A sign in the heavens

Breathtaking, beautiful, wondrous, marvellous, mesmerizing are but a few of the descriptions that could be used to describe this picture, but I like the simple WOW, the best!!!  Aside from the sheer beauty of it, some will ponder what causes it and other look for a greater meaning to its occurrence.  There can be scientific meanings to the sky, as any meteorologist can testify to.  But, you don't have to be a scientist to understand that dark clouds mean the possibility of rain or high humidity may mean fog in the morning.  Some things should NOT be explained, but rather taken on faith.  Here is one example...

Matthew, Chapter 16
 1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him, asked him to show them a sign from heaven.  2 But he answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’   3  In the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times!   4  An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Scientists will scoff at faith, but is faith really so unreasonable?  Even the very educated assume some things, for example, that your car will not blow up when you turn the ignition key or when you board an airplane that the pilot really knows how to fly the plane. Do not look for signs in the sky, but rather for evidence that Jesus really is who he says he is.  Believe me, there is plenty of that!!!  And along the way, you will see some beauty as well and when you combine the two life will seem different.  Well, here we go again; reread the first sentence!!!

I BELIEVE TOO by Gary Womack


Jesus used the illustration of a lost sheep to teach the joy associated with its being found by a shepherd who values that one lost sheep enough to leave ninety nine in order to find it. We find that parable in Lk. 15:4-6. At the conclusion of that parable, Jesus said, "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Lk. 15:7) There is great significance in the fact that such earthly events summons such great attention in the heavenly realm among the angels. We should be every bit as impressed!
While some may wander far, there are those whose walk has not taken them as far into the wilderness of sin. But even these are in need of the Shepherd's staff to turn them toward the right way so they may be lead along with the rest of the flock by the Shepherd of their soul. We all must stay near our Shepherd and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There are those who have listened to a "strange voice" for nearly a life time, and then when they hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, they come in obedience to that new voice. Jesus said, "...other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." (Jn. 10:16) When He said this, He was having reference to the Gentiles who would also be a part of the promise of God's grace, to join with those of the Jews who would come to Him through His Son in one body, which is the church. (See Eph. 1:22 - 3:13) We "...were called in one body." (Col. 3:15) The fact that Jesus referred to "other sheep" to be brought into His one flock, lets us know that those who are not a part of His flock are in need of entering His fold (sheepfold) in order to have the protection that is offered there. That is the message of Jn 10:1-18.
Unlike "older" sheep who are brought into His flock, there are those who are "young sheep" who likewise enter His fold. These "young ones" are those who have heeded the admonition of Solomon, who said, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them' " (Eccl. 12:1) These youths have enjoyed in their young life, guidance from parents who have pointed them in the direction of their Creator, as those who have heeded the words spoken by Moses when he said, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:6-9) How blessed are the young in Christ whose parents first had His "words" in their "hearts" and then shared it with them!
I'm reminded of a time when three of our young people had been baptized into Christ over a short period of time. They had been nurtured along by godly parents whose teachings and examples had brought them to this point in their lives. No doubt, the occasion of one's obedience to God's command of baptism for the remission of sins captures the attention of both angelic beings as well as mortals, both young and old. I was reminded of this one Sunday evening after one of those young people named Daniel had been baptized into Christ. As my family and I traveled home, our grandson, Ryan (almost 3 years old), asked why Daniel needed a "bath." His honest curiosity that prompted that question brought both smiles as well as a valuable opportunity to teach his very young heart. It was a ripe time to talk about what sin is and how God loves us and has made a way for us to "wash off those sins" so we can be clean in God's sight. What Ryan could not have fully understood yet is that such obedience "now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 3:21)
Earlier, on our way to the building where this baptism was to take place, there was much discussion regarding what was about to happen. Our granddaughter, Kaylea (almost 5 years old), was full of questions about what Daniel was about to do. The explanation to her was that Daniel was going to be baptized. Her response was to ask "Why is he going to be baptized?" What a wonderful opportunity for teaching! It was explained to her that Daniel was going to be baptized because "he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Her immediate response was an enthusiastic "I believe Jesus is God's Son too!" The implication of her declaration of faith was to say "why can't I be baptized too?" That reminds me of the Ethiopian eunuch who heard the gospel message and said, " 'See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?' Then Philip said, 'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.' So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38) While Kaylea didn't understand all of the implications of such obedience, we were touched by her honest sincerity and that childlike spirit that was eager to hear and believe. Someday, Kaylea, when you understand the greatness of Christ's sacrifice, you may.
The conversation on the way home that followed centered around those in our family who have been baptized into Christ. Then Kaylea began asking about others whom we know who have not obeyed the gospel. Now it was time for her to teach us something. There are souls that are lost, who need to hear the Shepherd's voice, who needs the blood of His sacrifice, who needs to be brought into the protection of His fold. "What does it profit" if we see the lost and say, "be warmed and filled" but do not share with them that which is needed for the soul? (Read Jas. 2:14-26) Thanks, kids. - Gary V. Womack - December 2003



