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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Jeremiah


Jeremiah
 
Jeremiah was just a youth when God called him to be a prophet and carry messages from God to the Jewish people in Judah begging them to return to Him.  Also, he brought God’s severe warnings of doom and gloom if they continued in their sin. The year was approximately 626 B.C. and Judah had become so corrupt that God would bring an end to their nation.  Jeremiah became God’s prophet to the Jewish people during that difficult time.  And Jeremiah cried out that God’s message was like a burning fire inside his body and he couldn’t keep it in. (Jeremiah: 20:9)
 
Jeremiah was not popular with this rebellious Jewish generation.  They did not want to hear what he had to tell them.  They had turned away from worshipping the God of their fathers and they had hardened their hearts against God.  So, they took out their anger on Jeremiah as he traveled from town to town begging his people to change their evil ways.
 
 False prophets claiming to be from Baal were also traveling from town to town, telling the people what they wanted to hear. And the Jewish people listened to them. The false prophets were telling the people that it was good that they were worshipping idols and burning and sacrificing their little children to heathen gods. It was good that they were ignoring the poor and living sexually immoral lives. The whole world was doing these things and they were just doing what was smart and popular. The false prophets assured the people that there would be no judgment or punishment from God.     
 
Jeremiah was commanded by God not to marry or have children, because the next Jewish generation would die or be carried off into slavery. God’s punishment would fall on the Jewish people when they refused to turn from their sins.  (Jeremiah 16:2) Jeremiah suffered a great deal to be God’s prophet. In this spiritual battle it was God that the Jewish people were fighting and not Jeremiah. Scripture says that we will suffer persecution if we do God’s work. (2 Timothy 3:12)    
 
Year after year Jeremiah was mocked and persecuted as he went about giving God’s warnings to his people – a people who refused to listen.   All alone, for sixty long years, Jeremiah went about his difficult job of prophesying. Begging, crying and warning Judah to come back to God or destruction would follow.  Sixty long years of being laughed at and rejected! 
 
Here are some of the messages God gave to Judah through Jeremiah, His prophet or messenger:  God told the Jewish people that He (God)  was the Fountain of  Living Water and that they had forsaken the Living Water for broken cisterns that can hold no water.  (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
 
Another message God gave the Jewish people in Judah through Jeremiah was this:  God compares Israel to a harlot that is shameless.  “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done?  She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot.” (Jeremiah 3:6b)  (The high mountains and the green trees are where heathen nations sacrificed to their idol gods)   God continues His message:  “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.” (Jeremiah 3:8)
 
Earlier, the ten tribes of Israel had forsaken God for a long period of time. Finally, they were attacked by the Persians and carried off into captivity, losing their Promised Land and their good life.  Now only two tribes are left and that is Judah. Jeremiah is telling Judah that this will happen to them if they continue rejecting God and sacrificing to all the heathen gods.
 
Another of God’s messages to Judah was this: “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem:  See now and know.  And seek in her open places.  If you can find one man, If there is anyone who executes judgment or anyone who seeks the truth. Then I will pardon her (Jerusalem).”  (Jeremiah 5:1) God is saying that if He could find just one person in all of Jerusalem who tried to follow Him that He would save Jerusalem from punishment. Are we learning here that just one person who trusts in God can make a big difference?  Scripture says: “The prayers of a righteous person avails much” (James 5:16)
 
 Bible scholars believe that this story in Jeremiah 5:1 was used to illustrate the wickedness of the city of Jerusalem.  If just one man in the whole city seeks the truth, then God will pardon the city! It seems that God wanted so badly to save the Jewish people from punishment that if just one person in the city of Jerusalem followed God, Jerusalem would have been saved.  Likewise, when Abraham prayed that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah be saved if there were just ten good people living there, the Lord answered him this way: “I will not destroy them for the sake of ten people.” (Genesis 18:32b) Unfortunately God could not find ten good people in Sodom and Gomorrah and those ancient wicked cities were destroyed!
 
