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Zechariah 1 Commentary – Part 2

1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,

The date of this verse puts it somewhere around November of 520 BC. This is just after Haggai started his ministry. The cool thing about Zechariah is that he basically adds to the information that Haggai has given us. Haggai focused on the building of the temple while Zechariah showed that God was interested in more than the temple. God is interested in the people. The date of this first chapter is very interesting in that it comes between the two visions that Haggai had, which were in the 7th and 9th months. Zechariah and Haggai both also used a Gentile king to show the date of their prophecies, which gives credence to what Luke said in Luke 21:24 that the age of the Gentiles had started.

There is very little that is known about Zechariah. As discussed last week, we know he was captive in Babylon and a priest as well as a prophet. There are over 27 different Zechariahs in the Bible. The only information we have about this Zechariah comes from Ezra 5-6.

Ezra 5:1-2 – Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

Zechariah’s name means “God remembers.” This is something that is important to realize as he writes about how God continues to care for them. Zechariah worked alongside several such as Haggai, Ezra, and others. The important thing to remember about Zechariah is that while God wants to accomplish His work, He wants to do so with His people.

Jesus even mentioned Zechariah in Matthew 23:35.

Matthew 23:35 – so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

“The Lord was very angry with your fathers.

The first 6 verses of this book are basically an overview of what he is about to say in the rest of the book, which is a very strong call for repentance. It starts with telling God’s people that He is very angry with their fathers. He wants them to turn back to the Lord, something their forefathers had forgotten. The same sin that angered the Lord is the same sin that led them into captivity.

One thing to remember is that these people are probably the same and you and I. Most likely very nice people. Only 50,000 thousand returned from the hundreds of thousands that were taken into captivity.

The Hebrew use of “very angry” is actually translated as “sore displeased.” It actually means that, while controlled, it was a long, brewing anger.

Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

God wants His people to know that He really wants them back. God used the exile to teach the Israelites that they needed God and that they were to obey Him. God loves them, but He doesn’t want to force them to follow Him.

God uses the name “The Lord of hosts” many times and shows that He is the supreme commander of Israel, as is written in 2 Chronicles 26:11, that He is also the commander of the armies of other nations, as is written in Judges 4:2, and that He is the commander of the heavenly armies as was written in 1 Kings 22:19.

This verse, after explaining who is dictating this, is to call for repentance. It shows His people that they will not receive His blessing until they return to Him.

Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.

In Jewish culture, your lineage was very important. In Ezra 9:7 we are told that the people know the sins of their fathers. God is showing His people that their fathers did not even listen to God’s prophets. The false prophets of the day were proclaiming prosperity when their sin was leading them to desperate times.

Because their fathers listened to the false prophets, God needed to prove to the people that His warnings would come true. With captivity still in their mind, God is hoping that they will listen to His warning this time around.

Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?

Their forefathers were all dead. The prophets who warned them were all dead. The false prophets who deceived them were all dead. In 1 Peter 1:25 we are told that the Word of the Lord remains forever. The unfaithful died in captivity. They died in a foreign land. They died with a lack of respect and in tough conditions.

But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’”

God is telling His people that the Abrahamic covenant is still in place. God’s Word is eternal. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do. What we learn here is that the fathers who were in captivity told their children who were born in captivity what it was that got them into the situation.

These prophecies that the real prophets of God proclaimed actually came to pass.

On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,

This is the beginning of the eight night visions. All these visions happened in a single night. The first vision lays the groundwork for the other seven. Like an Avengers movie, if you haven’t seen the others, you will be missing vital information.

These visions are to build the confidence of His people so that they build the temple. The first vision took place about 3 months after the original call to repent.

The day itself seems special to God because on that same day five months earlier the temple was started and that same day two months prior Haggai had been given his vision.

“I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.

This vision starts with a man riding a red horse standing in the myrtle trees with other horses behind him. This red horse that the man is riding is important as red is typically the color of judgment or blood (see Isaiah 63:1-3 or Revelation 6:3).

It is thought that the “myrtle trees in the glen” means the valley of Hinnom, which is outside the temple precinct.

