Why does the sun rise in the east? Wednesday, Mar 31 2010 

Why does the sun rise in the east?

There is this something about the east!  The sun rises in the east.  Jesus is returning from the east.  Many if not most great philosophers are from the east.  So what is the significance of these things being from the east?

The Apostle Paul while in his early 40’s set out on his first missionary journey.  He arrived at the island of Cyprus.  There he converts Sergius Paulus, his first gentile convert, and jettisons his Hebrew name forever.  Saul of Tarsus is no more.  The Apostle Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles, steps forward to his life work.

Many have commented on the choice of Paul over other Apostles for this world task.  Why Paul?  It is my opinion it was for his philosophy.  His doctrine was the same, his heritage was the same if not better, so it seems to me it was his philosophy that tipped the scale in his favor.

Paul was able to be eclectic when he was before high-ranking Romans, or even Governors and Caesars.  It was his Hellenistic learning and background that made him the candidate to reach the population of Asia, Achaia, Macedonia, and Galatia.

I would like to be able to witness to all people about Jesus Christ.  As I have traveled this country for the last 35 years of preaching, I have seen very few Asian people in our churches.  It is a rare occurrence.

Why has the sun not risen in the east like it has in the west?

Could it be that we have not trained ourselves to reach the eastern mind set?  Do we understand how to reach out to them? The Buddhist? The Hindu? The Muslim?  How many of us strive to understand these eastern thinkers?

Are we as exclusionary as the Jews of the New Testament? Is heaven reserved just for the American, or English and Latin-speaking peoples?  I thought I read that in that celestial city there were people there from every tribe and nation.

Are the eastern people of your area being reached with this gospel?

Let me challenge you.  Have you ever read the Tao de Ching?  It is the second most read book in the history of the world!  It is the basis of all thought and doctrine for 3/5 of the world we live in.  Many of you who read this will never have heard of it.  When I have been with many pastors, and even bought it for them, they have smiled indulgently and said people here don’t read that.

How many Apostolics could effectively witness to a Buddhist?  How about a Muslim? How about a Hindu?

I do not expect this blog to start a stampede on the bookstore, but if there are any who are interested in being the most effective witness you can I am going to recommend some reading.

The “The World’s Religions” by Huston Smith is the standard textbook used on many campuses in America.  It is a distilled overview of the major religions of the world.  It at least explains the Bagadavita, (The religious book of the Hindu faith). It explains the Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui Neng (Buddist books). It explains the Koran, (Muslim book).

I also recommend the  Tao de Ching.  The version I favor is by Stephen Mitchell.  There are many versions available. The Tao is a small volume that can be read in less than an hour.  The principals in it are similar to the principals in our Bible.

For many who read this blog today, this is nonsense.  I understand that, but Paul was the best-prepared man on planet earth to reach people of diverse views.  He stood toe to toe with the intellects of Greece on Mars Hill.  He could confidently say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the power of God”.

Maybe it is time to consider why the sun has risen in the east every day for millenniums in our natural world, but has never risen in the east in the spiritual world!

Thanks for reading today.

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I Have Met A Giant! Tuesday, Mar 30 2010 

Genesis 6.4  There were giants in the earth in those days

Archaeology has proven Genesis correct many times.  As you can see from the photo, there certainly were giants on the earth as the Bible says there were.

Yes, David really did fight a giant named Goliath.  David’s great grandmother was a lady named Ruth.  Goliath’s great grandmother was a lady named Orpah. Both David and Goliath had great grandmothers from Moab. When Naomi returned to Israel after the sojourn in Moab, Ruth came also.  Orpah returned to Moab and her great grandson eventually challenged Israel and Saul’s armies to a contest.  David defeated Goliath in the famous battle, and was crowned the giant slayer by the minstrels of Israel.

Today I want to introduce you to a giant I have personally met, and know quite well.  He lives among us.  Many of you will know him and be acquainted with him.  I wanted to point out his stature today.

His has been an amazing life.  His father was also a member of the giants.  Men of stature, height, expanse in multiply ways.  Men that affect and change an entire generation by their presence and exploits.  Men who have been undefeated in spiritual combat.  Champions without peer.  Acknowledged, acclaimed, and revered by their peers and their future generations.  Men who leave behind a trail that others may follow and find bliss.

