When Justice Was For Sale To The Highest Bidder Monday, May 17 2010 

It was the most prosperous time in their history.

Money was flowing.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel was being led by the dynamic and charismatic Jeroboam II.

Jeroboam had waged successful war against Israel’s hostile neighbors and won control of the trade routes that poured wealth into Samaria.

The land was fertile, the rains fell, and the bumper crops swelled their barns and their bank accounts.  It was a golden age.  Public buildings were being built.  Private residences were large and expensive.  The public worship was now ostentatious and full of pomp.

The rich landowners with total disregard for God’s law,  built great personal estates.  They did so at the cost of dispossessing their poor neighbors.  The poor were further treated badly by the greedy merchants who used unjust weights to buy and sell grain.  These dishonest merchants mixed husks with barley kernels.

More and more of the people were being forced to sell themselves and their children into slavery.

Justice was for sale to the highest bidder!

The wives of the rich demanded more and more luxuries.  No one seemed to give a thought to those who were cheated to pay the tab of the greedy.

No one that is except God!

Ten miles south of Jerusalem, a poor farmer heard an inner voice speak to him.  He was of the poorest part of society.  He dealt in Sycamore figs.  The modern equivalent of someone who gathers cans along the roadside to get money.

His name was Amos.  He left Tekoa to challenge the greatest nation on earth at the zenith of it’s wealth and power.

Has there ever been men like those prophets of old?  Fearless men who gave account to no one but God!

When that poor country boy walked into Bethel, don’t you know his eyes were wide?  No doubt his mouth was hanging open.  He had never seen anything like this in the poor region he lived in.

He walked the streets and saw the luxurious homes of the wealthy.  He saw the opulence of the rich and famous.  He observed women reclining on ivory inlaid couches, feasting on meats and drinking exotic wines while they listened to the lastest popular music groups (Amos 4.1, 6.4-6).

He saw a nation that was hardened by selfishness and greed.  He  spoke to them about the need for their hearts to be touched with the needs of the poor and oppressed.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Does God still care about injustice?

Is Justice for sale to the highest bidder in your life?

Thanks for reading today.

The Gospel Of Luke Thursday, May 13 2010 

Luke

The third Gospel is the only one written by a gentile.  Luke also wrote the book of Acts.  His two works comprise 25% of the New Testament.

Luke was a doctor.  The flavor of the man always comes out in his writings.  In Luke we see more conversation about women, gentiles, and the social outcasts. When a beggar lays at the gate of the rich man, Luke says he was full of sores.  Matthew would have said he was broke.  Matthew’s perspective as a tax collector was his financial status, while Luke had the perspective of a doctor.

Luke’s gospel is written to the Greek, or Gentile world.  He uses Mark as his time line and repeats somewhere around 50% (320 of 661 verses), of the same material Mark provides.

Because he is writing to the Gentile world he begins his genealogy at Adam.  Matthew goes back to Abraham, Mark bypasses the genealogy, and Luke goes back to the first man Adam. John, who writes to the church, reaches back to the misty darkness of eternity.

It appears to me that Luke took the time to interview the people of the early church.  He states that his book is from the beginning and that he had perfect understanding of it all.

When you read of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s account, you find some tidbits of information no one else includes.  One example would be the details of Mary’s song and inner thoughts and feelings.

That causes me to think Luke must have sat down with Mary and spent time talking to her.  I can envision him sitting quietly many years later, at the end of her life, recording her words as she softly speaks of those bygone years.  As she wistfully remembers, he dutifully records.

Not only does he provide information about people’s feelings and inner thoughts, he also documents his writings with names, offices and titles of over 50 people.  This gives his work a credibility the other gospel writers do not have to the world of scholars.

One example of his documentation is the introduction of John the Baptist in chapter 3.  Luke places 7 men in the scripture for historical evidence.  He mentions an emperor, a governor, three tetrarchs, and two high priests.  These are the kind of things that give Luke credibility with the world of scholars.  This also gives further credibility by association to the other Gospels who give the same information.  For this alone Luke is invaluable.

