Year-End Review (2022 Edition)

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The apostle Peter said he wrote two letters to the church “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul reminded his young friend Timothy to “keep reminding [your congregation] of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

In the spirit of those great apostles, I have made it a practice to take time at the end of each year to look back on all that we have learned in the previous year, and then to look forward to where God may be leading Calvary Assembly of God in this upcoming year.

Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Awesome—Jesus told us that we could pray in His name and expect amazing things (see John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24). This does not mean that simply adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to the end of a prayer unlocks a secret code. Rather, it means that the more we understand just how awesome our Savior is, and that He is the Key to God’s storeroom, the more we will being to align our prayers with the will of God. Jesus desires for His Father’s glory to be seen on earth through the answers to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews opens his letter by reminding us that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Is That In The Bible? (part 1 and part 2)—A meme that makes me chuckle every time I see it is a “quote” attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which he says, “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.” (Not to spoil the joke for you, but unless Lincoln knew how to time travel to the future, I don’t think he knew about the modern internet! 😂). I love this meme because it captures something that so many people fall into: a quick acceptance of a statement without verifying its source or thinking through the implications of the statement’s truthfulness. I think you may be surprised to discover just how many phrases we call biblical aren’t, and how many phrases there are that we never realized are actually in the Bible.

Christmas Unwrapped At Easter—Remember as a kid when you would unwrap a gift and discover it wasn’t something you really wanted, but then your parents explained that it was something you needed? The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was a little like that—it wasn’t exactly what people were hoping for, but it was exactly what they needed. The real meaning of that Christmas gift wasn’t realized until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected back to life.

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Craving—Doesn’t it seem like far too many Christians think of their relationship with Jesus as bland? After all, we’ve been told that any cravings we have should be quickly downplayed so that they don’t carry “good Christians” away. But what we discover in the Bible is that God made us to be craving creatures—He wants us to long deeply and find ultimate satisfaction for those longings. In short, God created us to long after the things that only He can fulfill. As we dive into this new series, I think you will find it quite eye-opening and heart-lifting. 

The Great Attitude Of Gratitude—There’s something about gratitude that distinguishes people. Think about it: would you rather hang around with grumblers or grateful people? The gratitude of Paul and Silas certainly made them stand out from the crowd when they were in Philippi. Wrongly accused, beaten, and thrown in prison, but instead of bellyaching, they were praising God. Later on, when Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Philippi, the theme of gratefulness permeates his letter. The distinguishing mark is actually in the title: The GReat ATTITUDE spells out GRATITUDE!

Bethlehem Is Proof—The prophet Micah foretells that the Messiah will arrive in dark times. Enemies will surround Israel, and Israel’s ruler will receive a nasty punch to the jaw. Demonic strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry will appear to be gaining the upper hand. And then Micah turns his attention to a small village just south of Jerusalem—a village so small that it is often overlooked—a village from which no one would expect Israel’s Deliverer. And yet, Micah writes, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Jesus the Deliverer was born in the little town of Bethlehem, and His birth there 700 years after Micah foretold it is our proof that God always gets the last word, the decisive word, and the best word!

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2023, and we’ll be launching some brand-new ones as well. If you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

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Grateful For What You Have

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We said last week that nobody likes to be around a complainer, although many complainers would say they’re not complaining but just sharing facts. In their mind, they have a legitimate right to let everyone know how they’ve been short-changed, gotten a bad deal, or experienced something that no one else has gone through.    

Have you ever heard your kids say, “I’m starving”? And perhaps you think, “Do you really know what starving is?” Or what about people waving their very expensive phones around as they complain, “Isn’t there any WiFi here?!” 

This isn’t a glass half-full or half-empty thing. This is really closing your eyes to the fact that many people don’t even have a glass, or if they do have a glass, they don’t have access to the water that they need. 

I was delivering some Christmas toys to a family and I discovered they had lost everything they owned. When I came to their house their furniture was mismatched, their food and clothes were donated, and their kids only had a couple of simple toys to play with. And yet this family was happy to be together! 

That sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? 

We have to choose grumbling or gratefulness, but as E.M. Bounds noted, “Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” So if you are complaining about what you don’t have, you cannot be grateful for what you do have. 

