Sound The Alarm!

financial-professionals-sounding-the-alarm

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NIV).

When I was a boy in South Africa I was caught in a plague of locusts. It was simultaneously horrifying and awesome. In the distance the swarm looked like a black cloud. As they approached, the distinction between the sky and land was gradually blurred out. Before they arrived they sounded like the sea heard at a distance. When they landed, the whirr of their wings was like the roar of a gigantic dynamo revolving at high speed.

The farmers and labourers did everything in their power to stop the locusts landing. They ran around the fields yelling and crashing steel pots together, hoping that the noise would scare them away. But it was all to no avail. Before long there were 10-20 locusts on every stalk of grass and in less than a minute it was completely consumed. Within 5-10 minutes, as the locusts rose into the air to continue their advance, there was no vegetation for as far as I could see. The look of grief and utter defeat on the faces of the farmers is still etched in my mind.

The prophet Joel’s description of an army of locusts in Joel 2:1-11 opens and closes  with a warning about the coming “day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1, 11). This inclusio (a literary device known as bracketing which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section) is used to stress the gravity of the situation and prompt the reader/listener to take action.

True prophets demonstrate both insight and foresight. Their words both foretell and tell forth. They not only predict the future, they also reveal God’s will for the present.  Joel sounded the trumpet in his day because he saw how the “day of the Lord” had come in the form of a locust plague to punish the sins of the Israelites. He also saw how the “day of the Lord” is yet to come when everyone who persists in sinning will have to face the consequences of their rebellion (Matthew 7:21-29).

Do you hear the alarm?

Persevere

I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 2 Corinthians 11:27 (NIV).

Perseverance is the tenacity to keep on keeping on. It’s energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trials. It’s both an inward and an outward work. And it’s staying true to our calling by being disciplined in the way of God.

Christ is of course the ultimate example of perseverance. He endured the cross so that we could be reconciled with God.

The Apostle Paul is also a great example of perseverance.  In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 we see how Paul persevered because he was dedicated to one end – to bring glory to God. Paul knew it didn’t matter what people thought of him or did to him. His motive, theme, goal, reason and purpose was to give the Lord glory in everything he did. That’s because Paul knew he was converted, called, and convicted to do nothing less than to live unswervingly in the way of Jesus Christ.

It’s easy to talk the talk. But can we walk the walk? Being a Christian is more than a promised loyalty. Paul was a man who hung in with God through thick and thin. He endured physical, emotional, spiritual and relational challenges. Are you dealing with overwhelming challenges? Persevere! Are you struggling with health, financial or relational matters? Persevere! The true measure of a truly Christian man or woman is his/her ability to stay true to God. Never give up on God – hold onto Him under every kind of pressure.

An old proverb says: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” So how do we grow in our capacity to persevere? Here are some suggestions:

  • Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18)
  • Seek God with all your heart (Psalm 119:10)
  • Do what God’s Word says (Joshua 1:8; James 1:22)
  • Watch your life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16)
  • Focus on what God has promised (Hebrews 10:36)
  • Remember you will receive the crown of life (James 1:12)
  • Rest when you’re weary (Isaiah 28:12)
  • Hope in the Lord (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Bring your burdens to God (Matthew 11:28)
  • Know that when you are weak, God is strong (2 Corinthians 13:9)

Loving, Learning, Living And Leading Others to the Scriptures.

Blessed are they … who walk according to the law of the Lord. Psalm 119:1 (NIV).

A cursory reading of Psalm 119 clearly indicates that David loved the Scriptures. The first hint comes in verse 11 when he says, “I have hidden your word in my heart …” The heart, as we know, is the seat of our emotions. When we value someone we draw them to us … that is, we take them to heart. Who do you love? I love my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my dog, and more. But what about the Scriptures? Do we love God’s Word?

