RSS

Tag Archives: Advent 2015

I Have Until Friday?

Read Amos 7:1-9

I have a hypothetical situation for you. Suppose God came to you with a choice: He was either going to send Jesus to return right now, or on Friday. If He returns right now, you are changed to your immortal body in the twinkling of an eye, and all the features of heaven are yours to experience, right now! Or, if you wait until Friday, you have three days to make one last appeal to the unbelievers in your life … and then you get the blessings of His coming.

Which would you choose?

By the way, this isn’t very hypothetical (except the Friday part). The Apostle Peter tells us that “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly … The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:7-13).

I thought about this passage from the New Testament while reading Amos 7. Here, Amos is privy to a vision of a God-initiated infestation of locusts, in judgment of the people of Israel. Amos says, “O Lord God, please forgive!” The LORD relents. Next, Amos sees that God is preparing another act of judgment – this time a catastrophic fire. Amos cries, “O Lord God, please cease!” The Lord relents. Amos knows they are guilty. Amos knows they are deserving. But He begs the Lord for mercy, and they receive it because of Amos’ intercession.

Are you ready to stand in the gap between the promised judgment of your righteous God, and the hell-bent people around you? Would you do all you can to delay that final verdict and sentence on their sin? I guess the question isn’t, “are you ready?”, but rather “are you doing it?” … because this is our situation right now. Actually, we may not have until Friday. It may be in the next five minutes.

But maybe God will relent on His own? Maybe the universalists are right – that everyone will enjoy God’s favor, because He’s a God of love, and our “sin” ain’t so bad? Verses 7-9 put an end to such talk. Yes, God has twice shown mercy to His sinful people, but this time…

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them [e.g., extend my mercy and wait] and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [cf., Israel] with the sword.”

Image result for "everyone goes to heaven" signA plumb line is “a ​piece of ​string with a ​weight ​attached to one end, used either to ​test if something ​vertical is ​exactly ​straight”. God is going to, once and for all, measure the people. It will be based His standards, his right-ness, His holiness. On that day, if you don’t “measure up”, your destruction is upon you.

“But nobody’s perfect! Who will be able to stand up against the measure of God’s plumb line?” Only one has ever been perfect- Jesus, the Christ. He offers you His righteousness for the plumb line test. In fact, He offers His righteousness to everyone you know. Have you let them know that it’s available? You may want to get that word out …

Because it may be useful on Friday.

A bit more on this text tomorrow…

– EO

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology, Evangelism

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Shhhh!

First Monday of Advent

Read Amos 6:9-14

(For those of you who have been following along through this whole Advent blog … are you starting to find yourself longing for some grace?!? I sure am. I suppose that’s a good place for the soul to be during Advent…)

Today I’m amazed at just how stubborn and misinformed we can be when it comes to God.

In vs. 9-10, we have this grizzly prophetic anecdote. Because of the judgment of God on their sins, an entire household of ten will be found dead in their house. An uncle will come by to do his duty of cremating the bodies. While searching for bodies and carrying out his task, he will say, “Shhhh! We must not mention the name of the Lord!”

Why would anyone want to be careful not to mention the name of the Lord?

Perhaps this uncle is in denial. He is stubbornly refusing to believe that what has happened has anything to do with God. Despite the tragedy, he still doesn’t give God his attention.

Or maybe it’s the opposite: Perhaps he knows the LORD is behind the destruction, and he doesn’t want God’s wrath to be kindled any more than it already has been. God has his attention … but his response is misguided.

Our increasingly secular nation seems to be quoting this Samarian uncle these days. “Shhhh! We must not even mention the name of the Lord.” Do they say this because they stubbornly-yet-genuinely refuse to believe in God’s existence? Or might they, deep down, hold to some semblance of belief, and hate the mention of God because it reminds them that a day of reckoning is coming?

Either way, it is pathetic. Though God shows Himself strong all around us, let’s seal our mouths, plug our ears, and burn the bodies. Our godless world, at its most ignoble.