Another contribution of his is the writing of parables spoken by Jesus.  He records 18 parables not recorded anywhere else.  We are indebted to him for the famous parable of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, and many others.

I am going to go out on a limb here and state my opinion for what it is worth.  I know that Luke traveled with Paul.  I am somewhat sure he joined Paul on one of his missionary journeys, because the text of Acts changes from they, to the first person of I and we.  So my thought is that somewhere Luke sat and listened to Paul tell his insight into the life of Jesus.  My best guess would be  this occurred while Paul was being held at Caesarea.

Just like when he started his book by making the journey to see Mary, I can see Luke taking notes at the feet of Paul and then the Holy spirit washing them though the man Luke with his training, his education, and his perspective.  From out of that flowed the gospel of Luke.

The gospel written to the Greeks adopts the Greek idea of the perfect man.  The Greeks created their Gods by deifying man into a God.

Luke very ably and perfectly adopts their premise and presents them with the perfect man, who was indeed God, Jesus Christ the savior of the world.

How will YOU die? Tuesday, Apr 27 2010 

How will YOU die?

He was cold! He was way beyond the kind of temporary cold that gives you shivers.  The cold he felt was way down in his bones, and had been there for weeks.  He wished for the thousandth time for the cloak he left in Troas.  Life would be easier when Timothy arrived with the books and parchments.

Six feet away, across his cell was a large rat.  They eyed each other with measured tolerance.  He had long tired of trying to make the rat leave for good.  The rat always came back.  It was no longer worth the effort to accost the rat.  He and the rat certainly weren’t friends, but they had learned to co-exist.

He reached over and picked up his writing instrument and parchment. The voice inside him told him to write.  So he dipped his quill in the borrowed ink, and began.

As he formulated the words that were appearing in his mind, another part of his mind began to go back over the years…..

He smiled as he remembered that day on the road.  It seemed like just yesterday.  Then there was the time in Arabia.  The years began to unfold like a novel, like a slow motion reel.

He drifted back through the years, the cities, the trials, the beatings, and the stonings.  Once again he asked himself if he had done all his master had asked of him.  He honestly could not see any way it could have turned out differently.

The other part of his mind returned back to the parchment, and he began.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.  I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness….

He finished the final words of his last letter. He was well aware he would never again pen another syllable.

He heard the jingle of keys. Marcus came into view.  Marcus was his most recent convert, albeit secretly.  He said to Marcus,”It’s okay, I understand.”  Tears began a slow roll down Marcus’ cheeks.

He rose, straightened, and started for the door, and noticed the rat seemed to be smirking.

The stairs seemed steeper than he remembered.  The light of day was blinding.  He had lost count of the days in the underground cell.  Slowly he looked around.  Spring had arrived, his last spring of his 67 years.

He saw the executioner waiting.  How far?  Maybe a hundred steps?  He started the final one hundred steps of his earthly journey.   He drew up at the chopping block.

With one long last look around the Appian Way, and a smile for Marcus tear stained face, he knelt and placed his head on the block.  The Roman official placed a check next to his name on the slate and nodded to the ax man.

In one slow movement, while heaven held it’s breath, the ax was raised. It paused for a fraction of a second, then in blinding speed arched downward.  His head, severed from his body rolled over the edge of the block and dropped to the ground and rolled twice.  Unseeing eyes on mortal earth stared upward.

In the immeasurable moment when head and body were separated, his spirit was free.  He was free of the hardships, free of the privation.  He was free and approaching the gates.

The gate was also about one hundred steps.  He could see the crowds cheering.  It was that great cloud of witnesses he had written about in his letter to the Hebrews.

They were all there.  Some were from the highlands of Galatia, others from the sea coasts of Macedonia.  There were some from Caesars’ household, and some converted rulers of the synagogue.

They were waiting, cheering, and welcoming him home.

And then there was Jesus for the first time.

He never quite remembers those last few steps, he only remembers falling at Jesus feet.  And the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

So Paul, the Christian sage of the ages died.

How will YOU die?

Will you be bitter?

