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Category Archives: Advent 2015

Thy Kingdom Come … Now!

It’s Christmas Eve! At sundown, let the 12 Days begin!

But for these last hours of Advent, and for our final leg of the journey, read Amos 9:13-15 one more time.

hills“The time will come,” says the Lord, “when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested! Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine. I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again. They will plant vineyards and gardens; they will eat their crops and drink their wine. I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.Amos 9:13-15, NLT

Two days ago, we saw that the “booth of David” would be rebuilt from the ruins. Yesterday, we were told that this Kingdom would be international in scope, possessing a remnant from “all the nations.” Today, we get a peek at what this rebuilt global community will look like.

A God-man cooperative! God will bring the people back, and God will plant them in the land. But it will be the people who will rebuild the cities, and plant the vineyards. Immanuel, “God with us”, will enfold us into a life of purpose, productivity, and celebration. (If any of you think heaven will be boring, don’t!).

wineAbundant prosperity! Our God, Who says “blessed are the poor”, has great riches in store for His people when He comes again. The imagery here is fantastic – enough to excite any commodities broker to buy low, and sell high! Production so abundant that the supply chain can’t even keep up? So much wine that it will look like the hills are dripping with it? (That doesn’t sound like Genesis 3:17-19, does it?) No more let thorns infest the ground … He comes to make His blessings FLOW far as the curse is found!


Abundant life!
I so love this picture. We’re not talking about a one-time feast (like many of our Christmas day celebrations). And we’re not talking about the consumerism-induced transience that has turned today’s believers into a bunch of frenetic church hoppers. And we’re not talking about “churches” that have become “as-long-as-the-front-door-is-bigger-than-the-back-door” retail franchises. No, God is going to “firmly plant them” in the land- what will now and forevermore be their land. Deep roots. No deracination. Never again will these aliens and strangers, these wanderers, these sojourners, have any cause or reason to leave. Home. Rest. Health. Peace.

Is all of this coming in the future, or do we get to experience it now?

Yes.

We celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th (the manger, the shepherds, the holy family). But the “thrill of hope”, why “the weary world rejoices”, is that the incarnation of Jesus on that first Christmas brought His Kingdom to bear on this world now! Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the divine cooperative has commenced. We can, now, experience abundant life, and usher others into the “foretaste of glory divine” that is life in His church! Hallowed by Thy name, now! Thy reign in the lives of your chosen people come, now! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, now!

– – – – – –

In conclusion, the short version of our Advent journey: We are a hell-bent people. We live for ourselves, and disregard others. And our worship of God is terminally infected by this condition. The Day of the Lord is near, and on that day, the plumb line will ultimately be dropped by God. He rules the world with truth and grace: Those who remain in their stubborn, selfish, godless ways will face a horrific judgment. Those whose hearts are pierced to repentance will get 9:13-15!

May your Christmastide be rich as you enter into the feast of abundance with your wonderful savior. He has come! … and is coming again! Maranatha!, and Merry Christmas.

– EO

 

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Christianity, Eschatology

 

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The Gospel According to Amos

Again, Read Amos 9:8b-15

HOPE! Part 2 of 3

Two more days until we celebrate Jesus’ coming! Amos is really helping us see how significant this coming, and the establishment of Jesus’ new Kingdom on earth, truly is.

In verse 8b, the ray of hope peeps in at the conclusion of Amos’ prophecies of judgment on Israel. The Gospel! … Do you see it? The house of Jacob will not be utterly destroyed!

Okay, that’s great … for the house of Jacob. But that ain’t me, is it?

God never has, isn’t now, and never will be dealing with Israel strictly in terms of their national interests. No, since the call of Abraham, this whole “chosen-nation thing” has had everything to do with the whole planet, not just the Jews. Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3). Sometimes called “The Great Commission of the Old Testament”, this call and promise encourages Abraham to rise above his ethnic and familial ties, and go on a mission that will (don’t miss this!) bless “all the families of the earth”!