These visions follow a chiasm. The first and last relate to each other, the second and third and the sixth and seventh are pairs, and the fourth and fifth are the climax of the chiasm.

The horses show judgment and victory in their colors.

Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’

There are actually two different angels in this first chapter. The “angel who talked with me” and the “angel of the Lord.”

10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’

This rider could be a recon mission to see how the temple is being rebuilt. It runs opposite to what we see in the book of Job (vv1:7, 2:2) where Satan is walking through the earth looking for evil, God has his own people patrolling the earth as well.

The myrtle is an interesting tree. It isn’t like the mighty cedars of Lebanon or the oak trees in other places in the Bible which have strength. Myrtles have blossoms that are fragrant when crushed. This shows the grace that is present in the affliction that Israel received.

11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’

The world is at peace. But, as we will see in a few more verses, God is not happy with the nations during this peace. Israel is still struggling, but the rest of the nations are at peace and content. Darius defeated 9 rebellious leaders across 19 different battles, bringing the world to peace.

This angel of the Lord is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 – For when they shall say , peace and safety; the sudden destruction comes upon them

12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’

The angel of the Lord, or Jesus, is asking the Father how long Israel must suffer. Looking forward, we see this verse rewritten in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 6:10 – And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, o Lord, holy and true, will you not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.

All the way through to the book of Revelation we will still be crying this and Jesus will still be interceding for us.

13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

The words that Zechariah talks about here are actually listed in the following verses of 14-17. This reinforces that God cares about His people and loves them. These verses run complimentary to Jeremiah 29:10-11.

14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.

The first word of comfort is that God is jealous for His people. If you remember, God described Himself as jealous when He made the covenant with Israel in Exodus 20:5 and 34:14. What is seen as a good jealousy can also be seen as a punitive one as is seen in Deuteronomy 29:18-28 and Ezekiel 5:13.

The bottom line is that God loves His people. At the time of Zechariah that was those under the Abrahamic covenant. Today, that same jealousy is given to the church. Many times in Scripture we see that jealousy as God as the husband wanting to maintain His wife.

It is interesting to see dual names for Jerusalem. While this could simply flow with the poetry of the day, it could also come to mean that it is a Jerusalem of the past and a Jerusalem of the future.

15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.

The nations of the world were God’s instruments of judgment on Israel. But those nations went beyond what God desired for the punishment of His people. This can be seen in Isaiah 54:7-8 because those nations did not understand that the punishment was for a limited time.

16 Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.

The Lord is ready to bless His people. Not only would the temple be rebuilt, but they would grow in prosperity. The temple was completed about 515 BC and the wall around the city was completed around 444 BC (Nehemiah 7:4, 11:1).

Isaiah 40:9-10 discusses the prosperity that would follow.

The measuring line that Zechariah talks about describes the exactness that would be used in making sure this was done properly. It can also mean that Jerusalem would be the measure by which all others will be measured as well.

17 Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”

The walls of the city would be completed about 75 years after the temple and God would choose Jerusalem as his earthly throne (Psalm 132:13). This will happen in the book of Revelation, the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20.

This one verse holds the key to several prophecies about the millennial kingdom. The presence of God in Ezekiel 48:35, the temple in Ezekiel 40-48, Jerusalem being rebuilt in Jeremiah 31:38-40, the punishment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46, prosperity in Isaiah 60:4-9, and the blessings of God’s people in Zechariah 9:17.

Jerusalem becomes the capital of the world.

18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns!

Now we begin the second vision. In Daniel 2 there were 4 Gentile governments that were to come to power. The horns represent those governments. Most likely, we are looking at the four main powers of Rome, Greece, Babylon, and Persia. But there are a couple different views on this as I will explain in the next verse.

19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

Daniel 2 goes into detail about these powers, or horns. Daniel 7 gives another vision of the powers.

When this vision occurred, Babylon had already passed. This means that both the Medes and the Persians were in power and both Rome and Greece were future powers.

Another way to look at it is an allusion to past powers given in the book of Daniel, which would be Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome.

Even another way to look at it is Assyria, Egypt, Babylon and Persia. Each of those powers had “scattered Israel.”

