Posts tagged ‘Isaiah’

The Nearly Obsolete Church

What is the purpose of the Church?  To answer that, we need to ask, what is the purpose of Israel?  Some, or perhaps many, of you may be wondering what the connection is.  I’ll tell you.  “…and you–being a wild olive–were grafted in among them….”  Here is the whole verse.  Romans 11:17-18 – But if some of the branches were broken off and you–being a wild olive–were grafted in among them and became a partaker of the root of the olive tree with its richness, do not boast against the branches.  But if you do boast, it is not you who support the root but the root supports you.” TLV

And your point is???

Here is my point.  We, the Church, are grafted in to Israel, to be partakers in the blessings they receive from God.  First and foremost among them the Messiah.  Their Messiah is our Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).  Whether all, or some of Israel have received Him or not is beside the point.  The fact is that Yeshua is their Messiah regardless of their acceptance of Him.  And He is our Messiah as well, thanks to them.  It is thanks to them because it is through them that the Messiah came.

Just as we share in their blessings as a result of the grafting in, we also share in their purpose.  Not the purpose of being the physical DNA of Yeshua.  That belongs to Israel and Israel alone.  But all through their history, they have had a purpose beyond the source of the Savior.  That being a nation that has been sanctified and made holy, to be set apart as God’s treasure.  They were to be a nation of people who, by their righteous living, pointed to the righteousness of God.  Who by their small size, yet amazing conquest, pointed to the power of God.  Who by their existence, pointed to the faithfulness of God.  And who by their  actions, pointed to the love of God.  By watching this little nation, the world was to see that Israel’s God was like no other god; that He was near to them, not afar off, in fact, that He dwelt with them.

Exodus 19:5 – “…you will be My own treasure from among all people.”

Deuteronomy 4:7-8 – “For what great nation is there that has gods so near to them, as ADONAI our God is whenever we call on Him?  What great nation is there that has statutes and ordinances that are righteous–like all of this Torah that I am setting before you today?”

Deuteronomy 4:20 – But you, ADONAI has taken…to be a people for His own inheritance….”

Deuteronomy 4:33-35 – Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard–and lived?  or has any god ever tried to come to take for himself a nation from within a nation–by trials, by signs and wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors–like all that ADONAI your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You were shown so that you might know that ADONAI is God–there is no other besides Him.

Deuteronomy 14:2 – For you are a holy people to ADONAI your God–from all the peoples on the face of the earth, ADONAI has chosen you to be His treasured people.

Deuteronomy 26:18-19 – Now today ADONAI has affirmed you as His treasured people, as He promised you; that you are to keep all His mitzvot [commandments]; that He will set you high above all the nations He has made, for praise, fame and honor; and that you are to be a holy people to ADONAI your God, as He has promised.

Deuteronomy 28:10 – Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of ADONAI and they will stand in awe of you.

Deuteronomy 33:29 – Happy are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by ADONAI, the Shield of your help and the Sword of your triumph?  Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample on their backs.

Ezekiel 37:26b-27 – I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be over them.  I will be their God and they will be My people.  Then the nations will know that I am ADONAI who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.

The purpose of Israel is to point to God; to be witnesses to who He is (Isaiah 43:10).  The purpose of the Church, as a branch grafted in to Israel, is to do the same.  Of course additional to that, we are to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:8), and emissaries of Yeshua making disciples of all nations.

So we have determined the purpose of the Church, but let me ask you this question: how can we point to God, be witnesses of who He and Yeshua are, and make disciples of all nations when we look the same as every other person on the planet?

I remember when I was growing up going to church twice on Sunday and then Wednesday evening prayer service.  Then there were the other things.  There was youth group, Bible studies, choir, etc.  There were any number of ways to be involved, to keep my focus on God and His Word, and not on this world.  My family looked different from the families of my friends and neighbors because our lives revolved around God and His service, whether that was in the Church building itself, or in service to the community, or in worship and Bible study.  Whatever it was, it kept our eyes and hearts pointed in His direction.