There is a fascinating story told in all four Gospels of a woman named Mary. She was an uninvited guest at a house where Jesus and His disciples had been invited to dinner. Jesus was not there because someone was grateful to have Him in his home, but because Simon the Pharisee and his cronies were trying to find a reason to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing. 

Simon was so focused on his “gotcha” moment that he completely overlooked his host duties. He didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, nor greet Him with a kiss, nor anoint Him with perfume, as the custom of the day demanded. But Mary, standing behind Jesus at the dinner table, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissed His feet, and anointed Him with an entire bottle of costly perfume! She did all of this out of gratitude for what she had received from Jesus. 

First, I would like you to consider what Mary didn’t have:

  • a seat at the table—even though the dinner was in her hometown of Bethany, her brother Lazarus was invited to the meal, and her sister Martha was serving the meal 
  • a good reputation—twice Simon the Pharisee said, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” 
  • the acceptance or approval of others—even the disciples thought her gesture of anointing Jesus with so much perfume was a wasted extravagance 

Next, let’s look at what Simon did have:

  • an elevated position as a Pharisee 
  • considerable wealth—he had servants and a home large enough for a big dinner party 
  • healing from leprosy—the Gospels refer to him as “Simon the leper” which tells us that he had been healed of his leprosy 

Now, let’s consider what the disciples did have:

  • an enviable position as disciples of Jesus
  • a dinner invitation to Simon’s house
  • access to the financial resources that people gave to Christ’s ministry
  • and let us never overlook the fact that they had access to Jesus Himself like no one else had

Finally, let’s look at what Mary did have:

  • forgiveness—Luke says this about her, “A woman who HAD lived a sinful life” 

Gratitude is truly a great attitude. Grateful people stand out because they don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are focused on what they do have.  

Mary knew that she didn’t have the outward marks of success or favor or approval, but she did have the assurance that she had been forgiven. For that, she was more than willing to give everything she had to Jesus in thankful worship! 

And as a result, look what Mary now has:

  • the kind words of Jesus—He assured her that she was forgiven (Luke 7:47)
  • Jesus as her defender—He told His disciples, “Leave her alone” (John 12:7)
  • an eternal testimony—Jesus said that wherever the Gospel was preached, people would tell Mary’s story (Matthew 26:13) 

I think a good way to sum up the distinguishing way grateful people live is like this: They don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are extremely grateful for what they do have. 

When you find grumbling slipping out of your mouth, remind yourself of just how much you have been given. Even if you think to yourself, “I don’t have much,” you can be assured that you have Jesus, and He is more than enough! And with that assurance, let your gratitude be lifted up in extravagant, fragrant praise to God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Great Attitude of Gratitude, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Can God Get My Attention?

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God needed the Ninevites to hear the message of impending judgment, and He needed Jonah to deliver that message and call the Ninevites to repentance. In four short chapters, the phrases about God providing what was needed appear six times! 

Because His messenger was running away and prejudiced against the Ninevites, God had to provide the means to get Jonah’s attention and provide a way to get him back on mission. So God provided

  • …a great wind on the sea (1:4) 
  • …a huge fish to swallow Jonah (1:17) 
  • …the command to the fish of where and when to deposit Jonah (2:10) 
  • …a green plant, a worm, and a scorching east wind to awaken Jonah to his prejudice (4:6-8)

The storm God provided caused the sailors to turn to God. The fish God provided caused Jonah to turn to God. And the sermon God provided Jonah to preach caused the Ninevites to turn to God.

What about the worm and the wind? Did those cause Jonah to turn his attention back to God? The Bible doesn’t tell us because I believe we each have to complete that story ourselves. When God provides trials, discomforts, and even disasters, they are intended to get our attention. 

Let’s keep this in mind the next time things aren’t going the way we had planned. Instead of complaining—or even praying for God to remove us from those difficulties—let’s instead ask ourselves:

  • Have I been disobedient to something God has directed me to do? 
  • Have I allowed myself to get off-track? 
  • Is my attitude about my God-directed assignment God-honoring? 
  • Is there something God is trying to bring to my attention? 

God provides everything needed to keep us on mission for Him. Let’s not try to get out of these difficulties, but let’s ask Him what we need to get out of these difficulties. 

