Friday, June 29, 2012

What?! That's in the Bible?! Ezekiel 20.32-33

The thing rising up in your soul won't happen, that is, you are saying,
"We will be like the pagans,
like the families of the of the lands
by serving tree and stone."

I'm Alive--My Lord Yahweh's edict--
I will definitely rule over you as King
with [My] Hand Strong
and with [My] Arm Stretched Out
and with [My] Wrath Poured Out

There are to shocking things here. The first is something we don't expect God's people to say, the second is something we may forget Yahweh has said.

The Israelis were God's chosen people, the ethnic group as a whole have a covenantal relationship with Yahweh, that is, God loves them as His Favorites, that is the nation/ethnicity of Israel is Yahweh's personal friend. He has their back and loves them. They are the people, the only people, in the whole world who know the real God, the Living God, the God Who created the trees and the mountains. Yet, the shocking thing is, they say they don't want the real God, they want the fake "gods" that all there other friends have. Yet, that is not the only thing that shocking, what is perhaps more shocking is that the temptations have not changed that much. We still want to be like all the people we live around, among, or who live around us. We still want to be like the people that don’t know God. We want to worship false gods just as much today as before. Our friends and our neighbors and our culture pull us away just as strongly today. How often do we think, “I’ll be like everyone else, then I’ll be cool, then I’ll fit in, then I’ll be really happy.” We think we can stay cool with God, while we think, feel, and act like people who wouldn’t know Yahweh if He slapped them upside the head. That’s a lie thousands of years old. We cannot want that which by definition is what God’s people hate and don’t want, so let’s not. That is Ezekiel’s point.

Yet, not only do the Israelis arrogantly reject God, they arrogantly proclaim themselves the rules of their own destiny. They have this passion, this idea that they will, that they will definitely be like their friends. They think of themselves as their master. To put the verse in today's language,

"Just You watch, we WILL be like the people who don't know God, we WILL wait on the wooden and stone statues hand and foot! We WILL! Go head! Try and Stop us!

Yet, the scary truth is that this is not just a phenomenon of the past. This is not something that people used to do. This is something that we do. Yet, I doubt we really admit that our hearts don't long to worship and obey and accomplish Yahweh's every desire. NO, sadly, we say the same thing in our hearts, that they said in theirs:

"God can't make me love and obey Him, He can't stop me from loving and serving the things and people I really want! I'm in control of my own life, and if I want to worship and wait hand and foot on Bhudda or Allah or Politics or Money or Education or Sex or Self or Power or Convenience or whatever, I will!"

Or to put it more succinctly: I'll live my life how I want, and You can’t stop me just cause You don’t like it!

The truth is we tell ourselves that we are in control of our own lives as much as we tell us ourselves we will be like the world, we will fit in, we will be all smart and know better that God and serve the real "god" Money, or whatever! This another lie thousands of years old. Only Yahweh, the Creator of all our substitute “gods,” is in control of our lives, not us. No matter how hard we try, we can’t control what happens to us, and in truth we can’t guarantee our responses either. We may be responsible for what we do, but if we think for one moment that we are in total control of everything having to do with us, we are playing God, and our God don’t play with people who play God.

But as shocking as it is that this is what we are like if we search our hearts, many times, hat is even more shocking is how Yahweh responds to His Chosen People.

Yahweh basically says, "Oh, you want to fight? Fine, I'll beat you up and make you face My Anger! I'll dominate you and rule you as a king and there ain't nothing you can do about it!

If you want to try and arm wrestle God for His Deserved Glory and Worship, He will straight up slam your hand so hard against the table in victory that every bone will shatter, so you will do what He says. Our God don't play!

The people--we--say, "We're in control! We'll serve Concrete and Steel if we want to! We'll serve the same powerless pawns as everyone else!" But Yahweh says, "I'm the Real Living God! You're not in control! I am. And I will be Your God whether you want me or not!"

This is a threat, for sure, but it is also a comfort to those of us who really are His People in Christ today. Because as much as it threatens, and as much as it predicts, the purpose is one that is pure grace to the chosen loved ones of God! You’re probably thinking that’s a stretch, but consider that this is a promise that if we are really God’s loved one, then He will do whatever it takes to be our God, even if it means crushing us and beating the stupidness and rebellion and arrogance out of us. For God’s chosen people, then like today, Yahweh will make sure He is their God. There is no stopping Him. We is great news for us rebellious, arrogant sinners. But it is also terrifying news intended to bring the Israelis as well as us back to repentance, because let’s face it, none of us wants to get smashed by God, none us wants to get ruthlessly dominated by God. We want to get graciously dominated!

