Monday, November 20, 2006

A Nostalgic Faith...

I have titled the series of messages that I have preaching from Amos, “How to Survive Prosperity”. It seems especially difficult for Christians to survive the blessing of God—just as it was for Israel in Amos’ day. We seem to turn God’s blessing into curses pretty easily by walking away from Him when times are good. I hope to get outlines from each of the messages up on the blog eventually, but at the very least, I’ll get the current message posted. The instructions to survive prosperity have progressed as follows:

#1—Receive God’s Message (Amos 1:1-2)
#2—Obey God’s Directions (Amos 1:3-2:5)
#3—Practice God’s Justice (Amos 2:6-8)
#4—Live Under God’s Protection (Amos 2:9-16)
#5—Speak God’s Message (Amos 3:1-8)
#6—Battle God’s “Near-by Enemy” (Amos 3:9-15)
#7—Walk in God’s High Places (Amos 4:1-13)
#8—Seek God’s Present Activity (Amos 5:1-7)

The passage in Amos five begins with a funeral song to mourn fallen Israel. The virgin (unfulfilled/youthful nation) has fallen in battle alone with no one to assist her. She is defeated—1000 go out to battle but only 100 return! We can easily apply this to our contemporary American church that is on the decline while churches in India, Korea, and China to name of few are flourishing.

Verses 4-6 contain the heart of the message: Seek God’s present activity and stop living in the past! Twice, we are told to, “Seek God in order to live”. Sandwiched between the two declarations are three commands: “Don’t go to Bethel”, “Don’t go to Gilgal”, and “Don’t go to Beersheba”. The importance of these three cities is emphasized by Bethel being mentioned three times, Gilgal twice, and Beersheba once. All three of these cities were centers of religious worship with Bethel begin perhaps the most frequented and Beersheba the least. These are well-known places where people would travel to worship. The religious significance of these cities is crucial to understand and apply this passage. Beersheba is where Abraham traveled to and lived following his attempt to sacrifice Isaac to God (Genesis 22). Gilgal is where Joshua and those who would participate in the conquest of the promised land first camped after having miraculously crossed the Jordan river (Joshua 5). Bethel is where Jacob set up a stone as a pillar after having had a dream where he saw the angels of God ascending and descending upon a ladder. He declared the the place to be “The House of God” (Bethel) (Genesis 28). The Israelites celebrated God’s past activity in these places while denying Him the opportunity to act in the present. They worshipped a dead God! We too, often worship God as if He were dead. We don’t expect Him to act as He has throughout the pages of scripture. We don’t expect miracles! We don’t expect “real” communication! We don’t expect healing and true spiritual transformation! Don’t live in the past! Don’t go to Bethel! Seek God today! He has yet to perform His greatest works!

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