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God’s Pleasure In Our Work

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A couple of weeks ago I asked a question about a fictitious job. Which job would you rather have: a job that’s (a) boring, not utilizing your skills, where you’re treated as a cog in the wheel, or (b) energizing, calling out your best talents, a place where you are making a difference? 

As a follow up I asked, “Which of those jobs are you more likely to be happy to go to? Which job is going to inspire you to give your best work ethic?” 

We all want that ideal job, but the reality is that in this fallen world there are no perfect jobs, so it’s very likely that we’re going to have the challenging jobs. Even when we have that kind of job, Christians are called to work with excellence and to find joy in that work (Colossians 3:23). 

Work originated with God. At the conclusion of every day of Creation, God looked at His magnificent handiwork and pronounced it good. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them instructions to work, and even after their sin, He repeated the call to work (Genesis 2:15, 3:17-19). 

Whether we are called to be gardeners or evangelists, plumbers or salespeople, teachers or doctors, we are to work well. William Tyndale wrote, “There is no work better than to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all are one; to wash dishes and to preach are all one, as touching the deed, to please God.” 

Let me give you two examples of good workers. 

The first is Joseph whom we meet in the first book of the Bible. Out of their jealousy of their father’s preferential treatment of Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt working for a man named Potiphar. I don’t think anyone would have blamed Joseph for grumbling about his condition and giving the least effort possible, but instead, Joseph so excelled in his work that Potiphar promoted him over all his household. 

After being framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Joseph found himself in prison. Once again, this innocent man could have sulked and complained and shirked his work responsibility. But once again, Joseph did such excellent work that the warden promoted him to a trustee position over all the other prisoners. 

Eventually, Joseph was promoted to second in command in all of Egypt, where he continued to do excellent and innovative work. Joseph’s good attitude and impeccable work ethic allowed God to place him in a position where he could save his people from starvation (see Genesis 39-50). 

What about the example of Jesus? He was fully God, yet He gave up His divine prerogatives to work as a carpenter and to eventually perform the most important work of all: the willing sacrifice for the sins of all humankind. Paul describes the servanthood and willing attitude of Jesus in Philippians 2, adding an important “therefore” when he tells us that the excellent work of Jesus allowed God to place Him in a position where He could save His people from eternal separation from God (Philippians 2:6-11). 

But Paul also has an important word for us in the verse preceding this passage: “Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (v. 5 AMP). 

I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When I choose this attitude and live it out with an excellent work ethic, God is pleased. 

So allow me to give you four attitude-checking questions about your own work ethic:

  1. Do I feel like I have to go to work? I should so crave God’s glory and God’s rewards that I have a get to attitude about my work. 
  2. Do I complain about my work? The Bible makes it very clear that God disapproves of grumbling, and uses our good attitude to point others to Himself (Numbers 11:1; 1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15). 
  3. Am I “quiet quitting”? This should never, ever be said of Christians! Our work ethic should be as exemplary as Joseph’s and Christ’s (Ephesians 6:5-8).
  4. Am I living for T.G.I.F.? We shouldn’t be focused on just getting things done, but we should make the most of every day of work that we have been given. We should be living out T.G.I.T.—Thank God It’s Today (Psalm 90:12, 17)! 

Let me repeat an important principle: I may not be able to choose my job, but I can always choose to have a God-glorifying attitude about my job. When you have this kind of attitude, you will experience the joy of a fulfilled craving that God has put in all of us—the desire to do meaningful and God-honoring work. This is the attitude and work ethic God delights to reward. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Craving, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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A High And Holy Calling

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When God spoke to the “princes of Israel,” He was speaking to those in leadership positions. They were men who had wealth, position, and a high level of influence. God called them to live up to their title as “prince” because leadership is a high and holy calling given by God. 

Leaders are to set an example for others. They are to provide what is lacking so that others can live up to their own God-given potential as well. Here’s the way God describes His leaders in Ezekiel 45-46:

They are to be peacemakers, never men of violence nor oppression (45:9). 

They are to be fair, consistent, and impartial in their interactions with others (45:10). 

They are to generously provide for the people under their care (45:15-17, 22; 46:13-14). 

They are to have a “get to do it” attitude toward their duties, not a “have to do it” attitude” (46:5, 7, 11). 

They are to be among their people, not aloof nor isolated from them (46:10). 

