That's the Book: Zephaniah
It took me a while to write this post. First I got lost in my news feed. The protests in Portland are an angry wreck of a mess. Then I finally kicked in and researched what I was supposed to reading.
Zechariah. Found an amazing sermon. Stayed on task and wrote. Saved. Supposedly. I went back to add some photos and guess what? All my words were gone. HA HA HA HA. Blogging. What a funny game.
Let me be honest. There is entirely too much going on in the book of Zechariah for this blog post to do any sort of justice to the book. Even in a second rewrite. The 10,000 mile up view is that Zechariah was a prophet to the refugees returning to Israel from the captivity in Babylon. It contains nine dreams of symbolic prophecy, some sections of history and several poems.
If you only have time today to read one message on Zechariah quit reading my blog right now and make it Charles Spurgeon's 1877 sermon on Zechariah chapter 9. One of the factors to this blog taking me forever to write is the time I spent reading it, tweeting excerpts and generally bullying my family to read the sermon. Go now. Read it.
You didn't listen did you? Okay. Here you go. First excerpt from Spurgeon's sermon.
Dear Heart, if you are lying in Giant Despair’s castle, if you have been beaten with his crab tree club till every bone in your body is sore and your heart is ready to break, this is the key which will open every lock in Doubting Castle if you can but use it--
I can get stuck there. Despair and Doubt. They are fancy schmancy castles. They host amazing rhetoric. Decent pastimes. Lots of people who agree. Have you ever been a resident? Body sore and heart ready to break? I think the people in Portland today might identify. The people in Israel who Zechariah was sent to give a message certainly knew what despair looked like. Prison too.
One of the themes of the book of Zechariah is God was not pleased with how they were treating each other.
This is what the Lord Almighty said; Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other. But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. Zechariah 7:8-12
Um. Stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. God might not be impressed with us either. Ya think?
Do you know how to get this done? How to get the keys to the Castles of Despair and Doubt?
As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:11-12
Oh. I want to be a prisoner of hope. Permanently aligned with love and grace.
Spurgeon's sermon continued.
“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin —even we guilty sinners who have so much sin to be cleansed from! Believing in this Truth, trusting in Jesus, we are “accepted in the Beloved.” How gloriously God has brought some of us forth! We are not now in the pit wherein is no water. We are forever set at liberty and our heart leaps at the very sound of Jesus’ name!"
We are no longer in the pit where there is no water. We have the keys to the prison. If you've been yelling don't be like the people of Israel who refused to listen. Zechariah had some news you should hear.
The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be only one Lord, and his name the only name. Zechariah 14:9
Here's the truth. I have no ability to save anything. Clearly even saving my own blog posts is beyond my ability. My words are worth nothing. But Jesus? He is the Word. He can set you free. Permanently. Become a prisoner of hope.
Here are your resources. You're going to learn a ton and be encouraged if you put a little time in. Watch the Bible Project's Walk Through. Read Charles Spurgeon's sermon. Scroll below. Read the book.
I love when I can sign a worship song and can sing lyrics I recognize from Bible reading.
Chris Tomlin's Whom Shall I Fear? God of Angel Armies.
I liked this book. Brave women. Beautiful story.
That's the Book: Haggai
This was a beautiful weekend. Sunny, time with family, good results from an EKG. Catch your attention? Sure caught mine. Saturday afternoon I felt a weight on my chest. The kind all those Pinterest meme's about women's heart attack symptoms being different than men's tell you not to ignore. So I hauled into the urgent care. Said enough magic words to earn an ambulance ride and full workup at the local ER. Turns out my heart is completely fine. Not sure what happened but might have been a mix of a nasty allergic reaction and a bit of paranoia from too many recent visits to friends and family in the hospital. As I read through the book of Haggai, I'm feeling grateful and paying attention.
In 520 BC the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians. The Israelite people in captivity were given a the opportunity by the Persians to return to Israel. A remnant returned and were using all their time and resources to rebuilding their homes but were completely neglecting rebuilding the temple. Haggai encouraged them to get to work! Gratefully they did. As they worked some of the people were discouraged by the size of this new temple compared to the grand temple of Solomon. Haggai's message was the same. One of encouragement. Be strong. Look to God. Be faithful. Keep working. The future is bright. It's the same message to us.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'" Haggai 1:7
As I'm sitting here this Memorial Day I'm grateful for the sacrifice others have made for my freedom. I'm sickened by recent hateful events and praying for insight to how to respond. I'm pondering work life balance. I'm wondering if I'm sewing seeds of hope around me. I'm thinking through the input I receive in my life. Too much junk food. Too much time online. Considering invitations and motivations. Clearly I need to eat better, exercise more often, detox on technology. Its a time for thought. Here is a list of ten questions you may want to ask yourself. Give careful thought to your ways.
