Elijah: One Voice Against the System

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I Kings 19:9-11
9There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The Lord Appears to Elijah
And the word of the Lord came to him:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous
for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites
have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars,
and put your prophets to death with the sword.
I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
I Kings 19:9-10

I am praying right now for my anglo brothers and sisters. When I started writing this blog, I thought about the position and circumstances my anglo clergy brothers and sisters face.  Just like there is a cry to bring down systemic racism in the government, laws and the application of said laws, our churches/denominations have positioned us all, particularly our anglo brothers and sisters to lend a hand and their voice to removing racism, politics, classism, & sexism from the practice of our faith.  

friend_hugsncaring_mtl_01Much like Elijah, there is much at stake.  He has felt the pressure of speaking up, as well as seen the result of others that took a stance.  He saw the radicals and how they were dealt with by those in power.  He saw their lives taken, and understood the magnitude of the moment; taking stance for those who’s voices have been muted or taken away.

He won a major battle, liberating believers from persecution and fear, and began to tear down the structure one step at a time.  His rebellious stance was successful, and while progress was made, those in power maintained their position and further turned their attention to Elijah.  Fear overtook him, and he found himself shifting from having the power and confidence to stand for the Lord and chase down those who stood against God.

In this moment, Elijah cries out to the Lord in I Kings 19:10:

I Kings 19:10I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.

shockedElijah was enlightened!  He knew what was right and what was wrong, but understood the large battle and dangers of fighting against an entire system. He would speak out against a system, had people in powerful positions, on the payroll, and receiving benefits.   He wasn’t just trying to change a practice or an interpretations of a scripture, was asking God to work through him to restore the temple of God on person and evil practice at a time.

They know that on the other side of the sacrifice will be further sacrifice.  Some will suffer violence, persecution, and many will be blackballed.  Their reputations will be smeared, their income could stop, their entire lifestyle could change.  And thus, while the desire is there to continue fighting, the reality of the situation could cause anyone to fear speaking up.

confused personIn the end, right is right!  And for those that believe in God, we must continue finding the courage to stand in agreement with His Word.  We must believe that our protection and prosperity come from him, and thus we don’t speak truth in fear, we speak truth in faith!

God tells Elijah (eventually), I Kings 19:18, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”  The reality was there were others that were frightened and scared to stand, but would gain strength through Elijah standing.  They would stand with him, and ensure that the days of Baal came to an end, but it all hinged on Elijah continuing to stand.

 

#PastorJDO3

It’s the Party Guy!!!!!

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Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as
he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and
they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8

As I was reading this passage, I saw the world!  Each of us, taking turns eating from forbidden trees.  Eating until we are full, and then sharing the fruit with others.  Everyone smiling, full bellies and all, looking for the next tree to fulfill the unmet needs of the flesh.

writingThe serpent now, craftier than ever.  Pouring millions of dollars into advertisement, has generations of investors and consumers addicted to his delicacies.  In this season, he has increased his reach by making not only the sin satisfying and enticing, but he has made it convenient as well.  With one click or call, sin can be at your front door, on your computer screen.   And we are all fighting to reserve the next spot.  We sit frustrated when we have to wait on sin, complaining about the 90 minute wait times, 2 week back orders, out of stock notifications and the like, yet we wait, and yes, we consume.

We judge each other for our nakedness, covering up just enough to continue in sin.  While some sins are committed together, others are done in private, and spill over into public arguments and blame shifting from the shame of sins we’ve committed.  While other groups parade proudly in the streets, bragging about their sins, petitioning to the world for acceptance, and demanding that the house of God alter its world to reflect current cultural norms.

We spend our time in open rebellion, posting our sins before mankind, like a child who no longer fears chastisement and has determined to live outside of the will of God and their parents.  We stand on the bow of ships like Sargent Dan in Forrest Gump, challenging God as though we are invincible.

confidentHere we find Adam and Eve, after eating from the tree.  No time frame is given, but for fun, lets understand it our time frame.  There have been 2000+ years of grace given to us by the Lord (thus far), and Paul immediately has to address the Body of Christ because it is approaching the grace of God as though God has given us a Life Time Park Pass to Sin World.  Paul says, God’s grace is not a reason to sin, but a reason to turn from sin, yet, both he, and we find ourselves encountering those who are immersed in it as a way of life, without regret or a hint of remorse.

