Day of the LORD, 26 March 2023

Day of the LORD
Honor: The Book of Malachi
Malachi 4

Series Big Idea:
The last book of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) offers challenging words about bringing honor to the LORD.
Big Idea: God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready!
When I was a kid growing up in the Church, one of the most popular songs declared,
This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24, NKJV)
Are we rejoicing? Are we glad?
Today we’re concluding our verse-by-verse exploration of the last book of the Jewish Bible—the Old Testament—written by the prophet Malachi. This is the day the LORD has made, but today we are going to look at the day of the LORD, something referenced throughout the Bible.
The day of the LORD. The Hebrew word yom means “day.” It’s one of the most common nouns in the Old Testament. You’ve probably heard of Yom Kippur, day of atonement. Yom Yahweh is the day of the LORD. This isn’t a reference to what some call the LORD’s day, the sabbath, the day of rest, but rather a period of time, not necessarily 24 hours. It could mean the daylight hours or a special event. Part of the challenge in defining the day of the LORD is it means different things throughout the Bible. Here are some examples of its usage:
Scream in terror, for the day of the LORD has arrived—the time for the Almighty to destroy. (Isaiah 13:6, NLT)
For this is the day of the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, a day of vengeance on his enemies. (Jeremiah 46:10a, NLT)
for the terrible day is almost here—the day of the LORD! It is a day of clouds and gloom, a day of despair for the nations. (Ezekiel 30:3, NLT)
The day of the LORD is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be! (Joel 1:15, NLT)
Yes, the day of the LORD will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope. (Amos 5:20, NLT)
“That terrible day of the LORD is near. Swiftly it comes—a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. (Zephaniah 1:14, NLT)
Let’s take a look at some New Testament references:
The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the LORD arrives. (Acts 2:20, NLT)
But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:4, NLT)
Before we address today’s text, know this: God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready! This is an urgent message for every generation. The prophet Malachi begins his final chapter:
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. (Malachi 4:1, NLT)
For centuries, people have debated whether or not the evil will be exposed to literal fire or if they will burn “like” a furnace. Will the torment be eternal, or will humans somehow be annihilated? The details are not as important as the big idea:
sin kills and we need Jesus.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (Malachi 4:2, NLT)
This is a prophetic vision of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)
Jesus the Messiah brings more than just forgiveness of sins, but victory and healing.
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (Malachi 4:2, NLT)
This is where I wish the book ended, with joy and leaping!
Have you ever seen calves let out to pasture? It’s nothing like straw being burned up!
This is the fate of those who fear the name of the LORD, who know and love God, who are obedient, faithful, and righteous. They will go free, leaping with joy! But there’s more.
On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 4:3, NLT)
How would you like God to walk all over you? In this life, there seem to be few things that are black and white, but plenty of gray. The day of the LORD, however, appears to be binary: the wicked and the righteous, with two very different outcomes. Which group describes you, wicked or righteous?
“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4, NLT)
This describes the righteous, those who obey God’s law, those how love God and speak His love language of obedience. We can obey or suffer.
Now we come to the end of the chapter, the end of the book, the end of the Old Testament.
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (Malachi 4:5 NLT)
John the Baptist was the prophet sent, according to Jesus in Matthew 11:14. He prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah. But some see this as the second coming of Elijah. Regardless, God desperately wants to give everyone ample opportunity to follow Him. He’s not tricky or deceitful.
He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9b, NLT)
He has given each of us the mission—the commission—to proclaim good news as we go and make disciples. We want to give every man, woman, and child in this world not only a chance to escape eternity without God, but also eternity with God. Look what Peter says next:
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. (2 Peter 3:10, NLT)
Are you ready for the day of the LORD? Are you preparing others for the day of the LORD?
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (Malachi 4:5 NLT)
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6a NLT)
The angel of the LORD quotes this when telling Zechariah about his forthcoming son, John the Baptist.
He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:17, NLT)
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6, NLT)
And thus ends the book of Malachi and the Old Testament. It ends with a curse!
There were about four hundreds of years of silence between Malachi and John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah.
So What?
Understanding biblical prophecy can be challenging. Much of it is focused upon Jesus the Messiah…His first coming about 2000 years ago, His return, …or perhaps even both! Many of the things in Revelation, for example, were fulfilled when the temple was destroyed in AD 70, though some have yet to occur (though Revelation is more apocalyptic than prophet, but that’s for another discussion). Does the mention of Elijah in today’s text literally mean Elijah, the prophet who never died (he was taken into heaven in a whirlwind)? Was it actually speaking of John the Baptist? Or both! Applying prophetic writings to our lives can be challenging, but some things are universal, including the unchanging God Pastor Donald spoke of last Sunday.
Two weeks ago I reminded you that judgment day is coming…for everyone. It’s a sobering reality, and I feel like each time we gather, it’s important to be reminded of who God is, who we are, and how our present impacts our future.
Some have said the Day of the LORD is similar to a coin with two sides, one positive and one negative. We’ve seen here in Malachi chapter four the Day of the LORD will be good for some and terrible for others, perhaps not unlike final exam week!
For the true members of God’s people, the Day of the LORD is blessing. For those who are not God’s people, it is judgment. Amazingly, the Old Testament is filled with passages which suggest it will be a day of judgment for Israel. They will not be alone, of course, as both then and now men and women have ignored or even rejected the Almighty, thinking themselves beyond the need for a relationship with God. The Day of the LORD refers to a variety of things, judgments, blessings, seasons, and the upcoming time when He will reestablish His rule over the earth.
Throughout our study of Malachi, we’ve seen a people who have robbed God by their greed and lack of stewardship. We’ve encountered rationalization…calling evil good. We’ve seen offerings of leftovers rather than the first fruits, their best. The Jews have been unfaithful despite the faithfulness of God. In many ways, it sounds like the Church in the United States today. I’m not trying to be critical. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem, both personally and professionally.
I think this challenging book gives us all a lot to reflect upon and consider. Where are you? I know you’re in this room or watching on a screen, but where are you? Where are you in your relationship with God? The first question in the Bible (Genesis 3:9) was God asking Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” It wasn’t that God couldn’t find them. He’s God. He wanted them to identify where they were relationally.
Where are you? It matters both now and for eternity.
You may think a church gathering would be an odd place to ask these questions. After all, most of you would say Jesus is your Savior and LORD. But saying so isn’t enough. Jesus asked,
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46, NIV)  
47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47-49, NIV)  
The Day of the LORD will bring blessing for the true believers, but judgment for the self-sufficient, the busy, the unfaithful, the wicked.
Family, I don’t want any of you to be in that later category. I love you. I plead with you to surrender and follow Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Worship with your time, talents, and treasures. Love God and your neighbor and yourself well. Knowledge is not enough. Our actions provide evidence for our faith. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready! Get others ready!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Judgment, 12 March 2023