1. Do the people who matter most in my life know that I love them?
2. Do my actions match my faith?
3. Is there someone I need to forgive?
4. Are my habits dragging down my health? or my story? or my family's health?
5. Is there someone I should thank?
6. Am I using all my resources for myself only? What can I cut or give to support what God is doing?
7. Do I have questions I need to trust God to answer?
8. Is my version of success the same as what God wants?
9. Am I vested in heaven? What can I do to be more heaven focused?
10. What do I do to rest, to restore, to renew?
This certainly isn't an exhaustive list. And its not supposed to trigger guilt or frustration or despair. Mindfulness is a way to get to freedom. To peace. To growth.
"Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the Lord, and work. For I am with you," declares the Lord Almighty. 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear."
I love this verse. Broken and weak is useful to God because its where we can be molded and grown. But His instruction for us is to be strong. To work. To not fear. The reason that is all possible is because HE is with us. Be strong and work FOR I am with you. God is the purpose and the power. Can I encourage you today? God wants you to get help. He wants you to ask the hard questions and find the reasons for the stress. He wants you to think and face and ponder the truth. But its because His goal for you is for health. To be mighty for and through Him. Now - just like the people in Haggai's day were distressed because the work of their hands was smaller than they thought it should be - sometimes we forget the long view. God will eventually set all things right. The seeds we sow now may be for eternity not for next week. But the effort will produce results. His spirit remains among us. Wherever we go. Give careful thought.
The team at Read Scripture hits it again. Your choices MATTER. Read and see what Haggai has to do with your story.
I think I need this shirt. You might need one too. Faith Over Fear. He is with you.
That's the Book: Zephaniah
I've got four Old Testament books of the Bible to go. People ask me how I get anything out of words which were written thousands of years ago. Sometimes I follow Pastor Rick Warren's advice on this one and put my name in the verses. I tried it with the book of Zephaniah. It hurt. And then it was healing.
The book of Zephaniah tells the story of the prophet who went to tell King Josiah to bring the people back to God. King Josiah did so. These words brought life to the nation. May they bring life to you today.
Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one. She accepts no corrections. She does not trust in the Lord. She does not draw near to her God. Zephaniah 3:1
Mindy obeys no one. Mindy accepts no corrections. Mindy does not trust in the Lord. Mindy does not draw near to her God.
Try it with your name. See if the prophets words ring true. If so, just like King Josiah, heed the warning and reject these as your truth. Make the reverse your truth.
How about these words?
The Lord within her is righteous. He does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. Zephaniah 3: 5
Sing, Daughter Zion: shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. Zephaniah 3:14-15
Sing, Mindy. Shout aloud, Mindy! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Mindy! The Lord has taken away Mindy's punishment.
Oh Glory BE! Can I get an Amen??
Part of the faith journey is accepting as truth what you read. Learning to live by the principals and edicts written down. Part of the faith journey is also laying aside the lies you believed formerly. Letting go of the words which the enemy of your soul likes to play as a background to your daily life. If you have competing inner dialogues may I encourage you to actively pursue both parts of faith? The accepting of the words of truth AND the rejecting of the words which weigh you down?
Here are some lies to let go. They are not true.
What I did is too bad to be forgiven.
I don't deserve to have my punishment taken away.
God doesn't really love me.
What people say about me matters more than what the Bible says about me.
I won't ever be healed.
The fear is here to stay.
Take a stand today. Reject the words of death. Accept these instead.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3: 17
The Lord your God is with you my friends. Insert your name. The Lord your God is with you Michelle. With you Heather. With you Elizabeth. With you Chris. The Mighty Warrior who saves you Joe. Who saves you, Michael. Who saves you, Aaron. He will take great delight in you, Sarah. He takes great delight in you, Nicole. In his love he will no longer rebuke you, Jennifer. He will no longer rebuke you Amy. He will rejoice over you Jill with singing. Over you Dylan with singing. Over you Meghan and Sue and Corrie. Over you Wendy and Jolene and Kavita and Armida and the list goes on. Plug in your name. These are the words of life. Can I get an Amen?
What lies do you want to let go of today? What truths are you going to embrace as your own?
Straight from Zephaniah. Ready for some signing? Try these ones.
Way to go team at The Bible Project. I say it every week. These are a great resources. Watch.
That's the Book: Habakkuk
I think we need to talk about how to handle bad news. I've sat in a few hospital rooms lately. Again. Friends and family waiting to hear diagnoses, test results and treatment plans. I've talked to people waiting on court decisions, job layoffs, financial crisis and marital tensions. Laws change. People leave. Goodness. You do know in this messed up and dark place we're all going to get bad news at some point? Having a plan for when it comes is critical.
