Unexpected Response

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

I’m a bit of a nut about the exactness of words, so one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of imply and infer. “Imply” is something I do as the speaker; “infer” is something you do as the listener. Or you might say implying is like throwing and inferring is like catching. 

A big problem arises when I infer something that you didn’t imply. Or even worse, when I infer something based on something you didn’t say. People will often say something like this, “Since Jesus didn’t specifically talk about ________ then it must be okay.” In logic, this would be called an argument from ignorance: concluding that an action must be acceptable because it has not been specifically stated to be unacceptable. 

Statement #10 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?” is—Love your neighbor. Is that in the Bible? Yes!  

Remember Jesus called “Scripture” all of the words we would now call “Old Testament.” So in Matthew 5:43 Jesus quoted Scripture: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). 

Later on, Jesus would add to this Deuteronomy 6:5—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength—to answer the question about the greatest commandment of all. 

In Leviticus 19, the Hebrew word for love means love in the broadest sense of the word, and neighbor means a friend or a fellow citizen. Unfortunately, the rabbis inferred that someone not a Jew was therefore an enemy and therefore not worthy of love. They further inferred that the opposite of love was hate. 

Matthew Henry commented, “They were willing to infer what God never designed.” 

Statement #11 is—Hate your enemy. Is that in the Bible? Yes, in the fact that it appears in print in Matthew 5:43, but it doesn’t appear in the Scripture that Jesus knew. It had become so ingrained in the thinking of people that they now assumed it was in the Bible. 

In many ways, the Old Testament laws were easier to live out because they were all external and easy to measure, like don’t murder or don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse. But Jesus made it a heart issue—He said lust is the same as adultery and hate is the same as murder. 

Jesus also made love for enemies a heart issue. The word He used for love in the Greek is agape—the same word describing God’s love for His enemies in John 3:16—For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life. 

Jesus said our enemies were really our neighbors and were worthy of sacrificial love because they, too, were loved by God. 

Matthew 5:44 is shortened in the NIV and has a footnote explaining that the longer verse was not seen in the earlier manuscripts. But given the fact that Jesus demonstrated everything found in the longer version of this verse, I think we are safe in using it. So let’s look at the response Jesus calls us to from the NKJV: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 

Here’s what Jesus says it means for us to love our enemies:

(1) Bless the cursers. We’ve all been “cursed out” with nasty, hateful words. When that happens, Jesus wants to bless that neighbor. The word He used for bless literally means to say good words. 

(2) Help the haters. Jesus said we are to do those things that are beautiful and excellent—like the good Good Samaritan did for his enemy-turned-neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37).  

(3) Pray for the persecutors. Talk to God about them; don’t talk to others about them. 

This response from Christians toward people whom others would call an enemy is totally unexpected by the world. This unexpected response will begin to draw enemies toward Jesus (1 Peter 2:12). If we will treat enemies and neighbors, they may soon become brothers and sisters in the family of God! 

When the world hits us Christians out of hate, let’s respond with unexpected love: blessing those who curse us, helping those who hurt us, and praying for those who persecute us. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Is That In The Bible? series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Sure And Secure

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

We have looked at all of the psalms with a Selah pause, but there is one bonus message that we need to consider, and I think it’s a perfect wrap up to this series. 

Outside the book that bears his name, there is no other mention of Habakkuk anywhere else in the Bible. The author himself gives us no biographic information, nor does he give us dates as most of the other prophets do. However, there is enough information inside his short book that allows us to make some solid inferences:

  • based on his instructions in 3:19 we can infer he is a Levite and a worship leader—notice that he says “my instruments” 
  • we know for certain he is a song writer and a prophet (1:1; 3:1) 
  • he is a prophet with a heavy message—the word oracle in in the opening verse is probably better translated a “burden” 
  • he is a contemporary of Jeremiah, who spoke to backsliders, but Habakkuk speaks to the godly remnant to help them make sense of what’s happening in their crumbling culture 

Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere in the Bible except in the Psalms: he calls godly people to Selah—not once, but three times! 

In our look at the Selahs of Psalm 55 we noted how David’s Selahs almost came as an interruption of his anxious thoughts. Habakkuk’s Selahs follow this same theme. That’s because Habakkuk’s culture (like ours today) was increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure. This prophetic worship leader wants righteous people trying to stand strong in their unrighteous culture to know that our surety and stability must come from our unshakable relationship with our righteous God. 