 
Another message Jeremiah was called to deliver to the Jewish people was a message telling them that they should not trust in the temple to save them.  Even though the Jewish people worshipped other gods in 626 B.C., they still believed that God’s temple would save them from disaster!  Solomon’s magnificent temple was in Jerusalem and many of the Jews believed that, like a good luck charm, the temple would save them!
 
 God’s Spirit had been in that temple when their forefathers had worshipped there, but His Spirit had departed since the people had rebelled. So, in 626 B.C. their priests and religious leaders liked to dress up and play like they were godly, but they refused to really follow God. They wanted God’s blessings without worshipping Him in their hearts and lives.  And it doesn’t work that way.
 
 God speaks to the people through Jeremiah: “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know.  And then come and stand before Me in this temple which is called by My name and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?” (Jeremiah 7:9-11)
 
 The Jews in 586 B.C. were proud of their sins and brought them into God’s temple before His altar! God felt that they had polluted His house. God continues: “They have set their abominations in the house (the temple) which is called by My Name to pollute it.” (Jeremiah 7:30b) God tells His people that their sacrifices are worthless without their faith in Him and without their obedience.  (Jeremiah 7:21-23) 
 
Next week we will study more of the many messages God gave to His wayward people so long ago. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes that that rebellious Jewish generation made back then and not repeat them.       
 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Lamentations


Lamentations
 
Lamentations is one of the Old Testament books in our Bible.  The word “lamentations” means something like “alas”.  A “lament” is a cry of grief and sorrow. The whole book of Lamentations is about grief and sorrow, loss, weeping, prayers and suffering of the Jewish people during one of their darkest hours. The author, Jeremiah, is writing Lamentations as a cry and a prayer to God.
 
Laments, or cries of grief, were usually composed as poetry in the ancient world.  When Lamentations was written, the Jewish people had lost everything and were in a hopeless position.  Everything in their lives had been taken away or destroyed.
 
 Lamentations features six major themes.  1) Their suffering was the result of their sin. (Lamentations 1:5; 2:14; 3:42; 4:13;5:16) Their suffering was seen as coming from God rather than from the cruel Babylonians.   (Lamentations 1:13 and 15, 2:1,4: 3:1,37,38)      3.) Their suffering could direct them toward God.   4.) Suffering, tears, and prayers belong together. 5.) Prayer should always look for some ray of hope. (Lamentations 3:31,32, 3:21-24, 3:58-66)   And 6.) Their responsibility was to submit to their sufferings patiently and wait for God.   
 
Lamentations was written around 587 B.C. – the year the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came against Jerusalem. (2 Kings 24:20) While the Babylonian soldiers surrounded Jerusalem, the Jewish people trapped inside were starving.  When the soldiers finally breached the city walls, they destroyed most of the city, killing many of the people with their swords.  They burned the temple and stole all the valuables – and we believe even the Ark of the Covenant. After Jerusalem was sacked and burned, the Babylonian soldiers carried all but the poorest people away into exile to be their slaves in Babylon. (2 Kings 25:8-12) 
 
The Jewish people had always known that they were God’s chosen people. They felt that they would always experience good things because God would always bless them. God had made covenants or promises with them, but God promised to bless them IF they would follow Him. God also promised to punish them IF they turned their backs on Him and His laws and worshipped other gods.  The poems in Lamentations are especially heartrending when the Jewish people contrast the former blessings and strengths God had given them with the chaos and suffering their sin had brought upon them now.
 
 In 587 B.C. all their heathen neighbors (the whole ancient world) was worshiping and sacrificing to other gods.  It was always a temptation for the ancient Jewish people to want to do what the rest of the world was doing. The rest of the world created impressive idol gods for themselves.  They could bring animals and sometimes their own little children to be slaughtered and sacrificed to these idol gods. Often temple priests and prostitutes danced around the altar fires as the heathen worshipers would come to make their sacrifices before the demon gods, drink and have sex with the temple prostitutes.
 
 If a farmer was having a bad year and his crops were not producing, he could always visit the nearest temple or altar on the hill, have a little fun and make a sacrifice to one of the statue gods. Also, there were smaller handmade gods he could buy and take home as lucky charms.  Idol worship was a money- making business. Next year his crops would produce. The whole ancient world sacrificed to idols except for the nation of Israel!  God had forbidden them to worship idols or anything else except Himself.
 
