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At Home with God

Psalm 139:1-18

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. [NRSA]

  • The Peace of God’s Presence
  • The Protection of God’s Presence
  • The Power of God’s Presence

How to find God when we are lost?

“Be Still and Know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

1. Begin the day with praise and prayer.

Then pour out your heart and tell God about all the things going on in your life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Picture yourself physically taking one burden after another, placing them into God’s hands, and letting them lay there. The act of giving ourselves to God is a life long practice of :

  • a. knowing God is able, willing and desires our burdens and fears
  • b. yielding our power to God’s loving grace
  • c. practicing humility with our most personal struggles.

2. Meditate on a passage.

When I have a hard time quieting my mind, I like to meditate on Psalm 46:10:

He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Focus on one word at a time, letting your mind rest on that one word for a few seconds before moving on to the next word. Here are a few other passages to start: 

  • Psalm 23, The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
  •  Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Psalm 103:13-14. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…

3. Mental Pictures and Visions.

Imagine God seated on His throne, using passages like Revelation 4-6 to shape our minds-eye, our imagination.

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.  And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne,”Revelation 4:2-3.

Can you picture that? Continue reading. Imagine God high and lifted up, I kneel down and bow my face to the ground, picturing myself in the heavenly throne room, joining the angels and the elders in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and then being still in His presence.

Imagine your self crawling into Abba Father’s lap and laying your head on God’s shoulder, much like a two-year-old does when she/he just needs a hug.

4. Write out distracting thoughts.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to quiet down my mind, I start to remember all sorts of things like birthday gift ideas, spring cleaning tasks, and meal plans. If that happens to you, grab a pen, write it down, and then return your attention to the Lord. Release those distracting thoughts, knowing you can come back to them later.

5. Recite a prayer of stillness.

Ask God to help calm your mind like Jesus calmed the storming sea. This can even be an imaginative prayer: Your thoughts are the waves that Jesus commands to be calm. Acknowledge your racing thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to rule over them and help your mind rest in His presence.

6. Be physically still. Start small. Breathe Deeply

Begin with 30 seconds or a minute of stillness. And while 30 seconds may not seem like much, as you begin to incorporate this practice of stillness into your spiritual life, you’ll find it gets easier as the years go by. Then build up to 5 or 10 minutes. It’s in this place of communion with God that we quiet ourselves enough to hear what the Spirit wants to say to us.

7. Stillness isn’t always quiet, clean, nor neat. 

Sharing Our Weeping and Wailing.

Do you know that, oftentimes, our stillness comes after the emotional dam finally breaks? I have no idea why, but it’s usually necessary to lose it before the process of healing begins. You can trust God with your deepest pain. Through it, He will lead you deeper into stillness.”

Encouraging and Allow Others the Time and Space for Peace in God.

We cannot force peace, it must be found in God.

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Hebrews 13:12-16 Three Rules: Refresher

Three Tools

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [NRSA]

John Wesley’s “Three Rules” are 1) Do no harm, 2) Do all the good that you can. and 3) Continue to grow Spiritually by practicing piety.

Wesley offers these three rules from the perspective of living as Sanctified people who are always moving toward Christian Perfections, which is our wholeness in God. 

Therefore the rules are the guide for growing into the people God has hoped and dreamed we would become through Christ.

The reality is that we have conflicts and problems with the three rules. 

  • We don’t always avoid doing what is harmful, sinful or evil. 
  • We don’t always do what is good for God and others, much less ourselves. 
  • And we are spastic in prating our spiritual maturity, as we generally believe we have figured enough out to get by until we have crises we can’t handle.

All this affirms that we don’t fully understand the three rules as helpful tools. As simple rules, there are ideas for us to think about in our head. I offer the tool bag instead. Wesley’s three simple tools.

The first tool is the hammer. It is weighted, purposeful and designed to be used to construct when used properly. It is to strike metal nails and not fingernails. When you hit your finger, it not only cause you to take the Lord’s name in vain or at least shout our in pain, it leaves a bruise or it might take off the fingernail or open the skin for infection on top of the pain and soreness.

No one would willfully hit their thumb, but it happens. No one would strike another person with a hammer but it happens. The heavy hammers in tired and sweaty hands might drop and injure a toe, a co-worker or cause damage to the building project.

The hammer has the ability to do good or harm. Don’t intend harm with a tool number one. 

Parenting. As a parent I know that sometimes setting a limit, pointing our an error, or protecting a child or the family from harm means saying “No.”, setting boundaries, and even providing a measure to shape attitudes and behaviors.  From the child’s point of view, they might feel they have been harmed. So doing no harm would actually be doing harm. The perspective and intent determine when our actions and attitudes are harmful. 

  • People will say “the church didn’t love me, because they didn’t approve of my sin.” We address sin so that we can, “go and sin no more.”
  • They didn’t give me money to they don’t show the love of Jesus, “They are all hypocrites.” We are not perfect, but loving is not always pleasing.
  • I didn’t get my way, so the church harmed me.

… in these, we take the tool of “Do no harm” and use it as a weapon rather than a tool for constructing that which is good for God, others and ourselves. 

Perspective and intent are what the first rule/tool is all about. 

Clarified: Do No Harm is: in all we do, don’t intend to reject, don’t plan to harm, don’t let anger, fear, disappointment guide your thoughts and actions. 

Tool number two:   The Spoon

“Do all the Good that you can.”  This is one is where the church may find its greatest threat. We assume this rule set the highest demand that we always do good. We learn from the first rule that what is good is not determined by what others ask of us, nor is it the good that we define.  Goodness is defined by God, for God’s purposes.

A spoon is a great tool. It can be used to feed ourselves or someone else. It allows us to gather bite-sized portions and deliver something that is good or evil. 

You know the saying, “He can dish it, but he can’t take it.” We want Good to come to us. This second tool is like the basic lesson of loving one’s neighbor, “Love your neighbor like you would like for your neighbor to love you, whether your neighbor loves you or not.

The spoon carries a portion of something that is unconditional. We can hardly do good for those we know and love; when it comes to loving those who are different or showing Goodness to our enemies, rivals and those narrow-minded knuckleheads would don’t think as we do.. The temptation is to avoid them, appease them or draw our line of goodness in the sand stand before them and God knowing we have done our part.

The power part of the spoon is that offers a controlled portion. My doctor said to me, “if you eat a spoon of ice cream, you are doing ok, if your portion is the whole container, you are way out of bounds.” 

