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.

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A Purpose in Remembrance


As I sit and ponder the various thoughts that flood my mind, I wonder how many of us are good at remembering things.  Do you remember the good times?  How about the bad times?  Do you remember your wedding day or the day you met your spouse?  Did you just remember the time your son or daughter scored that goal or hit that home run?  What is it that you remembered?  How many years have passed since that memory?  Did Facebook give you a reminder of a memory triggering an emotional reaction?

No matter how you seem to remember things, I believe our memories are a gift from God.  They are the tool in which He uses to remind us of His goodness, His kindness and His love for us.  It also reminds us of His sovereignty, His power and His sacrifice.  Our memories can remind us of where we came from, what molded us into who we are today.  However, if our memories go out of control, they can haunt us, trap us and even enslave us, paralyzing us into action and causing us pain and suffering.

God created memories.  Throughout Scripture, we read of God telling his people to remember through feasts, festivals and sacrifices.  Time and time again, we read about “Remember the Sabbath” in Exodus 20 and “Remember Lot’s wife”, in Luke 17.  Time and time again, we are to remember who God is and what He has done, remember where we came from and remember our purpose and calling in this life.

That is why we place so much emphasis on remembering.  The pictures we hang on our walls remind us of times of joy.  Videos remind us of times past and inflict various emotions.  We mourn for those who suffer from memory loss.  We feel for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  At funerals we remember the good times with our past loved ones.  At birthday celebrations we remember the joy of childbirth.  We go out of way to ensure that we never forget.

In my last post, I mentioned that Colossians is a book of remembrance.  Contained within its pages are calls to remember where we came from, Who saved us, what our calling is and who is within our family.  During my study, I was reminded of another piece of Scripture that is chock full of memories, Exodus 20.

Most of us know that Exodus 20 contains the 10 Commandments.  The do’s and don’ts of Jew and Christian alike.  However, beyond the do’s and don’ts that we have all been taught, is the complexity of explaining a purpose in remembrance.  These do not simply bark orders to follow, but a calling to remember one thing, “Remember Who.”

Exodus 20 starts off like this…

“Then God spoke all these words, saying,”

First, God wants us to remember, it is He Who is speaking.  He is the one and only true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth that is talking with them.  He is the “I AM” who is telling them about these commands.  It is not Moses or Aaron.  He is God.

In verse 2 we then read:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Second, we are to remember Who saved us.  He is the Lord your God, not the Lord their God.  God is our God.  He is our Creator.  He is our Savior.  He is and always will be the “Lord your God”.  So why is this so important?

He reminds Israel what He did for them, “…who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  In Israel’s minds, it was Moses who brought them out of Egypt.  They grimaced and groaned to Moses and Aaron about how good they had it in Egypt.  However, what they forgot about was the harsh slavery, the horrific oppression they were under and their crying out to God for freedom.  They remembered the food but forgot Who provided for them.

Isn’t that just like us?  Don’t we remember the wrong things?  We all have a tendency to remember the circumstance rather than the Creator.  We remember what we think is good and forget the good that God has done for us.  We forget that it was God who saved us from our slavery to sin.  We forget that it was God who sent His Son to die for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.  We forget that God promised us that Christ will return and save us from this dying and sinful world.  Simply put, we don’t remember the right things.  When our memories focus on things, other than God Himself, we fall into sin.  We fall into a thought process of pride and selfishness which causes us to reject God and His purpose for us.

Lastly, God’s expectation of this reality is our reaction to remembering Who He is.  Let me clarify this a bit.  Here is how I like to read the rest of this passage….

Vs 3 – As you remember Who saved you, you shall not have any other gods before Me.

Vs 4 – As you remember that I saved you from slavery, you shall not make for yourself any likeness of anything that will replace Me.

Vs 7 – As you remember that I protected you from the plagues of Egypt, you shall not take My name in vain.

Vs 8 – As you remember that I rested on the 7th day, so shall you.

Vs 12 – As you remember that I am your Father, honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land that I am giving to you.

Vs 13 – As you remember that I created you, therefore, do not murder.

