Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

3 John, 17 August 2014

Big Idea: Hospitality—welcoming the stranger— is a key characteristic of Christ-followers.

This series is designed to encourage reading the less-read books of the Bible (according to BibleGateway.com).

Overview: John writes to a Christian named Gaius, encouraging him to continue showing hospitality to others, even though a rogue church leader condemns it.

Background
Author: John (author of the Gospel of John, one of Jesus’ three best friends)
To: His friend Gaius (we know nothing more about him)
Date: around 90 AD (85-95 AD)
Setting: Diotrephes rejected itinerant teachers sent out by John. Gaius is encouraged to continue to extend hospitality to and support these teachers.

Gaius

He was beloved.
He was in a local church.
He is urged to extend hospitality to the true teachers of the Word.

The elder,

John is both a church elder and an old man when writing.

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. (1)

John is writing to a dear friend who is obviously a fellow Christ-follower.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
(2-4)

John clearly loves Gaius.
John prays for good health and blessing.
What health is to the body, holiness is the the spirit/soul.
Gaius has been faithful to the truth.
John delights in seeing his disciples walk in the truth.

Gaius may not have been in good health but still served Bible teachers.
He walked in love and truth.

Walking in the truth also means walking in love, loving others.

“walk in the truth”
“walking in the truth”

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (5-8)

John commends the faithfulness of Gaius again.
Hospitality is important.

1Pet. 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Rom. 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Rom. 16:23a Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.
1Tim. 5:9-10 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

We are all different parts of the body. We can’t all preach, but we can all be a part of the proclamation of the Gospel.

2 John: warning against false teachers
3 John: receive the truth teachers

We don’t ask unbelievers to give to the cause of Christ.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. (9-10)

Diotrephes is a jerk! He is a selfish, gossipping heretic. He opposed John. He wouldn’t open his home to traveling evangelists (they had no Holiday Inns!).

John had five issues with Diotrephes:

  • must occupy the leading place
  • refused to receive John
  • made malicious statement against the apostles
  • refused to entertain the missionaries (he wanted the spotlight)
  • he ex-communicated those who supported the missionaries

This man wanted to run the church.

Humility is a rare trait in the church. We live in an era of Christian celebrity.

Why do you lead? Preach? Sing solos? For our glory or God’s? We need people in the spotlight, but search your heart first.

“If I come” may mean “when I come.”

Gaius: delightful brother
Diotrephes: dictator
Demetrius: dependable

Meekness does not mean weakness.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone — and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. (11-12)

Imitate what is good. John is an example. Jesus is the ultimate example.
Demetrius is a good example.

We only have one verse about Demetrius. He is a humble saint. His name indicates he was raised a pagan. He was one of the men Diotrephes did not welcome.

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

There’s nothing like face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name. (13-14)

Peace and greetings.

So What?

In a word…hospitality.

Church leaders are required to be hospitable.

1Tim. 3:2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

Titus 1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

Heb. 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

What can you do to welcome strangers on Sunday? What can you do to welcome strangers during the week?

Credits: some ideas from J. Vernon McGee

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Haggai, 10 August 2014

Big Idea: God blesses obedience and provides consequences for disobedience…because He loves His children.

Overview: The Jews had put off rebuilding God’s temple, but had made nice houses for themselves. The prophet Haggai rallies the people to finish the temple and enjoy God’s blessings again.

God made a covenant with Abraham who became the father of the Jews. God said if Abraham’s ancestors would obey, God would bless them. If they disobeyed, God would punish them—not because He is mean, but because He loves them and wants them to wake up and return to Him. God often used prophets to call people to repentance and alert them of their sinful ways. Jonah, Joel and Zephaniah are three prophets we have already examined and now we look at a fourth: Haggai.

We actually know little about Haggai the prophet. His name means “festal” or “feast.” He was the first of three post-exile prophets from the Neo-Babylonian Exile of Judah (along with Zechariah, a contemporary, and Malachi who lived about one hundred years later). He may have witnessed the destruction of Solomon’s temple (2:3) which would mean he was in his seventies when he ministered.

We have surprisingly great detail about the time of this writing. This book contains five separate messages. First, some background. In 538 BC, Cyrus king of Persia issued a decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel led about 50,000 Jews back to Jerusalem where they completed the foundation of the temple in 536 (Ezra 3:87-11) causing great celebration. Unfortunately, the Samaritans and other neighbors felt threatened by this progress and opposed the continuation of the work. As we will see, the Jews abandoned the project leaving the temple unfinished.

