October 31st. Pumpkins, Halloween, ghosts, goblins or???

Reformation, Luther Our world is head over heels in love with Halloween to the point of whole big box stores with all kinds of paraphernalia to be purchased for all ages. I can remember dressing up as a painter’s man using some of my dad’s painter’s garb. Carrying paint pails and paintbrushes, my sister and I won first place and the prize was a silver dollar. What has happened to creativity? Halloween has become big business and the merchants are using their “trick or treat” to drain our pocketbooks and fill theirs. But, what is noticed more than that is the death culture it is promoting with the ghouls and goblins dripping with blood. Today public schools spend the month of October in preparation for the party centered around Halloween, costumes, candy and spooky music! The next day at school the children arrive on sugar load and teaching children is as if they were hanging from the chandeliers! I garner that trick or treating is fun and I must admit I love doling out the candy to the little ones as they come knocking. But, I also have to ask is there a  spiritual significance to this day? Have we become so enamored with Halloween that we have forgotten about what really happened in 1517 on this date?

Here’s my dilemma. I will bet you 9 out of ten do not know that Oct 31st is not only Halloween but there is a significant historical event that we as Christians should know about and even celebrate. Yet sadly many, and that was me as well, have no idea about the significance of what else Oct 31st represents. For as many years as I had been a believing Christian, the church I attended never once mentioned this date and its spiritual significance. In fact like many churches today it was all about Harvest Parties, all about “fun.” We never even mentioned that something so significant happened that we should stop and take note. It was not until I was privileged to teach in a Reformed Christian Day School that I was awakened to what this day symbolized for me as a Protestant. What an awakening I was about to experience which would forever alter my view of this day!

Are you familiar with All Saints Day? I never heard of it but in passing and never knew the significance of that date. Did you know that it was the date on which the Reformation began? Let me give you a mini-history lesson.  It all began on Oct 31, 1517, when one young German monk named Martin Luther in great boldness and courage nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Castle door. After years as a monk searching for his peace and digesting the book of Romans, he had come to the conclusion that only through faith is one justified. He could not be quiet when the Holy Spirit had so altered his thinking and his heart. Why did I not know about this?  

I began to question my own church hierarchy but came up against a blank slate. Why was this a new idea for me? Why didn’t my church celebrate this day? When I began to question I was politely told that we did not discuss this, but why? Once again it seemed that denominations were the leading divisive tool that the enemy had used to keep us in the dark. I was not satisfied and so went searching on my own. What I found was not only revealing but life-altering.

I found that this young German Monk chose All Saints Day, Oct 31, 1517, to step out from his clerical collar and with great courage challenge the sale of indulgences to earn salvation. What Martin had learned in his quest for truth was this: salvation is a gift not to be purchased or sold. Not only did he learn that but he also learned that his church, his very denomination, was selling indulgences to gain this coveted salvation. Yet in the first chapter of Romans, he also learned this: 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes,” Martin could not be silent. He gathered his courage and wrote about this transformation that had changed his life forever! So emboldened he stepped up and told the world this marvelous news: the just shall live by faith not by works!

The question then before me is this: why am I not as bold as Martin Luther? Why am I not using this opportunity to tell the world of this marvelous news that I too have found?  Is that not a significant opportunity to share the gospel with those who do not know? So although Halloween trick or treat is a fun activity there is something far more significant that we should be talking and sharing about. Are we telling the world?

 

 

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Broken & Flawed No More

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Zechariah 11 In Chapter 11, we find the true character of the shepherds. They did not pity the people and took them for granted. As a shepherd, Zechariah asked them how much he was worth to them. They mockingly said 30 pieces of silver. According to Ex 21:32, thirty pieces of silver was the amount paid for a slave gored by an ox. Fast forward to the NT and we see that Judas asked the Pharisees, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him up to you?” The thirty pieces of silver picture the price of rejection.

As broken and rejected in the potter’s field, we lay there until the Good Shepherd reached down and took us and repaired our brokenness. In Japan, Kintsukuroi is the art of Japanese mending broken pottery. They cover each flaw in lacquer resin laced with gold or silver; each golden seam becoming part of the new design. Our flaws become symbols of events in our life that He has broken and repaired.

The world only sees our flaws, but the Shepherd sees each as part of His beautiful craftsmanship. He may have been only worth thirty pieces of silver to the religious leaders but to us, He is worth more than all the silver or gold this world has to offer. He purchased us, mended our flaws and gave us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading and reserved it in heaven for you.

Where are your golden seams that Christ has mended? Use them to tell your story of redemption from the pottery field. 

Photo: ©tsugui.de

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What Do People Say About Us?