You can never go back to the way it used to be. You can try to replicate the past, but it will never be the same. We live in a world of change. Residents of Pasco county can especially appreciate that as we see land being swallowed up into huge housing developments and commercial centers. The small town atmosphere is quickly giving way to a more modern lifestyle and I find myself sounding like those I once used to hear talking about "the good old days."
No doubt we enjoy the fruits of progress, but it is at the expense of a loss of simpler times and a slower paced way of life. As much as we may long to go back, there is no such thing. Life goes on. To many, accepting change is not easy, especially as we grow older. But to some, change is excruciatingly difficult because it evokes a dreaded uncertainty for the future that looms incredulously before us and threatens the comfort of familiarity . Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a part of each one of us that longs for some semblance of immutability and the certainty of unchangeableness. We want something we can hold on to that we can depend on.
We look for dependability in people but are often only disappointed by broken promises and deception. Here again we long for certainty in a spirit of trust that depends on another over whom we have no control. A high percentage of families suffer the uncertainty of a broken marriage where each member (especially children) live in constant instability. Employees work in an atmosphere of uncertainty where jobs and careers can be snuffed out in a moment. So, is there anything in which we can say, "This remains constant and I can depend on this, no matter what may come?"
As mortal beings we are inherently at risk for change and uncertainty as we face death and the mystery that lies beyond this world. But in spite of that, there is hope in our ever-changing world - a hope that is found beyond this world of changeableness.
As God addressed His unruly and unthankful people who refused to fear (honor) Him, He said, "For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (Mal. 3:6) The only reason that Israel remained and had not been consumed by God was because He does not change and His promises remain firm. His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remained unchanged; "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen. 22:18) Paul spoke of this when he said, "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ." (Gal. 3:16)
God kept His promise to send His Son. In doing so, He demonstrated His unchangeableness and the certainty of His promises. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn. 1:14) And His Son, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8)
Christ proved His unchangeable nature in doing all that He promised and proving the dependability of the Scriptures in fulfillment of their record. Paul declared the proving of this divine record when he said, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-40)
Jesus declared the certainty of that scriptural record while He was alive when He declared, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Mt. 5:18)
Jesus did not fail to fulfill those words and in so doing He proved that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (Jas. 1:17) As surely as His presence does not cast shadows based on the movement of the sun, He stands unmoved and as dependable as His word. As David wrote, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations..." (Psm. 119:89-90)
Solomon wrote, "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him." (Eccl. 3:14) This is so because, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations." (Psm. 33:11)
Here is where we can put down our anchor in the midst of a tossing sea of uncertainty. While the world around us stirs in constant change, God and His word remain sure and His promises certain. Therefore we can find comfort and hope in the words of Jesus; "Do not let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places. But if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you! And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." (Jn. 14:1-4)(LITV)
The words written by Thomas O. Chisholm still ring true as they are sung under the title, "He Changes Not:"

Amid the changing scenes below, where many come and many go,
My wistful soul will oft cry out for one who stays, who changes not.
The years pass on, a shifting train, of things familiar, few remain,
How sweet, how comforting the thought, that one remains who changes not.
As it has been, so will it be till comes life's final hour for me,
Mine surely is a favored lot - I have a Friend who changes not.
He changes not, Christ changes not! Though I should be by all forgot,
He still remains and will remain! My precious Lord who changes not.

