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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jonah-Prophet to Nineveh

Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh and preach, but he did not want to go to Nineveh.  He ran from God by taking a ship that was headed to Tarshish, opposite direction from Nineveh.  Nineveh was the capitol of an enemy nation.  He hoped God would destroy them.  Yeah!!!

But he found he could not run from the presence of God.  I've tried that too.  Did it work for you?  It didn't for me.  God is persistent.  In Jonah's case the consequence was dramatic.  Mine is usually just embarrassing.  Sometimes I have missed opportunities that I seriously regretted, and other times I was just sad. 

In the belly of the fish or whale or whatever it was that rescued him from death in the depths of the sea, Jonah became serious and repentant with God.  He knew that Salvation comes from the Lord.  He shouted it for the fish, or whale,  to hear.

After the whale, O K so I called it a whale, vomited him onto dry land, he went into the city of Nineveh.  Nineveh was a huge city with a 120,000 people.  That doesn't sound so big now, but then it was.  They needed all the same facilities we have in cities today-- streets, water, homes, businesses, and food.  And compared to our resources, they were primitive.  

Jonah preached repentance from the great sins present in their culture.  Immediately the people were convicted and began to repent.  The word of Jonah even reached the King and his court.  The King also repented.  What would it take for our leaders and those who are powerful in society to begin to repent?  If our people repented would the leaders follow?  Or are we so blinded by power or prestige or influence that we have lost the ability to choose?

Of course, Jonah was preaching in the grip of a powerful spirit.  He had an experience that spurred him to action.  Our preachers go to meetings and juggle committees and try to please the people.  Jonah had given up pleasing anybody but God by the time he got to Nineveh.  He wanted to preach righteousness and get it over with.  He did!  They repented!  Praise God!

But Jonah had a pity party.  "I knew you were merciful and wouldn't destroy them.  I knew you would be compassionate.  I've gone through all this for nothing.  I thought I was going to die in the ocean, much less what I thought in the belly of that fish.  And it was all for nothing."

It wasn't for nothing though.  Without Jonah, there would have been no repentance or revival.  They would not have been convicted of their sins and the destruction would have come.  Jonah needed to understand that.  He needed to know he was the agent of God's action, and the courier that carried his word.  When have you been important in God's plan?  When did you facilitate God's forgiveness?  What is he calling you to do on his behalf today?

For more information about Jonah click here or read the story in the Bible.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Introduction to the Minor Prophets

I have been interested in the writings produced by the group of men called the Minor Prophets for a long time.   I have a blog now that I can vent and expound about things that interest me, so the Minor Prophets is my new venture for 2011.  I invite you to read with me and see what nuggets of wisdom may be hidden in these often neglected books.

First I want to define this category of books found in the Old Testament.  I thought the Old Testament was about the same for Jews as it was for Christians, but no, there are many differences.  The first five books of the Old Testament are called the Torah by Jews.  The word Torah means instruction and has come to mean the Law or even the whole Old Testament. 

There are two other categories of books the Jews recognized:  the  Prophets and the Writings.  Christians divide them as the Books of the Law, the Books of History, the Books of Wisdom or Poetry, and the Books of Prophesy.

It seems I am beginning at the end.  Maybe I can work my way back to the others.  When I discuss prophets, I remember that the prophet who met Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration was not a writing prophet.  I would like to explore a little about the ministry of the non-writing prophets too.  The prophet who met Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration was Elijah.  His story is recounted in I Kings, but he is not the first prophet of the Bible. 

Maybe we should include Moses as a prophet:  He certainly fulfilled the role.  He heard from God and spoke His truth to the Children of Israel.  He really falls in a class by himself.  He led the people for 40 years in the desert.  He was never in Israel at all. 

Moses was born to a man and woman of the tribe of Levi in the land of Egypt.  The Children of Israel had come to Egypt because a drought in Israel, but they stayed there for over 400 years.  They had grown strong and the king of Egypt feared them, so he decided to kill the baby boys so they would not outnumber or overpower the people of Egypt.  His mother delivered him in secret and kept him hidden for three months.  Then she left him in a basket in the reeds where the daughter of the Pharaoh bathed in the Nile River.  Pharaoh's daughter kept him and raised him as a prince of Egypt.

Now I have been chasing rabbits, that is to say, straying from the thought I started with.  I guess I need to deal with these prophets and the lessons they have to teach me in a more organized way.  I'm not sure if I should call this an introduction or just a wandering thought.  But now I can begin to discuss the prophets, and maybe the kings, and maybe other things too, in a more concentrated manner.  Check back now and then to see where I've wandered next.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Joel Proclaims Destruction

The Prophets are mostly noted for their messages of destruction.  Joel follows that pattern.  He opens by calling for repentance because of judgment from God in the form of a plague of locusts.  He describes the great terror of assault from the hoard of flying insects and the caterpillars that crawl on the plants.  They leave nothing.  The cattle will have no grass.  The grapes will be devoured.  The grain will be stripped.

This description of the devastation of locust swarms is not exaggerated.  When the really big swarms come to an agricultural area, they devour everything even to the bark of the trees and the roots in the ground.  Usually insecticides will lessen the impact on farms and ranches, but it can happen just like Joel describes.  The swarm will come like a the light of dawn spreading across the sky, like a cloud moving inevitably toward them.  And only by God's intervention will they be saved.

But Joel is using the locusts as an analogy for the destruction that the invading army will cause before the Lord calls for judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat.  He shows the people of Israel the destruction the locusts cause; then he tells them the of the human army that will pursue them.  Israel did suffer the things he cites--the people were sold for slaves, the land was divided among the victors, now there will be a repayment in the valley of decision. 

The day of God's final judgment is still coming.The valley of Jehoshaphat will be the scene of God's judgment because of the pain the people of Israel have suffered.  The final judgment will include other sins and God's plan does not leave out any one. The people of Israel will not escape God's judgment for they also failed in their obedience, but the land will be restored and those who seek God will find comfort and provision, and Jerusalem will be the city of God.

I have noticed a rash of horror movies depicting the "last days" or the "end of the world."  None of them is quite as real or devastating as the description Joel gives, and none of them offers the same hope.  Joel's description of the repentance and future blessing on the people who honor and reverence God is nestled inside the judgment.  It does not make the blessing less real, but it does emphasize the cost.  For Christians, that cost was laid on Jesus.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Confession--admission, acknowledgment, declaration of guilt   I found these synonyms for confession.
            In the Bible, the word confession means more that just an admission of guilt. Confession, from God's point of view, means that we see our sins like God sees them. This is more than just admitting to an error or missing the mark. God sees sin as a separating agent: It not only blocks our access to His mercy, but it also blocks His delivery of our forgiveness. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
           Now, what does it mean when we say we confess Christ? It means the same thing. We see Christ like God sees Christ. God sees Jesus in power and glory. He sees Jesus as the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for sin. He sees Him exalted as well as slain. When we see Christ like God sees Christ, we shout, "I confess!" We raise our hands in praise and surrender. Romans 10:9  proclaims that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.
           I like this exercise where I can see things like God does. What else can I confess? Maybe the Word. How does God see the Bible? How should I? What about my neighbor? Or the preacher? Or my enemy? Or the missionary? Here are things I can explore.
           How does God see me? Does He recognize my fear? Does He read my shame? My repentance? Is my joy pleasing or offensive to Him?
Jeremiah 31:3  says  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn you.
Oh what a confession I have: He loves me with an everlasting love.