We’ve said that one of the definitions for Selah is “pause and calmly think of that,” but for Habakkuk’s Selahs I want to modify it slightly: Pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this…. What he wants us to consider, I believe, comes from the opening words of his song in chapter 3—

Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (v. 2). 

We are to pause to consider that God has already shown His unrivaled power in the past, and then we stand firm to see Him move again “in our day, in our time” so that the unrighteous will have an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. 

The first Selah is after v. 3 in which Habakkuk references Mount Paran. How did God show His fame there? Moses recorded it this way: 

The Lord came from Sinai and beamed upon us from Seir; He flashed forth from Mount Paran, from among ten thousands of holy ones, a flaming fire, a law, at His right hand. (Deuteronomy 33:2)  

Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. His glory will cover the heavens, His praise will fill the earth, His power will be so evident that the earth will quake and nations will tremble (vv. 4-6). All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous.  

The second Selah is after v. 9 where Habakkuk is still describing all that God will do personally to rescue His righteous ones. Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before—see the almost identical language David uses in Psalm 18:3-17—and He can do it again. All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous. 

The final Selah is at the end of v. 13 where Habakkuk describes what God will do to the enemies of His people. He uses words of decisive victory—crushed, stripped, pierced, trampled. 

Once again, Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. More specifically, Jesus is the Decisive and Ultimate Victor over sin and death! Check this out: 

Then the end will come, when [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) 

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. (Colossians 2:15) 

Do not be afraid. I [Jesus] am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)

When our culture is becoming increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure, what an unshakable surety and security we have standing on Christ the Solid Rock. As the old hymn reminds us—when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our lengthy Selah series, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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A Leader’s Daily Guide

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

Sometimes it’s best just to let the Bible speak for itself. 

As Moses was preparing the Israelites for life in the land God has promised them, he had these words for them about their leaders—

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. … When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left…. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15, 18-20) 

A mark of a godly leader is one who uses God’s Word as his daily guide.

This is part 64 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

One of the last pictures I took with my Mom ♥

“Love of the Word appears preeminently in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He read it publicly. He quoted it continually. He expounded it frequently. He advised the Jews to search it. He used it as His weapon to resist the devil. He repeatedly said, ‘The Scripture must be fulfilled.’ Almost the last thing He did was to ‘open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:45). I am afraid that man cannot be a true servant of Christ, who has not something of his Master’s mind and feeling towards the Bible.” —J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading 

“The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. …The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach.” —E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer 

I have blogged several thoughts about the historicity of the Bible. Here’s a post on Breakpoint about yet another archeological discovery that once again vindicates the Bible’s trustworthiness.

“Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. … The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. … The devil … the world … and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent.” —Martin Luther

Looking at God’s awesomeness brings a peace that nothing else can.

A very thought-provoking Q&A with Sean McDowell and Dr. Stephen Meyer: Does Science Point to God?

Clinging To Jesus

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

Previously I shared with you that according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. That means there’s a good chance that either you or someone close to you will be in this battle sometime during their life. 

We also learned from David that being anxious or afraid is not a sin. He said, “When [not ‘if’] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). But we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our trustworthy First Source of help. 

We also saw in Mark 4:35-39 how the disciples of Jesus were caught in a raging storm, trying everything in their own power to rescue themselves, and yet Jesus was right there with them. He arose and said, “Quiet. Be still,” and “THEN the wind died down and it was completely calm.” From this we learned that only His peace can X-out the noise of the storm and bring us to a place of quiet rest. 

We see another aspect of anxiety here: “Anxiety weighs down the heart” (Proverbs 12:25). That word for “anxiety” means carefulness, but not in the idea of being cautious. It literally means someone who is full of cares. This state leads to a heaviness of heart, as the KJV of that same verse says, “Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop.”  

I don’t think anyone wakes up one day and says, “I’m going to take all of the cares of the world on my shoulders today.” Instead, we pick up just one thing. “This is just a small thing,” we tell ourselves. Then we wake up the next morning with just that one little thing, and we pick up one more little thing. And then we do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Until before we know it we are bowed down because we are full of cares. This heaviness makes us stoop, makes us unsteady on our feet, and magnifies even the smallest of concerns into a huge crisis. 

We are clinging to our load of cares—our care-fullness—but our loving Heavenly Father desires us to cling to something else. He wants us to cling to Him!

