Please Pray for Us

Dear FriendsImage may contain: 7 people, including Kim Erdel, people smiling, people sitting, eyeglasses and indoor

I am truly sorry for the lack of posts over the last month. I have tried to write, but have been unable to do so. God has been faithful to continue to give grace for His ministry through me, to the church I am privileged to pastor on Christ’s behalf. The ministry of the word and prayer, through the pulpit, one on one and in small group discipleship has been blessed; and is fruitful for the glory of our King.

That being said, I am writing to ask you to pray for my family. Over the last two years, with increasing intensity, we have faced unrelenting trials and attacks against our family, from the enemy’s camp. In the last two months, I have begun to feel the toll of these attacks on my family and me personally.

We are weary, as a whole, and I personally feel battered inside, by the continual assault. In many ways II Corinthians 1:8-10 describes how we often feel.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, 11 you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.

Please consider praying for our family as often as the Lord reminds you.

Over the last year our oldest daughter Samantha (19) decided to leave home and has fallen away from being dedicated to Christ alone. Her absence has been difficult on our other four children and Mom and Dad. Please pray for the Lord to bring her to the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, that she would surrender to Jesus absolutely.

Our son Michael (17) has been working for Chick-Fil-A and desires to follow Jesus. He has become a battle ground between the Spirit and his flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). Jesus is winning but Mike is weary of the battle.

Abigail (15) is growing into godly woman hood, and has become very adept at hearing the Holy Spirit, through God’s word. She has dealt with anger and disappointment concerning her older sister. Please pray, she would learn to submit to Matthew 5:44.

Both Ellie Mae (6) and Elijah (3) are struggling to understand Samantha’s departure and silence. Both have been growing tremendously, especially Ellie Mae, whom is finding a voice to the joy of God in her little heart.

My wife Kim has been marvelous and despite her hurt feelings concerning our daughter’s departure, she has grown stronger and more discerning in her faith. Please pray the LORD will give her great wisdom to discern His will for her in ministry as well as refreshing in her weariness.

For me pray as the Lord Jesus leads you. I have seldom felt such weariness in my spirit, or consistent temptation to give in to despair. With God’s grace and your prayers, we will all overcome. Thank you my dear friends in Christ.

 

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He Endured the Cross (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Related imageHaving been a pastor for 15 years, I have experienced many things. More than some and less than others. One constant is that the saints of God go through uncomfortable and difficult things rather regularly. It has been my privilege to walk with many followers of Jesus during these times, as well as navigating my own.

Today I would like to share some simple truths to aid you and enable a proper perspective on dealing with difficulty. The reason this is so important is the redeemed of the Lord have not only been granted to believe on His name, but to suffer for Him as well. In fact, not only does our Christ-like actions in affliction glorify Jesus, the trouble itself also fuels our sanctification (Philippians 1:29).  Knowing this, we ought to wonder why we often whine so much in difficulty. I offer an element to mitigate our difficulties with grace in Hebrews 12:1-4.

Hebrews 12:1-5 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

IN DIFFICULTY TIE UP LOOSE ENDS: Although verse one uses the metaphor of an ancient foot race in a large Colosseum and with countless witnesses, it applies perfectly to our life with Christ. I realize most of us don’t run anywhere other than to be first in line at Chick-fil-a, or to the bathroom, but our life with Christ is a marathon, which we are to be training for continually and running at the same time. In I Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle opens his training and running the race regiment before us, where he declares “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection (make my body my slave)”.

Paul is revealing by the Holy Spirit, that he sought to master the fruit of the Spirit, especially self-control through self-denial. For American Christians self denial seems to be one of our greatest struggles, even though Jesus declares, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). It matters little the ease of the environment a believer lives in.  Like all we are called to deny ourselves, like a highly trained athlete would deny themselves to be a winner.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Specific to our passage, we need to remove anything from our walk that weighs us down and tie up the loose ends of the things that lead to our being entangled in sin. In both of these areas be encouraged to wait on the Lord in prayer, having asked Him to reveal the things that weigh you down and the loose ends of your old man that trip you into sin. Let me be clear, a lack of dealing with these is the largest producer of Christian whiners and those who give in to despair.

