No Partiality

Romans 1-3

romans 2

Tuesday, June 13

Have you ever asked yourself; “What are you storing up for yourself?”  There will be a day of judgement concerning how each of us lived our lives.  Did we store up incorruptible treasures in heaven as it says in Matthew 6:20 ““But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”  or have we stored up wrath determined by the righteous judgment of God as it says in Romans 2:5-6, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:”

 

We will all be judged and held accountable.  It is so easy to judge others; almost without thinking, we label, categorize, and take measure of others.  Oftentimes, people are cruel and harsh in their snap judgement of others.  Maybe you nudge your friend when you are on line at a store and slyly point out the haircut that is out of style or the clothes that don’t fit right.  Because of this, we can also fall into trying to please the whims of the world.  We bend and yield our convictions to be liked and accepted.  Perhaps we join in with verbal jabs or we enjoy the latest juicy gossip.  With God, there is no partiality (Rom. 2:11).  What does this mean?  Partiality as defined by Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary says:

 

 : an unfair tendency to treat one person, group, or thing better than another

 : a tendency to like something or someone — often + to

 

As it says in the first definition, we have an unfair tendency to judge certain groups of people more favorably than others.  God doesn’t do this.  He can’t be bribed, bought, or persuaded from what is right and true.  He sees us for what we are and judges us accordingly.  He knows the secret depths of our hearts, even the parts we don’t want to admit are there.  In light of this, we should recognize that what we do and how we live our lives, matters.  What we watch and put into our hearts also matters.

 

Matthew 15:18

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

 

I grew up in New Jersey and moved to New York shortly after college.  After Sean and I married, we moved to Georgia and attended the Atlanta Bible College.  I had never been to the South for any length of time and was struck by how friendly everyone was.  Cashiers would have full on conversations with people in line and they would take their time with each customer.  I liked how friendly people were but found myself annoyed and impatient when their friendliness cut into my efficiency.  Yet, when I went home to New Jersey and New York after being in Georgia for a while, I was startled by how quickly people would yell, honk, and gesture at one another.  There was a harshness to the North that I had not noticed before.  Regardless of where you’re from, God’s word teaches us how we should be.  That is what we should put in our minds and what will consequentially come out of our mouths.

 

Guard your mind and keep your thoughts on the things that are above.  Do not allow yourself to become a harsh critic of others but love and reserve the judging for God and our Lord Jesus Christ.  While you still have breath and you are alive, ask for forgiveness for the times you have fallen short and sinned, and then start again with renewed vigor.  The Bible says in Romans 2:8 that there is eternal life for those that persevere or persist in doing good seek after the glory and honor and immortality.  Let’s encourage each other to persevere in doing good!

-Ruth Finnegan

 

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)

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

 

 

Graphic Material

Ezekiel 5-9

ezekiel 5 14

Monday, March 20

This portion of Ezekiel is, admittedly, difficult to read.  It’s a pretty graphic account of God impending judgment against the city of Jerusalem and his people, Israel.  God tells Ezekiel to shave his head and beard.  This would have been an act of mourning for most people, but it was double disturbing for Ezekiel, since he was a priest and normally forbidden from shaving his head or beard.  Ezekiel was told to burn, take a sword to, and scatter his cut hair.  This was to symbolize what was to happen to Israel.  A few hairs were kept back, symbolic of the remnant who would not be destroyed.

God accuses his people, Israel, the chosen nation, of being worse than the other nations.  They broke the law more than the nations that did not have the law.  God was bringing his judgment against His own people.  The description of the siege almost defies comprehension, including cannibalism of both parents and children.  This was to serve as a warning to the other nations: if this is how God treats his own people for their idolatry, beware of what he will do to you.

In Ezekiel six God makes it clear that their judgement is upon them because of their idolatry. However, there is a remnant that will be spared and live in captivity and will come to repentance.

In Ezekiel seven, a special emphasis is made regarding their idolatrous attachment to gold and silver.  This wealth that they turned to and fashioned into idols will be unable to save them from the coming judgment.  All the money in the world can’t save you from judgment.

In Chapter eight Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem.  This includes the “Idol of jealousy” which we discover is the pagan god Tammuz.  Tammuz was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation.  At the summer solstice there was a period of mourning as the people saw the shortening of days and the approaching drought.  Sacrifices were made to Tammuz at the door of the Jerusalem Temple.  This was an absolute abomination to Israel’s God, YHWH as He made it clear that He alone was to be worshipped as God (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

In Chapter Nine an angel is sent out to put a mark on all of the people of the city who did not commit idolatry and worship Tammuz.  They would be spared.  But then all those who did not receive a mark would be destroyed.  This is reminiscent of the story of Exodus, when the doorposts of the Israelites were to be marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, and those with the mark were spared their firstborn sons dying when the Angel of Death passed over their houses.  It also points to the future (See Revelation 13) when the beast will cause people to have a mark on their forehead or they would not be able to buy or sell.  This is contrasted with those in Revelation 14 who have the name of God and of the lamb on their foreheads.

God is a God of love and mercy.  God has provided a means for us to be rescued from the consequences of sin.  There is a way for each of us to be spared the final judgment of God that is coming.  Jesus Christ, the lamb of God is the only means by which we can escape judgment.  Along with God’s mercy is His holiness.  God will not allow sin and rebellion to continue on earth forever.  A day of judgment is coming for all the earth just as it did for the nation of Israel.  God tolerated their sin for only so long, and then came the time for judgment.  Mercifully, God spared those who repented by placing His mark upon them.  God has been tolerating sinful rebellion on earth, but a day is coming when He will destroy sin and sinners who have not repented and turned away from their sins and turned to him through Jesus Christ.  Ezekiel’s harsh imagery should remind us that we must not forget that God’s wrath is coming from which we all need to escape, and we need to warn others.  This won’t make us popular, but doing God’s will is seldom popular among the rebellious.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/)

3 Steps

Isaiah 17-21

isa-19

Friday, February 10

In today’s reading, we have pretty much just oracles against other nations.  An oracle in the Old Testament is simply the Word of God.  Therefore, the different oracles about the separate nations are just the words of God, and the audience of the book of Isaiah is the people of Judah.  That means that these oracles are words from God to Judah concerning other nations.

As we have been reading, these oracles concerning other nations are usually more of a judgmental tone.  Often, God states that he will take action against these nations.  This may lead to the people turning to God, and that is present in Isaiah chapter 19.  Chapter 19 contains the oracle concerning Egypt.  In this oracle, God states he will take action for their poor behavior.  As a result of God’s action, “the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering,” (Isaiah 19:21).  Basically there are three steps happening here: The Egyptians sin against God, God punishes the Egyptians, and the Egyptians turn to God because of their fear.

We can learn a lesson from this.  We are inevitably all going to sin in our lives.  We all have sinned, and we all will make more mistakes in the future, similar to what the Egyptians were doing.  The punishment for sin is found in Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.”  Death is what we all deserve.  God is not afraid to punish us if we don’t seek Him.  Similar to the Egyptians, we should then fear God and live a life that is pleasing to Him.  When we do this, we can receive eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, and God will indeed bless us.

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/book/isaiah/13)