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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday message.

This week I was in the "minor" prophets:  Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah.  And what was on their minds was prophecy, telling backslidden Israel and treacherous Judah the coming consequences of their actions- as well as the light at the end of the tunnel.  Like the Chosen, we are supposed to "be holy, as I am Holy".  But we can also be backslidden, even treacherous- and maybe not even see it.  In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul warns of a coming "falling away", or apostasy.  And we look at that and say, "Look what the Church will do/is doing."  But the Church is made up of people; and just as our salvation is a personal relationship, one-on-one with Christ, so also is the falling away.  And in some of the signs shown by God in the prophets, we can see the evidences in them of our personal falling away- and it seems to start with attitude.  An attitude that we are either a)equal partners with God, who should be consulted on major decisions, or b) that God is "up there", an impersonal boss we answer to if the rules are broken.  Do we have those attitudes?  Let's look. 

I decided that in trying to study these chapters, to go to the "one thing that stands out".  In Micah, for me that point was in 2:10:

“Arise and depart,
For this is not your rest;
Because it is defiled, it shall destroy,
Yes, with utter destruction.

Attitude #1:  As Christians, we should sail through life's problems.  If you took a poll of the Saints born before the 19th or 20th centuries, I'll bet they'd laugh at THAT notion.  But think about it- A lot of us have NO IDEA what suffering is, think we can traipse into the life of some truly suffering soul wrapped in white linen and backed by a halo, and give them sweet words to help them.  And when the least thing comes to our door, we are almost offended that "God would allow this."  Wake up bunky, it's a fallen world.  It doesn't get up on its hind legs because you do.  And God is fine with that, because His focus is not this world.  And if we feel we deserve a break here, we are mistaken about the whole plan.

Nahum had a passage that seemed to me to dovetail with the severe problems with Detroit we've all been hearing about:

Woe to the bloody city!
It is all full of lies and robbery.
Its victim never departs.
The noise of a whip
And the noise of rattling wheels,
Of galloping horses,
Of clattering chariots!
Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear.
There is a multitude of slain,
A great number of bodies,
Countless corpses—
They stumble over the corpses—
Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot,
The mistress of sorceries,
Who sells nations through her harlotries,
And families through her sorceries.

“Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts;
“I will lift your skirts over your face,
I will show the nations your nakedness,
And the kingdoms your shame.
I will cast abominable filth upon you,
Make you vile,
And make you a spectacle.
It shall come to pass that all who look upon you
Will flee from you, and say,
‘Nineveh is laid waste!
Who will bemoan her?’
Where shall I seek comforters for you?” (From chapter 3)
Note in this a few things:
Full of lies and robbery- No one doubts the corruption of the city leaders that helped make Detroit what it is today; the police warn you "enter at your own risk", as gangs armed with AK guns hit gas stations in broad daylight.
The noise of rattling wheels... of clattering chariots- Is there a better way to describe how we all see the Motor City?
They stumble over the corpses- We've all heard the stories of bodies dumped in depopulated neighborhoods and not found for weeks.
Who sells nations with her harlotries- selling the American Dream on four wheels for decades, perhaps?
I will lift your skirts over your face... and make you a spectacle- mission accomplished.
Now, Nahum was talking about Nineveh.  Am I saying Detroit is as evil as Nineveh, or that their disaster was directly or indirectly prophesied here?  NO!  I am saying one thing in pointing out the similarities:
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. As Luke 11:32 shows Jesus saying:
The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.
Did Detroit go out to "become Nineveh?"  No, no one does.  As Jesus said later in Luke (17:27 to be exact):
27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
Moral of this story- don't expect to see the big black line you shouldn't cross.  The falling away will be in shades of gray.
In Habakkuk, the prophet looks around himself and asks two questions of God- Why don't you answer when I cry out? (1:2) and, Why do you "hold your tongue" when the wicked get away with everything? (1:13)  And God basically answers in two ways.  First, if you look, I do act in the short term (1:5-11), and Wait'll they get what's coming to them (basically all of chapter two, where He  declares woes upon them four times).  Lesson in this- God IS keeping a "naughty and nice list"- and ALL shall be repaid in the end.  Just because it isn't all taken care of "in your days" doesn't mean it won't get done.
Zephaniah goes a step farther in the beginning of chapter three.  In the 3rd and fourth verses, he admonishes the rulers who are leading the people astray- the Princes who are like "roaring lions", a lot of talk and evil action; the Judges, who like wolves devour the innocent; the Prophets, who have let their station go to their heads, becoming "insolent and treacherous"; and the priests, who pollute the sanctuary and do violence to the Law- in other words, cast away what is sacred and change the Law to meet up with society's "virtues".  But he also points out a people no less guilty in the first two verses, charging them with:
-Being rebellious and polluted;
-Oppressing others;
-Not obeying God's word;
-Not "receiving correction", IOW not taking the blame;
-Not trusting in God;
-and most important, not Drawing near to Him- in worship, in repentance, in humility.
It's easy to blame society's transformation on evil leaders, failed prophets, crooked judges- but in the end, WE are the ones they came from, we are the ones that put them in charge.  And we can switch them out all we want, but if we don't change as individuals, they won't change as rulers.  We'll just keep recycling the same trash.  The change doesn't start with ANYONE ELSE.
Haggai we have been through not so long ago, and we know the phrase he used over and over to sum this tale up:  CONSIDER YOUR WAYS!  He puts this to a test in Chapter two:
10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?”’”
Then the priests answered and said, “No.”
13 And Haggai said, “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.”
14 Then Haggai answered and said, “‘So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.