Don’t become overwhelmed with doing everything well, all at once, all the time. When we have the commandment to show Goodness and we fail or fall short, we get overwhelmed. 

The constructive use of a spoon is that with one portion we can take the next step of turning around a past of doing harm, doing evil and being broken in sin. One spoonful of good does not equal all the injustice and brokenness we create, but with one act of doing Good transforms the direction of our faithfulness. The more spoons of Goodness we share the closer we move toward God and all the people of God’s work. 

Clarification: When we do what is Good, we are taking small bites of doing things God’s way. 

The third tool is a treadmill. Practice your piety, growing in Christian fellowship and maturing your Spiritual self with God, others and ourselves.  

NO!! Not the treadmill! Everyone knows what the treadmill is for. Walking, running, exercise. How many people have purchased a treadmill or other exercise equipment as a yard sale, only to later sell the same machine at another yard sale?

The good use of the treadmill is not as a place to hang clothes or store boxes of junk. The ownership of a treadmill offers no health benefit unless we use it. 

Even a basic treadmill has some measurements. Time, distance, difficulty and measure of work accomplished. 

The appropriate use of such a device is to use it, daily. The third rule is best used in the third tool. 

Think of all the wonderful things we can do to strengthen our relationship with God, our neighbor, and our enemies that don’t require elevating your heart rate!!

  • Singing, 
  • Worshiping, 
  • Praying, 
  • Studying, 
  • Journaling, 
  • Fasting, 
  • Serving, 
  • Witnessing, and 
  • Sharing in fellowship with other Christians. 

Think of how practicing these spiritual exercises will build spiritual muscle for when we are dealing with rule ONE and TWO.

Three Tools: A Hammer, a Spoon, and a Treadmill

Three Rules:

Be intentional about building God’s kingdom and not simply avoiding harm.

Be repetitive in a diet of doing Good, one bite at a time

Be renewed and growing practicing on Spirit on God’s treadmills

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Luke 13:10-17 Sabbath Healing

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. [NRSA]

When is the Sabbath? 

Calendar debate. Are we actually on the correct day? We are trusting the conflicting mathematics between the Julian, Gregorian to the British version of the Gregorian calendar is projected to be approximately 14 days off by the year 2100. So if we set aside the possibility that we may be off-center even with faith and the world’s best guess of today actually by only 14 days, we can pretty much agree that today is Sunday. Much of the fuss over the accuracy of the calendar has been over religious and political disagreements. But let’s set aside this as splitting hairs and get at the general nature of Sunday being the first day of the week. 

The Sabbath being the seventh day and Sunday being the adjusted Sabbath honoring the day of Resurrection being on Sunday. So we are generally ok with not exactly keeping the Sabbath, on the Sabbath in the name praise of glorifying God’s work in Jesus Christ on our behalf. 

Those who questioned Jesus healing on the Sabbath as “Breaking” one of the top ten commandments. We must remember we are unsure which day of the week we historically are living and that we have agreed to move it to Sunday from the day God determined at creation. We are breaking the Sabbath, two for two.

To better understand the charge they literalist lodged against Jesus, let’s look back at Genesis to get the early version of the Sabbath:

  • Genesis 2:2-3
  • 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

A Day for God to Rest from Creating

  • Exodus 16:4, 4:14, 20:8-11, 31:14, 
  • 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
    14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.
    8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days, the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  • 14 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.
  • A Day made Holy, for God’s People to Rest, Deadly Serious
  • Acts 16:13, 17:2, 18:4, 20:7
  • 13 On the Sabbath, we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.•
  • 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
  • 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
  • 7 On the first day of the week, we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

A Day at the Synagogue of Study, Debate, and Eating

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Sabbath is our Day for ONLY God

So the activity of the Sabbath has expanded from simply not working and being with God to a commandment, to an exercise of learning, to a time to prohibit some things and be busy with God things. Back to a day for us to be with God.

Rest from work SO THAT God my renew us

In this passage, the work that Jesus does on the Sabbath is healing. 

We gather to worship God, but the fruit of our worship is placing our selves humbly before God and to be restored for the week ahead. 

Today we join with the woman who has to Jesus on the Sabbath and appear before Jesus to be healed, restored, renewed, no longer crippled by those things that have plagued us, gripped and held us back. Sabbath is a day for healing.

I invite you to come and make yourself as a living offering, for God has worked for us in the week ahead and we do not need to start from a place of brokenness.

Come and share in the healing power, love, and grace of Jesus Christ.

The healing is not in the oil, it is but a means opening our hearts, humbling and willingly asking Jesus to rest in us, to heal and renew us for the service of love and the work of the kingdom for the world. Come!

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Jeremiah 23:23-29 Yahweh or Baal?

Who do you vote for? Yahweh or Baal?

Am I a God nearby, says the LORD, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back–those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD. Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? [NRSV]

Luke 12:49-56

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’, and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? [NRSV]

SETTING THE CONTEXT

Last week we listen to the warning from Isaiah the prophet from a 75-80 year period of the 700s and 600s. Today we hear from Jeremiah who calls out to the people of God during a 75 year period from 627 to 575 BC. 

Skip to the end of the story. Things go from fair to complete division and exile to Babylon, completely out of the Promised Land.

Even though generations pass and kings and nations continue to develop, the People of God eventually find themselves removed from their country and become enslaved to a foreign state and culture. 

Like every other Prophet, Jeremiah calls for faith and faithfulness.  He shares God’s words to inspire

  1. Repentance
  2. Transformation
  3. Devotion to God and not to other Gods and not to a life apart from God.

But We are Modern and we Know better:

In our modern world view we are quick to that fall of Jerusalem and all the people being driven out of their home and country would never happen to us. We are the U.S.A.

The ‘faithful’ once divided from one another also became divided from God and squandered their inheritance and ended up in the far country. (much like the prodigal son story)

What ‘was’ Baal Worship?

Historically the principal practices of Baalism were child sacrifice, sexual immorality, and reverence of creation over the Creator. We may have different practices but the core misplaced-spiritual devotion remains a threat to us.

Modern Apostasy

Think when we say our personal success and networking were dependent on “playing the game.” If you quit playing along, avoid going to the parties, not participating in group-think, you would not be able to do business, lose your friends, not be successful. Your network would dry up. In various ways, our social and business The groups’ places demanded that we “support” to be liked, included or productive. Therefore, we give time, talent and allegiance that is misplaced. “Support” is based on participation and financial contribution. It was all tied up with the rules of doing business. Think of the high place of diversity. (College acceptance is not about the best students, its about demographic profiles. [ref.]