Honor: The Book of Malachi

Malachi 2:17-3:5

Series Big Idea:
The last book of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) offers challenging words about bringing honor to the LORD.
Big Idea: The God of justice will judge, and we need to be ready.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors said he likes to preach verse-by-verse through the Bible. This is known as expository preaching, as opposed to topical. One of the reasons, he said, is it can be tempting to skip around the Bible, finding popular passages and ignoring those which are more controversial, uncomfortable, or even offensive. Although we do some topical messages—especially around Holy Week and Advent—much of our preaching is expository. We’re in the middle of one such series on the book of Malachi, the last book of the Jewish Bible or Old Testament. It’s written by the prophet Malachi, and biblical prophets rarely made people happy!
It's always important to understand our text today was not written to us, but it’s very valuable for us…a glimpse into the heart of God and what happens when His people forget or even forsake God. It’s usually a slow fade, but one which inevitably results in God’s judgment, not because He doesn’t like us, but precisely because He loves us and He wants us to return to Him.
Two weeks ago we looked at Pastor John Soper’s summary of much of the Old Testament:
Israel forgets God >>> Israel forsakes God >>> Israel worships other gods >>> God sends judgment upon Israel >>> Israel cries out to God >>> God raises up a deliverer >>> God saves Israel >>> Israel pledges to serve God >>> [repeat]
Again I ask, where are you?
This past week a friend mentioned someone whose life is a wreck, they are experiencing God’s judgment or—at the very least—the dire consequences of many poor choices, yet they have refused to cry out to God and surrender.
God has ways of getting our attention, doesn’t He? Malachi is God’s prophet, trying to get the attention of His people, the Jews. The last verse of chapter two begins…
You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask. (Malachi 2:17a, NLT)
They pretend ignorance and declare innocence. This is the fifth sarcastic question they ask. God has an answer.
You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17b, NLT)
God is weary over two things the people were saying.
First, they were saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You might call this a new morality. It happened in Noah’s day. It happened in the period of the judges. Twice in the book of Judges (17;6; 21:25), it says,
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25, NLT)
You can rationalize anything.
Throughout history, Christians have used the Bible to justify everything from misogyny to slavery. Satan even used it to tempt Jesus! We like to start with what we want, what we desire, what we think is fair, rather than beginning with a careful study of the Holy Scriptures and aligning ourselves with God’s will. Perhaps one reason we don’t read the Bible more frequently is we don’t want to be responsible for what it says!
We must be careful because
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12, NLT)
I feel like this hits very close to home in our day, in our nation. It’s one thing to tolerate sin, but quite another to celebrate it with parades and celebrations. God must weep when He sees how even Christians have embraced alternative lifestyles, abortion, greed, gossip, pride, the pursuit of power and wealth, …the list goes on and on. It’s one thing for the world to act like the world, but when so-called Christians look just like everybody else, falling for whatever’s hip and cool and trendy, we have real problems. Politically correct does not necessarily mean biblically correct. In fact, the world is often diametrically opposed to godliness. There’s a war raging between good and evil, God and satan, the flesh and the truth.
Jesus said,
21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:21-23, NLT)
This is nothing new. One of the things that makes me chuckle is when people say, “We are a New Testament church!” Which one? Laodicea? Ephesus? They were all filled with sinners…just like ours! The church in Corinth was hardly exempt:
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. (1 Corinthians 5:1, NLT)
Do we want details on that one?! If you need a definition, sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of the marriage of a husband and wife. It’s mentioned more than a dozen times in the New Testament, including the lips of Jesus and the writings of Paul and John. Jesus said even lust was adultery.
Let me add there seem to be acceptable sins in the church…even so-called conservative churches.
-       Pride often runs rampant, the original sin.
       Fear, the opposite of love, is used to bring people to Jesus and paralyzes many decisions, both in homes and churches
       Gluttony…hey, we only have potlucks on 5th Sundays!
       Worry…Jesus condemned it (Matthew 6:25-34), but I’m very guilty!
       Lying…you’ve never told a lie, right?
       Favoritism…we like to hang around people like us, don’t we?
       Greed is demonstrated by stingy giving
Christians nationwide are giving 2.5% of their income…one quarter of what is known as the tithe, 10%, a good starting point for generosity. One 2023 report said only 5% tithe. Most of you tip your barista far more than you give to your God.
I’m not a perfect example, but I am seeking to follow Christ, not merely avoiding sin, but loving Jesus. The point is the Jews were celebrating sin, not unlike many Christians today.
You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17b, NLT)
Second, they were asking, “Where is the God of justice?” Have you ever heard someone blame God for their problems?
Where is the God of justice?…while their poor choices have done them in. No wonder God was weary! In a moment we’ll see how God addresses the claim that He is either absent or unjust.
Now that we’ve looked at that verse, let’s move on to chapter 3! It doesn’t get any easier. God warns of the coming judgment.
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:1, NLT)
This sounds like good news, right? God’s messenger is coming! Actually, there seem to be two messengers. Jesus quotes this passage in Matthew 11:9-10 and Luke 7:27, referring to John the Baptist, the one who will prepare the way. Then the messenger of the covenant will come. This appears to be none other than Jesus the Messiah, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi describes the second coming of Christ.
“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. (Malachi 3:2-3, NLT)
This is a sobering, powerful message, family.
Clean hands and a pure heart are what God seeks, and purification is necessary, a refiner’s fire.
The Refiner’s Fire
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9).
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). 

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart 
(Proverbs 17:3).

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver 
(Psalm 66:10).   
Purify (testing/fire) and cleanse (soap) like silver and gold.
After the purifying…
Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past. (Malachi 3:4, NLT)
Hallelujah! The worshipers are purified and cleansed, acceptable to the LORD. But there’s more. They want the God of justice? He’s going to judge!
“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:5, NLT)
He's going to judge, and He mentions four things in particular: sorcerers, adulterers, liars, and oppressors, those who treat employees, widows, orphans, or foreigners/immigrants poorly. These things are still detestable to God, and we see it all over, don’t we? The occult is celebrated in many ways. Adultery sounds like an old-fashioned term for what everybody’s doing. We don’t like liars, but only tell “little white lies,” right? How have we treated laborers, widows, orphans, refugees?
Judgment is coming…for all of us. Are you ready?
So What?
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the Father sent Jesus to die on the cross to make forgiveness and purification possible. We all sin and fall short of God’s standard, but He has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him—and one another—through Jesus.
The bad news is so many have rejected God…even people who think they are Christians or “saved” because they prayed a prayer as a child. The invitation of Jesus is not pray a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. It’s follow me, be with me, do life with me…it’s about a relationship. How’s that going for you? How is your soul?
Remember from two weeks ago in chapter 2, the Jews had intermarried with people from other religions. They had abandoned God and turned to sorcery, adultery, and lies. Every day is a new opportunity to follow Jesus or ignore Him. It’s like a marriage. It doesn’t end when you say, “I do.” That’s only the beginning, and the relationship must be cultivated every day.
Perhaps you’ve been going through the motions, mailing it in, so to speak. I’ve found myself doing that, at times. Just because I avoid doing bad things doesn’t mean I’ve necessarily been obedient, either. Following Jesus is more than just playing by the rules, avoiding murder, adultery, lying, and the like. It also means loving well…God and others. It means caring for the widow, stranger, and orphan. It involved surrendering my time, talents, and treasures for His glory, His Kingdom, His Church. Following Jesus even means surrendering my body, my dreams, and my comforts.
The good news, of course, is God’s grace. Forgiveness is available to every one of you. There’s nothing you’ve done that’s beyond God’s mercy. Each time we gather is an opportunity to be reminded that He’s God and we’re not, that we all fall short and miss the mark, and that we have a loving Father with arms wide open to extend grace and forgiveness if we come to Him, if we repent, if we turn from our sin, and do life with Jesus.
Family, I love you and I want what’s best for you. So does God. I don’t get it right all of the time, but that’s my desire. What is your next step in following Jesus? What do you need to surrender?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

The Curse of Sin, 7 October 2018

The Curse of Sin
D6 Series—Romans: Faith’s Foundation
Romans 1:16-32

Series Overview: Romans is packed with the gospel and truths about our spiritual condition.

