The Opportunity We’ve All Wanted to Have

Habakkuk

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Thursday, April 20

There are some things that are guaranteed to happen in life: taxes, death, and suffering and evil. Haven’t you ever wanted to just have the opportunity to talk to God face to face? To have a conversation with him as we do with other humans? Each minor prophet has a characteristic about it that makes it unique from among the others. Habakkuk’s is this: he is the only prophet that dialogues back and forth to God as we do with each other, and the topic they discuss is suffering and evil. Specifically, how can God being just allow evil and suffering to continue?

The problem of evil is something all humans question, especially in light of God. Habakkuk and his context is no different. In the first four verses of chapter one, Habakkuk laments over the injustice that he witnesses, the wicked prospering over the righteous ones and the seemingly indifference that God exhibits in the present situation. Yet behold, God says in verse five, he will lead a foreign nation to punish the wickedness of his people in Judah. A common thread among all the prophets in the Bible: major, minor, Moses, John the Baptist, and others is that God ensures the prophet that justice is coming. Evil and wickedness will not triumph. Injustice and corruption will not be victorious. When we look back in the Old Testament we see again and again God takes action and rectifies the hopeless situation. But it’s important to remember that God does not act on our time, but on his.

Take for example, the enslavement of his people in Egypt. From the time they became slaves to when they were liberated was over four hundred years. How many Israelites cried out to their God during that time longing for liberation and freedom? Many. How many actually saw it come to fruition? Few. Yet God acted, and gave the Egyptians time to repent and let his people go. They refused, and God took his people out of slavery with a mighty hand.

The evil and suffering we witness God is not ignorant of. He is giving people time and opportunity to repent and reconcile with him through Jesus. But trust me, no, trust Exodus 34.6-7, that evil and injustice will not reign forever. He assured Habakkuk of this and he assures you and me today:

“Yahweh, Yahweh God is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth,

who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives

iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet he will by no means

leave the guilty unpunished.”

Exodus 34.6-7

 

-Jacob Rohrer

Feeling Unqualified?

Amos 7-9

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Saturday, April 15

“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.  But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ (Amos 7:14-15)

 

God specializes in using ordinary people. Amos was the first prophet after the kingdom of Israel was divided by Jeroboam, preceding even Isaiah and Hosea.

Amos was just a shepherd (and a tree-tender).  He was hardly qualified to speak on behalf of the God of the universe.  But God had a job for him.  I think sometimes God calls those who seem ‘unqualified’ to do the most amazing work for him for three reasons.

  • They will give all the credit to Him.
  • They won’t question Him, assuming they know a better way.
  • They speak the language of the people and won’t talk over their heads.

Amaziah was the priest who should have been speaking God’s words.  He was the one “qualified” to be God’s prophet.  But when Amos goes to him, here’s what happens:

Amaziah says,

  ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
    and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’

Amos replies,

This is what the Lord says:

“Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
    and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
    and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
    away from their native land.”

 

Did you get that?  The priest-boss says “Hey, knock it off. Quit saying bad stuff is going to happen” (Isn’t that a pretty common thing in the prophets?  People telling them to stop saying bad stuff was going to happen).  And Amos is like, “God says you’re all gonna die.  Mic drop.”

 

(Don’t think I don’t know that I’m too old and un-cool to use that phrase. But it fit, right?)

 

So whether you think you are qualified or not, keep your ears open for God’s call and your eyes open for His opportunity to speak truth and serve.

 

He’s got something for you!

 

-Susan Landry

 

Because He Loves

Amos 4-6

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Friday, April 14

Words I hope I never hear from God:   “…yet you have not returned to me.”

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city
    and lack of bread in every town,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“I also withheld rain from you
    when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
    but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
    another had none and dried up.

People staggered from town to town for water
    but did not get enough to drink,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
    destroying them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“I sent plagues among you
    as I did to Egypt.
I killed your young men with the sword,
    along with your captured horses.
I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps,
    yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.