 People in the heathen nations would tell the Jewish people how much they were missing out by not worshipping idol gods. They would brag about how much their gods were helping their crops to grow.  And how their fertility gods were helping them get pregnant when they had problems.  The Jewish people could see that their neighbors made their idol gods do whatever they wanted. They proudly offered their sacrifices and like magic their idol gods brought them luck for whatever they wanted to do, good or bad.  Or so they said. Worshipping idols gave the ancient heathen people more freedom and control over their lives! They could run their own lives and proudly do their own thing!  Isn’t that what life is all about?       
 
 But the nation of Israel was different.  The Jewish people could not see their God or make Him into whatever they wanted the way their heathen neighbors did with their gods.  God had given the Jewish people laws to live by and they were not free to do whatever they wanted to do.  Instead of them controlling their gods, the God of Israel called His people to give Him control of their lives.  To humble themselves before Him and let Him lead them.  To trust Him and He would provide for them and bless them.
 
Scripture tells us that the Jewish people in 587 B.C. had turned away from the God of their fathers, and many were worshipping idol gods. Many Jewish people did not want to let God lead them any longer. They wanted to do their own thing.  Be independent. For many years, God sent prophets calling them to return to Him, but they killed God’s prophets and refused to listen.  They brought in false prophets and Scripture says that their religious leaders were corrupt and led the Jewish people away from God.  God sent this punishment on Jerusalem partly because of the actions of their religious leaders.  Lamentations 4:13 says they were punished: “Because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in her midst, the blood of the just.”
 
Scripture also mentions the sins of “the daughter of my people” as one of the many reasons why God’s punishment had come upon Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Lamentations 4:6 reads: “The punishment of the sins of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom.”   What were these Jewish women doing that was worse than the sin of Sodom?  Lamentations 4:3 continues: “Even the jackals present their breasts to nurse their young, but the daughter of my people is cruel.  Like ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the infant clings to the roof of its mouth for thirst.  The young children ask for bread, but no one breaks it for them.”   
 
God brought the Jewish people back from their captivity in Babylon seventy years later and they rebuilt their beloved city, Jerusalem.  With God’s guidance they rebuilt the walls and the temple and new homes.  The destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and the lessons God taught His people were so significant that the Jewish people started reading the book of Lamentations once a year in a special service.  They do not want that painful experience ever to be forgotten. 
 
This book of Lamentations has a great deal to say to us today. We wonder if God punishes His people for their sins today like He did back then?  We believe that Christ’s death for us and His resurrection have redeemed us.  We do not bear retributive punishment for any sin we commit, since Christ has suffered in our place.  We are living under a different covenant than did the Jews of 587 B.C.  They lived under the Law and because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we now live under Grace. However, we do suffer the consequences of past sins. Of course, not all suffering is the result of God’s discipline.  Satan can also bring suffering on us.  (Job 2:7, Luke 13:16) But, the suffering he brings is destructive rather than restorative. 
 


The book of Lamentations shows how weak people are under the Law, and how unable they are to serve God in their own strength.  This drives them to Christ. (Romans 8:3) Even in these poems, glimpses of Christ shine through.  He is our hope.  (Lamentations 3:21, 24,29) He is the manifestation of God’s mercy and compassion. (Lamentations 3:22,23,32) Christ is our redemption and our salvation. (Lamentations 3:58,59)                  
 
  
 
 
 
 
      
 
 









Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Obadiah



Obadiah
 
Obadiah was one of the Old Testament prophets that God sent to Israel with a message. God gave Obadiah a vision of what would happen in the future. The year was approximately 586 B.C.  The Jewish people recognized Obadiah as one of the prophets sent to them by God.  He was one of their minor prophets because his message from the Lord was short. Just three chapters!
 
One of the main themes of Obadiah’s vision from God contained a severe message - that the tribe of Edom would be judged and completely destroyed.  The Edomites were neighbors of the Jews and they were distant relatives also. What had this tribe of people done to cause God to decide to wipe them off the face of the earth? 
 