It’s as though we are on a cruise liner!  One big party with 24 hours access to feed our flesh.  It’s as though we have forgotten that the Lord has announced His return.  Though we have no day or time, we have his promise.  Much like our forefathers, they grew weary waiting for the promised messiah, and went about living and doing as though he was not going to honor His word.  They stopped looking for Him, and stopped listening to those who spoke about Him and for Him.  They walked away from God and adapted the practices and God of those who inhabited the land in which the dwelt.  They begin to customize the faith, keeping its basic tenets, and started customizing the faith according to best local practices, and to form fit a God towards their needs and personal desires.

shame2They stopped having a relationship with Him, and used Him as a resource to relieve themselves from the penalty of sin, while those who were chosen as servants figured out different ways to use their position with him to gain financial wealth and political prominence.  God ultimately decided to hold back his Word until the right moment.  He suspends His 3rd party service, and hand delivers His message!  Like a thief in the night, He appears with little fan fair, and few signs.  Only few were watching, so He came while all the ignorance and disobedience continued.  He walked among them and began to shine His light, revealing the darkness.

And yep, you guessed it!  He is coming again.  And much like His last entrance, He is going to crack the sky and we will all be caught red handed.   To retouch basis with our text, we will all run and hide.  Like Adam and Eve, when we hear the sound of the Lord in the cool of the garden, we will all realize that this Friend we have in Jesus is not just filled with grace and mercy, but he is filled with wrath!

Adam only knew God has a friend and a father.  He hadn’t sinned, and has not faced God’s discipline or correction.  In these moments, he became aware that he would have to stand face to face with the Lord and give a full account.  Yep, you guessed it!  So will we.

discouragedSo, I named this blog the Party Guy, because I used this character with my oldest two children.   I would send them to bed, and then they would party for the next 2 to 3 hours with the door closed, as though I was not aware they were in full disobedience.  I would yell upstairs a couple of time s to correct them, and they would be obedient for a few minutes, and then the party would resume.  Yep, you guessed it.  I would go upstairs to join the party.  Bursting through the door, I would says, “It’s the party guy!!!  Where’s the party?”  They would both dive into their beds, pulling the blanket over them as though it would protect them.

And yep, you guessed it we too are going to be leaping in our beds and grabbing our covers.  Sewing together leaves, and not this bold encounter with the Lord we boast about.  I’m going to ask him this!  I’m going to tell him that!  All lies!  We are going to look him in the eyes, and hopefully just say “Holy!” without any other word or words to follow!  To see the face of God, know who He is, know what He commands, know his power and to know yourself and your disobedience you experience both the fear and joy of meeting the savior!

#PastorJDO3

 

Nah; We Not Good!

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12 In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have
spoken concerning his house, from beginning to
end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to
judge his house forever for the iniquity which
he knew, because his sons brought a curse on
themselves and he did not rebuke them.  14 And
therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the
iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned by
sacrifice or offering forever.”  1 Samuel 3:12-14

 

In life, offense is bound to happen.  As humans, we make bad decisions from time to time, and these mistakes cause hardship in the relationship.  For the most part, a simple conversation and apology will restore the relationship, but there are some offenses that end differently.  As a kid, one of the worst things that could happen after an encounter was to extend your hand as a peace offering and say, “We Good?”, and to have it rejected the gesture and say, “Nah! We Not Good!”

I know it’s not good English, but its an accurate translation.
“We Not Good” means all has not been forgiven.
Justice has not been served.  We will encounter each other again.
More suffering will follow.

God speaks to Samuel in regards to His new responsibility and about the action of the outgoing responsible party.  God speaks to Eli not to tell Eli’s business, but to make sure Eli and Samuel are sure about why his reign have come to an end.    Samuel answers God’s call receiving both instructions, correction and his first assignment.

Samuel’s First Challenge…

He would have to stand before the man he loved and respected and inform him of the Lord’s plans.  God comforts him, telling him that Eli is already aware of the coming judgement.  He understand the punishment coming, and is merely waiting for the details.  He is prayerful that God will deal mercifully with both he and his sons, but he is aware that God is: A.  Not talking to him  B. Speaking through him C. Displeased with him.

loudvoiceHe is merely waiting for sentencing, and sadly, his son (Samuel) has been charged with the duty to deliver them to him.  Now, this is not about Samuel, though he is surely learning from seeing how God is dealing with his father and mentor.  And on top of that, the word is not good.

His first assignment would not be to carry a word of blessing, but a word of judgement.  He would confirm the fate of his mentor, and experience for the first time the weight and challenge of carrying the Word of God to His people.

God recounts for Samuel the actions of Eli and the boys.  You can almost hear the frustration in his voice, as the long suffering love and grace of the Lord has been pushed to its max.  God has confronted Eli.  The people have cried out to God and to Eli about the atrocities, but Eli chose to take a soft line towards his children.  But God would model for Eli in this judgement.  God would not take a soft line, or give a lesser sentence.  Though filled with grace and mercy, the wrath of just part of God would be experienced.

Elis’ Perspective…

Eli has seen God forgive his people.  He knows that God can forgive.  He knows God will forgive.  The question that not looms is, Will God Forgive?  Eli and his boys are in need of God’s forgiveness!   Each day, he participated in the atonement of man through the sacrifice of man.  God dictated for His people what would make their relationship right, and in the incident that they would sin, they could come to God with a sacrifice, and this would please the Lord.

downloadSo you can imagine that Eli wondered what type of sacrifice would be demanded of him? What could he give up to restore God’s favor? What could he give up to return their relationship back to it original state.  What could he offer up to the Lord to honor and restore the luster of the covenant he was in with Him?