Misplaced Love, Devotion, or Trust

Anything good can become an idol if we love it too much. That’s what Paul was driving at when he called greed a form of idolatry. What is greed if not loving something too much?

Let’s consider some modern-day idols in three separate categories.

YAHWEH OR BAAL?

“When the Israelites entered Canaan, they found a land of farmers, not shepherds, as they had been in the wilderness. The land was fertile beyond anything the Hebrew nomads had ever seen. The Canaanites attributed this fertility to their god Baal, and that is where the Israelites problems began. Could the God who had led them out of Egypt and through the wilderness also provide fertile farms in the Promised Land? Or would the fertility god of Canaan have to be honored? Maybe, to be safe, they should worship both; Yahweh and Baal.

An intense battle began for the minds and hearts of God’s people. The book of Judges records the ongoing struggle: the Israelites attraction to, and worship of, the Canaanite gods; God’s disciplinary response; the people’s repentance; and God’s merciful forgiveness until the next time the Israelites reached for Baal instead of Yahweh.

This struggle to be totally committed to God is of vital importance to us today as well. We don’t think of ourselves as idol worshipers, yet we struggle to serve God alone in every part of our lives. It is easy (and seductive) to honor possessions, fun, relationships, fame, money, and a host of other potential “gods.”

We need to learn from Israel’s experience and respond to Jesus’ command for total allegiance. One way we can accomplish this is to study the gods that attracted Yahweh’s people 3,000 years ago.” [ref.

How Does it Happen

First, we worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff.” Our homes are filled with all manner of possessions. We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet. Most of our stuff has “planned obsolescence” built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space. Then we rush out to buy the newest item, garment or gadget and the whole process starts over. This insatiable desire for more, better, and newer stuff is nothing more than covetousness. The tenth commandment tells us not to fall victim to coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). God doesn’t just want to rain on our buying sprees. He knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it is Satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him. 

Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. This often takes the form of obsession with careers and jobs. Millions of men—and increasingly more women—spend 60-80 hours a week working. Even on the weekends and during vacations, our laptops are humming and our minds are whirling with thoughts of how to make our businesses more successful, how to get that promotion, how to get the next raise, how to close the next deal. In the meantime, our children are starving for attention and love. We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing it for them, to give them a better life. But the truth is we are doing it for ourselves, to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world. (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23). 

Third, we idolize ‘humanity’ through naturalism and the power of science. We cling to the illusion that we are lords of our world and build our self-esteem to godlike proportions. We reject God’s Word and His description of how He created the heavens and the earth, and we accept the nonsense of atheistic evolution and naturalism. We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into thinking we can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared that this current age will have an end. Our focus should not be on worshiping the environment but on living holy lives as we wait eagerly for the return of our Lord and Savior. We need saving, not the earth; God our hope, not ourselves.

Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Those in affluent countries have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is spurned in our insatiable desire to eat, drink, and medicate more and more. When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry. [ref]

I. Idols of Power

Idols of power are those created things that give us a sense of significance and personal worth. 

II. Idols of Pleasure

So many things fall into this category. 

Pleasure. It could be something that seems harmless—hobbies, sports, success, the promise of ‘ease.’ 

Sexual Satisfaction. Pleasure, power, self-fulfillment. Choice, Identity. All that is about self and not giving of oneself in devotion.

Personal Identity. When I ask you to validate my view of myself don’t care what you think of me nor do I care what God see’s in me.

Technology. We can’t live without some background noise. If you don’t think TV is an idol, try living without it for seven days and see what happens. TV, so can the computer, or phone, social media, artificial intelligence.—virtual reality gods that will advise us exactly as the gods of ancient Greece and Egypt instructed their followers.

Opinions: Many people today adopt this as the bottom line on personal morality. If it makes you feel good, go ahead and do it. Just don’t hurt anyone else in the process. 

Self Gratification: How many times have you heard sin justified with the words, “I just want to be happy?” And so we divorce our spouses because we are unhappy, we break our commitments because we can’t find fulfillment, and we abandon our promises and walk away from family and friends—all in search of that elusive thing called happiness. We do wrong and excuse ourselves by saying, “God understands.” 

Sexual fulfillment may become an idol. At this point, I would say that so-called Gay Christianity is a very clear form of modern-day Baal worship because homosexuals attempt to justify their sin by baptizing their immorality in the guise of Christianity. This is unspeakably evil because it links the holy name of Jesus with that which God has condemned.

Drugs, Alcohol, Food, diversions, and avoidance. When a thing or substance controls you, your time and your resources, you are an idolater whether you admit it or not.

So many of the addictions of life fall into this category. When God created the world, he pronounced it good, but ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, Satan’s number one strategy has been to cause us to take that which is good and put it in the place of God. We may say it quite simply: Whatever controls you at a deep level is the god you worship. If you are not controlled by God, then you must be controlled by an idol of your own making. 

III. Idols of the Heart

Jesus warned us that you cannot serve God and money? “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). Money is capitalized because when you serve it, it becomes your god. Our Lord said you cannot have God and money both in first place in your heart. One of them has to go. You cannot serve two masters.

Along the same line, a relationship can easily become an idol when it becomes the controlling interest of life. You can love a person too much or for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way or with the wrong motives. Once you say of any human relationship, “I cannot live without that person in my life,” then you have crossed a line that should not be crossed. 

God’s warning: Destroy your idols or I will do it for you!

Let’s go back to the Second Commandment for a moment. Notice the warning in Exodus 20:5 — “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” In the end God, we belong to God and we are left with nothing but God, is the only way we find God sometimes.

Two Sobering Conclusions

A. Anything good can become an idol if we love it too much.

That should be completely clear by now. Idolatry lies in the worshiper, not in the thing worshipped. A golden calf is not an idol by itself. Left to itself, a golden calf is just a golden calf. It becomes an idol only when we begin to worship it. It is a wrong attitude that turns something good into something bad.

¨ Don’t blame your car if you aren’t happy. New or old, running or limping. It won’t love nor save you.
¨ Don’t blame your boy/girl friend if you aren’t happy.  Address your own faith and bring that power.
¨ Don’t blame your spouse if you aren’t happy. No husband or wife can make you happy all the time. 
¨ Don’t blame your boss if you aren’t happy. — Their job is to create wealth through you.

¨ Don’t blame your children if you aren’t happy. they are our joy but not our God
¨ Don’t blame your new house if you aren’t happy. No house can provide the ultimate happiness.
¨ Don’t blame your church if you aren’t happy. No church can make you happy.

