 26.
  • Joseph’s journey to ruler of Egypt involved treachery and deceit from those closest around him. Read Genesis 37 and then 39-41 and observe Joseph’s demeanor and behavior.
  • Caleb and Joshua were ready to take the promised land as soon as they spied on it. Instead they were defrauded of living there for forty long years because the other ten, cowardly spies spread evil reports amongst the Israelites. Read Joshua 14:6 to the end concerning Caleb’s reward.  Joshua was not only given the honor of replacing Moses, read Joshua 19:49-50 to learn about his reward. Why did God bless them so generously?

What kind of attitude do you think they both maintained during those endless years in the desert?

 

 

At Odds With God

Being at loggerheads with God is a tough row to hoe. I hate being in that place and yet, recall times when my attitude and agenda positioned themselves perpendicular to God, instead of parallel. When we set our hearts towards a specific outcome and God does the unexpected, we don’t always adjust well. Once such time for me occurred when I re-entered the teaching field after many years of absence.

In my forties, I returned to college and added an English degree to my existing Music and Communication degree.  My goal to become an English teacher, seemed quite attainable.  God led me to add that certification, so I felt certain he’d reward me with the position I desired.  My passion for directing choirs and plays became eclipsed by my desire to teach literature and composition.

No matter how I kept re-working my resume, the only job interviews I could land were for music teachers. I felt angry and frustrated with God that I kept my end of the deal, and he didn’t come through on his.  Spending all the time, effort and money on that English degree seemed like a waste, and so I reluctantly accepted another job in Vocal Music. God clearly opened the door, as the school asked me to come interview before I ever applied.  I set my heart to teach direct choirs again, heartily unto the Lord, and trusted him to heal the disappointment of not teaching English.

Jonah behaved horribly when things didn’t go as he hoped, and the people of Nineveh repented. After initially running away, Jonah preached his judgement message in Nineveh. I can only imagine the dangers and ridicule he faced delivering that news. Judging by his reaction to the city’s massive move towards humility and repentance, we conclude that he didn’t rejoice in that outcome at all.

His outburst to God is both tragic and hilarious.

“He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you were a compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live’” Jonah 4:2-3.

As I paraphrase this passage, here’s what it sounds like to me.

“God, I never wanted to go to Nineveh in the first place. Those people are perverse and wicked and deserve to be destroyed.  I just knew that they’d probably repent if I went there and preached and then you wouldn’t judge them, like you really should.  Just kill me now.”   Jonah didn’t think Nineveh deserved mercy and thought there should be a different outcome for his efforts.

God answers back. He grows a leafy plant to shade Jonah from the desert sun then sends a worm to destroy the plant.  Jonah repeats his request to die, and God explains his object lesson.

“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, thought you did not tend it or make it grow.  It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than hundred and twenty thousand people (children in the Hebrew) who cannot tell their right hand from their left-and also many animals?’” Jonah 4:10-11

The above verses abruptly end the book of Jonah.  We don’t know if the prophet ever walked parallel with God again.

When we are in a perpendicular place with God, he asks us the same question, “Why are you so upset about this thing over here, that didn’t go your way, instead of seeing heaven’s vantage point on this matter?”

When we find ourselves at odds with God, we need to acknowledge that we are the odd man out.  We think we deserve explanations about stuff that goes sideways, but God is not beholden to our limited thinking abilities.  He’s under no obligation to answer all our questions. God is looking for people of faith who can say, “This makes no sense to me, but I’m going to obey God heartily and cheerfully and walk through the doors he opens for me and not bang my fists against the ones he closes.”

That last vocal music job I took turned into an English job during the second year. God delayed my dream, but he did not deny it because it originated with him just as Jonah’s call did.  I wonder if we might have heard from Jonah again in the Old Testament if he hadn’t gone off on such an angry bent.

Stop overthinking every situation that goes a different direction than you expected.  If you keep your heart pure and humble before God, he will cause even your honest mistakes to be part of your destiny journey.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”

 I Peter 5:6.

If you are on the outs with God right now, please don’t stay there.  Accept that he is weaving a complex tapestry with your life. You can only see a small portion in any given moment.  Trust the One who sees the entire work from beginning to end.  Don’t be a Jonah.

