There are many sad incidents in the pages of scripture. One of the saddest in my view is what Ezekiel recorded in chapters 10 and 11 of his vision.
In chapter 8 Ezekiel was taken in a vision to Jerusalem to the temple of the Lord. There he saw worship of almost anything but the worship of God. Continue reading “A sad ending and hopeful beginning”
Although the phrase “the unity of the Spirit” does not appear until Ephesians 4:2, God’s desire to create oneness permeates Ephesians. By working through Christ, God’s power would make it possible. Continue reading “God’s unification project”
Sin breaks God’s heart.
In the wilderness, Israel’s rebellion “grieved” God (Psalm 78:40). In Ezekiel, Israel’s idolatry caused God to be broken (Ezekiel 6:9). He is the loving Father who taught his children to walk, who led them, carried them, fed them, yet they rebelled (Hosea 11:1-8).
Sin breaks God’s heart because he knows that sin promises so much and only takes everything. Sin deteriorates and demolishes, debases and destroys. Yet God does not give up. He is the Father who waits eagerly for his spiritually dead son to return (Luke 15:11-32). Continue reading “A torn heart”
“‘But just look at you! You are putting your confidence in a false belief that will not deliver you. You steal. You murder. You commit adultery. You lie when you swear on oath. You sacrifice to the god Baal. You pay allegiance to other gods whom you have not previously known. Then you come and stand in my presence in this temple I have claimed as my own and say, ‘We are safe!’ You think you are so safe that you go on doing all those hateful sins! Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done!’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 7:8-11 NET)
The conditions in Judah were not good. Although there was lip service to being the people of YHVH, the reality was that their hearts were far from him. Jeremiah dispelled any notion that they were in any way living as the people of God. Continue reading “Live like God’s people every day”
When we think about the most wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel the name ‘Ahab’ would quickly come to mind. Then if we would turn our thoughts to the southern kingdom of Judah there really is only one who could match Ahab’s wickedness: Manasseh.
Manasseh should have had everything going for him. He was the son of Hezekiah, who brought about change and reform throughout Judah as he turned the people back to following God. He was such a good king that it was recorded of him: “He did what the Lord approved, just as his ancestor David had done” (2 Kings 18:3 NET). High praise indeed! But this is not the way we remember his son and successor Manasseh. Continue reading “There is hope for everyone”
What do those outside of Christ need? Sometimes I get the impression that Christians think those outside of Christ only need to rely upon Christ. At other times, if a disciple perceives that someone is engaged in certain types of sin then I might hear a comment about the need for repentance.
Does anything about all of this strike you as odd? It does me. Continue reading “Everyone changed”
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’” (John 5:1-3,5-7 NIV)
This incident gives us a glimpse into a day of Jesus’ life from which we can draw several lessons as his disciples today.
Notice, first if all, that Jesus was in the habit of attending the Jewish festivals. These, we know, were required of all Jewish men and this one would seem to be the Passover (I place this in AD 28). During these years he was teaching in Galilee, but these festivals took precedence over what he was normally doing. Continue reading “Are we concerned about people?”
Jesus’ last evening with his disciples had highs and lows. They shared a Passover meal and Jesus changed the emphasis. They sang hymns together. But Jesus knew that it was not going to be a good night for the disciples: before it ended they would all have turned their backs on him.
“‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: ‘ “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.” (Mark 14:27-31 NIV)
It must have been sad for Jesus to have to tell his disciples these things, and even more sad to listen to their denials that they would never forsake him. And of course there is Peter, insisting strenuously that even if he had to die he would never disown his Master. But notice that it wasn’t just Peter saying this – they all did. Continue reading “Deserting Jesus”
Walter Scott was a pioneer preacher. Born in Scotland, Scott immigrated to the United States in 1818 and subsequently moved west. Scott famously contrasted the tenets of Calvinism with a five-finger exercise.
When he came to preach in a community, Scott would teach children that Acts 2:38 teaches (1) faith, (2) repentance, (3) baptism, (4) forgiveness, and (5) the gift of the Holy Spirit. He’d then tell the children to tell their parents that he would be preaching that message later on in the day.
Scott’s mnemonic device is imminently scriptural, and provides a basis for more teaching on how God saves man. He helped people find salvation in Christ using this teaching method. However, if we are not careful, it can transform into something resembling a check-list, which after completion obligates God and satisfies our service.
I want to suggest a complement of sorts. Consider, if you will, four steps that will take you from where you are to eternity. Continue reading “Four steps to eternity”
When Hezekiah became king he reversed what his father Ahaz had been doing and started to lead the nation of Judah back to worshipping God. He was 25 when he became king and his first recorded act, in the first month of his reign, was to put God’s temple in order. This required quite a bit of work in several areas.
First there was the physical building of the temple. Through many years of neglect it was in need of repair. Following this it needed to be consecrated, cleansed of anything that would make it ceremonially unclean. Hezekiah’s father Ahaz had set up idols to be worshipped in the temple and had even moved God’s altar from its central position to be replaced with one to a pagan god. Anything that had been associated with idolatry needed to be removed. What they hadn’t been doing – offering incense and burnt offerings to God – needed to begin to happen again. Continue reading “Restoring what was missing”