Will you have regrets?

In the prison, Paul called himself “The prisoner of the Lord.” He knew that no mere, mortal Caesar could imprison an apostle without his master’s assent.

Do you see your prison as approved by the master?

How will YOU die?

Thanks for reading today!

Are You Surviving or Thriving? Friday, Apr 23 2010 

Are the tears you shed for your marriage happy tears or sad tears?

Surviving or Thriving?

Somewhere around 3000 years ago a giant named Goliath walked out on the battlefield and challenged the armies of Israel. The gauntlet was thrown down and the challenge was bellowed.  The terms of conflict were clear for everyone.

It was winner take all and no survivors!

I am convinced today there is another challenge, on yet another battlefield.  Satan struts out on the battlefield of America and throws his challenge.  The battle in 2010 is for our homes.  Satan attacks with technology, with Hollywood, with busyness and time constraints, and stress.

One of his most effective attacks is on marriages.  He has rolled out the big artillery the last few years.  He is after the family values in America.

In 2009 there were 2,162,000 marriages in America.  The marriage rate was 7.1 per 1000 people.  The divorce rate was 3.5 per 1000 people.

In the 1996 presidential election 50% of the electorate said moral values were one of the most important issues.  In the 2004 presidential election, that percentage stood at 34 %. In 8 years 16% of support had eroded.

From the 2000 election to the 2004 election, support for gay marriages increased 50% in America.

For the last 30 years moral values have been some of the most important factors in elections.

In 2005, 11 of 17 states amended their state constitutions to prohibit gay unions or gay marriages.  Satan is attacking the Biblical ideal of marriage between a man and a woman.

But he does not stop there.  Satan also attacks the marriages of Christians.

Some statistics say the divorce rate for conservative Christians is higher than the rate for atheists and agnostics.  Others say the opposite.  Tom Ellis, Chairman of the Southern Baptist convention’s council on the family says the true fact is 1 in 39,000 marriages, end among conservative Christians. That is 0.00256%.

The question in your marriage is, are you surviving or thriving?

Are you and your spouse meeting each others personal needs?

Here we are in mainstream America where prayer is illegal, and abortion is encouraged.

Where, if you resist the gay marriage deluge, you practice hate speech, and you are homophobic!

Where our kids walk through metal detectors to get on the school ground and are handed condoms.

Does anybody believe me when I scream….the battle is raging?

If anyone is naïve enough to think you can ignore your marriage, and it will thrive on it’s own, by simple church attendance, you are sadly mistaken!

On January 31, 1996, I ended a journey of 9048 days of marriage.  Over 25 years.  I dated in the church, I married in the church, and was finally divorced in the church.  On that January day in 1996, I started a journey that has now stretched to 5,192 days, over 14 years of living alone.

If I could help even one person to not go down that road, it would be worth it all.  But even more, what if I could I help those still in the marriage, to make that marriage all God intended it to be?

I was driving down the road with Martyn Ballestero a few weeks ago.  We were on main street in Sumner Washington, right in front of McDonalds, in the left turn lane.

God spoke to me.  God said “What did the children say of their mother in Proverbs chapter 31?” In my mind I answered, they called her blessed.  And God said, “What did her husband do?”. I answered he praised her.  God told me to look it up and see what kind of praise the man gave his wife.  I did, and Brother Ballestero wrote a wonderful blog on it.

I hope you will click on the link, go to his blog site and read the blog on how to have the best wife in the world!

http://martynballestero.com/

Thanks for reading today!

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The Book Of Acts, The Bridge. Sunday, Apr 11 2010 

Acts

Oft times I have wondered about certain books of the Bible.  I have thought, what if we did not have this book in our Bible?  How would that affect the whole?  When I place the book of Acts on that pedestal, and consider, I am certain of the answer.

Only Acts and Genesis seem to hold the place of absolute.  Without them we simply could not survive.  They are both irreplaceable.

The book of Acts was written by Luke.  Luke is the only Gentile writer in the Bible.  It is interesting to me that Luke is responsible for 25% of the New Testament.  His two books equal one fourth of the volume of the New Testament.