 

 

God’s Reckless Mercy

Who needs your mercy and forgiveness instead of judgement? How quickly do faces come to mind?  How often do their sins float through your thoughts? Your reasons for judgement may be well founded and maybe these people aren’t remotely sorry. God understands. This is how things stood between him and the people of Nineveh.  In a surprising move, instead of wiping them out, he sent Jonah with a simple message, repent or be destroyed. God didn’t owe the sinful Ninevites the courtesy of a warning. I think his desire for repentance and relationship, carried more weight than his absolute right to judge and condemn them.

I love stories of repentant sinners and prodigals. They give me hope for my own lost and wayward soul prayer list. So, why didn’t Jonah break into a happy dance when Nineveh repented? Instead of enjoying the thrill of being used by God to save an entire city, he exploded with anger. Who knows that without Jonah’s message and Nineveh’s repentance, another Sodom and Gomorrah event was scheduled to occur? Why couldn’t Jonah celebrate that, even for the sake of innocent children?

The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5 ESV).

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1)

To find an answer, let’s transport this scenario into the present day, so we can better understand Jonah’s response and God’s forgiving nature.

 Recently, I attended a service featuring a group of men from our local Teen Challenge Ministry. Men and women in the Teen Challenge Recovery program often enter with criminal records and  substance abuse  problems. When they commit to enter the program, they kick addictions cold turkey, and enter a new life of discipleship in Christ. Many of their testimonies are harrowing.

One young man stood out because he did not come from a broken home, abuse and neglect like the others. His background included a stable, Christ-centered family and a dynamic church.  After a college education, he started a career in money management, married and fathered two children. An experiment with cocaine became a love affair that cost him his job, his family and his faith. He left his parents and wife on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. Finally, his criminal activity left him with nothing except the choice to enter Teen Challenge for a year or spend eighteen months in jail.

Listening to his story, I wondered how his extended family responded to his repentance? What does forgiveness of such acts look like, as this family struggled for years to resolve the consequences and damage this young man generated? Did  they lose or re-finance their homes to pay debts? Drain savings? How did his wife, suddenly thrust into single parenthood and one income, provide for herself and her children?

My thoughts drifted to Luke 15, Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. I looked at the older brother’s feelings with fresh eyes. Consider what happened in this family because of the prodigal’s selfishness and sin. First, he broke his family’s hearts, wondering and worrying about him.  Secondly, when he finally came home, he came with nothing. He spent his entire inheritance.  What did this mean for the entire family going forward, financially? Is he trusted with more money, at the risk of him squandering it?  Is he made to work in his father’s business and pay him back, displacing another sibling or employee? Did he also leave behind unpaid debts?  Lots of questions here.

As the prodigal’s sister, I’d need extra doses of God’s grace to believe his story of repentance and forgive him for hurting my parents deeply.  Second, I’d feel mixed up about spending money on a dinner party to welcome him home considering how he squandered everything he’d been given. Finally, I’d be deeply concerned about my flakey brother re-entering the family business.

As I pondered all of this, I came to a revelation when I examined the responses of God to Nineveh and the father to his prodigal son.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10 ESV).

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 ESV).

God’s forgiveness and mercy will never make sense to the natural mind. Mercy is risky and forgiveness is often not deserved, at least that’s how humans see it. The stink of Nineveh’s sin made it to God’s nose. The prodigal son wasted his entire inheritance on immorality. Yet, in both stories, God sees potential and boom; judgement plans are canceled, and mercy’s showers start to pour.  Jonah didn’t approve. The older brother didn’t approve. Sometimes, neither do we.

 God views prodigals and sinners differently from us. He longs for us to adjust our paradigms and see people’s value as he does. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He’s profoundly serious when he expects us to balance hatred for sin with love for the sinner.  Jonah never did, as far as we know. The stench of Nineveh’s sin, which Jonah experienced first-hand, overpowered the reason God called him to the city, to save humans from destruction.

God’s highest priority is to redeem people from hell and hellish living. The mess of that redemptive process can be overwhelming to us, when we engage with sinners. God understands intimately. His entire creation ended up sideways, due to sin. Instead of irreversible judgement, his only child endured a brutal death to make a path of forgiveness and restoration for us. He will grant us eyes to see potential in the worst offenders, if we ask him.