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Zechariah 8 The leaders from Bethel had come to inquire regarding the fasts they had been keeping. Should we continue as we have these last 68 yrs.? God did not directly answer that question of them but He did tell them what He required. It is the same answer He gave to Micah and later to James which is “do good, love mercy and faithfulness and obey God.” James added to those words by saying care for the orphans and widows in their adversity.

Instead of directly answering their question, he probed their hearts and saw their hypocrisy. He asked them “did you truly fast for me…and now are you not doing it for yourselves?” An outward ritual of fasting and keeping the traditions is not what God is looking for. Isaiah had prophesied correctly about their hypocrisy. “You honor God with your lips, [and their fasting,] but your heart is far from Him.”

But when our heart is pure and righteous and we do that which God loves, others take note! They want to know why God is blessing us. They want to know the secret of our peace. They will say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. ”

Are others asking those questions of you? Are you ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess?

 

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Are you facing obstacles?

zechariah 4 mustard seed of faith

Zechariah 4  “Facing Obstacles? Watch God Work!”

Jesus told the disciples to stay alert lest they fall into temptation. How often do we, like them, fall asleep and miss what God is doing? The post-exilic community had mastered the avoidance technique of grumbling and complaining. They faced adversaries, a mountain of rubble, a lack of leadership, a lack of qualified workers and the lack of materials to rebuild the Temple. That is why God sent them Haggai and now Zechariah to encourage them.  God wanted them to trust Him and He would guide them; He would be their Jehovah Jireh providing the tools, wisdom, and the leader to complete rebuilding the Temple. It would not be by their might or strength but by His supernatural power!

Zerubbabel could see the forest but not the trees. Like him, we can’t understand how mountains/obstacles can be removed, but we can if we have the faith of a mustard seed and spiritual insight. Remember this principle; He who began a good work in us will complete it.

God wanted Zerubbabel to know that his hands would lay the foundation stone and his hands would lay the capstone. It will be step by step. Are you facing a great mountain and it seems like an insurmountable obstacle? Beloved, God wants you to take baby steps with a mustard seed faith.

If you have a mustard seed of faith, God can remove that mountain!

 

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Guilty or Forgiven?

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Zechariah 3 “How Do You Stand; Guilty as Charged or Forgiven?”

Picture a courtroom scene with the accuser and the defender and you in the middle. You stand before the righteous judge who listens to both sides of the argument. One says you are guilty and provides the evidence. Heads turn and you as the criminal listen and wonder.  Will I be convicted? Is there hope?  Yet, you also know that your very presence in prison garb hardly is a testimony of any innocence but in fact your guilt. As the accuser cries out your crimes we hear from the bench: May the Lord rebuke you –not once but twice. And at that moment you see the accuser and the courtroom silenced. 

How strategically God has placed this vision before Zechariah as a picture of us in all of our iniquities and prison clothing. We stand guilty but the Lord of Heaven’s Armies cries out: I was in the fire with him, but I snatched him out. Instantly, t the smoke and smell of fire were extinguished and you hear: remove his filthy clothes! What the accuser meant evil; God meant for good that His plan of redemption could be seen by all.

Gently and with love you hear; Follow my ways, keep my requirements and you will come and go with others. You will be a picture of my love, my forgiveness, and my blessing.

You have been forgiven and given a robe of righteousness. Go forth as God’s forgiven child.

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Where is God on Your Priority List?

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Haggai 1 & 2 Fifty-six years ago I read a verse in Malachi and claimed it for our family. With little faith, I wondered if God would, could, should do it. Let me share a testimony: I may have claimed it but God proved faithful. The result? It made me a strong believer in His promises as I watched a simple claim to become a treasure in faith. Haggai wants the people to do the same so listen carefully to his words:

The people were saying as many do today: I have bills to pay; I don’t have enough to tithe or whatever is leftover I may give to  God’s work.  But, God was clear then and He is clear today:  your thinking is backward!  Therefore He records two promises; one in Malachi and one in Matthew! 

“Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse; Test me and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for you until there is no room for it all.” [Mal 3 thought]

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matt 6]

The point being: when we put God first, He blesses and as the Israelites were experiencing; the reverse is also true. Is it any wonder then that Haggai came to the people and rebuked them for wrong priorities?  Was it right for them to live luxuriously while the house of the Lord lay in ruins? Then three times he asked them to reconsider their priorities. The result? Haggai’s message was convicting! The people turned and put God first and then God did just as Malachi said. Their crops rebounded and their pocketbooks were replenished.

God is clear: if I am first, I will be with you and I will bless you.

Is church and giving to the work of the Lord on the bottom of your list? Where is God in your priority list?