What’s wrong at the root is the theology behind the “shhhh.” tasteGod is nothing but good! He created an amazingly beautiful world. Her provides for us miraculously every day. He has saved us time and again (g
arden, flood, exodus, conquest, battles, returns from exile, and ultimately in Jesus). He speaks to us through his prophets. His people
have brought countless practical blessings to the world. And the good news, that God loves, forgives, blesses, empowers and makes alive, continues to take hold of people all over the world, filling them with “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8). That is God! And that is grace! Why would you want to “shhhh” that?

Well, ignoring God doesn’t make Him go away. Israel’s godless insistence on injustice, unrighteousness and self-confidence will result in their being “shattered to pieces.”

Advent. A time of proclamation. Don’t let the “shhhh” keep you from calling out to Him, and proclaiming His return.

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Eschatology

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

God, Do You Hate Our Worship?

Read Amos 5:21-27

I have been a pastor for worship for several churches in my career. One thing that has always been true: When it comes to high holy days, we ramp up the arts. It seems obvious that the major festivals – especially Christmas and Easter – deserve our best, artistic offerings of worship. It’s as though we want to give God the biggest possible “thank you” for His actions connected to these important days. (Either that, or we want to impress and entice unbelievers.)

Today’s passage in Amos 5 makes me wonder if we’re really on the right track, especially during Advent.

Israel’s religion was strong. The faith-centers were well funded. The music being made was probably at a never-before experienced cultural apex.  Hey, if God is prospering us, attendance is great, and our arts expressions are excellent, surely God must be pleased, right?

A paraphrase of v.21-23 for our modern day has God saying through Amos … “I hate your big productions, as well as your pensive, ‘worshipful’ services. You’re taking big offerings, but they’re not for me, and I don’t want them. I choose to not even take notice. I prefer silence to your worship music, and I’m ignoring your massive bands and sound systems.” Is there any chance God feels this way about today’s contemporary, megachurch worship? Especially during the holidays, when so many of the people singing along don’t even believe?

But why, exactly, was God so against these services? Because the people were practicing injustice and unrighteousness (v.24). The familiar theme of Amos is repeated: The economics of the rich were oppressing the poor. In addition, their worship practices were filled with unholy influences. Sakkuth, Kaiwan, some images … very trendy, very inclusive, very fashion-forward, very worldly … and very much detested by the LORD. The next stop for these worshipers? Forced exile.

The heart of Advent is that we would prepare our hearts from the coming of Christ. If these Israelites had prepared themselves in light of Amos’ prophecies, they would have jettisoned their corrupted worship practices, and focused their attention on generously loving their neighbor as themselves. We ought to do the same thing. But it’s hard to focus on this kind of self-assessment and repentance when we crank up the Christmas music, go to special performances, gorge ourselves at parties and feasts, and spend hours in the temples built to the god Mammon (the malls).

My takeaway today? I need some silence this season. Time to truly consider the LORD, the call of His Word, and the needed preparations for His arrival. As the carol declares, “He makes the nations prove the glories of righteousness.” Before He does that by means of the nations, may He do that, by His Spirit, through His holy nation, the people of God. Might His righteousness roll like an ever-flowing stream from the lives of His church.

Then our songs shall truly be heard by the only audience that matters.

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 13, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Worship

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

20151211_071329 (2)Yesterday, I penned these words: “Get up early … Take in the sunrise.” Today I was gifted with a beautiful desert morning – as if God was saying, “I’m good. I’m beautiful. And I’m coming soon. Return to me again today.”

The beauty of the sunrise is portent of grace for those who believe. For those who don’t, not so much.

Read Amos 5:1-20

(Amos begins by heaving a personal, heavy sigh. “They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.” Yup. More often than not, we believe that what we’re doing is the right thing. No one wants to feel like they need correction. No one wants to be called a sinner. No one wants a prophet meddling in their business. “For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins” (v.12). Yah, that’s going to go over well.)