Big Idea: Sin has destroyed what once was paradise, and threatens us every day.

If you recall the story of creation in the opening pages of the Bible, God created a universe so vast scientists have only scratched the surface on its size and beauty. God called it good.

What happened?

In a word, sin.

My name is Kirk and today we’re beginning a new series,
Faith’s Foundations, looking at selections from the book of Romans. Rather than a deep examination of every word, this will be more of a run through Romans, capturing the big ideas. I encourage you to read a chapter or two each week, digging deeper to mine for nuggets of wisdom and application.

Many a preacher has spent years preaching through the book of Romans. While each of the 66 books of the Bible is God-breathed truth, many people have their favorites, and Romans is often on their list.

Martin Luther said, “It is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel… the absolute epitome of the gospel.”

Samuel Coleridge, English poet and literary critic, called it, “The most profound work in existence.”

Warren Wiersbe writes,

“When you study Romans, you walk into a courtroom. First, Paul called Jews and Gentiles to the stand and found both guilty before God. Then he explained God’s marvelous way of salvation—justification by faith. At this point, he answered his accusers and defended God’s salvation. “This plan of salvation will encourage people to sin!” they cry. “It is against the very law of God!” But Paul refuted them, and in so doing explained how the Christian can experience victory, liberty, and security.”

The year is AD 57. Saul, the great Jewish leader and persecutor of Christians, has converted to follow Jesus. His name is changed to Paul and he writes from Corinth in Greece to early Christians in Rome, Italy, a place he had never experienced but one he was hoping to visit on his way to Spain after delivering money to the Jerusalem church.

I must confess I wrote this sermon and felt very unsettled by it. There’s a lot of bad news, quite frankly. Our text for today is not the warm, positive, happy stuff that tickles the ears, but sometimes the truth hurts.

After further wrestling, I felt led to change the order, so if you turn to Romans chapter one, we’re going to jump ahead and then back up…not unlike a movie that time shifts. Romans 1, beginning with verse 18. Paul’s talking about sinners who have rejected God.

Rather than teaching evolution—the idea of humanity advancing through increasingly favorable characteristics, our passage today teaches devolution, starting high and sinking because of the curse of sin dating back to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve. First, Paul describes the devolution of intelligence.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

God’s wrath. I told you this isn’t pretty! Paul’s saying God has revealed Himself to people yet they reject Him.

Paul’s writing about general revelation. Even people who have never touched a Bible can look around at nature and acknowledge this couldn’t have been an accident. Someone must be behind the universe. It says truth is plain and clearly seen—a paradox given the reference to God’s invisible qualities! They are also understood, ongoing, and it reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature.

We are born with some understanding of right and wrong.
We are born with the ability to choose right and wrong.
But our moral standards are always better than our behavior.

This is devolution of intelligence. Next, we see devolution from ignorance.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)

You might recall the first two of the Ten Commandments: no other gods and no idols. Those sound so simple, yet every day I want to make myself god. I want control. I might not worship statues of animals, but there are other things I’m tempted to worship, things to which I give my time, money and energy which might not glorify God. It’s easy to replace God with the worship of success, wealth, or even family. It’s tempting to devote too much time, money and energy to even good things like travel, leisure and career while subtly turning them into idols above God.

Indulgence is the next step of devolution.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)

It says “amen,” so let’s pause for a moment. Does this happen anymore? The media has had a field day with people—many so-called godly people, including pastors, who have gone out of control.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

Is homosexuality in the Bible? Here’s but one example. Do I need to help you understand what Paul is saying? I don’t write the mail, I just deliver it!

When we continually reject God, at some point He rejects us. He “gives us over” to our sinful desires, our shameful lusts. I’ve heard some people describe their behaviors and say, “I don’t feel any guilt or shame so God must be ok with it,” unaware that God has left them. There’s no conviction because there’s no Holy Spirit! That’s a scary place to be!

I must add no person is hopeless. No one is beyond God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Prodigals can always come home. Hallelujah!

But when God gives you over to your sinful desires, watch out!

Sexual sins—both heterosexual and homosexual—are frequently highlighted in these discussions, and for good reason. Elsewhere, Paul wrote,

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

I must add sex is a beautiful gift of God, but like any gift it has boundaries. A new car is great, but don’t drive on the left side of the road (unless you’re in England!). Medicine might be useful, but don’t down the whole bottle. Sex is wonderful…in a marriage.

But family, the list of sins goes far beyond sexual immorality.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)

Here we come to devolution through impenitence, the opposite of repentance, having no shame or regret. They not only commit sin, they virtually celebrate it.

It’s as if God just throws in the towel and says, “You’re on your own.”

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. (Romans 1:29-30)

That’s a harrowing list! Who does that remind you of? None of you, I’m sure!

There’s one phrase in there that I’ve always found fascinating: they invent ways of doing evil. That’s a whole new meaning of the word “creative!” When I first heard about partial-birth abortion this phrase came to mind. Who could imagine such a procedure on a baby just moments from birth? It’s like something from Nazi Germany. Thank goodness it was banned in 2003.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:31-32)

It’s as if they say, “Let’s have a festival, throw a parade, celebrate our sin!”

Imagine the Father’s heart.

Who is Paul describing in all of this? It could very well describe our world today, couldn’t it? In virtually all western nations, there is a significant decline in Christianity, whether you measure church attendance, baptisms, Bible reading, or whatever. Some have declared their opposition to God, but I think far more have simply drifted away from God as a true priority in their lives. This week I was listening to a podcast about a church plant—a new startup church—and the host was troubled by the reality he considered himself to be a Christian, but he hadn’t been to church in over a year. He wasn’t even sure why he stopped feeding his faith, but I bet he just got busy with work, social media, entertainment, friends, and life.

It's a slippery slope, family. One missed Sunday becomes a month becomes a year. One day without listening to God through the Bible can easily become a dusty book. Disciples of prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, celebration, worship, and giving are radical, counter-cultural, and easily lost. Temptation lurks all around, and so many people “out there” used to be “in here.” Let me be clear, the goal isn’t going to church. We
are the church! But the goal is to love God, love others as we love ourselves, and make disciples—and you simply can’t do that alone. Following Jesus is a team sport. It’s a family matter.