They are to provide for their family without impoverishing the people under their care (46:18). 

Since God calls leaders, He will also call them to account. Jesus made it clear that there are only one-of-two assessments that leaders will hear from God:

  1. Well done, good and faithful servant 
  2. You wicked, lazy servant

Let me say it again: Leadership is a high and holy calling. So…

A mark of a godly leader is one who joyfully and faithfully fulfills God’s leadership call. 

This is part 67 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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It’s Just Not Fair

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It’s not uncommon to hear children on the playground complaining, “That’s not fair!” Common but somewhat expected. 

Unfortunately, it still seems to be common among adults who feel they got the short end of the deal to grouse, “That’s not fair!” Common but immature. Sadly, I have to admit that there are times that I find myself complaining that I didn’t get a fair deal. 

If anyone could complain about not getting His “fair share” it would be God. He gives His all to people who easily forget His blessings, quickly chase after other things, and still grumble that they aren’t getting a fair deal. 

God never complains, but He does ask questions: “My people, what have I done for you? How have I burdened you? Answer Me” (Micah 6:3). In the next two verses, God twice calls on His people to “remember” all that He has done for them. 

We must answer God. But it seems to me that our obedience to Him is the only reasonable response to all of the blessings He has poured out on us. God doesn’t demand burdensome sacrifices from us, but He simply wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him (v. 8). 

What God asks of me is out of all proportion with what He has given me, who He is for me today, and the future He has secured for me. 

Fair? No way, it’s completely unfair. God gives me everything and what He asks in return is so minor. Let’s make it our daily joy to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our loving God! 

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13 Quotes From “Simple Truths Of Leadership”

Kenneth Blanchard and Randy Conley have given leaders a gift in Simple Truths of Leadership. Inside you will find 52 leadership lessons that can be immediately added to your leadership toolbox, and ample follow-up information if you want to dive deeper into any of these principles. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“If today’s leaders had a more commonsense approach to leadership, we’d venture to say that 65 to 70 percent of the workforce would not be considered disengaged. That’s one reason our original title for this book was ‘DUH! Why isn’t commonsense leadership common practice?’” 

“The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self interest that looks at the world as a ‘give a little, take a lot’ proposition. … If leaders don’t get their heart right, they will never become servant leaders.” 

“Organizational leaders often have an either/or attitude toward results and people. … You can get both great results and great relationships if you understand the two parts of servant leadership: the leadership aspect focuses on vision, direction, and results; the servant aspect focuses on working side-by-side in relationship with your people.” 

“Empower your people by letting them bring their brains to work.” 

When people are off track, don’t reprimand them—redirect them.” 

“The best minute servant leaders spend is the one they invest in people.” 

The remaining seven quotes are exclusive content for my Patreon supporters. In addition to book quotes, there are also videos and behind-the-scenes views that only these supporters have access to. I would love it if you would prayerfully consider supporting my ministry for just $5 per month.

Shine In The Darkness

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I’ve noticed that when people want to sound super-spiritual that they like to use King James Version phrases. Sometimes I hear people speaking in normal, everyday English until they begin praying and then I hear, “Thy servant … Thou O Most High … we beseech Thee … Thou knowest Thine children….” 

Statement #6 in our series “Is that in the Bible” also sounds more powerful when people quote it in King James English—Shun the very appearance of evil or sometimes Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. Are those in the Bible? Yes, they are! 

We don’t use the word “shun” very often today, but in what was probably the first written book of the Bible we read that not only did Job shun evil, but God commended him for shunning evil too. And wise King Solomon advocated for his readers to shun evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Proverbs 3:7, 14:16). 

Yes, those phrases that I quoted earlier come right from the King James Version of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and 2 Corinthians 6:17, but does this mean that we are to stay away from anything that is “unChristian”? Does it mean that we are to shun sinners? 

There is a story that is told in the synoptic Gospels, but I especially like it in Matthew’s Gospel for one specific reason (which I’ll share with you in a moment). Jesus has just called Matthew to be His disciple, and several of Matthew’s coworkers appear to be having a going-away dinner for him which Jesus attended. 