Samuel hears these words from the Lord, that is to be delivered to Eli,

And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house
shall not be atoned for by sacrifices or offering forever.”  1 Samuel 3:14

Imagine being like Eli…

This bothered me.  God, so easy and eager to forgive.  The one who is filled with grace and mercy.   The one who is long suffering.  The one who honors covenant, doesn’t change, is faithful, has decided 1.  No sacrifice is good enough to make the relationship right 2.  No person in the family line can 3.  This punishment is forever.

How burdening a thought?  Imagine offering the Lord the sacrifice of all your assets, and the Lord not extending his hand in peace.  Imagine knowing there was nothing you could do to change the Lord’s mind.  What if your prayers were sent to voice mail, and God ignored all your calls.  What if He denied you Facetime?  Wouldn’t meet you on Zoom?  Blocked you from His Skype account.  What if He reported you as spam?

Eli and his sons would meet their fate, knowing that no sacrifice from present or even future members of their blood line could atone for their sin.  How depressing!  They understood even future generations would also live under the punishment from their hands.  Their family would face an eternal band from the Lord, and would forever be cast from service.

Waiting for punishment….

Angry upset boy, little man

All Eli could do was wait.  Much like a child, eager to get the punishment over, Eli laid in his room waiting for a word from the Lord.   How frustrating. God spoke to Him about his actions, and now he waits for confirmation about the judgement.

I know some of you find the actions of God hard to believe.  And believe me, He isn’t all talk.  Both of Eli’s sons die on the same day, and then Eli upon hearing it falls and breaks his neck!  Game set and Match!!!

Some of us foolishly believe that when Christ comes, the compassion in Him is going to make Him change His mind.  There is no way a loving God could send people to hell you say.  There is no way a forgiving God will punish people for their sins. He will just forgive them you are thinking.  Be it known, He spoke to Eli, and followed through with His plan. 

He gave Eli adequate time to correct his sons and to do right by the people.  Most importantly, Eli had time to teach and redirect his son’s as to their abuse and misuse of the offerings.  He didn’t require them to treat it with honor and holiness, and thus the one action God made that could restore their relationship with Him, he removed by putting an asterisk next to their family name.   They defamed the name of the Lord in the community, and He would in turn make a public statement in defense of His name by dealing in the open with the ones that brought shame to His temple and His name!

discouraged Pastors, Prophets, Leaders…and the like, we need to get it together!  The response by God is relative not to the sins or imperfections of Eli or his sons, but by the way they managed the house of the Lord.  I am concerned that God is not only watching, but has been displeased with our management and our actions among His people.  Some of the church hurt is from congregants, but there are tremors throughout the body of Christ of people grieving and suffering because of the un-Christlike behavior of those God has called and purposed.  

I wish that it could be said that these people hurting the body of Christ are all false prophets, but like Eli, I believe that many of them are called, and being reckless in the position God has placed them in.   The calling of God does not make us bullet or fire proof, and in the event that it does, it will not protect you from the hand of the Lord.  Judgement is coming for all people, and to those of us who have been called to a higher standard, we know that the “Servant well done!” could be more like “What have you done?”  or worse, “Nah, We not Good!”

It is my prayer that each of us will correct our ways and make sure that we align our lives both publicly and privately to be more reflective of God.  In this, I believe our return to church will be more than just entering a building, it will be a return to the presence of God.  A place where we can find peace and rest for our souls.

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh…

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1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. 
And word from the LORD was rare in those days, vision
were infrequent.  2 And it happened at that time as Eli was
lying down in his place (now his eyes sight had begun to grow
dim and he could not see well), 3 and the lamp of God had
not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple
of the LORD where the ark of God was,  1 Samuel 3:1-3

 

Sadly, as I read this passage, I saw a report that has replicated itself in many generations.  While it is not popular preaching, this passage introduces the journey of transition from One Prophet to another.

surprised--120

I know; this is Eli!  He is the man of God.  The one God promised that his family would “…walk before the LORD forever…”  God, despite the behavior of previous generations, had honored His promise, though the ones serving Him had not been honorable in theirs.  God decides no longer to work through Eli’s lineage and anoints Samuel.

Before you start screaming this in unfair?  And how dare God!  Let’s look closely at why God chose to move in a different direction.

He chose Eli as a High Priest to serve God and the people.  He was responsible for leading the people in all righteousness, and helping the people walk rightly before the LORD.  He helped them atone for their sins, making sure their sacrifice was acceptable to the LORD, and that they understood the perspective of God and His desire for His people.