So what are we to do with these frightening words from Paul? What are we to do about the crazy world in which we live? Should we just all move to South Carolina, take over the government, and succeed from the Union? I actually heard someone suggest that several years ago!

No! We are to lean into God, acknowledge His holiness, repent of our sins, and be fully engaged in His mission…to seek and save the lost. We’re on a mission from God! As we noted last Sunday in stating one of the core values of the Christian & Missionary Alliance,

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.

So let’s go back to verse sixteen of Romans chapter one.

Paul says,

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. (Romans 1:16)

What is the gospel? We’ve examined this before.

Tragically, when many hear “gospel” they jump to personal salvation. They might say, “The gospel is I get my sins forgiven” or “I get to go to heaven when I die.” The gospel is first and foremost about Jesus, not us. We benefit from the good news of the gospel, but it is fundamentally about King Jesus the Messiah. The original readers of Romans never would’ve thought of the afterlife when Paul mentions salvation, instead bringing to mind deliverance, whether personal or national in the Roman empire.

The gospel is good news
In a word, the gospel is Jesus.
In three words, the gospel is Jesus is LORD.

One of my seminary professors, Scot McKnight, has said,

“…the word gospel was used in the world of Jews at the time of the apostles to announce something, to declare something as good news — the word evangelion always means good news. “To gospel” is to herald, to proclaim, and to declare something about something. To put this together: the gospel is to announce good news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ. To gospel for Paul was to tell, announce, declare, and shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of God.”

Good news needs to be shared, declared, shouted. We need to proclaim King Jesus in our words and deeds to our city and world.

Do you know Jesus?
Do your friends know Jesus?
Do your neighbors know Jesus?
Do your enemies know Jesus?

This is really serious, especially in a culture filled with violence, suicide, overdoses, and fatal accidents. I’m not trying to be morbid, but merely point out tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us—ourselves or those around us.

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.” (Romans 1:17)

The righteousness of God is the theme of Romans. It may sound distant to our modern ears, but you’ll hear it often. The idea of righteousness is used over sixty times in this letter. Some scholars view righteousness as the gift of right standing given by God to those who believe. Others see it as the activity of God by which He saves His people. Suffice it to say the theme involves the act of God giving and humans receiving. As the gospel is preached and people repent and believe, transformation occurs. A new relationship is established between us and Holy God. It’s because of faith—by faith unto faith.

“The righteous will live by faith” may seem obvious and insignificant, but those in Rome would be very familiar with this phrase, a quote from Habakkuk 2:4. Life before God demands our complete allegiance to God. It means we trust Him and are given a new life and a new lifestyle.

Why does Paul make such a big deal about righteousness? It’s because the Roman world was filled with unrighteousness. Perhaps not unlike ours, the news was not good, the people were not godly, the world seemed to be headed in the wrong direction.

So What?

It’s easy to think these verses apply to “those people,” the drug dealers and prostitutes and whatever. The reality is my heart is wicked. My hands are dirty. I’m greedy. I’ve committed murder and adultery by Jesus’ definitions. The pride and arrogance that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven is in me. I’m a self-righteous recovering Pharisee. I fail to love others, instead caring about my best interests.

God’s standard is perfection. That includes what you did or didn’t do today as well as every moment of your past. I want to ask you one simple question: are you right before God? One day you and I will stand before the Almighty and have to give an account for how we lived this one life—how we cared for the poor, treated the orphan, welcomed the stranger, visited the imprisoned, spent our money, invested our time, loved our neighbor. It’s sobering to think about, but Judgment Day is coming. I don’t like to talk about it, but because I love you I must. The reality is we all far short of God’s mark of perfection. One sin or a million, big or small, it doesn’t matter. We’re all hopeless…without Jesus.

The bad news is we’re all messed up.
The good news—the great news—is Jesus loved each of us enough to die on the cross for us. He offers to pay in full our debt, our punishment for our sins. He offers to clean our slate if we repent and believe, turn and follow, seek and surrender.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

This includes heterosexual sins, homosexual sins, greed, gossip, self-righteousness, murder, abuse, addiction, lying, deceit, theft, porn, rage, drunkenness, whatever! Hallelujah!

The righteous will live by faith and we can only be righteous because of the body and blood of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice we remember today.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Judgment and Rewards, 23 October 2016

Judgment and Rewards
What Happens to You When You Die?
Revelation 22:12-16

Series Overview

Heaven is for real and the Bible says more about it than we might recognize.

Big Idea

One day we will all stand before a holy God and give an account for our lives. Are you ready?


For the past several weeks we’ve been studying heaven. Heaven is where God is, plain and simple. There is no sickness, death, or sin in heaven. It is truly paradise, Eden before the Fall, and so much more. Heaven is for real.

Unfortunately for many, hell is for real, too. The Bible is full of references to it, and Jesus himself had much to say on the subject. Hell is where God is absent.

You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

The purpose of this series could be summed in two verses from the book of Colossians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

God commands us to set our hearts—and minds—on Heaven.”

This does not mean we should be so heavenly minded we become no earthly good. In fact,
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

The scriptures make it clear that heaven is for real and hell is for real. Heaven is where God is present. Hell is where God is absent.

Your name. It’s important. It allows you to talk with the customer service agent on the phone (so long as you also know those special digits, the last four of your Social Security number!). Perhaps you heard your name when the teacher distributed the graded papers. Your name is used when you sign a contract for a house or purchase a car. Your name identifies you on Facebook, unique from the billion or so other users. Your name—at least your last name—connects you to parents and children of different generations. It has been said the most important words to your ear are your name.

Often names are placed on lists. For years my wife has posted cast lists after theatrical auditions, causing great excitement among students eager for a part in the school musical. In seventh grade I was heartbroken to see my name absent from the basketball team roster only to have the experience repeated in eighth grade following tryouts.

In one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two people to health the sick and announce the kingdom of God is near. When they return to him, they are told

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20)

This passage in Luke is one of many which describes a list of names, a book of names…the book of life. Is your name in it? Speaking of heaven…

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Follow Jesus now…and forever in heaven.
Reject Jesus now…and he will honor your choice for eternity.

As C.S. Lewis famously said,
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

Judgment Day

One day we will all stand before Almighty God and have to give an account of our lives. If you’ve ever wanted to see someone get justice, that will be the day. Jesus said,

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:12-13)

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14-15)

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)

One day, God will judge you and me—according to what we have done. He will declare us guilty of sin. Someone has to pay. It will be us…unless we’ve received the gift of Jesus who died on the cross for us. Jesus died to save us from eternal damnation, separation from God. The image of baptism is so appropriate—a water grave where we die to ourselves, our agenda, our way and become new creations, resurrected in Jesus.


The final three chapters in the Bible, Revelation 20-22 contain so many beautiful images of heaven—and dreadful images of hell. It is said of God,

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

I don’t know about you, but if we could spend eternity here on earth without death, mourning, crying, or pain that would be amazing! But there’s so much more.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:6-7)

The greatest thing about heaven is God! Eternity with God.