I am not positive, but it appears to me that Luke wrote at the bequest of a wealthy patron named Theopholis.  His two books address this individual.  This was a common practice that carried well into the middle ages.  A wealthy patron would sponsor someone to write a book or thesis. This is how men like Voltaire and Rousseau were supported financially.

To me, Acts is about three men.  Those men are Simon (Peter), Saul (Paul), and Stephen. The book is evenly devoted to the ministry of Peter and Paul with Stephen being the bridge from one to the other.

The contrast of these two men is stark.  Peter is a country fisherman.  Paul is a polished cosmopolitan.  Peter was ignorant and unlearned.  Paul was a trained rabbi, having studied at the feet of Gamaliel. Peter spoke Aramaic, the common language.  Paul could speak that language, as well as Greek.  Peter was a country Jew, Paul was a Hellenistic Jew and a Roman Citizen.

The first twelve chapters of Acts are about Peter.  In chapter 13 the spotlight shifts to Paul and never moves back to Peter again.  Peter, the great apostle fades from view in Acts.

How important is Acts as a book?  It is irreplaceable! Without the book of Acts we would go from the Gospels to Romans.  We would wonder who is Paul?  What is the church?  How did it start?  Acts is the link to all of the New Testament.

Acts begins with the ascension of Jesus.  It moves on to choosing Judas’ replacement. It then tells of Pentecost, the beginning of the church, and eventually documents the church’s emigration to the Roman Empire.

Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, period.  The Roman Empire paved roads, established peace and continuity, and through this open door walked the church.  The church flourished during the Pax Romana, the empire wide peace. Within 300 years 10% of the Roman Empire was Christian.

The book of Acts documents the beginning of this conquest of the church.

When the spotlight shifts to Paul in chapter 13, Luke begins to relate Paul’ missionary journeys.  Paul made three journeys.  ( Some scholars say up to five).  The dates of these journeys are:

  • 46-48, first journey
  • 49-52, second journey
  • 53-57, third journey

It is simply amazing that in 47AD there were no churches in Asia Minor.  In ten years there was a ring of churches that included every major city in Galatia, Macedonia, Asia and Acacia.  This remarkable achievement has never been repeated anywhere globally.

On his first journey, when he gains his first convert, the Apostle Paul jettisons his Hebrew name Saul, and forever becomes know as Paul.  He was the Apostle to the Gentiles and he bore his Gentile name to his death.

Luke is a gentile, writing a book about the gentile revival by the Apostle to the gentiles.  This fact shows up in the book repeatedly.  It is very clear in the story of the appointment of the deacons.  When the division came and the controversy showed itself, out of the seven men chosen, 5 were Greeks according to their names.  Luke makes this point, or rather the Holy Ghost does.

The final chapters of the book of Acts are concerning Paul’s last days.  I am left with one of the biggest questions of my life as to why the book ends so inconclusively.  With the Holy Ghost inspiring the man called Luke, why no closure?

My only hypothesis is that the book is still being written in heaven.  Maybe the final words were something like “to be continued”.

What chapter will you write to add to the book of Acts?

Thanks for reading today!

Burger King Got It Wrong! Monday, Apr 5 2010 

Burger King got it wrong.  They say have it your way.  The book of Judges shows me this is not the way to happiness or success!

The book of Judges opens to us one of the darkest times of man’s history.  The people of God should have been celebrating victories and conquering a new land.

Judges opens the window into the heart of mankind, and the picture is not pretty!

Seven times in the book the statement is made “Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord”, two times it says “Every man did that which is right in his own eyes”.  The result of that environment was catastrophic.  It further emphasis that there was no King in those days.  So every man was left to follow his own decisions.

This period of time lasted 450 years!  This period of time was as long as the entire duration of the monarchy.  Because there is one book of Judges, and six books of the Kings (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles), it is natural to feel like the Kings were a longer period of time.  Both of these time periods were 450 years.  Why?

God gave man 450 years to reveal what happens when man does that which is right in his own eyes.