  • First Message (1:1-11) Rebuild The Temple
September 1, 520 BC

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: (1:1)

He used a gentile king to date his writing. He is very specific. September 1, 520 BC Zerubbabel (“sown in Babylon”) is the political ruler.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’” (1:2)

When the people returned to the land, they were enthusiastic but they encountered great obstacles. They decided to maintain the status quo.

When things get hard, we often say, “The LORD is leading me elsewhere.”

Nehemiah encountered great opposition when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

Then
the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (3-4)

People decide to follow the LORD’s will until it requires sacrifice. When we decide to follow our will, we overcome the obstacles.

They used time as their excuse. It’s not the LORD’s will. It’s not the right time.

Following Jesus is rarely easy, safe and comfortable.

How much do you spend on God and how much do you spend on yourself? Money? Time? Energy?

Many tip the waitress more than they tip God!

“Many Christians are like those ancient Hebrews, somehow convincing themselves that economy in constructing church buildings is all-important while at the same time sparing no expense in acquiring their personal luxuries. Contrast this with medieval Europe where peasants lived in squalid conditions while great cathedrals were being built.”
-Expositor’s Bible Commentary

We are so comfortable! Prophets were stoned, not stars. They woke up the people.

Now this is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (1:5-6)

These are biting words!

This is
what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. (7)

Twice God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” “Put/set your heart upon your roads/ways” is more accurate. This is essential for us today. Why do you do what you do? What future are you planning? Most people spend more time planning for a vacation than they do eternity…or even the next season of their life.

Give careful thought to your ways.

God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

What road are you on today? Where is it leading?

Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD.
(1:8)

People look for miracles but God says go to work! He does not bless lazyness.

Student: “Professor, the book you gave us to read is dry.”
Professor: “Dampen it with a little perspiration from your brow!”

We have spectator sports but are not to have spectator Christians.
Get in the game. Get to work!

Go to the mountain
Bring wood
Build the house

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
(1:9-11)

God withheld blessing.

Blame God. He says He’s responsible, but He will explain why.

- The Response of the People (1:12-15)
September 24, 520 BC


Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD.

Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD.
(1:12-13)

God is with them. He is with us.

So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius.
(1:14-15)

The people responded during the previous 23 days.They are ready to build the temple. Haggai inspired the people to action.

The civil leader: Zerubbabel the governor
Shealtiel means “asking of God in prayer”

- Second Message: The Temple will be Filled with Glory (2:1-9)
October 21, 520 BC

On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?
(2:1-3)

See Ezra 3:8-13

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)

There were shouts of joy and the sounds of weeping. This temple is small compared to Solomon’s temple. “Back in the good old days…”

But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.
(2:4)

“Be strong, be strong, be strong…and work!”

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

God determines who is great.

‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ (2:5)

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:6-9)

All nations desire silver and gold. Solomon’s temple had millions of dollars worth of silver and gold. This new temple was nothing compared to the splendor of the first temple. A future temple is coming that may be in view here.

When Jesus returns to this earth, He will enter Jerusalem and bring peace.

God looks upon these series of temples as one house.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

- The Third Message: The Defiled People will be Blessed and Purified (2:10-19)
December 24, 520 BC

On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai:
(2:10)

“This is
what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?’”

The priests answered, “No.”
(2:11-12)

Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”

“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.”

Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the LORD. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.
(2:13-14)

On this day, Haggai went to the priests and asked two things about the law:

  • Will the holy that touches the unclean make it holy? No.
  • Will the unclean that touches the holy make it unclean? Yes.

Holiness is non-communicable.
Unholiness is transferrable/communicable.

The Mosaic law did not cover every possible scenario. The priests decided such matters and it became the law.

We have a similar method today. There is a difference between statute or statutory law (passed by legislation/congress) and common law (a matter brought before a court).

“‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on — consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the LORD’s temple. When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

‘From this day on I will bless you.’”
(2:15-19)

God says the people returned to the land but not to God. You can swim in holy water and it won’t make you holy. Baptism of your body won’t automatically change your heart.

