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Archive for the tag “faith”

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.

Zechariah 8 Commentary

Zechariah 8:1 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying,

As we have seen before, this tells us that we have yet another message coming from God.

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.

The word “jealous” is typically used when God is telling of something that He is intensely passionate about. Some translations use the phrase “zealous.” In Exodus 20:5, we learn that God is jealous and will not tolerate anything rivaling His glory. This phrase is being used to show that He is passionate about restoring his covenant with His people.

The phrase “Thus says the Lord” is in this chapter of Zechariah 10 times. When we see this phrase, it is to stress the promises God has made with His people.

Zechariah 8:3 – Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.

I find it interesting that some versions of the Bible call Jerusalem a “city of truth” and the ESV calls it the “faithful city.” While they can be used to mean similar things, reading it without context can lead to confusion.

A faithful city is one that will be faithful to the Lord. Yes, that does include the truth of God’s Word and love, but I think that we can easily pass by that word in the Bible in our 21st century American minds. When I read other versions and see “city of truth” I perceive a city that is ruled by God and their words and their actions are both based on the truth of God alone.

I believe the phrase “city of truth” needs to be used here rather than “faithful city” because of the tie it has to verse 16. This would make this chapter more consistent with the rest of the book.

We also see in this verse the “holy mountain,” which ties back to Isaiah 6:3. The mountain is holy because God is there.

We need to remember that simply returning from captivity did not end the sin that God’s people would do. This is more prophetic than historical in nature. The sin won’t come to an end until the Savior returns a second time.

Zechariah 8:4 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age.

Think of what those who were in captivity returned to. Jerusalem’s walls were all destroyed and they were coming back to a city that was a ghost of what it once was.

Between this verse and the next, we see that God is promising to have the city be vibrant once again.

Zechariah 8:5 – And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

There would be families once again growing in Jerusalem. The Targum (a spoken translation of the Tanakh, or the Scriptures, in a language for the common people) says that instead of playing in the streets, these children will be singing or praising God in the spaces of the city.

Children are seen to be a blessing from God. With these same children playing in the streets, they have nothing to fear. Peace has come to Jerusalem.

Zechariah 8:6 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the Lord of hosts?

The people must have marveled at being called home. I am sure that the captives were struggling to not lose hope, but the situation that they were in must have seemed hopeless.

This one act, bringing God’s people home, was a miracle that only God could make happen!

Zechariah 8:7 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country,

This is a very interesting verse! Think of this in terms of history. The Israelites were taken captive to the north. The western scattering didn’t happen until the first century AD! At this point, there were no Jews in the western world.

I really believe there are two different ways to look at this verse: physical and spiritual. In the physical sense, east and west could mean the entire world. Think of Deuteronomy 30:3: “That then the Lord your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all nations where the Lord has scattered you.”

In the spiritual sense, God is speaking of the salvation that is offered to the entire world. Think of verses like Malachi 1:11 or 1 Timothy 4:10.

Zechariah 8:8 – and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

When I read this verse, I immediately think of Hebrews 8:10: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts: and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people.”

But then I realize that the verse in Hebrews is reverse of this. In this verse, the people must want to be God’s before He will be theirs.

This is one of the most important promises in all of Scripture! Imagine the awesome time we will have with God being our God and us being His people! This is both physical and spiritual. It isn’t just for Jews. It is for all.

Zechariah 8:9 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

God is talking about the building of the temple in this case. He is encouraging His people to get the temple built. The foundation of the temple had been laid over 15 years before this was written. As we will see in the upcoming verses, the were running out of money and they were facing opposition.

But one can’t help but think about Ephesians 6:10 in this: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

Zechariah 8:10 – For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in, for I set every man against his neighbor.

This is a backward look at a forward promise. God is telling them that where they came from was very poor in condition compared to where He is about to bring them to.

Zechariah 8:11 – But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts.

God is not going to allow the same fate to happen to this remnant that He did to the people before.

Zechariah 8:12 – For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

This verse and the next show the depth of God’s promises to His people. God is about to reverse the curses from Deuteronomy 28 and Jeremiah. Let’s look closer at this.

There will be a sowing of peace. Most other versions have listed “the seed shall be prosperous.” I think I like the other versions more than the ESV again in this. Simply saying that there is a sowing of peace doesn’t show the countering of Haggai 1:6 in which there would be sowing and it wouldn’t come to much.

Then we see that the vine will give her fruit and the ground shall give its produce. This is a counter to Haggai 1:11 in which there was a drought.

The heavens will give their dew. Again, we are countering Haggai 1:11 in which the drought was prevalent.

Zechariah 8:13 – And as you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

Both Judah and Israel are brought back. Unified. God is not going to have them be a curse among the nations, but a blessing. A couple of verses to think about for this:

Genesis 12:2 – And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Then another one that speaks to this, after Jesus was resurrected,

Galatians 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave to free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

Zechariah 8:14 – For thus says the Lord of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts,

So for the idolatry, abominations, and sins of the fathers, God brought disaster to His people. He didn’t end the relationship, however. As these are His sons and daughters, He wanted them simply to turn back. His people needed punishment.

Zechariah 8:15 – so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not.

God has forgiven them and has chosen now to bless them. Just as in Isaiah 14:24 we see that whatever God plans He does, the same can be said here. The time for fear has passed. The time for abundant faith and blessing has come.

Zechariah 8:16 – These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;

As in all other times, the blessings come with obedience. We can’t expect to see God’s blessings if we choose to be disobedient. We see similar words in Psalm 15:1-5 when David asks who can live on the holy hill.

To stay under God’s blessing, these need to be a people who will speak the truth and execute honest judgment. Ephesians 4:25 tells us to speak truthfully to our neighbor and to put away our lying.

