All posts by ljmonson

Two By Two- Agreement from AMOS 3:3

Back in the day I was a enthusiast for dirt track racing.  Each Friday night I would accompany my Father-in-Law up to Chico’s dirt track and on Saturday it was Anderson.  We had worked all week to get the well bruised car running again and fix all that was broken.  Each race would start with the announcer proclaiming, “Here they come two by two just like ducks to water.”

Wouldn’t it be great if there were no disagreements in the church?  Wouldn’t it be great if we all just marched along two by two like ducks go to water?  The other day I over heard someone say there was a scriptural mandate for getting along.  They were saying  we should all agree in the church with a quote from Amos 3:3. They were saying there is no place of disagreement in Body of Christ.

I want express my disagreement with that philosophy.  There will always be disagreements in any organization that includes people.  A former pastor of mine used to say, “To dwell up above with the saints we love, that will be glory.  But to dwell here below with the saints we know, well that is a different story.”

Amos was not saying that two people have to agree on the same thing all the time. The scripture is not even about man and man. It is about God and man.

Let me add a number of translations of Amos 3:3

  • How can two walk together, except they be agreed? (King James Version & New King James Version)
  • Do two walk together, unless they have made an appointment? (Revised Standard Version & New Revised Standard Version)
  • Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? (New Living Translation)
  • Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? (New American Standard)
  • Do two people start traveling together without arranging to meet? (Good News Translation
  • Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? (New International Version)

This is but one of many rhetorical questions in Amos. This question was asked to bring about conviction to the Israelites who were hearing the same thing from all the prophets. Amos asked them this question as a wake-up call for them to realize that all of God’s prophets were unanimous in prophesying the same thing against them because they had all received the same message from God.

The people were turning a deaf ear to ALL the prophets. Amos tried to convince them that the combined prophecy from these men were inspired by God’s Spirit. That’s why they could prophesy the truth. The two of them (Amos, the prophet) and (God, the giver of the prophecy) were indeed walking together.

There is nothing wrong with two people walking together. There is nothing wrong with two people agreeing with each other. However, know that the original meaning of the scripture was about God and man; not two humans.

From now on, let’s be aware that “the two” are not you and someone else. It should be you and God.
God and man cannot walk together, except they are agreed.

  • God and man must be clear about the same direction.
  • God and man must make an appointment to meet at the same place.
  • God and man cannot walk together if man is walking contrary to God.
  • You won’t feel God’s presence unless the two of you are walking in the same direction at the same time.

By the way it does help that you are going in the same direction: your spouse, your boss, your parents or your Pastor.  But remember God MUST be walking with you as well. Seek God’s glory and include Him in your walks. If one is out of step, guess which one it is?

Minister as Prophet

As with any job, vocation, or ministry there is always more to do.  There is extra effort that could be made.  It could well be detrimental to the worker in a multitude of ways.  Pushing on to do a little more, to spend just a few more hours to accomplish that special task perfectly, knowing inwardly perfection is often being unattainable.  But ministers press on.  They push, they strive, they persevere to do one more thing.  It is the difference between average and the superior.  For the minister of the Gospel is no less susceptible to this over stretching.  The result is nothing is ever quite good enough.  At least that is what ministers tell themselves and is often reinforced by casual innuendo and under breath remarks.  Ministers try think at issue is the prioritization of what is most important. It becomes an exercise of time management.  But that is an oxymoron.  Time is beyond the control of anyone.  The clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. So what is so important that all else must take back seat?  What is the ministry’s greatest calling song?  What is the calling’s most important thing? What is the priority for the high calling of minister?