“‘If a descendant of Aaron has an infectious skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. (Leviticus 22:4-6)

Ceremonies and religious rituals will not purify your heart.

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matthew 15:17-20)

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:16-20)

You can’t make manure smell good by dumping perfume on it!

The heart must be changed. How?

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

God is saying the reason the people are not blessed is they have unclean hearts. Now that their hearts are right, they will be blessed.

Is your heart blocking God’s blessing in your life?

- The Fourth Message: The Promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)
December 24, 520 BC

Why two messages on the same day? Good question!

The
word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: (2:20)

Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.
(2:21-22)

God will overthrow all nations.

“‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (2:23)

The signet ring is an identification of royalty. Zerubbabel is in the line of David.

The Messiah will not only come through David but also Zerubbabel. He appears in both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 genealogies.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule and reign someday.

The little temple built in Haggai’s day will one day welcome Jesus.

So What?

There are a few vital lessons we must understand from Haggai.

  • God must truly be first in our lives. No other gods. No idols.
  • God will bless us when we obey and discipline us when we disobey.
  • God’s grace is amazing. He never gives up on us. His love is unconditional.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Zephaniah, 27 July 2014

Big Idea: God loves His children through wrath and blessings.

Overview: God is going to remove and restore everything: Israel, Judah, the surrounding nations—everything will be judged, and then everything will be made much, much better.

Introduction

I have had many defining moments in my life, but one day changed my life more than any other. It was on that day that I became a daddy as my bride gave birth to our first child, Kailey.

Since I became a dad, I have cherished my relationship with each of our three kids. There have been moments when we have had our differences, but they have always known my unconditional love for them, and though they have occasionally said otherwise in the heat of the moment, I have been secure in their love for me. Next to God, my family is the most important thing in my life. When our kids are good, I’m almost always good. When they struggle, it’s hard for me to think of anything but their struggles. When they are sick, I am burdened to pray and seek any possible healing resource.

Imagine after raising, feeding, clothing, and sheltering our children they left. I don’t mean they moved away, I mean they left the family. They went to the court and changed their last name to…Jones! Imagine they unfriended me on Facebook, changed their phone numbers, and did everything possible to prevent me from having a relationship with them. How would I feel? How would you feel?

God is all about relationships. From the very beginning He has created males and females for the purpose of relationships—relationships with Him and one another. Thousands of years ago after our first ancestors broke God’s heart by turning away from Him and rebelling, He made a covenant with Abraham which began the nation of Israel and God was their God, their King. Perhaps there was no greater pleasure God experienced than being with His people who enjoyed being with Him.

The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel following God and rejecting Him, running to Him and wandering off, obeying Him and ignoring Him. It’s starting to sound a little like
The Giving Tree, isn’t it?!

Although they had no King but God, eventually the people wanted a human king like the surrounding nations. God reluctantly granted them their wish, installing Saul as king, then David and Solomon. As they turned their attention from God and to the world, the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms fell as enemy armies invaded, first Israel and then Judah.

We are in the middle of a
series called the most unread books of the Bible as discovered by BibleGateway.com.

First we looked at Jonah.
Then we examined Joel.
Last week we studied Jude.
Our book of the week is Zephaniah.

The book of Zephaniah was written after fall of Israel and before the fall of Judah while Josiah was good, arguably the last good king of Judah. Zephaniah was a prophet—not to be confused with Zechariah (something I did all last week!). Prophets did not predict the future, but they spoke for God on behalf of the people, serving as messengers, in most cases calling God’s people to repentance before judgment, a time often referred to as “the day of the LORD.” It is a phrase used throughout the Bible, especially in the prophets (we saw it in Joel two weeks ago).

Zephaniah presents two radically different messages:

  • Woe to those the reject God
  • Blessings to those who follow God

This was true thousands of years ago and it’s still true today.

For the sake of time, we cannot read every verse in the book, despite it being only three chapters long. Instead, I want to highlight the beginning and the end (as read earlier during Scripture reading).

Zephaniah 1

The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah: (1)

We get great details about Zephaniah’s family. He was not the only one with the name Zephaniah so this distinguishes himself from the others and offers the historical note of Josiah as king.

“I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal, the names of the pagan and the idolatrous priests — those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molech, those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him.
(2-6)

This does not sound pleasant! God’s more than a little angry, but it is holy anger. Daddy knows best and He knows what is best is for people to love, follow and serve Him, not themselves, and certainly not idols.