The result of that time period is so abhorrent and tragic, we scarce can comprehend it.  The last five chapters of Judges are as bad and ugly as any period of history, any place on the Globe.  From this experiment and experience we can truly agree with God that it is not in man to direct his steps.

It might help to think of these Judges as freedom fighters.  The word Judge to us today speaks of courtrooms and juries.  These men, (and one woman), were liberators, fighters, leaders of armies!  They are renowned for their military campaigns.  The following is a list of Judges and their term of time.

Judge Enemy

  • Othniel/40 years                         Mesopotamia
  • Ehud/80 years                             Moab, Amon, Amalek
  • Deborah, Barak/40 years             Caanan
  • Gideon/40 years                          Midian
  • Abimelech/3 years
  • Toah/23 years
  • Jair/22 years
  • Jeptha/6 years                             Ammon
  • Ibzaim/7 years
  • Elon/10 years
  • Samson/20 years                          Philistines
  • Eli/40 years                                 Philistines
  • Samuel/20 years                          Philistines

By my addition there were 111 years of oppression and 339 years of peace for a total of 450 years of the reign of the Judges.  This is the same amount of time for the Kings!  There was 120 years of the United Kingdom, 200 years of a divided Kingdom with Israel and Judah side by side, and an additional 135 years of Judah.

The conclusion I get is this, God gave man 450 years of man doing what he thought was right on his own.  Then he gave man 450 years where a king ruled over his life.  Both time periods ended in abject failure.  Opening the door for the prophets and God’s voice being the law of man and earth.

The only successful government has proved to be when God himself rules over the affairs of men.

In the first 16 chapters of  Judges, it is all about God’s people being attacked from without.  The enemy is from the outside.  Then the last five chapters are the result when Israel turns upon herself and begins to carnage herself. The result is one of the most terrible times in all of history.

Before it is over Israel will have killed more of her own that any of her attackers ever did from the outside.  If fact, she will have killed more of her own that all of the outside attacks combined over the entire 450 year period!

What a statement God leaves on the pages of the Bible about what happens when we forget who our real enemy is and begin to war on our brothers.

In the last five chapters, it begins with the introduction of Idolatry into Israel with the story of Micah and his graven images.  The stage is set for idolatry and it takes a thousand years and a dispersion (Israel), and a captivity (Judah), to finally purge Israel of Idolatry!

The story moves on to the tribe of Dan.

This tribe is not satisfied with their inheritance so they look for new territory.  They journey east, then north, a total of about 144 miles to conquer Laish.  They rename the city “Dan”(hence the term from Dan to Beersheba).  This is not the inheritance God assigned to the tribe of Dan.

This story lets us see the terrible result of what happens when you are not satisfied with your inheritance!  The tribe of Dan is forever removed from the pages of the Bible.  The only mention I find is one descendant worked on Solomon’s temple.  Dan is never mentioned again, never included anymore in the list of the tribes all the way to the book of Revelation!

What more would anyone need to illustrate the danger of not being satisfied with our inheritance?

The book of Judges then moves on to the story of the concubine.

The woman was abused and finally dies.  Her master cuts her into twelve pieces and sends a piece of the evidence to each tribe.  The nation goes to war and the result is horrific.  Israel loses 65,000 men in the final chapters of Judges, all because they had a piece of the evidence.  The tribe of Benjamin is reduced to 400 men and almost obliterated.

I believe they would have been wiped out if not for a future son of Benjamin that would literally change the world, Saul of Tarsus.  God preserved the tribe for Israel’s first king, and Christianity’s first missionary.

The moral of the story is again so stark!  It is so dangerous to go to war over a piece of the evidence.

Was all lost for humanity?  Not at all.  God in his infinite wisdom was letting man work through the slow process of human government to help man self discover for himself his need of God.

All was not lost, for even in this morass, at the bulls eye center of the greatest carnage were faithful people who held on to God.  That is why Boaz steps onto the stage.  There was in the days of the Judges, Ruth 1.1

We will discuss that in the book of Ruth!

Thanks for reading today!

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.

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