LET PATIENCE HAVE ITS PERFECT WORK

“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”

When dealing with the word “endurance” we understand it is translated “patience” as well in James 1:2-4 where it says “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience“. Whether we use the word endurance or patience we get the idea of a long race, with many difficulties, so don’t give up or give in, stay the course, let endurance grow by being patient in difficulties.

I am certain that the whine coming from us when the going gets tough is often related, at least in America, to the culture of instant gratification we have. When we itch we scratch and if it does not go away fast enough, we apply cortisone cream. When we are hungry (or think we are) we declare “I’m starving” or automatically, like having innate food GPS, we look for something to shove in our mouth. When we want a new thing, rather than asking if we even need it or have the money to buy it we will grab some plastic and purchase.

Let’s be honest, because this is our cultural training, it is easy to do all of the above without much thought, if we are not careful. It is also to treat affliction and trials, which are a source of sanctification and glory for Jesus, in the same manner. When they hurt, make us uncomfortable, feel inadequate, or threaten our life the way we want it, we look for a way out. When there is no way out, we whine or worse try to make a way where there is none.

Let us remember that even the best of His saints go through periods of whining and wanting to avoid the pain. Eventually, though we must remember that our race is a life lived for Him, not for us. We must remember that Abba knows what we are going through and although He has not promised to take us out of trouble early, He has promised that He is running with us. Let us also remember that We follow the One who won His race for us.

LET THE ONE WHO WON BE YOUR FUEL:

looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God

Jesus’ fuel for overcoming, when the going got to be its toughest, was JOY. This Joy arose from His perfect faith in what was to come to pass, when He finished His race. It is true that this JOY arose from His knowing He would rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and be reunited with His Father. His JOY arose by knowing He would reunite with His disciples after He would rise from the dead. Being that He is God and knows the end from the beginning, His joy was fueled by the transformation of His disciples as the Holy Spirit would be poured out. His joy was for the souls that would believe on Him until He would return and brings us with Him to heaven. Much of the fuel of His joy was Him seeing you and I by faith, long before we were even born.

I think His trial was much greater than anything we have faced and as most of us can agree…

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin:”

When the going gets tough we are supposed to

  1. Look unto Jesus
  2. Consider how He endured
  3. Refuse to be discouraged
  4. Know our trial is able to be endured.

When we are in trying times let us look unto Jesus. Let us meditate on how He suffered in the shame of nakedness and mockery. Let us remember the spiteful pain inflicted on Him by wicked torturers, as our sin was torture into His holy frame. Let us remember His JOY, or part of it, was seeing you and I through the annuls of time and eternity redeemed and in His presence. Let us endure with JOY, as Jesus’ love and endurance on our behalf, powers us through any trouble.

My firm belief is that you and I will have multiple opportunities with trial and affliction as Christians. Commit with me to discipline yourself gazing upon our Savior in trial. When He suffered, the eyes of His perfect faith were on you.

 

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The Prisoners… the Mistreated

Hebrews 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

The passage above calls the body of Christ to continue in the love commanded by Jesus Christ Himself; the love that reveals that we are truly His disciples. The command itself is repeated frequently, because even in the early church self-interest, personal preference, or the potential of personal gain, threatened the pure godly love Christ commanded. Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish backed believers in Christ to not abandon fellowship with one another, to return to the obsolete O.T. system.

In the first three verses the word of God reveals two ways of continuing in brotherly love. The first was to “not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained strangers”. At first our thoughts are drawn back to the father of the faithful Abraham, in Genesis 18, where the LORD appeared to him in the form of three men, one obviously a theophany (visible manifestation of the glory of God, in this case in human form), the other two men are literal angels of God, who later rescue Lot from Sodom.

