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Are You Prepared?

Lesson #12: God’s kingdom will be established and we need to be prepared.

“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; 
it will be holy.  Jacob will possess 
his inheritance.” 
Obadiah 1:17

My current BSG Bible study focuses solely on Easter and the days leading up to Jesus’ death.  The other day we were asked to read Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:19-20.  And if you do, you’ll find almost the same words written in each about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in His final hours.  As Christians, we should be very familiar with what took place – the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine.   What I love about actually studying the Bible is you see all the ancient links back and forth and the promises for the future, supported by those fulfilled promises.  

While they were eating, Jesus took 
bread, and when he had given thanks, 
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, 
saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 
Then he took a cup, and when he had given 
thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 
“Drink from it, all of you. This is my 
blood of the covenant, which is poured 
out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  
I tell you, I will not drink from this 
fruit of the vine from now on until that 
day when I drink it new with you in my 
Father’s kingdom.”  
Matthew 26:26-29

“When I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Jesus is drinking from the traditional third cup of the Passover meal – the one representing the blood of an animal sacrificed for sins to be “passed over.”  He establishes not only himself as the sacrifice for all eternity for our sins but then gives us the promise of reuniting with us.

“The kingdom of God has come near.  
Repent and believe the good news!” 
Mark 1:15

You’ll notice throughout the Bible that we humans are warned of how we should behave, what the punishment will be, and in the end those who believe will receive great reward.  In the prophesy of Obadiah, the people of Edom received their warning of destruction because of pride, gloating, treachery, thievery, and violence.  Yet, they did not listen.

“Just as you drank on my holy hill, 
so all nations will drink continually; 
they will drink and drink and be as 
if they had never been.” 
Obadiah 1:16

Obadiah warns the people that what they sought for so richly would be turned against them with voracity.  Imagine now our current world.  And imagine all the sins turned against us two-fold.  The killing of millions of unborn children alone must make God so angry.  I can only imagine that we would be struck barren and childless in an instant.  And therefore, unable to continue creating new generations.

Thank God gives us the warnings.  And in heeding them we can then receive the glorious inheritance.

“Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” 

Alan Redpath

Yes, our kingdoms.  So many of us have built our own kingdoms on the hill – just like the people of Edom.  We look down on our fellow man with a smugness that “we have it all under control.” Our bank accounts are satisfactory, our marriages are holding together, our homes protect us.  And yet we are warned all this will be “stubble” (vs 18).  How many of us live with the anticipation of “Thy Kingdom Come?”

Because it will come.  You may be fortunate to be in a church where that is a focus of the teaching.  Where you are tasked to constantly be in a mode of preparation.  Where you are admonished to gather up as many people as possible for the kingdom.  I have yet to be in such a church.  And yet the entire Bible is a warning of the coming kingdom.  

If this last year, during the great pandemic, has taught me anything is that our earthly time is limited and we are tasked with no more greater act than preparing our hearts and minds for the coming kingdom.  Situations in which I find myself that are not godly become glaring reminders of the coming of Jesus.

How about instead — “Are you prepared?”

Throughout this last year we kept hearing the teaching, “Faith over fear.”  And yet fear held most of us captive.  And fear of what? Death?  If that was the case, as Christians we should have been at the front of the line shouting “hallelujah, our time has come!”  The signs on our churches should have asked, “Are you ready?”

And what of that readiness and our own kingdoms?  

The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work. Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers

God has issued His warnings.  Just like with the people of Edom, He has called us to prepare for the onslaught of His power and might.  He has promised us the inheritance of the kingdom.  Are you in constant training?  Are you ready to be called up in an instant?  Which side of the battle lines will you be on?  

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

His Will Be Done

Lesson #11: God is sovereign over all, even unbelievers

“The day of the LORD is near 
for all nations.” 
Obadiah 1:15

There’s a song one of my previous churches used to sing a lot that goes, “Our God is an awesome God.”  That refrain is sung over and over throughout the song.  I’ve always thought that wording was a bit odd.  If we have “our God” then which “god” does anyone else have?  Once, after a service, I went up to the pastor and asked him that question.  I said, “Shouldn’t that song just say, ‘God is awesome?’”  He replied that he’d never thought about it before.  So again, there I was asking the weird questions.  As someone who not only likes to talk but also write,  I sincerely believe that words matter – even words we sing.

In our verse today from the prophet Obadiah he makes it clear throughout the prophecy that there is no “our God” or “your god” but only one God – the God of the Universe, God the Creator of All.  

“The God who made the world and 
everything in it is the Lord of 
heaven and earth and does not live 
in temples built by human hands. 
And he is not served by human hands, 
as if he needed anything. Rather, he 
himself gives everyone life and 
breath and everything else. From 
one man he made all the nations, that 
they should inhabit the whole earth; 
and he marked out their appointed times 
in history and the boundaries of 
their lands.” 
Acts 17:23-26

As Christians it can be dangerous to fall into the trap of “our God.”  It leads us to forget that God’s judgement comes to all, eventually.  So, we get outraged over the seeming lack of justice in our human concept of time.  We forget that God doesn’t just have expectations of us, as His faithful believers, but also of those who have chosen not to believe.  Non-believers don’t get a “free pass,” in the realm of eternity. 