The passage continues by presenting the horrifying alternative, eternity without God.

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but everything I understand about the Bible states our destiny as heaven or hell.

I desperately want all of you to spend eternity with Jesus in paradise, but it begins now. It begins with surrendering your heart, soul, mind and strength to him in this life.

Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good.
Jesus died to make dead people come to life.

He wants to be with you now…and forever. If you haven’t done so I urge you to simply confess your sins to God, turn from selfish living, and make Jesus the LORD of your life. There’s nothing greater you can ever do in this life…and the rewards are eternal.

Jonathan Edwards said when saints enter Heaven, “They shall see in God everything that gratifies love…They shall see in him all that love desires. Love desires the love of the beloved. So the saints in glory shall see God’s transcendent love to them; God will make ineffable manifestations of his love to them… They shall see as much love in God towards them as they desire; they neither will nor can crave any more.”

Heaven will be amazing, but the greatest reward of all is Jesus!


Some ideas from
The Heaven Promise by Scot McKnight and Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Parable of the Net, 23 August 2015

    Matthew 13:47-58

    Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

    Big Idea: Judgment Day is coming for all of us. Are you ready?


    Life is filled with tension.

    Should I talk or be quiet?
    Spend or save?
    Laugh or cry?
    Work or play?

    Of course the answer to all of the above is “yes.”

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

    Pastor Andy Stanley has famously said while we often seek to eliminate tension as a problem to solve, some tensions are merely to be managed. We must embrace the “both/and” rather than the “either/or.” Frequently the tension is good.
    Last year we did a series entitled, “Covenant & Kingdom.” God invites us into relationship with Himself, welcoming His children in covenant. He also challenges us to be involved in His Kingdom activity. The tension is good.

    Today we conclude our series on the parables of Matthew 13. Like the parable of the weeds, it exposes a tension between extremes much like the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad. How do we deal with the tension? How do we live in the tension?

    “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like…(Matthew 13:47a)

    Again Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. Notice He doesn’t say this is what heaven is like, but rather the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not a place; it is not the kingdom in heaven but the kingdom of heaven, wherever the rule and reign of God takes place. On a related note, the Bible doesn’t teach the end of this world, but rather the end of the age.

    We live in the in-between, between the now and the not yet. It can be awkward. This week I was with a group of pastors and the subject of healing came up. Does God heal today? One pastor said, “God always heals. Someday we will have new bodies with no sickness, death, or disease.” While it is true that someday God will heal, sometimes He heals our present bodies in our present life…but not always. Why not? I don’t fully understand.

    What I have learned in our daughter’s journey is that although God did not heal her in the way we wanted or the timing we wanted, she is more fully alive today than ever before, filled with faith, peace and joy, and this past week she was not only walking but swam for the first time in about three years at the beach! Praise God! The kingdom of heaven is so present in her life and I’m thrilled to see it daily. Once again, thank you for your prayers and support of her and our family. God does answer prayer!

    "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

    Have you ever fished with a net?

    There are many different fishing methods. The most common today probably involves a pole, line, hook, and bait. The bait goes on the hook which is on the line which is on the pole and the bait is cast into the water to attract hungry fish.

    A variation on this is fly fishing, made famous in the movie
    A River Runs Through It in 1999. My understanding is instead of the bait gently resting below the surface of the water, it moves above it.

    A family legend has it that my cousin developed a unique way to fish…at Greenfield Village. He saw some nice fish in one of the ponds, attracted the fish with popcorn, and smacked them with his wallet before removing them from the water! I don’t recommend this action as it is cause for removal from the park!

    In all of the mentioned methods of fishing, the goal is to catch one, nice fish. If the fisherman—or fisherwoman—is unsatisfied with the result, the fish is tossed back into the water and work begins again on finding a suitable fish.

    Jesus’ parable describes a different type of fishing. A dragnet is placed in the water and multiple fish are caught at once.

    "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (Matthew 13:47)

    In most of my fishing expeditions, the thought of catching even one, small fish is exhilarating since usually I catch nothing. I can’t imagine multiple fish, let alone multiple fish at once!

    This type of net used to be the most important fishing method. The net was “shaped like a long 750 to 1,000 foot wall, upwards of 25 feet high at the center, and 5 feet high at the ends. The foot-rope was weighted with sinkers, while the head-rope floated with attached corks, enabling the net wall to be dragged toward shore by both ends, trapping fish inside.”*

    *Wilkins, Michael J. (2009-05-26). The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (p. 489). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

    "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47-48)

    Like the wheat and the weeds, the good and bad fish are taken together and then separated. For a season, the good and bad coexist. They are not quarantined. This explains much of the tension in our world. Despite the desires of some to escape from reality and create a utopian society apart from sin and evil, it is inescapable.

    "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)

    Surely Jesus didn’t say this! Jesus is all about love and happiness, right? People have tried to rationalize away these words, but I think Jesus meant what He said. Good and bad may coexist, but Judgment Day will separate them. The destination of the wicked is described as a blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    John MacArthur notes, “Jesus spoke more of hell than any of the prophets or apostles did-perhaps for the reason that its horrible truth would be all but impossible to accept had not the Son of God Himself absolutely affirmed it. It had special emphasis in Jesus’ teaching from the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry. He said more about hell than about love. More than all other teachers in the Bible combined, He warned men of hell, promising no escape for those who refused His gracious, loving offer of salvation.”

    This is a warning, friends. Jesus never said all roads lead to heaven. In fact, He said

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    Jesus did not say everyone goes to heaven when they die. He said essentially we choose in this life whether we want to spend eternity with God or apart from God in the next life.

    The thing about warnings is they can be ignored but the consequences are the same.

    This past week was the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf. I heard a woman tell of the decision her and her husband made to ignore the warnings. They stayed in their house, the storms came, the roof crashed upon them, her husband beside her did not survive, and she found herself in a tree clinging to her life for six hours. Six hours in a tree! I wonder how many times she thought, “I should have listened to the warnings.”

    For two thousand years—or more—God has been issuing warnings, yet so many ignore them. Friends, don’t ignore this warning. I’m not saying this to scare you but merely to warn you—Judgment Day is coming. The good fish and bad fish will be separated.

    As a good fish, it can be frustrating to see the bad fish doing bad things without justice, but justice is coming. Right now all are receiving mercy, but someday all will receive justice.

    But just a moment. I said, “As a good fish.” The reality is we’re all bad fish! John wrote

    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

    All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, His standard of perfection…which is why we need grace! We need sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when are tempted and resist the devil. We need forgiveness so we can forgive others. We need love so we can love.

    We’re all bad fish but the gospel is we don’t remain bad fish. Jesus is LORD and as we submit to His Lordship and follow Him we are transformed. We
    can change!

    Another Parable?

    The thirteenth chapter of Matthew continues…

    “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

    “Yes,” they replied.

    He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)

    Earlier they had no clue what Jesus meant by the parables! The disciples will teach what Jesus taught them, both the ancient scriptures and HIs modern parables and teaching. They have received a treasure from Jesus they are to pass on to future generations of disciples, including us. They are to know, experience, and teach the kingdom.