We also remember the appearance of the Angel of the LORD to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15), as well as His appearance to the father and mother of Samson (Judges 13). Both appearances are in the form of a man, yet though the title is the Angel of the Lord and the Captain of the Lord’s host, we understand these to be theophanies of the Anointed of the LORD (Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 61:1-3); the Christ before His first incarnation in the virgin’s womb.

The point being, we are to remain hospitable, for visitors we meet the first time, may indeed be angels of God sent to give us a messenger, for that is what angels do. Yet the context broadens the command of “let brotherly love continue”, for angels are not our brothers. it is important to remember that the word  “angel” in the Greek carries with it the idea of messenger, not just for the angels God created before the foundation of the earth, but also for human messengers of the Lord.

This fits nicely with the narrative of letting brotherly love continue for traveling ministers of the Lord who would travel from place to place to preach the gospel and encourage the body of Christ. In fact, in reading II John you will find the apostle’s Holy Spirit inspired message to encourage the body to “entertain strangers” who may be messengers of Christ, while rebuking those who would not even receive the apostles as Christ’s messengers.

The passage does not call us to choose supernatural “angel” or human, but allows for both, while emphasizing the human that we would extend brotherly love through hospitality. The second command also is an expression of the continuation of brotherly love.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also”

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This instruction would have been very close to the original readers lives, as the very reason for some of them contemplating abandoning the fellowship of the saints (a very bad thing as detailed in Hebrews 10:19-31),  was that many were unjustly placed in prison and were being physically mistreated, through persecution.

Although we may be unchained and not experiencing any mistreatment against our person or livelihood, somewhere in the world our brethren are…

Romans 8:36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

It is the sufferings of our brethren, as a result of our faith, that are to give us proper perspective on our own trials…

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

The sufferings of our brethren are to galvanize our own faith, and add fuel to the Holy Spirit fire that is to be in the furnace of our heart for God. Yet this means we must know the sufferings of the brethren around the world and pray for them in their trials, allowing their testimony to deeply touch our hearts. This is difficult when we are narrowly focused on our own cell in the body of Christ. We must ask God for His sight and burden for His children. Below are the expedient needs and testimonies of two of God’s precious children, through Christ’s death and resurrection.

ASIA BIBI

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Over 10 years ago this mother of five was working and took water to Muslim coworkers, whom did not want to drink out of the same cup as a Christian. only a couple days later, she was surrounded by an angry mob, bent on killing her. After being beaten they threw her in a locked shed, trumped up blasphemy charges and she has been in solitary confinement for the greater part of 9 years, waiting for them to carry out a death sentence by hanging.

Although the Muslim governor of the province where this took place was assassinated for standing up for her, she largely remained unknown to the vast majority of American Christians.

Yesterday marked the beginning of her last appeal. Although the judges have cited little if any evidence of her violating any minor crime, let alone a charge of blasphemy, they once more reserved judgment, knowing to over turn her sentence and release her would almost cause their own death and to put her to death would condemn the innocent.

Our dear sister in Christ has stood firm in not denying Jesus, decided that to live is Christ and to die is gain, and has counted the sufferings of this present hour small in light of the glory to be revealed in her, when she is with Christ; Please pray for her until this trial has come to its end!

Pray that God would grant her strength in her inner person, as Christ dwells in her heart by faith, in His immeasurable love and that she would be filled with all the fullness of God. Pray that God would open a door for her to testify of the Lord Jesus. Pray that the same love which fuels her resolve for Christ, would form in yourself and the Christians within your fellowship.

LEAH SHARIBU

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Leah is a fifteen year old Nigerian Christian girl kidnapped over a year and a half ago, along with 109 other Christian girls. She alone remains unreleased. She has remained in captivity because she will not deny her faith. Last month in a video entitled “message in blood”, the Boko Haram terrorists tie up and shoot 25-year-old Saifura Husseini Ahmed, a midwife with the International Committee of the Red Cross. They declared that Leah and another nurse will die the same if their demands are not met by the Nigerian Government in one month.