It would be a misinterpretation to think that God is threatening us, so that we can merely do nice things so we can rule our own lives. NO WAY! Yahweh is calling us to be humble and enjoy His Lordship, because we are under it whether we want it or not. The truth is this calls us back to serving Him, to worshiping Him, to obeying Him like the God He is, because the facts are in and we will one way or another!

So these two verses are a call to repentance for us today as much as they were to the people of Judah when they were written. So let’s repent! Yet, understand that comfort and grace is only found in humility and love for Yahweh the King. If you have trusted in Christ, this is for you. This is a call to return to the God Who saved you!

But if you have not trusted in Christ to give you His clean slate instead of the dirty fouled up mess of a slate you have right now, then these verses are calling you to come to Jesus for that clean slate and to stop wanting to play and actually playing God, because Yahweh has to be the God you love and obey, you King, before these verses can apply to you, that is before you will want these verses to be true. Until you are with Yahweh, you are against Him, and when He comes back it won’t be pretty for you, and then the forever after you get after He kills you will be worse than that execution.

But maybe your life is awful right now and you don’t know why. The truth is then that this verse may be great comfort to you, because it may show that God wants you and that you are His, but you can only know that you are one of God’s chosen when you embrace Him as your King and Savior! So if your life is miserable God is drawing you to Him, He is making you see He is God and you need Him, so trust that Jesus is Yahweh and that He died for all the times you will ever play God and rose from the dead to give you a new life and a citizenship in His Kingdom, and that He is calling you to a life where God is God and you stop trying to play God! Do it NOW, because you might not get another chance!

Let me know if you did accept Jesus as your King and Savior so I can help you grow in you new relationship with Jesus as your King and Savior!

Monday, June 18, 2012

What?! That's in the Bible?!

In the Sovereign grace of God I recently read through all the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament, i.e. Isaiah-Malachi, for a class. Part way through my reading, I realized how shocking and humorous some of the things I were reading were. I've surely read them all before, but the just didn't seem to stand out to me before. I found myself chuckling at times, as well as thinking, "Wow, Abba, people probably didn't know You would ever say that!" So I started writing down the references so that I could share them.

My hope is that at times you will laugh, but at others you will be shocked, as we look through together at some of the things we probably didn't realize were in the Bible. I will warn you though, some of them are pretty offensive. Moreover, almost all of them do not come from happy passages. In many ways, we will see how the heart of God looks and speaks when He is in gratuitous pain. Be prepared, God may rock some of our categories. Be prepared, grace may not always look like we would expect.

I will cover the passages in no particular order. So today I start with Ezekiel 21.6 (English translations, 21.11 in Hebrew).

"And now, human, groan with broken back muscles!
and you will groan with bitterness before their eyes."

Based on some translations, I initially thought it was saying, "Groan like someone kicked you in the crotch" (which obviously is a more colorful and vivid image, especially to men; sorry ladies, we may never understand childbirth, but you will never understand our pain, not that ours is even in the same league as yours by any means) but it seems rather unlikely to mean that, although it is perhaps possible, since it seems that it may at times be a euphemism for genitals. Yet, after a more careful study the gist seems a lot closer to "Groan like you've got a back ache!" Some suggest the idea is more along the lines of "Groan on the ground like you broke your back!" Honestly, I'm not sure which is the best way to understanding, but regardless the image is still the Bible is presenting is still somewhat colorful. That is the first take away, that Yahweh gives occasionally colorful commands.

The second take away is the command God gave.  If you look at the whole passage, you will see that Yahweh is telling the prophet Ezekiel to go act out what everyone will soon be doing. They will groan because of the horrible news they are about to receive, and in context this is that their country's last bastion of resistance has fallen to the enemy, virtually everyone and everything has been destroyed. And this is because the God who created and chose the nation of Israel is the God that the Israelis rejected for other "gods." The God that graced them will now be the God that judged them. Sometimes misery is what God wants for us when we sin, both because we deserve it, and because He will use it to pull us to Him.