This giant I know has….

  • Preached for 50 years
  • Been married to the same wife for 45 years
  • Pastored for 30 years
  • Has preached 910 revivals
  • Has preached 329 conferences
  • Has preached 61 camp meetings
  • Has 5 children, all serve the Lord
  • Has 12 grandchildren, all filled with the Holy Ghost (except those under 4)
  • Has one son who pastors a church of about 1000
  • Has another son who started a church that now has about 500
  • Has a son-in-law who pastors a growing church

11 years ago tomorrow, this giant resigned his church and started traveling across America preaching the Gospel.

Personally I do not know of any living man who has achieved more for the kingdom of God than this giant of a man among us!

50 years ago he preached his first sermon outside his home church in Shelbyville Indiana, for Elder Cavenous.

The trail he has blazed is well marked and easily followed.

Today, I stop and salute a true Giant of Pentecost!

Martyn Ballestero Sr

Thank you for an unbelievable life Elder!

There Were Giants In The Earth…Some Of Them Belonged To God! Monday, Mar 29 2010 

Isaiah

In the eighth century BC while Homer was writing the Iliad and the Odyssey, and Lao Tse was writing the Tao de Ching, Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name.

The prophet Isaiah was a giant of Jewish history.

He is considered the Shakespeare of Hebrew literature. The New Testament quotes him more than all the other prophets added together.  No author in the Bible can match his eloquence and mastery of style and imagery.

He lived midway through the founding of the nation and it’s final destruction. He lived on the border between the Northern and Southern kingdom.  He was one of the prophets who observed first hand the fall and captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

The Rabbis say that he was first cousin to King Uzziah.  Isaiah’s father, and Uzziah’s father, were brothers.  This would mean he was of royal lineage, and familiar with the palace and court life.  He certainly was the confidant and advisor to at least 5 kings.

Isaiah was not a “yes” man to these kings.  He stood against the popular tide of optimism.  His name meant “The Lord saves”.  He warned Kings repeatedly that to depend on military power or wealth or alliances or anything but God would bring disaster.

Isaiah outlived four of the kings he advised, but finally offended one King beyond the King’s tolerance. Manasseh is said to have placed Isaiah between two planks and had him sawed in half.  Thus ending the life of one of Israel’s greatest heroes.

Isaiah’s writings are about the nature of God.  It is a collection of many messages on many subjects.

His writings break down like this:

  • Chapters 1-12 warnings to Judah during their prosperous days
  • Chapters 13-23 messages to surrounding nations
  • Chapters 24-35 earth’s future and the imminent invasion of Assyria
  • Chapters 36-39 an interlude telling of crisis Judah faced
  • Chapters 40-48 prophesies 200 years into the future  (Babylon)
  • Chapters 49-55 The nation’s final deliverance through the suffering servant
  • Chapters 56-66 warnings to Judah and a view of the future

These are quick bullet references to Isaiah:

  • Began preaching before he was 20 years old
  • A contemporary of Amos and Hosea
  • Born during Uzziah’s reign
  • Called in the year Uzziah died
  • Saw the Glory of Jeroboam II (Israel)
  • Observed the fall of Israel in 721 BC
  • Influenced Hezekiah
  • Foretold the rise of Babylon
  • Killed by Manasseh
  • His book a mini Bible (66 chapter, 39,27)
  • Proclaims the coming Messiah
  • Quoted more in New Testament than all other prophets combined
  • Shakespeare of Hebrew literature
  • First cousin to Uzziah
  • Giant of Jewish history
  • Lived exactly in the middle of the founding of the nation and it’s destruction
  • His name means “the Lord saves”
  • Prophesied during 5 kings
  • Wrote same time as Iliad, Odyssey and Tao de Ching
  • Looks into the nature of God
  • He was Hezekiah’s “song in the night”

His supreme contribution was his fore telling Messiah is coming!  The nation hung onto this thread of hope until Jesus arrived.  It helped keep them through the 400 silent years of despair.  When the New Testament opens they are on point looking for Messiah.

Because he looks into the nature of God, He is our “One God” preacher! Verses like, 9.6, 7.14, 43.10-11, 44.6, 44.8, 45.15, as well as chapters 12, 35, and 53, are favorite one God passages.