Leah’s month is up within the next few days and she needs you to remember her. Please pray for her. Pray that God will be powerfully  and manifestly present with her to strengthen, comfort, and empower her with Christ’s love. Pray that God will open the eyes of the blinded Muslim terrorists to God’s righteous judgment and His desire to forgive, even their most heinous crimes, through repentance and faith in Christ’s shed blood. Pray that regardless of the outcome, that Leah’s life will bring glory to God and challenge all of us to live for Christ, as Leah, which is best described in Revelation 12:11.

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Posted in Asia Bibi, Hebrews 13:1-3, Leah Sharibu, Let brotherly love continue, Revelation 12:11, suffering saints, the persecuted church, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Troubling Rise in Justifying Suicide in the Body of Christ

Image result for suicide left behindOver the last 6 years numerous pastors from churches in America have killed themselves. I kept count, for a while, until the suicides were happening to often to keep up. I am not sure of the statistics, but it is possible that suicide among pastors has been a regular, albeit hidden occurrence (due to the rather necessary stigma attached to it). Maybe in the age of social media, families and churches cannot cover up an attempted or successful suicide, as in previous times.

The point is that whenever we read or hear of a Christian committing suicide, especially among those who lead, we ought to be very, very troubled. But rather than sound the alarm that the enemy has gotten into the camp and is killing, stealing and destroying, we seem to be more concerned over the final destination of those who have taken their lives.

Recently Andrew Stoecklein attempted to kill himself in the church he led, as the senior pastor. He did this without saying goodbye to his three boys all under the age of 8. I have written “attempted” because he did not quite finish himself off, therefore his 29 year old wife, had to suffer hours of torment in the hospital, as the rest of his life ebb out; imagine how horrible that must have been for her.

This story is familiar, to far too many saints over the last six years, as many of them have been reported by the Christian Post. Following such high profile suicides, far to many Christians and “evangelical leaders”, are in a hurry to excuse the suicide, and pronounce the deceased to be in heaven, because the person “accepted the Lord”.

Once again, this should be very troubling, as we live in a culture where life is cheap; from murdering the unborn, to racial hatred growing in all colors of people, to moving towards euthanizing the old, the in-firmed, or those who simply no longer want to live. Consider that one can download and app, which targets teens, for the purpose of egging them on to commit suicide. Police in cities across the U.S. have been notifying parents of the power of this app, and how normal kids can become suicidal through us of the app.

The church must awaken not only to these dangers, but be very concerned about the potential power of sinful example in suicide, producing the same corrupt fruit in others. This concern should be as great as our concern over abortion, or sexual immorality and perversion; and even greater than our worry of politicians that are contrary to our biblical view point and lifestyle.

No matter what side of the eternal security we debate one stands, we ought to recognize how quitting on life and hope in Jesus, in leaders will lead to quitting on life and hope in Jesus, in some or many who follow.

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Below I have include a link to the article from the Christian Post, where Andrew Stoecklein’s widow, declares he is in heaven, as well as denouncing what she calls the “myth” that suicide victims are condemned to hell.

Although I do not uphold her position on either, I also do not condemn her for trying to grasp some small thread of hope (as thin as it may be). This devastated woman is trying to make sense out of a senseless act, which has not only devastated her own person, but also the lives of her three precious sons; whose pain I cannot even fathom.

Please read the article and leave your thoughtful opinions in my comments section. I will not answer all comments, but hope to read your biblical informed viewpoints.

