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Monday, March 28, 2011

Obadiah: When Your Brother is Under Discipline

God at times disciplines and punishes his own people. Israel was severely punished in the time of Obadiah. The story teaches us what God expects of us when we see our brothers under discipline by God. 

Edom took advantage of Israel's downfall when enemies were attacking her, as God had permitted it to be so. God's design was three-fold: to discipline Israel, to watch how Edom would react, and to see how Israel's enemies would carry out the sentence.

Edom screwed up. Instead of helping their brother Israelites, they "were like one of" the enemies. Here are 10 ways how Edom failed the test [verses 10-14]:
  1. The Edomites were violent towards Israel.
  2. They stood aloof while Israel was being slaughtered by the enemy.
  3. They looked down on their brothers when they were being punished.
  4. They rejoiced at Judah's downfall. 
  5. They boasted while their brothers suffered humiliation.
  6. They charged through the gates of their brothers.
  7. They looked down on them while they suffered calamities.
  8. They seized their wealth.
  9. They murdered Israelites who were trying to escape their enemies.
  10. They handed the survivors over to the enemy.
There are a lot of backsliders today, and a lot of them are even performing good in churches, being placed in high positions, even given titles and degrees. But so few are under God's discipline...at the moment. 

A lot seem to go on with wickedness unchecked, but God has a time table. His mercy waits for the wicked to repent, not wanting that any should perish. But when time's up, God surely executes strict judgment. Some wicked people are even blessed by God while they soak in foolish and blatant sins, becoming "powerful and rich, becoming fat and sleek" [Jer.5.27-18]. This is among God's ways of calling the wicked's attention to His grace and mercy.

Then, when God finally executes judgment on the unrepentant brethren, we should not rejoice over their fate as Edom had. We should help them through prayers. 

God allows the enemy to destroy His people who have messed up with sin and remain stiff-necked. This is part of His love and justice. We who are spared the punishment should make sure that we do not take part in what the enemy is allowed to do temporarily. We should understand that the punishment is needed to purge sins from the strayed brethren, but we should not rejoice over it.

In the end, after the harsh disciplining and when the erring brethren have repented, God will avenge them and punish the enemy who had destroyed them. In the end, it's always God and His people who wins, and it's the enemy (and those who stubbornly side with him) who ends up demolished.

Praise be to God!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Obadiah: Will I Not Destroy The Wise?

In the day of pride birthed by successes, the proud tend to enjoy the support of the mighty. The mighty accept the proud into their alliances, and when you're accorded that privilege and recognition, it adds more to your success, and more to your pride. 

But such alliances of the proud serve only to initialize your downfall, warns Obadia the prophet of God, because alliances like that eat your spiritual life to the bone like gangrene--without you detecting it. The whole thing is a curse from God. 

Thus, Church alliances never end up with the one glorious church of Jesus Christ. They have been around for years, decades, perhaps centuries, but they never rallied churches to fall in behind the banner of the King of kings and Lord of lords as the completely one church of Jesus as he prayed in John 17. 


Alliances eventually only end up with the powerful using the smaller allies, eating them up, and the smaller allies merely serving the designs of their mighty allies, without the former detecting it, until it's too late.

Why all this undetected downfall? 

Because God, in that day, destroys the wisdom of the proud, men of understanding in the mountains of Esau [verse 8]. God also destroys the wise men who side and support the proud. You lose wisdom and discernment the moment you begin to take pride in your successes.

What should you do with your successes, then?

"Your successes" is really a figment of the imagination. No one is successful. The "successful" men and women we've been honoring throughout history are only tools or instruments through which God channeled his great wisdom, knowledge, technologies, and provisions. Until we learn the truth that God alone is to be praised and honored, pride in our imagined successes will cost us true wisdom and discernment.

No wonder that no Christian denomination today desperately pursues after the  true and complete unity of believers. They all think it's okay the way things are--that having denominations and alliances is enough. They've lost wisdom and discernment due to pride.

Success is really the time God's enabling grace created an opportunity and worked out a solution for a problem using our instrumentality. It was God who did it, making everything possible from start to finish. We contributed nothing, whatsoever. And we should make everyone know that the success was God's handywork alone. That's what we should do with our success.


Paul did say that we should give honor to whom honor is due, but what they do in most churches today is something excessive than mere giving due honor. Real men of honor in Christ, when given recognition or citation, will hasten to stress that they are nothing and what accomplishment was done was really done by God. It was all by his grace and mercy. They will glory in their weaknesses, insults, persecutions, and difficulties, all for the sake of Christ's glory and power [2Cor.12.9-10].


Men of the flesh will accept all praises to them and glory in their ego--though with a little "Praise God" later in their speech. This system of recognition encourages a corrupt flattering attitude that boosts the self and caters to opportunists.

Of course, there will always be blind people, even in church (or, especially in church) who'd offer sacrifices to us with bulls and wreaths (or give us recognitions), as the folks in Lystra did to Paul and Barnabas [Acts 14]. But we should know better than accept them. We should re-direct all praises and honor to God alone. But most times, this is easier said than done, even in churches.


