Like our Fore-Fathers

Have you ever read something and just can’t get it out of your head?

Yesterday morning, as I was doing my devotions, I read through Amos 5.  Although the entire chapter was intriguing, I found a few of the verses quite compelling to my mind:

“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?  It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)

It wasn’t the prose that gripped my mind, but it was the essence of what these words mean.

At this time, Israel had rejected God and gone after idols and sensuality.  They had rebelled against the very one who had rescued them time and time again from their enemies.  The kings of Israel had decided that it was better to lead the people in the ways of immorality, idolatry and ignorance.  They had experienced the temporary happiness of wealth, wine and women and forsook the eternal joy of their Creator.

However, even though they had forsaken God, they still observed the “rules” and “traditions” contained within the Torah.  They completed the festivals, burned the offerings and did each task as required, but their mindset was one of rote instead of gratitude.  We know this by God’s reaction to them in the next few verses:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.  Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 NASB)

The Israelites continued to worship in the methods and traditions they always had.  They completed the tasks and rituals they were supposed to.  They sang the songs and recited the prayers as they had always done.  However, their hearts were not present.  So why did this grip me the way it did?  Recently, as I study church history, I noted a pattern within the church that is exactly the same in ancient Israel.

There are two topics here that are very prevalent within today’s church.  The first is concern with the End Time events.  When will the Lord return?  When will the rapture take place?  When will God’s judgement be poured out on sinful mankind?  These are the questions of today.  We discuss, debate and degrade each other when we cannot come to a consensus.  We concern ourselves with the details of the events, the bewilderment of figurative or contextual language.  We look toward the sky and cry out to God about the sins of the earth.  We sing the songs of the Psalmist and shout praises from the mountaintops.  Yet in all of this, we forget the heart of God and where His heart remains; for the lost.

This is not to say that the topic of the return of Christ isn’t important.   It is.  Paul, John, Daniel and others examine the events surrounding this time, which is yet to come.  However, as we read through the text, we seem to forget that it is not a time to rejoice in, but to mourn.  We mourn because those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer His wrath and eternal damnation.

God had picked Amos, the shepherd, to proclaim His words to His people.  God wanted Israel to know that the day of the Lord is not something to look forward to.  It is a day to beware and mourn, a day of reckoning and a day where people will run from one tragic event to another, only to find themselves in the grips of death.

Amos said the day of the Lord is like a man who fled from a lion but meets a bear as he flees.  Or after he flees the bear, he runs home, exhausted only to lean on the wall to be bitten by a snake.  Then the venom of the snake rushes through his body and courses through his veins.  It begins the process of breaking down blood cells, killing the coagulation agents and finally killing the tissue it comes in contact with.  It is a time of great suffering for those who do not believe.

We have forgotten the love, grace and mercy for the lost.  We proclaim about injustice in the world.  We cry about our rights being taken away.  We shout against Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Communist.  We forget that it matters not what party you belong to, what color you are or what social environment you are a part of.  What matters are there are lost people who don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal separation from God.

It is when we forget about the lost, that God deems our worship invalid.  When we forget the lost, our songs are just noise from our lips, not making any sense nor pleasing to the ear.  When we forget the lost, our offerings are rejected and not used, our sacrifices are looked upon as dung.  When we do not have the heart of the Father, there is no use in our worship, no worth in our worship.

When I look at social media, I find many who proclaim the rights of American over the love of Christ.  Many proclaim the evangelism of democracy rather than evangelize the lost, showing that the love of democracy supersedes their love of God.  This is the basic definition of idolatry.

Like Israel, we have a golden calf.  I love my country and know beyond any shadow of doubt that this is the greatest country in the world.  I love the stars and stripes, Old Glory.  The red stripes representing the blood spilled to unite our country and fight the tyranny of England.  However, I love the stripes of Jesus Christ all the more.  His blood which was spilt to save us who are lost.

So how do we solve this dilemma?  How do we change our mindset and actions?

First, we must repent.  Repentance is turning around and walking the opposite direction we have been going.  We must forsake our idols which so easily entangle us both individually and corporately and turn around toward the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we need to study.  Scripture has been given to us for our benefit.  It proclaims the love and redemption of God and provides us insight into how to proceed in sharing God’s message.  It warns us, encourages us and teaches us about the wonderful saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Third, we must pray.  Simply put, praying is how we communicate and commune with God.  It is how we cry out to Him when we are hurting.  It is how we proclaim His glory.  It is how we intervene for our loved ones and it is how we show our concern for the lost and our enemies.  Prayer is an essential part of our daily lives.

Fourth, we must fellowship with other believers.  This is more than just spending time together.  It is an intimate process.  Because of Jesus Christ, our lives are intertwined with each other.  We are now brothers and sisters.  Regardless of our looks, cultural background or past experiences, we are family and are to care for each other.  We are to share our struggles, confess our sins and encourage each other into a closer relationship with God.  Without fellowship, we deny ourselves the necessary nutrients for our spiritual bodies.  We starve ourselves from the relationships God desires us to have with each other.