God’s relentless mission to redeem for Himself a people now plays itself out in His word to Israel through Amos, in two Ways:

 “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth” (v. 9). God is dealing with Israel, but is not doing so privately. Their judgment is not intended to go unseen by the watching world. They are being shaken “among all the nations”. As Abraham was a blessing to Canaan … as the Israelites were a blessing to Egypt … as the Ark of the Covenant was a blessing to the house of Obed-Edom … as the people Judea would be a blessing even to Babylon, while in Exile … and, of course, as the Messiah Jesus would come to bless all mankind, they have this in common: All were shaken among the nations. God has always paraded His suffering people around the world, as a testimony of His grace and truth to all, and as a means of His blessing to the world through their sacrifice.

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David … that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name” (v.11-12). When was the booth of David raised up? When Jesus, of the line of David, came to establish His Kingdom. This Kingdom, though, is far bigger, wider and inclusive than the political nation of Israel, and the ethnic clan of the Jews. It will even include “the remnant of Edom”, now “called by My name”. (Edom … remember “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”? Here, we have Esau’s tribe being included in the new Davidic people.) Not only the Edomites, but “all the nations” who are called. Jesus’ command that the gospel be preached to the four corners of the earth displays that His Messianic Kingdom is, literally, for all the nations.

When Jesus comes, He will be born into a lost people, Israel. One people among many lost peoples in a lost world. He will come to save them … and us. Now, we, too, will be a part of the people of God. Now, we, too will be shaken among the nations for the glory of God and the blessing of mankind. And we will be the ones who will receive an amazing inheritance when we return! (That’s the finale…see you tomorrow!).

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

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The Past of Our Future

Read Amos 9:8b-15

HOPE! Part 1 of 3

After what we’ve been reading in Amos, v.8 is so refreshing! “‘Except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord.” God will sift His people through the sieve of His judgment, but a remnant of solid stones will remain!

Remnant. God always takes a bit of the past in order to build the future. Remember Noah and the Ark? God could have really started from scratch, and just made a new Adam and Eve. But He doesn’t.

Evangelical Orphan was launched out of a desire to better know the remnant God has used through time to bring me us where we are today. I was “orphaned” when I became a Christian in a Restoration Movement church. Leaders adopted an ahistoric primitivism, saying that the remnant through Church history was irrelevant after the New Testament accounts, and that all we need is God’s pure revelation, the scriptures, in order to build our family expression today.

True?

But God, and His Word, betray a different agenda. Encased in our texts is our Biblical heritage, Old Testament and New, warts and all. God wants us to know this time-and-space history. And Jesus came as the fulfillment of that history: the seed, the root, the stump, the branch. And now we are grafted into that history through the Messianic gospel being proliferated to the nations.

God never gave up on His covenant people, and did a do-over. Why do we think that, since Christ, God gives up occasionally on His Church, but does a contemporary do-over today? Because we deserve it more than they have in preceding centuries? Because we’ve are more, I don’t know, enlightened? (Don’t get me started…)

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (v. 11). God could start over. Instead, He deals with ruins. And the completed project will be a re-stored people “as in the days of old.” We look back for an image of our glorious future. (I love that the “booth” or “hut” of David is contrasted with the ritzy, collapsing temple at Bethel earlier in the chapter.)

“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them”  (v. 14). God will restore (see also v. 11, v. 15), but the people will do the rebuilding. Like Nehemiah, we are to be about God’s business of exploring our collective rubble, and rallying our people for the rebuilding of our tradition.

The past provides the plumb line for our building of our today, and our tomorrow. Our hope is firmly imbedded in our heritage. Without a keen sense of our history, we are lost. With it, we have hope.

Who is this hope for? And what will it look like? Two more days, friends…two more days…

– EO

 
 

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Amos’ Last Judgment

Today, it’s one last look at Amos’ pronounced judgment on Israel … tomorrow, we get three days of grace before Christmas!

Amos 9:1-8a

“I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said ‘Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape.”

Get the picture? God is standing in the worship center, where the syncretistic, back-slidden worship has been taking place. As we have learned throughout this book, God hates it. He in essence says, “bring it down.” Those who don’t die from the building’s collapse will be slain by the sword. Such was the flood in Genesis 7. Such will be the retribution experienced by unbelievers at Jesus’ return. So sad that these think they believe – they’re actually “at church” when their destruction comes. A specter of the future?