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Sitting Silent Before the Lord

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Zephaniah 1-3 Although the Prophet Zephaniah writes a message of doom and gloom there is light at the end of the tunnel, as we say. Read the whole book so you can see it. The wonderful thing about Zephaniah is that he did not keep the message God gave him, as hard as it was, to himself. The reason he shared is that like nearly all messages given to the prophets of old it was to call the people to repentance. Perhaps that is why he called for the people to “be silent before the Lord.”

Why is Zephaniah so clear on God’s plan of vengeance? He responds that men’s hearts are stagnant. They say the Lord will not do good or evil. They had lost the glory and grandeur of the Majesty of God. God is no longer real to them. They needed a wake-up call. So he calls them to seek the Lord, seek righteousness, and seek humility. Like the first king of Nineveh said; perhaps the Lord will delay his wrath.

Zephaniah continues to tell the Israelites that God is righteous and he commits no unjust acts. Every morning he reveals his justice. Jeremiah reminded them that His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. When all is said and done God will leave in their midst a humble and meek people who will find safety in the presence of the Lord.

Have you found that place of safety?  When was the last time you sat silent so you could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you about your sin?

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Are you a Quitter?

Habakkuk 1 -3 Habakkuk, The I Won’t Give Up Prophet!

Habakkuk 1 to 3

How often have you heard: “God doesn’t answer prayer” or “I tried faith but it didn’t work.” Beloved know this; some people won’t believe even if and when the evidence is presented! We remember that from the healed blind man’s testimony to the Pharisees. [John 9]  There are people who look at the evidence and choose to believe but there also are people who choose stubbornly to remain in darkness. Habakkuk shows us how he sifted through the pretense of his own unbelief and gleaned something that shook him to the core.

He accused God of not listening! Then he accused God of delaying judgment!  He was brutally honest with God. He persevered in his dialog with God. Habakkuk shows us this truth: God loves us enough to be brutally honest about how we feel. Would an idol do that? Would they allow us to vent our feelings and our questions even if we brought a sacrifice? The answer is NO!  As Habakkuk’s world was swirling with ungodliness he stood firm EVEN when he did not understand! Habakkuk determined to “remain stationed on the wall and keep watching so he could see what God says.”

If you think that God doesn’t answer prayer, guess who isn’t watching, waiting and trusting God?

Are you a quitter or are you steadfast? 

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Are You Ready?

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Nahum 1-3  In 1845, an archaeologist stumbled upon the site of Nineveh and found an extensive library that is now housed in the British Museum in London. These artifacts prove Nahum’s words are true and accurate.

Nahum the Elkoshite knew God and understood God’s ways. He knew that Assyria was brutal in its conquering of other nations and in particular Judah. In fact, they were so brutal that God sent Jonah there 100 yrs. before this book was written. As the Ninevites heard Jonah’s message the king and the entire city put on sackcloth and ashes in repentance. But, like many that go forward in a tent meeting, repentance is often short-lived. Fast forward to Nahum’s time and the Assyrians were again belligerent and cruel. Although Jeremiah had written that God’s mercies are new every morning, Assyria turned a deaf ear and so He inspired Nahum to reveal God’s character to them.

‘Listen Assyria, God is slow to anger not willing any should perish but all come to repentance yet He is also zealous and will avenge His people.  Whereas your king of old repented and you were spared, your new king is indolent and degenerate. You are ripe for enemy nations.’

Just because you think it won’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t. Assyria was destroyed and their idols burned. Like then, scoffers said: “where is the promise of his coming? It is as it always has been.” God is merciful but He will be patient just so long. If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready?

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The Missing Puzzle Piece

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Micah 5 Are you a puzzle fan? Have you ever worked hours on a jigsaw puzzle only to realize that one piece is missing? How frustrating!  Micah has placed a puzzle in scripture that we might glean insight into our Messiah. While the kingdom of Judah was preparing for war again, Micah was on the scene to forecast a ruler to come that would be the source of peace. But, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, they missed the markers. Jesus reminded them: You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, [Joh 5:39]

They had poured over the scriptures but the words of Isaiah 53 and Micah 5 seemed to be hidden to their understanding. And then there is the befuddlement of why the religious leaders never asked Jesus about his birthplace. And the powerful evidence in the healing of the blind man of John 9. As he stood before them they bluntly said: We know that God has spoken to Moses! We do not know where this man comes from! If they had only asked him yet they NEVER ONCE inquired!  We wonder why? Jesus tells them what the missing puzzle piece is: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains.”

The blind man understood what the scholars had missed. This man was the prophesied Messiah from Bethlehem.  Have you found the missing puzzle piece to your quest for the Messiah? It is right there in Micah 5.

 

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