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Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

What Does a Call Look Like?

I’ve been talking to several people over the past couple of week about that term “calling.” Just what does a “call” look like?

In baseball, they have the “call to the bullpen” where the old pitcher comes out and a new pitcher comes in to take over the rest of the game.

Then there is another way to use the word:

“My name is Zebediah, but you can call me Zeb.”

In that case, the person wants you to call them by a certain title or nickname.

Then you have the doctor version of it. “I am on call.”

And there are multiple other uses of the word…

“’Should I call the men from up on the hill?’ he called out.”

But what about in Christianity? Let’s look at a couple verses and determine what this word actually means and if it is even biblical to say “I have a calling to go into the ministry.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

2 Peter 1:10 – Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

That is a lot to digest!

Let’s unpack each of these verses and throw in some of the church history as well.

To begin, the general call in the Bible is to a live with Christ. That is the first and foremost call in the Bible.

Romans 1:5-6 – through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ

Belonging to and in Christ is a much deeper calling than anything else in there. When one starts to discern a calling from a Christian standpoint, we need to make sure they have first a restored relationship with God and with His people.

This means that the primary call of the Christian is to respond to and act upon the call to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world.

This means that whatever work we choose must be integrated with the participation with Christ Himself. We could be a plumber, but as a plumber, we can work for the Kingdom by repairing relationships, showing justice, acting with mercy and grace and other components of the kingdom.

Next, God has given us a call to work. God created us to work. It started all the way back in the Garden of Eden. In Exodus, we are told that we are to work for 6 days and then rest. So you could say that it goes beyond calling, we are created to work. In the very beginning the call to basically be a farmer was the highest calling there was other than unity with God (until Eve came along that is).

Next, we are called to, well, life. Our work is not merely the job from which we get a paycheck. We raise families, have a spouse, and have friends.

Eve came along and Adam was then so smitten with her that he gave his time and attention to her as well as working his job in the Garden. This means we should balance our paid work and personal work with our families and friends.

So, to this point, we know that we are called to belong to Christ. We are created to work. And we are called to have a full life, filled with family and friends.

Knowing what kind of work you do is probably not that high on God’s list of things that are of critical importance.

But let’s look at whether God calls us to particular work.

We do know it does happen. God has called several people in the Bible to specific work. He called prophets. He called Noah to build an ark. He called Moses and Aaron to their roles. Many of the political leaders we see in the Bible, God elevated them to their roles. Even though the word “call” is not used here, there is no mistaking that God called those people to their roles.

I have read several commentaries that said that God called very few people in the Bible. And, I guess He didn’t call a lot of people numerically. But if you take that as a percentage of the people mentioned in the Bible, it is actually pretty high. And if you include the people we don’t get to “meet,” then that is a very high number. We don’t see all the people who went on to plant churches  in the New Testament or all of the Israelites whose sole job it was to protect the Ark of the Covenant.

But were many of these calls a direct “voice from heaven” moment or were they more subtle, such as being attuned to the heart of God through Scripture and meditation? There are several ways to discern where God wants to place you as far as a career goes.

First, we need to look at the needs of the world. We are told in Scripture that we should support ourselves and our families.

1 Timothy 5:8 – But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Titus 3:14 – Let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.

We also are expected to meet the needs of those who are not part of our family.

Proverbs 14:21 – Happy are those who are kind to the poor.

Proverbs 11:25 – A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.

Or what about working to be productive in society? That is Scriptural as well.

Jeremiah 29:5-7 – Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Next, God gives us each talents and gifts. We should use those gifts not only for the edification of the body of believers, but for the society as a whole.

Isaiah 28:24-26 – Do those who plow for sowing plow continually? Do they continually open and harrow their ground? When they have leveled its surface, do they not scatter dill, sow cummin, and plant wheat in rows and barley in its proper place, and spelt as the border? For they are well instructed; their God teaches them.

1 Corinthians 12:7-10 – To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

This is where knowing what you are good at and what spiritual gifts the Lord has given is important. This happens by talking to those closest to you, realizing your talents and spiritual gifts tests.

For example, I know that God has given me the ability to take large tasks and get them accomplished. I have managerial skills and leadership ability. I also have the ability to preach and to teach. That is what has helped me to confirm my calling into ministry. But similar skill set could be used to be a training manager for a company or a military commander.

Finally, what has God given you as your desires? Your fulfillment of purpose is vitally important to God.

Psalm 37:4 – Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

John 16:24 – Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Because of sin, however, our desires can get all screwed up. Doing what makes us happiest will not always bring the greatest fulfillment. God is looking out for our fulfillment of purpose, not mere happiness that comes and goes with the circumstances.

Does this mean that being “called” into the ministry is a higher calling? Around the Middle Ages, becoming a monk or a nun was considered a higher calling. Even to this day, we still see that played out. I have been fairly consistent in believing that while I welcome the benefits that the government affords those in ministry, they further create a divide into calling versus higher calling, and that is a mentality that needs to stop.

But fact of the matter remains, God does call people into vocational ministry.

Exodus 28:1 – Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests — Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

Mark 1:16-17 – As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Acts 13:2,5 – While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” ….When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.

Regardless, Christians are called, yes called, to conduct themselves to the full-time service of Christ.

Colossians 3:23 – Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.

But, Fred, what about 1 Timothy calling out those who are elder or pastor as it actually being a higher calling?

1 Timothy 5:17-18 – Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.”

This should be translated more in line with pay rather than about comparing their work with other peoples’ work. The true comparison in this passage is about pastors who rule well versus those who don’t instead of pastors versus the rest of the world.

Whew….That was a lot. But I believe this will give some insight, mostly to myself, about the word calling and what it is to the Christian.

Wait

Creator of earth & heaven, why am I filled with question

Defeated in my spirit. One empty man, desiring Your plan

Proverbs 21:5 – The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Ministry is such a fickle calling. The majority of Christians, in America at least, desire to have their ears tickled rather than salt poured on their wounds. We have trained ourselves to think that God’s blessings come only when we get what we want.

