One Bad Apple

Matthew 5-7

bad apple matt

Friday, April 28

A couple weeks ago a co-worker of mine came into my office with her apple. She’d cut it in half to eat and to her disbelief found it rotten and brown on the inside. We both couldn’t believe it considering it came from a brand new bag of apples and looked completely edible. From the outside this apple looked perfect to eat but inwardly it was tainted and deceiving.

 

In Matthew 7:15-23 Jesus warns us of false prophets who are very similar to my co-worker’s bad apple. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:15)

 

My bad apple story finishes with my co-worker and I discussing if she could eat around the inner brown spots or hope it doesn’t taste as bad as it looks. In the end we both decided it’s best to just throw it out.  

 

Matthew 7:19-20  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.
-Elleigh Dylewski

 

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God of Mercy. God of Justice.

Ezekiel 17-19

ezekiel

Thursday, March 23

God used the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar to enact His judgment against Israel.  He carried off King Jehoiachin and 10,000 nobles to Babylon and installed Zedekiah to act as his vice regent or king in Jerusalem.  The prophet Jeremiah warned Israel that this was God’s judgment and that the exiles would not return from Babylon until the people repented.  But the people didn’t listen and false prophets gave Israel false hope that Babylon might soon fall.  So Zedekiah broke his treaty with Nebuchadnezzar and made an alliance with Egypt.   This led to a revolt against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt.   Eventually, Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar and King Zedekiah and family were carried back to Babylon where they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.  Zedekiah had his eyes put out and his sons were executed.  Israel did not repent quickly nor easily, and because of her stubborn disobedience they continued to suffer.

In Ezekiel 17 God chose to use the allegory of an eagle plucking up the top of a cedar and then replanting it to depict His judgment against his people and to remind them of his power to build and His power to destroy.

In Ezekiel 18 God gives a very clear teaching to His people on the nature of sin, righteousness, judgement, repentance and forgiveness.  Each person is responsible for their own actions.  Parents are not held responsible by God for the sins of their children, and children are not held responsible by God for the sins of their parents.  Each person is responsible for their own behavior.  In the same way, you don’t get credit for your parents good behavior if you do bad.  Each person is responsible for their own sin and will be judged accordingly.

There is good news imbedded in Ezekiel 18.  God doesn’t take any pleasure in seeing wicked people die.  God wants to see people who do evil turn away from their evil.  God wants everyone to repent.  If an evil person repents, God will not punish them.  If a righteous person turns evil, they will be punished for their evil behavior.  God is a God of both mercy and justice.  He will punish unrepentant evildoers and he will forgive and restore those who repent of their evil.  This chapter is best summarized in the final three verses:  30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

 

In Ezekiel 19, there is a lament for the end of the Messianic dynasty that came from David.  Since the time of David, his descendants, beginning with Solomon reigned as Kings over Israel.  But that has been brought to an end.  There were no more descendants of David serving as the Lord’s anointed over Israel.  Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We live on this side of the New Testament.  After several hundred years of NOT having a descendent of David as King of Israel, one was finally born in Bethlehem and his name is Jesus.  One day, Jesus will sit upon the throne and rule over not only Israel, but all the earth.  In the meantime, we have a choice, we can turn away from our sins and turn to God, or we can face the judgment.  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for our salvation.  We go to him to get a new heart and a new spirit.

-Jeff Fletcher

Has God Left the Building?

Ezekiel 10-13

Ezekiel 10 4

Tuesday, March 21

 

“Elvis has left the building.”   That’s what they used to say to the throngs of screaming fans after one of Elvis Presley’s concerts back in the day.  They would rush Elvis out the back door into his waiting car or bus and whisk him off to safety.  Hopefully, the fans would calm down after they knew he was no longer there… there would be no more encores for this performance.

In Ezekiel ten- YHWH has left the building.  The building in question was the Temple of Jerusalem.  Since the time of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness when Israel worshipped in the Tabernacle, to the time of Solomon and beyond, when they worshipped YHWH in the Temple of Jerusalem, YHWH was present with His people.  They knew that there, in the holy of holies, the shekhinah glory of God was present with his people.  Yes, there was a veil which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple, and only the high priest was permitted to enter into the presence of YHWH once a year to atone for the sins of the people, yet they could always look up to the tabernacle or later Temple atop Mt. Zion and know that God was with them.  But no longer.  Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s glory leaving the Temple.  Because of their extreme disobedience and their worship of idols, God could no longer remain among his people.  It was a time for judgment, and God had to leave.  How sad that must have been for Ezekiel, to watch God leaving.