The book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks God a hard question. WHEN? When are you stopping the horror around us? God answer is to wait. He fully will. God is sending judgment to set right what is wrong.
The second chapter Habakkuk asks another question common to us. WHY? Why are the evil people allowed to overcome God's chosen? God's answer is they won't always. The end game is good.Problem was the time between Habakkuk's question and the promised restoration included a prophecy for great destruction, judgment and heartache. Epic bad news.
Chapter three is a song Habakkuk sings to the Lord. This prophet's response is a gorgeous plan of how to face our hardest days. When I read through this song I saw a good plan of how to handle bad news.
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled. Habakkuk 3:16
When you get bad news don't be afraid to react. Cry. Yell a Psalm out loud. Call a friend. Pray with all the words- the angry, sad, descriptive, big words. Tell the truth.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us. Habakkuk 3:17a
The waiting. Ugh. Hurts in the tummy. Tightness can't breathe. Waiting. But all the panic, fretting, and worry only makes it worse. The key to getting through bad news is to pause. Patience. My mama says to remember it won't always be this way. Take a walk. Give a hug. Color. Wait patiently.
REJOICE IN THE LORD
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3: 17b -18
Gratitude in everything. It certainly does not take away the sharp pain but thankfulness does make a way forward. It's like breathing through contractions in childbirth. Need a list? Try thanking God for friends, for doctors, for food, for clean water. For grace. Don't let yourself off the task until you can breathe.
KNOW THE SOURCE OF STRENGTH
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19a
Bad news can shake your emotions. It can drastically change your plans. But it can not remove God. Bad news does not delete heaven. It does not change eternity. He is able to carry you through. The path may be steep but God can make your steps steady. The key to bad news? Don't do it alone.
You are going to get more out of the Bible Project's Read Scripture video than whatever new cat video or pop culture dating news was next on your scroll list. Take the time.
That's the Book: Nahum
I'm a mom. I spend a good deal of time pointing out dangers. Don't touch. Don't talk to strangers. Be careful online. Don't eat that. You know. Trying to keep my kids safe.
The prophet Nahum had a three chapter poem message regarding the city of Ninevah. Remember Jonah? The people of Ninevah repented for awhile. 100 years later and they were more violent than ever. God had enough. So Nahum the prophet spoke out predicting their downfall and destruction.
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:2-3
The fear of the Lord is one of the ideas in the Bible of which people strong opinions. People either point to it as a reason never to believe in God or they try to explain it away.
The explain it away camp frequently define fear as reverential awe. As in I'm so amazed at God's size and ability I will quietly ponder and be grateful.
"Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him." Nahum 1:6
Hmmmm. When I read Nahum I really don't think he was only talking about reverential awe. I think the point is that crossing God and standing against his people is not a good idea. I have a healthy fear. Like the kind that says don't touch a hot stove. Don't cross this line into oncoming traffic. Just back up slowly when you see an electric fence. Fear can keep you safe. I have enough fear of addiction to never touch meth. I have a healthy fear of wrecking my marriage to abide by some tight boundaries. I don't joke about weapons in the airport security line. I don't tease police dogs. I'm sure you don't either. If I were in trouble though I'd be the first to dial 911. Truth is I want the people protecting me to be strong enough to respond.
Here's the hard rub though. This is where the other camp shows up. Who wants to follow a God you have to fear? Scary isn't exactly the idea we want to tell our kids in Sunday School. Hold on though.The God is scary theme forgets to keep the message in context of the whole narrative. God is also love.
The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him.
Nahum 1: 7
Anyone who is a fan of C.S. Lewis is familiar with the character of Aslan in Narnia. This mighty lion is an allegory for Jesus. Listen to what Mr. Beaver tells Lucy about him.
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
The fear of the Lord makes me want to be on the right side of history. On His side of His Story. When you figure out that God is powerful enough to conquer all the things you are scared of then some level of actual fear should attend. He is powerful enough to save you.
I did my research on this post. Much credit goes to these great posts from some of my favorite voices.
Andy Stanley: The Beginning of Wisdom READ HERE
John Piper: The Goodness of God and the Fear of God. READ HERE
Liz Curtis Higgs: Fear Can Be a Good Thing READ HERE
JoHannah Reardon: What does it mean to fear God? READ HERE
The team at The Bible Project helps me to think through where these minor prophets fit in the major story. It may help you to watch and learn.