Were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, un-known to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all the creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would end His reign and undo His kingdom; that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.

A.W. Tozer

Even when I was, as a what can only be called a “Christian-lite,” I had to laugh when people put limits on God’s authority and ability.  If you listen to an atheist, you’ll hear all the limits they wish to place on a being that is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Their expectation is if they can’t figure it out then it just isn’t true.

“It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.

Oswald Chambers

The atheist can be forgiven because, for whatever reason, God has yet to open their eyes to Him.  But for the Christian to place limits on God is to deny His sovereignty.  As stated in the above quote by Oswald Chambers, we Christians sometimes opt for the “coincidence” excuse when God answers our prayers.  Or we take complete credit for the win or the loss.  Or worse yet, we just assume God won’t or can’t answer our prayers.

So much of our issue with God’s sovereignty comes back to our limited sense of time.  We live in a blink of God’s eye.  And yet we have the gift of looking back over the history of God’s work in our human existence and see His hand throughout.  I heard a good analogy of how God’s timing works along with the issue of free will:

“Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities (God). Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.

On board the liner are several scores of passengers (Mankind). These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.

Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfilment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began. We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.” A.W. Tozer

One of greatest prophesies in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53 and one in which all Christians should be well versed.  He writes of the coming of God’s Son, Jesus.  Isaiah was called into ministry in 739 B.C.  And when you read his prophesy of Jesus you can’t help but be amazed of the details which came true.  That’s because God has a plan.  He has a plan for every single one of us – believer and non-believer.  He uses bad circumstances to bring us closer to Him, if we choose.  He never makes a mistake. He never has a “Plan B.”  

Our human story that started with Adam and Eve was not a mistake.  It is all going according to plan.  It may not seem, in our small timeframe, to be going all that well right now.  But that is the beauty of faith.  Today, during a meeting of my BSGs, we shared how during this pandemic there has been some amazing blessings.  Yes, a lot of not so great things have happened.  But each of us could share how God has used this terrible time as a means for sanctification in our lives.  

His sovereignty means we can hold on to all of the promises He has made.  God is not a covenant breaker.  If anything, it’s us that likes to break covenants.  Our ocean liner is on a steady path to the glorious port He has waiting for us.  It’s up to us to decide to have faith in our captain that He will get us through any squalls.  Some of us will jump ship thinking we know better.  Some might even try to take over the ship and turn it around.  But God’s will never fails.  So, let’s enjoy the ride and know He will bring us home. 

“Good is not always God’s will, but God’s will is always good.” 

Watchman Nee
Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Ripples of Pride

Lesson #10: Make Jesus the King of every aspect of your life, especially the parts you grasp tight control over.

“The pride of your heart has deceived 
you, you who live in the clefts of the 
rocks and make your home on the heights, 
you who say to yourself, “Who can bring 
me down to the ground?” 
Obadiah 1:3

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) now know each others’ longstanding mini-kingdoms that we like to control.  When we are asked questions in various studies about our sins we laugh and say, “Oh, I can answer that for you!”  This is why I love these ladies.  We have opened our lives to each other in trust.  And, we expect to be held accountable for growth in our troublesome areas.  I, for one, had an epiphany a month ago about one of my mini kingdoms which brought me a bit of embarrassment along with conviction.

These last few months I’ve really struggled with how angry I become when I head out for all my errands.  My irritation and annoyance with people in general was heightened with the COVID related rules and fears.  I’d see a person alone in their car with a double breather mask on and wanted to roll down my window and scream at them.  The one-way rules for the grocery store aisles frustrated me when I found myself accidently going the wrong way and got dirty looks.  People were either too slow, too lazy, or too dumb – in my opinion.  I kept it all bottled up and would arrive home in turmoil.  And then one day, while doing my Bible study, it hit me.  My problem was pride.  

“When pride comes, then comes 
disgrace, but with humility comes 
wisdom.” 
Proverbs 11:2

Yep, I was being the queen of “Miss Know It All” land.  And I had to admit it to my group.  It wasn’t until that conviction hit me that God could then begin the re-building process.  I’m now praying each day I leave my house that the Holy Spirit will remind me to live as a loving, compassionate, forgiving person.

In this week’s small Bible book, we hear from the prophet Obadiah.  As prophets go, he’s not all that well known.  In fact, there’s quite a lot of disagreement about who he was and about what time period he prophesized.  But what we do know was he came to warn the people of Edom about their prideful ways.