In Ezekiel eleven, judgment is proclaimed against Israel’s leaders.  “You haven’t obeyed my laws” YHWH complains.  “You’ve conformed to the standards of the nations around you.”

God is gracious, even in the midst of judgment, he promises to bring some of them back from exile and give them back the land which he had given to their forefathers.  God promises to bring about change in their hearts.  vs. 19 “I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”  God still loves His people and offers them hope in the midst of judgment.  Ezekiel shared this vision with the exiles so that they would understand the consequences of their sins.

In Ezekiel twelve,  God warns that even their ruler would be forced into exile.  They kept hoping that this would happen in the distant future, but God assures them that judgment is coming soon.

In chapter thirteen, God turns his judgment from the leaders to the false prophets.  These people told lies in the name of YHWH.  They said “thus saith the Lord” when God didn’t say it.  God condemns them for leading their people astray.  They “whitewashed” over the truth about God’s coming judgment against sin and substituted their lies about a false peace.  “you encouraged the wicked not to repent”.  He blames the false prophets for the sins of the people, therefore, they will come under God’s harsh judgment.

Israel had a wonderful building in which to worship, they had clear rules to follow, they had leaders to teach them, they had priests to offer sacrifices, they had prophets to bring them words from God- and yet that wasn’t enough.  They were not content to live as God’s holy and separate people and act as a witness to the rest of the nations around them.  Instead, they worshipped the false gods of their neighbors, they ignored God’s laws, their prophets failed to warn them for their sins and assured them of false peace when God was preparing to bring his judgment.  It seems not much has changed.  One would be tempted to see the same kinds of things going on today.  How many buildings today allow idolatry and false gods to be worshipped?  How many people falsely claim to be speaking God’s word when they are instead peddling the words of men?  Some days we might even wonder “has God left the building” when we follow the sinful standards of the world rather than remaining faithful to God’s holy word?  We’d like to think judgment is far away just as they thought then… but perhaps it’s much closer than you might think.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

 

In the Doghouse or in the Pasture?

Jeremiah 22-23

jeremiah22_29

Sunday, March 5

 

Wow.  There was some heavy material just in these two chapters.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that God is not messing around with this stuff… “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors.  I will bring on you everlasting disgrace- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”  (Jeremiah 23:39-40 NIV)  I mean, at one point He even came at your mother!  (Jeremiah 22:26 NIV)

Obviously these commands that He mentions in 22:4 are incredibly important.  This is that point where your brain should be flashing red lights to remind you to pay attention!

In chapter 23 there is a big emphasis on false prophets and the trouble they are getting themselves into.  The thing that struck me here is that the prophets getting lectured aren’t only the ones that prophesied Baal, but also the ones who simply didn’t tell someone that they were doing wrong.  It makes sense to me that someone who is worshiping idols would be in trouble, but someone who was saying “You will have peace.” was a little harder to swallow.  These prophets were in the doghouse because they were accepting and condoning sin… probably with the intention of not hurting anyone’s feelings!  How often do we let “little” things slide like following their own heart versus God’s plan without us saying anything because we don’t want to come across as rude? I know I’ve done it!  We try and twist God’s words like fire (vs. 29) into something that makes us and others feel good and comfortable… but one day that’s going to come back to bite us.

With all of these warnings and pretty intense messages it is easy to skip over one of my favorite parts of these passages, starting in 23:3 with “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.”  I love this because it shows that no matter who or what tries to get in the way, God has a plan and it’s going to happen my friends!  It doesn’t matter if we’ve been scattered across the world, the flock will eventually come home!  He has a part for everyone in His grand plan, but if you don’t step up He will get it done either way.  It’s up to you, but who wouldn’t want to take part in this?!?

-Sarah Blanchard

Sarah Blanchard is a senior in high school from Pine Grove Bible Church in Minnesota.  She recently got back from the Philippines with Moriah Railton where they were able to teach the book of Genesis to kids across the world!  FUEL is something Sarah looks forward to every year, and she is excited to come back again in 2017!

(Photo Credit: found at http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/07012015/)