In the church as it exists today in the twenty-first century some would say the church is a business.  It has all the characteristics of industry.  It has a purpose statement, it has board meetings, it has budgets, and accounting principles.  Shouldn’t the first priority of the minister be administration.  Let’s give our ministers classes on micro-economics and let some of the biblical history classes slide.  The church needs an executive head.  The wheels of industry need to be well oiled.  Repairs to the bathrooms and classrooms need to be managed, orders of service created for Sunday’s, PowerPoint presentations must be created, and meetings must be held.  Friction must be reduced to the lowest levels.  Every portion of the mechanism must be scrutinized, inspected, examined and improved upon.  That effort needs a leader. If you would use the parlance of the Old Testament this position would be called the King. The administration of the day to day workings of the church are vital.  They have to be finely tweaked to measure up to the standards of the world.  The Pastor as administer is important.  But it is not the most important.  I believe any minister who would set this priority first is missing the high calling to which God has called.

So what should the priority be?  Another candidate for the high calling of the minister is priest.  The official over the altar of worship.  The spokesman of the people.  The help to all those who need grace and peace in their lives.  Priest provides the means of grace through ritual, public prayers, reading of scripture, baptisms, communions, baby dedications, funerals, weddings.  The man of the people as they offer up their sacrifice of praise and supplication.  He leads the congregation to the throne of grace.  From his mouth come the concerns, hopes, desires, and pain of many hearts.  He may not be talented in singing but it is the Priest that discerns the amount of singing.  He may not be a part of an inspired music team, but he determines the character and amount of music in which the church will express its adoration and thanksgiving.  He should be the ordained ministrant of the worship service.  He leads the church to a place of peace, reverence, thanksgiving, praise, hope, joy, and worship.  The priestly ministry is both difficult and critical to the church. Without a faithful understanding of this role and a dutiful action the Church will suffer.  But again, if the priority of the minister is to be priest, the aim is just too low.  The calling of God has to be more than an official of the sacraments.  The calling of God is being lessoned by anyone called to be a minister who sets his priority to being a priest.  It is just is not enough.

The minister’s priority could well be to be a shepherd. A shepherd, what a great picture.  A protector of the sheep.  A guide to the sheep.  Someone who knows them all by name.  A special person that becomes so well acquainted to each of his charge that the shepherd knows that one is missing.  The shepherd minister knows the individual sheep’s disposition, needs and habits.  The shepherd knows where the grass is greenest.  He knows where the fodder grows the best in the different times of year.  He knows where the water is the freshest.  He knows who the enemies of the flock are and all their habits and forms of attack. He knows the weakest and the strongest of the flock.  The ministry of shepherd is a mighty task.  It makes the difference between life and death of the flock in his charge.  To the church this is more important than everything else because it is all about them. Concern and shepherding is vital in the church.  But it is not the most important.

Ministry to the world around him.  To be the moral and religious leader of a community and to be the bastion to the world, could well be a priority. The minister has a responsibility not only to his own body of believers but to the community in which it dwells.  Every street, every alley, every home, those without homes are all a part of the calling of the minister. He is a member of the Church universal.  He should well be part of feeding the poor, lifting the downtrodden, a minister to the widow and the orphan.  Uniting with churches of the community in efforts to do more than the local church can do is part and parcel of being part of the body of Christ. The minister as ambassador from the court of heaven to the court of earth is a lofty and worthy goal. But it is not the priority that is needed most.

Minister, do not choose to be come only a king or a shepherd or a priest or an ambassador.  While each of these high offices are worthy of effort, they are not the highest calling.  A king is but an administrator, a shepherd is just a protector, a priest is just a pointer, and an ambassador is just an assigned representative. There is one thing, only one profession greater that all these.

The minister as a prophet of God.  A prophet is a minister that speaks for God.  There is no higher calling. There is no greater task.  There is no greater priority.  Preaching is not some peripheral item in the program of the local church.  It lies at the very heart of what is to be a minister of God.  He is the truth teller and therefore must be a truth-seeker.  The primary purpose of the minister as prophet is to speak for another. Like Moses, he must travel the high hills to the mountain of God and talk with Him.  Talk to him face to face and then and only then can he come down and give the people the very revelations of God.  Being a profit is pouring back in a flood what was received from an audience with God in a vapor.

What does a prophet do?  What is his calling?  A prophet shares God’s intent; what God expects, what God desires, what God is planning to do, and what God judges.  A prophet shares God’s mind with those who want to hear and those who don’t. From the first prophet Moses to last Jesus, they all shared God’s proclamation that it is possible to align ourselves with God’s intent.