Then comes the “911” call from the Pharisees (this statement is in Matthew 9:11): “Gasp! Jesus is eating with sinners! He’s not shunning them! Call in the sin police!” The New Living Translation is even more harsh, with the Pharisees asking, “Why does your Teacher eat with such scum?” (v. 13 NLT). 

In Luke’s Gospel we read another story where Jesus eating with “such scum” turned another tax collector’s life around. In Luke 19:1-10, we read of Zaccheus experiencing a complete life change because of His encounter with Jesus. 

Listen to Christ’s words in both Matthew and Luke: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. … The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Matthew 9:12-13; Luke 19:10). 

This doesn’t sound like Jesus shunned sinners.

Likewise, Jesus called us to be His salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). No matter how beneficial the salt of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone if it stays in the saltshaker, shunning the food. No matter how bright the lantern of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone in a closed closet, shunning the darkness. 

Notice what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t go to Matthew’s house or Zaccheus’ house for a good time, or for a good meal, or for a time of entertainment. He was on mission. So too for Christians: We go into dark places not for our pleasure or entertainment, but because we’re on a rescue mission! 

In both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, the words for “shun” point at our own hearts. The words mean: You walk away from things that will pull you down, or you hold yourself back from the places and things that will lead you to sin. 

So look at the phrase “Shun the very appearance of evil” in its context: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject [or shun] every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). 

Paul is calling us to shun the things that drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen to two of those verses in another translation: “But test and prove all things until you can recognize what is good; to that hold fast. Abstain from evil” (vv. 21-22 AMP). 

In 2 Corinthians 6 the phrase “Be ye separate” is in the context about being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. This is what happened to King Solomon when he married women who were idolaters, and they pulled his heart away from God. 

Shun” means to keep away from those things that would pull you down. How do I know if a certain environment or activity or person is pulling me down? I need to check my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. If I find they are becoming un-Christlike, then that is an indication of a place or person that I need to limit my exposure. 

As long as my thoughts, attitudes, and actions remain Christlike, I should keep on seasoning and shining in dark places so that I can draw others to Jesus. “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT). 

Don’t shun people that Jesus dearly loves, but don’t put yourself in a position where your devotion to God is compromised either. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit giving you the wisdom you need to be both on-mission for Jesus and shining a bright, innocent light! 

If you’ve missed any of the other lessons in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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It’s A Big Deal

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I get a little leery when people are advocating for a government that is friendly to Christianity. In biblical history and world history, Christians tend to backslide when things are going smoothly for them. 

Difficulties and even persecution cause us to evaluate if what we’re standing on is really a sure foundation (2 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 4:10-13). 

As the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon, things were going fairly easily for them. And as they had done so many times before, they began to backslide. The Archeological Study Bible noted, “This generation was not guilty of the gross idolatry of its forefathers. Rather, these Israelites embraced a kind of dead orthodoxy, in which they tried to get by with the minimum that their faith required.”  

Onto this scene comes a prophet named Malachi. Malachi means “My messenger,” and we don’t know if this was actually the prophet’s name or not, but he took it on as his nature, delivering the heavy words of God. In fact, he held the words of God with such respect that when he says this is “an oracle,” he literally is saying, “This is a heavy burden to bear!” 

Malachi uses the phrase “LORD Almighty” (or LORD of Hosts in the KJV, and Lord of Heaven’s Armies in the NLT) twenty-four times. By contrast with the other minor prophets…

  • Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah use this phrase zero times 
  • Micah and Habakkuk each use it once
  • Nahum and Zephaniah each use it twice
  • Haggai uses it 12 times (or 32 percent of the total verses in his book) 
  • Zechariah uses the phrase 46 times (which 22 percent of his total verses) 

But Malachi’s 24 times is 44 percent of his total verses! In other words, he wanted his audience to be crystal clear that it wasn’t him who was speaking, but the King of kings was speaking to us through Malachi! 

God is still speaking through Malachi to us today! Just like Israel in Malachi’s day, I think Christians today run the very real risk of backsliding. Just like Israel, when we forget the weightiness of the glory of the LORD ALMIGHTY we can begin to slip into an it’s-no-big-deal attitude. 

By contrast, when we’re honoring the LORD of Hosts, and reverencing Him, and desirous of His glory being seen, it’s a very big deal that we listen to His voice and closely follow His commands.  