Most church people and leaders eat and devour flattery accorded them. They live on them.

That's why lots of churches today are forming alliances with the wrong people once they start getting successful. And then God destroys their wisdom and discernment so that they never notice their spiritual downfall. I've seen churches where people praised and rewarded each other to the highest heavens, honoring this and that person, worshiping their denominations, and only thanking God later as a matter of lip service. After the recognition service they all swelled with pride, the ego feeling good.

And not a single person among them had the wisdom and discernment to see what's really going on.

The reason many churches today terribly lack spiritual wisdom and discernment is because of pride in their imagined successes.

Only Jesus is truly successful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Obadia: Pride Deadens Discernment

Ransacked!

If you have been successful (more so materially), you gain friends. People befriend you. You become Mr or Ms Popular. And the tickling accolades that overfeed the ego deaden your senses. Pride deadens discernment. Moreover, it weakens God's flesh on you.


Success that breeds a spirit of pride is like a magnet that attracts betrayal. People befriend you for ulterior motives. It's dog-eat-dog out there, people using each other for mundane glory. You give them your hand and they gobble up your arm. The worse part is that, you'd never suspect it. Pride has this curse.

Because of her success, Edom was able to form alliances with other nations. Acceptance into alliances, even today, can make you wallow in pride, because only the successful are recognized and permitted entry into them. While she was rich the alliance was secure. While she was able to offer things and grant demands to her allies, the going was great. Later, however, her "friends" tried to go a little farther and asked for more, even her "hidden" treasures. They "deceived and overpowered" her.

Finally they took everything. And all along, Edom was enjoying the loss, totally unaware what her "friends" and "allies" were up to. "Those who devour you will trap you, but you won't detect it," [verse 7]. 


The "allies" she thought were "friends" were actually the real enemy. She discovered too late that she had formed alliances with "friends" for nothing, because there was no enemy--except her very "friends." They "forced (Edom) to the border...and overpowered" her. 

Obadiah said, it would've been better if Edom had been robbed by thieves. Thieves stole only enough goods, only what they wanted or needed. Grape pickers, on the other hand, always left some grapes behind. But pride's curse is not like that. Nothing less than pillage or ransacking is the result. You end up with zero balance. You wake up too late that the success you thought you had was nothing but dust in the wind.


If it's just a matter of losing material things and fame, pillage is nothing. Edom lost her possessions and place in history as a result of the curse. But today, the consequences of pride is spiritual. The more it is hard to discern. As your "friends" flatter you with words tickling your ego, you bask on such make-believe success and pride eats you, especially your spiritual discernment.


Soon, it also eats bread kept in your spiritual storehouse, even your hidden treasures (treasures like secret weapons you use against powerful enemy strongholds or priceless treasures with high spiritual values), till there is none left. Only then do you realize what is really happening, but it will be too late.

Pride deadens discernment. 


Many church people today cannot even pinpoint the real enemy. Church pride has deadened their discernment. Often, they fail to see how they have formed alliances with the enemy. They fall into the trap of deception, lose everything, then start all over again (as in church revival services), only to form the same demonic alliances. It's a vicious cycle. Because pride deadens discernment, which is pride's concomitant curse. 


Pastors should also beware of "friendly" people in church who want to gain a foothold, gain a power leverage, and control everything in church later. It's like how "friends" convinced Haman to construct a death device for Mordecai, but when the going was tough, they left Haman to suffer the device alone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Obadiah: From Up There, I'll Bring You Down

Edom was "up there." Success is God's will. There was nothing wrong with Edomites living on high mountain tops, secure in their rock cleft dwellings. In fact, Esau (from whom Edom was derived) had the first-born blessing. He was a son of Isaac, who was a son of Abraham. He was lined up for blessings until he despised his position and sold it to Jacob.



From "up there" God brought him down. He lost his first born rights to Jacob. Often, success can make us despise our position in God. Being a successful hunter and getting Isaac's favor, he thought he was so secure. What harm would losing your first-born rights do if you're already dad's favorite? And Jacob? He's nothing but a house cook, a mama's boy, a home boy. He'd never amount to anything.


When you despise your inheritance in favor of success, you also begin to despise your brother. A lot of believers can sacrifice God in favor of mundane favors. Do they succeed? Oh yes, more than you can imagine. And when they succeed, they tend to despise the brethren who opted to sacrifice mundane favors and chose God instead. 


Through generations, Edom had been like that to his brother--despising him and celebrating his failures and defeats. Instead of siding with Israel, Edom sided with the enemy, looting Israel and victimizing her fleeing survivors. To Edom, it was material favor over godly position.


You can have so much success living like Edom. God allows you to enjoy being "up there" for a while, giving you time to repent and change heart towards your marginalized brother. But if no change of heart is imminent, God will "bring you down," and that's with a prophetic declaration, making it final and irrevocable. 


Indeed, in history, Edom was brought down, falling with a great crash, ceasing as a nation while defending Jerusalem against Rome in Ad 70. God can be ironic.