    Today we are ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven, the greatest treasure of this world, and each day we should repeatedly give thanks for the incredible value of this gift that we handle, our source of true joy.

    Final Words

    The thirteenth chapter of Matthew concludes…

    When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

    But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

    And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:53-58)

    Some people don’t know Jesus. Others think they know Him too well! He’s nothing special, just Joe’s son.

    Jesus once asked His friend, “Who do people say that I am?” People had many views of Jesus then…and they still do today.

    He’s a prophet.
    He’s a teacher.
    He’s a radical.
    He’s a nice man.
    He’s God but not human.
    He’s human but not God.

    Jesus declared in word and deed both His humanity and deity. He is fully man and fully God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to the Father. He died and rose again. He is alive today, preparing a place for us.

    We don’t have time to unpack this last verse, but unbelief limited the power of God. Remember, faith is not merely something in your head. It requires action. Could it be that our lives lack faith and, therefore, God’s power is limited?

    So What?

    1. We all need grace. We’re all bad fish, made good not by our actions but the actions of Jesus. It’s not what we do that makes us good fish but what Jesus has done. Hallelujah!

    2. We need to warn the bad fish about Judgment Day. It is coming whether people deny it or not. Ignoring hurricane warnings does not stop the storm.

    3. It’s easy to miss Jesus. Familiarity breeds contempt.

    Michael Wilkins writes, “Rejection of God’s gospel message through his prophets has not ceased. Much of the secularist Western world is also familiar with Jesus. They pride themselves on being ultramodern or postmodern and cannot conceive how such an ancient message is relevant to our world. Jesus is like a comfortable old shoe that they can sing about at Christmas, but he isn’t serviceable for everyday life.”

    One reason we gather each week is to be reminded of God’s amazing grace so it can transform us and those around us. We need to get Him out of the little box we call “Sunday morning Messiah” or “historical figure” or “SOS when I’m in trouble” and recognize King Jesus as LORD, 24/7/365.


    Some ideas from
    The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins, Zondervan.

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

    Parable of the Weeds, 26 July 2015

    Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

    Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

    Big Idea: good and evil coexist in our world—for now!


    Last week we began our series Parables, a look at several stories Jesus told as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel—good news—or biography of Jesus.

    Lectio Divina: Matthew 13:24-30

    Last week we talked about a man who sowed seed. The success of the harvest was not dependent upon the sower, the seed, the water, or the sun, but rather by the soil. Bad soil produced bad crops and good soil yielded a great harvest.

    As we continue reading Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus continues to talk about sowing seed, this time seed that apparently lands in good soil…but there is a problem. Its origins go back to the Garden of Eden—in more ways than one!

    In the first chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are enjoying God, the Garden, one another, and work. Yes, they enjoyed work.

    They were punished for their disobedience, listening to the enemy, the serpent, satan, the devil. They ate the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences.

    To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
    It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

    At the risk of oversimplifying the punishment, God allowed weeds to grow!

    I hate weeds. Hate is a strong word, yet weeds were the bane of my existence as a child. You may have heard me share stories about pulling weeds in our garden and yard. I’m sure my mom would disagree but it seemed as if my sister and I spent half of our summer days pulling weeds in 100 degree heat, sun beating down, no water until dinner, no rest until bedtime, and no vacation until winter break! I love you, mom!

    Obviously I had no such experience, but I do vividly remember moments—if not hours—pulling weeds, wanting to curse Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and causing me great hardship!

    Weeds are nasty. I dare say weeds are evil.

    As we will see from our text today, had I studied the Bible more as a child, perhaps I would’ve discovered this passage and used it as an excuse to not pull weeds!

    Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (Matthew 13:24-26)

    First, this is a parable, a story of what the kingdom of
    heaven is like, a picture of the future. We are all so curious about heaven. Where is it? Who will be there? When do we get to go? What does it look like? Do all dogs go there?!

    Jesus says a man sowed good seed in his field. Good seed produces…good crops, in this case wheat (my apologies to those who are gluten-free!). We can assume the soil is good, but unfortunately the man has an enemy. The enemy goes to the trouble of sowing in the same field, but instead of sowing seeds, he sows weeds.

    Why? Weeds grow naturally. I have a garden full of them to prove it!

    Growth takes time. It takes time for babies to grow into adults, for seedlings to grow into big trees, and for seeds to grow into crops. In the early days following planting, it’s difficult to know what is planted…or where. Many gardeners use popsicle sticks or other markers to show above ground what is below.

    In Jesus’ parable, the wheat and weeds appear together.

    The world is getting better. The wheat is growing.
    The world is getting worse. The weeds are growing.

    “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ (Matthew 13:27-28)

    This is a great question. I’m sure I asked it many times of my mom. Do you
    really want us to pull the weeds? Wouldn’t it be better for us to swim in the neighbor’s pool and not get our clothes dirty?!

    No parable or analogy is perfect. As a general rule, pulling weeds helps the crops grow. This explains why I’ve grown so few crops in our garden over the years; we don’t spend enough time pulling weeds, they rob the crops of nutrients, and sometimes even choke them, winding their way around the stems of our plants. Weeds are evil!

    The answer really is surprising.

    “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” (Matthew 13:29-30)

    Jesus seems to be saying two things:

    1. Pulling weeds risks pulling the wheat.
    2. At harvest time, the wheat and weeds will be separated and have very different outcomes

    Do you understand this parable? If you’ve read this chapter, you have an unfair advantage, one unavailable to Jesus’ disciples. A few verses later we get the explanation.

    Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (Matthew 13:36)

    The more I read the Bible, the more I understand human nature and realize I’m not alone in my cluelessness! There’s so much of the Bible I don’t fully understand, yet that prompts me to pursue it all the more.

    He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)

    Jesus begins by identifying the two teams! Jesus sows good seed—the people of the kingdom—into the world. The devil sows his people into the world, the weeds. The harvest is coming and angels will harvest the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one.

    God is real. The evil one is also real.

    Most people prefer to talk about God than about satan. More people believe in angels than demons. They’re all a part of reality.

    If you don’t believe me, last night “an 8½-foot-tall bronze monument featuring a goat-headed Satan” was to be unveiled in Detroit by The Satanic Temple. The monument, a “1½-ton Baphomet, which is backed by an inverted pentagram and flanked by statues of two young children gazing up at the creature, shows Satan with horns, hooves, wings and a beard.” (

    So much for underground! For the record,

    “The Satanic Temple Detroit chapter founder Jex Blackmore has said the group doesn't worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.” (freep.com)

    As I’ve said before, the essence of satanism is the worship of self, something that seems to be our national—if not world—religion!

    Talk of heaven and hell, God and satan, angels and demons makes many uncomfortable, but whoever said life and reality were to be comfortable?

    Here’s what Jesus said:

    “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-41)

    I don’t like the thought of hell any more than the next guy, but these are Jesus’s words. Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. There will be a separation of the wheat and weeds, the sheep and the goats, those who follow Jesus and those who follow their own desires, those who worship God and those who worship themselves.