“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them.

If they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them;
If they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
If they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”

Hell, heaven, mountain top, sea bottom, in a far-off nation … there’s no getting away from God’s will. (See Romans 8:35-39 for the flip side of this story. God has His eyes fixed on you … one way or another.)

“The Lord God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—the Lord is his name.”

When John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus said, “tell John what you hear and see” (Matt. 11:4). God the Father? Same. Just look at the power of creation – “That’s Me”, says the LORD.

“Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground.”

All this is happening to “God’s chosen”. They think they’re special, and that God could never bring judgment like this upon them. But God reminds them of the gospel truth: All the nations have always been in the hand of God. Israel is certainly no better – they just have a different purpose, and enhanced expectations. Unforgiven sin is unforgiven sin, no matter who commits it. Without repentance, and the shedding of blood, there is no salvation.

No question Amos was an unpopular preacher. He and his message were, like so many prophets before him, rejected. “We’ll roll the dice, and hope that he’s wrong. Our worship, and the way we spend our money … it can’t be that bad, can it?”

Yes, God came. Israel vanished for two millennia. He’s coming again, soon, and promises judgment on sin. And grace to those who believe, and are born of the Spirit (we’ll get to that tomorrow!) Are you ready?

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

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Eat Up, It’s Advent!

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Read Amos 8:11-14

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it. In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’ they shall fall, and never rise again.”

The Apostle Peter compares our spiritual growth to a craving. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:2-3). And what do we crave? Just like the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, we are spiritually dependent on the provision of God for our souls – His presence, His people, and most of all, His Word. Without it, our souls will die.

We live in the Information Age. Never before have we had so much access to words. I remember the days when I got my information from libraries, encyclopedias, newspapers, the radio, and the nightly TV news. In retrospect, I knew virtually nothing about what was happening on any given day! Now, we have instant access to the whole world. We can google anything. And, with smart phones having become permanent appendages at the end of our arms, we’re never at a loss for words, and the information they carry.

So it’s hard for me to picture a day when we’ll be at a loss for Bibles. But, as Matthew Henry says, “They shall have the written word, Bibles to read, but no ministers to explain and apply it to them, the water in the well, but nothing to draw with.”

I find myself wanting to ramble on the ramifications of this famine … about the incredible increases of people converting to Jesus all over the world, but the acknowledged lack of teachers to disciple them … or Amos’ reference to swearing “by the Guilt of Samaria” or “As your god lives, O Dan”, which is much like our secular world choosing to swear by the truth of the scientific academic academy.

But, keeping in the Advent spirit … Jesus is coming! He is the Word, made flesh, coming to dwell among us. Christmas means that God wants the Word among us. His Word is made real to us in the Spirit-filled hearing, reading and study of the scriptures.

But, are we experiencing our own personal famine of the Word? Are we spiritually anorexic? “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:3-4). We have all of this … are we digging into it?

We have five days until Christmas! Let’s prepare for His Word becoming flesh by celebrating and soaking in His revealed Word now. May you crave it, and may its truth prepare you for a glorious celebration of his birth.

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

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Last Minute Gift Idea

Read Amos 8:7-10

(As we get closer to Christmas day, all of our cultural cues are telling us to immerse ourselves in nice thoughts and cozy things. Thus, it gets harder for us to look squarely at the tough passages in Amos. Hang in there with me! It is always darkest toward the dawn. Keep your hope stretched, your longing strong, and remain an Advent disciple to the end. I truly believe it will enhance your celebration of the 12 Days of Christmastide.)

A reminder before we get started: The people of Israel at this time thought everything was fine! Sales were up, net worth was up, attendance at attractive church services was up … how odd that this Judean farm boy was saying these ridiculous things about our need to repent!…

Each week, during our church’s morning worship service, we begin with Confession and Absolution. We collectively obey the scriptures to together confess our sins, and then we receive the assurance of God’s forgiveness, according to His Word (e.g., 1 John 1:8-9). Each week, I walk through the shame of my personal valley of the shadow of death, and am taken to the green pastures of experienced grace. My soul depends on this. As the Psalmist says, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3). Instead, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 130:12).