“I overthrew some of you
    as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
    yet you have not returned to me,”  (Amos 4:6-11)

 

All children are different, you know.  Some are brought to repentance with simply a stern look.  Others, you could beat them with a stick (not that you would, of course) and they would still dig their heels in.

 

I remember a mother in my Women’s Bible Study years ago pray every single week for wisdom for herself and her husband to be able to mold their daughter’s strong spirit into a passion for God instead of a selfish passion.  She prayed for this child to grow to be a force to be reckoned with on behalf of God’s Kingdom.  And you know what, that is exactly what happened.

 

I feel like that’s what we’re seeing in this passage.  Each stanza is a punishment.

I gave you empty stomachs … stern look

I withheld rain … time out

I sent plagues … swat

…you get the picture.

 

Yet time and again, they stubbornly ignore and refuse to return to God and obey.

 

As we learned yesterday, God disciplines us because he loves us.  Keep your eyes open today for God’s discipline in your life.  What is He doing to get our attention and call you back to Him?  Pray that when you see His discipline, that you have the courage to act on it.  And you will become a force to be reckoned with for His Kingdom.

-Susan Landry

 

 

The Resolution that Stuck

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Daniel 1-2 

The book of Daniel is probably my favorite of the books we call the Prophets. It is filled with exciting stories (like the fiery furnace and lion’s den), captivating prophecies, and one of the best biblical examples of a godly man.

In the first two chapters of Daniel we begin to learn a lot about his character. The first story in Daniel begins in 1:8, which says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Daniel was a part of a group chosen by king Nebuchadnezzar to be groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were chosen from the tribe of Judah. The group was assigned to eat food that apparently was against the food laws outlined in law given to Moses. Instead of doing the easy and safe thing, Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself with the decadent, tasty food. After some reluctance, the official in charge of Daniel agreed to let him and his friends eat his own diet. 

At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions to start doing something good (like work out more or read Bible more) or give up something bad for them (like fried foods or too much TV). What seemly happens every year though, is that after a few weeks or, if you’ve done well, a few months, you give up on your resolution and start back on what you were doing before. Keeping resolutions is hard, but Daniel kept his. Not only that, but he and his friends looked better after ten days of vegetables and water than the other guys on the diet of choice foods and wine.

Daniel’s resolution stuck and for this he was rewarded. God gave he and his three friends knowledge and understanding and Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams. They found favor with the king and entered his service. This led to the second story in this great book, the interpretation of the king’s dream.

What will be a constant theme through the first half of this book is Daniel’s devotion to God. This is what led him to resolve himself not to eat the defiled food and, even when faced with opposition, to keep that resolution. This devotion will keep him praying even when it’s illegal.

Daniel was devoted to God above all us. We should be, too. It won’t be easy. We may face opposition. We may be thrown to the lions. But in end, it will be well worth the struggles. As the great songwriter Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody.” Why not let it be the God who will set up a kingdom that will never end? (Daniel 2:44) Resolve yourself to be devoted to the God who won’t let you down.

– Joel Fletcher

Responding to the Glory of God

 

Ezekiel 43-44

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Sunday, April 2

How should we respond to God’s glory?

To be able to answer this question, we should know what God’s glory is. A simple definition is His character, holiness, and excellence revealed. It is the essence of God on display.

In today’s passage, we read about Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory in a vision. He hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh), which sounds like “the roar of rushing waters,” sees the land “radiant with his glory,” and witnesses the glory of Yahweh filling the temple (Ezek. 43:1-6).

You and I will likely never get the opportunity to receive a vision from the Almighty in which we can see His glory in such an amazing fashion. But God has revealed aspects of His character, holiness, and excellence to us in several ways. In these we can experience the glory of God and respond to it.

God has revealed Himself through His creation. This idea is called Natural Revelation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When one looks at nature it is difficult, at least for me, to believe that everything seen came about by chance and was not designed by an intelligent being. While Natural Revelation doesn’t tell us much about who God is, it does show a great deal about what He is capable of and how great He is.