As is the case with all of God’s prophets and their prophecies, there is a grace-calm before the judgment-storm: “Seek good! … the LORD will be with you! … It may be that the LORD will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph!” (vs.14-15). That’s the call of Advent – return to the Lord, and seek His presence in a good, reconciled way! I hope you’re embracing that message, because…

THE DAY OF THE LORD

… His presence does not always mean mercy. He’s coming soon, and “will pass through the midst of you” v.17), but the result of that day, “The Day of the Lord”, will be bitter wailing, mourning and lament. In short: For those who have prepared for His coming, it will be the most fantastic day we could imagine! Beyond what we could ask, think, or imagine, actually. But for those who haven’t prepared, who aren’t reconciled with God, who have not been born again by the Spirit…

“Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes … Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming … the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” – Joel 1:15, 2:1,11

“Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.” – Isaiah 13:6,9

“That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood.” – Jeremiah 46:10

“For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.” – Ezekiel 30:3

“The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.” – Zephaniah 1:14

Amos also says in today’s text:

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” – Amos 5:18

The spirit of the Advent season is so important! We don’t want to be on the outside looking in of God’s grace at the return of Christ. And we don’t want that for the world around us. Get ready … and spread the urgent word of reconciliation! Oh, and live well … that’s tomorrow’s theme.

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Please!…Seek Me and Live.

Second Thursday of Advent

Read Amos 5:1-9

If you actually enjoy bringing bad news, you’re pretty terrible.

Image result for getting my brother in troubleAmos wasn’t like that. He had a stern word for Israel … but he wasn’t like a young child who takes a perverse delight in narking on a sibling. He doesn’t want his brothers and sisters to get in trouble with the Father. No … his prophecy is a lamentation (5:1). He wishes it wasn’t true. But it is.

And it’s grim. The Word of the Lord to Amos is predicting a 90% military slaughter (5:3). Imagine this: In World War II, the U.S. had over 16 million people in the armed services. The total number of casualties? Over 400,000. That’s absolutely awful … but it was a mere 2.5%. To match Israel’s prospect, the U.S. would need to have lost over 14 million people. Can you even comprehend that kind of grief? And what such a defeat would do to your national identity?

With tears in his eyes, and a clear vision of Israel’s tragic trajectory, God cries out to His chosen people through Amos: “Seek me and live! Seek the LORD and live!” The choice seems so clear. But their hearts are so hard.

false teacherThis call to seek God, by the way, was not a call to get religious. The LORD says clearly, “Don’t seek Bethel. Don’t enter Gilgal. Don’t go to Beersheba” (v.5). These were the religious centers of Israel. Each place had deep religious roots (Bethel/Jacob, Gilgal/Joshua, Beersheba/Abraham). But these places had grown spiritually cold because of Israel’s injustice and unrighteousness, and would be of no help to them now. It wasn’t a time to get religious – it was time to go to God directly, and personally. “Seek me and live!”

Against this harsh projection comes a beautiful reminder. “Get up early, and go to the beach. Take in the sunrise. Watch the waves crash on the shore. Enjoy the sunset. Now look at those stars! The one who made all of this … it’s the LORD! You can enjoy all of this, and the God Who made it! …”

“Or you can experience the destruction that I can make happen just as easily” (cf. v.8-9).

The imminent return of Jesus, and therefore the season of Advent, should cause us to think very soberly about the state of our souls, the state of our churches, and the state of our world. Are we seeking God, and living? Are our churches, today, centers of real seeking and living? And, does the unbelieving world know how high the stakes are when it comes to God’s call to seek Him, and live?

Tomorrow, Amos will reinforce the gravity of what it means that Jesus is returning. We’ll pick it up then in verse 10 …

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 10, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Unbelief, Naturally

Read Amos 4:6-13

One of the reasons we don’t look forward to Jesus’ coming as much is we should is, because … well, it’s hard to believe. It would be an absolute miracle, and people just don’t believe in miracles these days.

For the past 500+ years, the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution have led us to a naturalistic view of the world: Real truth, natural truth, is determined by scientific experimentation. Miracles don’t mix with this naturalistic approach – hence the term “supernatural.” The backlash of this new rational order is to cast those who believe in the supernatural as superstitious, backward and irrational. If there’s one doctrine we get mocked about more than any, it’s the idea that Jesus is going to come back and make everything right.

