Zephaniah

Sometimes when we’re faced with grief, or distress, or abuse, persecution, looming punishment and the like, we develop a feeling of hopelessness. When those situations evolve we often feel completely surrounded, as if there’s no way out. If only there were something to give us hope, then we’d be alright…if only.

Zephaniah was a prophet who’s ministry came to an end just six years after Jeremiah’s began.  And God’s people at the time had just come out of being under the rule of two very evil kings, Manasseh and Amon. And as we too often see, corrupt rulers corrupt their people.  God’s people had become very wicked themselves during this time and had turned their backs on God’s will.  The situation gets more interesting when we learn that they knew they had drifted away…they knew they had major problems, and they had lost hope.  And into this mix comes Zephaniah preaching a message of repentance and hope.

Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.

Zephaniah called the people to repent, and the people knew that God would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgement first, then blessing.  Our actions do cause us to face consequences. Sometimes even after we have repented, we still must deal with the consequences of our past actions against God, and that’s what happened to Judah.  They would see Judah fall to the Babylonians in 586 BC, but the good news is that they did repent!  And as a result they had hope for the future.  They were able to weather the storm, the destruction, and the hard times because they had hope in God’s promise to bless them for their repentance and righteous living!

Zephaniah 3:14,17 – Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! … 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

There is a lot to be learned from the small book of Zephaniah.  God does not take sin lightly, and it will be punished.  But we can take hope from the words of Zephaniah because our God reigns, and he will rescue the faithful remnant of his people who worship him, and obey his Word.

Actions

I saw a sign recently at a school that made me stop and think.  So much so that I had to take a picture.

“Do your actions reflect what you say your goals are?”  That’s a great, and very deep question that applies to many areas of our lives.  It also raises so many more questions that I have to ask myself from time to time.  I thought I’d take a minute and share a few with you.

Spiritual: Am I walking daily as Christ calls me to?

Matthew 7:15-20 –  15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

This passage always gets me wondering…do people view me as a good tree, or a bad tree?  How does God view my fruit?  After all, he is the chief fruit inspector.  Do my actions always show others I am a Christian?  If a film crew followed me around for a day without me knowing they were watching, would those viewing the tape know I was a Christian from my actions?

Professional: Is my career where I truly want it to be?  If not, what can I do to make my goal a reality?  Am I working toward my dream job/professional goals, or am I endlessly spinning my wheels while claiming that I’m “trying” to reach them? (Thanks Tyler for the heads-up on “trying!”)

Relational: Am I truly doing the things I need to do every day to be a good friend to others?  Am I constantly working to improve my relationship with my wife?  Am I working toward being a better husband? A better friend?  A better co-worker?

Financial:  Am I sticking to my financial plan? Am I managing my money in a way that honors God, provides for my family, and plans for my future?  Am I constantly making frivolous purchases while there are still financial commitments that need to be met?  Am I truly doing all I can to get out of debt and change my family tree?

There are many other topics and questions that I could mention, but I won’t do that here.  I can’t say that I answer all of these questions perfectly all the time, but they are questions that constantly run through my mind to help guide my decisions.  The tricky part isn’t asking the questions, or really answering them.  It’s making adjustments and corrections as needed once the answers have been given.

“Do your actions reflect what you say your goals are?”

What are some of your goals, and how can you change your actions to accomplish them?

Dave Ramsey

A little under a year ago my wife and I learned about Dave Ramsey.  We took the Financial Peace University Home Study Course, we read  My Total Money Makeover, and for the past year we have been paying off our debt like crazy.  We have successfully paid off and closed all of our credit card accounts, and should be able to pay off our car next week, something that at the beginning of this year we never thought was even possible.  The entire program is WAY worth the cost, the time,  and the effort you put forth.  It has completely enhanced our marriage, improved our lives, and given us a clear direction for our future.

I won’t go into the details of Dave’s program in this blog, but you should definitely check out his program, or watch this video if you want to save money, wish you had more money, wish you could get out of debt, or just want to get organized in your money/life management skills.

I don’t work for Dave Ramsey, nor have I received any compensation from him, or his company.  I only share these things because of the great impact it has had in our lives, and the lives of so many others.

Proverbs 22:7 – New International Version (NIV)

 7 The rich rule over the poor,  and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Don’t be a slave to the lender any more.  Do something smart about your financial situation.  Let me know if I can be of any help.  God bless!