The ancient Edomites (people from the tribe of Edom) were the children or descendants of Esau.  Esau was the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac.  He was also the brother of Jacob.  And, the nation of Israel are the children or descendants of Jacob.  Jewish people trace their lineage back to their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that down through the centuries, Esau’s children, Edom, hated Israel, Jacob’s children. And they hated them passionately, with a deep dark hatred!
 
  God had promised Abraham that his children would be blessed, and that God would give them a “promised land” – the land of Israel.  God’s special promise had been passed down from Abraham to Isaac.  And it was to be passed on to Esau, since Esau was Isaac’s oldest son. 
 
But Esau wasn’t very interested in his father and grandfather’s God.  And also it seems that Esau didn’t much care about God’s special blessing that would someday belong to him.  Esau enjoyed hunting and running around with the heathen Canaanite women living nearby.  Later Esau married three or four of these wild women and they pitched their tents next to his parents’ tent. (Genesis 36:2) Esau and his wives and children must not have been living good lives, because Esau’s mother, Rebecca, told his father, Isaac, that she was tired of living because of Esau’s wives! And that her life would be worthless unless Jacob found a more godly wife or wives. (Genesis 27:46)   
 
Esau’s brother Jacob was different.  Jacob desperately wanted God’s special blessing and he also wanted to do God’s will and have all that God wanted for him.  One day as Esau was coming back home from one of his hunting trips, he ran into his brother, Jacob, who was cooking a big pot of beans over the campfire.  Esau asked his brother for a bowl of his beans.  And Jacob replied that he would give him some beans if Esau would sell him God’s blessing that he was going to receive.  Esau laughed and said that since he might die (of hunger) what good was God’s blessing!
 
So, Esau gave God’s blessing away for a bowl of beans!!  (Genesis 25:29) I guess that was all God’s blessing meant to him!  And later, when their father Isaac was ready to give God’s blessing to his oldest son, Esau, Jacob pretended to be Esau, and their father, Isaac, who was blind, gave Esau’s blessing to Jacob, thinking he was Esau. This caused bad feelings between the brothers and Jacob had to run away from home since Esau was threatening to kill him.  (Genesis 27:32,33)
 
 But, later when the two brothers grew older, Jacob and Esau got back together and made up their differences.  Even though Jacob and Esau remained friendly and helpful to one another during their lifetimes, after their deaths Esau’s family (the tribe of Edom) held onto jealousies and hatreds with Jacob’s descendants, (the nation of Israel).  The Edomites kept a burning hatred for Israel alive down through the many centuries.  (Numbers 24:18-19) Any chance the Edomites could get, they tried to harm their relative.
 
Scripture tells us that when Moses was leading the Jewish people across the wilderness to their promised land, that the Edomites followed after them and tortured and killed off the sick ones and the stragglers that couldn’t keep up with the others. Deuteronomy 25:17-19) These Bible passages go on to say that the tribe of Edom didn’t fear God!  Evidently, they murdered their Jewish relatives whenever they could and didn’t concern themselves about how God might care.
 
When the Babylonians were sacking Jerusalem and carrying the Jewish people off into captivity, the tribe of Edom came around and joined the Babylonians against their brother, Israel. Scripture says that Edom pursued his brother (Israel) with the sword and had no pity. The tribe of Edom kept his anger forever!  (Amos 1:11) The tribe of Edom occupied the land south of the Dead Sea and in the mountains and down to the Gulf of Aqaba, what is now Jordan. Historically we don’t know how Edom was destroyed.  But we do know that they were completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.   
 
Obadiah’s vision from God moves on from foreseeing the destruction of Edom to how God judges and deals with all the nations of the earth, good or bad.  Obadiah message speaks of the “Day of the Lord” Obadiah 1:15-16 says: “For the Day of the Lord upon all the nations is near:  As you have done, it shall be done unto you.  For as you drank on My holy mountain, so shall all nations drink continually:  Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And, they shall be as though they had never been.”  
 
About Israel (Jacob’s descendants) there was also a prophecy from Obadiah for them too.  “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness.  The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.  The house of Jacob shall be a fire.  And the house of Joseph a flame:..” (Obadiah 1:17-18a)  God promises restoration, salvation, and rest for those who trust Him.
 