What does this have to do with Amos 4?

In these verses, Amos makes a list of disasters that had befallen Israel: Famine (v.6), drought (v.7-8), crop disease (v.9a), infestation (v 9b), and pestilence (v.10a). These kinds of events are happening all over our world right now. But, for the most part, the intelligent people of the western world have disassociated these things from God. Instead, we call them “natural disasters”.

Amos also describes wars (v.10b-11). We don’t call these “natural” disasters, but we still don’t attribute these to God. These are our issues as humans. We’re the sovereign creators of our own hostilities. So, neither wars nor natural disasters seem to make us think much about God.

God, Amos, and the ancients, didn’t see it like this. God makes it clear that there are no natural disasters. They are God-disasters. “I gave you … I also withheld … I would send … I struck you … I laid waste … I sent … I killed … I carried away … I overthrew.” God is the agent of all of these acts, and He is incredibly disappointed that the Israelites don’t see that. He’s trying to get their attention! But, four times God marvels that “yet they did not return to me” (v. 6,8,9,10,11).

The result of this callous numbness to the divine initiative? “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” They had forgotten Him. And they’re about to get re-introduced to “the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!” (v.13).

So, our naturalistic bent has turned our attentiveness to divine revelation on its head. A Biblically appropriate reaction to tragedy should be: “This terrible thing is happening – God must be real, and is getting our attention!” Instead, our unbelieving world says: “Because this thing is happening, there must not be a God, because He wouldn’t ‘let’ this happen if He existed.” The louder God screams, the harder our hearts and minds become.
So many in our modern world don’t believe God exists. But this isn’t as new as we think. It has been the case for millennia. Don’t worry! God isn’t losing sleep because of people’s disbelief. He continues to be God. He listens. He speaks. He brings down, and lifts up. He’s in control. And He isn’t moved by His approval ratings.

What He has done is promise to return. So, during this Advent season, as we look around at all the craziness and tragedy in our world, don’t be duped by your culturally-derived propensity to be a naturalist. Let the living God get your attention! Return to Him. Prepare to meet Him.

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cow Great Thou Art?

Read Amos 4:1-6

Okay, this is a funny passage to me. I grew up in Santa Barbara, California – a hive of the rich, privileged and pretentious. When I first heard this passage about the “cows of Bashan…who say to your husbands, ‘Bring me a drink!”, I thought surely Amos was talking about my town, not Samaria!

Seriously, the politically correct image painted by Amos must have been incredibly offensive to the self-absorbed Samaritan elite, who were “crushing” the needy through their methods of financial gain. Referring to them as cows was a direct reference to the quality of beef being produced in the region. Like cattle, these unsuspecting socialites will be herded out of town by meat hooks … and, there will be so many exiles that they’ll run out of big hooks, and have to resort to little fish hooks at the last.

After describing this human cattle drive, Amos gets very sarcastic. A paraphrase of verses 4 and 5 might read, “Go ahead. Keep worshiping the way you have been – sacrifices, tithes, offerings … you love it. But in God’s eyes, it’s just sin after sin after sin. And you don’t even see it.”

Image result for "john phillips" "Exploring the Minor Prophets"Some profound thoughts from John Phillips’ commentary: “The Israelites were deluded by the national religion, which had been born of apostasy. Every animal sacrificed on the false altars at Bethel and Gilgal was an affront to God. All false religion is an offense to God, especially when its devotees are so duped that they think they are pleasing Him. With their rites and rules. The Israelites thought they were secure in the favor of heaven because of their religious observances, so Amos tried to jolt them with sarcasm, urging them to sacrifice more and more.”

Image result for sunday best attireThe United States is a land of incredible opulence. It’s also a country where many, many people have every confidence in their religious observance. Yet, our faith communities are full of racial intolerance, economic class divisions, and indebtedness. I wonder how much of what happens in churches across the land is an affront to God.

This Advent, might Amos get the attention of us and our herds? Quick, before He gets out the hooks…

– EO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Advent 2015, Amos, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,