This coming Sunday (9/26/2018), I will be sharing a message entitled “Suicide Solution?”, which deals what the Word of God says about the consequence of suicide for the one taking their life, as well as in those who are left behind. Join us at 10:45 a.m. at the Savior’s Chapel, if you are in Greece NY — Brother Mike

Below is the link

Pastor Andrew Stoecklein’s Widow Explains Why His Suicide Does Not Condemn Him to Hell

Posted in Kayla Stoecklein's, Pastor Andrew Stoecklein's, scriptural teaching on suicide, suicide, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Avoiding a Famine of Hearing the Word of the LORD #2

(Amos 8:11) 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

As we discovered in our last post, we can avoid a famine of hearing the word of the LORD. From Psalm 119:103-105, we understand that if God’s word becomes our only comfort and illumination, we can walk confidently hearing the word of the LORD, whether reading it or hearing it proclaimed. We also discovered that even when there is no open copy or spoken proclamation of God’s word, we can be confident the Holy Spirit will lead us by it; should it be our only comfort and illumination.

Today we will examine two more ways we must receive the word of God, in order to avoid a famine of hearing the word of the LORD.

#2 REVEALS, CONVICTS, CLEANSES

In the American church culture, we often live with a wrong mentality of the word of God, even though we claim it to be “living and active” and “God breathed” in relation to it being “inspired” by the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:15-17). This wrong mentality arises from a tendency to bring the word into the vernacular of the common. In this tendency, we like to make pithy statements that will stick with people and are meant to communicate what we truly believe.

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One of these is the acronym B.I.B.L.E. or Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (which we market to make money at the right). Now this appears cute and a simple communication of the purpose of the Bible, but it is neither. The Bible is not basic, nor is it merely instructions, before we leave earth. God’s word is God’s complete recorded revelation to mankind.

There are other diminishing ways we receive the word of God that are damaging to receiving it as it is in truth, the word of God which effectively works in you who believe (I Thessalonians 2:13), like referring to it as “God’s love letter” to us. The point being that to communicate the meaning of the word of God in this fashion is to actually divorce it from its “living and active” and “inspired” nature. In fact it is to divorce it from who the word of God is… Jesus the Christ!

(John 1:1-5)1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

(Hebrews 4:12-1312 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

It is to this reality of nothing being hidden from Him, who is the word of God, that we want to settle for a moment. God’s written word, read or spoken, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit is our powerful source of revelation concerning ourselves, which convicts and cleanses our soul from sin, practically. Yet in order for this to happen, it must be diligently hidden in the heart.

(Psalms 119:9-11) How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

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This is perhaps once of the most forgotten realities among the general population of American Christians. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why pulpits across this land are virtually baron, in addressing sin — or why churches no longer practice discipline in sinning members. Christians in America want basic instructions before leaving earth — they want to hear God’s love letter; but want no part of holiness without which none will see the LORD (Hebrews 12:14). Without ongoing conviction of necessary change as well as positive growth in the Christ-life, a large part of the will of God for us is left out…

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

Sanctification is not Christian behavior modification, but Christ’s resurrection life transforming us into living letters to be read by all men (Romans 8:11; II Corinthians 3:2).

#3 GOD’S WORD SUSTAINS EMPOWERS, PRODUCES FRUIT

Psalms 1:1-31 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Lastly we must live as though God’s word is living food from heaven indeed. We must remember that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 in resisting the Devil’s temptation in the wilderness, as He declared… “It is written ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which comes from the mouth of God”.

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As we find in Psalm 1:1-3, meditating on God’s word (meaning to chew it over and over for the purpose of assimilating its life into our own, like a cow chews the cud), is the only way to [1] avoid being sinful and ungodly and [2] have true success. We have already discussed the word of God and its power to sanctify and bring the resurrection life of Christ through our own, so let us consider the secret of our success.

Truly, success in the American church has to do with numeric amount, either in larger congregations, a more prosperous financial bottom line, or more favor with relationships. Quite honestly success is seen in materialist terms, almost exclusively and this vision is sold by some of the best flock fleecing preachers the world has ever seen. Or should I have said the worst flock-fleecing preachers? These shameless scoundrels promote your best life now, comfort as blessing, and amount of followers as a sign of their super “anointing”.  But their gospel, where they name it and claim it and blab it and grab it from the twisting of God’s word, has muddied the water.