When an Apostolic preacher preaches on Oneness, he invariably visits the book of Isaiah!

When Assyria threatened the nation, after conquering 200 walled cities and leading away 200,000 captives from the northern nation, it was Isaiah who stayed calm while Hezekiah panicked.  Isaiah was the song in the night with a word from the Lord.  The next morning 185,000 Assyrians lay dead, Judah was saved, and Isaiah was right!

Isaiah had heard from God and the Angel of the Lord went through the camp of Assyria and slew 185,000 men while Israel slept and never lifted a finger!

The Devil was not alone in using Giants to do great exploits!

God answered with some Giants of his own!

Of these, none stands taller than Isaiah.

Thanks for reading today!

Who signed the document to rebuild the temple? Friday, Mar 26 2010 

Daniel

Daniel is considered a major prophet, even though his book is not that lengthy. In my notes about the Major Prophets I explain that it is more than length that determines a major prophet.

Daniel was carried away captive into Babylon in the first wave of captivity.  There were three waves of captivity.  In the first wave Nebuchadnezzar carried away the finest young men and minds of Jerusalem.  He then carried away 10,000 and placed them in a captives settlement on the River Chebar. Ezekiel was in this group.   Then the final gleaning carried all the rest into Babylon in 586 BC (2 Kings 24).

Daniel probably would have had a great career in Jerusalem, but he was never given the chance.  At 18 years old he is ripped from his prominent family and carried away into a far away country.  The Babylonians did not care about his dreams or plans.  He was a refugee to them, a captive.

The Babylonians saw his potential and trained him in their schools.  After his graduation Daniel was put to work for the King.  This same king Daniel worked for, continued to war against Daniel’s people for another 20 years.

I find no record of any family members around Daniel.  It appears he was alone except for some other young men also carried captive.

Daniel rose to the position of Prime Minister.  For an outsider to achieve this high position speaks volumes about Daniel.  He kept this position for many years, even when Kings were dethroned.  Daniel’s career at the top lasted at least 66 years.  When he was thrown into the Lion’s den he was over 80 years old. There is no finer example in the Bible about how to live and excel with people who do not serve your God or share your beliefs.

Later in His life, God gave Daniel a series of visions about the future of planet earth.  In grapic terms God showed Daniel the future. Daniel’s people would duplicate his personal experience on a world scale.  God used Daniel to show the Hebrew people what to do when the Diaspora unfolded.

The Hebrew people thought they had exclusive rights to God.  The book of Daniel shows God’s intent was to save the world, not just the Jew.

To me one of the most magnificent things the book of Daniel offers, is the proclamations by heathen kings. These proclamations brought more honor to God than anything a Jewish King had done in decades!  Daniel’s book teaches how God’s people can live caught in the jaws of brutal world politics.

Daniel continues his career at least until the 3rd year of Cyrus.  Cyrus was a despot.  When Cyrus was killed, the queen cast his head into a vat of blood and said, “Thy thirst was blood, now drink thy fill”.  Somehow this incredible man Daniel was able to navigate all these treacherous waters of politics, and remain unscathed.

The first 6 chapters of his book are stories about the life in Babylon.  The rest of his book is a series of visions about the world’s future.

An interesting note is that before the captivity is final, Daniel refers to God as “Lord of hosts”.  After the captivity happens, he refers to God as “The God of heaven”.  I wonder if he felt God had moved out of planet earth because of the captivity?

When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he carried away 2499 vessels.  These were kept in storage until Cyrus gave the permission to return and rebuild the Temple.  Then these vessels were used in the rebuilt temple.

I am of the opinion that it was Daniel that signed the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.

That decree was issued in the first year of Cyrus, and Daniel continued at least until the third year of Cyrus.  What an honor to live your life in such a manner to be the one to attach your signature to the rebuilding of the temple.

I am also of the opinion that Daniel is the author of Psalm 119.  This great Psalm sings of the word of God.  That was all Daniel had.  Whoever wrote Psalm 119 had no temple to attend.  The author had enemies in high places, and was persecuted for his love of God.  These parameters seem to fit Daniel perfectly.  If this is true, how it must have thrilled him to be able to sign the document to rebuild the temple for all future Jews!

Daniel was forced to live for over 80 years without the house of God, but future generations would be blessed again with a temple.  His exemplary life allowed him to see this come to pass.