- Gary V. Womack - July 2005

The Divine Surgeon by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

The Divine Surgeon

God can't love sin but he can't cease loving sinners, they're his children, wayward and sinful though they are. See the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15 and compare Acts 17:28-29.
Fullness of life with God isn't possible if we are estranged from him by our sin. Life is a two-way experience so it isn't enough that God ceaselessly wants us to have life we must want it also. You can't have “friendship” when one of the two wants and enjoys wanting to be the other one's enemy. In loving our sin we don't want life with God so he moves in Christ to deal with what stands between him and us.
The sin that keeps us apart from him is not an abstraction; it is sin that is an actual part of the sinners and their history with God, so that when God moves against that sin it involves moving against sinners. Sort of, like a surgeon who moves against a tumor or infection. It isn't the patient he's mad at; it's the cancer or infection. But the infection doesn't exist outside the body of the patient so instead of doing surgery on the operating table on which the patient is lying the surgeon puts the knife to the sick patient. While the surgeon would be against “disease” in principle there's more to him and his work than that.
God's "invasive surgery" is no act of spite or foaming rage against sinners, on the contrary, he is ruthlessly dealing with the sin that keeps sinners from him. The Holy Father must do that or there is no life for us. He isn't afraid of sin any more than the surgeon is afraid of the cancer. It isn't that God can't look at sin (we sometimes say silly things like, God can't even look on sin, as if that's what Habakkuk 1:13 meant). It's precisely because he and he alone does look at it and see it for what it is that he is unchangeably opposed to it and works to destroy it.
Only when we're one with God in holy love can we enjoy life to the full (John 10:10) and experience the health that “sound” (health-full) teaching brings. He gives us food, gladness, life and “everything else” (Acts 14:17 and 17:25) but fullness of life is much more than that. Life with God means more than being on the receiving end of his gifts--it means being related to him in oneness of heart. A relationship like that results in blessings beyond imagination but the relationship is not to be reduced to the blessings that flow from it. To reject the Christ is to live before God as a recipient of blessings until we meet him, having said our final no to him. To receive God in Jesus Christ is to experience eternal life, life that will never end and life that is of such a quality that it cannot end. Life like that is found only in a dynamic and ongoing relationship with God in Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

Should we or should we not? by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Should we or should we not?

Where lies the cure for our sinning? Should we be looking for a cure?
“We should be pursuing holiness!”
Indeed we should; but should the pursuit of holiness be a self-conscious pursuit? I want to be better? God forgive me, if I’m not endlessly grinding my teeth over my sins I’m ceaselessly examining myself for signs of growth in holiness or coming up with schemes that "without a doubt" will enrich my spiritual llife. In either case I continue to put myself at the centre of the universe!
There's something I can't quite get a handle on but I think it’s the direction we should be going. My suspicion is that Jesus was the most unselfconscious person that ever lived. I think his eyes were so focussed on his Father and the Father's purpose for the world that he lost sight of himself altogether.
And when he did speak or think of himself it was as if he were thinking of someone else ("The Son of Man must…" this or that); as if he were thinking of someone he knew who had a destiny and a mission. I suspect that he didn't spend time thinking, "I must become holier!" My guess is that he became obsessed with his Father's heart and purpose toward a sinning and suffering humanity that he forgot to pursue holiness because he didn't need to consciously pursue holiness (as though it were a major project or the major project).
In admiring his Father, in admiring his purposes he grew more and more like him (didn’t I read somewhere that he "grew in wisdom and in...favour with God and men"?) The call to holiness in Hebrews 12:14 is one we dare not ignore or minimise and yet at the same time it is a concession to our sinfulness. He wouldn't have to say such a thing to Jesus!
Since we can't match him in such a dimension—what is there for us? I can't say with any certainty; but maybe if by the Spirit we can take our eyes off ourselves and become astonished at God and his Son we'd see a change. We can do that by a more sustained, focussed and hungry reflection on them in the Word--who knows, something wondrous might happen. Maybe it'd be better to do that than to be forever looking in a mirror at our own image.[Balance this where you must.]

Rejoice with great joy by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Rejoice with great joy

Someone I love beyond words spoke to me on the phone just a while ago. The note that follows tells you how her call affected me.
How it pleases me to hear your tears of joy when you hear something of the gospel that lifts your heart. If a choice had to be made I would rather hear and see that in you than hear that you earned a Ph.d or became famous.
You must rejoice greatly in the fact that you rejoice in this way. To rejoice in something (anything) implies an inner shaping and structure. We can't pretend to rejoice (not to ourselves)--we either do or we don't. If we rejoice it's because we are so shaped within that when this or that is experienced it brings us pleasure. It doesn't matter if it's strawberries and cream or a long drink of cold water or the sight of a playful pet. There are those that are not capable of enjoying the sunshine or good food or the other blessings that we take for granted and that's a great sadness.
To be able to rejoice in the gospel is a gift from God.
It isn't only a gift from God; it's proof that God has been at work in us. At work in us overcoming all the things that would lead us to be indifferent to the gospel. Our rejoicing is proof that God has poured out his love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
So the rejoicing is not only a deeply pleasant experience it is one of the proofs that God has entered us and called us to himself. It is one of the proofs that we have peace with God. These occasions of deep pleasure are momentary and passing occasions, when he who always dwells in us comes to visit. It's as though someone we long to see rings the doorbell, we open it and there he is. "I just thought I'd drop by for a while. I want you to know I'd miss you if you weren't around." Our hearts surge with that emotion that's so pleasurable it's almost painful and we throw our arms around him and welcome him in.
Such moments come to us as "moments". They pass. But not in the sense that they are "merely passing" things. They are moments when the lasting relationship makes itself felt especially amid the business and cares of life.
To be able to rejoice in God and his gospel is a profound experience so rejoice in the fact that you can rejoice.

