You Are Precious

Amos 8:6
“That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals— Even sell the bad wheat?”

Because of sin, conditions in the nation of Israel had become so bad people were essentially, selling themselves to have their basic needs met. Men, women, and children were involved in deplorable acts for pennies. Amos figuratively describes a person who had sold themselves for a pair of shoes. I have often been struck by how little some people value themselves. Their self worth is so low, they will sell themselves to the first person who will give them the time of day. I think it might do us good to consider the value God places upon us.

You are not a byproduct of random chance that could be reproduced in a laboratory, with a few dollars worth of parts from the local hardware store. You are a highly valued work of the creative genius of God. In fact, you are the height of His creation, far above any thing else He made, for you were created in the very image of God. So important are you, that the Bible declares you were purchased by God. Peter explains,  the purchase price was not perishable things like silver and gold, but you were bought with the life of the Son of God. God gave up what He could not replace to purchase you for Himself. You are not a sale item, to be given away at a bargain basement price, to the first person who will look your way. Don’t settle for ungodly relationships or get get involved in harmful practices, because you are simply worth way too much for that.

Pastor Jim

 

In The Gap

Amos 7:5-6
“Then I said: ‘O Lord God, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!’ So the Lord relented concerning this. ‘This also shall not be,’ said the Lord God.” 

Amos, the shepherd-prophet, saw two consecutive visions that revealed the impending disaster looming over the nation. The first was a swarm of locust that would come just prior to harvest time. History records massive swarms of locusts in and around Israel, that had devastating affects upon the land, the people and the economy. One such incident describes a swarm so great, it devoured every crop in he field,  took the bark off the trees, and even the thatch off the roof of many homes. The only thing that stopped this deadly swarm, was when they finally reached the Sea. So many locust died in the waters that a plague broke out and thousands of people died. The second vision was that of a fire that would consume the land. If these visions were fulfilled consecutively, the devastation would be catastrophic.

What happens next is amazing. Amos declares, these visions did not come to pass. This was not because they were idle threats, nor was it because God does not keep His promises. These disasters were averted because of the intercession of one man, who once cared for sheep and now cared for the nation. This one man who stood in the gap and prayed on behalf of the entire nation, rescued the people from disaster.

This is quite convicting to me, partly because I tend to associate the work of God with a multitude of people. If we called a prayer meeting and five thousand people showed up, we might expect God to do something great. We might even anticipate the moral tide of the country to begin to change. However, when we sit alone in our devotion chair, and intercede on behalf of others, we rarely do so with great expectation. Keep in mind,  a lowly shepherd from Tekoa stood in the gap, prayed for his nation, and the judgment of God was averted.
What, or perhaps, who will you stand in the gap for today?

Pastor Jim

 

Who’s To Blame?

Amos 6:14
“But, behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,” Says the Lord God of hosts; “And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the Valley of the Arabah.”

Israel was facing calamity; their economy was in the tank and the nations around them were becoming an increasing threat. Soon they would be overthrown and taken captive by Assyria. These difficulties, although natural, had a spiritual cause and remedy. They were not being defeated because their armies were weak and untrained, or because their numbers were too small to defend themselves. They were simply facing the consequences of turning away from God. Drought, famine, pestilence, barrenness, defeat and other calamities were some of the consequences Israel faced because they turned their backs on the Lord. With divine guidance, the prophets heralded a message that the difficulties they faced were nothing short of the judgment of God.

It is difficult today to directly associate every calamity the nations face as divine judgment. We cannot know for sure if an earthquake or other natural or manmade disaster has anything to do with divine retribution, or if it is simply the consequences of living in a fallen world, surrounded by sinful men. But one thing is sure, these types of events should grab our attention, and turn it upward. Jesus explained that the times leading to His return would be marked by wars, famines and natural disasters. Instead of summits on climate change, we should be seeing gatherings of people determined to seek the Lord on behalf of the nations. What the world needs, today, is people who are willing to stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of those who have not yet come to faith in Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Prepared 

Amos 4:12
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Whenever a big event is on the horizon, it is a good idea to spend the necessary time preparing for it. Every year the women’s ministry at our church has a mid-summer luncheon. If you were to wander onto the campus you would see the place decorated to the hilt. Every table, backdrop, wall covering and notebook fits within the overall motif, and the place always looks amazing. It would be clear, even to the most casual observer, that lots of planning and preparation had gone into this particular day.

Amos speaks of an event far more important than any luncheon, vacation, or travel destination. Amos speaks of us preparing for the unavoidable day when we will all come face to face with the Lord. No matter what your personal beliefs might be, the Bible assures us, everyone will stand before the throne of God, when this life comes to an end. The question is, have you done what is necessary in order to be prepared?  Jesus told two parables to illustrate the preparations necessary to be ready to face God.