In addition to his long and fruitful career in foreign palaces, he also had a personal audience with the archangel Gabriel.

He also took up Jeremiah’s theme of 70 years and gave us the 70 weeks of years.

How much more magnificent could one life be?

Finally let me offer this about Daniel.

Daniel speaks about how a young person can do great things for God.  He was a contemporary of Ezekiel.  It is simply amazing to me how Daniel receives honor from his peers.  In Ezekiel 14.14, Ezekiel says though Noah, Job and Daniel stood before me, they would deliver but their own souls.  Again in chapter 28 and verse 3, Ezekiel speaks of the wisdom of Daniel.

For future generations to venerate you and speak of your greatness is not that uncommon. Here is a young man while in his prime that is seen by his peers as one of the greatest of all time.  Ezekiel looked at Daniel and placed him with Noah and Job, then used Daniel as the ultimate measure of wisdom.

Show me another example in the Bible of a young man who gathered that kind of honor while still young.  Show me another young man in the Bible who received such honor from his peers, and from God himself.

Daniel was a giant of his day and one of the truly great men of the Bible.

The shadow he casts reaches across thousands of years.

Thanks for reading today!

Kings, Harlots, Wars, Famine, and the Siren Song Of Victory! Thursday, Mar 25 2010 

Minor Prophets

All of the issues that produced the Major Prophets are the same for the coming of the Minor Prophets.  They are called “minor” for several reasons in my opinion.

First of all they are generally very brief in length.  Next, they are generally narrow in their application and audience.  For example, the Major Prophets spoke to the nations around them as well as to Israel.  Minor prophets focus on one area or nation as a rule.

Next their subject material is focused on a limited time era.  They generally are not dealing with a broad period of time.  And lastly, it is my opinion many of them played a supporting role to the Major Prophets.  Many of them were contemporaries with the Major Prophets.

They also, like the Major Prophets are diverse in background and ministry.  One thing is startlingly clear; God dealt with a world, not just Israel.  What an amazing revelation to all the Bible scholars who insist God was exclusively interested in the nation of Israel.  Some of these men of God spoke solely to Gentile nations.  There is the example of Jonah and Nahum to Nineveh, and Obadiah to Edom.

A poor analogy is, these men were short stories compared to the novels the Major Prophets wrote.  They are short, concise diatribes to very particular audiences.  They played an important role in the moment of their existence, but did not have the distilled major contribution that the Major Prophets had.

The Minor Prophets are God speaking a brief conversation with Israel, while the Major Prophets were a long involved discourse for many years.

However, do not let yourself think for even a moment they are less in importance.  To take that opinion would strip from you their magnificent contribution to God’s overall plan.  The Bible was written by Holy Men of God, and the spirit of God included each of these “minor” books for a reason that God saw need for.

The pageantry and principals in these books span from the Assyrian empire to the end of the Old Testament under the Persian Empire.

In the Hebrew writings these twelve books were one book called the book of the twelve.  There were actually twenty-one segments broken at different places without stopping at the books beginnings.

If read as one continuous book like the Hebrews do, it is quite a journey!  You will visit palaces and market places.  You will go from world capitals to country dells and villages.

You will read of Kings and harlots, siege and famine, plagues and songs of victory.  You will read of war and envy, of conquest and human endurance.

Above the din of this cacophony of human existence, you will hear the voice of a loving God, desperately in love with His people.  It is the voice of God weeping, wooing, and willing His people to return to Him.

The key to your automobile may seem small and easily replaced, but without it you aren’t going anywhere.  God saw they were needed and served a purpose, and we would be incomplete without them.

When studying one of these small brief conversations with God, I suggest you remember that the Creator saw the need for this to complete the Book of the ages.  Words from God called men, brief and pointed, that are forever settled in Heaven!

Could not all of us take encouragement from this, knowing that God included us in His master plan?

No matter how large or small our part on the grand stage of time, we are still important.

Without our part, the whole would be lacking.  While it is true that taking Obadiah out of the Bible would not have the same effect as removing Isaiah, it was God who decided Obadiah needed to be in the book that is forever settled in heaven.

It is apparent that God placed value on each man who contributed to the Bible.  What a lesson!  Will any of us refuse to do our part because it seems small and less important than that of others?

