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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Wink and a Nod
I was reading in the book of Amos earlier this year.  In chapter 7, I journaled the following...

"God will pardon if asked; however, God will not be played.  There is an end to pardons if the requests prove insincere."

God doesn't want a "wink and a nod" kind of relationship with us.  He wants one of love, of devotion, of sincerity.  One that recognizes Him as God and us as His creation, His servants, His children.  This quality of relationship isn't something we do.  It is "proofed" in our hearts however.  In that place where relationship with God takes place.

The "proof" of our heart (not proof of our devotion to God) is our love - obedience - to God's call on our life in addition to all He has commanded.  We can be devoted to God but not yield Him our hearts.  We can read, sing, discuss, pray, do "for" God but that isn't what He wants.  Read Matthew 7:21-23.  It is our doing for God.  It is our being known by God and evidenced through our obedience.  This is echoed again in John 14 and in James.  In fact, the through out the Old Testament, God expressed His displeasure with the ritual of worship because their heart wasn't in it.  They were devoted but they hadn't yielded their hearts.

My conduct is a proof point for my heart.  Not just the "what", but the "why".  The inconsistency of my behavior and the those persistent areas where I haven't yeilded to God's control serve to tell me of the condition of my heart.  I don't want my relationship with God summarized in so casual a manner as a "wink and a nod".  It is disrespectful to Him and short changes the opportunities I have as a son.  I don't want that for you either.

Watch your conduct and motives as I will be watching mine.  Let us prove ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ because of our "heart condition".  Let us eschew the "wink and nod" to become fully the  sons of God.
4:20 pm edt 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crime After Crime

The Prophet Amos was a pastor.  God asked him to share a vision with the other pastors.  He called them "shepherds".  As a result of thier crimes, their pastures (the food by which the flock was nourished) were dried up.  The metaphor of sheep and shepherds and pasture was used by Jesus to in refering to the followers of God (John 10).  I thought these "Crimes" were applicable to us in the institutional church (too often) and may be profitable to share with those of us who are pastors and leaders in the Church.

Crime 1.  Threshed people under the threshing sledge spiked with basalt. (Amos 1:3-5)
a Threshing sledge was a panel of wood slats.  Basalt is a volcanic rock.  The rock would be embedded in the wood slats (or spiked).  The panel was drug over the grain still on the stem to seperate it.  This picture convicted me of the times I (we) use force to compell the "sheep" to leave their natural state.  We "thresh" them to disconnect them from the environment they have grown up in and been nurtured in and leave them laying loose and disconnected on the floor.  We break people down, tell them they are wrong, convince them to leave the life they know without giving them the support or the "pasture" they will need to live a new and different life.  They lay on the floor of life broken and dried up.

Crime 2.  Deported a whole community. (Amos 1:6-8)
The act of deporting means to "force someone to leave; to expell".  The "Shepherds" were forcing people out of their pastures.  In fact, not just a few but whole communities.  We have created a false hierarchy of sins and used them to "deport" people out of the church.  If you are an adulterer, you don't belong in the church.  If you are a homosexual, you don't belong in the church.  We force these individuals and whole groups of people out of the community of faith.

Crime 3.  Ignored a brotherly alliance. (Amos 1:9-10)
These pastors were unfaithful to those with whom they called "brothers" resulting in these "brothers" being exiled.  We use denominationalism and petty doctrinal differences to "exile" other pastoral brothers and communities of faith from projects, from worship, from our life as The Church.

Crime 4.  With sword in hand and stifling their natural affections, they hunted down their kinsmen, dealing with them in rage and with fury.  (Amos 1:11-12)
The sword is an image used for God's Word.  How often have we used the Bible and truth as a weapon in rage and fury, aimed at those we should love and hunted them relentlessly as pastors and in the name of the church (i.e. The Crusades).

Crime 5.  Because of greed for land, they ripped open pregnant women (Amos 1:13-15).
Women were property in Amos's day.  Perhaps they didn't want the population to grow and give up more land, so they killed unborn.  Perhaps it was the inconvenience and expense of unwanted children that the perceived would prevent them from acquiring more wealth that prompted them to violently end pregnancies.  Not all that different than the decision making the drives behaviors today. 

Crime 6.  Burnt to lime the bones of the King of Edom (Amos 2:1-3).
It wasn't enough that the King of Edom was out of power.  It wasn't enough that he was dead.  They had to go further and burn his bones into lime.  When our leaders step out of power, how many times do we continue to attack them, blame them, "burn their bones into lime".  There is a vindictiveness within some communities of faith towards past leaders.

Crime 7.  Spurned the law of the Lord and have not observed His decrees; they have been led astray by the same false gods thier father's followed (Amos 2:4-5).
What were the "false gods" their father's had followed?  God's of power, god's of lust, god's of greed, god's of "success", god's of popularity were all given shape and form by these shepherds' ancestors and ours.  We climb ecclesiatical hierarchy.  We build bigger and bigger congregations, institutions.  We seek greater and greater political and social influence.  In the process, God's Word gets in the way so we set it aside.

Crime 8.  Sold honest people for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals.  They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust and push the humble out of thier way. Father and son resort to temple girls, so profaning God's holy name.  Men lie down beside every alter on garments held in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink wine on the proceeds of fines.  (Amos 2:6-8)
People were (are) objects.  They were (are) commodities to be bought and sold.  They were (are) tools to satisfy lusts.  They were (are) obstacles to "progress".  The proceeds from the "objects" are used to "worship" and the "worship" becomes a self indulgence done in the act and the name of worship of the one true God.

God's response to each and every one of these crimes is the same:  Fire to consume those who were guilty.  It is important to realize these were momentary lapses in judgement by these "shepherds".  These crimes had become a way of life.  They had become the god being served instead of THE God.   Both Old and New Testament tell of God's repeated warnings given to those whose ways are in error.  When judgement finally falls, they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).  When it gets to the point that God has had enough, He destroys what is to reform it and so give man yet another opportunity to choose Him.

Are we headed for a "consuming fire"?  Have we failed to heed the repeated warnings?  Is our way of life in opposition to the law and values of God?  If so (and I believe it is so), our only response can be to repent.  To change the direction of our lives, our "churches", our denominations, our governing valures to pursue the one, true God as He wants to be pursued.  We must be transformed in our thinking and renew our minds to the ways and truths of God as if we were hearing them for the first time (and perheps without the filter of history and tradition).

I pray for my confession, repentence, and tranformation knowing I have been guilty of many of these crimes.  I pray for all believers, pastors, teachers, leaders in the faith we have put in God and His son, Jesus Christ.  In our culture, it is late in the cycle of warnings.  I pray we don't have to wait for God's consuming fire to destroy us in order to redeem those of the future.

1:11 pm edt 


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