    Which are you?

    The world really is getting better.
    The world really is getting worse.

    A day is coming when we will all be judged for the way we lived our days on this earth. Today really matters. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.

    This past week Heather and I attended one of the most gut-wrenching gatherings we’ve ever experienced, the funeral of a five month-old baby who died in his sleep. Like all funerals, it was a reminder of how fragile life is and how each day is truly a gift. They say you are not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? Are your loved ones ready?

    The reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven upon following Jesus is there is work to do here on earth. Light and darkness coexist. Good and evil coexist. One is always in tension with the other. Let’s make sure we are in the light of Jesus and reflecting that light to our dark world today. Tomorrow might be too late.

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

    Obadiah, 26 October 2014

    Big Idea: God is sovereign (in control) and He is the ultimate judge. He hates sin, especially pride.

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

    Overview: The nation of Edom in Mt. Seir sided against Judah, and they should have known better. The prophet Obadiah foresees Edom’s despise and Mt. Zion’s restoration.


    Today we examine our tenth book in our series The Most Unread Books of the Bible, based upon the least-read books on BibleGateway.com. Obadiah is the final book mentioned in the report, though we will do a bonus book next week, Habakkuk.

    Like many of these small books in the Old Testament, Obadiah is a minor prophet. He is not inferior to the others, but rather his book is short. He could also be called minor in that we know nothing about him, not even the name of his father, a common detail in most biblical accounts. Obadiah was a common Old Testament name but it is unlikely that this prophet is mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. The name means “servant or worshiper of the Lord.”

    We know little about the date of this book, some believing an early date of 850 BC and others as late as 587 BC.

    The prime audience is the Edomites, descendants of Esau (Genesis 36). Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. He had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. We know quite a bit about Jacob and his sons, including Joseph. Esau, the oldest, gave up his birthright to Jacob and had a much less prominent place in history. Esau’s descendants were called Edomites. They treated the Judeans—Jews—cruelly. In the book of Obadiah—the shortest Old Testament book—God makes some bold declarations about the nation of Edom that reveal His heart and character.

    This is the vision that the Sovereign LORD revealed to Obadiah concerning the land of Edom. (Obadiah 1a, New Living Translation)

    Edom’s Judgment Announced

    We have heard a message from the LORD that an ambassador was sent to the nations to say, “Get ready, everyone! Let’s assemble our armies and attack Edom!” The LORD says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the LORD. (Obadiah 2-4,

    Edom is an arrogant people. They have power, have mistreated their neighbor, Judah, and feel smug. The bad guys are winning, but the story is not over.

    There is a cycle to power. God will get the final say at Judgment Day. History is filled with accounts of the good guys winning, but today the same battle between good and evil is raging, the enemy still wins sometimes, but the ultimate victor will be King Jesus!

    Listen to God’s description of Edom’s upcoming humiliation:

    “If thieves came at night and robbed you (what a disaster awaits you!), they would not take everything. Those who harvest grapes always leave a few for the poor. But your enemies will wipe you out completely! Every nook and cranny of Edom will be searched and looted. Every treasure will be found and taken. “All your allies will turn against you. They will help to chase you from your land. They will promise you peace while plotting to deceive and destroy you. Your trusted friends will set traps for you, and you won’t even know about it. At that time not a single wise person will be left in the whole land of Edom,” says the LORD. “For on the mountains of Edom I will destroy everyone who has understanding.The mightiest warriors of Teman will be terrified, and everyone on the mountains of Edom will be cut down in the slaughter. (Obadiah 5-9, NLT)

    Why would a loving God treat people this way? We are so quick to judge God. Isn’t it His prerogative to do what He wants? Didn’t He create the universe? Who does He think He is, God?! Yes!!!

    As God, He is the perfect judge. His assessments are perfect. He can tolerate sin for only so long. Throughout history He has stepped in, causing confusion at Babel, parting the sea for the Israelites and closing them upon the Egyptians, prompting walls to fall at the sound of trumpets, providing a way for a small boy to kill a giant, …

    Perhaps you think God created the world and then abandoned it. This was the belief of many of our nation’s founding fathers. They were deists, believing in a creator but having no faith in miracles. What a boring faith!

    I must confess I long to see more of God’s activity in the world. Part of the problem, I’m sure, is my inability to see what God
    is doing. Another problem is my poor memory, forgetting the countless times God has been faithful, answering prayer and, sometimes, literally performing miracles. Arguably the greatest challenge to seeing God’s work is our impatience.

    Sometimes when we pray God says yes. Sometimes He says no because He knows best. Many times, however, it’s just a matter of timing. Of waiting. People waited hundreds of years for the Messiah, Jesus. We have been waiting about two thousand years for His return. It will occur. He is alive. Just you wait!

    Back to Edom. God is angry and wants them punished. Before you get too upset at God, wouldn’t you want Hitler punished if you were around in World War II? What do you think about ISIS? Pedophiles? The atrocities in North Korea or the fact that there are more slaves today in our world than at any point in human history? Sometimes the only way to keep the good guys alive is to destroy the bad guys. I’m not advocating for personal violence, but simply reminding us what God said:

    I will take vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations that have not obeyed me.” (Micah 5:15; “in that day”)

    One commentator wrote

    Vengeance in the Bible is a legal term signifying that a ruler secures his kingdom by protecting his subjects and punishing their persecutors. The disrespect of the unbelieving nations for his holy kingdom incurs his anger and wrath. Throughout history God has protected his rule against the nations that have not obeyed him, but he will finally execute his protective power at Christ’s second coming (Lk. 18:7-8; 21:22; 2 Thes. 1:8; Rev. 6:10). (IVP-NB Commentary)

    Here’s the crime committed by Edom:

    Reasons for Edom’s Punishment

    “Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever. When they were invaded, you stood aloof, refusing to help them. Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies. “You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble. You should not have plundered the land of Israel when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have gloated over their destruction when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have seized their wealth when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads, killing those who tried to escape. You should not have captured the survivors and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. (Obadiah 10-14, NLT)

    Edom’s capital, Sela, was on a high rock overlooking the territory below, making it easy to defend. Thieves steal what they need, but God would take everything!

    God’s not done speaking.

    Edom Destroyed, Israel Restored

    “The day is near when I, the LORD, will judge all godless nations!
    As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads. Just as you swallowed up my people on my holy mountain, so you and the surrounding nations will swallow the punishment I pour out on you. Yes, all you nations will drink and stagger and disappear from history. “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape; it will be a holy place. And the people of Israel
    will come back to reclaim their inheritance. The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble. The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything. There will be no survivors in Edom. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Obadiah 15-18, NLT)

    God concludes…

    “Then my people living in the Negev will occupy the mountains of Edom.
    Those living in the foothills of Judah will possess the Philistine plains
    and take over the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. And the people of Benjamin
    will occupy the land of Gilead. The exiles of Israel will return to their land
    and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath. The captives from Jerusalem exiled in the north
    will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev. Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem
    to rule over the mountains of Edom. And the LORD himself will be king!” (Obadiah 19-21,

    Here we see again this phrase “the day of the Lord.” Judgment Day. The sheep and the goats, the righteous and the wicked, the good guys and the bad guys, Michigan and Ohio St…oops! Seriously, though, Judgment Day will usher in the rule and reign of King Jesus. His friends that have received the Father’s invitation will rule in His Kingdom forever while those that rejected God will be punished.