Once again we go back to the first two Commandments—no other gods and no idols.

Baal and Molech were two common idols of surrounding nations adopted by Zephaniah’s contemporaries and mentioned throughout the Old Testament. Molech, in particular, was associated with death and the underworld. There is some debate as to whether people would fire-walk to appease Molech or even sacrifice children in fire. Either way, worshipping Baal and Molech was detestable to God, a Father heartbroken by His wayward children.

We get a clue as to why the people abandoned God.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.’ (1:12)

They underestimated God. He will do nothing good or bad. They think God is dead…or sleeping…or aloof. Perhaps they simply forgot about God’s judgment. This was the first lie of satan in the Garden of Eden.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

“The great day of the LORD is near — near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. (1:14)

Here we see the phrase “the day of the LORD” as mentioned in Joel and elsewhere, a day in which God will judge. For the ungodly, it will be a terrible day.

That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.” (1:15-18)

God
will judge sin. He is a jealous God, not an insecure lover, but a loving Father who knows what’s best for His children. He wants an intimate relationship with them. He wants to be with them, to bless them, and to know them. When they run off and abandon Him, there is no greater pain, no greater loss.

Does that fit our view of a “loving” God? Theologian Miroslav Volf had a shift in his thinking after watching his country of Yugoslavia destroyed.

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

So the people are in trouble with God. What are they to do?

Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger. (2:1-3)

Seek the LORD.
Seek righteousness.
Seek humility.

That’s their only hope.

Seek the LORD. Jesus said it plainly:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

How much time do you spend seeking the LORD?

Seek righteousness. Do the right thing. Follow the perfect example of Jesus. Fill your mind with God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of any unknown sins. Get right with God.

Finally, seek humility. Don’t try to be humble. As soon as you think you’re humble, you’re not! We underestimate God when we overestimate ourselves. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It is how you think of others and God. How great is your God? It should put things in perspective quickly. Idolatry today does not usually involve statues of Baal and Molech but for me, at least, it involves the man in the mirror. Perhaps the best way to attack pride is serving those who cannot return the favor, anonymously blessing the poor, sacrificing your preferences for those of others. As Paul told the Church in Philippi:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

So What?

I wish I could view Zephaniah’s audience as a bizarre tribe doing unimaginable things, but it sounds too much like our culture. We often revel in arrogance and pride, praising ourselves for our accomplishments, all the while ignoring our Creator whose very purpose in creating us was relationship.

God is not a monster out to harm people that don’t obey Him. He’s a loving Father longing to know and be known by His children.

This week my daughter will move away from her Father, but that won’t end our relationship (thanks to the phone, texting, FaceTime, and transportation). If she ever abandoned me—or if any of our kids renounced our family—I would pursue her out of love, knowing her life and mine will be more satisfying in relationship.

We serve a gracious God who loves prodigals. He is eager to welcome home the departed. He is a God of wrath to those that dishonor Him, but He’s also a loving Father when His children seek Him.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” “The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD. (3:17-20)

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, God longs to know you. He takes great delight in His children, singing over us!

When our kids were little, I loved to sing to them. I loved to hold them and I still do! We can celebrate today knowing that God is alive, He is active, He loves us, and one day we will be with Him forever.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jude, 20 July 2014

Big Idea: Know the Truth and He will set you free!

Overview: Jude warns believers that certain ungodly people are creeping into the church, distorting the grace of God, and denying Jesus Christ.

Introduction

Are you protected? Do you use protection? For many years we have been warned to guard against…computer viruses. They can sneak onto our computers and wreak all sorts of havoc with our valuable information—or so I’ve been told! I won’t contribute to the endless Mac versus PC debate, but I happen to know many who have had computers infected with viruses. How do they occur? It could be through software that is installed on the machine. Sometimes they are e-mail attachments that are activated when opened. It’s important to be on alert, pay attention to what you open and install on your computer, and generally a good idea to have some type of antivirus protection on your device.

Today we continue our series The Most Unread Books of The Bible, a survey of some of the least-read Bible texts according to BibleGateway.com.

We began with
Jonah. Last week we looked at another prophet, Joel. Today we examine another “J”—Jude.