So Malachi’s six warnings to the Israelites of his day should still be heeded by Christians today. We should examine ourselves very closely to see if we have the same it’s-no-big-deal attitude. We should ask ourselves, “Are we…

(1) …offering less-than-our-best sacrifices? Are we just giving God the leftovers?”  

(2) …listening to church leaders that don’t reverence God’s name?” 

(3) …honoring the sanctity of marriage?” 

(4) …self-seeking instead of neighbor-loving?” 

(5) …withholding the full tithe from our local church?” 

(6) …following God only for personal gain?” 

(Check out all of the verses for these questions by clicking here.) 

If this study of the minor prophets—especially these last three—has told us anything, it’s that God keeps His word. When He says He is coming back as the righteous Judge, that will happen. In fact, it could happen at any moment! 

We must be ready! We must guard our hearts against the it’s-no-big-deal attitude. We must reverence our awesome God. The things of God are a very big deal indeed (see Hebrews 10:37-39; Revelation 22:12-16). 

To guard ourselves against this backsliding attitude, we must live every day reverencing the awesome, weighty, majestic name of Jesus! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring the powerful lessons in the the twelve minor prophets, please click here to get the list of all of those messages. 

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Listening To Obey

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Have you ever been confronted by someone claiming, “The Bible is full of contradictions”? 

How about this one: God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7) vs. at Meribah…[the Israelites] tested the LORD (Exodus 17:7)? 

Whenever we see a possible contradiction, remember this: Context is king. We have to look at these two accounts in their proper context. 

In the Exodus account, the Israelites have just been delivered out of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The pursing Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the waters closed back over them and they drowned. Three days later we find the Israelites grumbling over a lack of drinkable water, which God miraculously supplies. A month after that they are complaining about their food supply, which God miraculously supplies. And right on the heels of that they are again complaining about not having water to drink, which God miraculously supplies (see Exodus 15-17). 

It is after this second miraculous supply of water that we read that phrase we are considering: the Israelites tested God. The Hebrew word for “tested” is nasa which equates to, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or “I’ll believe it when I see it!” or as The Message paraphrase puts it, “Is God here with us, or not?” 

In Psalm 81, God Himself is speaking in vv. 6-16, so He is the One who claims, “I tested them at Meribah.” The Hebrew word for “tested” in this instance is bahan. This means to investigate closely, to spot and bring out the impurities in fine metals. God not only makes the claim, “I tested them,” but He is also the One who tells us to Selah—pause and calmly consider. 

Consider what? After the first instance of grumbling about water in Exodus 15, we read, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians’” (Exodus 15:25-26). 

Notice the words decree, law, and commands. Asaph says something similar in Psalm 81:4, “This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when He went out against Egypt.” 

God is talking about laws before the Ten Commandments are given. What is the law He desires to be obeyed above all else? In a word: Listen. 

  • If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes (Exodus 15:25). 
  • I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to Me, O Israel! (Psalm 81:7-8) 

God brings us to these moments of tests to see how we will respond. He doesn’t need to know, but we need to know how we will respond. When we find ourselves wringing our hands, or grumbling, or saying, “Is God here with us, or not?”, what does that tell us about our own heart? He wants us to be wholly His, so He has to bring out the impurities. That same word bahan is used when God speaks this word: “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Asaph uses the Hebrew word for “listen” five times in Psalm 81. This word means listening with an attitude to obey. In order for us to hear God’s voice, we have to listen with an attitude toward obedience. This is not, “Oh yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it!” but “Oh yeah! I will obey it so I will see it!” 

As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit dropped these questions on my heart which I encourage you to ponder as well: 

  • God is always speaking to me. Am I making quiet time to listen to His voice?  
  • God sometimes has to discipline me. Am I open to His purifying? 
  • God has wise counsel for me. Am I obeying it?
  • God knows the best path for me. Am I walking in it?
  • God wants to subdue my enemies. Am I asking Him to do it?
  • God has abundant blessings for me. Am I listening to obey?

God will only speak a new word to me when I have obeyed His previous word to me.

When I am in distress, I need to train myself to Selah so that I can say, “God has brought me to this test, what do I need to learn? Am I listening to God’s voice with an attitude to obey?” 

May our heart’s posture always be, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening and ready to obey whatever You speak to me.” 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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