Recognize the Bible's Central Purpose by Jim McGuiggan

Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan

Recognize the Bible's Central Purpose

To study Shakespeare as a way to learn geography is to waste your time and miss Shakespeare. To approach Poetry as you would Maths is to miss poetry's beauty, point and power. We must recognise the kind of literature we are dealing with and it's equally important to recognise the purpose of that literature. (We don't understand a tool until we know what it is designed to do. The same is true of literature. Until we know both what a writer said and why he said it, we don't understand him!)
The Bible has a central purpose. When asked what the Bible was for, James Packer said: "It was written to make friends!" That's too simple, of course, but it is profoundly true! The Bible is written to lead people into life with God through Jesus Christ. This life involves pardon from sin and devotion to the Saviour! The Bible's central aim is unashamedly religious. It's goal is to produce and sustain faith in God through Jesus Christ so that people might return to and remain with God!
The following verses (from among many) tell us plainly why the word of God is given to Man. Please be sure to read them!
There is 2 Tim 3:15 which tells us the Scriptures make us wise unto salvation. John 20:30-31 says the Book was written that people might have eternal life through trusting in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:23,25 says that the word was preached so people could be 'born again'. Psalm 19:7 says the scriptures revive the soul. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 teaches that God's laws are given that people might have life rather than death, prosperity rather than destruction. 2 Tim 3:16-17 tells us that the scriptures are valuable because they thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work!
Now, what has all this to do with the study of Scripture? To ignore the Bible's central purpose is to misunderstand it! We must listen to it as to the voice of God calling us into loving fellowship with him. We are not to read it as mere observers of some ancient drama, we are to recognise our place in the ongoing drama. We are to recognise its history as Man's history, and ours in particular. If we fail (and we could!), to hear the voice of God in the Bible, calling us and challenging us, we have missed the Bible's message and purpose. It is 'bread'to be eaten rather than simply analysed! To be fed on, more than to undergo constant inspection!
And the Bible is not a substitute for God! To confuse a love letter from our husband or wife with our husband or wife is to violate the purpose of the letter. The love letter is not intended to come between the two lovers. Its aim is to bring the two persons closer together. To substitute the letter for the person is a fundamental error. To confuse God's covenantal law or his message of Good News with God himself is to err at the most crucial level. We must study the Scriptures with open hearts, seeking his friendship. It is a tragedy beyond words to search the Scriptures and miss God (see John 5:39-40).
The central purpose of the Bible is to bring us to life with God and that life is found only in Jesus Christ, Because this is so he is the central character in God's purpose. Therefore, how we stand in relation to Jesus Christ is the issue which must be understood and settled before any other question is given serious consideration.
Our Bible study should begin with the New Testament scriptures. With those which deal most directly with God's liberating work in Jesus Christ and how God wants us to respond to it. We must begin with him and not in the Old Testament. In olden times, says the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2), God spoke to the ancients in "fragmentary and varied fashion". In Jesus Christ he has spoken in a final and completed way. God's fullest and clearest revelation has been made in Jesus Christ and that is why he must be the centre and focus of our Bible Study. Read John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5 on all this.
Begin your study, then, in the New Testament. Especially the GOSPELS (the first four books of the New Testament) and ACTS. Don't neglect the NT EPISTLES (letters) for they help us immeasurably to understand the GOSPELS. And don't completely avoid the Old Testament. But, in the beginning, make the GOSPELS and ACTS the centre around which your studies revolve. And do so with a view to finding freedom and life with God in Jesus Christ. This is the grand purpose for Bible study!
All truths are important but some are more important than others. The Bible itself confirms what commonsense tells us. Here are just a few verses which make this truth clear.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 where Paul said some things were "of first importance".
Matthew 23:23 where Jesus rebuked people for neglecting "the more important matters" of the law.
Matthew 5:19 and 22:38 where Jesus speaks of "the least" and "the greatest" commandments.
1 Samuel 15:22-23 where the prophet insists that the Lord delights more in obedience than in the offering of religious sacrifices.
These scriptures say some things mean more to God than others, some truths are more important than others. If we keep this in mind we will give special attention to the more important matters. We will not spend a great deal of time on little questions when major issues stare us in the face. We won't spend a lot of time on obscure verses when plain words demand a response from us. We will gladly tolerate differences on minor issues but we will stand firmly on foundational truths.
As you gain experience you will be able to distinguish more easily between what matters tremendously and what does not, between what is essential truth and what there can be room for honest differences on.
Does the Bible link the subject with salvation or forgiveness? Does it link the subject to life in Christ? Is the topic related to faithfulness to God and our neighbour? Does it seriously affect the 'truth of the Gospel' or how we view an honourable life before God? If it does, the subject is fundamentally important. Learn well the things that are plainly stated, obey the things that are plainly called for and remain open to receive the rest as you continue to gain more experience. Treat no truth as unimportant but follow the Bible when it teaches that some matters "are more important" than others (Matthew 23:23 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
1) To understand the Bible we must understand its nature and purpose!
2) Its central purpose is to bring us life with God!
3) Christ himself brings us life with God so we must make him the centre of our thoughts!
4) Our study must centre around the GOSPELS and ACTS!
5) Some truths are more important than others!