Zechariah 8:17 – do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”

Our hearts determine who we are. Our character. Anything that runs counter to God’s Law is hated by God. Just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 we are to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Zechariah 8:18 – And the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,

We are about to get a new message. This is one that includes us Gentiles in it as part of the promises.

Zechariah 8:19 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.

The fasts that are listed, which were to commemorate the destructions and/or deaths of others, are now to be feasts that are joyful times to celebrate what the Lord has done for the remnant returning.

Zechariah 8:20 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities.

This tells us that people from all over the different cities will be coming to Jerusalem. I like to think that this is foreshadowing the travels of Paul. Paul traveled all over the place and the people he came in contact with became part of the family. This is the same family that God is talking about in this verse.

Zechariah 8:21 – The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’

The people from the other cities will come to seek the Lord. These Gentiles care about each other. This reminds me of John 13:35 where Jesus tells His disciples that people will know they are His by the love they show one another. The fact that these Gentiles are going to each other to help them seek Christ shows that love that Jesus is talking about.

Zechariah 8:22 – Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.

This is very exciting! People from all around the world will come to seek God and to pray to Him. Galatians 3:8 says that God justifies the heathen through faith and that all nations are blessed.

Zechariah 8:23 – Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Ok, here’s a question. Why “ten?” Typically when ten nations is used in a verse it stands for the world governments. This means that the world will be seeking Christ. The Gospel was given to the Jew first, then the Gentile. But God is available for all nations.

Revelations 7:9-10 – After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, all kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.

Zechariah 6 Commentary

Zechariah 6 starts with another vision. This is the eighth and final vision. This vision serves as a connector to the first. The horses that are in the first vision are shown in this vision. This vision shows us the quick judgment that comes upon Babylon.

Zechariah 6:1 – Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four chariots came out from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze.

Here comes the war. Chariots symbolize war. In the previous vision, the sins went out of Israel (physical and spiritual) and were taken to Babylon. Now that the sin is in the world, God is declaring war on the sin.

The mountains could have a dual meaning. It could be the physical placement of the mountains as many think they are Mount of Olives and Mount Zion. But the Lord calling these mountains of “bronze” or, in some translations, “brass,” means that they hold symbolic meaning as well. Typically we see the color bronze used with strength.

Putting the strength of the mountains together with the chariots and we see both strength and judgment.

The reasoning behind the physical mountains is because it is the actual Kidron Valley. That is the place that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe will be the place of final judgment.

Zechariah 6:2 – The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses,

The horses, as we will see, match up to the horses seen in Zechariah 1 with one exception. There is the addition of a black horse.

In Zechariah 1 we see that the horses are on reconnaissance. In this, we see that the horses are hooked up to chariots. This means that we are seeing these horses coming in war, not reconnaissance.

These horses are pretty much the same as the horses as in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 6:4 – And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Then again in Revelation 6:5 – When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.

The black horse talks about troubled times and famine.

Zechariah 6:3 – the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all of them strong.

White horses are typically peaceful. The dappled horses are typically mixed times of peace and adversity.

At the end of the day, it is God whose plans are made a reality. Man can plan how this world will move forward, but God’s plan is true. It is timeless. And the strength of these horses show that man cannot have an impact on the mission of these horses.

Zechariah 6:4 – Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

Again, as we have seen throughout the book, Zechariah is confused and asking for wisdom. This is the wisdom that can only come from God alone.

Zechariah 6:5 – And the angel answered and said to me, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.

The symbolism here is the four corners of the world. Similar to the four kingdoms in the book of Daniel, these horses go out to the entire world.

These angels are to present themselves before the “Lord of all the earth.” This is the millennial title of Christ.

Zechariah 6:6 – The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country, the white ones go after them, and the dappled ones go toward the south country.”

Now this is going to get a little deep. If we look directly at the historical significance of these horses in the physical realm, we can match up the horses to different times in history. The red horse, which isn’t mentioned here, has already occurred. The red horse was the time of the Chaldeans. That empire was already gone, so there is no mention of that horse here.

The black horse was Cyrus. He destroyed the Chaldeans and his kingdom is called “the north” in much of Scripture.

The white horse comes after Cyrus, which is Alexander. He was a fairly peaceful ruler.  Which makes sense he would get the white horse.

The dappled horses could be the Egyptian rulers which were had some that were peaceful and others that were cruel.

Israel’s enemies came from the north and south. Babylon and Egypt. God is calling the judgment upon those areas.

Zechariah 6:7 – When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth. And he said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth.

Who are the strong horses? Rome? Could be. It could also be any of the other kingdoms that strived to go well beyond their boundaries such as the Huns or the Goths or the Vandals.

These horses are told to go an walk to and fro through the earth. This means they have subdued the earth so that they can comfortably go through the world.

Zechariah 6:8 – Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.”

This is most likely a millennial statement. God’s spirit of wrath won’t rest until the Messiah is on the throne. This is looking forward to Revelation 17 – 20.

Zechariah 6:9 – And the word of the Lord came to me:

In Scripture, one of the ways that prophets typically close out their visions is by giving focus to God. Zechariah is no different. He said that the Word of the Lord came to him. This is the moment that the topic moves from the vision itself to the word that God is giving Zechariah about the visions.

Zechariah 6:10 – “Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah.

There are a ton of names here. Each of those names have meanings, as did most names from that day. Heldai is one of the exiles who returned from captivity and his name is based off the word cheled which means worldliness. Tobijah is another man from exile and his name means God is my good. Jedaiah is another formerly exiled man and his name means God has known.

Those three former exiles are to go immediately to Josiah. We don’t really know who this person is other than it is at his house they are crowning Joshua.