True success means that the life you live pleases and glorifies God — that you overcome sin, by the power of the word of God and submitting to the Holy Spirit leading your life–by loving your enemy while they persecute you — by enduring the impossible by faith in God’s word and being filled with His presence — and by growing in the fruit of the Spirit through seasons of peace and tribulation. This is the measure of biblical success and is guaranteed for the one who delights in the word of God day and night. When received in this manner the word of God sustains, empowers and produces fruit.

When Christians received the word of God, as described in these last two posts, they are well prepared to stave off any famine of hearing the word of the LORD.

 

Posted in Amos 8:11-12, famine of the word of the LORD, Psalm 1:1-3, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Avoiding a Famine of Hearing the Word of the LORD

(Amos 8:11) 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

In our last time together we discussed the difficult days of being in a famine of hearing the word of the LORD. The prophet Amos’ declaration was first spoken to the nation of Israel and from it we were able to surmise, the reasons for the prophesied famine.

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  1. Not trusting in the LORD, Judah made alliance with the pagan northern kingdom of Israel; Samaria being its capitol city (Amos 6:1).
  2. This led to great financial prosperity, where they lived for comfort and recreation (Amos 6:4-7).
  3. In this environment, they became insensitive to God’s word [His anointed illuminated direction and prophetic pronouncement and correction], as well as the afflictions of the needy around them (Amos 6:7).
  4. In their prosperity they became prideful and thought they were self-sufficient (Amos 6:1).

Ultimately they no longer received the word of God as it was in truth: to effectively work in them that believe (I Thessalonians 2:13). Therefore, rather than hearing the Holy Spirit illuminate them to God’s will, way and direction, they merely treated the word of God as one more accessory, that proved to them (in their carnal attitude) that they were blessed by God. O how wrong they were.

It is probably superfluous to say, that multitudes of Christians in America are in grave danger of having a famine of hearing the word of the LORD. Despite having God’s written word available to anyone who wants it, we also live in the most “prosperous” nation since probably Sodom or Israel. How’d that turn out for them?

(Ezekiel 16:48-50) 48 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.

In the “prosperity” of America, we can become insensitive, apathetic, lack proper godly sobriety, and live as though we are better off than Christians around the world, who have far less access to the word of God. In the relative freedom and day to day peace we live in, the above attitude prevails easily, yet when suffering arises we see the paper thin veneer of it. How do we guard against the potential of holding the precious blessing of God’s word, improperly?  How do we avoid being affected by the potential of a famine of hearing the word of the LORD?

#1. OUR ONLY SOURCE OF ILLUMINATION, COMFORT AND CONFIDENCE

 (Psalms 119:103-105) 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

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In this verse there are three elements key to our receiving the word of God as it is in truth. God’s word must be our only source of illumination, comfort, and confidence. In dealing with illumination this is more than understanding, which means we grasp a meaning. Illumination comes from the Holy Spirit, as He reveals how the understanding defines, fits into, and ought to be carried out in our circumstances.  This is not us intellectually and analytically figuring out methods or plans. Illumination means the Spirit of God leads, commands, and opens revelation as to what is coming, which apart from Him we would not know.

Illumination leads to comfort in the dark valley of the shadow of death; which is the pathway the narrow road to LIFE runs through. To the person sold out to Jesus, every day has the potential to bring contrary, even threatening circumstances and mountain like problems. These can seem to darken even the brightest day and pull our minds into the pit of despair. Yet in that darkness, you hear it… the voice of the LORD! It is the word of God, whether opened to a page, or brought to memory by the Holy Spirit. A torch in the dark, that lights the next step… Awe yes, His word brings COMFORT.

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Note that this comfort is not the next ten steps but A STEP! This is instructive for He gives us enough light to obey one step at a time. I believe this is because ABBA knows, we can only handle one step at a time.