Bible Reading, Jan. 30

Jan. 30
Genesis 30

Gen 30:1 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister. She said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I will die."
Gen 30:2 Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in God's place, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?"
Gen 30:3 She said, "Behold, my maid Bilhah. Go in to her, that she may bear on my knees, and I also may obtain children by her."
Gen 30:4 She gave him Bilhah her handmaid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.
Gen 30:5 Bilhah conceived, and bore Jacob a son.
Gen 30:6 Rachel said, "God has judged me, and has also heard my voice, and has given me a son." Therefore called she his name Dan.
Gen 30:7 Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, conceived again, and bore Jacob a second son.
Gen 30:8 Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed." She named him Naphtali.
Gen 30:9 When Leah saw that she had finished bearing, she took Zilpah, her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob as a wife.
Gen 30:10 Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, bore Jacob a son.
Gen 30:11 Leah said, "How fortunate!" She named him Gad.
Gen 30:12 Zilpah, Leah's handmaid, bore Jacob a second son.
Gen 30:13 Leah said, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me happy." She named him Asher.
Gen 30:14 Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother, Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes."
Gen 30:15 She said to her, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes, also?" Rachel said, "Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son's mandrakes."
Gen 30:16 Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "You must come in to me; for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes." He lay with her that night.
Gen 30:17 God listened to Leah, and she conceived, and bore Jacob a fifth son.
Gen 30:18 Leah said, "God has given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband." She named him Issachar.
Gen 30:19 Leah conceived again, and bore a sixth son to Jacob.
Gen 30:20 Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good dowry. Now my husband will live with me, because I have borne him six sons." She named him Zebulun.
Gen 30:21 Afterwards, she bore a daughter, and named her Dinah.
Gen 30:22 God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her, and opened her womb.
Gen 30:23 She conceived, bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach."
Gen 30:24 She named him Joseph, saying, "May Yahweh add another son to me."
Gen 30:25 It happened, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own place, and to my country.
Gen 30:26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service with which I have served you."
Gen 30:27 Laban said to him, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, stay here, for I have divined that Yahweh has blessed me for your sake."
Gen 30:28 He said, "Appoint me your wages, and I will give it."
Gen 30:29 He said to him, "You know how I have served you, and how your livestock have fared with me.
Gen 30:30 For it was little which you had before I came, and it has increased to a multitude. Yahweh has blessed you wherever I turned. Now when will I provide for my own house also?"
Gen 30:31 He said, "What shall I give you?" Jacob said, "You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it.
Gen 30:32 I will pass through all your flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted one, and every black one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats. This will be my hire.
Gen 30:33 So my righteousness will answer for me hereafter, when you come concerning my hire that is before you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and black among the sheep, that might be with me, will be counted stolen."
Gen 30:34 Laban said, "Behold, I desire it to be according to your word."
Gen 30:35 That day, he removed the male goats that were streaked and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
Gen 30:36 He set three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
Gen 30:37 Jacob took to himself rods of fresh poplar, almond, plane tree, peeled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
Gen 30:38 He set the rods which he had peeled opposite the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs where the flocks came to drink. They conceived when they came to drink.
Gen 30:39 The flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.
Gen 30:40 Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the streaked and all the black in the flock of Laban: and he put his own droves apart, and didn't put them into Laban's flock.
Gen 30:41 It happened, whenever the stronger of the flock conceived, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods;
Gen 30:42 but when the flock were feeble, he didn't put them in. So the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
Gen 30:43 The man increased exceedingly, and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Haggai - Build The Temple (1:1-2:23) by Mark Copeland