Vs 14 – As you remember that I allowed Israel to increase in Egypt, you shall not commit adultery.

Vs 15 – As you remember that I provided for you in Egypt, you shall not steal.

Vs 16 – As you remember that Moses was a witness to your cry in Egypt and I heard you and freed you, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Vs 17 – As you remember that I give you what you need and desire, you shall not covet any of your neighbor’s belongings or wife.

We have a purpose in remembering.  Our ability to remember should focus us on the purpose that God has for us.  In all circumstances we need to remember Who freed us from the bondage of sin, who freed us from the hand of slavery and in remembering this, our actions should match our memories.

If our memories lead us to strife, anguish and anxiety, then our memories do not have the right focus.  Instead of saying, “Oh I remember the pain…”, say, “I remember how God sustained me through the pain….”  If our focus is on remembering the circumstance then our reaction is strife, anger and anxiety.  If our focus is on remembering who God is and what He has done for us, then our reaction will be to worship and glorify Him.

There is a purpose in our remembering.  Remembering should lead us to worship.  Remembering should lead us to a desire to learn more about Him.  Remembering should bring us to the point where we bow down, cry out to Him and ask Him what His purposes for our lives are.  Remembering is our way of refocusing on the One who saved us and freed us from the bondage of sin.

How are you remembering the Lord today?  What did He do to sustain you, lead you or save you from your past?  If you can’t think of a time where God saved you, then re-evaluate your life and ask God to show Himself to you.  He has freed you through Jesus Christ.  You are free because He made you free.

May God remind you of how He is working in your life and share that with someone who may be struggling.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Terror Chains


My life was spent on a ship.  For as long as I could remember, the life on this ship was hard, very hard.  The requirements of our lives encompassed continuous movement.  Constantly moving.  Never stopping.  Every moment of our lives was spent rowing the ship.  No matter how tired we may have been or how sick we felt, rowing the ship was the orders given by the captain.

No one had ever seen the captain.  We had heard he was a ruthless fellow, beating those who question and killing those who rebelled.  Rumors had been spread that the captain was once good and pure.  The story surrounding the captain was mysterious and questionable.  How could this man once be good and pure and yet be so evil.  No one knew for sure, except that if we didn’t continue to row, the whip would make our back bleed.

Every moment of every day, the faceless beings walked up and down, cracking their whips crying, “Row you meaningless dogs!  Row!”  Those who were too weak were beaten until unconscious.  Others who refused to do their task, were first beaten and then placed into the brig, where blood curdling screams could be heard.  We heard rumors about that as well.  Death was assumed, torture guaranteed.  Some would eventually return to their task of rowing with us, while others were never to be heard from again.  Only those who had been there knew, but no one ever spoke about what they experienced down their in the chambers of death.

Those with me were family.  My father was to my right, my mother to my left.  Father was hunched over his section of the oar handle, sick and exhausted.  Mother and I continued to row hoping the faceless crew didn’t notice.  Suddenly the air behind me snapped with authority.  “Row, you meaningless dogs”, exclaimed the faceless beast.  I could then feel the air suddenly retract and then snap with the same authority.  “I said row!  What is this a sleeper?  If you don’t row, I’ll make an example out of you!” shouted the faceless beast.

Each member of the crew was faceless.  No one ever knew how they spoke or how they breathed.  No nose, no mouth, no eyes, yet they saw our every move.  Their body was that of a man, but their voice was lower pitched, raspy and toned with evil, like a serpent that could speak mans native languages.  Their whip was always drawn, their hatred always present.  They stood about seven feet tall.  They wore a simple vest and torn shorts.  Never did they wear shoes for that was a sign of inferiority.

“Father, wake up”, I whispered.

“Silence, you little puppy!  Let your father speak for himself”, exclaimed the faceless beast.

Father didn’t respond, nor did he move.  All that could be seen was a beaten man, hunched over lightly breathing.  “Father, wake up”, I screamed shaking his shoulder.