The “Day of the Lord” in Prophecy, is a term used by the Old Testaments prophets to signify a time in the history of mankind when God directly intervenes to bring salvation to His people and punishment to the rebellious. The “Day of the Lord” is a broad biblical concept.  Prophecies about Edom’s doom, and other biblical prophecies for other nations that existed long ago, were mingled in with those reaching as far as the final culmination of all things, when Christ will come again and God will judge the whole world and restore His righteous order in the Earth!
 
What can we learn from Obadiah, God’s prophet?  Does God also have a message in this prophecy for us today?  God through Obadiah forcefully addresses the matter of relationships.  How easy it is for those we know best to become the objects of our most bitter resentments.  Scripture tells us that one of the reasons God punished Edom is because they held on to their burning hatred for Israel and never let it go.  God’s people are called to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14-21) We are on dangerous ground when we hate our brother – or someone else- and refuse to forgive as we have been commanded to do.  
 
Our job is to forgive and give the resentments we have with others to God to deal with. And we are to pray for those who hate us or come against us. Throughout Scripture God’s people are called to forgive and seek reconciliation in their broken relationships. (Matthew 5:21-26) God is just and His job is to judge and deal with our injustices.  We can see how dangerous it is for us to hold onto hate, when we see what happened to Edom!
 



 

 
 


 



 
  
 
  
 



 
 
  
 
 



 


























































Monday, June 17, 2019

Put God First and Trust Him to Provide


Put God First and Trust Him to Provide  
 
God gives all of His children a test or a challenge. And that challenge is the same for every generation.  God challenges or commands us to put Him first, to give ourselves to Him and then to trust Him to provide our daily necessities. The first commandment of the Ten Commandments calls us to put God first. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” .  (Exodus 20:3)  
 
Along with God’s challenge, He gives us a promise.  He promises that if we put Him first, He will bless our lives and that His Presence will be with us and help us. One of the many Bible passages repeating this God-given promise says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things shall be added unto you.”  (Matthew 6:33) God calls us to believe and reckon as true His promise that when we focus on serving Him, He will be with us and bless us.
 
In the Bible in the book of Haggai, we read of a time when the Jewish people were struggling with this very challenge – the challenge of putting God first.  The year was 520 B.C. and God had called the Jewish people to re-build His temple, which had been destroyed.  It was important that God’s people have a place to worship Him.  With enthusiasm they had started re-building, but then trouble came!  The Jewish builders let a few things discourage them and they just quit!    
 
People from nations or tribes nearby who didn’t believe in God had been mocking their efforts as they started working on the temple.  And also, a near-by king was threatening to harm them if they kept on working to build God’s temple. And an enemy nearby threatened to tear down any new temple they would build.  Nothing has changed. So often when God’s people try to build for God they are mocked or put down.
 
 Some of the older Jewish people who were living before the first temple had been destroyed were upset and disappointed that this new temple wasn’t going to be as big or grand as the first temple had been.  These older folks could remember how magnificent Solomon’s temple had been and they felt that this new smaller temple wouldn’t measure up.
 
So, from their own people as well as from their enemies outside, the workmen working on God’s temple were criticized, threatened and discouraged with their work for God.
 
Instead of listening to God’s call, the Jewish people listened to the mockers and the hecklers.  They put their tools down and quit working on God’s temple.  Instead they put their energies into re-building their own houses, doing their own thing.  Sixteen long years passed, and they were still busy doing home improvement projects and buying fancy paneling and putting it into their homes.  Showing off.  And God’s temple was still laying there abandoned and forgotten in the ruins.  They could do it all.  They didn’t seem to need to meet with God?
 
After a while a drought came over the land and the crops of our little Jewish community weren’t doing so well. The Jewish people wanted to be practical and not start re-building the temple until they had a better year.  Anyway, perhaps they didn’t need to worship together in the temple or bring their sacrifices to God.  Couldn’t they be religious on their own terms without taking time out for God? 
 