An interesting thing is that the name Josiah means God saves. While I am not sure it really works like this, these people were exiled in Babylon, in the world (Heldai). But God’s goodness knows what the exiles needed (Tobijah and Jedaiah)….saving from God (Josiah).

Zechariah 6:11 – Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

It is interesting to note here that when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he allowed the Jews to go back to their homeland. When they arrived, they had joint leadership under Zerubbabel and Joshua. Throughout the history of Israel, God has commanded that the civil and the ceremonial leadership should be separate. Zerubbabel maintained the civil law while Joshua maintained the ceremonial.

The question here is why would they be putting a crown on the head of the high priest? This is not a normal thing. The only time we saw the two offices intermingle was in 2 Chronicles with Uzziah and it brought his death to him.

An interesting note is that Joshua is basically the same name as Jesus. This is most definitely a call out to the Messiah Jesus Christ. When Christ comes He will rule completely. This is a foreshadowing of the one to come from the Davidic line, Jesus the Christ.

Zechariah 6:12 – And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.

In the next 4 verses, we learn a lot about Jesus Christ. First, we learn the Jesus will come from Israel and that He will build a temple.

While the crown was placed on the head of Joshua, they are calling out the Branch (capitalized), meaning Jesus the Christ.

Mark 14:58 – “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

John 2:21 – But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Zechariah 6:13 – It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’

I am very confused by the various translations of this verse and, although I do most of my work from the ESV, I am not impressed with the translation of this verse in the ESV. Many other versions have the following:

Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

When you read other translations, it is very easily seen as a singular person who is taking the role of both ruler and priest. When you read the ESV, it seems as though there are two separate people in this role.

As I believe this is a millennial verse that would go along with the others, I have to believe that this, too, is a millennial verse. If it is, then we learn several things about Christ here. First, we see the Lord’s glory. Next we see that He will be both king and priest. And finally in this verse we see that there will be peace.

Zechariah 6:14 – And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

This crown that was given to Joshua is meant to be kept in the temple as a memorial to those who returned from exile.

This is a verse to speak to the faithful in Christ receiving the crown of glory.

The name “Hen” means gracious and is evidently another name for Josiah, who is being gracious himself.

Zechariah 6:15 – “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

The next thing we learn about Christ is that God is opening His kingdom to the Gentiles, that we will know that this is from the Lord, and that it requires our obedience.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:13-22 – But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Zechariah 4 Commentary

Zechariah 4:1 – And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep.

I can only imagine how shocking all these visions of the Lord are to a person. The impact on a person’s body must be intense. Just like Daniel in Daniel 10:9, he fell into a deep sleep with his face to the ground. This is the introduction to the fifth vision that Zechariah is about to have.

Zechariah 4:2 – And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.

There is a lot of symbolism going on here. This is a pretty descriptive verse! This is a lampstand that would be used in tabernacle. The extra bowl on top of it is to add extra oil to the lamp. This is a very large lamp! The typical menorah has 7 lamps on it. The one in the vision has a lot built onto the traditional menorah. The seven lips on each of the lamps means that there are a total of 49 lips for this menorah. This shows the abundance of the oil supply to provide to the lamps.

The lampstand is all gold. The lampstand itself is the container for the light. The church of Jesus Christ shines the Light of the world, which is Jesus Christ.

Looking at a parallel verse in Revelation 1:20, we see that there are 7 golden lampstands, these are the lampstands in each of the churches listed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The number 7 is the number of perfection. Not perfection that we think of, but more specifically it means “completion.”

As you can see from the verse, we are seeing in the vision everything about God in His church.

Zechariah 4:3 – And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

The lampstands have olive trees flanking it. The oil that would be used in the lamp would be a pure olive oil. This makes me think of a limitless supply of oil that is only provided by God, without any affect of mankind.

The coolest thing about this is the impact of the two trees! One represents physical Israel and the other is the grafted branch, the church of Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:24 says “for if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”

And this is also the same picture we see in the Revelation of Jesus Christ in verse 11:4 in that there are two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

Zechariah 4:4 – And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

Zechariah asks a little bit of a surprising question here, as we will see in the next verse. Basically, he wants to know the meaning behind the two olive trees.

Zechariah 4:5 – Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

Zechariah’s question surprises the angel. The angel reacts as if Zechariah should have known the significance of the olive trees.

Zechariah 4:6 – Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Zerubbabel was the one who led the first group of Jews home from Babylonian captivity. The preceding verses show that God will supply an endless amount of resources to Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. This will be to bring glory to God alone.

God is showing that it isn’t by human might or ingenuity that this will happen. It will only happen by a moving of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 36:24 shows that God is the one who brings the Jews back into their own land.

Zerubbabel won’t be able to accomplish what his ordained task is through his own power. The angel is explaining this to Zechariah. Zerubbabel will have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit alone to accomplish the task.

This is so much like ministry in the church. We can only put so much of our own power into it. We can only go so far on our own power in our ministries. But when we step outside of ourselves and allow the Spirit of the living God to take control of our actions and lives, we find that our ministries will show much fruit from it.

Zechariah 4:7 – Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

The angel is showing that even a mountain of opposition will be leveled and become like a plain. Nothing will be able to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Think of Matthew 21:21 here! Jesus tells his disciples that if they have faith they can move mountains!

We learn that this will happen in Zerubbabel’s life because we see that the “top stone,” or headstone in other versions, will be put in place.

And all Israel will shout! Grace! Grace to it! Ezra 3:11-13 tells us that the people sang to one another giving thanks to the Lord and that they people shouted with a “great shout.” Could this be that shout? Could the shout they were proclaiming be the shout that God has shown them grace?