 Don’t blame the government if you aren’t happy. No politics will make you happy.

Happiness comes from a living relationship with Jesus Christ. He alone can satisfy the deepest needs of your life. Looking anywhere else for ultimate happiness is really just a sophisticated form of idolatry. 

B. The ultimate tragedy of idolatry is that it takes all that you have and gives nothing in return.

Have you ever thought about how strange life is? You are born, you grow up, get married, get a job, have children, raise your children, take a vacation, retire, and then you die. And your children, what do they do? The same thing. And their children? The same thing.

You have two choices. You can spend your life chasing idols your hands have made. But what happens when you die? Your idols die with you. Or you can spend your life doing God’s will. And when you die, it’s not over. Life has just begun.

The folly of idolatry is that it’s only for this life and then it’s over. You’re a loser now and a loser later. The idol robs you now and leaves you penniless in the grave. You’ve cheated all the way around.

Idolatry makes sense if you are going to live forever on earth. But if you plan to die someday, it’s the greatest stupidity of all.

The only lasting cure for idolatry is a fervent love for God.

As we pondered the matter, it seems to me that the hardest step is seeing our idols in the first place. Even as we share these words, we are conscious of a little voice inside saying, “Hey, don’t worry about it. You’re not an idol-worshipper.” But that voice is not the voice of God. If I am honest before God and open to the Holy Spirit, I must admit that I have my idols that must be torn down. [ref]

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Isaiah 1:1,10-20 Let’s Argue

 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah….Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. [NRSV]

A Vision of Isaiah

Concerning Period 3 Kings and 1 regent

The period of time is between 790 to 690 BC. Isaiah lead as a prophet through the end of Uzziah into the reign of Hezekiah. 

During this period, God’s people of Judah fought with God’s people of Israel and made expedient allies of Syria and Egypt as they needed help. The people shifted for faithfulness to completely selling out to Idolatry with the Canaanites, with King Ahaz made a replica of the idea of Baal in the temple of Judah and made offering go his son’s life to the altar of Molech. Hezekiah finally brings faithfulness back after heading Isaiah’s warning and even invited the Northern Kingdom to celebrate Passover together.

An Argument with God.

First, it’s acceptable to argue with God if you know in the end that God is God and that you and I are not. With that said God is supremely patience, but will, in the end, call us to faithfulness and obedience.

Isaiah’s Account of God side setting up for the argument:

  • rulers of Sodom! 
  • you people of Gomorrah! 
  • So you talk about the many sacrifices? 
    • Do You think that your offerings buy my favor?
  • Your many holiday and celebrations? I don’t want your songs and gifts.
    • Why would I want to be at your good holiday, and you ignore your sin?
  • You think you have figured out creation, and use the heavens as a tool to measure and control me?
  • You can raise your hands and prayers and songs, I’m not listening. 
    • If this is how you make religion replace a relationship of trust and obedience, then I don’t want you in my sight.

INSTEAD

  • Wash yourselves; 
  • make yourselves clean; 
  • remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; 
  • cease to do evil, 
  • learn to do good; 
  • seek justice, 
  • rescue the trampled, taken advantage of, or forgotten.

When you have done these things, then let’s argue.

The Good News is that when we find ourselves through obedience to God, we find the Goodness in life.

  • It is easy to dismiss this passage as history and not hear it applying to ourselves. 
  • First, as this is presented as God’s Message for the political and spiritual leaders of the day.
  • So it is easy to point fingers and blame the king. 
  • This word does not excuse the king of doing what is Godly.
  • Nor does this word excuse US for doing what is Godly and obedient, we can’t blame our leaders for all the sin.

You pick the topic of news, debate, crisis, and threat of this past week alone, and know-how quickly people look for blame. Isaiah’s word is for Judah and Israel. It is for you and for me. 

  1. Stop Blaming
  2. Stop making excuses
  3. Stop looking for our own ideas and solutions
  4. Turn back to God
  5. Trust God’s Goodness and Word
  6. Trust God’s will and wisdom
  7. Trust God’s way and place ourselves as a servant of God and God’s people and will then God will make us the witness to all the nations.

We live more in time like Ahaz rather than Hezekiah. When the world is rejecting God and replacing anything and everything in God’s place, it is no wonder that evil and chaos.

So what are we to do about our nation and our leaders?

We are not only called to

  • Repent of our sins,
  • Stop acting like knuckleheads
  • Start witnesses to those who are
  • and be a strength to those who are trampled and taken advantage of.

But not in reverse: 

  • Repentance
  • Transformation
  • Prophets
  • Servant

We’d rather just do one or two on the list… but its a process

  • It’s not about just serving the oppressed
  • It is also dealing with sin, ours and theirs
  • It’s not just about talking about forgiveness and change
  • it is becoming an actual example of obedience.

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Colossians 3:1-11 “One Life to Live”

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  On account of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!  [NRSA]

You have been raised with Christ,

  • Seek the things that are above.
  • Set your minds on things that are above,

When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 

Put to death what in you is earthly:

  • fornication,
  • impurity,
  • lustful passion,
  • evil desire, and
  • greed,
  • idolatry.  

WARNING: wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  

These are the ways you also once followed when you were living that life. 

BUT HOW? WHERE TO START?

But now you must:

  • get rid of all such things—
  • anger,
  • wrath,
  • malice,
  • slander, and
  • abusive language from your mouth.  
  • Do not lie to one another,
  • Stripped off the old self with its practices,
  • clothed yourselves with the new self,
  • being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 

In that renewal, there is no longer divided as the World divides, rather be UNITED IN CHRIST.

WHAT DOES UNITED IN CHRIST MEAN?

  • Personal Behaviors and Attitudes
  • the opposite of the world’s view of promiscuity – Fidelity, and Trust
  • the opposite of me first, or myself above God – Faith and Worship
  • the opposite of seeing people as objects for our happiness and power, all created by and for God
  • the opposite of evil – God’s Love and Law
  • the opposite of greed and idolatry Peace, Joy, Wholeness in God

Things to Deal with, throw away or get away from:

  • anger. No matter what people do we can’t HATE any away.
  • wrath, Using our influence and resources for selfishness.
  • malice, Intentional Harm (The Qualification of Do no INTENTIONAL harm)
  • slander, Not repaying evil words and thoughts for evil words and thoughts. (Deal with Racism by yielding power not correctness)
  • abusive language from your mouth.  
  • Do not lie to one another, Some times the truth is unfair, unpopular and even unclear, but lying to make some feel better or ourselves escape or protected cuts at the bonds of fidelity, trust, love, grace, etc.