Now the inside of me is empty, the ones I have trusted have left me

But still I’m not forsaken, led by the hand of the Son of Man

Proverbs 16:3 – Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Your kingdom is so much bigger than what we make it out to be. Your kingdom is the present perfect tense! It is and it is yet to come. You have directed my path every step of the way ever since I called out to You.

My life has not been an easy one. Yep, it was, for 38 years. I grew up in a pretty stable family. Before I came along, though, I know both my mom and my dad, before meeting each other, had tough lives. It is one of the big things that I respect about them.

But for 38 years, I was fairly insulated from pain.

The past 12 years have been hard. And I am not saying that lightly. I mean it feels like someone has placed a shackle around my feet, attached a large boulder to it and told me to go climb Mt. Everest.

In 2011 I not only committed my work to the Lord, but I committed to work FOR the Lord. So plans were put in place to make that happen.

2011 is when the calling and my life truly intersected.

And so I will wait

And though my heart aches

Nothing can cause me to ever turn away

There is so much pain in this world that my heart wants to break

Proverbs 24:27 – Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

I prepared my work and got everything ready. By 2016 I started building the house that You asked me to build, preparing to go into vocational ministry.

You called me, Lord. You called me to intersect with those whose lives were without purpose, like mine was for 38 years. You called me to reach into the mire of peoples’ lives and show them that You are their one and only way to salvation.

2018 you blessed that day in early December. The house was now built.

But until You choose to deliver me, I choose to wait

Proverbs 24:3-4 – By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Lately, that house has been rocked. Figurative earthquakes have shaken the foundations. Figurative floods have destroyed some of the beautiful treasures inside the house. As the figurative house ages, I am learning that the equipment needs to be upgraded. I still need to place weed killer down so the crabgrass doesn’t break up through the driveway. I need to maintain the house you helped me build.

So that is my prayer today.

How can I maintain the house You helped me build?

What does that look like?

Last night I stood outside my house and simply looked at it. How do I know what needs to be replaced, upgraded, and repaired?

Short answer is that I typically stumble across it. Yes, there are reminders that I have in my phone to replace filters and I know that during the summer I will need to cut the grass weekly. But I won’t know the shower cartridge has a problem until there is a leak. And I won’t know a light is bad until it burns out.

The same can be said for this spiritual house I am in. There are things that I do daily to maintain the house. I read Your Word. I spend time in prayer. I study to show myself approved by You.

But there are areas that I won’t know are wearing out until they break.

Proverbs 27:23 – Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds

But hopefully, through study of the Word and prayer, I can learn to see the conditions of the house before too much begins to fail.

God, I Need a Sign

A lament.

God, I believe.

Those words sometimes feel so rote and trite. Working at a church you would think that I have that sentence down cold. That it pours from my heart without even thinking. It skips totally past my brain because it comes from a life filled with belief.

Help my unbelief

Those words, as I become more and more entrenched in the world of ministry, seem to fill my voice over and over again. But I do believe! I wouldn’t be talking to you, God, if I didn’t believe in you. But sometimes, I just wonder if you have the power to bring about what you say in Romans 8:28.

Do you really work for the good of those who love you? Of those who are called according to YOUR purpose? I’ve been called by that purpose. I expected the world to try to destroy that belief, but when it comes from the church, when it comes from broken promises and false pretenses, when it not only affects yourself but causes your bride to cry and hurt….is that what the calling is about?!?

Is it about the people of God hurting you more than the world can or will?

Hear me crying in pain while in the belly of the beast

I wonder if this is what you meant by receiving extra judgment. Or I wonder if this is what you meant when you called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. The manmade laws that kept people from serving you and loving without abandon.

I want to love you without fear!

I want you to be the sole purpose for my existence.

I want to see you so famous that I can say with boldness and confidence that I believe!

But I am stuck. Between falling for a false promise and a kingdom that is so much greater than any single moment in time.

The belly of the beast

Imagine Jonah! Out of fear he ran from you! I am sure that at various points in my life I have run from you. But now has not been one of them. You called me into the fight and I heeded the call.

But when Jonah embraced his call, he immediately got swallowed up by the beast. Sure, call it a whale or a fish. It was something much bigger than him. And Jonah got swallowed up by that which is bigger.

I’ve been swallowed up by my calling.

I know the reasons why you hide yourself away, but I can’t think of any of those right now

The church has taken the power away from the Holy Spirit. We are guilty of a grievous crime! We give all the power to your followers and don’t even know how to speak with you anymore.

We are the brood of vipers!

We spend all our time looking only at what is on the surface that if we started to look too deeply we would find the mirror that you placed there showing us what our faults and hang-ups are.

But imagine the freedom that comes from looking into the eyes of God!

Think about what we have now and what you desire us to have.

So, God, I need a sign. I need to know you are still in my corner

It is a dangerous place to get paid to motivate others to you. The only way we can see success is numerically. But you are so much more than numbers! You are Spirit! You are love. You are peace. You are patience. You are kindness. You are self-control.

There are no quantifiable measures of those.

Paul would be voted out of our churches. He spoke the truth. He was gruff. He was not the nice church leader that we all expect in our churches these days.

But he was filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Did he ever ask you for a sign?

When he opposed Peter, what happened there? I need to know the details, Lord.

I need that sign.

I’m not one for telling you what would be best for me

I’m not about to tempt you or put you to a stupid test.

I know you require faith

You said that blessed are those who believe who have never seen you

But just once….just this time….I need a confirmation

I need a miracle or wonder or voice or light

Or just give me something that I made up in my own head

Just once

Once.

I am invisible…to myself

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This past week I was able to unplug, unwind, and just enjoy some time alone. Throughout the week, while I spent the majority of my time alone in my hotel room, I did venture out occasionally. While out there, I realized that there is a very big difference between myself, and the culture that I have grown up in, and other cultures that are present right here in my own backyard.