Imagine if we led our ministries in such a way! Instead of spending all our time over-spiritualizing everything and instead spent more time doing through faith rather than seeking faith, we would realize that our search for God’s power wasn’t what we needed because His power was always there. What our search was for was God’s grace!

We accomplish because of God’s power. We accomplish for God’s grace!

Zechariah 4:8 – Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

This is a simple break in the action. Maybe this vision was becoming too big for Zechariah. That is simply my own thoughts that I am adding here. But now we are about to move into the confirmation of the angel’s interpretation.

Zechariah 4:9 – “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

This angel is the Angel of the Lord. This temple was to be met with all kinds of opposition. And it would take a very long time to complete. But it would happen in the life of Zerubbabel.

Can you imagine how encouraging this is for Christians? And especially for those who lead for the cause of Christ? We know that God will show us through to see the completion of those things we start for Him.

The church we know today began with only Jesus and 12 disciples. Our talents and our gifts seem so small in the immensity of the task that God has given us. But God makes great things from small beginnings. From a baby in a manger to victory over sin and the grave!

Zechariah 4:10 – For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”

The temple that was built was smaller than Solomon’s temple. Ezra 3:12 tells us that many who saw the first temple wept. In Haggai 2:3 the prophet says that those who saw the temple it its former glory are looking on it now as if it is nothing.

This is only a glimpse of what it will look like when the Messiah comes.

The returning remnant of Israel never believed they could finish the temple in their lifetime. And while they didn’t finish something that was as glorious as the former temple, it wasn’t the opulence that God was seeking from them. It was the faithfulness to build the temple in the first place. It was the drive to put God at the head of it and allow Him to lead them.

God turns our little efforts into a lot when we allow Him to lead the dance.

Zechariah 4:11 – Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”

Again, Zechariah is asking about the olive trees.

Zechariah 4:12 – And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?”

At this point, Zechariah isn’t asking about the trees themselves, but two branches of the trees. During Zechariah’s day, the two anointed ones were Zerubbabel and Joshua. They could have been a branch on each tree or they could have both been branches on a single tree. It isn’t really known by how it is said.

But the trees themselves symbolize the kingly and priestly offices in Israel, whether physical or spiritual. There are many times in history that God anoints two people to work together for a purpose. Think of Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Barnabas, Peter and John. Even in more modern times we see God anointing two in people such as Whitefield and Wesley or Graham and Barrows.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ in chapter 11, we see that God is raising up 2 witnesses. This is very similar to what Zechariah is seeing here.

In Zechariah’s day, Joshua and Zerubbabel were the anointed. That literally translates to “sons of oil.” We can see that this oil is coming directly out of the trees.

When we lead in ministry, it is all about giving of ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much that we have to give, but how much of what we have that we give.

Zechariah 4:13 – He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

The angel asks if Zechariah knows what is going on. With Zechariah’s answer, we can see that even a person like Zechariah cannot stand on his own wisdom. The wisdom needed to understand the mind of God comes from God.

Zechariah 4:14 – Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

And this is the culmination of the vision. Again we see the two anointed ones, the sons of oil, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua is the High Priest and a descendant of Eleazar while Zerubbabel is the leader and a descendant of David. These are the two that God will choose to manifest the light of the lampstands.

This is a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Both offices of High Priest and leader are combined in the Messiah. Psalm 110 gives us even more detail into that.

The Messiah is the source of blessing that makes Israel the light to the nations. Isaiah 60:1-3 explains that to us.

And seeing that the final statement in this chapter is that they have offices in the court of the Lord of the whole earth, we see that this is a millennial term that leads us to the final kingdom of Christ (Micah 5:4).

Losing the Faith

If you run in the Christian circles like I do, you have most likely heard or read about several recent prominent Christian leaders who have “lost the faith” or “turned away from the faith.” While this is alarming, it is definitely not a new trend.

Back in the 80s and 90s there were quite a few very popular Christian bands that had some high profile artists. There were several of those who turned away from Christ. Many are now claiming atheism.

But let’s go farther back.

In the Bible we see many stories of people who either turned away from their faith or doubted it. In Exodus 12, for example, we learn that Miriam and Aaron both oppose Moses but end up being restored. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert due to a lack of faith. It even led to a bloody conflict that led to half of Israel being killed by the other half of Israel because of faith.

Then you have Jeremiah who wished he had never been born.

King David, in Psalm 13, had doubts. Even in 1 Chronicles 21 we see that David counted his armies rather than trusting God.

Even Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, despaired.

Then you have the doubters. Moses, Thomas, and Gideon all doubted. Peter both doubted and denied. Judas turned away from the faith altogether, and he was in Jesus’ inner circle.

I know that over the years, I have viewed my faith as a moving target sometimes. As humans, we all wax and wane in our faith. There are times we feel so far away from God and others we feel that we are best friends.

One thing I have learned about doubt, or even the “failure of faith” is that we easily get confused when we see ourselves as the prime leader in the relationship. I’d like to focus on a few Biblical characters whose failures could have led to any of them turning away from God altogether. But they each ended up humbling themselves, realizing that they were not the Creator of the Universe (even their own), and came back from their failures.

I like to start with Paul. He is someone I like to think I associate with closest in the Bible. An evangelist at heart but with so much baggage in his past that he always wonders how God can use him. Paul was the epitome of sinner. Prior to his conversion, he was the dreaded Saul of Tarsus. Not only was Saul a killer of Christians, but he was the one who approved the execution of Stephen in Acts. Saul’s sole purpose was to destroy the Christian church. He would go door to door in Jerusalem and seek out Christians and then throw them in prison. Once there, he would track the letters they sent to fellow believers and gather them up as well.

After Saul’s conversion to Christ he changed his name to Paul and became one of the world’s greatest evangelists.