God missed His people and wanted them back.  He sent the prophet Haggai to the Jewish people with a message.  Haggai was God’s messenger and His prophet.  God often sent prophets to the nation of Israel with His messages and the Jewish people had learned that often God spoke to them through prophets that He raised up.  Haggai, the prophet, told the Jewish people that God wanted them to make Him important in their lives again, to put Him first.  God wanted His people to finish their work on the temple so that they could worship Him there. (Haggai 1 and 2)
 
Haggai told the people that their crops were failing because they were more concerned with building beautiful houses for themselves than in re-building God’s temple. That all their efforts at building their own kingdom could never produce lasting results.  God’s prophet, Haggai talks about clean and unclean things and their influence.  He speaks of how allowing unclean things into the fellowship of God’s people can contaminate the whole group.  Perhaps these unclean things were referring to the lack of faith these people showed – their lack of concern for God and for finishing His temple.
 
God answered the people’s disappointment that the temple they had started to re- build would be smaller than the former one.  Haggai told the Jewish people that God had revealed that if they would be strong and work hard to finish His temple that in the future that God would shake the nations and “they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory.” (Haggai 2:7) “The glory of this latter temple (the one they had neglected) shall be greater than the former one, says the Lord of Hosts.  And in this place, I will give “Peace” says the Lord of Hosts.”  (Haggai 2:9) In other words, the Jewish builders’ hard work for a little while would be used by God into eternity!  The One whom all the nations have desired (Jesus Christ) will be displayed in splendor in the temple.  – the little temple that they would build!     
 
The Jewish people listened to God’s message from Haggai and they all repented of their sin of neglecting God’s work for so long.   They all agreed to get back to the work of finishing God’s temple.  (Haggai 1:12-15) And God stirred up the spirit of the builders and the people and they all came together and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.   God promised the people that He was with them and that from that day on that He would bless them.  (Haggai 2:19) They would have abundance again – not only in their crops but in their spirits.
 
What can we learn from this little Bible story from so long ago?  First, we can remember that God also wants us to put Him first. That we are not to just selfishly take care of ourselves – build up our own houses or fortunes and ignore God’s.  We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to God.  He (Christ) has paid the price (His blood) for our salvation.  Scripture says: “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 19b and 20a)   
Also, we can learn that we must not abandon His church, or the habit of coming together on a regular basis to worship Him with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Scripture says: “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day (when Jesus comes again) approaching.”  (Hebrews 10:23) We need to find a church that worships God and believes the Bible and get involved. 
We can learn that just as God promised to be with His people long ago in our story, He promises the same for His people today.  The Holy Spirit is an abiding gift to the people of God.  And God also promises to bless us and to make our work prosper. That even though we may be disappointed with how little our work for God seems to be, that God will use what we give Him and multiply it and cause it to shine throughout all eternity!          
 
        


 

 
 



 



          
 
        
 















Sunday, June 9, 2019

Learning to Hear God's Voice


Learning to Hear God’s Voice
 
This morning, as I was driving into town, I turned on some praise music and began singing along.  But then very soon a small voice inside my head interrupted my praise time and seemed to be telling me that I should first repent of my sin and then come back and bring my praises to God.  Surprised I stopped singing and immediately thought of how much I hated a couple at my former church. And while I was wondering if that was the sin I should repent of, a voice inside my head assured me that that was it!  I was stunned.  
 
I drove along silently for a few minutes and then started praying.  I told God that I was sorry, and I would try to stop hating this hateful couple. My words sounded good, but I knew my heart wasn’t there with my words.  And God sees my heart.
 
  I didn’t think of my hateful spirit as being so wrong since there were so many reasons to be angry with these ones, I argued.  I reminded God that this couple actively tries to put down Jesus and tear apart the Christian faith.  That this couple goes to church and constantly makes fun of Christians and that I was fearful that they were harming the faith of some of our good friends.  That there was a spiritual battle going on here. (Galatians 5:17) Shouldn’t I try to stop them?  Shouldn’t I get involved?   
 
About this time, a new praise song started playing on my tape deck.  This new song blared out across the car, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord”.  “Listen to those words,” the voice inside my head seemed to be saying to me.  “God, are you trying to tell me something?” I asked.  Was God trying to tell me to leave this battle with Him? 
 