One more view is that the number 4 symbolizes “universal” and the horns symbolize “power.” This could mean that the world is universally against God’s people, seeking to scatter them. But that is very much spiritualizing something that could very well be simple.

I hold to the view that the horns are Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

20 Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.

Now things  get a little more weird. We now have 4 craftsmen that show up. These craftsmen are the ones who will overthrow the horns. As with Genesis 12:3, God has promised to curse those who have cursed Israel.

21 And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”

Each of the kingdoms had come to defeat the one before it. So Persia destroyed Babylon. Greece destroyed Persia. Rome destroyed Greece and God’s kingdom will destroy Rome.

Another possible view looks less at the book of Daniel and more at the book of Ezekiel. The four craftsmen would be the four judgments: sword, famine, beasts, and plague.  While the Ezekiel prophecy is specifically about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, there are parallels in Revelation 6-19.

It is important to note that God knows who has hurt His people. He keeps a record of it and He will punish those who punish His people.

Take the first step

Proverbs 1:7 – Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.

I’ve been silent for a very long time on here. I lost a lot of followers because of it. But it hasn’t been without reason or without merit.

I sometimes have a tendency of speaking first and using wisdom later. That isn’t always the best choice, especially for a ministry professional.

I’ve spent the past few months simply seeking God where He has me and not trying to place God in my own purposes.

Today, though, it was like God was telling me to write and giving me very clear word pictures in my dreams and mind.

Let me back up a little.

Since you last heard from me, a lot has continued to happen. My dad moved down to Maryland to be closer to us. My wife lost her job and has been searching for a new one. My ministries have been ebbing and flowing as ministry usually does. Our kids are growing up even quicker now than they were before (that is the byproduct of pushing 50).

Meanwhile, I had hoped to be David Platt’s “mini me” by now. I had hoped to have all these churches asking me to come and preach on Sunday. I had hoped to have the likes of Ed Stetzer, Louie Giglio, and others asking me to write the forward for their books.

Man, I was looking at the top of the staircase!

But last night I was asleep. I was actually awakened this morning by my dream.

By the way, God, when you go to wake someone up from their dreams, next time can you make it on a day that I have to be up early? Not a day that I am able to sleep in? Thanks.

My dream started with me standing in from of this large staircase.

Psalm 37:23 – The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

When you go into a building and see an impressive staircase, do you immediately look at the first step? No, you look to see where the steps lead and you focus on the top of the steps.

That’s what I was doing.

This staircase was ornate. It was gorgeous! But it was also weathered and aged. It was like I went into a preserved mansion from the 1800s or something.

When I saw the staircase in front of me, I took in the panoramic view, but my eyes fixated on trying to see the top.

But what I realized is that the last step never came into focus. I couldn’t see the final step that would get me to the top of the staircase. All I could see are the steps leading up to it and I wanted to fix my gaze as high up that staircase as I could.

But then the steps started to disappear. From the upper parts of the staircase down, the steps slows disappeared. It was like watching the Avengers movie after Thanos did his snap. The steps just faded away into dust and blew away.

I felt my anxiety rise as I watched all these beautiful steps disappear!

By the time all the dust had blown away, I was left with one lone step in front of me.

The first step.

God was removing the distraction of all the other steps to show me that the first step is the one that matters.

The beauty of ministry (or the job search for my wife, or the struggles that anyone is going through with marriages, drugs, alcohol, or anything) is not in walking across that final step.

The beauty of ministry et al comes in taking the first step and learning all you can while standing on it.

When I stepped onto the fist step in my dream, the walls around me came alive!

There were portraits on the walls. They were kind of like in Harry Potter when the portraits moved and they are vivid scenes. Mine were from both ministry and family life. While they showed me the bumps in the road, they were exceedingly beautiful!

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

The first step isn’t writing a forward to David Platt’s next book.

The first step involves the printers in children’s ministry breaking down because of the new WiFi system and having several new teachers and some of the veteran teachers calling out. The first step involves I Sunday service with a lot of moving pieces that had several technical glitches along the way. The first step is not seeing people in the service who normally attend because they don’t like the topic that was discussed on that Sunday. The first step involves seeing someone you, and others, have been working with intently making the decision to get baptized and having the baptismal set up because your senior pastor felt God was telling him to do it.