But he still hated who he was.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 – Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

So what can we learn from Paul? No matter when you give your life over to Christ, even after an entire life of horrible sins, the Gospel is too powerful to leave you the same person you were and that transformation becomes a powerful testimony to God’s grace.

Next, let’s look at David. David was the same guy who took a stone and killed the Philistine champion Goliath. He wrote many of the Psalms as worship to God. He was a man after God’s own heart.

However, David was not only mentioned in over half of the Bible’s books, but he broke over half of the 10 commandments!!! He coveted Bathsheba, committed adultery, stole her from Uriah, lied to him, and then had him killed!

But when he is confronted, David repents.

That repentance doesn’t undo everything he did in the past, but it does change the trajectory of his spiritual future.

2 Samuel 12:13 – David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

What we can learn from David is that if we truly do repent of our sin we are not saved from the consequences but we are still able to be used by God.

Third, I would like to look at John Mark. John Mark came from a very important family. Peter went to John Mark’s house when he was released from prison. Paul & Barnabas pick up John Mark on the way back from a mission journey. Unfortunately, we learn that John Mark left Paul & Barnabas in Perga and went back to Jerusalem.

While we don’t know the reasons behind why John Mark left them, we do know that it wasn’t for a good reason. Barnabas later suggests they go get him and Paul refuses to do it. This leads to the disagreement between Barnabas and Paul that causes the two of them to part ways. Barnabas chooses Mark and Paul chooses Silas and they go their separate ways for as long as we know in the Bible.

Later, when Paul is in prison, he writes to Colossae and tells them that John Mark is with him and has been a great comfort and that they are to welcome John Mark. This is the same person that disappointed Paul earlier in life so much that it caused division among the saints.

And now, Paul is calling him a “fellow worker.”

What can we learn from John Mark? While conversion is instantaneous, it takes a lifetime to grow into the faith you are accepted into. Maturity comes at a later date, even when we think we are mature enough to handle situations we cannot. As long as we persevere, we can outgrow those immature moments in life.

Next, let’s look at Peter. Peter was loud and shoots from the hip quite a bit. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He was the only one to attempt walking on water and he was the first to tell Jesus he believed He was the Son of God.

But we know what happens, Peter denies Jesus not just once but three times!

Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter though. Peter is the first person Jesus appears to. He restores Peter at the Sea of Galilee.

And then Peter went on to preach the first sermon in which 3,000 people got saved!!!

What is it that Peter can teach us? Failure doesn’t disqualify you from the Kingdom of God.

The last person I would like to look at is Elijah.

Elijah was someone who worked so many miracles it would be hard to think of him as human. He caused the rain to stop for 3 years, he was fed by ravens, he witnessed a young man resurrected, and he called down fire from heaven, thus destroying the prophets of Baal.

But then we see that Elijah burned out. After calling down fire, Elijah realized he couldn’t take anymore. He fled to the wilderness and felt totally alone and afraid.

God met him there. He fed him. He allowed him the time to rest. And after a while, he answered Elijah in the still, small voice.

What can we learn from Elijah? Burnout is only permanent if you allow it to be. Don’t listen to everything and everyone when you are exhausted. Take time to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Then get back out there and win people to Christ.

The only way that failure will win in your life and cause you to leave the faith is if you allow it to do so. We serve a big God. This is the same God that created the universe! He can give us what we need, if we only allow Him to do so.

As American as Apple Pie, Baseball, and….Mormonism?!?!

Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

A few days ago, my girlfriend got us tickets to go see the Minnesota Twins play the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. She and her boys are big baseball fans so we headed out for a night on the town. Now I am not a baseball fan. I like futbol and football, in that order. Columbus Crew in the USA and Argentina internationally for soccer and the Pittsburgh Steelers for football are my faves. If they are on, especially if the Crew is playing DC United or the Steelers are playing the Ravens, you better believe I will be enjoying the game somehow. But this was neither soccer nor football. It was baseball, much longer than either of those other two sports. Strangely enough, it was on the 98th anniversary of the fastest baseball game ever played. And the Twins even played in that game, the Winston-Salem Twins. That game was 31 minutes long for 9 innings. Ah whatever happened to the good ole days.

But I digress.

As we were walking into the stadium there was a single man on the street corner giving a fire and brimstone sermon. Clearly Christian, this man was yelling Bible verses AT people. Everyone, including myself, gave a second glance thinking this guy was crazy. I felt bad for thinking that and went on into the stadium to watch the game.

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

Part of the way through the game we saw a couple young men, no older than say 25, walking up one of the aisles wearing black dress pants, a white shirt, and a name tag. My first inclination was, “There are some Mormons at the baseball game!” I never expected to see a couple Mormons in uniform at a baseball game, but I figured, “Heck, they need to get out and have fun just like the rest of us, right?”

They were clearly enjoying the game, but I don’t think that is why they were there.

Later, as we were leaving we saw a LOT more.   It seemed as if they had enough Mormon men there to place teams of 2 in a majority of the bleacher sections. As we walked through the stadium to the exit, there were groups of people taking pictures with the Mormons and speaking with them.

Then at a red light near the stadium, they were talking to people in general conversation. I overheard very little of it, but what I did hear was talking about Mormonism.

One man even walked a family to their car! He shook hands with the family and I saw them talking about something for a little while before we drove off.

Now, Christian, I am first going to say that Mormonism is a cult. I posted about that here. But quickly, here are a lot of things where Mormonism runs counter to Christianity:

  • God used to be a man on another planet (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321)
  • God resides at a star called Kolob (Mormon Doctrine, p. 428)
  • After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential to become a god (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-347)
  • There is a Mother God (Articles of Faith, p. 443)
  • God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516)
  • The Trinity is composed of three separate gods (Articles of Faith, p. 35)

Those are just a few of the ways Mormonism differs from Christianity.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

But one thing is very similar in both: Evangelism is the key to spreading the message.