What do our churches look like today?  Sunday morning service.  Sunday school during the school year; over the summer, that just gets in the way of family time.  Sunday evening service has been sacrificed on the alter of family time as well.  So has Wednesday evening prayer service…or maybe that was on the alter of school activities and “we are just too busy every other night of the week, so we need that night to just stay home.”  Youth group is attended as long as it doesn’t get in the way of …?  Even Sunday morning service is negotiable depending on 4H, the county fair, this trip to that place, that trip to the other place, and if we are honest, if we are not too tired from the busyness of everything else.

Busyness.  Yes, that is it.  The Church is actively being sacrificed on the alter of the god of Busyness.  I do not write this as someone who has no guilt.  In fact, I could be a lot more involved than I am.  Not that I am not involved at all, I am.  But there are things that I and my family could be involved with that we are not.  And the truth is it is because we have allowed church to have a priority level of about two.

To make matters worse, when we put church on the back burner, God tends to get pushed back there to the other back burner.  Our Bible reading and study at home slips until it is maybe once or twice a week, or not at all.

So what do our lives point to?  Who or what are they a witness of?  They point to Busyness.  They are a witness of Busyness.  Do we lead people to Christ?  No, why would we talk about Him when we barely give Him the time of day?  He’s an afterthought…oh yah!  It’s Sunday.  Maybe I should go to church.

Look at Israel!  Read through the book of Leviticus…its in the Old Testament.  Their entire lives revolved around keeping themselves righteous for God.  Being an Israelite was not just DNA, and it was more than cultural.  Being an Israelite was the definition of being set aside as a unique person for God.  They were intended to look different from everyone else.  God lived with them, and their lives revolved around Him.

Look at the Church.  The Spirit of God lives right inside each one of us!  How much more should our lives revolve around Him?  We already have righteousness through Messiah.  We have already received the salvation that they (Israel) worked for.  And yet we find it nearly impossible to set ourselves apart from the world.

How can the world see that God is worth living for if we don’t live for Him?  It is high time the Church tear down the idles of this world, and turn our faces to YAHWEH, the God of the Israelites and the God of the Church.

 

Savior Yes, But Lord?

I was listening to a radio pastor recently while driving down the road, as I often do. He closed his message by asking the listener if Jesus was their Lord and Savior. Interesting question. Perhaps more interesting is the order of the words. Let me break it down and ask the question without the compound word “and.”

Is Jesus your Lord? Is He The Lord of your life? Have you surrendered yourself completely to Him? Have you asked Him to make you who He wants you to be? Have you asked Him to mold you and shape you, as a potter molds and shapes clay, into a vessel able to pour out God’s love on all those around you? Do you obey traffic laws because Jesus is The Lord of your life, and you know that He put those who make the laws in authority over you? Do you obey your employer’s rules because you work for them as though you are working for Jesus, Himself? Do you obey Him, even when you don’t want to, as a sacrifice to your Lord? Do you sin, seek forgiveness, and sin again, without true repentence, without surrendering that area of your life to Jesus and asking Him to change that in you? Do you long to spend time with Him? Do you hunger and thirst after His righteousness in your life? Do you pray without ceasing because He is the first one you desire to turn to all throughout your day and night? Do you wake up in the morning thanking God for another day, and eagerly looking forward to time devoted and set aside to read His word and pray and worship Him? And do you go to bed at night thanking Him for His blessings? Is He in your heart and mind, never far from every thought? Is His name always on the tip of your tongue? Have you given His Holy Spirit the throne of your heart so that His presence within you is becoming as though you are one together?

