Amos 1-4 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He speaks through those He chooses to deliver His message

I must admit that I have a certain affinity toward the prophet Amos.  He was a shepherd who had visions!  Minding his own business and tending sheep in the countryside just south of Bethlehem, he started to receive visions from the Lord.  Perhaps the solitude of the countryside and the lack of social interaction provided the right atmosphere for God to communicate with Amos. This is something I think about when I find myself running all day long.

Amos was not from a family of prophets or priests, but he most certainly had a heart for God with open communication with him.  He was a shepherd and used many metaphors from the pasture in his writings.  Equally important to the lessons learned from what Amos said is the example of how his life reveals God’s intention to use anyone who is willing to touch the world.

Amos was a forerunner in the timeline of Israel’s next three professional prophets. Through divine revelation, he pronounced judgment on the surrounding countries as well as on Israel, and his tactic was brilliant.  People often say that sheep are dumb, and with that thinking, it wouldn’t have taken much intelligence or skill for Amos to tend them. However, through my encounters with countless sheep and numerous shepherds, I can say with confidence that most sheep are not as dumb as they are willful.  How better to describe the mindset of Israel at this time in history – pleasure seeking, idol worshiping willful sheep.

Just like with his sheep, Amos found a way to get the attention of Israel.  In Chapters 1 and 2, Amos waxed eloquent on the judgment that was coming to Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom and Ammon.  This must have thrilled the Israelites, and I can imagine them shouting in agreement with Amos, “Yes! Get them, God, for their injustices to us.” It’s easy to see the error in the lives of others and overlook our own problems, and so it was Israel at that time.

Then in his proclamations, Amos lowered the boom, “This is what the Lord says: ‘The people of Judah have sinned again and again, and I will not let them go unpunished!  They have rejected the instruction of the Lord, refusing to obey his decrees. They have been led astray by the same lies that deceived their ancestors.  So I will send down fire on Judah, and all the fortresses of Jerusalem will be destroyed.’” (2:4-6)  Party over.

The cultural norm of Israel at this time was not unlike what we are experiencing in the world today, a blending of right and wrong, blurred lines, everything gray.  Do what feels right…it can’t be wrong if it feels so right…God only wants us to feel good.  Many in Israel had crossed the line to what they knew to be wrong, yet did it anyway. After enumerating the ways God had attempted to get Israel’s attention through the years, Amos, speaking for God, delivered the final blow, “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced. Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”  I’m fairly certain that any affection for Amos and his message was over.

We can somewhat understand the feelings of the Israelites at this point.  I really don’t like it when a preacher, or a devotional for that matter, gets all up in my business and conviction comes to my heart. It’s easy to get uncomfortable and perhaps a little angry thinking, don’t mess with my gray areas and certainly don’t mess with my sin.   It never helps to shoot the messenger; it only helps to submit to the message.

When I stand before the Lord one day, I want to have responded to His merciful messages, I want to have experienced His wonderful grace and I want to hear something like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)  So, messengers of God, bring it! 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today that He opens doors of ministry to each one of us, regardless of our backgrounds, and I’m ever challenged to submit to the messages that He brings my way. 

Tomorrow @ John 16-18

Esther 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is keeping perfect records of our good deeds and acts of kindness

While Tom and I served as youth pastors many years ago, I was also the church bookkeeper.  Being somewhat dyslexic with numbers, this was a challenge for me.  The dictionary says that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage, which is a great relief to me.  I also admit that I was always just a little over the top on balancing the books each month to the penny – no mercy – to the penny!  Over the years, I spent several all-nighters searching for that penny or two so that I could close the books for the month.  I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but any free analysis is appreciated.

I’m happy to report, however, there is Someone who is keeping the books on each one of us, keeping track of all that we do and say, and He has no disorders or phobias.  His books are balanced to the very second, they never fall short and are disclosed at the perfect moment in time.  This truth is vividly portrayed in the life of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

@ Esther 6
“That night the king had trouble sleeping, so he ordered an attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him.  In those records he discovered an account of how Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the eunuchs who guarded the door to the king’s private quarters. They had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes.” (1-2)  The Jews in Persia were on the verge of being annihilated by the king’s evil assistant, Haman; and out of the blue, the king discovered this valiant act by Jewish Mordecai that was buried in the Persian history books.  Imagine that.

My mom was the Sunday School teacher for sixth grade girls at her church for 20 years.  During that time, every girl that attended her class heard an anointed teaching every Sunday, material she had studied, prayed and even wept over at times.  Every girl in her class heard the message of Jesus and was given an opportunity to accept Him and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as well.  Times had changed and younger voices were desired so mom retired from her position.  She cared nothing about this, but I observed that little appreciation was expressed to her at the time.

As she stepped into eternity a few years ago, however, I know the One who keeps the books met her with the only words of appreciation she ever wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with some of the girls who sat in her class Sunday after Sunday, and they have expressed their appreciation to me for the testimony and example my mom was to them.  I probably needed hearing their words more at that time than my mom ever needed hearing them.  God has a way of disclosing the books at the perfect moment.

The recognition of good deeds and right living often has a way of falling through the cracks with little notice or so it seems; but when those deeds are done with the right motive, we really don’t care whether or not they are noticed or appreciated.  There is a satisfaction that comes just from doing the right thing.  However, God is keeping the books on all our deeds; and whether they are disclosed during this lifetime or in eternity, the reward will come at just the right moment.

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” (10:3)  Now today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we honor as well the good deeds of Mordecai and the selflessness of Esther, an Old Testament type or example of Jesus. Their faithful deeds are ministering to us today at just the right moment. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that I’m no longer a bookkeeper but most thankful for the One who is keeping the books on my life.  His books are balanced right to the very second, they never fall short and are revealed at the perfect moment in time. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 149-150