Our behaviors are driven by the cultures and norms that we grew up with. When we enter areas or get into groups that have norms that we don’t understand, we tend to interpret those words and actions through the lens of our own culture. The problem with that is that it can lead to misinterpretation of the culture and damaged relationships.

I would like to share an example of this from a business perspective, but understand that this can be seen across countless other “cultural” norms other than business.

In American business, we tend to expect people to say what they mean and take their word at face value. Unfortunately, that cultural norm doesn’t translate across all cultures. If an American manager assumes an Asian counterpart will understand words the same way, that American manager could be in for a rude awakening.

The American manager looked at his Asian counterpart and asked if he understood on how to move forward with a project. The Asian coworker said he understood and agreed with the American coworker on how to move forward. A few months later, however, the American manager realized that his Asian counterpart didn’t agree at all and the project had never moved forward.

In many Asian cultures, harmony is highly valued. It is rude and inappropriate to disagree with people face to face and even more so in the presence of others, such as in a meeting. So typically, an Asian person may nod and say “yes” but it simple acknowledgement that they understood what you said, not necessarily agreement with what you propose.

Many times, the only way to deduce whether someone Asian agrees or disagrees with you is by watching their nonverbal cues. Do they have a pained look on their face as they nod? Don’t expect them to agree with you.

A key takeaway from this is that the American manager should have scheduled a one-on-one meeting with his Asian counterpart and been more aware of his body language. This would have helped him understand that cultural differences between him and his counterpart.

That was only an example taken from a business perspective.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

But this past week has been very eye-opening to me. Mostly from a perspective of Caucasian versus African-American.

I’ve never subscribed to the political norms of the day. As a Christian, I am supposed to be right-wing, conservative, Republican. I am supposed to be wearing something preppy (I know, a throwback to the 80s) and focused on building my bank account instead of healing the world.

But that isn’t me. I am NOT a Republican (I am also NOT a Democrat). I am not totally conservative. I hold to some traditional conservative values (I am pro-life, for example). But I also hold some traditionally liberal values (I think we should take care of the immigrants in our country, for example).

I base my Christianity from the Bible, not from commentaries or political pundits.  I do not ascribe to political Christianity. We don’t live in a post-Christian culture. We have never lived in a Christian culture. Yes, many of our laws are based from the Bible, but we were never a Christian nation. At best, we are a pre-Christian nation.

But, what I realized this week is that even though I don’t ascribe to many of those cultural norms, they are ingrained in my psyche and my actions.

For so long, I held to the fact that I didn’t need to wear a mask. I thought of it politically. Why did I have to do something that various people (both Democrat & Republican) don’t have to do? On the Democratic side, why does Rep. Lewis get a huge funeral attended by hundreds while it is illegal for the average person to get a funeral for their mom or dad. As for the Republicans, why do I have to have my rights trampled on so I can’t meet at church while I can fill up a Walmart or Home Depot with tons of people who barely know how to wear a mask?

I still don’t fear this virus. I have no reason to. I have a God who is bigger than this virus. But what I need to realize is that my culture, the one I ascribe to, is not being targeted. It is not in jeopardy. I can still worship. I can still praise God publicly. I can still have friends over to my house to talk about the Bible openly. And we can, technically, still have church, even if you are in a state like California where they have banned inside services and small groups in houses (they can still meet outside, whether at their houses or at their churches).

Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

But this week….

I went away to rejuvenate. After doing ministry through this pandemic the past 4-5 months, I realized that I was a little burned out. The sheep have become more in need during this time and we are trying to reach a community for the Gospel that is not just dying spiritually, but now could very well be sick and dying physically!

I went about 3 hours away to southwest VA. In this area there were a lot of people vacationing. There were Caucasian, Asian, and African-American from what I saw.

All of the stores in the area are required to have a sign on their doors that say “MASKS REQUIRED.”

But that didn’t stop people from not following it.

And it wasn’t a cross-section of each population that was not wearing it. It was a single culture that wasn’t wearing masks…mine.

The Asian and African-American people were wearing the masks. Almost 100% of people of those ethnicities were in masks. But the Caucasians were not wearing masks well or at all!

My wife and I met with a salesperson while down there who spits while he talks. He was not masked as he tried to sell us on something. He had spit coming out of his mouth and landing on the table in front of him.

Then, I asked a few people why they weren’t wearing masks in the places they worked and they said, for example:

“I can’t breathe in them” (that was the most common answer…lame excuse! I have asthma and can breathe perfectly through the mask)

 

“I am not wearing a mask, it violates my rights.”

 

“Masks don’t save lives. The studies are all lying to us.”

 

Then, on Thursday, I went to a convenience store. Inside were 3 Caucasian people working and probably about 10-12 Caucasians buying stuff. Absolutely none of them (except me) had a mask on! Also in there were 7-8 African-Americans. They were all masked up.

So I asked them why they were wearing masks. Here are a couple of their responses:

“It is my duty to protect others.”

 

“The virus affects the black population more than the white population.”

 

“Masks work to keep us all safe.”

 

We can learn from so many people from all cultures and ethnicities. But ultimately, what does the Bible say about this?

My wife and I were interviewed om Saturday for a YouTube video that a couple of missionaries we support in Peru were putting together. During the interview, Mimi brought up a verse that I have always enjoyed to share with others, but never put a lot of thought into it.

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Now re-read those answers from the people above and see if they fit within Philippians 2:3 context.

So I need to realize that my own culture…even the one I like to say I don’t ascribe to…is invisible to me and I need to start taking Philippians 2:3 as more than just good words of advice to share with others and let it be something that leads my actions and words.

Gaslight – a rant

Gaslighting is when a person or organization makes their victim question reality in order to gain a power stance over them. It is a common tactic of dictators, abusers, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is typically done over a longer period of time, so the victim doesn’t realize they are being gaslighted.