Edom was a city from the line of Esau.  You might remember him as Jacob’s brother.  And ever since Jacob illicitly received Isaac’s family blessings there was enmity between the two brothers.  One of the great, longstanding feuds began that day.  

So, hundreds of years later we find ourselves in Edom, who conspired with Judah’s enemies to overthrow Jerusalem.  And God is not happy.

“Though you soar like the eagle and 
make your nest among the stars, from 
there I will bring you down, declares 
the LORD.” 
Obadiah 1:4

Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s people, some of whom actually had the cloud of God living among them, attempt to take control over every situation.  They conspired with enemies, took the opposite path, demanded earthly kings, worshipped other idols to bring favorable weather.  We have the benefit of looking through the entire Bible and shaking our head in disbelief.  “Why didn’t they just do what God directed them to do?” one of my Bible study questions asked.  I can only look at my own life and ask myself the same question.

“For everything in the world – the 
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, 
and the pride of life – comes not from 
the Father but from the world.” 
1 John 2:16

When we build up our own mini kingdoms, be it about finances, our care and keeping of our children, our jobs, our social life, our health, and so on we seek to place ourselves higher than God.  Our pride tells us that we know better.

And the Edomites thought they knew best.  They were going to destroy Judah through alliances with her enemies.  Meanwhile the Edomites, who built their city high up in the mountains as sturdy fortresses, were sure that no harm would come to them.

“But how Esau will be ransacked, 
his hidden treasures pillaged!” 
Obadiah 1:6

The thing about God though is that so often instead of an outright destruction of our mini kingdoms we get hit from the flank.  We demand or beg to be in charge and He sits back and says, “Ok, have at it.”  And we think we’ve won the battle.  And then the stress comes, the destroyed relationships, lost sleep, ulcers, and more.  And yet some of us hold on tighter because our pride won’t let us release our drawbridges and welcome God into our kingdom.

When we hold on to the sin of pride it creates ripple effects throughout our entire lives – and maybe even beyond.  We pass down family hatreds and attitudes toward others.  We teach our children to “never give an inch” in situations.   We divorce because we couldn’t see the other side and therefore create broken homes.

My friends, the people of Israel were promised, while still in the desert, a great year of Jubilee.  In that year, all debts would be forgiven, all slaves set free.  It was to be a year-long celebration of God’s love for His people.  And it never happened.  Before they could even get to the promised land, they decided they knew better.  Thousands of young men died because they wouldn’t trust the God who had taken care of them.  The God who created food out of nothing and gave water from a stone.

God wants you to experience His Jubilee – a freedom from the slavery that pride brings.  Jesus paid the price to release us.  It’s already done.  It ourselves that have re-shackled our hearts and minds.  I read this story the other day that I hope will bring you your own epiphany.

“There was a farmer that got word that one of his sheep had been stolen and lie dead in a ditch outside town.  He headed out to retrieve the carcass.  Once he arrived, he realized the sheep wasn’t dead.  It appeared as though its legs were still bound together although no rope remained.  The farmer called to the sheep to get up but the animal laid there as though unable.  He smacked the sheep on the backside to get up and yet it remained.  He realized the sheep still thought he was tied up.  So, the farmer pulled the animal’s legs apart to show him he was no longer bound.  And finally, the sheep hopped up and ran up the hill.”

Are you that sheep?  Jesus has already released you from all bondage.  But are you still acting, out of pride, as though you are still a prisoner inside your own mini kingdom?

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Tiny Yet Mighty

Throughout the Bible we are taught how the least becomes the most, the youngest becomes the greatest, and the weak become strong.  In my journey of studying the Bible I’ve flipped past seemingly insignificant books as I searched through the powerful messages of the Gospels and the insightful letters to the Corinthians and Ephesians.  And we all know from popular culture about Noah, Moses and even Job.  But what about those tiny books with odd names like Philemon, Obadiah and Jude?  What can four short paragraphs in 3 John even tell us?

When you do a Google search for “the shortest books in the Bible” you find five books:

  • 3 John: 219 words
  • 2 John: 245 words
  • Philemon: 335 words
  • Obadiah: 440 words
  • Jude: 461 words

They are all tiny yet mighty books placed purposefully by the ancient church in our Bibles.  They are fascinating to read, not just in their lessons but for their glimpses into the real lives of the prophets and disciples.  They speak of trials, friendships, conflict, success and failure.  They show the good work of the people of God – spreading His love and messages.

These five books remind us that as one tiny person in a world of millions we can play an integral part in God’s plan.  We can switch from saying, “who am I?” to “I am here, Lord, send me!”  Their lessons include picking role models, how to deal with conflict, true hospitality, forgiveness, social change, handling false teachers, and so much more.

Please join me in this five-week study as I glean life lessons from these powerful, yet tiny books of the Bible.  Each week, starting February 15, three lessons will be discussed from one of the books and posted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Be sure to follow emboldened.net to receive your posts via email.  I look forward to having you join me on this Tiny Yet Mighty adventure!