For many years I’ve researched why people do or do not connect with the Bible. Some people don’t read the Bible because they say it’s archaic, complicated, bigoted, unscientific, confusing or not true. Others, like the majority of church-going folk, will read some of it but never read it from cover to cover. In fact in Christian circles evidence suggests that it may be true to say that the Bible is the most popular least read book! Maybe that’s because Christians don’t really love the author, because if we did, we’d value every word He has to say to us.

Psalm 119 is laced with references to loving and to learning the Scriptures. In verse seven David speaks about how he ‘learns’ the Scriptures and in verse fifteen how he ‘meditates’ and ‘considers’ the Scriptures. God hasn’t given us His Word to be left on a dust covered shelf. He’s entrusted it to us because He wants us to study it. Yet research reveals that while the Bible is generally available and accessible, there’s only a small number of people who earnestly and responsibly study it personally, with their families, and with their communities of faith. Something’s lost that needs to be found.

How are you doing? Are you working up a spiritual sweat digging into the Scriptures? Or do you leave it to the pastor or read the latest popular Christian book. Now the last thing I want to do is make you feel guilty. Guilt, while it’s a motivator, is a poor one at best. But here’s the point, if you consider yourself to be a Christian, and it’s not your priority to regularly and consistently study the Scriptures, then you need to know there’s a problem.

David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” Psalm 119:9. Then answers, “By living according to your word.” God’s entrusted the Scriptures to us for a reason – that we would live by them. What goes in is what comes out. If we spend two to three hours a day watching TV, playing video games, interacting on social media or texting friends, then these things will inform our values and actions. How we use time is critical. To live as God wants us to live we need to spend more time meeting with God through His Word. David chose to live by God’s Word. He considered God’s ways (Psalm 119:15), delighted in His decrees, and did not neglect His Word (Psalm 119:16).

Loving, learning and living by the Scriptures are the three foundational actions that inform the fourth action – leading others to the Scriptures. In Psalm 119:43 David asks God to not snatch His Word from his mouth and in verse 46 he mentions his intention to speak about the Scriptures before kings. While God has given us the responsibility to love, learn and live by the Scriptures, He’s also entrusted us with the important work of leading others to the Scriptures.

Some years ago I asked a congregation if anyone had shared the Scriptures with someone in the past week, month or year. There were about 100 people in the meeting and only 1 person indicated he had shared the Scriptures with someone during the past week while a few others said they’d shared the Scriptures with someone during the past month or year. Most of the people had never shared the Scriptures with anyone. Are you helping others to connect with God’s Word?

So according to Psalm 119 we’re to love, learn, live by the Scriptures, and lead others to it. And why is this important? Because the Scriptures aren’t an end in themselves. Because in loving, learning, living by and leading others to the Scriptures we’re loving, learning, living for and leading others to the One of whom the Scriptures speak – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Join God’s Dance

 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV).

Fourth century theologians described fellowship with God to be something like a dance composed of a sequence of choreographed steps.

God invites us to join His dance – to move in rhythm with Him. In the parlance of Galatians, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25 (NLT). So why not accept His invitation? Here’s how you keep in step with the Spirit:

  • Believe that everything you need to dance is already in you. When you asked forgiveness for your sin and named Christ as your Lord and Saviour, He took up residence, by the Spirit, in you (Colossians 1:28, 2:10). So don’t hold back. Your sinful nature has been crucified (Galatians 5:17, 24).
  • Give yourself fully into the Instructors hands. God must lead and you must follow. It’s not for you to direct your steps (Jeremiah 10:23). He must determine your steps (Proverbs 16:9). The moment you move more quickly, slower, or in a different direction, you’re dancing with yourself – to the beat of your own drum. Don’t do that. Move as He moves you, respond to His touch and direction.
  • Listen to the music. Heavenly music has its own beat. God’s music is not the world’s music. His music has unique melodies, harmonies and vocals. It’s beautiful – making “us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled” Galatians 5:22-23 (CEV).

Are you dancing? Don’t sit in the corner watching others move to the unforced rhythms of His grace. Move with Him. Do more than entertain the idea or feel the emotion. Step onto the dance floor and join God’s dance.