In this current societal era that we are in, gaslight is all the rage!

The phrase was actually created in a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton titled “Gaslight” in which a husband carefully, gradually, and diabolically manipulates his wife into thinking that she has lost her mind. The play was then made into a film and starred Ingrid Bergman.

But the corporate version of gaslighting remains the same. Carefully, gradually and diabolically manipulating people to be brainwashed into whatever you want them to believe.

In psychological terms, it almost always happens the same way. It starts with the victim questioning the small things, such as whether they heard a detail incorrectly. Then it moves to bigger things such as whether what they heard or saw really happened. Over time, it breaks down the confidence of the person until they have lost all touch with reality.

And I believe, America, that we are being gaslit (gaslighted?) today.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic, the COVID (said just like a typical old person).

Everyone should be confused by the mixed messages of public health experts right now. That isn’t gaslighting. That is simply the public health experts going through something they have never gone through before and learning along the way.

But when we see from our own government, who is the one who is filtering the information we receive, a constant stream of gaslighting, then we know that we are in perilous times. It starts with everyone’s favorite target, the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Actually, it doesn’t start there. It starts with all the lobbyists on both sides of the political spectrum. You see, just like all of us, Trump is a pawn. He would never agree that he is simply a pawn, but he is. He needs to listen, not to his advisors, but to the millions of people in the country who are his supporters if he plans to get his way in office.

The public health experts have been telling us what would happen if we didn’t follow their suggestions of social distancing, wearing masks, and shutting everything down completely for a short time.

But unfortunately, the lobbyists won out. The people with the true money won out.

It started great. Let’s shut everything down for a time.

BUT….

Home Depot, you can stay open because people are going to need something to do while they are stuck at home. Oh, and grocery stores, you can stay open because no one can go out and get 2 weeks-worth of rations, you need to stay open in case some family just can’t live without their filet mignon for the next couple weeks. Restaurants, you can stay open too, but you can only do outside seating and curbside pickup.

SIDE STORY: When all this hit, I ran to one of our grocery stores and started to purchase some food with my dad. I kid you not, as we walked by the seafood counter, there was a woman purchasing 6 live lobsters from the tank and she wanted to pick each one out individually so that she got the best ones.

Anyway, once the lobbyists heard that some stores would remain open, then everyone lobbied to stay open.

Let me give you an example. I live in Maryland. Governor Hogan, who I think started by trying to do the right thing, ended up allowing himself to be gaslit.

Let’s start with March 5. He puts out a press release about the first 3 positive cases of COVID in Maryland. He said not to panic but to stay informed with him at his press conference that night.

That same night, he declared a state of emergency. Basically that is a gaslight phrase in and of itself which says (according to Governor Hogan’s own site): “A state of emergency is a good indicator that residents should remain alert and follow officials’ orders and news stations in order to be informed of the situation.”

The state of emergency allowed the governor to begin the discussions with all the organizations throughout the state about getting plans in place for a larger issue.

On March 6, he gave updates as to the 3 patients and tell everyone that COVID testing will be free as insurers waive the costs of it.

On March 8, he announced 2 more cases.

By the 9th of March, he created a COVID Response Team of medical experts around the state. It was during this time that each person who contracted the virus was news in and of itself.

On March 10, he met with his first lobbyist group, the group who lobby for the long-term care facilities. They came up with an entire list of things to keep the older residents safe. He also met with the lobbyist group for colleges and universities. They came up with a 2-week plan to close campuses during spring break timeframe.

By March 11, he had met with several other concerned groups, mostly state government, to come up with plans for them. The MVA was going to appointments only, the prisons were not allowing visits, the veteran’s affairs were not allowing people in.

Then March 12th happened. This is where Hogan decided to take action. He started by activating the National Guard. He then banned groups of 250 or more as well as closing all senior centers around the state. He closed all schools in the state until March 27th. He also rolled out a lot more restrictions on people coming in from international travel and cruises and locked down the medical system even more.

These are good things. They are a process of learning for someone who has never been through this before. I applauded Hogan for the steps he was taking and the speed at which he did it. (For those of you who want to use this as a soundbite in the future, please don’t, this is not going to end in a flattering way for Hogan).

This where the plan starts to buckle.

On March 14th, he decided to expand the childcare programs in Maryland so that they would stay open. He was starting to hear from the lobbyists that their group of people still had to go to work and needed to have childcare in order for them to continue.

While I don’t envy the decision he had to make, it was a mistake. And it was the first of many that he would make along the way.

On March 15th he closed down casinos. On March 16th he closed down theatres, fitness centers, spas, bars and restaurants. BUT, in order to allow them to keep income flowing, he allowed restaurants to have carry-out, drive-thu, and delivery services. That’s a little crazy. There were absolutely no directives to restaurants and bars about employees, only how to keep them open.

Also, on March 16th, he prohibited groups larger than 50 people. It is at this point that the religious community got involved. But not all religious communities were vocal about it. Keep in mind that ALL retail was still open at this time except fitness, theatres, spas, and indoor only restaurants.

March 17th he must have been getting calls because he put out what he calls “interpretive guidance.” Now food courts inside of malls are still ok to keep open, so are food trucks. Barber shops and hairstylists are ok to keep open, but not spas.

Wow.

On March 18 we had our first COVID death in the state. On the 19th, Hogan “tightened” things down more. This is where he starts listening to the lobbyists more than fearing the virus.

On the 19th, he prohibited gatherings of larger than 10 people. He again closed all restaurants, unless they are able to do carry-out, drive-thru, or delivery (just to be clear, he didn’t do anything different to them). He closed malls. He didn’t close any other retail establishments, but he closed malls. And he closed down any amusement-type business. He also required all state colleges and universities to finish the spring semester online at this time.