                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

                 Haggai - Build The Temple! (1:1-2:23)


1. In our survey of "The Minor Prophets", we now jump ahead about 
   100 years...
   a. Prophets like Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk prophesied shortly
      before the seventy years of Babylonian captivity (i.e. before 
      606-536 B.C.)
   b. Following the return under the leadership of Zerubbabel (536 
      B.C.), it was not long before two more prophets were sent to the
      people of Israel

2. These prophets were Haggai and Zechariah, the first of which we
   shall consider in this lesson...
   a. Concerning the MAN
      1) His name means "Festival" or "Festive"
      2) What we know of Haggai is limited to his book and references 
         in Ezra (see below)
      3) Together with Zechariah he motivated the Jews in rebuilding
         the temple
   b. Concerning the MESSAGE
      1) It is commonly dated around 520 B.C. (the second year of King
         Darius - Hag 1:1)
         a) For the foundation of the temple had been laid shortly 
            after the arrival under the leadership of Zerubbabel (i.e.,
            536 B.C.) - cf. Ezra 3:8-13
         b) Yet opposition to rebuilding the temple stopped it for 16 
            years - Ezra 4:1-24
         c) God then raised up Haggai and Zechariah - Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14
      2) The theme of Haggai's preaching:  Build The Temple!
         a) His message contains four separate proclamations
         b) All within four months - cf. Hag 1:1; 2:1,10,20

[As we outline and briefly consider the message of Haggai, we begin by


      1. Haggai takes the Lord's message to Israel's leaders - Hag 1:1
         a. Zerubbabel the governor (who lead the first group of exiles
            back home)
         b. Joshua the high priest (also known as Jeshua, Ezra 2:1-2,
            36,40; 3:2-8)
      2. The Lord takes issue with what the people have been saying 
         - Hag 1:2-4
         a. They have been saying the time is not right to build the 
         b. The Lord challenged them as to whether they should live in
            paneled houses while the temple lies in ruins
      1. The Lord challenged them to consider what was happening - Hag 1:5-6
         a. Their efforts were much
         b. But they received little in return
      2. To motivate them in building the temple, their trouble is 
         explained - Hag 1:7-11
         a. They needed to build the temple and thereby glorify God
         b. For their efforts to obtain much for themselves was 
            frustrated by God
            1) They looked for much, but God blew it away
            2) While His house lay in ruins, they were busy building 
               their own
            3) Therefore God had called for a drought on the land and
               its fruit

      1. With the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the people obeyed
         - Hag 1:12
      2. The Lord promises to be with them - Hag 1:13
      3. Stirred up by the Lord, Zerubbabel and Joshua lead the remnant
         to resume work on the temple - Hag 1:14-15

[From Hag 1:1,15, we can determine that it took 24 days for the people
to begin rebuilding the temple.  About a month later (cf. Hag 2:1),
another message from the Lord comes by way of Haggai.  This message 


      1. Haggai is sent again to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the faithful
         remnant - Hag 2:1-2
      2. Those who had seen the former temple in its glory are asked if
         the present temple appears as nothing in comparison - Hag 2:3
      -- The new temple evidently did not compare with the temple built
         by Solomon

      1. The Lord encourages them to be strong, for He is with them 
         - Hag 2:4-5
      2. The Lord promises to make the glory of this temple greater 
         - Hag 2:6-9
         a. By shaking the nations and having them come to "the Desire
            of All Nations"
            1) This can be translated "the desired of all nations will
               come", perhaps speaking of the nations bringing their
               wealth to the temple - cf. Hag 2:8; Isa 60:5
            2) Many see a Messianic reference in this phrase, though no
               reference is so made in the New Testament (He 12:26-27
               does make an allusion to verse 6)
         b. By giving peace "in this place"
            1) Some see another Messianic reference in this phrase
            2) Certainly Jesus as the Prince of Peace, came to the 

[With such a word of encouragement, the people would continue with 
their task of rebuilding the temple.  But all was not well in the eyes
of the Lord; He needed Haggai once again to prophesy to the people, so
two months later (cf. 2:1,10) comes...]