That's the Book: Micah
Last week my mama felt sick. Doubled over pain, nothing fixes it kind of sick. Tuesday morning she ended up in the hospital being prepped for an emergency appendectomy. Surgery isn't fun. Hospitals are difficult places to spend a week. The doctors who read the report and diagnosis her situation weren't doing so to be mean. They saved her life.
Micah was a prophet whose message was primarily to the leaders of Israel. The political, religious and economic leaders were breaking the rules of commerce outlined in the covenant God gave the people. As a result, the poor people were being cheated and abused. The whole country was sick. God was not impressed and sent Micah with a diagnosis. Personally I like Micah. He speaks my second language. Sarcasm.
"If a liar and deceiver comes and says, "I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' that would be just the prophet for this people!" Micah 2:11
Can't you see him? I think Micah probably got the same kind of pushback from his peers that a prophet with a message about sin would have today in Las Vegas....or on twitter. A laugh and a sneer. In Micah's day there were false prophets being paid to tell people only what they wanted to hear.
We have that too. Our society excels at distraction, at self medication, at delusion. We are not so good at the diagnosis bit. Truth is we have a pride problem. A greed problem. We've got a rebellion problem. Recognize any of these symptoms? Laziness? Cruelty? Despair? It's a sin thing.
Beware a church or blogger or author who preaches a gospel without repentance. It's like telling someone on a sinking ship there is no need to worry about life boats. You know my mom? Imagine the doctor had been afraid to tell the truth. If he had reviewed the charts, had diagnosed her condition and then handed her a pain killer with a big smile and said "Don't worry! Nothing is wrong! Those symptoms are just society making you feel bad. Cover it up, ignore it. You're good". She would have died. End of story.
Before Jesus, I can tell you I was lost, blind, drowning, shackled. Pride, bitterness, selfishness, unfaithfulness. Find any list of symptoms in the Bible, I was on it. I covered up with a to do list, with control, with food, with detached daydreams. Any sin I skipped was mostly a lack of opportunity. I am so grateful for the people who told me how to be rescued rather than trying to convince me nothing needed to change. I'm forever grateful for Jesus. The savior.
Micah also has one of my favorite prophecies about the promised Messiah. Think Baby Jesus in the manger. And consider this was heaven's darling poured out for you. His origin is from the very beginning. God had a plan.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Micah 5:2
Just following a list of rules doesn't fix the heart. Last week I attended a local Celebrate Recovery group to hear a friend give her story. (Think AA with Jesus. You can find info HERE). I was so encouraged by the kindness in the room. By the honesty and hope. A good program to move through your stuff can help. Micah didn't just address the illness of Israel. He prescribed a good rehab program.
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:7-8
Want me to break that down? Here are some practical things I think about as I consider this well loved verse.
How I live matters. Not because of a list of rules. Because it shows the condition of my heart. Because it greatly impacts people around me. Acting justly requires me to not cheat. To watch and address my bias. To build bridges and ask tough questions. To love whom God loves. (Hint....He loves everyone).
Where my heart lives matters. Our pastor yesterday said that in order to have God hear us we must forgive others. He said when we harbor a heart of hate or bitterness we cut ourselves off from God. It's because God is full of love and mercy and grace. So we have nothing in common with him when we hate. You want to get better? Love mercy. Cheer on the ones doing the work of forgiveness. Not the ones being vengeful. Give second chances. Smile at people in courthouses and on work crew. Give grace. Let it go.
When I go on a walk with my spouse or my kids it forces me to slow down and breathe. I listen better on a walk. Fewer distractions. Bigger perspective. Walking humbly with God means the same thing. Space to listen. It involve taking the focus off me and mine mine mine. It means less of me and more of him.
When I left the hospital after my mom's surgery I was grateful. For doctors, for hospitals, for clean water, for medication. I felt the same way when I walked out of the Celebrate Recovery meeting. Grateful. For grace, for salvation, for the cross, for forgiveness. For community and truth. I was grateful for God.
"But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." Micah 7:7
Let me speak some truth today to you. If you are in pain, don't ignore it. If you look around and see your life causing grief and oppression to others, get help. Don't cover it up with sex, or medication, or food. I know it's hard to poke around and open those doors. I know it's scary and painful. But if you don't the consequences can kill you. And I know a way to get better.
"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance. You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the debts of the sea." Micah 7:18-19
Such a beautiful song. Zach Williams, Chain Breaker.
Yup. Another one from the Bible Project. These are great overviews. Read it and learn. Show your friends who think the Bible has nothing to do with their lives. Show your kids.
This is my favorite weighty justice book. If you want to move your faith out of the pew and into the streets where God wants it read this book. Be warned though. Your life may change. If you want a copy from Amazon click on the book. If you see me on a regular basis, ask and you can borrow my copy.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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