Jude is one of a handful of books that are comprised of a single chapter.

genre: epistle/letter
author:
Jude
date:
between 70 and 80 AD
to:
Christians

The big idea of Jude is to be on guard against those who want to corrupt your faith and, therefore, your life. It continues to amaze me how relevant a two thousand year-old book can be in our progressive, 21st century culture.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, (1a)

Jude is not only the brother of James, he is also the half brother of Jesus, though he does not consider himself an apostle (v. 17).

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
(1b)

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
(2)

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
(3-4)

Notice the intentionality behind their actions. These are not uneducated, naive people. They are on a mission. They are secretive. They are subtle. They are godless. They change God’s grace, promote immorality, and deny Christ. They are false teachers, heretics, and liars. Have you ever encountered one? They’re all around! They take the Scriptures and twist them, distort them, and rip them out of context to be manipulated for their purposes. We should not be surprised. Satan did the exact same thing to Jesus while He was fasting in the desert for forty days.

Satan quoted Scripture!

He knows the Bible better than most of us!

The messages sound so good, so positive, so affirming, so politically correct.

“God helps those who help themselves.” Where is that in the Bible?

“God made me this way.” He created you and me, but we are all broken because of sin and The Fall, desperately in need of transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“God loves everyone.” Yes He does, so much so that He wants what’s best for us which is often uncomfortable at the moment for our growth and future benefit.

“God wants me happy.” He is more concerned about Your relationship with Him and others than your temporary pleasure.

“God will forgive me.” Followers of Jesus are forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross, but that does not mean there won’t be painful consequences for our rebellion against God and others.

“God wants me rich.” He does want to bless us, but it may not be the way we envision and when we envision. His greatest blessings will be eternity with Him.

“I need to do great things for God so He will love me.” You’re already loved. We love Him and obey Him as a response because He first loved us. All of the social activism in the world won’t cause Him to love You any more than He already does.


Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (5-7)

Jude says they already knew this, yet he offers a reminder of the consequences of sin. Tragically, many today think of Sodom and Gomorrah as an imaginary place that never existed—or worse, a place they’d like to visit. As Jude says, it was filled with sexual immorality and perversion and there are consequences—the punishment of eternal fire. The more I listen to the messages of our culture, the more it seems like we are told to seek immediate pleasure at all times. Nobody mentions responsibility, consequences, others, or even the radical idea of waiting, saving, delaying, or sacrificing now for rewards later. We not only want instant news, coffee, downloads, and entertainment, we want instant experiences, pleasures, and our every desire on demand.

Let me offer my most offensive statement of the day:

It’s not all about you!!!

I know that’s what we’re told, 24/7/365. I know it’s the prevailing message in our culture. I know every decision we make must first go through the “what’s in it for me?” filter, but it’s a lie!

The worst is when the religion of consumerism invades our relationship with God. I will love and serve God as long as He loves and serves me. I will go to church as long as I get something out of it. I will volunteer when it’s convenient and makes me feel good about myself. I’ll gladly share my leftovers of my time, talents and treasures with God if there is any!

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals — these are the very things that destroy them.
(8-10)

Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (11)

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (12-13)

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (14-16)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (17-19)

So what?

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (20-21)

Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (22-23)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (24-25)

Conclusion

We are to guard our hearts against the devil’s schemes. They can be subtle. We need the full armor of God as we daily engage with the forces of God and the forces of evil whose mission is to steal, kill and destroy.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Joel, 13 July 2014

Big Idea: The day of the Lord is coming. Are you ready?

Overview: Joel explains that a recent plague of locusts is a judgment from God and calls Judah to repent. Although God judges Judah now, He will avenge Judah of her enemies.

Introduction

The day of the LORD. Today is Sunday which many call the LORD’s day. One could make a case that every day is the LORD’s day since the psalmist wrote

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

This fascinating phrase, the day of the LORD, appears several times throughout the Bible.

Last week we began our series
The Most Unread Books of the Bible with a look at the book of Jonah. While the story is familiar, the book is infrequently read according to BibleGateway.com.

Joel

Last week’s lead character, Jonah, was called by God to proclaim God’s truth to the people of Nineveh.

Today we look at another prophet,
Joel. He also was sent to proclaim God’s truth, but we have more details about the content of his message.