Lamp and Sword

****Further resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

  • If you are struggling to forgive someone, particularly when there is no sign of remorse, I suggest a read-through with these verses. When you are a victim of someone’s sin, be it great or small, your inner sense of justice is disturbed. Only God can set it right. Sometimes we can receive justice in the natural, but there are times when we don’t. These are the places where God completes the picture for us and gives rest to our souls.

Romans 5:8, Matthew 6:14-15, 5:43-44, Psalm 7:11, Amos 5:15, Ephesians 5:2, 1John 4:8

 

  • Sometimes our thirst for judgement is directed towards people we’ve never met. We are aware of their sins on a national and international level. Liars, cheats, murderers, thieves, abusers and such can stir up great anger and we cross the line, rejoicing in their downfalls and misfortunes, forgetting that they too are souls God loves, and for whom Christ died. If you find yourself brimming with unrighteous anger when you are confronted with evil current events, I suggest you ponder these verses. Ask God to help you pray for justice, victims of evil while also praying for the repentance of wicked perpetrators.

Romans 5:6-8, I Timothy 2:11, Romans 12:20-21, Romans 2:1-4, I John 4:20

  • A Divine Revelation of Hell,” is a book written by Mary K. Baxter, based on thirty days of visions God sent her as to what hell might be like for those condemned to its fires. If your heart needs a jumpstart to care about and pray for the wicked and lost, this will do it. The book is easily available used and new on several different online sites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obadiah- Sowing and Reaping

As a minister of music, I hated being the deliverer of bad news to folks who ached to be on worship team but lacked the right skills. Kristy (not her real name) never made the cut for any vocal group she auditioned for in her high school, yet she and her mother pleaded for an audition.  They both felt certain God “called” her to be on our worship team.  As she sang the same way which I presumed kept her out of school vocal groups, my heart sunk. Her heart clearly burned with passion, but she possessed not a single skill or natural ability to match.

When I first began to speak, my tone of voice and my heart emanated kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, Kristy came at me with pride, denial, anger and hurt. I confess, my peace shoes fell off, my cloak of humility slipped off my shoulders and grace fled my heart.  I became defensive and terse once she attacked my authority and judgement and it ended poorly between us.  She and her mother glared at me from the pews for several years after that.

A dozen years later, as a lay person in a large church, I auditioned for a 1st soprano opening on the worship team.  The team informed me that although they enjoyed my voice, the slot would be given to  another sister, whose audition sounded quite out of tune to me.  I struggled to hide my shock. (Turns out, she was a former member of the team who stepped down for a while. The auditions were a bit of a set-up.)

To add further insult the worship leader asked, “There’s a tenor opening? Interested?”  I stammered that I’d think about it and get back to them and beat feet out of there. Angry retorts about my years of training and my previous position as minister of music bubbled in my mind while I fled to my car. Then Kristy’s face popped up in my mind.  It occurred to me that God allowed that humbling moment so that the next time I faced a Kristy (which I did many times in the years to come as a high school vocal teacher) I’d hold onto my peace and kindness regardless of how others behaved.  I’m certain that experience was a lesson in God’s harvesting law class.

I walked back in the building and took the tenor slot, humbly.  Within six weeks, two first sopranos left, and I filled one of the slots joyfully for many years.  I think God used my humbling and my response, as good seed that reaped my desired harvest.

God’s laws of sowing and reaping are irrefutable.  You can find a trail of them all throughout Scripture, from literal laws about crop-growing to spiritual laws about our attitudes and works.   In Obadiah, verse 15, we find an ominous warning.

As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”

All the evil acts of the Edomites towards Israel, from blocking their flight away from Pharaoh, during the Exodus, to cutting them down while they fled Jerusalem from the Assyrians centuries later, eventually rain down on this bitter nation. The law of sowing and reaping finds them, and they are wiped out permanently, as a nation.  There are people who live in their former lands, but they are not descendants.  The history of the Edomites becomes so sketchy that no one can lay claim to this day that they are a direct descendant.  Quite a contrast to Israel’s descendants.  What if the Edomites stood side by side with their brother Israelites, instead of toe to toe?   I expect their history and descendants would be entirely different.