      1. Through two questions, the Lord challenges the priests to 
         think - Hag 2:10-13
         a. Can holiness be transferred through casual contact? - No
         b. Can defilement be transferred through casual contact? - Yes
      2. Well, the people are unclean, and what they therefore offer is
         unclean! - Hag 2:14
         a. Unclean people can't build a holy temple
         b. Therefore, their offering is unclean!

      1. First, begin considering what God has done in the past - Hag 2:15-17
         a. Before the stone was laid in the temple, things were scarce
         b. The Lord even brought blight, mildew and hail to frustrate
            their labors, but they did not heed Him
      2. Now, begin considering what God is promising to do - Hag 2:
         a. Begin considering that very day (24th day of the ninth 
            1) Consider what has occurred from the day the temple's 
               foundation was laid
            2) Is there seed in the barn? (no)  Nor has the produce 
               yielded its fruit
         d. But beginning that very day (24th day of the ninth month),
            God was going to bless them!

[With such a promise, they would likely repent and build the temple as
they should. To encourage them further, Haggai has one last message...]


      1. This message came at the same time as the third message - Hag 2:20
         a. On the 24th day of the ninth month, of the second year of
         b. Nearly four months after the first message - cf. Hag 1:1
      2. Directed to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah - Hag 2:21-22
         a. God proclaims He will shake heaven and earth
         b. He will overthrow the kingdoms of the Gentiles
         c. This He will do, "everyone by the sword of his brother"
         -- Note:  Just as He did before, using Assyria to punish 
            Israel, Babylon to punish Assyria, Medo-Persia to punish 
            Babylon, etc.

      1. In the same day that God will overthrow the nations - Hag 2:
      2. God will make Zerubbabel as a signet ring, for God has chosen
         him - Hag 2:23b
         a. Many see a Messianic reference in this promise
            1) For God calls Zerubbabel "My servant", an expression 
               often used in Isaiah in reference to the Messiah - cf. 
               Isa 52:13; 53:11
            2) And God says "for I have chosen you" (Messiah means 
               anointed, chosen)
         b. That as governor of Judah and descendant of David, 
            Zerubbabel represents the Messianic hope that has been 
            renewed and would be ultimately fulfilled with the coming 
            of Jesus!
         -- Note:  With His exaltation to the right hand of God, Jesus
            began to rule the nations "with a rod of iron", as 
            Revelation vividly depicts - Re 1:5; 2:26-27; 3:21; 17:14


1. Haggai's message was primarily designed to encourage Zerubbabel and
   the faithful remnant of Israel who had returned from Babylonian 
   a. To finish rebuilding the temple
   b. To do so in a manner that would honor and glorify God
   c. To look to the future with hope and promise

2. Like other books of the Old Testament...
   a. Haggai was "written for our learning" - Ro 15:4
   b. There are lessons that can easily be gleaned from this book, such
      1) The importance of putting God first - Hag 1:2-4
      2) The need for every one to work, not just the leaders - Hag 1:
      3) The danger of letting evil contaminate our efforts to serve
         God - Hag 2:11-14

3. As Christians, we are blessed to be "a holy temple in the Lord" - Ep 2:19-22; cf. 1Pe 2:5
   a. The foundation of this temple has been laid
   b. But the need for building upon the foundation continues! 

Living in a highly materialistic society, it may easy for us to neglect
the ongoing construction of the Lord's house.  Perhaps we need to 
remember the words of the Lord through Haggai:

   "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, 
   and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Hag 1:4)

If we are indeed guilty of neglecting the Lord's house, then heed also
these words of Haggai:

                           "Consider your ways!"