The first step is the minutia.

The first step is the stuff that ministry is really made of.

Mark 5:2 – And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.

When Jesus went to go and seek the lost, the first step involved Him taking several steps to get to them. But for the person on the other end of the conversation, the first step was simply accepting Christ.

I realize that the Bible says we need to have a vision because if we don’t then the people will perish.

I still have a dream of one day writing the forward for one of my favorite author’s books. I still have a dream of getting the call from Moody Bible Church, Saddleback, Camino de Vida or many others and having them ask me to come preach one Sunday morning.

I still dream.

But the dream is becoming more well-rounded now that the focus is off the dream and is on the people who are walking with, beside, and around me at this time.

The first step is seeing people take the first step of their own.

The first step is resting in that place that God has you.

The first step is contentment with what you have and who you are, knowing that being content is truly the dream come true.

1 Corinthians 14:40 – But all things should be done decently and in order.

Wonder What Would Have Happened If I Had Actually Trained

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

So last weekend I did a thing.

I ran a 5k with my son.

Now please understand me here, I have never run a day in my life.

Ever.

I am not athletically inclined.

I am a fat man in my late 40s.

I use the term “run” when I say to my wife, “I am going to run to the store for cookies” or “I need to run out and get more ice cream.”

A few weeks ago a sign went up in my town. It was advertising a 5k being put on by our little local fitness center (www.chesfitclub.com). I drove by the sign several times a week and finally asked my wife one day if she would like to run the 5k with me.

She gave me a look that can only be described as disbelief combined with humor combined with utter shock. I think she also wanted to smack some sense into me.

And she told me no.

She doesn’t run. She is so amazingly fit and works out in other ways at a different gym, but she doesn’t run. And she knew that I don’t run either.

So I dropped the idea for a few minutes and then said, I wonder if my son or daughter would like to run with me.

Again, the look of disbelief.

I called my daughter and got the same reaction as my wife. My son, on the other hand, said yes.

I started the plan to run a 5k.

Now I walk 4 miles a day average. I figured that would translate well into running a 5k. I’d actually be running less distance than I walk usually, so I should be good.

So I started my training.

Isaiah 40:31 – But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

I put the dog’s collar on her and walked out the door. We took about 200 steps before we stopped to sniff some grass (the dog, not me). We walked another 300 steps and stopped to pee (again, dog, not me). A little while later we stopped to talk to someone else who was walking. Even later still we stopped to poop (again, dog not me). We would stop and start a lot on our 2.5 mile walk that day.

A few weeks of my “training regimen” and I was set.

The big day arrived. I couldn’t sleep the night before so I only got about 3-4 hours of sleep. I woke up and wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat anything. My son and I walked over to the area where the race would start. It was a nice warm up walk of about 1.25 miles.

Then we checked in and got ready to race. I couldn’t figure out how to put my number on me, but eventually got that figured out. They gave away these goodie bags in the beginning to everyone. When they went to make announcements I was the only person who had a bright green goodie bag on my back. I looked at my son and asked him to go hide it for me since I don’t want to look like a complete noob.

After the announcements we took our marks and the race started.

I got off to an amazing start! Out of the 150 or so participants I was in the front 30 for the first probably 50 steps.

Then I started falling behind.

By the end of the first half mile I was walking.

Then I saw people standing up ahead of me and a photographer so I mustered all my energy and started running…until I was past the photographer.

Then I went back to walking.

I saw a few more people and started running again.

This occurred all the way throughout the race.

2 Timothy 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

In the end, I ran the 5k in 41 minutes and came in 63rd place out of about 150.

Since I didn’t train, it was strictly my own determination that got me through that race.

Oh, a side note here, my son got 3rd!

But, what would have happened if I had actually trained?

For never running a day in my life and going strictly off my own power, I got 63rd. If I had actually trained I might have made it in the top 30 or 40. If I would have used a trainer or even wisdom from people who have done this in the past then I might have been better and possibly even feel better afterward.