Here are my thoughts on the Minor Prophets as to who they spoke to and when:

  • Hosea, Wrote to Israel the northern kingdom, about 700 BC
  • Joel, wrote to northern kingdom about 800 BC
  • Amos, spoke to northern kingdom during Jeroboam II reign, 700 BC
  • Obadiah, spoke to Edom (Esau’s decendants), His date is very controversial
  • Jonah, spoke to Nineveh (world empire), 200 years before Nahum
  • Micah, spoke to northern kingdom, same time as Isaiah
  • Nahum, second voice to Nineveh
  • Habakkuk, spoke only to God, his book is a Theodicy, after the captivity
  • Zephaniah, spoke to the repatriated nation, after the captivity
  • Haggai, same as Zephaniah, spoke to the nation after the captivity
  • Zechariah, spoke to the nation after captivity and rebuilding of the temple
  • Malachi, spoke to the repatriates at the close of the Old Testament

One of my most helpful thoughts has been to think of about ten ministers you know.  Think of how they preach.  Think of how they approach a subject.  Think about their vocabulary, their illustrations, and their message.  That will give you a good appreciation of the Minor Prophets and their diversity.

They were  courageous men who devoted their life to delivering God’s message.  It was almost universal that their message was unwanted and unheard.  Yet, they obeyed their call and completed their message.

I look forward to the day when I can sit and talk with them and learn the rest of their story.

They were a magnificent breed indeed!

Thanks for reading today.

I. H. Terry and the Rose Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

My pastor was a great man!  He loved the doctrine, he loved preachers, and he loved poetry!  Brother Terry would read poetry to me when I would go to his house.  For seven years his wife was bed ridden, and I would go as often as I could to sit with him.  Most of the time it was one to two times a week.

When I got there he would reach over and take up one of the two books he used the most, we would settle in for the evening and he would read.  He had this cute look that he used, he would look up to see if you were getting the meaning.  He wanted to make sure you “caught” it.

There are many poems he would read, like “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whitier.  It is an incredible story of a judge riding down a country lane who stops to get a drink of water at the hand of a young maiden.  He rides on but always remembers that moment.  Both of them go through life wondering what might have been if they had married.  It is from this poem the famous line is often quoted,

“the saddest words of tongue or pen, are simply these, it might have been”.

There were other poems he loved like “Curfew shall not ring tonight”, “The face on the barroom floor”, “The hell bound train”, “Casey at the bat” and the two sequels to “Casey”.

One poem he loved very much and used to help many people is called “Let it unfold”.  He preached about it and so have others.  The man who has made this poem most recognizable is Vaughn Morton.  Vaughn Morton has preached a classic, unforgettable message using this poem entitled “Let it unfold”.

The poem speaks about just letting life unfold the way God unfolds a rose.  Brother Terry would take people, mostly young preachers, out in his back yard and hand them a rosebud.  He would insist you unfold the rosebud.  As you tried you destroyed any chance of the rose ever reaching beauty or completeness.

Then Brother Terry wisely handed you a  rose.  Asked you to smell its fragrance, look at its beauty.  And he would quote the poem.

I remember like it was yesterday the moment I stood in his backyard with broken pieces of a rose in one hand and a beautiful red rose in the other.  With a tear in his eye, that old, wise mentor said…

It is only a tiny rosebud,

A flower of God’s design,

But I cannot unfold the petals

with these clumsy hands of mine.

The secret of unfolding flowers

Is not known to such as I,

The flower that God opens so sweetly,

Would in my hands would fade and die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud

This flower of God’s design,

Then how can I think I have wisdom

To unfold this life of mine?

So I’ll trust in Him for His leading

Each moment of everyday

I’ll look to him for guidance

Each step of the Pilgrim way.

For the Pathway that lies before me,

My heavenly father knows:

I’ll trust him to unfold the moments,

Just as he unfolds the rose.

Thank you Brother Terry for one of my life’s greatest lessons.

Thanks for reading today!

God Moments! Tuesday, Mar 23 2010 

A God moment……

While the Apostle Paul was on his 2nd missionary journey around 51ad, a woman

named Phoebe came and told him she was going to Rome.