We have one life to figure our future

  1. You and I have this life to determine if we will starve in the wilderness or eat God’s manna and trust God to make a way when our ways are dead ends.
  2. You and I have the breath of this one life, no matter where we have come from, to decide if God’s home is where we want to live.
  3. You and I have the free will and choice to choose God’s or to choose to rely on ourselves or others to make a way we believe is better. The consequences of choosing the other ways, than God’s way, all end with us being alone and apart from God.
  4. The Word to the Colossians and to us: We continually make the choice with our thoughts and actions to Trust God or ourselves.

While choosing God’s way, God’s heart, God’s love is simple to start. We have a daily choice of staying in that Grace of choosing another path. God never forces us to choose him not to stay with him.

Go back to the list:

Am I happy, content and whole:

  1. Because I have money and things enough for eternity? Sincere there is not eternity in my view, I want it all now.
  2. I’m just doing the best I can and I’m hoping for God to cut me some slack when the final exam comes, or will I recognize the need to call his name when trouble comes?
  3. I’d rather people all cooperate and get along and stay together even if I have to re-frame what God expects of us.

Why Make it So Hard

We make it hard on ourselves and one another. Jesus offers himself to us daily, the bread of life and the cup of salvation. Eat and Drink from the life that is eternal. Forget the slavery that goes with the fleshpots in back in captivity of some other allegiance.

Prayer: Jesus come into my heart and life right now and make me whole, make me yours, take my whole self- broken, confused and alone, fill me with our love and grace. Set my feet and my heart on you and the things of your kingdom. Have mercy on me, a waster of life and gifts and treasures and make me your own again today. Keep me in your will and change my heart, mind, and soul. Make my life a witness that leads someone else to your heart. Thank you! Praise you. Amen and Amen.

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Luke 11:1-13 Prayer Practice

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” [NRSV]

Prayer example

1. Father, hallowed be your name. (YOU ARE HOLY)

2. Your kingdom come. (YOU ARE WORTHY)

3. Give us each day our daily bread. (We Trust you)

4. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. (love as you want to be loved)

5. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” ( SAVE US )

Persistence of Prayer: a Parable

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

Practice of praying

“So I say to you,

Ask, and it will be given you;

search, and you will find;

knock, and the door will be opened for you.

  • Verbal, affirm was I need or want
  • Enquire/ Study, see how God has answered, learn from past,
  • Knock on Doors, ask others and see persistence and promise of prayer:

Promise of Prayer

For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Participation inPrayer

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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Luke 10:38-42 The Better Part

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” [NRSV]

DISTRACTED BY MANY

It does not take much to distract me.

1. New Study on Multitasking from Forbes 15 point loss on IQ  Stanford major degradation

2. Recent Study on ADHD from Fox/Reuters 14% boys and 6% girls

3. Article: Fascinating Email Facts and Statistics

       Statistics, extrapolations, and counts by the Radicati Group found the following:

    • Over half of the world population uses email in 2019.
    • The number of worldwide email users is expected to grow to over 4.3 billion by the end of 2023.
    • The total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day will exceed 293 billion in 2019 and is forecast to grow to over 347 billion by the end of 2023.
    • DMR has curated these other fascinating tidbits about email:
    • The first email system was developed in 1971.
    • Each day, the average office worker receives 121 emails.
    • The click-through rate for email sent in North America is 3.1%.
    • The average click-through rate on desktop computers is 13.3% and, on mobile devices, it’s 12.7%.
    • The average amount of overall emails opened on desktop computers is 16%, on mobile devices is 55.6%, and on webmail is 28%.
    • The Apple iPhone email client is used most, followed by Gmail.
    • The open rate increases by 17% when the subject line is personalized.
    • Forty-two percent of Americans admit to checking email in the bathroom, and 50% do so while in bed.
    • The average open rate for retail emails is 20.96%, and for political emails is 22.23%.
    • The top spam content category in 2017 was healthcare, followed by malware.
    • The top reason U.S. internet users unsubscribe from email lists is, “I get too many emails in general.”
    • 99Firms has its own curated list that includes the following facts:
    • Despite the rise of social messaging apps, 78% of teenagers use email.
    • A majority (62.86%) of business professionals prefer email to communicate for business purposes.
    • Ninety percent of workers check their personal email at least every few hours.
    • Email click rates increase by up to 300% if a video is included.
    • The best times to send email are 10:00 AM or between 8:00 PM and midnight; the best days are Thursday and Sunday.

Texting:

  1. Funny top 10:TOP 10 REASONS PEOPLE DON’T RESPOND TO YOUR TEXTS

[1] The person really doesn’t like you.

[2] They are getting back at you for ignoring one of their text messages.

[3] They find your text message dialogue really boring and are on social media looking for something better to distract themselves with.

[4] They are playing mind games with you, full well knowing that by keeping you waiting for a response will cause you bitter frustration and they get a kick out of it.

[5] They are lazy and don’t respect you enough to respond to you.

[6] Very rarely, but some times, their battery dies. This is usually an excuse……go back to reason number 5.

[7] Some people work for a living, get off their back! They are WORKING… smarten up, the world doesn’t revolve around you.

[8] They just installed the new iOS and lost all their contacts (yes, even your precious contact info). They don’t recognize your number and are worried that your text might be from that person they gave their number to the night before.

[9] They are upset with you and decide to be passive aggressive with you instead of facing the problem head on up in a mature forward thinking fashion.

[10]… and finally… did you actually check to see if you pressed send after you finished writing your emotionally charged message? This is the worst feeling ever and really makes you look at yourself as a super self-centered individual, realizing that you are the only one to blame for getting all upset over nothing.

  1. 50% of the world has an email account. 86% USA 17% read more than 3 second/per.
  2. 97% who have cel phone carry them with them. 62% ignore half of their text
  3. How long before we begin speaking in response? 200 milliseconds

THE NEED FOR ONE THING

The one thing is being connected to God. We do this in many ways, but its the one thing.

Mary is choosing to focus and listen

Martha is choose to control, prepare, define, assume, look from martha’s perspective and not Jesus’s

CHOOSING The BETTER PART

The better part are the choices we make to be

    • unplugged from TV and politics,
    • unplugged from working when we need Sabbath Rest.
    • setting down the technology and to-do lists and listening to God so that we don’t miss God in our presence, in our homes, in our daily moments.