This is where the true mistake was made. He, on the 19th, allowed delivery and carry-out of alcohol. How, on any earth, is that essential?!?!  He has immediately turned from someone I had respect for to someone who is now starting to gaslight for the purpose of keeping the lobbyists happy.

Also on the 19th, more interpretive guidance came out that said that convenience stores can remain open, as well as grocery stores.

March 23rd is the next mistake in a line of many. He closed all non-essential businesses. But he tried to keep all parties happy by telling everyone that this is “not a shelter-in-place” order.

But let’s look at those non-essential businesses:

  • All the former businesses he already closed
    • But restaurants and bars can still delivery food/alcohol and have carry-out and drive-thru
    • And retail establishments that have their own door to the outside can continue operations.
  • He added golf courses and social clubs now to the list.
  • He listed a website of cisa.gov and when you get in there, it is one of the biggest, most confusing, websites I have ever tried to navigate to find information easily. Here is what the interpretive guidance on the Hogan website says can remain open:
    • Manufacturing
    • Lodging
    • Laundry services
    • Construction
    • The media can remain open (that is interesting)
    • Defense contractors
    • Law/Rescue services
    • Energy services
    • All financial services
    • Grocery stores
    • Convenience stores
    • Farmer’s Markets (???)
    • Alcoholic distributors
    • Farms
    • Pet supply stores
    • Vets
    • Lawyers
    • All healthcare
    • IT services
    • All forms of transportation (although he said in the same order that Marylanders were not to leave the state)
    • Wastewater
    • Staffing services
    • Door to door salespeople (he discouraged it, but didn’t discontinue it)

That is a long list. But that isn’t it. I guess he got a lot of calls from people wondering if their business was on the list. So there is more interpretive guidance that came out on the same day on who could remain open.

  • Car dealerships
  • Bike shops
  • Moving companies (but I thought we couldn’t move anywhere out of state and were suggested to stay indoors)
  • Tool rental companies
  • Party rental companies
  • All retail except indoor malls

But wait…there’s more! On the 24th he came out with more interpretive guidance on what can remain open:

  • Greenhouses
  • Trash pickup
  • Residential cleaning services

And now we get to even MORE ridiculousness. If you deem your organization as essential, you should give all your employees a letter that says why they are essential in case it is challenged. Oh, and slipped into this latest order is that clergy is deemed non-essential. But we are allowed to have a skeleton crew that can keep the day to day operations of the facility going.

Isn’t that most churches? Most are just 1 or 2 people trying to get everything done.

But I guess the churches were starting to chomp at the bit a little. So on April 1, Governor Hogan put out directives to churches:

  • You are allowed to have a drive-in religious service
  • You may have indoor services if:
    • They are under 10 people
    • There is no physical interaction
    • Everyone 6 feet apart and wearing masks
    • A 4 hour gap in between services (and, yet, Home Depot or Safeway can allow in unlimited people all day long with no gap in between, interesting)

Effective April 18, everyone must wear face masks and socially distance themselves. The face mask MUST cover both mouth and nose. Under age of 2 doesn’t have to wear one. Between 2-9 the parent is supposed to do everything they can to get their child to wear one. Age 9 and above is required.

By April 20th, we now close down all barber shops and hairstylists.

By May 13th, the guidance came out that the following could reopen:

  • Pet shelters
  • Art galleries
  • Bookstores
  • Car washes
  • Florists
  • Pawn shops
  • Tobacco and vape stores

By May 13th we enter phase 1, which allowed all those businesses above to reopen.

Why do I write all of this?

It is to show that even Governor Hogan, a highly respected state official, can become the victim of gaslighting. He was led astray by his advisers and lobbyists. When all it would have taken was closing the state down completely for a matter of time, now we have a long, drawn-out problem that is resurging again.

Remember I mentioned Trump above? Well, he has his own gaslighting moments, but so do all the other organizations that are trying to gain all the power.

So when you are listening to all the pundits and the voices and the media, ask yourself these few simple questions to determine if they are gaslighting you:

  • Are they trivializing how you feel about the situation?
  • Are they saying that your thoughts are not valid?
  • Are they saying things that they later deny they said?
  • Basically, are they in it for the power or are they in it to effectively take care of the people they serve? This is a good question to ask whether it is politics, relationships, church, work, or whatever.

So there you have it. We are being gaslighted (gaslit?). So now it is time to do something about it. Educate yourself so you know the signs.

 

 

 

Judgment, Trial, or Consequence?

Yesterday when I wrote about my thoughts, I said that I was thinking this COVID thing was judgment from God rather than a trial we are going through.

When I wrote it, I was actually surprised how easily those words came from my hands. Today, after prayer and thought, I am not so sure.  Do I still believe it could be judgment from God? Yep. Am I convinced of it? Not so much.

Here is why.

I decided to take a vacation. The clamors of the world were so loud over the past 5 months that I needed to disappear and get some alone time with God. I left Friday for vacation, heading into the mountainous areas of southwest VA. Mimi joined me for a couple of days and we tooled around the area looking at antiques and flowers and things, but she left Sunday afternoon and I stayed behind to get some alone time with God.

Yesterday, when I woke up, I started thinking on judgments in the Bible and what they looked like. I let my emotions lead my typing as I posted yesterday.

But then I spent much of the day reading, studying the Bible, and reviewing those judgments in there as well as other times people called things judgment that were not.

And now I am not so sure.

Looking at specific times in the Bible that could be used as a barometer for this being judgment, I started in the New Testament.

Acts 12:23 – Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

I know, not necessarily the use of a disease, but a judgment nonetheless and, bonus, it has worms eating a guy! But God does use death as a judgment. This one, was more personal than corporate.

Then you have this…

John 5:14 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Jesus is clearly telling someone to not sin anymore so that nothing else happens to him. But then I got to praying about this. Is this judgment or consequence? This guy was paralyzed 38 years prior. Who knows if it was from his sin or if he simply tripped and became paralyzed. We need more to the story to determine if it is truly judgment that Jesus is talking about here or if it consequence.