Paul asked her if she would carry a letter to the church there

for him.  She agreed.   Paul set down to write a letter and what

resulted was the book in your bible called Romans.

It is a great treatise on Christianity.  The broad expanse of

the role of the Jew, and the new role of the Gentile.

In his opening introduction Paul says some things about humanity

in general.  He was at Corinth at the time, where he spent 18 months.

As he walked the streets of the second largest city of the Roman

Empire with its new shiny architecture, he saw the population, of

700,000 people.  There were soldiers, Roman officials, merchants, beggars, in fact the

whole composite of  Corinth.

He concluded several things he put in the letter to the Romans.

He concluded that all have sinned and come short of the

glory of God.  He concluded that the gentile world needed

God, and the Jewish world needed God.

He covered an interesting concept by asking what if some did not hear

the Gospel?  His answer was they are without excuse! Why?

He went on to say because there are different ways God speaks to

mankind.  God speaks through conscience, God speaks through

creation. That lets me know that God never leaves man anywhere, anyplace

without some kind of “God Moment”.

Somewhere, somehow, God confronts man and introduces himself, so

that no one will ever stand at the final tribunal of God and say I had no

Witness.

During the 35 years I have preached the gospel I have heard and seen

some of these “God Moments”.  I saw one a few days ago in a nursing

home down in Puyallup, Washington.

I went to the room of a lady who had told her daughter she wanted to pray, she was afraid she was nearing the end of her life’s journey. I went and joined the daughter, son, and two other people.  We prayed for that woman to be assured God was with her.  When we laid our hands on her to pray, it was a “God Moment”.

It was as if we had placed the shock paddles that EMTs use on her chest. She raised up off that bed and the spirit of God fell on her.

It was a supernatural moment.  We were all amazed and aware that this moment was a God thing.

Thirteen days later, death walked in that same room and claimed that woman.

That Woman was Phyllis Crandall.


Death came to claim her only to acknowledge that God arrived first, letting everyone know, that she was His child.

Thank you God for that incredible, unforgettable moment when you showed yourself as

God.

Thanks for reading today!

16 Men Who Changed the World! Monday, Mar 22 2010 

The Prophets.

When Israel left Egypt on that fateful night of the Exodus, they were ill equipped to be a world member in the family of nations.  Their centuries of slavery had left them without the basic skills to form a nation and function.

They needed laws and leadership.  God provided them with both.

While they made the transition from slavery to a warrior nation to conquer the Promised Land, they needed something to anchor them to their past, to their beliefs and their survival.  God gave them the Tabernacle as that anchor.  It was the central element that polarized them as a people.  It was the central purpose and function of their lives.

The Tabernacle eventually became the Temple and the Temple stood as their foundation and polarization for centuries. It was the central point and purpose of their lives.

After their conquest and several hundred years of judges and monarchy, they had become an urban people with need of a different anchor.  The nation had not become, or remained what God had intended!  They needed another anchor for a different environment of urban life.

God sent them their second anchor…the Prophets!

The first prophets were miracle workers.  Elijah and Elisha types.  They got the attention of the Nation at locals like Carmel when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal.

When it was evident that the miracles alone would not  turn the nation back to God, God then sent them a whole new group of men.  The writing prophets!

About 40 years after Elisha, the first writing prophet appears on the national scene.  God introduced the second anchor for the nation!  His word!

From the moment the writing prophets arrived, all of history changed.

These prophets were diverse.

  • Some were highborn, educated and mixed with the highest echelons of society.
  • They were consults of Kings!
  • They were advisors of the highest decisions made in the world.
  • Others were simple country men.
  • They were ridiculed and scorned.
  • Their verbiage and illustrations were simple and homespun.
  • They preached messages,
  • Wrote poems,
  • Composed songs,
  • And condemned Kings.

They are without equal or comparison in any period of history or in any culture in the world.

The Eastern religions of Buddism, Hinduism, and Muslims, for all their lasting impact, have never produced the likes of the writing prophets!

The Prophets wrote their visions and conversations with the Almighty.  They left behind a glimpse into the mind and nature of God that became the mantle of all preachers for all time.  We would not have survived without their writings.  Simple or complicated, rich or poor, heard or rejected, to a man….

They were magnificent!

Thanks for reading today.