Action: moving toward God through worship, service, and devotion

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Study Notes for Amos 7:7-17 Who’s Plumb line do you use?

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;  the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”  Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ” And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;  but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”  Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ “Now, therefore, hear the word of the Lord. You say, “Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore thus says the Lord: “Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be parceled out by line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’ “ [NRSV]

Amos the Unlikely

The first verse of this book identifies the author as “Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa” (1:1). Much has been made of the fact that Amos was a shepherd—a man more comfortable among the company of sheep than of people—an unsophisticated fellow, amazed and dazed by urban excess—a redneck, with a desire to tell the truth, even when his life is at risk.

Amos had a humble start, but he was authorized and equipped for the job because the Lord called him. It was Yahweh who took Amos from his flocks. It was Yahweh who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel”.

When and Where?

The first verse of this book also tells us when Amos served as a prophet. It was “in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (1:1). Uzziah and Jeroboam ruled in the eighth century B.C., and scholars believe that Amos had a relatively short ministry in the middle of that century—around 760-755 B.C.

At that time, the Jewish people were divided into the tribes of the northern kingdom (Israel) and the two tribes of the southern kingdom (Judah). It was the time between the end of Solomon’s reign (c. 930 B.C.) and the fall of the northern kingdom (c. 721 B.C.). Amos makes a place in our faith history as we read about his faithfulness today.

Only a few years after Amos’ prophecies, the Assyrians forced the ten tribes of Israel into exile in Assyria. Unlike the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom (Judah), the ten tribes of Israel never returned to their homeland in any organized way. Instead, they were assimilated and disappeared as a people.

The Jeroboam mentioned in the text was successful militarily, but “he did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh: he didn’t depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 14:24).

We tend to think of Amos as a northern prophet, because his prophecy was directed primarily toward the northern kingdom (Israel)—but he was from Tekoa, a few miles south of Jerusalem in the southern kingdom (Judah)—and, as we will see in 6:1, he addressed both “those who are at ease in Zion” (the capital of the southern kingdom) and “those who are secure on the mountain of Samaria” (the capital of the northern kingdom).

Amos spoke against misplaced allegiance and religious arrogance. He warned the people of an upcoming military disaster that would reflect God’s judgment.

AMOS 7:7-9. THE PLUMB LINE

“Thus he showed me” (v. 7a). As is clear from verse 6, it is the Lord God who showed Amos a vision. The Plumb Line is the third in a series of five visions:

• The first vision (7:1-3) was a vision of locusts.
• The second vision (7:4-6) was a vision of fire.
• Now we have the third vision, a vision of a plumb line (7:7-9).
• The fourth vision (8:1-3) will be a vision of a basket of summer fruit.
• The fifth vision (9:1-4) will be of thresholds shaking and shattering on the heads of the people—and people being killed by the sword—a vision of inescapable judgment.

“the Lord stood beside a wall made by a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand” (v. 7b). A plumb line is a string with a weight (known as a plumb-bob) attached. When the user holds a plumb line by the string, the plumb-bob at the bottom will point with great exactness to the earth’s center of gravity. People use plumb lines, even today, to determine whether a wall is perfectly straight, i.e., exactly perpendicular to the horizon. In other words, a plumb line enables the user to test the straightness of a wall. A plumb line hung from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa would confirm what our eyes already know. But the plumb line is more for noticing the small errors that lead to big mistakes.

A crooked wall can be difficult to correct. In many cases, an out-of-plumb wall must be torn down and rebuilt if it is ever to be right.

A Test of the Wall? Is sound for its intended purpose?

Now Amos sees Yahweh standing beside a wall with a plumb line in his hand. Yahweh’s purpose is to test the wall to see if it is straight or not—usable or not. We sense, of course, that Yahweh is concerned with something more than a wall. The next verse will make clear the real nature of his concern.

“Yahweh said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel’” (v. 8a). Now Yahweh explains the meaning of the plumb line metaphor. Israel (the northern kingdom) is the wall that is being tested.

While the next verse will make it clear that Yahweh has pronounced the people of Israel guilty and plans to execute judgment against them—nevertheless, in this verse, he calls them “my people.” God is not pleased with this.. It is a broken-hearted Lord who has tried and tried to bring these people to faithfulness, but who is finally having to admit that it just didn’t work.

“I will not again pass by them any more” (v. 8b). The northern kingdom (Israel) has been in existence for nearly two centuries—since the end of Solomon’s reign and the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms. With regard to the northern kingdom, there have been ups and downs, but mostly downs. Yahweh has given them opportunity after opportunity to repent and mend their ways, but they have failed to do so. Now Yahweh has decided not to “pass by them” any further—not to shower grace upon grace any longer. The time has come to put an end to their corruption, once and for all.

“The high places of Isaac will be desolate, the sanctuaries of Israel will be laid waste” (v. 9a). The high places were sacred sites dedicated to the worship of pagan gods. Old Testament references to high places are uniformly negative (Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:52; 2 Samuel 1:19; 1 Kings 3:2-3; 12:31-32; 13:2, 32-33; 14:23, etc.), because worship at the high places was inconsistent with the worship of Yahweh.

The “high places of Israel” were temples established by Jeroboam I in Bethel (in the far south of Israel, just a few miles north of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah) and Dan (in the far north of Israel). Jeroboam I feared that, if his people were to continue going to Jerusalem to worship, they would soon form loyalties to Judah (where Jerusalem was located) and overthrow Jeroboam in favor of Rehoboam, the king of Judah. “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and see your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ He set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. This thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one, even to Dan” (1 Kings 12:28-30).

“and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword” (v. 9b). Yahweh will bring a violent end to the house of Jeroboam. This will come to pass when Shallum, son of Jabesh, conspires against Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, strikes him down and assumes the throne (1 Kings 15:8-10).

After the first two visions, Amos begged for mercy (7:2, 5), and in each of those instances, Yahweh relented (7:3, 6). However, in this third vision, Amos makes no such plea and Yahweh shows no signs of relenting. Presumably, Amos has seen the righteousness of Yahweh’s judgment and no longer has the heart to protest Israel’s punishment.

When Others Revile You.. AMOS HAS CONSPIRED AGAINST YOU

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel,
saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.
The land is not able to bear all his words.

11 For Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword,
and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.’”

“Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words’” (v. 10). Amaziah is the priest of Bethel—one of the “high places of Israel” established by Jeroboam I (see comments on v. 9a above).