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

Habakkuk - From A Sob To A Song (1:1-3:19) by Mark Copeland

                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

               Habakkuk - From A Sob To A Song (1:1-3:19)


1. We have seen that during the O.T. period known as "Judah Alone"...
   a. Zephaniah was prophesying to Judah
   b. Nahum was pronouncing God's judgment upon Nineveh

2. Then there was Habakkuk, a prophet filled with troubling questions
   a. Concerning his NAME
      1) It means "Embrace"
      2) "His name, as Luther well puts it, speaks as one who took his
         nation to his heart, comforted it and held it up, as one
         embraces and presses to his bosom a poor weeping child,
         calming and consoling it with good hope." (Geikie)
   b. Concerning the DATE
      1) Around 612-606 B.C.
      2) Just as Babylon was making her westward move toward world
   c. Concerning his MESSAGE: the book easily falls into three sections
      1) A "burden" - Hab 1:1-2:1
      2) A "vision" - Hab 2:2-20
      3) A "prayer" - Hab 3:1-19

3. We note an immediate difference between Habakkuk and other 
   a. Instead of taking the Lord's message directly to the people (as 
      do most prophets)
   b. He takes the complaint of the people directly to the Lord, 
      representing them in the complaint
   -- As he does so, it has been said that Habakkuk goes "From A Sob To
      A Song"

[This process begins with a "burden" as found in the first section of
his message...]


      1. He laments over apparent rule of wickedness and violence
      2. How can the Lord justify His apparent indifference to such 
         things? - Hab 1:1-4

      1. He is not indifferent!
      2. He is doing something that will be hard to fathom - Hab 1:5-11
         a. Raising up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to execute His judgment
         b. Using a violent nation that arrogantly thinks it is serving
            its own god (and purpose)

      1. How can a holy God employ such an impure and godless agent? 
         - Hab 1:12-17
      2. This is hard for Habakkuk to understand, but he will watch to
         see what the Lord will say to him - Hab 2:1

[Indeed, it is a heavy "burden" for Habakkuk. God has answered his
first question by saying He will use the Chaldeans to punish the
wickedness and violence in Judah.  But the Chaldeans are wicked also,
how can God use them?

Habakkuk receives his answer in the form of a "vision"...]


      1. Habakkuk is to write what God reveals to him - Hab 2:2-3
      2. The proud is not upright; but the just shall live by his faith
         - Hab 2:4

      1. Woe to the proud possessed with the lust of conquest and 
         plunder - Hab 2:5-8
      2. Woe to their efforts to build a permanent empire through 
         cruelty and godless gain - Hab 2:9-11
      3. Woe to those who build cities with bloodshed - Hab 2:12-14
      4. Woe to those with cruelty in their treatment of those they
         conquered - Hab 2:15-17
      5. Woe to those given over to idolatry - Hab 2:18-20
         a. Who worship that in which there is no breath at all
         b. While the Lord is in His holy temple, before whom the earth
            should keep silence

[The answer to Habakkuk's second question appears to be this:  While 
God may use a wicked nation like Babylon to punish the wickedness of 
Judah, He will not let Babylon's wickedness go unpunished either!  

In the meantime, the just (righteous) person will live by his faith in
God, which Habakkuk illustrates with his "prayer"...]


      1. Written in the form of a psalm - Hab 3:1,19c
      2. Asking God to revive His works, and in His wrath remember 
         mercy - Hab 3:2

      1. His mighty works in the past - Hab 3:3-7
      2. Bringing both judgment to the wicked and salvation to His 
         people - Hab 3:8-15

      1. He trembled at what he has heard, that he will have rest in 
         the day of trouble - Hab 3:16
      2. But he expresses his faith, that while trouble may come he 
         will rejoice in the Lord who will be his strength - Hab 3:
      -- Here we find one of the greatest expressions of faith found 


1. What lessons can we glean from this short book? (as suggested by 
   Homer Hailey)
   a. The universal supremacy of God's judgment upon the wicked
      1) God would use Chaldea to punish wicked Judah
      2) Then Chaldea would be destroyed for its own wickedness
   b. Evil is self-destructive
      1) If the righteous can be patient, trusting in the Lord
      2) The tyranny and arrogance of the wicked will eventually fall
   c. The fact of divine discipline
      1) In Job it is shown in the suffering of the individual
      2) In Habakkuk it is shown in the suffering of the nation
      -- In both cases, suffering is disciplinary

2. Perhaps the most important lesson concerns the value of "faith"...
   a. By it the righteous in Habakkuk's day would live
   b. Even more so today!
      1) In receiving salvation - Ro 1:16-17
      2) In persevering - He 10:35-39
      -- Notice that both quote from Hab 2:4

But our faith must not be a shallow faith; it must be like that 
expressed by Habakkuk...

   "Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines;
   Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no
   food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there
   be no herd in the stalls;"

   "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my
   salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like
   deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills."
                                   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Is this our kind of faith?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011