What about this one…

1 Corinthians 11:30 – That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

This one is clearly a judgment. Jesus is doing communion with His disciples and He tells them that if you take communion without discerning the body is eating and drinking judgment on themselves. Then He goes on to tell them that this is why many have died or are weak or sick.

Clearly a judgment here.

And this is a judgment specifically for people who are followers of Christ!

How about in the Old Testament?

Well, we have Job. His friends told him that he was being judged by God. God called Job’s friends wicked and stupid for saying that, though.

You would think that if this was judgment, there would be no confusion about whether it is or isn’t. God is not a God of confusion but of clarity.

One more verse to make a point is in Luke 13….

Luke 13:4-5 – Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

A tower fell in Jerusalem and the people wanted to know if it was judgment on them. Jesus specifically tells them it was not.

So now I am left wondering. Is this judgment? Is it a trial? Is it a consequence? I tend to lean more (today) on the consequence than anything. We are acting foolishly here in America, and especially in our churches, and we are not heeding the sound advice of the experts in their fields and doing what we please. There has to be a consequence that follows that course of action.

Ultimately, though, it is God who is in control. And, one day, this will all be wiped away as we enter rest with Him.

Sometimes the words fail

Matthew 12:36 – I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak

Over the past few months, I’ve been learning a lot about what ministry is like but even more so about who I am in ministry.

And the words have failed me.

I have about 20 blog posts that I have started and haven’t finished.

Because the words have failed me.

The past few months have filled my head and heart with a lot of different thoughts and feelings.

And, yet, the words have failed me.

I have gone back and forth between the importance of social distancing and the desire to be close-up with people I know and love.

I have switched several times between the importance of masks and thinking they are just something that is just a false sense of security.

I’ve been seeing the effect of this pandemic on the church I am a leader at and churches around the country and worldwide.

But I can’t find the words to share what is truth during this time.

I only have emotion.

So, in a different twist, I would like to type my prayer to God here that I am asking Him right now.

God, I give you the glory. But right now I am at a loss for words. I am at a loss for truth. I pray for the discernment to know what to say to a community that needs words of wisdom. A community that hasn’t been through what we are currently going through. A community that is going through the same emotions that I am going through. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

When 2020 started (I wonder how many books, blog posts and social media sentences will be starting with that), I was a little over a year-old in full-time ministry. Our church was growing. We were above 200 and seeing more come every day. We had growing ministries and several people serving throughout the church.

My job is Director of Ministries. Things were going well. It was great seeing the ministries grow and the people get involved.

Our growth groups were growing as well. We were seeing a very high percentage of our attenders going to growth group and connecting with people outside of the Sunday service. People were becoming what our mission statement says, “bringing people to Christ and developing them into fully mature, reproducing followers of Jesus.”

But now, we look at about 60 coming to church as success. We look at the live stream numbers and see how many views we had or comments. How many subscribers did we grow. We don’t even know how to truly disciple people during this time in our history.

It is as if God has taken what we know of church and thrown out the model.

The one thing that keeps coming back to me is that this isn’t a time of trial for the church but a time of judgment.

If this is judgment on the church, then that means we need to become the church that God needs us to become.

The book of Hebrews can be filled with hope for us. Originally written for Jewish Christians who were getting ready to go through a time of intense persecution who were feeling worn down by the time they were in and they were beginning to revert to their old ways.

Sound familiar?

In America, the church has never been more divided. In the past, we were divided on issues such as grace and works or infant baptism and believer’s baptism or views on women in ministry. Today, the church is divided over whether we should follow the guidance of the government to protect those who are at most risk by a virus that has a history of killing those at risk. We are divided on whether we should wear a face mask because, as Americans, it is more important that we have our freedoms than it is that we care for the least of these.

But what do you expect from a country that believes a political leaning is based in Christianity.

Is our freedom really in what the government promises us? Or is it in Christ?

If we as Christians find our freedom and hope in our government, then we have abandoned the One who gives us true freedom and hope.

We have pastors and churches who are leading their sheep into a belief that church can only happen if they listen to them live on a Sunday morning. We have pastors who are suing the government by saying that they have lost their rights. We have pastors and churches who believe less about the shepherding of the one than they do about the leading of the masses.

When we lose sight of what it means to be a shepherd, then we miss the point of Christ and His church.

So whether the argument is about immigration (by the way, Jesus would help the sojourner), or equality of the races (by the way, we are all made in the image of God, regardless of color of skin or place of birth), or whether we should completely close down churches for a time to save a population that is at risk (by the way, if the only way you can worship God is on Sunday morning in a large church service, then you have missed the point of the Gospel), we need to unify around the Word. We need to unify around the Christ who saves us. We need to consider others as better than ourselves and allow our pride to be crucified on the cross of Christ.

So I found the words. Or more, I believe they were given to me to say.

In a time of judgment, it is a necessity to seek the Christ of eternity rather than come up with more and more plans, programs, and ideas.

In a time of judgment, it is a time to seek God through His Word and act in a way that honors Him alone.

In THIS time of judgment, may all the words we say be seasoned with salt but chosen only with discernment and wisdom.

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

 

Zechariah 14: 1-11 Commentary

I am finally returning to finish what I had started so many months ago, to comment on the book of Zechariah. With all the events happening in the world today between viruses and rioting in the streets of America, God has kept me fairly quiet, at least on the social front.

This week is verses 1-11. Next week (hopefully) I will finish the rest of the chapter and thus finish the book of Zechariah.

Zechariah 14:1 – Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst.

The ESV says this is a day for the Lord. Other translations say that “the day of the Lord is coming.” This is a time when God will show wrath toward heathen. This is meant to be the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth.

Jerusalem will be overtaken and split up among its enemies. This will be the trigger for the Day of the Lord. Many think this is the time around 70 AD when Rome came against Jerusalem with a multinational army. But the deliverance that is listed by Zechariah doesn’t happen during the 70 AD event.