The apostle Paul echoes this warning to sinners in the Galatian church in Galatians 6:7-8.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Then, he flips the equation in verse nine, and speaks to those who are sowing good seed but aren’t seeing their desired harvest.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

To the Corinthian church, Paul speaks about the quality and amount of what we sow in 1 Corinthians 9:6.

“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Every day, believers sow seed.  Our words and actions go forth to others and into the supernatural fields God has ordained as either good seed or bad seed.  What we do and say will bring a harvest in God’s perfect time.  What kind of harvest are you experiencing right now?  If some of it is bitter, nasty and weak, ask God if you are reaping some seed you’ve forgotten you sowed.  I’m not saying every negative thing that comes our way is our own harvest.  Weed seeds can blow in on the wind or be carried by birds.  We know God allows us to face these trials and challenges, but it is important to our sanctification to discern whether our weed beds are of our own making, like the Edomites.

Additionally, when we do face tribulations, not created out of our own poor choices, we can still reap a harvest of goodness, grace and mercy. How?  When we show compassion and love in action towards others experiencing illness, setbacks, crisis and all manner of evil, we are sowing seeds that will be a much-needed harvest for ourselves in our own day of trouble.  I wonder if the Edomites ever sorted that out?

So, here’s a few general items from my list of deliberate seed that I’m sowing.  How about you?

  • I’m giving generously, out of love and gratitude to God, of my time, money, skills and all other physical resources, with full confidence that my upcoming needs will be met in God’s perfect time.
  • I’ve asked God to put a watch over my mouth and my emotions so that my words and responses reflect Galatians 5:22 and not my flesh. I expect that others will return the same to me, not always, but much of the time.
  • I’m sowing the seeds of the Word of God more deliberately into my own heart such that they are there, growing strong and ready to face the storms of life.
  • Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

 

Read the following Old Testament verses and then reflect on the questions below.

Genesis 26:12, Leviticus 26:3-5,  Isaiah 65:21-22,  Jeremiah 12:13

  1. Is there a relationship between obedience and harvest?
  2. Do these laws for an agrarian society apply to people who aren’t farmers or growers?

Read Revelation 14:15-19.  What do you think the phrase, “the harvest of the earth,” means?  Feel free to use commentaries if you are entirely stuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obadiah-A Feud on Steroids

Family feuds can create ripples of waves, which keep relationships turbulent for generations.  The infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud began in Kentucky in 1865 when Asa Harmon McCoy, brother to Randolph McCoy died at the hands of the “Logan Wildcats,” a local militia group which included William Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Anse” (There’s a clue!). Asa served in the Union Army, so Anderson and his militia felt within their rights to shoot him as an enemy combatant.  As years passed the bitter seed grew, and land disputes, stolen livestock and other criminal activities resulted in murders and retaliatory murders. Young and old Hatfields and McCoys perished due to unresolved anger and misplaced pride passed from generation to generation like an heirloom quilt.

God inspired Obadiah to deliver a rebuke and warning to the people of Edom because of a generational feud between them and Israel.  Edomites, the descendants of Esau, carried hatred about his stolen birthright for centuries and acted towards Jacob’s descendants accordingly. Since Obadiah shares no point of reference about his credentials or origins, scholars can make a best guess that he lived during Elisha’s time and served as one of the earliest prophets around 840 B.C.  His economy of words is a message itself as to the intensity of God’s anger.

The sins Edom committed are recounted in this short book. Obadiah tells us that the mildest behavior they demonstrated was to turn their backs on their brothers when Israel faced enemy invasions. Their worst sins are far more egregious. When Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem, not only did the Edomites not offer refuge to the Israelites fleeing the city, they murdered them on the roads and pathways where they fled to escape the conquering armies.

God is blunt throughout Scripture about how he will deal with those who mess with his people.

            “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”

 Genesis 12:3

“… when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land…” Joel 1

“And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” Zechariah 12:9

For the Edomites, their judgments are specific and harsh:

But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged!  All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. In that day, declares the Lord, will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, men of understanding in the mountains of Esau? Your warriors O Teman will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter.  Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”

Why does God laser in on the “wise men of Edom?”   The answer lies in verse 3.