He was only 14 years old, he lived a lifelong nightmare! Saturday, Mar 20 2010 

Jeremiah

Which fourteen-year-old boy in your church can you envision preaching and being God’s Mouthpiece?  That was the age Jeremiah began his prophetic work.  He then proceeded to speak to a nation who would not listen for the next 40 years.

He has been called the “weeping prophet” because of the times in his book he sheds tears.  Jeremiah prophesied while his nation tottered on the bring of captivity.

Jeremiah certainly lived one of the most dramatic lives in the Bible.  It appears he never learned to like his role.  He was reluctant and unhappy with the job God asked him to do.

God chose him before he was even born, while he was still in his mother’s womb.  His assignment was to be over nations, to root out, to tear down, to build and to plant.  The only resource he had to accomplish this task was his mouth.  His response?  “Ah Lord God, I cannot speak, for I am a child” (1.6), and he was! He was only 14 years old!

He was given the unusual directive that he could never marry, never attend a happy event or a sad event.  He was not to experience any human emotion so he would never be confused as to what he felt.  He felt what God felt!

For forty years Jeremiah gave the nation’s leaders messages they did not want to hear.  They arrested him, they imprisoned him, and they almost killed him.

Jeremiah hung on.

He let them know that the Babylonians were coming and would carry them into captivity.  He warned them that alliances with powers like Egypt would not do any good.  They ignored him and he pressed on anyway.  Jeremiah made it clear, Judah’s only hope was to renew their relationship with the living God.

Jeremiah does not impress us like Isaiah.  His book is not poetic or beautiful in imagery.  The power of the book comes entirely from the insight of this prophet’s mind.

He was living a nightmare and that nightmare was coming true.

The nation was going under!

No person in the Bible shows their feelings like Jeremiah.  He quarreled with God.  He told God he wished he were dead.  He accused God of being unreliable. And yet, he stood, never wavering!  No relationship in the Bible speaks more to me of what it means to serve God.  He continued to follow God no matter what.

I am sure he tired of the ridicule.  He continued to stand alone against the crowd.  He spoke dark things in dark times.  His message was not wanted or popular.  In the end his message proved true.

He stands greater and more important to the kingdom of God than the very Kings who detested him.

The book of Jeremiah is an anthology of prophecies given at different times.  It jumps back and forth and is not in any chronological order.  It is a glimpse into the troubled mind of a man trying to warn a drowning nation.

300 years before the nation had been split into two nations with the civil war.  Israel and Judah had existed side by side for 200 years.  Then, 100 years before, the northern nation had been carried away into captivity into Assyria never to be heard from again.  He was seeing deja vu for Judah.  This time mighty Babylon was breathing down their neck and invasion was imminent.

Bullet points for Jeremiah:

  • Prophesied during 5 kings
  • Lived through the Babylonian invasion
  • Contempories were Zephaniah and Habakkuk
  • He was forbidden to marry
  • He was forbidden to go to any social meetings, happy or sad
  • His book has no particular order
  • He was called at 14 years old and preached for 40 years
  • Tradition says he was stoned in Egypt at the end of his life
  • He was the first person to speak of 70 years, then Daniel picked it up
  • Never liked his role but he obeyed
  • His only weapon was his voice
  • He was one man against a surging mass going in the opposite direction
  • He quarreled with God and told God he wished he were dead (20.14-18)
  • Accused God of being unreliable (15.18)
  • Had no social life (16.8)

Some of his memorable messages:

  • Broken cisterns
  • Potters house (18)
  • Rechabites (35)
  • The miry clay
  • The buried sash
  • The smashed pot
  • Purchasing land for the return after the exile

His supreme contribution:

It is my opinion that Jeremiah gives us the high point of the Old Testament.  In chapter 31 he gives the turning point after 1000 years of failure as a nation.

God wrote the law on tables of stone and the nation never was able to fulfill their destiny.  It was smoke, ashes, debris, and failure.  It was time for the second edition to be written!

Abraham was called in 1921 BC.  The children of Israel entered Canaan in 1451 BC.  It had been 1300 years since Abraham’s call and 800 years since they crossed the Jordan.  The judges, the kings, the prophets, had all proved unable to stem to tide.

God called a fourteen-year-old boy.  God quarantined him from social events, and gave him the New Covenant!