Eli served the LORD for over 40 years, and from what we know, faithfully and dutifully, but something changed.  It wasn’t that Eli had begun committing wrongs, but God was displeased with Eli for how he was managing His house.  It wasn’t Eli’s hands, but it was the hands of his sons that were steadily committing atrocities before and to God’s people.  They were bullying the people, taking offerings and sacrifices to feed themselves, and sleeping with the women who served in the temple.

discouragedEli confronted his sons about their ways, but did not punish them, stop them or remove them from their position.  Maybe he thought his talk was enough?  Maybe he was too weak to stop them?  Maybe he didn’t have the strength to remove them?  Maybe they were too far gone?  We don’t know, but what we do know is that the word about their actions spread through the camp like a wild fire.

Whatever the case, we find that God was displeased with his service.  I wonder what God thinks about the service of Priest and Prophet today.  While it is clearly not every Priest or Prophet, we find that God is very attentive to how the house of God is treated, and how the relationship between God and His people are managed.  Despite God’s love and His promise to Eli, we find that protecting His name and correcting the errors and harm to the people who came to His house as a place of refuge, solace and restoration was so important to God that He had to do what was best for all.

See, Eli was putting the comfort and needs of His sons above the name of God and the laws of God.  This angered God.  It’s not just that Eli heard the complaints of the people, but God heard the complaints of the people.  He saw with His own eyes the actions of the sons.  He saw how they treated the temple.  He understood their hearts, and knew that they saw it not as a place of repentance but as a resource for their pleasure and delight.  As Prophets and Priests, we are responsible for the way the name of the LORD is spoken.  We are responsible for the reports about the way the house of the LORD is given to the community.  The reputation of the Lord and His house are tied to our deeds and actions, and Eli had addressed, but not taken the proper action towards restoring the peace to the people.   The people wondered how could God allow His servants to take advantage of His people?  So, to protect His name, He suspended service.

confused personGod was so angry about the disrespect, that He tells Eli that his time is up, but that He is going to cut off his entire line for service and kill both of his sons on the same day.  He speaks, “Those who honor me, I will honor, those who despise me, will be disdained.”
1 Samuel 2:31

God will not allow the man of God, no matter how great his service in years past, to allow His house to be disgraced and His people abused.   God asked Eli, “‘Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’”  1 Samuel 2:29  Eli chose to confront his sons, but allowed them to continue doing wrong by God and people.  He returned to his seat, as though his job was done, allowing the people to continue being offended by his seed.  God watched Eli turn a blind eye to his sons, and decided that he had become a co-conspirator with the boys.  Though Eli had done nothing wrong, his silence toward the verbal outcry against his children was enough for God to consider him part of the problem and not the solution.

Eli, by not correcting his sons had chosen to treat them with more honor than he treated the LORD!  And for this, He moved in an entirely new direction.  Though Eli kept his title, His days of serving were over.

God had changed His Course!

God needed someone that would love Him and serve Him.  He needed someone that He could trust, and that would restore the faith of the people in the Temple and in their God to protect them from all forms of harm and danger.  He chose Samuel!  This could also be stated, He Chose to Move On From Eli!

loudvoiceThe Chapter begins acknowledging that Samuel was a boy.  He was young and inexperienced, while Eli had grown old in age.  Samuel had entered ministry, learning under the reign of Eli, and under the watchful eye of the LORD!  Samuel, the text says was ministering before the LORD.  Samuel’s service was not only noticed by the LORD, but by Israel.  Loyal, Faithful and Respectful of Eli, Samuel carried out his duties as assigned, and his work pleased God.

God needed someone that would not only carry out the rituals, but that would listen and be obedient when He was speaking.  We find that the people were being served, but that there was a lack of vision and revelation in that time.  God, still a presence for His people, was either not speaking to His Prophets and Priests, or was speaking but were not saying what thus said the LORD.   

Even though the word says that vision was diminished and the Word of God was rare, verse 2 informs us that Eli was found “…lying down in his place.”   This doesn’t mean that He was always laying down, but in this instance, God took the time to document that Eli was lying down on the job.  How could Eli be lying down?  God had expressed his displeasure, there was no word from the LORD, no visions among his servants, his son’s were disrespecting God and His Temple, Samuel was young and serving and Eli was not even in the temple.  The scripture says he was “…in his place.”

One would think that Eli would be in the house of the LORD!  Eli should be laying in the same room as the Ark of the Covenant.  He should be sitting in the presence of God, hoping to hear a Word, eager to see a vision, but Eli is at home leaving things to deteriorate while Samuel the body serves the LORD!