Just so you all know, it is a couple days after and I am still limping like both of my ankles are broken. I even did all the right things after the race: I immediately laid down on the ground, after I was done laying down I went and got a snowball with extra marshmallow, and I didn’t eat anything else for a few hours afterward. (please note, that last sentence was meant to be sarcastic, but unfortunately every statement in there is true)

1 Timothy 4:8 – For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Training is a very important piece of this life. As a Christian, I find that this entire life is training for the next.

Especially in my Christian walk, if I don’t train myself to read the Bible or to pray regularly then I can fake it for a little while, but in the end I will be even more hurt than if I had trained properly.

Falling in love with God, or anyone for that matter, is all about training yourself to do it. Training is the key to success.

As an elder in my church, I can’t even tell you how many people come to Christ on Sundays who quit their walk with Christ a few short months later because it is too hard.

If you were to ask me to go out and start running the day after my 5k last weekend, I would have told you it was too hard and I wasn’t going to do it. The same happens with Christianity. The person is reading and praying and studying and communing with other Christians and life is getting better, but then something happens like their work schedule changes or sports season starts and now they don’t have time to train. They don’t have time to read their Bible or pray to God. They cancel appointments with other Christians and miss Bible studies and home groups because those are lower on the needs list. Who needs God now when He will always be there, right?

Just like with anything, you can fake it for a little while on your own but you will never reach the level you could unless you train properly.

This goes for 5k races and the Christian walk.

God has a purpose for you and it all revolves around training.

Who knows, maybe by this time 6 months from now I will tell you that I ran another 5k and placed better. I do know that I want to start training so that I can improve my results and feel better afterward.

But in the meantime, I will keep training on my Bible reading, prayer life, and Christian walk. That is the most important training anyone can do anyway.

Hebrews 12:11-13 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

Part 2 – Vision into Action

Habakkuk 2:3 – For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Last week I shared a story that is all too real to myself and well-known by those who love me. It was the transformation into the person you see today. The person who is less angry and more filled with passion than ever before.

But to move from anger into passion requires the ability to lead yourself.

I’ve led people all my life. I’ve managed up to 110 restaurants at a time across 26 states. I’ve designed and built well over 100 restaurants or retail establishments in my 47 years of life. I started, and subsequently sold, a company. I’ve led several ministries in church, taking them to the point of handing them off to the professionals.

God birthed in me a leader.

I don’t say that to brag. I say that with all humility because I know the judgment on leaders is harsher than on those who don’t lead. I also know that not everyone whom I lead wants to be led. Sometimes that includes family, friends, co-workers, and those with which I am in ministry.

The key to leadership is to hear all of those voices of dissention, but focus on the one singular voice that causes the wind to stop, the water to part, and heavens to shake and the sun to stop. If God is attempting to convict a leader to change direction, then it will come from God and there will be much more than a singular voice or two of dissension.

But the leading I want to talk about this week is about leading myself.

We can lead all the ministries, organizations, or businesses in the world, but if a leader doesn’t know how to lead himself then he won’t be leader for long.

The Christian journey is a personal one. We are never called to lead large churches, non-profits, ministries, businesses, or the like. We are called to lead a life that changes because of God’s impact in it.

Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

When a life begins to be led, it always starts by following a vision from the leader.

In ministry and business circles we call it “vision-casting.”

The leader casts a vision that he has had and the congregation or the business all surround that leader’s vision and make it happen.

After my anger melted away and turned to passion, God was given a black box theatre to cast his vision in my life.

And cast He did.

As I emerged from my transformation, God showed me a vision of what my life should look like for Him. It included working in ministry at my home church, going to seminary and getting my Master’s degree, and leading a future family as well as my biological one.

That was a HUGE vision!

People can, and will, say, “But Fred, those seem tiny. People get remarried all the time. What makes yours a vision from God? People lead a ministry all the time, what makes YOU so different? And people go back to school all the time, that doesn’t mean you are living out a vision.”

When looked at in light of the world, those items seem pretty small. And there are even many days that I feel like I have strayed from what I believe God’s vision should have been rather than staying in the vision He cast for me.