“Casual Christians”

I received an email containing an article that I’d like to share with you.

From the Barna Update 6/15/2009 – “Casual Christians, spiritually middle-of-the-road, perhaps even ambivalent about their faith, represent 66% of the adult U.S. population, according to Barna Research. Pollster George Barna describes this “tribe” as “faith in moderation.” It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith. Christianity is a low-risk, predictable proposition for this tribe and provides a faith perspective that isn’t demanding. A Casual Christian can be all the things they esteem: a nice human being, a family person, religious, an exemplary citizen, a reliable employee—and never have to publicly defend or represent difficult moral or social positions or even lose much sleep over their private choices, as long as they mean well and generally do their best. From their perspective, their brand of faith practice is genuine, realistic and practical. To them, Casual Christianity is the best of all worlds; it encourages them to be a better person than if they had been irreligious, yet it is not a faith into which they feel compelled to heavily invest themselves.”

I feel that a big reason that churches all across this country are struggling with worship practices, remaining true to the Bible’s teachings, reaching out to their communities, and carrying out mission work oversees is that 66% of all adults in the US are content to be Christians in NAME ONLY!  It’s apathy at its worst!  They say they want X,Y, and Z, yet when it comes around to actually working for it…well, they’re content to just sit back and not “invest themselves.”  John wrote about such a group of Christians in Revelation 3, specifically, the church in Laodicea.  Here’s John writing the words of Jesus:

Revelation 3:15-17 – 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

1 John 3:16 – This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Does it sound like we’re called to simply be “Casual Christians?” NOT AT ALL!  Churches that are filled with this type of attitude will end up like the church in Laodicea…so despicable to Jesus that we make him want to vomit?  Is that what the church is called to do?  Christians must shake off the “lukewarm” attitude that we’ve developed and once again serve Christ faithfully!  We must be fully committed to Christ!!!!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of  Zondervan. All rights reserved.

The Names of God

Here's a picture I took of God's handy work in Costa Rica.

I had a discussion with some people today about the various Names of God.  If you’ve never done so, I suggest you use a great resource like BibleGateway and just search to see just how many ways God is referred to in the Bible.  In addition, look up “Spirit” and see how many ways it’s referenced (be sure you’re looking at the “Spirit” that is capitalized.)

Doing this helped me to remember just how large, and powerful our God is.  Nobody can sum Him up in a few words.  No single name is grand enough, detailed enough, descriptive enough, or explanatory enough to capture the essence of God.  Yet when we put them all together inside His Word (the Bible), we begin to see how truly small and insignificant we are; how temporary our problems are; how silly our worries are;how inflated our ego’s are.  May God forgive us for thinking so much more highly of ourselves than we ought, and may God forgive us and our human minds that so limit his awesome power.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurablymore than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

Pleasing to God

A friend of mine who works as a teacher was recently telling me about a conversation she had with several of her band students about the Bible.

One student recently started to look closely at the Bible and indicated he wanted to make some changes in his life. Although I was not part of that conversation, from what I understand, a group starting talking because the young man was reading some passages that teach about how we should live and how to deal with things that are not pleasing to God. He was reading to see how his life measured up to the life a true Christian should live.

I do not recall the exact passage or the exact command from the Bible this young man was talking about, but the dialogue went sort of like this, following.

“Wow, so God really doesn’t want me to do that? Well, what about this other thing? I mean, it is really similar to what God states He does not want me to do, but it is not specifically stated as being wrong. So, am I okay if I do this other thing?” There were several people involved in the conversation. Some more discussion took place. Someone spoke up and made this point, saying, “You know, it may be okay or it may not be okay. But honestly, why would you want to split that hair? If there’s a chance of something not being pleasing to God, then why take that chance?”

I think there may be many times that we, as Christians, find ourselves in that student’s shoes and similar feelings or situations. We want to see just how far we can go. We want to know exactly what is wrong so we can get as close to it as possible without going over the edge. Why do we try to push God’s boundaries? Why not limit our actions to doing what we know is definitely pleasing to God and not was is if-y or on the edge?

Galatians 5:22-26 is a good scripture to provide some guidance or guidelines to pursue. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

If we focus our daily living on pleasing God, instead of simply avoiding punishment or living on the edge of wrong, then maybe we’ll have more success at remaining faithful. Remember, please don’t just try to stay out of trouble; aim to please God in all you do.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.