Once the people were unclean, everything they did was unclean.  Works were not making them holy- but obedience would.  and not because it was their accomplishment.  Consider Zechariah 3:

 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.


Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.
‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest,
You and your companions who sit before you,
For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
For behold, the stone
That I have laid before Joshua:
Upon the stone are seven eyes.
Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘Everyone will invite his neighbor
Under his vine and under his fig tree

Notice in this passage:
-Though Joshua was clothed in dirty garments, God rebuked Satan without even hearing his accusation.
-God removed his iniquity from him- it wasn't his obedience.
-However, it was because he was obedient that he was brought to this point, and by his obedience he would be given charge of more.
-And note, it is THE BRANCH through which God would remove the iniquity of the land IN ONE DAY.  Not by the one man's obedience, but by the one act of God.
So, summing up our lesson today, what do we need to watch out for in ourselves?
-The attitude that the Lord "owes us something";
-The idea that it can't happen to us;
-Impatience with the evil around us;
-Blaming it all on "society";
-and the idea that good works cover everything.
 My friend Shirley once again cut to the point earlier this week, that complacency is the enemy:

In the Church today, in the hearts of those who profess Jesus Christ as their Saviour, there is this heavy silence, this refusal to speak out loud in truth to one another, because, by and large, we've bought into the false belief that we can have a private faith which will offend no one. Going to church, singing songs, reading good books or even God's Word, doing good deeds and speaking only kind, positive words to each other has become a belief in itself, and generally speaking, discipline by God, is not needed nor accepted.

But this didn't work for Joshua the priest, it never worked for Job, and it won't work for us.  And if we think it will.... Detroit awaits.


    This was good stuffs, my friend!

    One portion that was particularly meaningful to me was this:

    Moral of this story- don't expect to see the big black line you shouldn't cross. The falling away will be in shades of gray.

    Indeed! A follower of Jesus does not wake up one morning and decide to rape and rob, steal and kill. A follower of Jesus can still convince himself that he is on his way to Heaven despite the fact he has transgressed in the grey areas, and never noticed how so much grey layered upon grey grows darker and darker, trending toward black.

    Maybe 6 to 8 months ago or so, I had a terrible nightmare. It was easily one of the most horrifying dreams I've ever had. There was not much "storyline" to it, so I didn't even attempt to analyze it (something I often do and seem to have a knack for). But the TERROR I felt in that dream has stuck with me.(That alone should have clued me in that the dream was a Divine message and not just late night pizza.)

    While thinking about what you said in this blog bit (those two sentences I copied and pasted above), I suddenly remembered my nightmare again and what was perhaps the most significant part of the message, which I had not even considered before: In the dream, I accidentally BACKED INTO the cause of my terror!

    I didn't mean for that to happen, I didn't walk right into the thing, but mistakenly backed into it and was caught up in it.

    Oh, yeah, watch out for the "grey areas"! I don't commit the black sins, but I am guilty of some grey sins. And how many grey sins does it take to make a black sin? I'd better not find out.

    Thanks, Brother, this was excellent.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Watching out for "backing into it". How well put! Satan seldom gives us an a or b choice. This is one point I wish I could have read the comment before I wrote the post!

    2. Ha! But of course there could be no comment before the post. Damn the chronology!!!

      Something I've been meaning to tell you...

      It seems you called it spot-on! In that one Biblically-themed comment section exchange you were following on my blog, you wrote:

      >>... "...most commenters such as this usually shake their heads at this point and go away. I will be interested to see what happens next."

      I never did receive another submitted comment from our "agnostic" friend.

      I'd like to think that he went off to find a copy of that book I recommended to him, but... the smart money's betting that he just shook his head and went away.

      He may be on some other Christian blog as I type these words, and using the same arguments to support his "agnosticism" that I already factually debunked. ("There are none so blind...)

      Anyway, unless he's reading the book I urged him to find... you called it, Bro.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

    3. When you understand the script they're working from, it ain't hard to know what comes next. But I don't have to tell YOU that...

  2. -The attitude that the Lord "owes us something";
    I don't remember anyone ever suggesting that the Lord owed anyone anything. The Lord has made promises to us, and those promises will be kept. That isn't a debt.

    -The idea that it can't happen to us;
    Of course it can happen to us. The evil one likes nothing so much as our belief that 'it can never happen to me'.

    -Impatience with the evil around us;
    The 'holier than thou' attitude.

    -Blaming it all on "society";
    Yes. If I hadn't been tempted, I would never have comitted that sin. I could write reams about this, but suffice to say that the Lord will provide us with the help to resist temptation, and all we need to do is ask for it.

    -and the idea that good works cover everything.
    I'm reminded of a child in Sunday school who was confronted by the idea of 'good works' and tried to come to grips with the obvious flaws. It didn't work out too well then.
    Good works will not get you into heaven. There's only one way in, and the Lord has given it to me and to everyone who wants it.

    Good stuff, CW.

    1. Thank you for the commentary. I know I have been guilty of arguing with God about "the way you're doing this" a few times. Guess what? He doesn't have to clear things with me.