“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”

The Edomites carried a grudge for centuries. They took pride in it along with their geographic positioning in the mountains. In every way, they felt themselves to be superior to Israel, yet Israel inhabited the promised land, not them, and they couldn’t abide that.  They obviously rejoiced and felt justified in murdering fleeing Israelites just like the Hatfields and McCoys.

Pride is usually at the root of unresolved feuds.  I knew a church in which battles erupted over a stained-glass window that needed to be moved for a building project.  The church designated a new home for the window, in the addition, but some in the congregation who opposed the project, weaponized the window’s history.  Without consulting the church, these folks lodged a complaint with the town’s historical society. Their move never gained traction but did generate uproar and divisions in the church.

I know families whose holidays and special occasions are marred consistently by unresolved hurts between members.  This one can’t sit by that one, and we will purchase gifts for this one’s children but not for that one and blah, blah, blah.  There may be valid reasons why some of these feuds start. Jacob performed a wicked, deceitful act when he tricked Esau out of his birthright.  That is not the way God wanted to convey the promised blessing to Jacob.  Esau’s feelings of anger and betrayal were valid.  One wonders if he rehearsed them over and over to his family before he eventually forgave Jacob and reconciled with him. (Genesis 33) Although Esau forgave Jacob, his legacy of bitterness remained unresolved in his family and many murders and other sinful acts occurred because of it.

I see several key lessons for us in this first portion of Obadiah:

  • The bitterness you harbor today will sow seeds that can reap a terrible harvest for generations to come.
  • When God blesses someone else with something we’ve longed for, we need to trust him to know what is best for us and not poison our souls with jealousy or anger. We can always choose righteous reactions in response to sinful behaviors against us.
  • Pride is rebellion in God’s eyes but cherishing pride as a trophy sin and passing it on to others, is going to produce dire consequences.

The division between the Edomites and Israelites resulted in death, slavery and captivity for many descendants and rendered Israel a powerless nation for centuries.  I wonder how many churches and families are unable to move in kingdom authority and power for the same reason?

 

Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

Read the following verses and then ponder these questions:

  1. Does God still feel this way about the Jews even though many rejected and still reject the Messiah?
  2. Do his judgements against their enemies still hold?
  3. Where does God land on all this concerning the bride of Christ and her enemies? (These verses you’ll need to search out for yourself.)

God’s love for Israel – I Kings 10:9, Deut. 7:6-8, Deut. 14:2, 2 Samuel 7:23-24, Psalm 105:8-15, Zech. 2:8

God’s judgement on her enemies – Genesis 12:1-3, Joel 3:1-2, Ezekiel 38:1-23, Zech. 12:9, Romans 11:1-36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amos- A Warning for Callous Hearts

Self-absorption and a lack of self-awareness are officially at epidemic level in American culture, in my opinion. I remember a brief friendship during college, with a girl who leaped ahead of her time in this area.  Originally, I found myself drawn to her because of her humor and outgoing ways.  After a few months though, I realized that I knew all about her dreams to become a professional singer, which guys she crushed on, her hatred of all green vegetables and her favorite makeup brands while she couldn’t seem to remember my last name when she introduced me to people.

I’m not sure my “friend” even noticed when I drifted away until she needed me to accompany her on the piano for an event, and I declined, due to a previous commitment.  Momentarily at a loss for words, this clueless sweetie whined, “But I thought you were my frieeeeeeeeeeeeeend?!?”  My own courage surprised me when I stood firm and refused to cave, in what turned out to be our last conversation.