So, when we're miserable, we should turn to God and renounce the sin, i.e. the things in our life we prioritize higher than Yahweh. That is the point of the suffering, at least sometimes. Yet, we must ask why Yahweh would send a man to groan in front of everyone. The reason was twofold, to pull people back to Him, and to give people comfort in the midst of the groaning by telling them it was from Him and He is in control of all things, even history. If you are someone who already worships God the Father in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit, that is what you should do.

But, some of you who read this will not have ever turned to Yahweh, the Holy Trinity, from all the mistakes you've made or acts of rebellion against Him you done, or even just not trusting Him, but the point of the verse is clear, groaning is coming. This is just the warning. You will be miserable, but without trusting in Yahweh, the Holy Trinity, you won't understand your misery, or you won't see it until it's too late. That misery may be in this life, but it will definitely be in the afterlife, if you don't trust Yahweh. Yahweh is the same today as He was when this was written. Yahweh may be making your life miserable right now. If so, turn to Him, because He loves you, and is only making you miserable to pull you to Him, because it is when we are miserable that we should see how much we need Him! So turn from trusting any and everyone and thing else, and trust in Yahweh to save you from your coming punishment and to rescue into the best love and peace ever, a relationship with Him, and forever life with no groans! Turn and Trust today!

If you did turn from yourself or your false belief system to trusting the truth of Who Yahweh is and what He has done and will do, then you are now a Christian and I want to help you grow in being a Christian so comment or email or somehow communicate with me, so I can do that and welcome you into the Christian Family!

My love goes out to all my bros and sisters in Christ! And even to those who are not, but I'll be honest I can't love you like I love my family!

Grace and Peace and Hope and Endurance
Pastor Anthony

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!!!

My Earthly Dad! (Maybe not the best pic)
I happen to like Father's Day. I think it meshes with the Bible to have days dedicated to honoring fathers and mothers (Eph. 6.1-3). This seems appropriate. I even think it has the ability to teach great theology, not just that human fathers deserve honor, but that This Certain Other Father really deserves honor. After all, if we will honor our earthly fathers, how much more should we honor our Heavenly Father Who created, sustains, provides for us, encourages us, loves us, forgives us, heals us, saves us, listens to us, cares about us, strengthens us, calls us, sends us, among other things like sending Jesus to die for us, HIS OWN SON, and the Holy Spirit, TO LIVE IN US! Yeah, I think Father's Day is a great idea, because it helps point us towards some men who deserve honor because of the Father's grace on them His sons, but towards the Heavenly Father Who DESERVES HONOR. So, we Christians should honor our Father in Heaven first, our father on earth second, and fathers on earth in general. It's true, by honoring our fathers on earth, we set a precedent for honoring fathers, of which God the Father is the Prototype. By honoring fathers, we train ourselves individually and as a community (this is why churches should celebrate it) to honor fathers, our fathers, and the Father. So, this is my call to do that. This means we pastors should (if we preached a Mother's Day sermon) preach a Father's Day sermon, one that celebrates fathers and honors them.

But some of you who read this may not have a earthly father, and some of you may not have God as your Heavenly Father, but at least the last half can change. God wants to be your Heavenly Father. And He will be a better dad than you could have ever had. There is no compare. He will be the Father you never had, even if you had a dad. He is the Perfect Dad, so even if He blessed you with a good dad, you've never had a dad like God, a dad who perfect and never bad. Yet, others of you may have had bad dads, and there is little worse, and others may have had no dad--for you, God wants to be the Dad you never had, that is He wants to be your Real and Forever Dad! You probably are not so sure how to feel about that, but I'll tell you from the inside, He is the Best Dad ever, I even call Him Daddy! He loves so powerfully that He gave His Only Son to die for everyone who will trust Him to be their God and Dad, so that He could be our Perfect Dad (John 3.16). But He also loves so powerfully that whoever trust in His Son He pours His Holy Spirit into so that we feel loved and loved and loved!

So if you will just trust that God is Your Heavenly Dad, Who sent His Only Son to die in your place for your mistakes and for breaking His rules (He is still a dad, after all, so there had to be a punishment), and if you trust that He will send His Holy Spirit into you and make you feel so loved its crazy, and if you commit to showing that He is your dad by living by the rules of His House, then BOOM! You're part of the Family, Bro/Sis!

If you just became a part of the family for the first time, please let me know, so I can show you around the house, introduce you to some of the rest of the family, and teach you the groundrules for the family! Love ya, new bro/sis!


And to my earthly father, who's a great dad and always says he loves me,
Thanks, Dad! I love you! !!Happy Father's Day!!