Maybe we are being to hard on Eli?  The Word informs us that “…his eye sight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well.”  Eli had some legitimate health concerns, and because of this, we should have compassion for him due to his circumstances, but the Word informs us that he was still able to make it to the temple to sit at the gate.  He was present for the peoples sacrifice, but like his sons, it would seem that his presence was no longer to serve the LORD, but rather to get his portion of the sacrifices to God.

integrityWhile Eli was leading and absent in a time that needed him, the text lets us know that God’s favor was leaving.   Much like Saul, God’s favor now resided with someone else.  David had been anointed in private, and would one day be acknowledged as King in public.   Samuel too had been chosen by the LORD, and had to wait for God to fulfill His Word and Promise to Him.  Samuel would be aware from this point on, that the anointing and favor can be granted and can be moved if and when ones season was up.

Though anointed by God’s vessel, the text says “…the lamp of God had not yet gone out…”   The imagery painted here was that the anointing was fading from Eli.  Eli had accepted his fate and wasn’t interested in doing what it would take to change his fate and the performance and actions in the temple.  It would seem that he would head to the temple once he realized that God was speaking.  But he knows in his heart that God has moved on, so he simply instructs Samuel to answer the LORD, and then to bring back the revelation of the LORD to him.

Furthermore, God is careful to point out that Samuel was not just serving the LORD, but he was “…lying down in the temple or the LORD where the ark of God was.”  While Eli was enjoying the comforts of his home, Samuel was laying down in the presence of the LORD!  He rested in the place where God’s power was, and for that, God spoke to him.  He cried out from the silence, choosing to speak to a boy whom was in service, but had yet to really know God.  Until this point, his connection to the LORD was Eli, who was able to teach him rituals and deeds, but could no longer give him a Word and Vision.  Samuel would have to learn directly from the source, because his guardian lacked a strong connection.

Samuel would hear a strange voice 3 times, answering on the forth time, to find out that God has a plan for him.  And while Eli has 40 years of experience, he is able to give the young boy basic advise.  I suppose this should count as mentorship.  Eli’s sons have gone astray, and the son given to him by Hannah.  He has been entrusted with raising and mentoring this young man in the service of the LORD, and one could argue that Eli is even failing at this.

And with all this, God steps in!  God’s assessment of the situation is bleak.  He sees not only the sons of Eli are wayward, His man of God is diminished, but sees a young boy with gifts who is not being mentored.  God’s voice was quiet, but still.  His Word didn’t return void.  It hit the ears intended.   And brought a fire to a lamp that was slowly being filled with oil.

This is a Word to the Eli’s of today.
It is likewise a Word to the Samuels of the today.

God will honor those who honor Him.  Those that despise Him will be disgraced. 
God is serious about His house, and protective of His name.

 

God is eager to be intimate with His people, and will remove all that make peace and restoration difficult.  God will punish.  God will chastise.  God will appoint.  God will remove.  God will honor His Word, but He will defend the integrity of His name above all, and will but down all those who bring it shame.

#PastorJDO3

 

Welcome to Abomination Church!

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Welcome to Abomination Church!  Here, We are a MESS!

In this day, we have churches popping up on every street corner.  We have some of the most creative and attractive names, captivating slogans, missions statements, logos and the like.  It’s marketing at its best.  Communicating righteousness, holiness, godliness, community, evangelism and service under one lord, one faith and one baptism.

Though pleasing to the eye of man, we find in chapter 7, a thriving church that is too boastful about its claims.  The church bears the most marketable name ever; the name of The LORD!   It advertised, but advertised falsely.   The advertisement was enough to draw people into the fold, but once in, the people saw that it was all marketing, and gravitated to the pocket of people that were committing the same sin they were committing.   They were a church of small groups, but none of them were seeking righteousness, they were only speaking on righteousness.

 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
2 Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house
 and proclaim
there this word, and say, “Hear the word of the LORD,
all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship!”
 Jeremiah 7:1

God tells Jeremiah to stand at the gate and speak to all who traveled.   He stood shockedthere like an usher, handing out the worship bulletin.    The order of the day, “Change!  Jeremiah would speak loudly, decreeing the Word of our Lord.   This Word was a verbal reminder, much like you cross the state line when traveling.  See, each state has laws that pertain to itself, and has the ability to arrest you and hold you accountable for its laws despite what you know.  It’s your responsibility to learn about the lay and laws of the land so that you can act accordingly

Sadly, the people had read the laws, and had decided that change was not possible or more like desirable.  Turns out that they loved the Temple because of the fellowship of the people, but didn’t love the Temple because of the worship of the LORD!  They gathered in groups and celebrated their lifestyles, not correcting one another.  They were a fully accepting church, approving the lifestyle of those who went against the Word of  God.

3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,
“Amend your
ways and your deeds, and I will
let you
dwell in this place.  4 Do not trust in
deceptive words, saying, “This is the temple
of the LORD, the temple of the LORD:”

Jeremiah 7:7-4

God instructs Jeremiah to tell the people “Amend your ways and your deeds, and i will let you dwell in this place.”  This statement was tough to read.  In this time, we sit in our homes eager to return to the house of the LORD, but have been quarantined into our homes.  It has me wondering if this bears some semblance to what God was addressing through Jeremiah?  Could it be that God had to use this virus because His Men and Women of God would not confront the people?  Maybe we were so busy with business, that forgot to present to people God’s standard to His people.  We immerse ourselves in being social, and not in being spiritual, and God had and has had enough!  