As I continue to reflect on and study Amos, I’m wondering if similar cries erupted from the Israelites when the cup of God’s anger finally filled and overflowed.  As conquering Assyrians invaded the beautiful promised land and either slaughtered or enslaved the inhabitants, I’ll bet many people couldn’t wrap their minds around it all. “God why aren’t you rescuing us!   “We’re your chosen people!  WHERE ARE YOU? “

From God’s perspective, he sent numerous warnings through his prophets, but blinded eyes couldn’t see, and stopped-up ears couldn’t hear.  Some of the specific grievances he conveyed through Amos centered around Israel’s complacency and pride. As a couple of examples:

  • They “trampled” on the poor while building gorgeous mansions for themselves. 5:11-12
  • They oppressed the righteous and accepted bribes. 5:12
  • They skimped when they measured out quantities of goods for the poor and used rigged scales. Additionally, they boasted about it.  8:5
  • They removed every kernel of wheat off the threshing floors instead of observing the Hebrew law that said the sweepings are to be left for the poor. 8:6

The self-absorption and lack of self-awareness of these folks rival any selfie prince or princess we might encounter today.  God is quite specific about how he will judge the luxurious, exploitive communities of Northern Israel.

  • He promises to destroy their homes AND their weekend cottages. 3:15
  • He promises that those who are spending their days agonizing over which marble tile to put on their mansion floor, will never walk on it. 5:11
  • He assures them there won’t be any more wine parties. 5:11
  • He declares that as they rise to fight off the conquering army, most of Israel will be slaughtered because of their pride. 6:8-9
  • He decrees that sons and daughters will die in battle, and everyone else will go into exile, far away from their homeland. 7:17

When most of our resources are channeled back into our own households, we are in danger.   When the majority of a church’s ministries are directed inward towards those already in the kingdom, that body is in grave danger.  Many in modern Christian culture are swimming along living cottoned lives of abundance, while those who are poor in spirit all around them are drowning.

I’ll state again, as I did in the last post, if we are foolish enough to think that God will deal with these sins less severely because we are on this side of the cross, that’s dangerous thinking and living.  Don’t mistake God’s delays in discipline for his stamp of approval on our choices. Throughout scripture, one of the rich threads woven in Biblical teaching is caring for the weak and poor among us.  From the Levitical laws through Paul’s instructions to young churches, the directive is repeated.  Blatantly ignoring God’s commands is always reckless to our own lives and those around us.

John, the apostle, questions our relationship with God, if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17

James, Jesus’ brother states it a bit differently but makes the same case, if you consider what the converse of this verse might be.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction… “James 1:27

God expects us to be deliberate about directing some of our resources to those with less.  The opportunities are endless, and we must listen to the Holy Spirit’s directions for us, specifically.  Individuals cannot save the whole world, but they can support a child’s education in a third-world country, or repair a widow’s roof, or repair a single mother’s car.  Many churches take benevolent offerings regularly for these types of needs.  Please don’t ignore that little section on your giving envelope and assume that your tithes cover all that.  They don’t.

Let’s re-orient our thinking to less selfies and more self-less acts done quietly, without expectations of recognition.  Did you know that if you combine all the days of Jesus’ earthy life represented in the gospels, we can only account for 27 of them?  According to the apostle John, though, the works and wonders he did here were so numerous “even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

This means we don’t know any specifics about most of his days, filled with wonders and grace.  Only the people present and God the Father, know those stories.  I want to live like that, more oriented about the narrative my life is creating in heaven, than how many “likes,” I can get for my story here on earth.

 

Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

 

 

 

  • More verses about caring for the poor and weak. When you are trying to change patterns in your life, it’s good to incorporate several verses on the topic as part of your decision-making process.

Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 22:9, Matt. 25:31-46, Psalm 82:3-4, Luke 6:38, Matt. 6:1-4, Leviticus 19:9-10, 1 Timothy 5:8, Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 6:17-19

 

  • Short, thought-provoking article about poverty. Poverty is a condition of the soul, not just a lack of physical provision.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/biblical-answer-to-poverty-gods-people-and-marketplace.html

 

 

 

 

 

Amos- Another Overlooked Shepherd

The near misses of my life are broad and varied, open doors I almost ignored. One of my dearest friends nearly slipped past me in 9th grade because she was and is, a quiet person of depth. I initially said a hard no to a great teaching job once, due to the size of the school.  Other near misses came close to robbing my life of people, richness, and unique opportunities, the most recent one being the purchase of our new home.

Two years ago, the Lord granted us a green light to sell our house and move nearer Lake Michigan and our kiddos.  My initial giddiness waned swiftly. We realized we entered a seller’s market with high prices and rapid sales, great on the selling side, lousy on the buying end.