  • Moses told the Israelites: Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT) 
  • David declared: I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) 

We see a beautiful example of Paul clinging to the promises of God during his multiple trials in and around Jerusalem and then during his journey to Rome to stand trial yet again. While he was still in prison in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). 

Paul knew he was going to arrive in Rome. But during the horrendous storm at sea on his way there, Paul received an added assurance. He told his shipmates—

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.” (Acts 27:22-25) 

Jesus tells all of us to cling to Him and His secure promises (Matthew 11:28-30). When we cling to Him, we no longer cling to the cares of this world. We move from from full-of-cares to care-less. We go from insecurity over our future to the security that only Jesus can give us! 

Paul clung to those promises of Jesus: I will rescue you … You must testify about Me in Rome … I have given you all who sail with you. Likewise, we need to arm ourselves with the promises of God and tenaciously cling to them. I’ve shared just a few promises in the comments below, but feel free to reach out to me if I can help you find a promise in the Bible that you can cling to through your stormy times. 

If you’ve missed any message in our series about X-ing our anxieties, please click here to find the full list. 

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Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

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

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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God Is One, God Is Love

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

There is a common characteristic among every human civilization: they all have had a pantheon of gods. It seems that no one god could capture all of the attributes each civilization thought were important, so they created multiple gods to help fill in the gaps. 

Onto the world scene comes the account recorded for us in the Bible of a God who creates the universe. The Hebrew word for this God is elohiym which means “a divine one.” This name is used throughout the Creation story in Genesis 1. 

Then in Genesis 2:4, a new name appears, one that is used over 6500 times in the Bible. It is the unpronounceable name YHWH: often pronounced Yahweh or substituted with the word Jehovah. In most Bible translations this name is designated by all capital letters: LORD. Yahweh or Jehovah means “the existing One.” 

The first part of our second foundational truth states, “The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent ‘I AM,’ the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.” This Creator is uncreated: He sustains the universe without needing to be replenished Himself. He is utterly complete in Himself; hence, His name means I AM (see Exodus 3:13-15). 

The second part of this foundational truth statement says, “He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The I AM is One (see Deuteronomy 6:4), but He reveals Himself in three Persons—Father, Son, Spirit—that we call the Trinity (although this is not a word found in the Bible). 

Sometimes Christians have done a disservice to the I AM by making it appear He is divided. For instance, we might say, “The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Spirit is the Regenerator.” But remember that our One God is not a pantheon of gods; He is One. We see the fullness of the Trinity operating in every area. Here’s just a short sampling:  

  • The creation of the universe—Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 104:30 
  • The creation of man—Genesis 1:26-27 
  • A prophecy about Jesus’ advent—Isaiah 9:6 
  • The incarnation of Jesus—Luke 1:35 
  • The baptism of Jesus—Matthew 3:16-17
  • The resurrection of Jesus—Acts 2:32; John 10:18; Romans 1:4 
  • Our atonement—Hebrews 9:14 
  • A Christian’s baptism in the Holy Spirit—John 14:16 

(You can read all of these verses for yourself by clicking here.) 

A good question for us to ponder is: Why would this I AM God create humans? If He needs nothing to complete Himself or sustain Himself, why make us? 

The apostle John captures the essence of the Trinity in three words: God is love.

God created us out of an overflow of His love so that we too could enjoy the intimate, eternal pleasure of being at-onement with Him forever. God then wants our love to overflow to everyone around us, so that they will also be drawn into this at-oneness with the I AM. 

When Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment, He first quoted from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Yahweh] our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one.” Christ’s conclusion was for us to love this All-Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then Jesus added an obvious overflow of that love: “And love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-31).

Love to God and from God should overflow from us to others to bring them into the One God who is love itself.  

The more we understand this love that the I AM has for us: (1) the better able we will be to love and worship Him, (2) the more we will love others out of this overflow of love, and (3) the more glory our awesome GOD will receive. Which is exactly what the apostle Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:14-19. 

This idea of an I AM God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit has been described by the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum. It is indeed a mystery: not one that frightens and confuses, but one that energizes and enlivens. Pray Paul’s prayer for yourself, so that you can see more dimensions of this awesome love that God has for you! 

If you missed any parts of this series exploring our foundational belief statements, you can check out the full list by clicking here.

God Delights In Me

It’s been said that the bookends of success are starting well and finishing well. I believe that! 