First, He told the story of 10 bridesmaids who were awaiting the arrival of the groom. They were told to fill their lamps with oil as the awaited his coming. Five of these young women prepared themselves, and when He arrived they were welcomed into the celebration. The other five failed to do what was necessary, and were forbidden entrance (Matthew 25:1-15). The one thing that prepared these women for the coming of the groom was a lamp filled with oil. Biblically speaking, oil is often used to represent the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying, the way to be ready to face the Lord is to be born of the Spirit; which happens when we trust in Christ for salvation.

Jesus went on to tell another story. This time He spoke of a king who gave varying sums of money to there different individuals. The first and second took the funds and made investments with it, the third hid the money out of fear of losing it. When the king returned he commended the first two and rebuked the third, for failing to prepare (Matthew 25:15-28). The illustration is quite clear. We prepare for eternity by making eternal investments. Jesus called this storing up treasures in heaven; which is done by using our time, talents and treasures in he service of the Lord.

One day time will run out for all of us. It is important that we prepare in advance for the day when we will come face to face with Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

When Lions Attack 

Amos 5:18
“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light.”

In recent years, people have become fascinated with end-of-the-world scenarios. We have been inundated with movies about environmental crises, alien invasions, and zombie apocalypses, that have brought an end to the human race. Mixed in with these, have been best selling novels about the Book of Revelation. Believers and unbelievers alike, have read cover-to-cover, as the prophecies of the Bible are painted in real life scenarios. With all of that, we have seen little change in the course of the world we live in. It is as if people are excited about the possibility of the return of Christ, but not quite committed enough to allow it to change the way they think or live.

Things were the same in Amos’ day. Many people, who were living ungodly lives, were hoping for the Messiah to come and fix everything. Amos explained to the one who is not committed to the Lord, the day of the Lord will not be what they are hoping for. He went on to illustrate it this way,

Amos 5:19 “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him!”

Just as the armies came and took Israel captive, so the day of Christ’s return will one day come. The message of Scripture is a call to prepare in advance. The first step is to trust Christ for salvation, the next is to surrender all to him. The question to ask is, “What silly things are you holding on to that you would find embarrassing if Christ were to come today?” Whatever those are, it is time to set them aside and “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Pastor Jim

 

Walking Together 

Amos 3:3
“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”

If you and I were to go on a walk, we would not have to agree about everything, but we would have to agree about where we were going. Once we disagreed about direction, we could no longer walk together. Amos is suggesting that Israel failed to walk with God because they were not in agreement with the direction God was taking them. This passage is written long after God had walked Israel through the wilderness and into the promised land, but I am reminded of what God told the people during their wilderness journey.

Exodus 19:4 “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”

God made it clear, the destination which He was leading Israel, was not the land of Israel, but was to relationship with God. We are all on that same journey. Once we have received Christ, we begin a process called sanctification, where we are becoming like Christ. Every trial and blessing becomes a tool in God’s hand to accomplish this work in our lives. He wants to cut away the things that are ungodly from our lives and replace them with things that bring Him glory. However, the only way we will be successful is if we agree with God that we want to become like Him. Once that happens, we will allow Him to remove unnecessary things.

Are you willing? Have you sat before the Lord and truly asked Him to do whatever it takes to make you the person He wants you to be? If not, do that now. Take some time to confess what you are doing wrong and ask God to help you do what is right.

Pastor Jim

 

Shepherd Or Butcher 

Amos 1:1
“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

When the car breaks we look for a mechanic, when the body breaks we want a doctor, and when pipes leak it is a plumber we are interested in. We realize, to get the job done right we need a well- trained expert. God on the other hand, works by a different set of rules. Since He has no limitations, He is able to choose the foolish things of the world to accomplish his purposes. When he needed to get a message to the nations, he chose a shepherd from the hills of Tekoa. It is not as though Amos had no qualifications, it is just that the qualifications to be used by the Lord are totally different than those necessary to be chosen by men.

Amos met one of the chief requirements for anyone who desires to be used by God. Amos was a shepherd. Not everyone who wants to serve Christ has to train by learning to care for sheep, but all ministry must be done with the heart of a shepherd. The chief role of a shepherd is to care for the sheep, and he does this by focusing upon feeding and protecting them. Basically, a shepherd does what he does, not for his own benefit,  but for that of the sheep he has been given responsibility over.

Prior to entering full-time ministry, I worked as an apprentice butcher at a local market. My responsibility was to cut and display fish, poultry and meat. Every year, as Passover approached, we would receive cases filled with legs of lamb. During that week, I would spend much of my day de-boning dozens of lamb legs for individual customers. I must admit, I did this with my mouth watering as I imagined seasoning them with Italian dressing and placing them on the grill. I learned then, that a butcher looks at sheep differently than a pastor. The butcher looks at how the sheep will benefit him, while the pastor looks out for the interest of the sheep.

If we desire to be called by God, the one requirement, in addition being a follower of Christ, is that we have the heart of a shepherd. We must not look at people for what they can do for us or our vision. We must look at others, seeking how we can serve them, and help them grow into the person God has called them to be.

Pastor Jim