What we heard in verses 7-9 were the words that Yahweh spoke to Amos. We have no record of Amos speaking to the people, but verse 10 makes it clear that Amos has been telling people what Yahweh said—warning them of the judgment to come. Amos would have done so, not out of personal pique, but because Yahweh told him, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel” (7:15). His purpose would have been to secure the people’s repentance and, perhaps, to stave off the worst of the judgment which Yahweh is about to impose.

The priest, Amaziah, has become aware that Amos has been preaching to the people, and interprets Amos’ words, not as prophecy, but as sedition against Jeroboam. There is an element of self-interest involved in Amaziah’s report to the king, because it was almost certainly Jeroboam who appointed Amaziah to his priestly position (1 Kings 12:31; 13:33).

Amaziah sends word to Jeroboam concerning Amos’ preaching, slanting his report to portray Amos, not as a prophet, but as a traitor. The fact that Amos came from Judah rather than Israel made this a believable charge.

Amaziah’s report reflects his loyalty to Jeroboam, his desire to curry the king’s favor, and a desire to hang onto his comfortable sinecure in Bethel. But above all, Amaziah’s report makes it clear that his first loyalty is to the king rather than to Yahweh.

“For Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land’” (v. 11). This report is fairly consistent with Yahweh’s words to Amos, but it deviates at two points. First, Yahweh said that it would be the “house of Jeroboam” (7:9) rather than Jeroboam personally who would die by the sword. As noted above, it will be Jeroboam’s son who dies by the sword. Second, this is the first mention of the people going into exile.

Like Scar in the Lion King, Leave and never come back.

YOU SEER, GO, FLEE AWAY!

12 Amaziah also said to Amos, “You seer, go,
flee away into the land of Judah,
and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
13 but don’t prophesy again any more at Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary,
and it is a royal house!”

“Amaziah also said to Amos, “You seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there” (v. 12). The word “seer” is roughly synonymous with “prophet,” although it might have carried a negative connotation.

Amos is from Judah, so Amaziah tells him to go home to Judah and earn his keep there. Amaziah’s assumption that Amos is profiting financially from his prophecy is surely influenced by the fact that Amaziah is profiting from his priesthood. However, Amos isn’t prophesying for profit. He makes his living by serving as “a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees” (v. 14).

“but don’t prophesy again any more at Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a royal house” (v. 13). There is a turf issue here. Bethel and its sanctuary belong to King Jeroboam—and, by extension, to Amaziah, the king’s priest. If there is religious work to be done here, Amaziah considers it his privilege to do it.

Amos Confirming His words is God’s message to God’s people

14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
neither was I a prophet’s son;
but I was a herdsman and a farmer of sycamore figs;

15 and Yahweh took me from following the flock,
and Yahweh said to me, ‘Go,
prophesy to my people Israel.’”

“Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son’”  The high priest is trying to make Amos out to be a for-profit, prophet.

“but I was a herdsman, and a farmer of sycamore figs” (v. 14b). Amos goes on to make it clear that he is a simple man who makes his living as a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.

The Core of a Prophet’s Message: LISTEN TO THE WORD OF YAHWEH!

16 Now therefore listen to the word of Yahweh:
‘You say, Don’t prophesy against Israel,
and don’t preach against the house of Isaac.’

17 Therefore thus says Yahweh:
‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be divided by line;
and you yourself shall die in a land that is unclean,
and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land.’”

“Now therefore listen to the word of Yahweh: ‘You say, Don’t prophesy against Israel, and don’t preach against the house of Isaac’” (v. 16). Yahweh told Amos to prophesy (v. 15), but the priest Amaziah tells him not to prophesy.

In doing this, Amaziah is attempting to countermand Yahweh’s commandment. He is presenting Amos with a stark choice—obey the priest or obey Yahweh. From the context, we can see that this is not a difficult choice for Amos. Amos will obey Yahweh.

“Therefore thus says Yahweh: ‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you yourself shall die in a land that is unclean, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land’” 

  • Whereas Amaziah the priest has given his first loyalty to the king rather than to Yahweh—
  • and whereas Amaziah the priest has failed to call the people of Israel to faithful service to Yahweh—
  • and whereas Amaziah the priest has attempted to countermand Yahweh’s commandment—
  • therefore, Yahweh has decreed that these five punishments will follow.
  • Amaziah’s wife will become a prostitute. While it is possible that she would suddenly take on a degenerate character, it is more likely that she would become a prostitute once her husband and children were taken from her. Left on her own, she would have few options to support herself. For the wife of a priest to become a prostitute would be a great humiliation for both wife and priest.
  • Amaziah’s sons and daughters will die by the sword. While Amos doesn’t provide further details, we know that the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser, captured a number of Israelite cities and carried their people into exile (2 Kings 15:29). Then, when Hoshea, the last king of the northern kingdom, rebelled against Assyria, Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, besieged Samaria for three years. The city finally fell in 722 B.C., and many of its people were killed and the rest were taken into exile. Amaziah’s sons and daughters could have been killed in any of these conflicts, but most likely died when Samaria fell
  • Amaziah’s land will be parceled out when he is exiled.
  • Amaziah will die in an unclean land—Assyria.
  • Israel will go into exile in Assyria.

These five punishments, taken together, cut off all possibility of hope for Amaziah. Because he gave his first loyalty to the king and opposed the word of Yahweh, he will lose everything—family, property, status, and finally, his life. Once the Lord executes these judgments, Amaziah will know nothing but slavery, poverty, loneliness, and humiliation.

Today we turn to an 8th century BC prophet named Amos. Amos was a shepherd tending sheep in southern Judah. He was also concerned for the poor in his community and he tended a sycamore tree, which yields an inferior type of fig which was part of the diet of the poorest people at that time. But Amos saw something that disturbed him very much. So he went to Israel with a desire to confront the king.

The Lord gave Amos three visions of what could happen to Israel.

  • In the first vision the Lord was sending locusts, just as their later crops began to sprout. This would devastate their food supply starving the people and destroying the nation. But Amos prayed that the people of Israel would be spared, and the Lord relented.
  • In the second vision Amos saw the Lord covering the land with fire that would evaporate the oceans and devour the land. And again Amos prayed for Israel and the Lord relented.
  • In the third vision Amos saw the Lord judging Israel and sentencing King Jeroboam to death. After this vision of judgment Amos did not pray and the Lord did not relent. Why?

Bethel is a Hebrew word which means “the house of God”. It was a place where God comes close to earth to interact with his people. In other words Bethel was a holy place, a location set aside for God’s use, a sanctuary.