David started well when he lifted up a prayer of thankfulness to God when he became king over the united nation of Israel. Prayer at the the beginning puts us on a path toward success. 

Have you ever begun to assemble a child’s toy or a piece of furniture, gotten completely stumped, and only then read the instruction manual? We’ve all been there! There are many things in life that we start on our own and then hit our knees in prayer only after we’ve exhausted all of our human resources. Fortunately, after we pray and God answers, we often end up finishing well with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The question is: what do we do when we again get ready to start something else? Do we pause to start well with prayer, or do we dive in on our own again? 

I think one of the biggest reasons we don’t go to prayer quickly is because we feel unworthy to go into the presence of a holy, righteous God. 

One commentator said about Psalm 18 that David probably prayed this “before he committed his terrible sin” with Bathsheba and Uriah. That may be, but with very few minor changes, David prayed this exact same prayer (2 Samuel 22) at the very end of his reign. His reign as king was bookended with the same prayer. 

Between the bookend prayers of Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22, David prayed another prayer—this one was after he had sinned against God, Bathsheba, and Uriah. David truly believed that God forgave that sin and wiped the slate clean, so much so that he noted this great blessing on his life: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. 

He rescued me because He delighted in me?! Yes! 

David knew that God had told us that He delights in those who obey Him. The example of God’s delight was seen in Jesus. Because Jesus paid the price for the forgiveness of my sins, I can be completely cleansed. Then Jesus comes in me, and takes me into Him, and takes both of us into the Father. So now when our Heavenly Father looks at a forgiven sinner, He sees only the righteousness of Jesus—something He utterly delights to see! (Check out all of the biblical passages I’m referencing by clicking here.)  

David said his sin had been washed “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7), So now look at what he could claim—

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All His laws are before me; I have not turned away from His decrees. I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight” (2 Samuel 22:21-25). 

…according to my cleanness in His sight. 

In GOD’S sight! The devil wants to accuse me. He wants my sight to dominate. The devil doesn’t want me to see myself as God sees me. But I declare it out loud: I am clean IN HIS SIGHT! 

This cleanness allows me full, bold, confident access to Almighty God! I can take everything to God in prayer because I am clean in His sight! 

If you would like to read more of the posts in our prayer series called Be A First Responder, please click here. 

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

Don’t Let Prejudices Rob You

Imagine you had a family member killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City or Washington, DC., and then after that horrific event God asked you to go to Osama bin Laden’s headquarters to talk to him about a personal relationship with Jesus. 

I bet you would have felt much like Jonah did when God said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). The Assyrians were some of the most brutal peoples of history, perpetrating almost unspeakably grotesque torture on everyone they attacked. 

And if you or I feel that way, it’s a good bet we would have responded like Jonah responded: “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3). You probably know the rest of the story: Jonah spent three days in the gut of a huge fish before he finally agreed to obey God’s directive. 

It’s interesting to note that God was sending Assyria as His agent of punishment against Israel for all their vile idolatry, AND He was sending Jonah from Israel to Assyria to call them to repentance for their grotesque torture practices.

That tells me something we all need to remember: God cares for ALL people, and He will use whatever means necessary to get the good news of His mercy and love to them. 

Why is the story of Jonah in the Bible? Perhaps to teach us that although we think some person or people group is so beyond hope, God still loves them. It’s a reminder that God extends grace and mercy to everyone—even to those who are the least deserving of His grace and mercy. People like you and me (Romans 3:23, 5:8). 

In Hebrew literature, the main point of the story is found in the middle. In the case of this story, the middle is the prayer in chapter 2, especially verses 8-9 where Jonah contrasts the worthlessness of trying to cling to our prejudices versus trusting who God is and what He says. 

In light of that, I think this story should prompt us to ask three introspective questions: 

  1. What prejudices am I clinging to that are out of alignment with God’s Word? David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is one we should regularly pray. 
  2. Who have I thought is beyond God’s reach? God’s grace isn’t earned by anyone, but no one is beyond the reach of it! 
  3. Can I say as Jonah did, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will obey You, God. What I have vowed I will make good” (2:9)? It’s better not to make a vow to God than it is to make the vow and not follow through on it. 

Let’s all learn from the life of Jonah how much God loves ALL people. Don’t get so hung up on your prejudices that you miss out on the incredible things God has for you, as well as the incredible things God wants to do through you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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