But coming out of divorce and a carnal, anger-filled lifestyle, the transformation in a single person is nothing short of miraculous.

Yes, many people come out of divorce and get remarried. But the majority find that their hearts are so hard that the divorce rate among second marriages is not any better than first. God had to transform my heart, head and soul before I was ready to remarry so that I was sure to treat the wife He provided for me the way a princess and daughter of the King deserves to be treated.

And, yes, many people go back to school. But that education is used to get better paying jobs with amazing perks and quality of life. Admittedly, when I went to seminary I had dreams of pastoring a megachurch that was doing amazing things across the globe. And, who knows, maybe that will happen yet. There don’t seem to be any churches out there willing to hire a divorced, 47 year old who recently graduated seminary. And therein lies an issue that I still hold onto. Bitterness. I still feel bitter because of the lack of moving into vocational ministry. I still have a lot of refining to do. But that degree has been put to good use. God has used it to lead others to Christ. Even more so, God has used it to deepen my love for Him as I am able to trace the history that God has used to bring about His glory. I need to move past myself and lose the bitterness and stay in God’s vision.

So, while the visions seem small, the impact is huge.

What was the Father’s vision for Jesus?

Pour your life into 12 men so that they will go on to turn the world upside down.

Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ is the pivotal moment of Christianity and I never want to belittle it, but ultimately, it was the work that Jesus did with those 12 men that transformed all of humanity. It transformed those who follow God into overtly evangelical.

It was that vision that led to action.

James 1:23-25 – For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

And the vision that God gave me, as my anger transformed to passion, was turned into action.

Because of it, my life is done only in light of the risen Christ.

Because of His vision for my life, I am able to pour into family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors with a love that can only come through knowing Christ.

Are you at a point that lacks vision in your life? Are you angry and without passion?

Then it is time to reach out to Christ.

If you don’t know how to take that first step, leave a comment here with a way to contact you. I will be happy to reach out to you either by email or phone.

It is time to be filled with a passion for the one, true Life and the vision to see it come to life in you.

What do YOU believe?

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 – For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The next few weeks I want to discuss something that is pretty interesting, and important. Before I start writing about it, I want to explain this series. First, this is going to be a very polarizing topic. It crosses both political and religious lines, especially among Christians. Next, I am not going to give you my “opinion” until the final post in the series.

This series is going to span 4 posts. The first week I am going to discuss the event that brought about this series. Next week I will discuss the pro side of the argument followed by the con side the third week. In the final week I will discuss what I believe and why.

So, Fred, what is the story?

Back in May 2016 the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention joined an amicus brief to help protect the religious liberties of an Islamic group who was attempting to build a mosque.

An amicus brief is a legal document that is filed in an appellate court by people not associated with the case but who have strong interests in the subject.

The amicus brief was to help the Islamic Society in Basking Ridge NJ get approval to build a mosque. In December 2016, the court ruled in favor of the Islamic Society. The court found that the planning commission of the town violated the law when it required “more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.”

Along with the ERLC, the International Mission Board (IMB) also joined the amicus brief. Because of that, one of the IMB’s trustees resigned because of the amicus brief.

Because of this, some Southern Baptist churches are withholding financial support of the Convention, including Prestonwood Baptist, a 41,000-member megachurch, who is withholding $1 million in support from the Convention’s state and national initiatives.

So after reading this, I decided to post on Facebook a simple question:

“How would you feel/react if your pastor or leader stood up against religious discrimination and signed a petition to allow a mosque to come into your town after the government intentionally made it extra hard for them to come in?”

I followed it up with asking everyone to give scriptural evidence for their views. There were over 70 comments and replies on the post, the most I have ever had on a post. The comments were by many people I consider strong Christians.

And the comments were all across the spectrum.

These comments were all by people I respect and admire

And they were all different.

I go to church with many of those who commented.

So over the next couple weeks I will look at the varying positions my friends took as well as those taken by others I admire as well. I will look at those who say that supporting the Islamic Society is an example of Christ’s love as well as those who say that we cannot support  Christianity and other religions.

So next week I will tackle those who say we can, and should, support the Islamic Society.

Deuteronomy 10:17 – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

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