A slap was heard across the ship, but I felt the impact.  The faceless beast drew his closed hand and struck me on the back of the head.  All I could hear were the muffled cries of my mother as she screamed for help.  A ringing had interrupted all other sound and my sight was blurry and faded.  A few moments later I came to.

“Are you alright honey?” my mother asked with tear filled eyes.

I nodded acknowledging my mother’s question and subsiding here fears.  looked to my right to see where my father was.  Father was still there.  Barely rowing, sweat dripped down his body.  His clothes were drenched in sweat and blood.  He had mustered all of the strength he could find in order to stay out of the brig.  Father had been there once, but like the others, he never spoke about it.  Knowing he was here relieved my fears and nightmares.  I wanted to reach over and give him a hug but could not due to the chains we all bore.

Every slave on the ship had rusted shackles on their wrists and ankles.  Each one was connected to the other.  As I looked down, I could see my feet dirtied with soot, blood and slime.  My wrists were swollen from the incessant rowing.  No matter how much they hurt, I knew I could never stop.

Suddenly, my shackles fell.  What just happened?  I looked around and others had shackles that had fallen.  The chains that held us to the ship had fallen off and no one understood how or why. What if the faceless crew noticed the shackles had fallen?  Would we end up in the brig, the chamber of death?  Questions arose in my mind, but no answer could be held.

“Get up and leave”, whispered the voice inside my head.  Was I to move?  “Get up and leave”, the voice said a second time.  I leaned over to my father and noticed his shackles had fallen off as well.  My mother whispered, “Did you just hear that?  I was just told to get up and leave.”  She had heard the same inner voice that I just experienced.

In an instant, my father regained his strength and grabbed my shoulder.  “Let’s go”, he said to my mother and I.  We stopped rowing and stood up.  The faceless beasts continued to whip the others around us, but seemed to leave us alone.  As we left the benches we were previously chained to, a few observances came to mind.  First, there was darkness all around us.  Never had the daylight breached the thickness of night.  No stars were in the sky, no water beneath the ship.  How were we floating?  Where were we rowing to?  Nothingness appeared to be everywhere.  Hopelessness, despair, fear and trembling surrounded those still chained to the oars.

“Come toward me”, whispered the voice.  All of us looked at each other.  We all had heard it.  Where was it coming from?  “Come toward me.”

As I looked around, I saw a distant beam of white.  It was like a black canvas that had a single bead of white paint.  “There!  The voice is coming from there!” I shouted to the others.  Many others whose chains had fallen began to walk toward the white dot.  I just stood there observing my surroundings, wondering what was happening.

“If you want to live, then come to me”, exclaimed the soft voice.

What did it mean?  Of course I wanted to live.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive for so long.  Each moment that I rowed, I thought of what the possibilities were had I not been on the ship.  I desired to run with other boys my age.  I longed for a time where my mother and father smiled as I played in the park, happy and free.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive.

“If you want to live, come toward me and never look back”, said the voice.

I began to walk with my father and mother toward the dot and then realized we had left the ship.  Desiring for others to join us, I decided to turn back and see if others could be freed.  As I turned my shoulders, my father grabbed me and said, “You heard the voice, son.  Never look back.”

It was then I remembered a story that my father had told me when I was younger.  It was a story about a man and his wife who were told to leave the City of Sin.  The city had been so evil that destruction had crept toward them.  In order for them to survive, they needed to leave.  Unfortunately, the wife desired to return to the City of Sin.  She turned back and took one step when she froze into a pillar of salt.  I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that.  I acknowledged my father’s words and turned toward the white dot.

It had grown into a brilliant light, that was more beautiful than anything I had ever seen.  Peace and joy exuded from the light.  I then noticed that we no longer wore the torn, bloody clothes we had left the ship with.  We now wore robes of white, brilliant white with clean cushioned sandals.

As we walked forward, I could hear the screams of torture and death.  My curiosity desired to see what was happening, but my desire to live outweighed that option.  As the blood curdling screams continued, we entered the light until the screams could no longer be heard.  Now the brilliance, peace and joy surrounded our very being.  Finally, we had entered the promised land, happy and free.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,and broke away their chains.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” – Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV)