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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Habakkuk, the Prophet who Questioned God



Habakkuk, the Prophet who Questioned God

 

 

 

Habakkuk lived in Judah in about 600 B.C. and was one of the prophets that God raised up to speak to his people.  One of the books of the Bible, Habakkuk, is named after him..

 

 Habakkuk lived during desperate times when many of the Jewish people had turned from God and were sacrificing to idols.  They had forgotten the poor and on every hand there was bloodshed and violence.  Habakkuk loves God and he loves his people and he is upset and overwhelmed by the evil and the injustice that is taking place all around.  Where is God in all of this?  Doesn’t God care that his people are suffering and the wicked are going free?  Why doesn’t God step in and stop the terrible acts?  Habakkuk goes to God with his questions!

 

Let’s listen as Habakkuk questions God.  “O Lord, how long shall I cry and You will not hear?  Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble?  For plundering and violence are all around me;  and there is strife and contention!  Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous: Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.”  (Habakkuk 1:2-4) 

 

Habakkuk is hoping that God will answer him and tell him that He will soon come down and show His mighty power and make the Jewish people behave.  Habakkuk is hoping for a quick and simple answer.  But God answers Habakkuk and the answer He gives Habakkuk blows his mind away!  (Habakkuk 1:5-11)

 

God comes and tells Habakkuk that He does care and He does have a plan.  God’s plan is that He will use the Babylonians – a dreadfully wicked nation- to punish his own people, the Jews.  God describes these Babylonians (Chaldeans) as terribly violent.  They come to take what is not theirs and they are accountable only to themselves for their actions. (Habakkuk 1:7) 

 

Some years after God revealed to Habakkuk what He was planning to do, it all happened.  Jerusalem was indeed conquered by the Babylonians as God had said. The Jewish people were taken off to Babylon as slaves and Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.   

 

Habakkuk is beside himself!  This isn’t the answer that he wanted to hear!  God has presented Habakkuk with an even greater stumbling block.  Is there no hope!  Habakkuk fusses and cries out and falls on his knees and questions God a second time.  Now he is even more upset and confused.

 

 Habakkuk argues with God and tries to tell God what to do. How can a just God who hates evil send these evil Babylonians against the Jewish people to punish them?  Is this the end for the Jewish people?  Will God allow the Babylonians and other violent nations to go on killing and conquering his people as well as other nations and not put a stop to this injustice?   .

 

After Habakkuk prays and asks his second question to God, he stops and listens for God:  “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart.  And watch to see what God will say to me.  And what I will answer when I am corrected.”  (Habakkuk 2:1)  So even though he is distraught, Habakkuk waits and watches anxiously for his God to answer. 

 

And of course God comes to Habakkuk a second time with the answer.  God begins by telling Habakkuk to write down what He is about to show him.  God wants Habakkuk to share the answers to his questions with all of His people!  Habakkuk’s questions will often be our questions and God’s answers are for us as well!  They are written there in God’s Word, the Bible, for us as our hope.  “Write the vision and make it plain and clear on tablets.” God tells Habakkuk.  (Habakkuk 2:2)

 

 Then God answers Habakkuk and tells him that indeed He WILL take care of those who have faith in Him and truly He WILL stop evil.  The Day will finally come when all of this will happen.  There will be victory for the faithful and evil doers will be stopped and punished.  God says: “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him: But the just shall live by his faith.”  (Habakkuk 2:4)  This statement about the just living by faith is repeated many times over in the New Testament and is a fundamental of our Christian faith.  

 

God tells Habakkuk that all of this (the resurrection and final judgment) will be happening at a later time.  God says: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time:  But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it: Because it will surely come.”  (Habakkuk 2:3)  We cannot begin to understand the mystery of God’s time table in dealing with evil but when evil has run its course then God will stop it and make everything right for the ones who live by faith through Christ.

 

God describes that future day when those who have built a city with bloodshed and iniquity will have labored in vain since all of their efforts will be for nothing.  “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  (Habakkuk 2:14)  When the final scores are added up, then only the persons who trust God will live. 

 

Habakkuk is speechless.  He doesn’t know what to say!  All the while Habakkuk had been worrying and focusing on the evil around him in the here and now.  But now God is raising his sights and revealing visions to him of a distant future when there will be the final victory of the faithful and also the fury of the judgment of evil.  Habakkuk is jubilant and overjoyed!  He has no more questions for God.  He has been allowed to see through God’s eyes on to the final glorious outcome!  Habakkuk falls down in worship and praise to God even before his circumstances have changed.  Even while violence is still surrounding him.   

 

Habakkuk raises his hands to heaven and sings a song of praise to God!  He praises God that God is his strength. That God is just. That God makes his feet like deer’s feet because he can now walk (spiritually) on the high hills.  That he can look past the troubles of today and see that future Day when every valley will be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low. The whole last chapter of Habakkuk is one big exuberant song of praise to God.   

 

I especially love the last part of Habakkuk’s praise song, so let me quote it for you.  “Though the fig tree may not blossom - Nor fruit be on the vines: - Though the labor of the olive may fail. -  And the fields yield no food - Though the flock may be cut off from the fold-  And there be no herd in the stalls- Yet I will rejoice in the Lord -  I will joy in the God of my salvation!”  (Habakkuk 4:17-18) 

 

Habakkuk has finally learned to praise God, even when the crops have failed and when the flock are cut off from the fold. Even when there is nothing to eat and everything around him has gone wrong.  Habakkuk has learned to praise God no matter what.  He has finally learned to praise God because God is the God of his salvation.  And love God because of who He is.  

 

 Like Martin Luther King Jr.who fought prejudice and injustice at every turn but still experienced hope for the future of his people because he had “been to the mountain top and seen the Promised Land”, Habakkuk had also been given these visions of the mountain top and the Promised Land, and it had changed him as well.

 

This peak into the future when those with faith will finally have the victory – this vision of the Day when Christ will come again and all will be restored – this radiant hope that is written about everywhere in Scripture isn’t meant to be there just for Habakkuk to enjoy.  It is meant to be there for you and me as well!      

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Good Life




The Good Life

 

 

“See, today I set before you good and life and evil and death.  Therefore choose the good and choose life that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19b)  Moses stood in front of the Israelites and spoke these words to them just before they were to cross over into the Promised Land.  The people recognized that God was speaking to them through Moses. 

 

God was telling his people that there would be new temptations and evil attractions in this new land that they had never been exposes to when they were living out in the desert.  There would also be new opportunities for good in this new land and new prospects for a richer life that they could choose.  There were many good and bad choices that they could make.  God has given all of his children the freedom to choose whatever they want.  But back then God was calling upon the Israelites to choose the good and to choose life. And He was begging them to stay away from evil.

 

God has that same message for us today.  Our heavenly Father begs his children to stay away from evil and challenges us to choose the good and to choose life.  God told the Israelites (through Moses) that they were choosing life when they loved Him and followed his commandments.  If the Israelites obeyed and did these things they would have a good life.  And He tells us the same thing today.

 

What does it mean to have a good life and how do we have it?  First of all we can have a good life if we choose the good and choose to stay away from the evil.  God’s promise of a good life doesn’t mean a problem free life.  But God does promises to be with his children and bless us and one of those blessings is peace. (John 14:27)  Peace is just one of the many gifts God gives us in this “good life”. But there are things that can steal our peace.

 

 Worry is one of those things.  Worrying will steal our peace and keep us from trusting God.  Trusting God allows us to enter into His peace and allows us to experience the faithfulness of God. So like the Israelites we also have choices to make on our life journey.  We can choose to trust God or we can choose to worry and be afraid. 

 

We may not believe it but we can help choose our thoughts.  We can choose to think and worry about the wrong or we can choose to trust God and think about His faithfulness.  We can choose to pick at another person’s faults or we can choose to look for their good qualities and pray for them.  We can choose to stay busy doing what is right and there will be no room to do what is wrong.

 

I used to believe that I couldn’t change my negative thoughts and I couldn’t stop my habit of worrying.  I had been a worrier all my life and that was just the way I was.  The devil had me stuck just where he wanted me.  Stuck in believing that I couldn’t change.  But Scripture says that when we have God’s help we can change the way we think – that we can “renew our minds!”  Here it is:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  (Romans 12:2)

 

God calls us to walk in faith and to trust Him with our problems.  But many of us have practiced worrying about our problems for so long that we believe that we will always worry about our problems.  Since we have practiced focusing on the negative for so long it may take time to learn to change and practice focusing on God’s faithfulness.

 

 God is calling us to “renew our minds” and we can do it.  And God doesn’t ask us to do anything that we can’t do!  We can practice praying and trusting God to help us with our problems.  It will take a lot of practice and patience trusting God but we have the Holy Spirit there to help.  Can you picture yourself not being tormented with worry any more but instead always joyfully trusting God?  Start picturing yourself that way and practice trusting God and soon you will be there.  That’s part of the good life.

 

Another part of living the good life is learning to love people and helping others when we can.  God is love and his nature is that of a giver.  (1 John 4:8)  God wants his children to be like Him and be loving and giving also.  He commands us to love and care for one another.  And to forgive one another.  But we often fall down on the job when we try to obey.  We can choose to love even when we don’t feel like it.  Again we will need to practice loving the people we find hard to love.  And keep choosing and practicing what God has commanded us to do.

 

 The Bible says we know we have passed over from death to life if we love the brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:14)  When we choose love we choose life.  People who live loving lives are generous people.  Generous people are usually happy people. 

 

And people who are not generous most often live unhappy lives.  Stingy people live small pathetic little lives.  We don’t have to be rich in order to be generous.  We can be generous in little ways.  Today a woman held the door open for me at the post office.  She smiled at me and wished me a nice day. She brightened my mood and I felt blessed.  We can be a blessing to others just by being friendly. And Scripture says: “Be mindful to be a blessing.”  (Galatians 6:10)

 

In her latest book “Power Thoughts” Joyce Meyers writes about the burden of being responsible for our life.  This is part of what she says:  “The most difficult burden we have to carry in life is self.  Managing self, our daily living, feelings, temptations, temperament, and inward affairs all can become a heavy burden if we do not place ourselves entirely in God’s hands by faith  Nothing is more tormenting than being controlled emotionally by outside forces.” 

 

Some of us struggle all our lives to be emotionally stable and content.  Scripture says: “Godliness accompanied with contentment is great and abundant gain.”  (1Timothy 6:6)  Emotional maturity is a priority in our lives.  We can pray and ask God to help us be emotionally stable and He will answer that prayer.  Psalms 94:13 tells us that God wants to give us power to stay calm when we are having troubles.  God has given us a new nature. The Bible says that we are to “put off” the old nature and “put on” the new nature.

 

 Two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are faithfulness and self control. Let us take the gifts God has for us and take them out and use them.  We can practice being faithful and we can practice self control. We can develop self control by using it. Our thoughts have a lot to do with our moods.  And we can choose our thoughts.  We can tell ourselves that with God’s help we are emotionally stable.  We can walk in his strength instead of in our weakness.  We can practice being appreciative and thankful.  And learn to focus on the good and pray about the problems. 

 

We not only want an emotionally stable life so that we can enjoy it but also because others need us to stay strong.  Others are counting on us to be reliable and faithful and true.  Jeremiah 17:8 and Psalm 1:3 tell us to be like trees firmly planted.  Scripture says that God’s people are like shinning stars.  (Phil 2:15 and Daniel 12:3)  We are meant to shine and we are meant to do good works.  When we walk the walk of faith we walk in power.  We have been given our lives for a purpose.  God is blessing and guiding us along the way.  Let’s not let anything hold us back from living the good life that God has for us.   

 

  

Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, Power Thoughts

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Standing on the Promises - Part 2




 

Standing on the Promises - Part 2

 

 

God gives us his Word to nourish us spiritually and to feed our faith.  Just knowing God’s Word can make a big difference.  When we have a problem we can find Scripture that speaks to that problem and draw wisdom and strength from the Scripture as we face the problem. 

 

There is a spiritual battle going on in this broken world between good and evil and we will be caught up in it.  God has given us armor and a sword to use in fighting this battle.  (Ephesians 6:14-17) And the “sword” God gives us is the “Word of God” or the Bible.  (Ephesians 6:17)  We need to learn to use our swords (the Scriptures) so we can fight the good fight and not give up. 

 

One problem in my life has come up over and over again down through the years.  That is the problem of fear.  Whenever a threat to myself or my family or my loved ones comes up, I automatically react with fear.  Scripture says: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but He gives us a spirit of power and of love and of a calm and well-balanced mind.”  (2 Timothy 1; 7)  When I feel fear I pray for that spirit of power and love and a balanced mind that God gives.  And I tell myself that. “I will not live in fear”.

 

When fear takes over I fall back on to the Scriptures.  One particular Scripture verse that gives me comfort when I am afraid is Isaiah 41:10 which reads: “Fear not for I am with you, be not afraid for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; yea I will help you; yea I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”  When I become anxious or fearful I am brought back into the comfort zone when I remember that God is with me and that He will do what needs to be done at the right time – even if that time is after I die. 

 

 Another Scripture I love is “Cast all your cares on Him, for He care for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7) Scripture instructs us to pray about the things that cause us to be afraid or anxious.  To bring our worries to God.  Instead of being fearful we are to be prayerful.  We are to exchange fear for prayer!  Every time we are afraid we pray.  Philippians 4:6 reads: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

 

And then if we bring our fears to God we are promised peace.  God will give us his peace in exchange for our fear.  That’s a great exchange isn’t it?  Here is what Scripture says: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:7)  Our heavenly Father does not want his children to live in fear.  God has promised us peace through Christ Jesus if we pray and give our troubles to Him.  It looks like we are encouraged to pray and give our problems to God and then we receive this gift of peace.    

 

Feeling fear is part of life.  But we can resist the fearful feelings and not let them get the best of us.  First pray about the fear.  Give the problem to God and pray for God’s grace to enable you to stand. Say to yourself: “I will not live in fear”.  And move out in God’s power and strength and love.

 

 We are called by God to walk in faith (not fear) and we need to learn to walk in faith.  Our heavenly Father wants us to do what we can and then trust Him.  Trusting God brings great peace.  And I believe that loving others as God has commanded us to do also  keeps us from living fearful lives.  If you wish to be free of fear and anxiety you need to learn to live loving and forgiving lives.  There are prescription drugs that can help with anxiety and fear.  But it would seem that Scripture prescribes love as effective in driving out anxiety and fear.  And there is no cost or unpleasant side effects to love like there may be with prescription drugs!

 

Scripture speaks of love driving out fear: “God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.  This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment.  The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.  We love because God first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen cannot love God who cannot be seen.  …Those who claim to love God ought to love one another also.”  (1 John 4:16b-21)     

 

The second promise is also for peace.  “Great peace have they who love Your law, nothing shall offend them or make them stumble.”  (Psalm 119:165) All through the Bible God promises his children great peace.  But why then do so few of us seem to have it?  This Scripture in Psalms describes the people who have this great peace.  These folks love God’s law and they will not let anything offend them or make them stumble. There again if these folks are living in God’s love they are quicker to overlook offenses.  

 

We seem to forget that there are things we need to do to receive God’s peace!  If while we are driving our car we get angry at a driver who cuts us off on the road, we lose some of the peace God intended for us to have for that hour.  Why give control of your day to other people?   It is so easy to become offended.  Things that can offend us are everywhere and we need to learn to leave them alone and not pick up the bait.  When people make us angry we can lose our peace if we stay angry.  In order to enjoy God’s wonderful peace we will need to be a person who is difficult to offend. 

 

In order not to become offended by an insult or a slight we may have to pray and ask God to help us and we may need to say to ourselves “I will not be offended”.  Offended people lose their peace because they become hurt and angry and jealous and bitter and resentful and hateful.  These toxic emotions affect our whole physical bodies in negative ways.  And the offense the offended person holds onto can lead to separation, broken relationships, betrayal, and more.  Then we lose the peace that God intended for us to enjoy.  All good reason to become the person who is difficult to offend.

 

Everywhere in Scripture God is calling his children to peace.  In order to be children of peace we need to be people who are difficult to offend.  Romans 12:18 says:  “If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.”  Forgiving those who offend us is one of the most spiritually powerful things that we can do.  God has commanded his children to forgive and with God’s help we can do it. 

 

The Bible promises us peace and encourages us to not live in fear and to become people who are difficult to offend.  It would seem that in order to keep the peace that God has promised us we will need to live our lives trusting God and loving God and other people.  And in order to live a loving life we may need to become people who are difficult to offend.  God has given us the gift of peace but we have our work cut out for us in order to keep that peace.  Let’s trust God and live a life of love.  Then we will open the door to more peace and joy than we will have ever known before! 

 

Some of these ideas were taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, Power Thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Standing on the Promises




Standing on the Promises

 

 

 

Just as our bodies need good food to become healthy and strong, our minds need good thoughts to become healthy and strong.  Scripture says: “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7)   What we think and believe shape the type of person that we become!

 

Scripture says that God offers each of us a great life and He creates us for a life of good works.  Scripture says it this way: “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good work” (Ephesians 2:10a)   But in order to do those good works and have that good life we have to run our life on good thoughts.  And that means we need to stay away from bad thoughts.  And we all know how difficult it is to stay away from some bad thoughts! 

 

Scripture says,” A person shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from God.”  (Matthew 4:4)  You will do better staying away from bad thoughts by filling your mind with thoughts from God’s Word.

 

 Also Scripture says: “As newborn babies desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.”  (1 Peter 2:2)  God’s Word is our spiritual milk and our spiritual food and we can build ourselves up spiritually on the Word.  Just as eating fruit and veggies help us grow a strong physical body, reading God’s Word helps us grow a strong spiritual faith.  Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17)   God gives us his Word to nourish us spiritually and to feed our faith. 

 

As we walk through life doing the good works we were given to do, we will face problems.  There is a spiritual battle going on in this broken world between good and evil and we will be caught up in it.  So God has given us armor and a sword to use in fighting this battle.  (Ephesians 6:14-17)  And the “sword” God gives us is the “Word of God” or the Bible.  (Ephesians 6:17) 

 

We need to learn to use our swords (the Scriptures) so we can fight and not give up.  Just knowing God’s Word and remembering certain verses in the Bible can make all the difference when a problem looks bigger than we think we can handle.  A person can actually “stand on the promise” and count on the truth of the Scripture when the problem arrises.

 

One of the many Scripture promises I like to count on to help me get through life is found in Philippians 4:13.  It reads: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I stand up in front of a large group to give a lesson and look out over the crowd.  I am a big chicken and soon a little voice inside my head says: “You are going to make a fool of yourself in front of all these people.  See you are getting a headache now and soon you won’t be able to finish this lesson.  Then what will you do?”  My thinking patterns are actually preparing me to be defeated before I ever start. 

 

 But then I take out my “sword” which is the Word of God and remind myself that: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And I thank God that He is there strengthening and empowering me.  I am not trusting in my own strength, but His sufficiency is now my sufficiency.  Then I move on and enjoy giving the lecture.  This little verse teaches me that I can do anything I need to do in life through Christ.  Anything!  It’s there for me to believe and use.  All I have to do is stand on the promise.

 

My next favorite scripture is Romans 8:38-39.  This scripture proclaims God’s love for us and keeping that thought always in our minds can help us make it through tough times. These verses read:: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

 

My grandmother once told me a sad story of a friend of hers named Blanche whose husband left her taking their two young children with him.  Months later when Blanche was finally reunited with her children, the children didn’t want to have anything to do with their mother!  Their father had gotten the children away and told the children that their mother was a bad person. Unfortunately the children believed their father and refused to even speak to their mother.  Blanche’s heart was broken but she hoped that time would heal her relationship with her children.    

 

Unfortunately time passed and her children never allowed their mother back into their lives.  Blanche began suffering from depression and felt that her life had lost its meaning.  If her own children rejected her she must be unworthy.  At church the pastor was preaching sermons about God’s love for his children and Blanche was encouraged to think that God loved her so.  She began to pray every morning before she went to work and her faith was strengthened by remembering that God accepted her and that as God’s dearly beloved child, her life did have great value and meaning..     

 

 Romans 8:38-39 promises that God will not reject us and Blanche became persuaded that that was true.  She repeated over and over to herself the many verses in Scripture that tell of God’s amazing love for his children.  Her faults may cancel out her family’s love but nothing would ever cancel out God’s love!  Blanche held onto that truth and it kept her going!  And we need to hold onto that truth too!  The wonderful truth that God loves us with an everlasting love.

 

This week we have learned two lessons - that we can do anything we need to do through Christ Jesus our Lord.  And that God loves us more than we can imagine and that He will never stop loving us.  Next week we will check out more amazing promises from the Bible – promises that will help us to keep doing those good works that God sets before us.  Promises to count on and enjoy and take with us on our journey through life.  Promises that we can stand on!  Tune in next week and you won’t be disappointed!   

 

 

 

 Some of the thoughts in this blog were taken from Joyce Meyer's book "Power Thoughts"