Our long-suffering real estate agent cheerfully endured tours and critiques of dozens of homes.  Our must-have criteria included a fenced in yard or the ability to install one, and a walk-out ranch on a large lot.  Repeatedly, we smacked into association rules banning fences, sheds and the like, often unknown to the sellers until we started making offers and investigating.

When we did find a few homes that fit the bill on paper, they turned out to be in poor condition for the price. Other homes exceeded our budget.  In desperation, we decided to look at an over-budget house anyway.  It languished on the market for a month (a lifetime in our area) so we wondered what its ailments might be.

The house didn’t show well.  As soon as I entered it, though, I saw the possibilities of what could be. Signs of excellent maintenance and “good bones” abounded everywhere. Outside, the generous lot made my heart swell with all the possibilities for gardens and outdoor rooms.

The price snapped me back to reality, and I slipped into a funk. I barely examined the house, while Ken ran around doing all the measuring and note taking, we normally did together.  The asking price soared above our means, so I didn’t see the point. Thank God my gloomy attitude didn’t destroy Ken’s enthusiasm for placing a low offer, one which the owners accepted. This optimistic approach is one of the many reasons I adore that man. I hope I’ve finally learned that often the best people and opportunities come in unassuming ways. Given my track record, though, I’d write off Amos the shepherd-prophet, just like the Israelites.

Amos lived an unnoticed life until God called him up to the show. “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” Amos 7:14   In Israel, most prophets belonged to the school of prophets or came from a prophetic bloodline.  In modern terms, Amos worked as a farmer and gardener.  Israelites thumbed their noses at him because of this.  Before you judge, how might you respond if your lawn service guy, or maybe the lady selling you tomatoes at the farmer’s market, started sharing prophecies with you?

Amos himself lived in the Southern kingdom of Judah, but the sin of the Northern kingdom of Israel grew so great, God hauled him up there to warn the wayward Jewish nation.  Well, they didn’t take kindly to that at all and tried to write him off as a goofball.

Isn’t this exactly the way another shepherd’s brothers treated him when the prophet Samuel sought out God’s anointed king and then later when David turned up to fight Goliath? “When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are…” 1 Samuel 17:28. 

Also, remember that most of the religious establishment rejected The Good Shepherd and mocked his humble ministry, like the fact that he rode a donkey into town instead of charging in on a white horse to overthrow the Roman government.  I wonder how many times we miss Jesus entirely because he comes to us riding humbly on a colt instead of sweeping in on a stallion?

The people of Israel rejected Amos and his serious warning from God about their impending destruction. They judged the package and ignored the message. Let’s not do the same thing. Amos’ prophecies are critical for the church today and still sound an alarm about sins all too common in our church culture. We will be discussing them in the next few posts.   I know at first glance, the minor prophets seem too cryptic and irrelevant to us.  I assure you they are not.

Despite our best efforts, God will not be boxed in by our personal preferences and expectations. God chooses to move as he will, with whom he uses. Each minor prophet earned a place in the Bible due to the timeless value of their messages. We can experience a powerful, authoritative and fulfilling life on the front lines of the kingdom, if we discern his voice and movements in unexpected places from unassuming people.

 

Lamp and Sword

****Resources for study and reflection****

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12

 

  • Amos overview by Chuck Swindoll

https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/amos

 

  • Amos’ use of metaphors and similes

Metaphors and similes create word pictures that helps us understand an idea better.  Isn’t it interesting that this rejected shepherd-prophet was a poet like shepherd turned king, David? Here’s a chart that I’ll fill in partially, with the metaphor on one side and the meaning on the other.  Can you figure out what point Amos was trying to make with the ones I’ve left blank?

“Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.” 2:13 The Israelites are at the end of God’s mercy and now face his judgement.
“The lion has roared-who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken-who can but prophesy?”  3:8 Amos feels tremendous pressure to communicate the message the Lion of Judah has given him.
“As a shepherd saves from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or piece of an ear, so will the Israelites be saved.  3:12  
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” 5:24  
“Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” 7:8  
“This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.” 8:1  
“…and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground.” 9:9