This does not bode well for those who desire to get out of trouble instantly, but for those who desire to persevere in Christ, each new step illuminated gives us confidence that the darkness will not overcome us. Each new step also gives us confidence that He is with us and will continue with us, until we get to a place of rest.

Practically speaking, this is a difficult truth to put into practice for people who have been trained to search for pain relief at first sight — to seek a solution when the uncomfortable arises — to pray for new circumstances when the ones we are in, are not within our particular preference. Difficult as it may be, this is one of the purposes of hearing the voice of the LORD.

Let me ask you, what was the last illuminated word you had heard from the LORD? If you are in the dark, obey His last command that seems unrelated to your current circumstances. You may find the comfort you need to endure for His glory.

Posted in Amos 8:11-12, famine of the word of the LORD, Living Word of God, Psalm 119:103-105, Psalm 1:1-3, the voice of God, The Word of God, Uncategorized, Word of God | Leave a comment

Difficult Days… Indeed! (Amos 8:11-12)

“Behold the days are coming,” says the LORD GOD, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD , but shall not find it.”

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Amos the prophet ministered before the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people. What difficult days the prophet foretold would come. The first significant fulfillment of this prophecy would come while the Jewish nation was captive in Babylon. The second time would be during the intertestamental period of approximately 400 years. This period, often referred to as “400 Silent Years”, took place as the conclusion of Malachi’s prophecy and the advent of John the Baptist’s ministry.

Note, I did not write, when the gospels were written down. This is significant for a “famine” of God’s word has little to do with not having the written word of God. A “famine” of “hearing the word of the LORD” deals occurs when God withholds His inspired and anointed direction through a prophet, priest, or king (a minister).

Therefore, we can also include the nation of Israels condition from the time of the destruction of the temple in the year 70 AD. From well before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the greater part of the nation rejected Christ and the testimony of the apostles after Jesus ascended into heaven.

It is rejection of God’s anointed word that leads to a famine of hearing it, as described in Amos’ prophecy. When the people of God reject God’s real time leading and revelation through prophet, priest, or king, He withdraws His illumination. In these times, no matter how long it has been or how strong the desire in the people to hear a word from the LORD, they will not find satisfaction until His leading is all that they desire.

In these times the LORD declared they would “wander from sea to sea”. The phrase “from sea to sea”, refers to one side of geographic Israel (the Mediterranean Sea) across to the other side of geographic Israel (the Dead Sea). Their manner of travel would be to wander or “to reel” from side to side and backward and forward, like a person malnourished and struggling to find nourishment. To wander implies directionless, confused staggering, from having no word of Life.

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Note also the direction from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea is west to south. This is important for when not finding the word of Life, they would panic and begin to “run to and fro”; “from north to east”. God’s people would crisscross the nation looking to hear a word from the LORD, that would not come. Remember it was not that there was not any written word, because they had the written word. The problem was that God was not directly speaking to them through an anointed prophet, priest, or king, because they had been rejected. Why did Israel need a famine of hearing the word of the LORD? several reasons can be offered.

THEY LIVED TRUSTING IN HUMAN ALLIANCE RATHER THAN YHWH

In Amos 6:1 we find the beginning of Israel’s ignoring the word of the LORD, which lead to a famine of hearing the word of the LORD.

“Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in chief nations, to whom the house of Israel comes”.

The southern kingdom of Judah (Zion), whose kings were from David’s line, trusted in their alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel (Mount Samaria), a truly ungodly kingdom. Together they pompously saw themselves as notable people in the world of nations. This alliance brought much wealth and put them at “ease”, to which the LORD pronounced “Woe” upon them. This is never good. What occurred is that in this alliance, they no longer lived in dependence on God. Judah has made alliance with a compromised sister nation.

Rather than paying a price, they had apparently, at least in their own judgment prospered; but let us remember material prosperity is not an automatic indication of being blessed by God. In fact, this kind of prosperity usually leads to the spiritual down, when concerning the redeemed of the LORD.

