Friday, March 9, 2012

Understanding the Lion's Warnings

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
Amos 8:11-12

The LORD is very patient in meeting out final justice on any land.  It is obvious that His love compels Him to warn the offenders repeatedly in order to draw those hearing the warnings to a place of humility, repentance, and joyful obedience to His word.  Combine this with the thought that was revealed in Amos 3:6b, "...shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?"  In essence, the Lord pulls down the hedge of protection and allows the guilty nations to see calamity in His attempt to turn hearts towards home.  If repeated catastrophe strikes, it would make sense to pray for wisdom.  The question needing asked is: "Is this due to sin or is this  just part of life in a fallen creation?"  It would also make sense to turn to the word and look for similar precedent.  No matter how bad the sin of a nation is, God always sends warnings.  Anyone remember of the story of Jonah and wicked Nineveh?

In chapter four, as mentioned in The Lion Warns, the Lord sent 5 groups of warning "roars" intended to draw the peoples attention back from the folly of sin to their relationship with God.  In each warning, it was said, "yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD."  These warnings were:
  • Famine--Amos 4:6
  • Selective drought--Amos 4:7-8
  • Blight, mildew, and insect predation--Amos 4:9
  • Pestilence, military loss, overwhelming stench--Amos 4:10
  • Total overthrow--Amos 4:11

Amos 8 reveals that there is a spiritual parallel to famine in the land, and it is not a famine of food, but of God's word.  Remember, we live by every word which proceeds from God.  As an example that could be applied to many formerly Christian nations, let's apply these 5 warnings as spiritual parallels to my home, America.   Those of you reading overseas, remember, this may be seen in your land if you look for the warnings.  Especially those of you in Europe!  Indulge me if you will.  

  • Famine--the entire truth of God is no longer proclaimed, and when it is, it is immediately attacked.  When have you last heard sermons on salvation, eternity, the 2nd coming of Christ, Hell, repentance, justice, and judgment?  Rather, we hear fluff and stuff!  "Pamper me and prosper me, Oh Lord!"  There is already a famine of truth in the land.
  • Selective drought--The days of national revival seem to be gone.  We get selective "outpourings".  Yet, the last one that Christians ran all over the country to attend ended in disgrace as one of the leaders was found to be committing adultery.  Saying this, I am still holding out for the promise of the Latter Rain, but it will only come to those who walk in truth and desire holiness of life.
  • Insects are always shadows of demonic activity, and blight and mildew are representative of a corruption to the fruit and work of the church.  Do I need to say much more?  Empty altars, heresy, compromised lives, half-truths.....
  • Fallen soldiers--the nation is filled with burnt out, fallen down servants of the Lord.  Many have fallen to ill gotten gain, sexual sin, pride, compromise....   Again, need more be said?
  • Overthrow--whole denominations that once were bastions for and standards of witness, testimony, and holiness are now wallowing in filth like dogs returned to vomit and washed pigs returned to mire!  Many churches in Europe have been changed to mosques--that is overthrow!
We need to look again unto Jesus.  We were not called to be sated with worldly pleasures, but to be light in darkness.  Paul actually prayed for hedges to be pulled down so that men would turn towards Christ.  Our hedge is down and the Lion is roaring.  Can you understand what you are hearing?  Pray for understanding as Yeshua HaMashiyach is Soon2Come!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Placating A Lion?

Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Amos 4:4-5

"Go ahead and worship all you wish; however, I hate your charade!"  In essence, this is the very message God gave Amos. The people of Israel continued on in worship as if nothing was wrong.  They saw no reason to walk in humility nor strive for holiness nor uphold justice to the impoverished in their relationship with the LORD.  They continued on in sin while praising a holy God.  Such a dichotomy!   They felt that they could go to the "church", jump, shout, sing, and worship, thereby doing God a favor for even being in "worship", while they continued to live self-centered, fleshly, sinful lives.  Surely God was not smart enough to see past the religious fantasy world they had created.  He surely could not see the wickedness and contempt for Him that they held in their unregenerate heart?  They were only placating a LION!  Consequently, The LION was ashamed to look on their sin.

The many sins of Israel were clear. The worst was forgetfulness. They had forgotten that they were chosen to be better than the world, to be a witness to those without hope.  As the chosen and redeemed, they were set free from Egypt to be a light in the world.  However, those redeemed are responsible to live according to the purposes the LORD outlined to them in His covenant with them. They had gotten so far from His word that they were trying to sin and worship at the same time.  Let's look at one example found in Amos 2:8.  "And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar..."  Exodus 22:26 required that an outer garment taken from a fellow Israelite had to be returned at night so the poor owner would not be cold nor oppressed.  However, the elite were taking the coats and actually laying beside the altar on them in the hopes that sleeping there would allow them to have a vision from God.  This was a normal practice in that day.  God was more concerned about injustice than giving a cruel, unforgiving person a fresh revelation!  The offender should have read Exodus 22:27! "For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious."