I arrived downtown and parked the car.  And as I was walking in the store the voice in my head just kept on talking to me.  “Stop fighting this battle,” the voice whispered in my heart as I started shopping. “This is My battle and I can take care of it Myself. I have called you to peace.” Is this the Holy Spirit talking to me, or just my active imagination?  I wondered.  God was calling me to peace! What did that mean?
 
But then a heavy peace settled in around me and I felt like a burden was being lifted off my soul.  I was not supposed to keep fighting this battle. It felt good to put my burden of hate down and sink into God’s peace.
 
On the way home the voice inside my head started in again.  “Pray for this couple,” it commanded.  “Bless them and pray that they come to Me.”  I gulped and asked God to help me love and bless this couple that I have so much fun hating. And then slowly I began to feel a bit better about them as I could see them in God’s hands.  I believe God was already helping me forgive this couple and care about them.
 
 Amazing that with God’s strength we can care about people that we can’t care about on our own!  I believe that He gives us strength to do what He asks us to do. I believe that this voice in my head was most likely God who was speaking to me about my sin of hating this couple. And I will obey His command and my attitude towards them has changed.  And I will also continue praying for them.  I have no choice but to obey what I believe God is commanding me to do.
 
 Of course, everything that comes into our minds is not from God.  I have had thoughts before that I thought might be from God and later found out that they weren’t. We can ask God to help us hear His voice in our hearts, so we won’t be missing what He wants to tell us.  But we should check what we think God is telling us with Scripture.  God will never tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word.  We can know that a word is not from God if that word is telling us to do or say something that is against God’s Laws.    
 
The Bible tells us that God wants to communicate with us. God speaks to us through His Word. But He also speaks to us directly. Scripture tells us that His Holy Spirit leads us and speaks to us in our hearts and prompts us in our spirits.  God is not a distant and cold God who cannot be known.  We can ask Him our question and wait for His answer.  He can answer us by putting a strong desire in our hearts. Or speak words into our heart.  Or He can open and close doors in our lives.  Or speak to us through someone else or give us a vision.  
 
The Bible, God’s Word, is alive, (Hebrews 4:12) and His Word feeds our spirits.  That is why it is so important to study and meditate on Scripture.  God’s laws are a sign of His love for us and our obedience to His laws is a sign of our love for Him.  Jesus said: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. “(John 14:21a)
 
 We won’t keep God’s Word if we don’t believe that the Bible is God’s Word or if we don’t read the Bible. Unbelief or rejection of God’s laws or disobedience of God’s laws, keeps us from being all that God wants us to be and do all that He has for us to do.  We will miss out.
 
 
Scripture says that we must have faith in order to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) And: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God…” (Romans 10:17) God’s Word, the Bible is food for our souls. Our precious faith, which is so important to God, grows in our hearts by hearing and feeding on the Word of God. (the Bible) Let’s be on guard and not let anyone or anything take that away from us!
 
 But there are messages God has just for you that you may not find in the Bible.  There are directions for your life that are just for you.  Should you take a certain job or leave a place and go somewhere else?  We need to learn to trust the Holy Spirit to direct us. God may be wanting to speak to you about a decision you must make in your life. Or a health issue. Or lead you to change or repent or call you to peace! 
 
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our guide, if we let Him. (John 16:13, John 14:26. Psalm 32:8) Are we letting Him?  Are we sensitive to His Spirit nudging us along?  There are many things in our daily lives that we are unsure about how to handle.  But God wants to speak to our hearts and tell us which way to go. 
 
Are we asking for His guidance and waiting for His answers?   Or are we running our lives by ourselves and leaving Him out?  Are we taking God along with us every day and following His lead? Or are we at a place where we cannot hear His promptings to our hearts? If we do not draw near to God, we may not hear what He wants to say to us. Scripture says to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)  Let’s learn to walk so closely with God that we never miss hearing His voice within us! 
 
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”  (Isaiah 30:21)  
 
 
 


    
  
 





  
 
  
 
 
 


    
  

 
    
 

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