Zechariah 14:2 – For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

The brutality that will happen during this time will be beyond compare. The brutalities are typical hostilities that happen when hatred reigns in a person’s heart. After the brutality, half of the people will be taken into captivity and then a remnant will remain.

Zechariah 14:3 – Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.

Like throughout all of Biblical, and even modern, history, the Lord shows up gloriously when it seems all hope is lost. Think of the Israelites during the Exodus, they could not see the waters part until their had wet feet. Or I think of Paul & Silas in prison. Again, when all hope seemed lost, God showed up in a glorious way. I immediately go to the Revelation, chapter 14 verse 14 or Ezekiel 38:21.

Zechariah 14:4 – On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.

It is interesting to note that there is a fault line that runs across the Mount of Olives, fairly close to the temple mount. This earthquake is seen in Revelation 16.

This place holds so much significance in Biblical history. Ezekiel saw the glory of God departing from this mountain. The Garden of Gethsemane is here as well, where Jesus shed tears and was grieved to the point of death. And it was from this place that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Zechariah 14:5 – And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

As we notice in the book of Amos, there is an earthquake described. This mountain is split from east to west and the mountain will move north and south. It will create a valley that will reach to a place east of Jerusalem called Azal. This is a parallel quake to the book of Amos, when king Uzziah reigned in Judah.

Zechariah 14:6 – On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost.

It is interesting to note, as both verse 6 and 7 go together, that this is the Day of the Lord. The sources of light and dark that we know today won’t exist, but….

Zechariah 14:7 – And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

…it will be replaced with the Light of Christ alone. I look to Isaiah 30:26 and Malachi 4:2 as Biblical references here.

This day, only the Lord knows.

What Zechariah set up in the beginning of this chapter he describes in detail for the rest of it. Just what is going to happen on that “unique day?”

Zechariah 14:8 – On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

Jerusalem’s highest point is almost 300 feet lower than the Mount of Olives. But what will happen on that day is remarkable! The waters will flow to both the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

One other thing to note is that in the summer, most Palestinian creeks, rivers, and waterways dry up. But this tells us that it will continue year-round.

Joel 3:18 tells us that water will flow from under the temple. In Ezekiel 47 we see that trees of all kinds bear fruit year round because of the water that flows from the sanctuary.

Psalm 46:4 tells us about this river of God. It is something that can only be created by His moving, by God’s power alone.

There are MANY verses that allude to this “river of God.” It can be tied back to the original Eden from Genesis 2:10. Then, there are so many others that talk about it in the millennial sense: Isaiah 33:21 and Revelation 22:1 come to mind immediately.

Could this river of God be the essence of God Himself? I know that is a very dangerous statement to make, but if I read my Bible directly, this river proceeds directly out of the throne room of God!

This is the Living Water we so closely associate with.

Zechariah 14:9 – And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

The false religions are going to be taken away. All the covenants will be fulfilled:

Abrahamic – giving the nation of Israel and a land given to Abraham

Davidic – A king from the tribe of Judah and the line of David

New – Spiritual redemption of both Jew and Gentile

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all covenants.

Zechariah 14:10 – The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.

The surrounding areas to Jerusalem will be leveled and become a plain and Jerusalem will be lifted above it all.

Many of the prophets said that in the latter days Jehovah’s house would be built on top of the mountains.

Zechariah 14:11 – And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.

Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city on earth. That will be no more. There will be safety and security in Jerusalem.

Again, many of the prophets spoke of the blessings of a restored Jerusalem.

Zechariah 13 Commentary

The last few verses of chapter 12 showed us the sadness and repentance of God’s people over “piercing Him.” This brought His people grace. As chapter 13 opens, we see the continuation of the effects of that repentance as we move from grace into forgiveness and then justification.

Zechariah 13:1 – “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.

This chapter opens as learn that what God is about to do is both for the royal line of the house of David and for the general inhabitant of Jerusalem.

The fountain that the prophet talks about here is something that we see throughout all of Scripture. Ezekiel 36:25 comes to mind. God tells His people that He will “sprinkle them clean” from their sin.

It starts by telling us “On that day….” The day that the prophet is speaking of is the day, as we saw before, that God’s people are reborn.

Zechariah 13:2 – “And on that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness.

This is a literal verse. God will remove the idols and unclean spirits from the land. Idolatry was always something that led Israel astray. But now God will completely cut out the idols.

Zechariah 13:3 – And if anyone again prophesies, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord.’ And his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies.

Imagine being a preacher in the final days and misrepresenting the truth. The truth of God will be even more significant than the bond of parents with their children. It will be so important to represent the truth of God that if someone prophesies falsely, their own parents will pierce their side.

Zechariah 13:4 – “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive,

These prophets will be so fearful that they will not dress as a prophet. In the Old Testament, the prophets were typically dressed in a certain way. The way a prophet dressed was an outward symbol of what the prophet was choosing to live. They chose to live a life that abstained from worldly pleasures and to grieve for God’s people.

But this verse shows that those who prophecy will be scared of the ridicule of man. First, in the verse before, a false prophet would be killed by his family. Second, those who falsely prophecy for their own gain would become ashamed of their craft.

Zechariah 13:5 – but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil, for a man sold me in my youth.’

The false prophet, ashamed, will say he is not a prophet but a farm hand.

Zechariah 13:6 – And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’

False prophets in Zechariah’s day would injure themselves for their pagan rites. Check out Leviticus 19:28, Deuteronomy 14:1, 1 Kings 18 or Jeremiah 16 and 48. In Ahab’s court, for example, there were false prophets who would prophesy in the name of God. Those same priests, however, would also cut themselves with knives as they worshiped the Baals.

The false prophets would try to explain away their injuries by saying they received them at their friends’ places.

Zechariah 13:7 – “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.

The sword is a symbol of judgment. In Romans 13:4, for example, it is a power that God gives to human judges and government.