So which do you think is more effective?

Standing on the street corner blasting through a very loud P.A. system that Jesus is the only way to save you from hell….

or…

Spending time getting to know the people at the stadium, walk with them to their cars, and help them as they spend time with their families at the baseball game.

One of the rare times that we saw Jesus lose His temper was directed only to the religious elite. Every time He spent time with the sinners, He was filled with grace and compassion.

And that is precisely what the Mormons were doing at the baseball game. They were showing grace, compassion, and genuine love for their fellow humans.

James 2:26 – For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

I hate to say it, Christians, but Mormons got us beat in the evangelism arena. We have a lot of catching up to do. It is as if we know we have the right answer (which we do) and yet we lord it over people rather than love them into the community.

I’ve heard it said before (on a DC Talk album) that the “greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who proclaim Him with their lips and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Christians, it is time for us to evangelize. Yes, we need to use words. But even more so, we need to use actions. Faith without works is dead. When the people see the man on the street corner yelling the Bible at them, they do not see the man who would potentially walk beside them in the tough times. They just know this guy is yelling at them.

When they see the Mormons talk about their faith as they are walking a family late at night to their car, then they gain instant credibility because they are acting out that faith.

We need to act out the faith we proclaim. We need to break down the defenses of the world around peoples’ hearts before they will listen to the words we speak to them. If we simply go AT them with the Bible instead of going TO them and walking with them as they struggle, they will shut us out.

So let’s take a lesson from the Mormons. No, I don’t mean listening to any of the heresy they proclaim. But I do mean evangelizing like a Mormon. It will add credibility to your message that you are trying to preach.

James 2:18 – But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The ALS Challenge – My View

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So I had been on the fence about this whole ALS challenge thing. I mean, first, it is bringing awareness to a disease without a cure. It is bringing people together a whole bunch of people to show the world the gruesome effect this disease has on people and on families.

Next, it is a great time to get wet. I am a fan of getting wet, just usually not me. I probably should have been a cat in a previous life, if I wasn’t allergic to them, and if I believed in previous lives.

But on the flip side, this has turned into a water-wasting, celebrate me type of event where people pour water on themselves in glorious fashion so they can avoid donating to the cause.

I was really torn about this.

And in the grand scheme of things, there should be a LOT more things out there that bother me than this stupid challenge. So I let it go.

Until I got challenged.

Uh-oh…time to put up or shut up.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

So I started to pray pretty hard about this and went to God asking Him what He would do.

After soul-searching, grieving in my heart, and prayer (ok, minus the grieving in my heart thing), I found a few Bible verses that helped me understand that this can be a good thing, if done properly.

So here is what is happening:

First, Chesapeake Christian Fellowship’s youth ministry (G2:20) challenged the young adult ministry (United). So what we are going to be doing is fundraising until September 2nd. For every $20 we raise, 1 gallon of ice, cold water will be poured on the heads of the leadership of each group. As I write this, we have $40 with United and, last I heard, G2:20 had $20 raised. Our hope is to see us raise enough money for ALS research that we have to dump large trash cans of water on our heads.

On September 3rd, the night of the United end of summer cookout, we will be letting the water flow for all of social media (and anyone who drives by the church) to see.

Help us raise money for ALS research. It is a very fatal disease. It not only kills, but it takes a person’s identity along with it. It is better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves cells, brain, and spinal cord. It eventually leads to the person’s death, but not before taking every bit of muscle tone with it. Since the motor neurons degenerate, they no longer send impulses to the muscles to allow movement. The muscles that affect the arms, legs, speech, swallowing, and breathing are the most affected.

Help us at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship to combat ALS. Please make a donation to the ALS Association today. The link for donating is here:

Thanks and let’s hope to see some very wet church leaders on September 3rd.

Oh…and if you want to see us carry this out, you call follow me on Instagram (Boyradd) or Twitter (Boyradd). I may also post it here, but that is only if I remember, lol.

Thanks again!

Proverbs 3:27-28 – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

Woah! That’s a Lot of Woes!

Habakkuk 2:1 – I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.

So when we last left our hero, Habakkuk (why couldn’t I have picked an easier name to spell throughout this series), he was waiting on God’s reply.

God tells Habakkuk not to worry because the Babylonians are going to get their due. He says it may seem like it will take a long time, but it will happen. I am fairly certain God knew to say this because Habakkuk, while a very devout man, he was a man. When we don’t see something happen, we begin to question whether it was meant to happen at all. In the Bible, God spends a lot of time doing what is called “tarrying.” When justice tarries, as it did with the Israelites in Habakkuk and happens all around the world today, we begin to think it is never coming. We get on social media and begin to blast either the conservative or the liberal blaming it on them.

Faith in God is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Habakkuk 2:4 – But the righteous one will live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 is one of the most quoted verses in the book of Habakkuk and is spoken about by James in James 2. He says, “the righteous will live by faith.” Some versions say “faithfulness.” Both faith and faithfulness are part of what Habakkuk is trying to say. Faith is WHAT you believe while faithfulness is acting according to what you believe.

James 2:22 – You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.

Many people like to claim that faith isn’t true by using the example of the smoker who knows it is bad for them but doesn’t stop thinking they will be fine. That is false faith. Placing your faith in an object which is specifically bad is not what the Bible is talking about. Faith, in the Bible, is specifically geared toward a single entity, God. Anything outside of faith in God is false faith. Faithfulness is following God’s law to serve God and others. There was a remnant in Judah that God would protect. Verse 2:4 is geared toward them to tell them how to proceed during the dark days coming.