PROSPERITY LEADS TO PURSUIT OF IDLE PLEASURE

(Amos 6:3-8Woe to you who put far off the day of the doom, who cause the seat of violence to come near; who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of your stalls; who sing idly to the sounds of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore they shall now go captive as the first captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed.

In the passage above we can see the fruit of prosperity in people of faith, when not on guard. Very easily seen is a society of people of faith in YHWH who become insensitive to the Word of the LORD, because prosperity has led to.

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  1. A lack of sobriety to the judgment of God.
  2. The allowance of a culture of violence and death, extending to pagan ritual abortion.
  3. The seeking of comfort and extravagance.
  4. Having an abundance of food, leading to gluttony and selfishness.
  5. The creation of idle entertainment to the degree that music intended to worship God becomes background noise.
  6. Having wine and drink in abundance for sought after society.
  7. Having the best hi-gene treatments available.
  8. Not being troubled by the plight of the afflicted down the street or even next door.

The culture raised from prosperity made them insensitive to God’s word, but what’s more, it made them not want to hear His voice of direction. Now this did not mean they did not have the written word, because they did and they would try it from time to time. The problem is that the written word became a source of legalistic affirmation and pride:they read the word, it made them spiritual, or so they thought.

Essentially God brought this famine of hearing the word of God, because they diminished what His word was intended for. We ought to be careful we do not fall into the same error.

CAN CHRISTIANS FALL INTO A FAMINE OF HEARING THE WORD OF GOD?

Whether those who have been redeemed can remain or fall into a carnal state, ought to be unquestioned in the scriptures. Beyond this potential we must levy to facts. The first is we live in the kind of culture described above and secondly the N.T. is filled with instructions concerning how we handle the word of God, for the purpose of it being engrafted into our person (James 1:21) — That we would be doers of the word, not only hearers (James 1:22) — That we would grow into mature Christians (I Corinthians 3:1-3) — That we grow in discernment, having exercised its use in life (Hebrew 5:12-14).  The list could include many others, but for now, it is important to remember that the word of God is elemental in our being born again…

(1 Peter 1:22-24) Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever

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It is important to understand that the incorruptible seed, “the word of God”, is not defined as an intellectual element but a spiritual one; as we know being born again is a supernatural occasion. This does not diminish the nature and power of the written or preached word, but emphasizes the need of the Holy Spirit in its receptions. It is also for this reason that “Christians” can read the word of God and still not hear from the Lord, just as the Pharisees at the time of Christ. We don’t want to misplace the point of God’s written and spoken word, or like He said to the Pharisees, Jesus may be saying to us “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and These are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

Like the Pharisees and the people to whom Amos prophesied, we can begin to use the written word of God in a self seeking manner, and miss the One who is the Living Word of God, Jesus the Messiah. Let us be careful to understand that hearing the word of the LORD continues after the preacher preaches and after we close the bible in our devotions.

We are to understand, encounter, and adapt to our life circumstances, in real time, as the Holy Spirit leads us by the word of God hidden in our hearts (Romans 8:14, Proverbs 3:5-7). This incorruptible seed is to be the voice of the Lord, and the basis of the transformation of our lives.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Remember, when Paul speaks of how they received the word of God, he is not referring to their being excited to receive a gift and awarded a Bible, as nice as that would have been. He was referring to their receiving his message concerning Jesus Christ, from the written O.T. on hand, or spoken by him. Essentially they received what Amos’ audience and many “Christians” are missing today: the anointed life transforming and empowered word of the LORD.

In our next post, we will discover ways to help us grow in our desire to hear His word. Until then may God bless you as you consider whether you are truly hearing the word of the LORD.

 

Posted in Amos 8:11-12, famine of the word of the LORD, I Peter 1:22-24, I Thessalonians 2:13, The Holy Spirit, the voice of God, The Word of God, Uncategorized | Leave a comment