God has also revealed Himself through the scriptures. What Natural Revelation leaves out about who God is, the Bible fills in much more. The writers of each book in the Bible were inspired by God through His holy spirit. They rely stories of the wonderful things He has done and inform readers of what He can do, and some even reveal what He will do in the future. The Bible offers a large portrait of the greatness and goodness of God, but doesn’t give a complete picture. Not until we dwell with Him in His kingdom will we experience the full weight of His glory.

God has revealed Himself through His son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an expression often used to illustrate how a son is very much like his father, this could be said of Jesus. But more accurately it would be said that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, it is essentially still part of the tree. Jesus is the exact representation of His father. If we want to get a better picture or understanding of God, the best thing we can do is to simply read the Gospels that tell of Jesus. The character of Christ is the character of God. The attributes Jesus exhibits are the same of his father. The glory of God is seen in His son.

The question still remains, how are we to respond to God’s glory?

I think our response should be twofold.

(1) We should be reverent. God is not like us. He is perfect. He is holy. He has great power. He created the world in which we live and, when we messed it us, had a way to make it right again. So, he deserves to be praised. He is entitled (it is his right) to be worshiped. This reverence we have for God should lead to not just passive adoration, but active glorification. We can stand in church and say God is great, but if we think this to be a great truth, it should move us to give our lives to him and serve him everyday of our lives.

(2) We should be repentant. When I say God is holy this means two things: he is set apart and he is pure. We, as human being who engage in sin, are not pure and we tend to act the same as everyone else, making us not set apart. That being said, we are called to be holy as God is holy. The first step towards holiness is repentance. We must forsake our sin and choose Jesus instead. He is the only one who can make us holy.

As you read our passage for today, as you go outdoors and see the beauty that is nature, and when you read about Jesus in the gospels, think about how you should respond. After all, you’re experiencing God’s glory.

-Joel Fletcher

Joel Fletcher is a former student of ABC. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wonderful wife Stephanie. He likes to read boring non-fiction books, watch boring baseball, and hang out with his NON-BORING wife in his free time. He is planning on teaching a class at FUEL this year (its topic will not be boring).

Our Provider

Psalms 19-24: God is our provider.

sheep

There are so many nuggets of truth in these Psalms that I couldn’t touch on here. Today, when I sat down to open my Bible and try to sift through it all to find what I wanted to write about, I happened upon a very familiar scripture. Psalms 23 is a Psalm that many people know, even those who aren’t Christians. Even through this Psalm, which contemplates death, shadow, and sorrow, the hope that it communicates draws people to it and to God. As I read through this Psalm in the context of those that surround it I was struck.

In Psalm 21 and 22, we see David crying out in praise and pain to God for his provision. In both emotional states, David knew that God was his provider, his savior. God was the person who could save him from his enemies. In Psalm 22, even when David could not see God acting in that moment, he prayed and praised God from the faith that didn’t come from the physical evidence around him.

What does provision mean? When we talk about provision, a word which literally means ‘something, like food or drink, that is supplied, especially for a journey,’ we think about the material thing that we are eating or drinking. But, David says that the LORD is his provision. I recently got a new puppy (and if you are my friend on Facebook you’ve probably seen plenty of pictures of him). This dog lives inside and does not have access to food or water, unless I provide those things for him. So, even though the food or drink is the literal provision, I am his provider. I am the one that sustains him. God is the same. He does grant us the things that we need, but most importantly, God is the one sustaining us. Without him, we have nothing, just like without me, my puppy would not have what it needed. When we rely on God to be our provider, we can say with assurance, as David does, “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.”

As we think through these psalms, let’s remember to look to the LORD, our shepherd, in both the difficult times and the good, because he is our provision.

– Cayce Ballard

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Meet Finnegan! 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.globalmeatnews.com/var/plain_site/storage/images/publications/food-beverage-nutrition/globalmeatnews.com/industry-markets/future-of-eu-sheep-discussed/10353815-1-eng-GB/Future-of-EU-sheep-discussed.jpg

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