    Judgment Day

    What if it’s today? What if God chose today to judge the living and the dead? Are you ready? What about your friends and family? This is where things get uncomfortable in a hurry.

    Peter, the first pope, said

    He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)

    He also said of unbelievers,

    But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5)

    This is why we’re still here! We’re on a mission from God to let the whole world know the Father loves them and invites them into a covenantal relationship with Himself. He will be king and we can begin kingdom life today by submitting to His authority rather than making ourselves the center of our own universe.

    Every day I choose to rule my life or get off the throne, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus. Honestly, I don’t always make the right choice. Pride gets in the way. Selfishness is more attractive than servanthood. I’m self-righteous and judge others. I envy. I worry. Oh how I worry, allowing myself to be overcome by fear rather than trusting God completely.

    I want to be faithful to God because He has been so faithful to me. He can be trusted.

    Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming. Are you ready?

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

    Nahum, 19 October 2014

    Big Idea: Nineveh has gone too far, they’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.

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

    Background Information

    We know little about Nahum.

    One theme: the judgment of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire.

    Nahum means comforter.

    Elkosh was a city in Assyria a few miles north of Nineveh. There was also a village in Galilee named Elkosh. Capernaum is considered to be the village of Nahum. He was born there or lived there as a boy.

    He was probably born in the northern kingdom, Israel. He moved to Elkosh in the south of Judah and raised there in the southern kingdom.

    Nahum may have been a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah.

    Date of writing: 720-636 BC, about 100-150 years after Jonah and about 100 years before the destruction of Nineveh.

    Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. God was just in destroying Nineveh.

    God told Jonah to bring a message to Nineveh. The city turned to God, seemingly the entire city, one hundred percent, an unprecedented spiritual awakening. Obviously the revival died over time and they returned to their paganism.

    Nahum probably did not go to the city, unlike Jonah. They’ve had the light and rejected it. Our nation has the light and we have largely rejected it (yikes!). All revivals eventually die.

    Scottish historian Alexander Tytler described the
    life cycle of a democracy. Where are we today?

    From bondage to spiritual faith to courage to liberty to abundance to selfishness to complacency to apathy to bondage.


    This morning we return to our series “The Most Unread Books of the Bible,” an overview of those parts of the Bible that are less read according to BibleGateway.com.

    Before we look at today’s book of Nahum, I want to mention hermeneutics. That’s a fancy word for how to read the Bible. Because it’s a big, old collection of books, we can’t just pick it up and read it like we would
    The Ann Arbor News or People magazine. Two books I recommend on the subject—which may seem odd, reading a book about how to read a book—are

    How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart
    The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

    The hermeneutical process is rather simple but often ignored:

    1. What did the text originally mean?
    2. What does it mean for us today?
    3. So what? How do we apply it?

    Each step, however, presents its own set of challenges. Let me illustrate why this is important.

    As I usually do, I did a Google image search for Nahum, hoping to find a nice picture to put on the screen as I speak. I didn’t find much, but one verse repeatedly popped up with a colorful image: Nahum 1:7

    The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, (Nahum 1:7)

    I love that verse. It makes me feel good. It makes me think happy thoughts about God. There is truth in these words. There’s more, though. The verse does not end with a period, but rather a comma. Look at what follows!

    but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. (Nahum 1:8)

    Not so pretty. Not so happy!

    This simple example reveals the importance of context. I have often had people ask me a question about a particular verse. Much of the time the answer can be found in the context. We can’t just pick a verse, stick it on a pretty picture, and hang it on our wall. We can, but we’re likely to miss the point.

    Understood? Great!

    While we’re on the subject, I came across a great article this week from
    Relevant Magazine online entitled

    9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading The Bible by Bronwyn Lea

    I want to briefly list a few here:

    1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’

    Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.

    2. Read ‘You’ Differently.

    Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular y
    ou's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully.

    3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.

    8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.

    The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.

    9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.



    In many ways, we can get the big idea of Nahum in these two verses—but not just one! God is good…but just. He is merciful…but hates evil. He is God…and we are not!


    God made a covenant with Abram to bless him and his offspring and make them into a great nation—Israel. Israel split and God’s people were in Israel and Judah. The Jewish people had many enemies (as they still have today!). Nineveh was one of those enemies and the prophet Nahum writes to them, warning of His displeasure. Don’t mess with God or His people!

    Nahum 1

    Nahum is an undated book written about Nineveh, yes, the place Jonah to which Jonah was sent. Nahum’s name means consoler or comforter, a description of his role toward Judah but not Nineveh!

    Notice the various attributes of God expressed in these verses.

    An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:1-3)

    He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. (Nahum 1:4-6)

    Now we come to that lovely verse 7. Notice the happy verses before
    and after it!

    The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time. They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble. From you, [O Nineveh,] has one come forth who plots evil against the LORD and counsels wickedness. (Nahum 1:7-11)

    It continues…

    This is what the LORD says: “Although they have allies and are numerous, they will be cut off and pass away. Although I have afflicted you, [O Judah,] I will afflict you no more. Now I will break their yoke from your neck and tear your shackles away.” The LORD has given a command concerning you, [Nineveh]: “You will have no descendants to bear your name. I will destroy the carved images and cast idols that are in the temple of your gods. I will prepare your grave, for you are vile.” (Nahum 1:12-14)

    Then this interesting verse emerges:

    Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed. (Nahum 1:15)

    We see similarities between Nahum and Isaiah, a text referenced in Romans 10:15).

    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

    The big picture of the book of Nahum is Nineveh has gone too far. They’ve oppressed Judah and taken Israel into captivity and God isn’t going to let them get away with treating His people that way.
    Nineveh fell. They were literally wiped off the map! God said…

    “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard.” (Nahum 2:13)

    You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that!

    Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses — all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. (Nahum 3:1-5)

    This explains why God is angry.

    We’re not exactly sure when Nahum was written. Assyria fell in 612 BC so this book was either a prophetic warning in around 615 BC or a later narrative of what occurred. Regardless, the wicked were destroyed.

    So What?

    You’re on God’s team or your His enemy…and every day we choose. Every day we can pick up our cross and follow Jesus, making King Jesus Lord of our lives, or we can do it our way. He’ll let us…but He’ll be crushed when we experiences the consequences of selfish living.

    Everything God said to Nineveh could be said to us. I don’t pretend to understand His timing, but He will bless those who love Him and curse those who hate Him.

    We love having Jesus as Savior, but is He Lord? Is He King? Does your calendar reflect it? Do your actions show it? Does your bank account demonstrate it? Do your words communicate it?

    Judgment Day is coming for all of us. None of us know when, but it is coming.
    Are you ready?

    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.


    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:

    1. Woe to those the reject God
    2. 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.

    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)

    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.