He closes the doors of the church, forcing the people to stay at home demands that they consider their ways, and the way they are presenting themselves to Him.  God says, “Do not trust in deceptive words,…”  These deceptive words are not just the potential deceptive words from a false prophet, but the words of those misguiding you with their proclamations.   The words he addressed was “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the LORD”

downloadThese words are dangerous to the hearer, because they make a statement about who dwells and who directs the place they are in.  Saying this is The Temple of the Lord says that His presence is here.  It says that His word reigns supreme.  It says everyone is submitted to Him.  It says that everyone is following His rules and law.

I wonder if God thinks this about many of our houses of worship?  Or maybe they shouldn’t be called houses of worship, but houses of fellowship.  Maybe God has grown tired of our false advertisement?  Maybe the old bait and switch has caught the eye of our LORD, who has grown tired of us presenting God like a snake oil and tonic salesman?  Who knows?  What we do know is that God protects His name and cares about the acts performed in his temple and in the community.

5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds,
if you truly practice justice between a man and his
neighbor, 
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the
orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent
blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to
your own ruin, 7
then I will let you dwell in this
place, in the land that I gave your fathers
forever and ever. 
Jeremiah 7:5-7

God tells the people they need to amend their ways!  He is disgusted because their deeds don’t match their statement.  It’s much like we say Jesus is Lord over our lives, and then we hear and disobey His Word.  God says, this is not acceptable!  God accepts us for who we are, but doesn’t want us to remain where we are.   God wants people to know that their love for Him, and representing Him properly in the community is key to teaching others about Him.

Imagine what it was like for those who had been mistreated by God’s people to be seen dressed, up and traveling to the Temple.  They would watch God’s people walking piously into God’s house, as though God approves of them neglecting the needs of His creation.  They would watch them leave from other gods temples, and making sacrifices to statues, and then claim to serve the one true and living God.

discouragedGod informs them that they will not only be restricted from the temple, but they will be held out of the land that was promised.   I wonder how much of the promise we have missed out on playing Religious Charades with God?  Their behavior is not just keeping them from growing spiritually and intimately with God, but financially or productively.

8Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to
no avail. 9
Will you steal, murder, and commit
adultery, and swear
falsely, and offer sacrifices to
Baal, and walk after other gods that you have 
not
known,
10 then come and stand before Me in this
house, which is called by My name, and say,
‘We are delivered!’
– that you may do all these
abominations?
11 Has this house, which is called
by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight?
Behold, I, even I, have seen it, “declares the LORD
Jeremiah 7:8-11

 His first statement to them in verse 8 is, claiming a place to be the house of God, does not mean a place is the house of God.  Many of us have fooled ourselves with similar statements, and God set’s the record straight.  Jeremiah was not speaking to them quietly or in isolation, he stood at the gate and started calling a spade a spade.  God refused to cover their sin, not because He was not forgiving or not able to, but because He knew their sacrifice was more of a payment to sin, and not repentance for sin.

God says, will you continue to come into my house and lie to my face?  “We are delivered…” people were professing, and all the while God knew they were divulging.  Not only did God know, but the community both inside and outside knew of the countless sins of the people, because they sinned both against God and mankind.  And because they were the people of God, they were misrepresenting the Name of the LORD!  God is not seen, but He is present.  He hears all and sees all.  He knows all.  He can not be fooled.  We can not use our words like a app filter.

loudvoiceGod makes it clear!  This house is an abomination.  The people that dwell in it are not righteous, but they are a mess.  They are committed to their sin lifestyles, and only seek the Lord to restore their relationship with God so that they can sin more without fear of consequence.  Are you looking for a place to continue in sin, or to resign from sin?

Why do you come?  Rather, why did you go?  Why are you streaming the service?  Why are you watching the Bible Study?

 

#PastorJDO3

Palm Sunday: Hopeless to the Hopeful

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Now the crowd that was with him when he called
Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the
dead continued to spread the word. John 12:17

Today, we celebrate the commitment our Lord Jesus displayed as He mounted a donkey and road into Jerusalem.  He did so knowing that His time in earthly public ministry was coming to an end.  All He had spoken in truth, confirmed in actions, and spoke prophetically had led to this final moment.  He knew that His time in public ministry had brought Him from obscurity into prominence, and the powers in existence would be forced to address the move amidst its residents who had moved from hopeless to hopeful.

covenantThis crowd had not only witnessed his teachings, but had witnessed His miracles as well as the testimony of His walk.   Many had experienced His touch, others his love and forgiveness.  He had taken no political stand, but had stood tall as a representative to those who were abused, cast aside, and suffering.