In verse 5, we see God explaining Babylon, comparing her to a drunkard. Babylon was well known for their drunken parties. It is how Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BC. Here is the account by the Greek historian Heroditus, “But, as it was, the Persians came upon them by surprise and so took the city. Owing to the vast size of the place, the inhabitants of  the central parts (as the residents at Babylon declare) long after the outer portions of the town were taken, knew  nothing of what had chanced, but as they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and reveling until they learnt about the capture. Such, then, were the circumstances of the first taking of Babylon.” (translation by George Rawlinson)

Verse 5 goes on to show that the Babylonians were never satisfied. They would continue to look for places to conquer and would war with anyone they felt they could beat.

This is an important contrast. The Babylonians, described as proud, or arrogant, spend their time going out and abusing others while the righteous are humble and place others before self and do acts for for the good of others.

While this one is very specific with Babylon and Judah, there is a universal truth proclaimed and it leads into the “oracle of the 5 woes.” While pride is not specifically called out in the oracle, it is something that is a human trait that we need to be wary of and oppose. We need to constantly be on guard for pride in our hearts as we make choices and decisions lest we become a singular Babylon instead of a righteous person.

Habakkuk 2:7 – Since you have plundered many nations, all the peoples who remain will plunder you

Verses 6-20 describe the rest of the “woes.” There is a woe to the greedy which says that those whom the greedy have taken from will take from you. There is a woe to the dishonest as they will bring shame upon their house. There is a woe to the violent that God’s glory will become known in their cities as violence does not come from God. There is a woe for those who get drunk and naked for they will be filled with disgrace, not honor and glory. And finally there is a woe to the idolater, and those who worship something other than God. Those are not alive, they do not speak. They are not active in this world. Only God is a living, active being creating and generating history each and every minute.

Habakkuk 2:19 – Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all.

The chapter ends with a very sobering verse, “But the Lord in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.”

Here, God is giving a message to Habakkuk, and to all who believe in Him. He is telling them to simply be silent and spend time in God’s presence. THAT will oppose injustice. THAT will bring down strongholds. THAT will bring about lasting change.

We can’t simply sit on the sidelines as injustice happens, but we can’t go out and attack with our words or actions simply being the opposite voice of those who are bringing injustice. How, then, will that bring justice to THEM?

Yes, we need to think about those being persecuted and abused. Yes, we need to act out against injustice of all sorts. But we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT act without spending time being SILENT in prayer in HIS PRESENCE. That will affect the change in our own hearts to see how we should proceed. The goal is not be the one with the loudest voice at the end. The goal is to be the one who shines the light of Christ.

In everything we do, whether it is speaking out against the government, standing up for pro-life, pro-marriage, anti-gun, or anything, we need to speak Christ, not our opinion.

That is the challenge.

That is where we fail.

Look at social media and you will see post after post littered with hate speech against another person.

For our battle is not against flesh and blood! It is against the powers. It is against the authorities. It is against Satan in this present day and age.

That is where our anger needs to be directed. Not to MSNBC or Fox News. Not to Republicans or Democrats. Not to Israel or Palestine. None of those or more.

We need to direct our anger appropriately and know just who is pulling those strings.

It is Satan.

And he is laughing our world all the way to hell.

So, Christians, wake up. Before you speak out against something, check your own self first and make sure that when you speak out against something that YOUR voice is not heard and the CHRIST’S WORD is taught.

Habakkuk 2:20 – But the Lord is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.

Habakkuk and the Little Old Lady Experience

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

First, I never know how to spell Habakkuk. I always want to put 2 “b” and 1 “k.” So if I misspell it, please forgive me.

While on vacation last week, I took some time and went to a local park to get in the Word. My morning devotion was Romans 1:16. That verse has become very cliché in recent history because of the Christian hip-hop movement. That has become the rally cry of the movement. There are shirts (I own one), buttons, stickers, and songs all dedicated to “116.”

I knew that Paul HAD to mean more than a Christian song lyric when he penned Romans 1:16, so I decided to make that the focus of my time in the Word.

So I grabbed my handy dandy Bible and started walking to the park. When I got there, it was empty. I was able to read through Romans 1 and trace the 1:16-17 passages back to Habakkuk 2:4. When I got into Habakkuk, I was struck by that guy’s straightforward honesty with God. I made a choice to begin reading the book of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 2:4 – “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright– but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness —

I made it through much of chapter 1 when a group of little old ladies came to the park and sat in the same area I was sitting. They were there to watch their grandkids and boy were they LOUD! They couldn’t walk too well, so they sat on the benches and yelled their commands to their grandkids all over the park. I think even the dead started to open their eyes thinking it was the sound of the trumpet!

I decided to close my Bible and talk to these women.

Almost immediately the woman turned the conversation around to what I was doing in the park. I told her I was studying the book of Habakkuk and her eyes lit up. She started telling me all about the book and the questions that it always brought up in her mind. This woman was amazing! I was so impressed with the knowledge of her the Bible without even opening it that I was almost speechless.

Habakkuk is one of those books that we hear a lot about with regard to injustice. Whenever someone brings up injustice in the world, the book of Habakkuk is readily quoted. Many times unbelievers, and even believers, take many of Habakkuk’s words out of context and use them to attempt to weaken the Christian message of the book.

Over the next few weeks I am going to take us through the book of Habakkuk.

We are not the only generation to realize injustice. Even though we sit in our homes and wonder why the dishonest and wicked people prosper while those who try to live moral, upright lives tend to be used and abused, we are not the only ones who have done so.

In 620 B.C., Habakkuk wrote his message.