This verse goes on with much more intriguing symbolism, though. The shepherd that is “standing next to me” is the Good Shepherd. This is the death that was part of God’s design to save humanity. This fits with Isaiah 53:10 in which Zechariah agrees with Isaiah that God ordained Christ’s suffering.

In Matthew 26:31, Jesus quoted this verse when He referenced the scattering of His disciples after His arrest and punishment.

Zechariah 13:8 – In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive.

Only part of God’s people will remain faithful to God until the end. These will be the ones that will be the remnant of the sheep and goats. Unfortunately this tells us that 2/3 of the world will turn away from God and only a third will be faithful.

Zechariah 13:9 – And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

The third that remains faithful will be tested and go through tribulation. Through the tribulation the relationship will be solidified. Throughout all history, the covenant relationship between God and His people has been challenged, but God has always remained faithful to bring His people back to Him.

Zechariah 12 Commentary

It has been a while since I have posted anything on here. The virus has kept me extremely busy and I’ve spent my time focusing on being the hands and feet rather than studying the Word of God. But I’ve been granted some brief downtime and that is giving me the opportunity to exegete Zechariah 12, which is a very timely chapter based on this week being Easter.

If you are looking for a church service this weekend, our church would be more than happy to have you “join” in livestream. Go to fcbc.church to watch. We are available for watching on the following:

Good Friday at 7 PM, 4/10

Sunday Sunrise at 6:30 AM, 4/12

Sunday at 10:30 PM, 4/12

As we finish out the book of Zechariah, the final 3 chapters deal with the final oracle, or burden, that Zechariah presents. This book ends in hope as we see, over these last 3 chapters, the restoration of God’s people.

Zechariah 12:1 – The oracle of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:

This chapter begins with an explanation that God created the heavens, the earth and man. This is being explained to show that “He who has started a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

Some versions call this a burden, not an oracle. This burden shows that there will be some significantly bad happening before the restoration of God’s people.

Zechariah 12:2 – “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah.

Whenever God says he is about to make a “cup” of something, you know God is about to bring wrath (Isaiah and Jeremiah specifically show this). The cup of staggering, or trembling as other translations have, shows that God is going to make Jerusalem something that they will covet and, yet, it will be as they are intoxicated with it.

The Muslim world desires Jerusalem. It is the third holiest of cities in the Muslim world. It is where the Dome of the Rock is. But Jerusalem will remain protected by God.

Zechariah 12:3 – On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.

I can’t help but think about the first question I was asked when I started seminary about 10 years ago: If God is all powerful, can He create a rock that He cannot lift. While that question is circular in nature and meant to trick you into saying something you may not believe, God is pretty clear on the stone that Jerusalem will become.

This stone will be heavy. Not only can we not lift it, but anyone that tries will hurt themselves. Some translations say “all who try to lift it will be cut to pieces.” This shows that God’s hand is on Jerusalem and that anyone that comes against them will be injured.

And who wants to come against Jerusalem? The next sentence tells us that all the nations of the earth seek to destroy it.

Zechariah 12:4 – On that day, declares the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.

Horses are symbols of strength and power. In Deuteronomy 28 we find that the curses that were for Israel are now curses that will be put on Israel’s enemies.

God is telling us that He is looking out for His people.

Zechariah 12:5 – Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’

This is the moment that God’s people realize that He has always been for them. They see that their power comes from their God, not themselves.

Zechariah 12:6 – “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.

God is showing us the power that He will give to His people. This power comes through God’s glory as we will see in the next verse.

Zechariah 12:7 – “And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah.

It is interesting that God is saving the “tents of Judah first.” This means that God is not starting with the fortified city. He is starting with the countryside. This is being done to show God’s glory.

Zechariah 12:8 – On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them.

1 Samuel 18 tells us that David was the greatest soldier in Israel’s history. The weakest person in Jerusalem will become like David.

And then the entire house of David will find that they have been given a supernatural, superhuman strength.

This verse makes me think of 1 Corinthians 1:25. Especially as I write this under a stay-at-home order from the government because of the virus that is plaguing the world. As a full-time ministry worker who is seen as non-essential by our government, I find that I have had to defy the orders on occasion in order to see people fed, to get groceries for people who have lost their income, or to simply take time praying with people, placing my arms around them or hands on them. In worldly terms, this is all foolish. But God’s foolishness is wiser than men.

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

This could be the battle of Armageddon. You see throughout the Bible a lot of “seek to” phrases. In human terms, this is something that is attempted to be done but is always bent under the will of God. With God, when He seeks to do something, all His promises are “yes and amen.”

Zechariah 12:10 –  “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

I love this verse! This verse is the story of anyone’s life who has converted to Christ. When Christ came the first time, His people didn’t recognize Him as the Messiah and they pierced Him. This time, they see the hurt they have caused Him and mourn and weep for Him.

Think of Saul on the Damascus road. This is the same effect that realization has on a person.

Zechariah 12:11 – On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

King Josiah was killed in Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. It was the death of Josiah that was the last straw before Judah had lost hope.

Zechariah 12:12 – The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves;

Verses 12 through 14 show the impact on both the royal (house of David & Nathan) and priestly (house of Levi and Shimei). In verse 12 we see the entire land mourning. Not just the seats of power, but all of God’s people.

Men and women will mourn separately as is the tradition of the Jews in public worship.

Zechariah 12:13 – the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves;

Both the royal and priestly lines are the ones leading the mourning. In the past, both lines were corrupted and led Israel in evil deeds. They will be leading the nation in repentance.

Zechariah 12:14 – and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

The entire nation will be reborn in a single moment. Think of Isaiah 66:8. They will all be mourning separately, overcome by the grief of killing of the Messiah the first time.

While Jews are predominantly discussed here, the Gentile can also take heed. We all share the guilt of the crucifixion. We also shall share in the salvation that comes in repentance.

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