That’s why verse 8:7 is so startling to my eyes and ears. According to God-through-Amos, not only was Israel in the wrong, but they had taken the LORD to the point of no return. “The Lord has sworn … ‘surely I will never forget any of their deeds!’” If God said that to me … to any of us … we would be lost forever. Our eternal separation from God and consignment to the horrors of Hell would be final.

And my grief would be relentless. As Amos puts it, days would be dark, feasts would be cancelled, songs would be muted … and then, most severe of all, God says “I will make it like the mourning for an only son” (8:10). At our church recently, a family experienced the death of their only son. He was only 11 years old. The sense of loss was truly overwhelming. They, and everyone who knew them, spent many days in incredible grief. It’s a pain that this family, and our whole church, hope to never have to experience again.

But, that pain is the trajectory for our unsaved, unrepentant world. They are on a crash-course for a forever separation from the God they choose to ignore today.

Our world, blind and deaf to God, doesn’t need a gift, a cookie, a cup of wassail, a carol and a snuggle. The gift they so badly need is the gift of repentance. They need not only the baby in the manger, but the piercing truth of His words, and the benefits of His cross.

Our Father God is truly “acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3) He chose to experience the loss of His only Son, so that our collective grief can be replaced by joy to the world. Amos boldly called the people back to God. Will we do the same? And, by doing so, go beyond the cozy Christmas glaze, and introduce the lost to the only gift that matters?

– EO

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Evangelism

 

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Advent Economic Indicators

Read Amos 8:4-6

Back to the economy…

“Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

I just can’t shake this one. God is incredibly angry at Israel for … well, can I just say it? For doing business like Americans have done business for years.

Business is quite simple: Spend as little as possible in the creation of your product, and sell it for the highest possible cost. That’s good business. Supply and demand. Taking advantage of whatever the market will bear.

Two things come to mind this morning. Black Friday, and the Dodgers.

Image result for unbelievable black friday pricesBLACK FRIDAY: To paraphrase 8:5, “When will the Thanksgiving holiday be over, so we can sell our stuff?” The heart of the “good” businessman is to take advantage of every opportunity to make a buck … even if it means running roughshod over sacred traditions.

And we all know that these stores make a killing on Black Friday, even with the lowering of their prices. How can this be? Because their products, when sold at “retail” or “suggested manufacturer’s” prices are marked up at incredibly high levels. To paraphrase 8:6, “We make the value small and the price high, hide the products’ true worth, and control the market, forcing the poor to overpay for their food and clothing.”

THE DODGERS?: Speaking of overpaying for value received … here in Arizona, tickets are on sale already for spring training games. For my family to go to one of these exhibition games (featuring scrubs and wannabes), it would cost $64. Plus parking. Plus, if we’d like a bite to eat. exorbitantly overpriced food. In short, well over $100. Honestly, we can’t afford that right now.

Why do the Dodgers charge so much? “Because they can.” Someone will pay it. And that “someone” is a well-off person. Because the rich can, the businessman will, and the poor can’t. 

And, of course, this isn’t limited to baseball games: it’s true of good food, housing, health care, transportation, you name it. When the rich work the system, lining their pockets at the expense of the poor, God calls this “trampling on the needy”, and “bringing ruin to the poor of the land” … all for a bit a growing pile of silver, and a closet full of shoes.

What kind of economics do you think Jesus wants to find being practiced by His people when He returns? Shall we be found helping the poor, or exploiting the market? If the whole system is fraught with greed and selfish ambition, how do we rise above it?

Pow Wow

“Produce on Wheels – Without Waste” at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church, Gilbert AZ

Perhaps, instead of spending $10 on a grossly overpriced, disposable, “Made in _____” product for a “loved one”, maybe we should spend that $10 on some truly needed and valuable farmers’ market goods, and give them to some “loved ones” … or, as Jesus calls them, “the least of these” (read Matthew 25:31-46). That would fly in the face of Amos 8 economics … and be gifting Jesus.

– EO

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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Christianity

 

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