His time with them had taken a people who had grown spiritually numb, going through rituals and routines, living by the letter, and oblivious to the Spirit and truth and breathed life into their existence.  They were over taxed and powerless, and though bearing the title of chosen people, they existed downcast because they had lost favor with the Lord, loosing land, loosing their power, and place in the chain of authority.   Once a dominant people, they are dominated, taxed in the land that was once theirs.

They held on to the word of the Prophets!
A word that promised the people a return to their land,
a return to their God, the return of God’s Word,
and the return of their nation to prominence
by restoring the Throne of David!

History shows us that many had laid claim to being the Messiah before Jesus came, but none had fulfilled the scripture, nor had they displayed miracle working power.  Some displayed knowledge of the scripture, and had led successful revolts against the government, but none of them were Jesus!

whipJesus enters the synagogues and temples, teaching and preaching.  He walks amongst the shore lines, sits on their hills, lays hands on their sick, heals their diseased, feeds those that are hungry, gives clothes to those who are naked, eats at the table of those who are despised, gives esteem to those who were socially depressed, and liberates the souls of those who were financially compressed.

Jesus becomes the symbol of hope.  With each miracle, their hope grew!  One miracle in specific gave them the hope they needed.  As they gathered at the tomb of Lazarus, professional mourners crying, sisters overwhelmed with grief, Jesus enters a scene of hopelessness.  He morns with those morning and cries out to His God.  He verifies His standing with the Lord, and they come to agreement as to a visible display of what was to come.  He calls out next to Lazarus, who has been in the grave 4 days, and calls him to come forth.  The stone is ordered away, and the grip of death and the barricade of the seal were removed.

Lazarus came forth, but was still bound, wrapped in the clothes that held him together in his death.  Jesus ordered that the people remove the clothes from him.  They were no longer befitting of who he was.  Now he would live again.  His testimony would spread throughout the nation.  He would become productive again.  His lifeless state would not be filled with vigor and purpose. 

friend_hugsncaring_mtl_01The people saw him, and he too became a sign of hope.  With each day, they grew hopeful that they too would be raised from their lifeless state.  This crowd, now stands with Him as He begins His journey towards Jerusalem.  They ran through the town testifying about His power, and radiating about His character.  They talked about the love He displayed, and the restoration that was in Him.  All that they had hoped and prayed for stood before them.  The scripture was being fulfilled.  The promise God made through His Prophets has come to past, and they stood awe struck by what God has done in their midst.

I wondered today what is your response to His work in your life?  Has He not performed miracles?  Has He not been your healer? deliverer? protector? provider?  Has He not called you from the grave?  Has He not removed your grave clothes (sin of the past and its consequences), restored you and given you life and life more abundantly.  Hasn’t He lifted up your head, making you the head and not the tail, restored your soul, renewed your mind, filled you with the Holy Spirit?

And if He hasn’t done it for you, can you celebrate today, knowing that what He did for Lazarus, He can and will do for you?  Maybe your are still in the grave clothes, and the stone has you sealed in?  You can celebrate knowing that you are one Word away from freedom.  One Word away from deliverance.  One Word away from finding your purpose.  One Word away from walking in your calling.  One Word away from being restored in front of those who have watched you perish.  You are one Word away!

Victory-Lap-Retirement-750x486Our God will remove the barriers, and will take the things that have held you captive and loosen your limbs so you can serve to your fullest capacity.  Your life like Lazarus will serve as a testimony for all to believe, and all you have to do is answer the call when He calls your name.

So if you are still in the Tomb, I am calling you forth.  Your answer will change your life, and will serve as a testament to the goodness of God, His mercy and His grace for His people.  All you have to do is believe!

For those of us who sit hopeless in our homes, wondering when this will end, let us be encouraged by the fact that our Lord cares about our pain.  He grieves with us!  Lazarus lay dead in a tomb for 4 days, and we are alive and have the comforts of home.  Remain hopeful!  I know that He remains mindful of us, and know that this suffering is not until death.  He is setting the stage for His voice to be heard.  He has shut us in our homes, forcing us to speak again to our children about the God that is in control, and how His mercy extends to all generations.  We have testified about His hand, bragged about His love, and expressed gratitude for the favor He has shown us in the midst or our exilic state.

Mary and Martha expressed it best, greeting the Lord as Master, Rabbi and Messiah, though their brother lay dead in the grave.  Regardless of the outcome, they understood who Jesus was and was willing to accept His will for their lives and the life of their brother.  So too must we.  We must understand that we could loose some loved ones during this time, but we must continue to acknowledge that our sovereign God is still on the throne.  He reigns forever!

discouragedThat is why we cry out like those on the side of the road, Hosanna!  Hosanna to the true King.  We like those watching don’t have a full grasp of what we are doing, but we are watching, sure that you are the Messiah!  Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  God have your way!