 

A Prophet shares God’s intent. But it is more than just an interpretation of the intent of God.  In second Peter the prophet does not share based upon his own understanding or initiative.  It is not just one person’s idea of God’s intent.  It is not a compiled list of three points explaining in a precise way a personal understanding of God’s intent.  It is a revelation from the Holy Spirit that pushes its way through the folly of man’s understanding and preaching.  Visionary preaching does not come from studied works or commentaries.  The tools of the study are not to be discounted; they are not bad things. The Visionary minister as Prophet is the mouth of God to a people who must hear from God to survive. Ministers should not throw intellectual rigor, research, personal values or planning out the window and expect God just to just fill his mind.  These things just can become poor substitutes for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There is no aspartame substitute for the sweetness of God.  The minister is the connection of God’s intent with God’s vehicles.

The offices of king, ambassador, shepherd, and priest are vital to the church, but without the word of God the church will suffer most.  The minister may lead the church in the best practices, the minister may proclaim to the community this is a place of healing and hope, the minister my well lead the well-known and intimate sheep to the safest places, the minister may well point the body to the throne of grace, but without the words of God it avails the minister little. Each of these offices have great worth to the ongoing function of the Body of Christ. Never-the-less without the mind of God all else is not as important.  The minister can shirk all his duties but that of preaching and still accomplish the work God has called him to do.

Preaching is the cornerstone of all ministry.  Out of the mind of God, out of the knowledge of the intent of God comes the other ministries.  A minister cannot be a leader to the church unless he knows God’s intent. A minister cannot be decision maker without knowing intimately the intent of God.  A minister cannot reach the unloved and the lacking without knowing the very mind of God.  An ambassador cannot proclaim the worth of his country without knowing the reason the homeland exists. The priest cannot point and guide the congregation to the throne of grace without knowing the intent of each ritual, event, or piece of music.

This writing is not to diminish these other ministries or even to underestimate necessity of them.  The importance of efforts outside the holy desk can never be overstated. The concept here is not that you should ignore them, to make these ministries as nothing more than pearls thrown before the swine, but to elevate the one most important and relevant to the church, to the community, to the world, and to God.

What next in Washington?

 

Well the election is over.  The Electoral College is soon to meet and make the official proclamation of Donald J. Trump as President.  He will be inaugurated in January.  So what does this mean to me?  The reality of it all is that no one man living in Washington will ever affect me as much as the God who rules the world.  A Scripture came to mind this morning and I would like you all to think about it.  It is from the Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:10 “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

Whether you say it like Jeremiah or as Trump, it still means there is always in the life of nations and peoples a time to drain the swamp to allow new growth.  You may not like the new policies or mandates, I am still living in the confidence of a God  who is still in charge.  Let God deal with leadership and let the growth begin.

Some are natural worriers. They fret and wring their hands in anguish over the pending change.  But with any change there is disruption to the status quo.  The issue is that this election shows to me our nation is in need of a righteous judgement. It is not because there is a Republican or a Democrat living in a house in Washington, it is because the nation needs to acknowledge and return back to God.

I believe a nation of self-satisfaction and entertainment is in need of a little tearing down and the resultant building up.  If the lies and inbred deceitfulness of our government is not dealt with it will fall.

I believe our country is at a tipping point.  One side of the level is sin and the other is a return back to a God based morality.  It is the countries choice.  If we do not deal with evil, we will be covered over by it like a grave.  The nation needs to realize the choice and move the nation toward repentance and seeking God’s grace.

flag

Sins of leader vested upon the people?

I struggle with the concept of the sins of a leader are vested upon the people.  It is stated in the words of Moses:

Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. Exodus 34:7

My study today is found in II Samuel 24:1-4.  A quick boiled down commentary is needed first:

1.        God was angry with the divided Hebrew nations of Israel and Judah.

2.       God’ anger was characterized by a burning anger.

3.       God incited (encouraged or stir up) violent behavior of David to do something that the people would not like.

4.       The punishment of the two nations was to be a census.  This meant everyone that was not in their tribal lands had to return to be counted.