Lastly, we must reach out.  This is more than just sharing the Gospel.  It is getting involved in people’s lives that are lost.  It is caring for those who don’t care for us.  It is loving those who have been deemed unloved.  The best example of this was Jesus Christ.  He ate with the dredge of the earth, tax collectors, adulterers and sinners.  He healed those who were hurting and freed those who were slaves.  Like him, we too must not be afraid to associate with those who are hurting, with those who are hungry and with those who are thirsty for something more than just this life.

The Scriptures have warned us.  We are not to be so enamored by arguable doctrines rather we need to be enamored by sharing the heart of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  As we move away from our idols and toward the cross, we will find that the things we once fought for are just like a dust in the wind.  We will find ourselves loving others as Christ loves us.  We will find ourselves serving others and sharing the Gospel with those in need.  We will find that our own hearts and those of our churches will once again be transformed because of the renewing of our minds.  We will find that all we stand for can be solved if we just place our trust in Jesus Christ and His mission, to seek and save those who are lost.

God bless and encourage someone today.


Small things speak

Have you ever had one of those days, where someone gives you something small and yet it has a profound effect on your life?

Today, a friend of mine gave me a kaleidoscope.  At first, you may say, that’s a child’s toy, but for me the impact of that gift gave me profound insight into how God works in our lives daily.

I want you to think of this for a moment.  How does your faith affect you?  Does it make you ponder the works of God in nature?  Does your faith move you to tell others about Christ?  Does it allow you to see the wonders of God’s love?  How does your faith affect you?

A kaleidoscope has three (3) elements which make it work.  The first is the canister, the outer shell of the kaleidoscope.  It protects the contents contained within.  It moves when the operator turns it.  It has a peep hole which allows the onlooker to see the wonders and beauty within.  Without the canister, the inner contents would have no order, no security, which in return would have no beauty to show.

The canister of our faith, is the Word of God.  The Word of God has order, it contains security and most of all, it contains the inner beauty that God wants to reveal to us.  As we open the Word of God, we allow God to speak through the words to reveal His Son, His work and our part in that work.  We discover that life is good, that God is good and that He desires all to come to know Him through Jesus Christ.

The second element in the kaleidoscope is the prism.  If you remember from elementary school, when light enters a prism, the prism then reveals what is contained within the light.  It reveals both what we can see and what we cannot see.  From infra-red to ultra-voilet and to the visible colors of RGBIV, the prism reveals the inner most parts of the light.  Without the prism, we would be simply blinded by the light as we looked through the canister.  We would not see the beauty and discover the wonder of the light itself.

The prism of our faith is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit shows us the inner most parts of God’s will for our lives.  He breaks down the complex understanding of who God is and reveals the beauty and wonder of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  He encourages us, disciplines us and gives us the words we need to speak.  He is the guarantee of our salvation in Christ Jesus and is the reminder of Christ’s teachings.  He explains the Word of God to us so that we can understand how we ought to live.

Without the Holy Spirit, we would continue to wonder what beauty is contained within the Word of God.  Without Him, we would be blinded by the outpouring of God’s love on this earth and could not understand the message of God.  It is only by the working of the Holy Spirit that we understand the Word of God.

The third element in a kaleidoscope is the colorful beads.  Each bead has its own individual beauty, however each bead also reflects the light do display its beauty.  Each bead is unique, having its own personality, its own lesson.  But together, each individual bead also makes up the beauty we see in the kaleidoscope.  Each bead works together to reveal beauty and wonder as a whole.

The basic and essential doctrines we hold to are like the beads of a kaleidoscope.  Each doctrine contains its own beauty, but together they work to show us who God is, how God works and what God expects from us.  If you remove a bead or two from the kaleidoscope, you remove the ability for it to display its total beauty.  If you remove a foundational doctrine from your life, you remove the ability for the Word of God to display what God desires you to see.  You distort the true message of God and substitute it for a watered down Gospel.

Think of it this way, in order to remove any beads from the kaleidoscope, you must first break its seal, rip the cylinder apart, remove the prism and then you can remove the beads.  If you remove one of the basic and essential doctrines of Christianity, you have to rip out the portions you don’t like, place the Holy Spirit to the side and then you can create the doctrine you desire.  From there all heresy and lies are born.  Many have tried this only to expose their own evil desires.

However, the only way the kaleidoscope works, is when the light enters into it and the user looks in.  The user must hold the kaleidoscope and point it towards the light, then look into it and move it in order to see its beauty and wonder.  In the same way, the only way we can see who God is, what He desires for us and His plan is to hold it up to the light of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ shines brightly through the Word of God.  We, the user, then read it, study it, pray for wisdom and knowledge through it.  As we do this, the Holy Spirit, then reveals the beauty which Jesus Christ intended us to see.  We see His love and compassion towards us.  We see His love and compassion for others.  It is only because of the light that the kaleidoscope works.  It is only because of Jesus Christ that we see the Word of God from His perspective.

The kaleidoscope may only be a child’s toy, but even in the simplest things, can we see who God is, how He works and what He desires for us.  Look at the simple things in life and ponder the great and mighty works of God.  You might be surprised at the beauty in the simple things.  And once you see the beauty, pass it along to someone who needs to see God’s beautiful message of salvation, like my friend shared the kaleidoscope with me.  If he hadn’t, I would have never seen the profound message in simplicity.

God bless and encourage someone today.