 

#PastorJDO3

 

 

The Sun will Rise!

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15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea,
beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles 16 the people living
in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land
of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Matthew 4:15-16

 

Jesus, already being prepared to step into public ministry, hears of the capture of John the Baptist.  Sensing that the time had come for the ministry to change hands, Jesus takes a step forward into the spotlight, picking up the ministry of John the Baptist.    Upon launching His ministry, He positioned Himself in Capernaum (which was the home of the lost tribes Zebulun and Naphtali).

The Word advises that His purpose was to fulfill the scripture of Isaiah who spoke the words, …”Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali….the people living in darkness…

shame on youI thought to look closer at this because of the portion of the verse that documents the way the people where living.  Let us note that the 12 tribes had been deported from their land and scattered all over by the Assyrians.  In their departure, their land was inhabited, and also renamed Capernaum.

My first initial thoughts were to look at the emotional wear and tare of Gentrification, but upon closer look, I would like to address the state of heaviness that was listed in the land.  Their sin against God has resulted in them being removed from their land.  They watched others rule on their land, prospering in the land that was designed for them.  They watched the erasing and eradication of their culture from the present day, standing powerless as a witness to its destruction knowing it was a direct result of their disobedience.

What has your disobedience cost you?

It is challenging to accept failure after working hard and making limited mistakes, we can only surmise the attitudes and emotional state of the people knowing their  disobedience destroyed their present and their future.   Imagine the conversation at the dinner table, and the unspoken frustration of parent and child, as they grew together knowing that the selfishness of one had robbed the other.

discouragedMaybe depression had set in for some.  Their failure to maintain the blessing constantly before them as the moved from collecting rent to making rent.  looking for jobs, caring for land that used to give to them freely, now worked as Adam worked the land after being removed from the garden.

The band has been lifted, and people have begun to matriculate back into the land, but they are still not owners of the land, and are now being addressed in the land that was once theirs as tenants and not landlord.  Their land is inhabited by a people who are generating wealth for themselves, making money through commerce, and collecting money from the people of God through taxation.

They were walking through life, abused by their leaders, mislead spiritually, held hostage through a religious practice, listening for the voice of God, while His Prophets were silent.  Thirsty for the Word and for Deliverance, they held onto a glimmer of hope, and from the darkness, a light appeared from the end of the tunnel.  What previously looked like a dead end, now shed light and revealed and end to the darkness.

shockedDark times had become their norm, and then Jesus moved into the neighborhood.  They saw Him unpacking His U-haul.  They watched with hope, wondering what was in each package.  They listened to Him on the sea side.  Sat attentively in the synagogues.  Now, their prayers for change, the prayers for restoration, their prayers for provision all delivered with one new neighbor.  The text says, they existed “…in darkness..” and with Him taken resident, record now that they “..have seen a great light…”.

How many of you bring Light into Darkness?

Jesus moves in and doesn’t hesitate!

The text says He began His public ministry!  He begins to unpack all that He contains, revealing truth, demonstrating the Word, bringing The Holy Spirit to the law, but healing the sick, casting out demons, restoring relationships, and handing out forgiveness to those suffering quietly in the darkness.

Mouths that were once closed began to open and give God praise!  Crying forth from the shadow, a hurting people in need of healing, and Jesus walks into the dark room filled with the morning of the loss of a culture and its people, and the Word says the “…light has dawned.

What is great about the dawn is not the break of light, but its the sunrise that follows it. The sun makes itself visible, formerly hidden by the night, peaking over the mountains, shining over the dessert, opening eyes and revealing all that was initially covered and hidden by the darkness, Jesus comes in and the sunrise follows.  Soon the hidden sun (son) will be lifted to such a height, that darkness will be dispersed as though it never existed.  Everything that once tripped up the people of God, causing them to stumble will encounter the light and be forced to give an account for their actions.

confused personJesus inspects all that exist, able to cast judgment, and chooses to bring forth life to all those willing to accept His love.  The people who felt abandoned by the Lord, now felt the warmth of His love on their skin.  Slowly rising, Jesus would reconnect those who were lost back to their Father in heaven, setting free all those in bondage, correcting all those who were in error, leaving behind the authority in His name and the power of the Holy Spirit!

As we face this time of darkness, it is my prayer that we will not loose hope.  Much like the people of Zebulun and Naphtali, we must know that God has not abandoned us.  He is still in love with us, and planning His return.  Just when we have lost hope.  Just when we have suffered.  Just when the last bit of light has left the room.  Just when the walls close in, I testify to each of you that God will bring light into our dark situations.  Even when we are being punished, He is not the mother that forgets their child is in time out.  He is aware that you are there, and has plans to bring you out!  Just keep looking for the light, and when you least expect it, joy will come in the morning.

#PastorJDO3