We are told that Bethel was first discovered by the patriarch Jacob. He was fleeing from his brother Esau and one night as the sun was setting he found an ancient shrine and used one of the stones as a pillow. That night he had a remarkable dream that the Lord had come near with a great promise. When Jacob woke up he thought that this place was somehow a gateway to heaven. It was a place where God had come near to his people. So he called it Bethel, the house of God.

Today we are worshiping in a Bethel. This is a sacred place, through worship, we come close to God. That makes this spot holy, set aside for God’s purposes, a sanctuary. 

Centuries later Amos went to the same spot where Jacob had encountered God, the holy place, the sanctuary, called Bethel. And there he delivered to the priest of Bethel the frightening message of God’s judgment. But rather than praying to God in this sacred space the priest, Amaziah, prayed to his king accusing Amos of treason. And then Amaziah told Amos to leave because prophets were not welcome in the King’s sanctuary. So what had been a sacred house of God had been turned into a possession of the King, and this was the reason God had condemned the King and his kingdom to death and destruction.

The sin of Jeroboam and his priest was the sin of idolatry. Rather than worshiping God in God’s house they were worshiping other gods. Of course the priest, Amaziah would deny this. If we could ask him he would argue that the proper worship of the Lord, the God of Israel, was taking place at Bethel. But Amos knew differently. The nation was worshiping not God but the kingdom’s power and prosperity. The people knew the commandments of God to care for the poor and the needy, but they spent their money on ivory furniture imported from Africa, polished stone homes that glistened in the sunlight, and gourmet beef from the cows of Bashan. They knew that their faith should be in the Lord, but they were more confident in the strength of their armies and the alliances they had made with neighboring countries. They put their trust in money and power rather than in the God who had protected them in times past. And they were doing these things, worshiping other gods, worshiping money and power, right there in Bethel, God’s house.

God sent an unlikely person, a poor shepherd from somewhere down south. He had no qualification as a seer or prophet. But he knew the word of God. And he saw the decay that was happening in his society. He realized that the idolatry of money and power would lead to the nation’s destruction. So Amos traveled north to God’s house, Bethel, with a message of judgment. This holy place, set aside for God’s use, would be given over to the enemies of Israel. Their women would be violated, their children killed, and a remnant would be carried into exile, all because they had stopped worshiping God in God’s house.

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Psalm 66:1-9 “When We Slip”

Psalm 66:1-9 When we do slip and fall..

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you. All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah. Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah. Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. [NRSV]

Selah: A side note on the word

This Psalm contains two of the seventy-four occurrences of this this word through the whole collection of Psalms. The exact meaning and purpose of ‘selah’ are not certain, but the educated guess is some earlier Hebrew instruction to the choir or those who played instruments in worship.

One tradition holds that some musical selection was played to emphasis and set apart the words for dramatic impact. Another was that the choir or congregation would speak or recite a memory verse of the day, season or tradition of those who were worshipping. For example, if we joined the choir and sang the first seven words of Fanny Crosby’s ‘Amazing Grace’ every time someone said the word ‘grace’ it would draw the congregation together in the worship when those points of emphasis were noted.

We draw attention to this only because in this passage the word SELAH is offered in two places. First at the words: “Sing Praises to your Name” and secondly “let the rebellions not exalt themselves,” so I this case, a moment of pause and emphasis refer to a reversal: Stand up when you say Praise, and Sit down to express contrition, humility and reverence. In this way it is the emphasis of the crowd standing and sitting for the camp song: “Praise Ye The Lord!” and the response “Halleujah!” So wether sitting or standing, singing or listening to music, the SELAH is a note to be attentive, and participate in the reading, hearing and living of God’s word.

God is Great. God is Good. Ps 66

  • Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
    • sing the glory of his name;
    • give to him glorious praise.
  • Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    • Because of your great power,
  • your enemies cringe before you.

All the earth worships you;

  • they sing praises to you,
  • sing praises to your name.” Selah.

Come and See What God has done:

  • he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
  • He turned the sea into dry land;
  • they passed through the river on foot.
  • There we rejoiced in him,
  • who rules by his might forever,
  • whose eyes keep watch on the nations–
  • let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah.

Bless our God,

  • O peoples,
  • let the sound of his praise be heard,
  • who has kept us among the living,
  • and has not let our feet slip.

What about those of us who’ve slipped?

The Psalms are a great resource for learning how to praise God. They are filled with joy and sadness, frustration and peace, devotion and disobedience.

Psalm 66 is primarily about praise God, but what about those who are not praising God?

When you see and hear other people who are speaking hate, greed, pride, rage, selfishness, temptation, or any other witness of sin and evil: What do we say to help our brother or sister find their words and actions are leading away from God, harm to themselves, others or all of the above?

The answer is in the Psalm itself.

First, There are two pauses for reflection, Selah, Selah and some help from the choir, praise team or congregation.

Our cue is to draw on more resources than our selves. Our tendency when confronting evil, sin, or any division is to remain silent and unattached, OR we try to fight fire-with-fire. Ps 66 draws us to draw on our resources, AND

Second, we begin to focus on God’s goodness, greatness and story. My story is one of selfishness, emptiness, loneliness, greed, disappointment, anxiety, fear and frustration. But that is the story that is simply MY story.

When the story of how God has worked in my life and how God is working in my life, the story becomes God’s might works and power through me.

The Big Shift Leads to the Fall

From the beginning, when we twist God’s words, seek to rely on our own ideas, our own identity, our own correctness, our best interest, we quickly move away from God.

God doesn’t slip, we are the ones who fall away.

God is ready to claim us back when we repent, when we admit our lack of trust, when we affirm we don’t know it all, when we don’t know what is best. When find our joy and happiness in God we find what it means to be whole, loved, and complete.

The Power of Sin is greater than all I have, and it will never Give me what God has for me.

The greatest Grace and work God has done for me is to give himself on the cross and conquer sin and death and share that gift with me. It is the mighty work that we sing and shout and retell to a broken and searching world.

We come to the table today to be made whole, to start fresh, to ask God to be the mighty leader, healer, builder, who comes to restore, lead, make whole, and create in us the right and goodness God desires for us to know.

In this heart and state we have Great Good News of God’s work through us for a hurting world. “While we were yet sinner, Christ died for us.” Even when we were running away from God, God runs out to meet us with love and Grace. Give yourself to anew to Christ today!

Join us the Lord’s table.

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