The Lookout (Sermon)

Habakkuk, the lookout for Israel, pleads with the Lord on the people’s behalf, but the Lord’s answer doesn’t make sense. What is a righteous person to do?

The following is a message I shared at Palms Gospel Chapel on May 14, 2017.

Title: The Lookout

Follow along here: Habakkuk

God Tested Abraham (Poem)

“Go up, Abraham, without a lamb.
Take your son, your only one.

Build me an alter, (do not falter).
Kill your boy, your greatest joy.”

Reaching for the knife- to end a life.
No sound heard, but then… a word!

“Stop now, Abraham! Look up: a ram!
In the thorns, caught by the horns.

Slay it instead. Blood must be shed.
It is done. Blessing will come.”

Woe! Really?

I cringe when I read the “woes” Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and lawyers in Luke 11. Take, for example, when He says, “But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the other” (Luke‬ ‭11:42‬ ‭HCSB‬‬). These Pharisees did a good job of putting their religiosity on display. They faithfully obeyed the “tithing law” with their material possessions, but they did not provide justice to the downtrodden nor did they love God.

Jesus went to on to pronounce the following woe on the experts in the law, “Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in” (Luke‬ ‭11:52‬). These men had everything necessary to help everyone know and practice true worship, but they distorted it (or kept it to themselves) so the people were kept in darkness. But why was Jesus so harsh on these leaders? It makes me uncomfortable to hear how sharply He rebuked them. Continue reading

Josiah’s Covenant

Two long blasts. The old man scratched his head. The city watchman had just sounded two long blasts on the horn. It had been years since that signal had been sent. “What does it mean?” He asked himself.

Looking down at his hands he counted on his fingers and said, “one long blast means the king is returning. Three short blasts means that the military needs to gather. But two long blasts… I don’t remember.” As he mumbled to himself, suddenly the herald cried out, “everyone to the temple!”

“Ah, yes! That’s the sound that means we must assemble at the temple! How long has it been since everyone gathered together at the temple? Too long, apparently.”

Continue reading

Unity

“…The LORD hates… one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs‬ ‭6:16a, 19b‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

In this passage, we find a few sinful attributes that the Lord hates. At the end of the section, we see two types of people the Lord hates: false witnesses and troublemakers. It actually says that God hates people who “stir up conflict in a community.” (NIV)

“…He who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he sought to address an issue that had arisen: someone was causing trouble by teaching the Christians that they should be keeping the law (specifically, that the men should be circumcised). With apostolic authority, Paul urges the church to have nothing to do with these legalistic teachers, promising that the teachers would bear their own judgment. 

Let’s seek to stay in God’s love by promoting unity, rather than discord, in our churches and communities. 

Deliverance

Scattered throughout the Psalms, we find multiple cries for deliverance. For example, in Psalm 6:4 David cries out: “Return, O Lord, deliver me!
Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!” In his distress, David calls on the Lord for salvation and relief. Although it’s not expressly stated in this Psalm, we believe that the Lord intervened and delivered his faithful servant from his distress!

If we fast-forward to the book of Luke, chapter 2, we will see another act of deliverance. In this passage we encounter the virgin Mary with a bulging belly. 9 months into her first pregnancy, she and Joseph made the arduous trip up to Bethlehem to be counted in a world-wide census. In Luke 2:6 we read: “So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.” (Normally, when people think about child birth, they think of the baby being “delivered”, not the mother. But here we see clearly that Mary is the one being delivered.)

When we go back to Genesis 3, we will understand why Mary needed to be delivered. It’s here that we read about the curses God pronounced on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent for the sin they committed in the garden. In verse 16 we read part of the curse pronounced on the woman. God said to Eve: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children…” From this point on pregnant women are the ones in need of deliverance from the sorrow, pain, and danger of child-bearing. (A deliverance that, really, only God can provide.)

Interestingly, in Genesis 3 we also read about the curse God pronounces on the Serpent. In verse 15 God tells Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” In this passage, God sealed the fate of Satan. He promised that one day a human child would be born who would bruise [crush] Satan’s head.

Even more interesting is that when the time came for Mary to be delivered, she brought forth a male child and called His name Jesus. (She was successfully delivered!) An angel had told Mary to give the boy the name Jesus “for He will save [deliver] His people from their sins!” (Matthew 1:21) Furthermore, when Mary and Joseph brought the boy to the temple in Jerusalem, a “just and devout” man named Simeon took baby Jesus in his arms and thanked God, saying: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation [deliverance] Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Approximately 33 years after Jesus is born, He was nailed to a wooden cross. His death seemed to many to be His defeat, but it was actually the exact opposite. By being hung on a tree, Jesus was able to take the curse that plagued mankind since the fall. By dying on the cross, Jesus was able to deliver His people from their sins. By dying on the cross and rising again, Jesus was able to crush the head of Satan.

Salvation is freely offered to all. Salvation from sin and judgment is obtained by simple faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus?

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you will be saved [delivered]…”
Acts 16:21

Nehemiah, Simplified

The following is my synopsis of the book of Nehemiah.
———————————————————-
Nehemiah is a cup-bearer for Artaxerxes in Babylon at the time of the exile. He hears that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, so he prays to God and asks the king to send him to Jerusalem with servants to rebuild the wall. With the kings blessing he departs.
The Jews living in the city rally together and rebuild the wall rapidly, despite opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, their enemies.
Once the wall is completed, Nehemiah and the Levites teach the people the law, restore the priesthood, and arrange for families to move into Jerusalem.
Nehemiah returns to Babylon for a while but then comes back to Jerusalem and finds the people doing evil. He sanctified them again, cleanses the temple, re-institutes tithing, drives out merchants who seek to sell on the Sabbath, and reminds the people of the danger of intermarrying with pagans.
The book is interspersed with genealogies and Nehemiah’s prayers.

Clean Hands

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. (‭Psalms‬ ‭24‬:‭3-4‬ NKJV)

To a passive observer, it may seem that scripture teaches contradicting doctrines about who can approach God. In the Gospels we learn that Jesus did not come to “call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:32) At the same time, this verse in Psalms expects people to have “clean hands and a pure heart” before they stand in the presence of God.

In reality, there is no contradiction. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that “cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7) The blood of Jesus washes our dirty hands and purifies our hearts so we “now have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” (Eph 3:12)

Our part is to believe in Him and keep ourselves from idol worship and deceitful speech.