The Day of the Lord

In the Old Testament, God created Adam and Eve, saved humanity through Noah and his family in the arc, and made a covenant with Abraham to bless his offspring—the Jews—and ultimately Gentiles, too. For generations, God’s people vacillated between following God and obeying Him. Prophets were sent to urge the people to repent and follow God or face dire consequences. The day of the LORD meant the day of judgment, whether it was judgment for Israel or other nations.

The flood itself was one example of God’s judgment. Other punishments included invasions by enemy nations or even natural disasters. The book of Joel highlights one of these tragedies.

The book of Joel begins with these words

  The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel. Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth. Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD. The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails. Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree — all the trees of the field — are dried up. Surely the joy of mankind is withered away. Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for that day! For the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes — joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering. To you, O LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures. (Joel 1)

A great plague of locusts has been unleashed on the earth as a consequence of sin and rebellion, with warnings of greater punishments.

If you’re like me you think, so what? They couldn’t stand a few locusts?

A few months ago I saw a moth in our home. It was small, easily captured, and didn’t seem to be much of a bother…until we discovered it had friends! For months we set traps to capture the dozens of flying pests that invaded our pantry and nearly every room in the house. We finally rid our home of them, but they were annoying and expensive to exterminate.

Locusts are pests like moths, but larger. They are basically grasshoppers. They look pretty cool when they are alone, but they can swarm and when they do it can be nothing short of a natural disaster.

Even small swarms may cover several square miles, and weigh thousands of tons. They eat the equivalent of their own weight in a day, and, flying at night with the wind, may cover over 300 miles! The largest known swarm covered 513,000 km², comprising approximately 12.5 trillion insects and weighing 27.5 million tons!
Wrath

Why would a kind, gentle, loving God ever send such disaster upon His children? Precisely because He
loves them! Their behavior was destructive, they forgot Him, and He wanted to get their attention before they self-destructed.

God chastens those He loves, and that chastening calls people to repentance. He keeps His covenant by showing mercy—giving them warnings before punishment. He often sends prophets like Jonah and Joel to get the attention of wayward people.

Chapter one of Joel describes the immediate locust plague which lead to a call for repentance and prayer.

Chapter two is similar. It begins

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand — (Joel 2:1)

A third scene (2:18-32) shows God’s response, returning destroyed crops and promising a future age of the Spirit.

Finally, judgment against the nations is presented, ending with God’s blessings on His forgiven people (3:17-21).

“Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her. “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The LORD dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:17-21)

Joel mentions little about the details for the disobedience that led to the punishment. His audience likely knew their transgressions.

Amos is the first prophet to mention “the day of the LORD.” The pattern is commonly judgment followed by salvation. The locust is followed by the restoration of God’s people.


The Day of the LORD in the New Testament

The New Testament speaks of the day of the LORD, the second coming of Christ. Jesus came once as a little baby, but He promised to return and the coming is unexpected.

…for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10)

So What?

Thousands of years ago a guy wrote about plagues followed by restoration. So what?

God hates sin.
God judges sin.
We must repent of our sins and receive His merciful forgiveness.

I can hardly go a day without hearing about a tornado, global warming, mudslides, hurricanes, famine, drought, or some other natural disaster. Wars are raging in the Middle East and beyond. Is it God’s judgment? Is it the natural consequence of sin? I have no idea, but I do know we’re all one moment, one event from catastrophe. I also know our country has had a reputation for seeking God, an idea that seems like ancient history. God judges all sin, all people, all nations.

The good news is that we all have access to mercy, forgiveness and grace not because of what we have done, but because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. All other religions are about doing things to make God love and accept us. Only the Christian faith describes a loving God who sent His son for us. Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you can do can make God love you less…but you must repent and receive the gift of grace, unmerited favor. That’s why Jesus died. That’s why we worship and celebrate, remembering the great sacrifice of God.

The great “day of the LORD” is someday in the future. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. You don’t have to subscribe to a stack of periodicals to realize our nation has been increasingly turning from God. Sin abounds, often unrepentant and even filled with pride. Judgment day is coming for all of us. Are you ready?

This is not one of those warm, happy sermons. People hated prophets because they were called to sound an alarm. So, too, I urge you to repent of your sins, get right with God, run into His arms, receive His gift of grace and mercy, and experience forgiveness and deep shalom peace.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Oh how we need that today!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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