Habakkuk 1:2 – How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

As has been done many times in the past, the writer’s name has something to do with the meaning of the book. Habakkuk’s name means to “wrestle” or “embrace.” Throughout the book, Habakkuk is wrestling with a significant issue: If God is good, then why is there evil in the world? And if there is evil in the world, why does it prosper?

In the book of Zephaniah, the Israelites thought something similar. Unfortunately in that book they believed that God was neither good nor evil, much less involved in life at all. The Israelites then continued in their sin. But Habakkuk looks at this a different way. He fears God and wants to do what is right, but is getting frustrated when evil prospers and good gets the shaft.

Zephaniah 2:15 – This is the self-assured city that lives in security, that thinks to herself: I exist, and there is no one else.

Spoiler alert: Habakkuk begins by worrying about the world around him and God’s seeming indifference but he ends in worshiping God. Habakkuk moves from questioning God to trusting Him.

Next week I will look at chapter 1 of the book.

This is a great study for anyone who has questioned whether God really cares about our future and the presence of good and evil in the world.

Stepping Out

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

A few months ago, I told myself that I was going to step out in faith and quit my high paying job to go out on my own and start a franchise company while turning my focus to serving the Lord. I had to laugh when a month later, my old job called me and asked me to come back as a consultant and travel to NYC weekly.

This opportunity came at a great time as I was trying to get my business started.

Well, the business started very slow. My tithe went from quite a lot to quite a little, still above the 10% usually.

I was worried. I knew I had enough funds to last until about July for both the business and personally. Needless to say, I was a little worried.

But you know what? God never let me down. The opportunity at my former job helped to pay the mortgage every month. It gave me the ability to enjoy my time as my company got started and ministries got started.

But then something happened.

God happened.

Ministries began to grow.

I wasn’t really planning on that.

I mean, I did. Just not now.

I expected everything to happen in MY time. Why does God have to plan things outside MY time?

John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

I started leading the young adult ministry. Then missions took a turn that I didn’t expect. Now I am on the newly formed mission board at church.

Again I ask, why won’t God work in MY time.

And then I remember the initial reason I left my high paying job. You see, when I left, my prayer was to dedicate everything, the good and the bad, to God.

I am quite sure that I failed a test of some sort. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think the consulting gig was provided to me to see if I would truly give everything to God. To see if I was ready to just make the jump.

I failed.

I took the thought that God HAD to be providing me this opportunity to get the business started. But that isn’t how the Bible works with regard to stepping out in faith.

I took the role of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus told this dude to give up ALL of his possessions and when he realized it, he went away sad because he realized it would cost too much to follow Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

I’ve been through a tough season in my business. I haven’t been able to tithe as much as I planned on tithing by this time. I am wondering if my tough season could be because I walked away from the promise I made to God to give Him everything.

Jesus told the rich, young ruler that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. There are a couple of things here that need defining before I come up with a plan for the future.

First, a camel going through the eye of a needle. Of course a camel can’t go through a needle’s eye, right? It is at this time that you might be saying that God was alluding to the idea that no one who is rich can ever enter the kingdom of God.

There are plenty of theories as to what Jesus meant by the “eye of a needle.” The Biblical statement from Jesus is similar to one shared by the Persians that talked about an elephant going through a needle.

The first theory revolves around the Needle Gate in Jerusalem. This was an after-hours entrance to the city and was small for security purposes. A camel could only go through it if you stripped it of all saddles and it crawled through on its knees. The main problem with this theory is that there is no evidence that this gate ever existed.

The second theory is that the Greek word for camel (kamelos) should really be the word for “cable” (kamilos). Then it would say that a rope or a cable would be going through the eye of a needle. However, believing this breaks the whole idea of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

My view is that Jesus is using hyperbole, a figure of speech that uses exaggeration for emphasis. He was no stranger to this form of speech such as when he talked about a plank in one’s eye or swallowing a camel.

Basically, Jesus is destroying the notion that the rabbis held that the rich were blessed by God and therefore were more likely to go to heaven. What makes it difficult for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is that the rich are typically very proud individuals.

I have to admit, I was proud of the fact that I started a business. I was proud of the fact that I could be rich even before I put a dollar in the bank. It is hard to think that I could have missed my spiritual poverty while chasing physical riches.

But now, let’s get to the second definition needed, the kingdom of heaven. This is a phrase used throughout the New Testament over 77 times in its variations of kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God. If we compare the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, it is fairly clear that these two phrases can be interchanged (Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20).

I like a couple of definitions that other theologians have given. First, there is Graeme Goldsworthy who said it is “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”

Another definition is from Anthony Hoekema who said it is “the reign of God dynamically alive in human history through Jesus Christ….”

This got me thinking. If I would have not been the rich, young ruler, could I have entered into those definitions of the kingdom of God? Would my testimony of God be stronger? Would the ministries be better served? Would my business have been more mature?

I can’t help but think that God’s blessings would have poured out if I would have given everything to Him in the beginning. He never let me fail. I am still paying the bills and tithing, but I can only imagine what would have been if I would have simply been faithful.

James 1:5-7 – If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord

So here is the plan.

July 6th I am leaving the consulting gig. So the guaranteed income is now gone.

But here is the thing. I am not worried. God has continued to take care of me and He won’t stop now. The business will pick up. I have complete faith that will happen.

But more importantly, the ministries will flourish. I already know that.

I look forward to seeing what God will do. And I am much less scared than I was in January when I left my job originally.

Do you have something you need to give completely over to God? Just do it. Don’t think about it. Sometimes our thoughts betray us. Didn’t that happen to Adam and Eve? They thought about how God could be lying to them and ate of the apple. And what happened? Well, the rest of history as we know it.

I can only imagine if all Christians, everywhere, gave everything over to God completely. We would see such a beautiful society that would shine the light of Christ.

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

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