Or. Or is Jesus your Savior only? Once upon a time you told Him you believe that He is God’s Son, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, then took your sins to the cross and paid that penalty that you deserve to pay. You believed that Jesus came back to life, and is living in Heaven now, while His Spirit is here on earth with us. You may confess it in church on Sunday as a part of the litergy. You sing it with the congregation. You recite the prayers, or at least bow your head when the pastor prays. But when you walk out the door of the church, you leave Jesus behind a barrier that you have erected there. Like a cloak, you put Jesus on when you enter the building, and you take Him back off before you leave. That is where He stays. He is your Savior. You are grateful. But not so grateful that you are ready to bring Him into your outside world. He is not your Lord.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus did not die for you so you could get a weekly reprieve from your guilt. He did not die for you so you could live how you want during the week knowing you have a safety net that will pull you from the depths on the day of judgement. He offered His salvation free of charge, but when you accepted it, you were bought at a very high price, a price that only God could afford. You belong to Him. He is your Lord. He is calling you to make Him Lord, not only in name, but in deed also. Jesus took your filthy sins. He bore the intense weight of your guilt, and bled and died your death. Then He covered you with His purity and promised you life eternal. Does He not deserve to be The Lord of your life, lock, stock and barrel?

Time is short. The end is near. Soon Jesus will return. He needs all of His people to be serving Him with all of their hearts in this time so that as many as will receive Him will become sons of God.

Verses (from the NKJV):
Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
John 13:13-15 – “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
Romans 10:13 – For whoever calls on the name of The Lord shall be saved.
Romans 13:1-2 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves.
Colossians 3:22-24 – Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to The Lord and not to men, knowing that from The Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve The Lord Christ.
Psalm 4:5 (NCV) – Do what is right as a sacrifice to The Lord and trust The Lord.
Isaiah 44:22 – “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Isaiah 64:8 – But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.

So What is God’s Story, Really? Pt. 2

In part one of this post, I laid out God’s over-all plan…to create a people to live with Him throughout all of eternity.  But not just people to fill the space.  He wanted, wants, people who love Him, and choose to be with Him.  In order to do that, He had to create them, and give them free will.  He allowed them to turn their backs on Him, and then went to the extreme to save them when He offered His own Son as the sacrifice, paying the penalty for their hatred of Him.  He patiently waits, year after year, century after century, to bring as many people into eternity as will come, and why?  Love.  He loves us with a love that we cannot understand.

God set the world spinning, filled with all these people, with the goal being eternity.  But He doesn’t just sit and watch it spin.  He doesn’t just let the chips fall where they may.  Earth and it’s people are not an experiment to see what will happen.  It is not happenstance or willy-nilly…God sitting back and letting it all play out, hoping for the best scenario.  God is busy, active, involved in this world that He created.  Yes, we, as a whole, are indeed the middle step in His plan, but God is involved in the lives of each and every person who has ever, or will ever live.  He knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He takes the time to know our names.  He knows the very number of hairs on each of our heads!  He knows the desires of our hearts.    God is intimate with us.  He is developing the intimate relationships with each of us that He so desires, and it is all preparation for when we will see the end to the goal, when we will be in Heaven, for eternity, with Him.  No, this is not a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants plan.  God does not have ADHD, and decided impulsively to create a world filled with people without thinking it through.  God’s plan will be worked out in every life, from birth to death, until the time when Jesus returns.

I was so blessed by the words God gave me in part one of this post.  I could see the big picture so clearly, and was in such awe of my God!!  But what touched my soul was how God works within His creation, on a personal level, recognizing each and every one.  Like an artist, lovingly sculpting, noticing, and perfecting the finest details.  Loving what He is making, even though we are all just one tiny figurine in a shop of billions.  I can almost see Him, bent over the clay that is me, eyes warmed by deep love and affection, a carving tool in His hand.  He touches me gently, scrapes a little clay off here, but shifts a little, or adds some in another place.  In one spot, He uses a damp sponge to smooth a scratch.  He speaks lovingly to me all the while.  So devoted to making me just right…and at the very same time, with the same love, attention, and devotion, He works on thousands, maybe millions of other pieces of clay, all in different stages of readiness.  Look!  Do you see what He has done?  He painted the blood of Jesus on my forehead!  I am His!  And He is mine!  And when it is time, He will breath eternity in to me.  I will be able to commune with Him, face to face, in a way that I can only dream of now.

Psalm 139:13-14 (NKJV) – For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

John 10:14-15 – “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Matthew 10:30 – “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Philippians 1:6 – being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 64:8 – But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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