1000 years of history flowed into this young boy’s heart. From that river flowed out the New Covenant that is the foundation of the New Testament.

This time God would write it not on tables of stone, but on their hearts.  Jeremiah chapter 31 becomes the foundation of all the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

It is an incredible story of an incredible man, used by God.

It is the story of a 14 year old boy who lived a lifelong nightmare!

Thanks for stopping by today.

Checkmate! When God plays Chess. Friday, Mar 19 2010 

Checkmate! When God plays Chess.

Chess. Strategy, maneuver, tactics, ultimately expose the King by taking away all defenses.

Could I convince you today that God played chess on a worldwide scale for 450 years? Let me explain….

God called a nomad named Abram around 1900 BC, and began a nation. From his loins came Issac, then Jacob, then the twelve tribes and eventually the Hebrew nation. From there the 70 souls went down to Egypt to escape the famine, and emerged some 400 years later to cross the Red sea, and do the wilderness journey.

Once they entered the land of promise, there was a period of time of about 450 years when Judges governed the land. While the nation was making the journey from a nation of slaves to a nation of farmers, the Judges worked well enough. Then slowly they began to emerge as a nation of cities, and a whole new need arose.

Soon the cry for a King like other nations began, and finally became a din that God answered. The time had come for Israel to have a king, and the monarchy was born. Coming on the heels of the Judges, it certainly looked like anything would be an improvement. Sadly that was not to be.

Before the Monarchy had run it’s course, it would eliminate 10 tribes forever. It would also take all 12 tribes to spiritual lows never known before, and to this day, never matched again.

There was the period of the United Kingdom for 120 years. Each of the first three Kings ruled for 40 years (Saul, David and Solomon). Those 120 years were followed by a civil war that resulted in the nation being torn into two nations, known thereafter as Israel and Judah.

Israel was the northern kingdom and was comprised of 10 tribes. Over the next 200 years there would be 19 kings in a row and every one of them were bad. Not one King in 200 years of the northern kingdom served God. Finally God had enough. In 721 BC the nation of Assyria came and conquered 46 cities, and led away 200,000 captives.

The Assyrian army marched to the very gates of Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom, and surrounded the city. Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general, informed King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom, they were next on the list to be taken captive. Rabshakeh mocked Hezekiah and said even if I gave you 2000 horses for war, you could not put riders on them.

The southern kingdom was at the mercy of the greatest army in the world.

Hezekiah asked Isaiah the prophet what to do, and what followed is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of mankind. Isaiah told King Hezekiah to not worry about those 185,000 men encamped about the city of Jerusalem. When the Hebrews awoke the next morning they found out that the Angel of the Lord had gone through the camp of Assyria and killed 185,000 men.

It ranks as one of the greatest victories ever, anywhere, in the history of the world!

The southern kingdom was spared and lasted another 135 years. There were 19 kings and one queen in the southern kingdom. I say there were 8 good kings. It does depend on what you call good. But from my perspective 8 kings in the south were good. The book of chronicles which was originally one book, (* see note below), unlike the book of kings, primarily deals with the good kings of Judah. It has even been referred to as the white washed history because it eliminates things like David’s sin with Bathsheba.

Chronicles focus is on the monarchy that was good, and the temple. These were the two things that had permanence in Hebrew life.

So was the monarchy, success or failure? There were 41 kings in all and one queen. At best 11 kings might be said to have ruled well. That leaves 30 kings who ruled poorly and one queen who was the most wicked monarch of all. The monarchy ruled for 455 years. It was almost the exact same number of years the judges ruled.

My conclusion is that it was a failure just as notable as the Judges. God never intended for man to rule over man. God has always been the right ruler in man’s life.

With the whole world as His chessboard, God exposed the Kings for their weaknesses. He ultimately took away their defenses and exposed the need for a Messiah.

Some day our great God will reveal the King of Kings, and believe me it will be checkmate!

Thanks for joining me today!

Note: The book of Chronicles and the book of Kings were written in Hebrew which has no vowels. When translated into English, both books were too long and so they were divided into two books. Kings divides when the divine ministry of the prophets begins with Elijah. Chronicles divides with Solomon who builds the temple. No doubt the translators felt the ministry of the prophets, which would replace the monarchy, and the Temple, were the natural points to divide the books.

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