5.       David really didn’t understand the command from God and decided only to count the men at arms. He probably thought they were the only ones that counted.

a.       It was probably easier for David to delegate the job to someone else

b.       It was probably David’s thinking that his own people were protected by soldiers rather than God.

c.       God was angry at the people not at him.

6.       David gave the Joab and the army commanders with them to do the census of the rank and file of the army.  Then told them to report back when they were finished.

7.       Joab, trying to understand the need explained to David that the number of soldiers were not as important as the Lord God who led them.

8.       Joab questioned David as to why then did he need a census of the solders.

9.       David just told him to do it.

So the pain of a census was now moved from David measuring all the people, to the commanders who had to count the solders.  Joab and his commanders left and did what David the kind commanded.

Picking up the story at verse 10.

1.       Somehow,  between the time of the sending of Joab and the commanders  and the results being returned, David realized his mistake.

2.       David was filled with guilt and asked God to forgive him after a contrite confession.

3.       While still in bed the next morning Gad the prophet showed up and presented three options of punishment for David.

a.       Three years of famine

                                                               i.      They had just endured a famine a few years earlier

                                                             ii.      It affected both of the countries of Judah and Israel including David and his household.

b.       To be pursued for three months by his enemies.

                                                               i.      It would not affect the people.

                                                             ii.      It would be a punishment for David only.

                                                           iii.      I would put David’s on wellbeing in jeopardy.

c.       A plague across both nations for three days.

                                                               i.      It would affect the people

                                                             ii.      David probably assumed Jerusalem would be spared

4.       David responded with the one the least likely to affect him. “Don’t let me fall into human hands.”

5.       The Lord sent a plague and killed 1.3 million people.

6.       The plague was approaching David’s home in Jerusalem and he realized this sin of his might actually affect him.

7.       David cries out to the avenging angel of plague and realized he was the cause of the punishment and he was now close to being touched by his sin’s consequences.

8.       David OK let it fall on me and my family.

Here is the issue number one:  Who was God really angry with? 

1.       Was it at David the anointed king and leader of Judah?

2.       Was it at the two nations that could not join together to be the theocracy they were designed to be?

3.       Was it general anger at everything both the king and the nation were doing?

Here is my take in simple terms:  The people were not where they should be in their relationship to God.  David’s response was to interpret wrongly what God wanted and the people paid the price.

Now after all that I end up with the concept why did 1.3 million die by plague in Israel and Judah?  I don’t believe it was because David sinned by not doing what God wanted.  What God really wanted was for David to lead the nation back to a righteous relationship with God.  The people were punished severely for their behaviors, their conscious acts, for their rebellion, for not following the will of God.

A thought on Perfect

I was sitting in my office this afternoon cleaning out a number of files off of my temporary thumb drive because it was full and I wanted to save some more important files. I can across a picture I had taken a month or so ago. It was of two of the most perfect persons in the whole world. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not prejudiced just because these two little souls are my grandkids. I caught myself getting a little misty and my analytical side broke in. What is perfection?
One of the oldest definitions is the one from Aristotle:
Perfect is that
1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

The first of these definitions is a part of the second, but between the second and third there is a giant difference. Something or someone is perfect that could not be better and something that has attained the designed purpose.

I struggle with comparisons. And following Aristotle’s line of logic there is no comparison in perfection. One cannot be better than the other. A grandson who would rather ride a bicycle over home made jumps is no less perfect than a granddaughter who prefers a swing on a homemade contraption in my back yard. Blond long hair is no less perfect than short blond hair. A “I love you pop pop” filled with bravado is no less perfect than a little smile and two pointing fingers directed to the depths of my soul. Both of my grandkids are complete, nothing could be better and reaching their purpose.
What is perfect? Perfection is that which brings a teardrop to the eye.

Matthew 5:48Matthew 5:48

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.