Thank the LORD that today's church is not like those stubborn, hard-headed Israelites who were trying to placate the LORD with false worship!  Or are we?  We surely would not sin so presumptuously!  Or would we?  God's word to them was actually a judgment on their sins of presumption.  The temptation would be to explain away their behavior by pointing to their empty and vain "service".  It would be hard for them to deal with their sin in meekness and humility.  Is God allowing this today?  Are we like the Laodicean Church?   Are we sinning and worshiping  simultaneously while thinking all is OK?  Is the LION even at the door attempting to get our attention?  

Do you not understand that we too are a chosen people called to strive for holiness (see 1 Peter 2:9-10)?  Can you not see that God is more concerned about brokenness and humility than He is with empty worship?  Think about it!  We practice and practice for the performance of worship, but do we struggle in prayer for the presence of God in worship?  Performances are nice.  They can make you weep, and smile, and elicit a wide range of emotional responses, but like the false worship of ancient Israel--it can be deceptive.  Emotinal responses and false worship can even be  claimed to be "in the Spirit"!  Which spirit is it?  Is it God's HOLY SPIRIT? If you are not breaking through in prayer and seeking the face of God wholeheartedly, your worship may not be acceptable to this God with whom we have to deal!  "Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel."  Amos 4:12

Do you not realize that Christ can see through all pretense?  You see God is God!  As God He is utterly all knowing!  That is why we call Him the Omniscient One.  Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Turn to Jesus as He is an glorious advocate and mighty to save!  DO it now--He is Soon2Come!!

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.  Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. 
Amos 5:21-24

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Lion Warns

Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
Amos 4:12

Imagine a lion with its prey in sight.  Can you see it as it stealthily stalks its prey?  What one thing would the lion not do if it were preparing to strike?  It would not roar!  Yet, in the message of Amos, God is seen as roaring multiple times.  Amos even begins his oracle with this revelation of God as a roaring lion, "The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem..." (see Amos 1:2).  It is this roar, this warning to the prey that exposes the loving heart of God.  He does not strike without extending grace to those who are His target.  He roars as a means of allowing an escape from His attack.  The LORD would rather see the backslider flee to an altar in repentance for sin than to strike and bring suffering.  This is the heart of a loving Savior who always has redemption in mind.  The LION roars to warn.

The fourth chapter reveals five roars of grace (five is the biblical number signifying grace) where the Lion has roared in an attempt to make the children of Israel flee.  His purpose in sending these warning judgments is clear, God is trying to turn the people away from wrath to the place of grace and mercy. It would be easily understood if the children of Israel had pondered the questions posed in chapter 3:6, "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?"  God has let their hedge of protection down.  

Many critics of the Prophet Amos mention him as a doom and gloom prophet; however, a close and prayerful reading shows many pictures of grace.  While he is tough at times--like calling the wives of the elite "cows of Bashan"--his Holy Spirit inspired work shows that God yearns for us to draw to him when we are erring.  Consider the rest of chapter four.  God allowed them to have meaningless worship while their altars remained empty.  They loved to worship, but it was worship compromised with sin and rebellion.  As a result, there was no bread and no rain.  Is this not like today?  Many are shouting and whooping and hollering their praises while living a compromised life.  As a result, the bread of God's word and the presence of God's rain (the Holy Spirit) are withheld from the service.  If church is all about a shout while the altars remain empty of repentant sinners or saints crying out in prayer for a lost world, maybe it is time to listen for a warning roar?  "...yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD (Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11, )."  Can you hear his warning roar?

Rather than a national revival in nations where the Gospel once thrived, we have small regional revivals where God's presence moves for a short time.  Have you not seen revivals where hungry and thirsty believers drive hundreds of miles at great personal expense just to see the LORD move briefly?  Wouldn't you rather have a move where the rain of God's presence falls across the land?  This regional move scenario is portrayed in Amos' revelation.  "And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD (Amos 4:7-8)."  God is roaring, "Return to the altars of your hometown, repent, plead, pray for the latter rain."  Can you hear His warning roar?

From lack of bread and rain to mildew, caterpillars, scorching winds, plagues, and loss in battle, the LORD was trying to warn them to flee to Him before He finally allowed them to be deported and dispersed by the Assyrians.  We know that Israel did not heed the call at that time.  In mercy and as a part of God's plan, we are seeing these tribes returning home now as was promised.  As a result, this is a loud roaring for the entire world--the Day of the Lord is near upon all heathen (Obadiah v.15). This is an assurance that God will do what He says He will do.  He keeps his promises as far as redemption is concerned.  Beware, however, He also keeps His promises of justice on the unrepentant who will not heed His warning roars.  How about you--can you hear His warning?  Deal with your sin quickly while the Lion of Judah is roaring before he begins His charge.  Do it quickly, Jesus Christ is Soon2Come!