You can be "up there" while enjoying ungodliness and think of it all as God's blessings to you despite your wickedness. Don't commit the mistake of deriding your poor brother who opted out of mundane favors and stuck it out with God from beginning to end but seemed to have ended up zero. 


The rich easily finds the poor despicable--lazy and weak--not daring and trying hard enough. He may look pathetic and penniless, but his is God's true inheritance, God's true favor, which the rich have sold, like Esau did, like the prophet Balaam. 


And soon, God will bring you down.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Obadiah: Who Can Bring Me Down?

Perfection Comes from Failures

Edom was enjoying the height of pride, until one day he mused: "Who has the power to bring me down to the ground?"

Success has the tendency to deceive. It's better to face failures upon failures if it makes you meek and wise. Perfection comes from failures. As you fail and learn you become perfect in Christ. Perfection is not how the world views it, as Edom had once viewed it. Perfection is not an achievement (you can never make it happen); it's an endowment of grace that ever-increases in glory. That's genuine perfection. 

Remember, grace is NEVER a license to excuse sin--or even a vehicle to sin less. Grace is power to kick out sin and wickedness from our lives daily [Titus 2.11-12]. The wicked uses grace for a license to sin [Jude verse 4].

Success can easily blur our eyes and make us short-sighted about our life walk. We see only the success at hand, not the subtle attacks of the enemy in the vainglory of success. We are most vulnerable when we celebrate our triumphs, like how Edom was amazed at his seeming infallibility, like how Nebuchadnezzar astounded himself with his Babylon glory, like how Herod marveled at his supposed deity, and like how Peter safeguarded the "success" of the Lord by going against Jesus' death on the cross.

Success can make us covetously cling to it with idolatrous worship. Thus, God would rather have us poor in spirit with our "failures." He is close to the broken-hearted. It is better to be in the house of mourning than in a festive one [Ecc.7]. Victory is good, but what victory God wants is not a victory the world celebrates. When Jesus triumphed on the cross, only heaven was delighted. The world, even now, just gives it a lip-service notice on Holy Week, and even calls it degradingly with a pagan term--"Easter."

Soaring high like eagles because of self-effort success, and keeping them secure in your "nest among the stars" [Obad.1.4] is reason enough for God to "bring you down." A lot of people unknowingly do this in their celebration of ministry successes and achievements. I've seen how they over congratulate themselves and how they tend to build monuments and put crowns on their own heads.

The real danger is that, today, God does things more in the spirit than he does things in the natural. In Obadia's day, the warning was a disaster in the natural. Today, it's a spiritual disaster, something you'd never notice is already taking place right under your nose if you're insensitive in the spirit. And many today do not have spiritual discernment, and even mock this spiritual gift.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Having God's Favor: An Outline

I thought of posting here a bible study outline I did for a friend. It's about having God's favor:


Verse: Esther 2.12-17
Title: "Getting the King's Favor"

Passage:

[12] Before a girl's turn came to go into King Xerxes' chamber, she should have completed 12 months of rigid beauty treatments required of women--6 months for oil of myrrh treatment, and 6 months of perfumes and cosmetics.

[13] And then she went to the king in this way: she would be given a free choice on whatever she wished to take with her from the Harem to the king's palace (to attract the king with).

[14] Come evening, she would enter the king's bedroom, and in the morning be sent to a place in the Harem under the care of Shaashgas, the eunuch in charge of the concubines. She was not allowed to see the king again unless he wished for her and called her by name. 

[15] When it was Esther's turn to go to Xerxes (Esther was Mordecai's adopted, daughter of his Uncle Abihail), she asked for nothing except what Hegai, the king's eunuch managing the entire Harem, thought she should take with her to the king. Thus, Esther looked so beautiful to everyone.

[16] She went to the king in his royal residence, in the 10th month, Tebeth, in the 7th year of Xerxes. 

[17] The king saw that Esther was the most beautiful of all compared to the other contestants, and she got his favor and approval more than the other virgins. She became queen in place of ex-Queen Vashti.
 
Bible Study Outline:

1. Pursue After God's Favor. It's good to be blessed, but getting God's favor is more important. In fact, it's the only thing important.
  • God blesses both the good and bad, both innocent men and criminals.
  • He makes the sun shine and the rain fall on both the righteous and unrighteous [Matt.5.45].
  • But God's favor is given only to faith champions like Esther. 
  • The concubines were all so blessed. But only Esther was favored.
  • Therefore, we should aim for God's favor, not just blessings.
2. The LIFE of a Faith Champion. The life of a true faith champion is a life of preparing for the King, nothing more, nothing less.

       A. Church people can be classified into 3:
    • Audience - They are active in church but have no real interest in seeking the King, being really intimate with Him.
    • Contestants - They want to be intimate with the King, but only to ask Him for special favors for self benefit.
            Example: Their prayer request is all about their needs and wants.
      1. They need money for tuition fee. 
      2. They need money to pay their bills and other payables. 
      3. They need healing for their ailments, or for someone dear to them.
      4. They need a job.
      5. They need a promotion.
      6. But they never pray about what the King wants.
    • Champions -Champions have only one prayer request. They want to know what the King wants. Such was the prayer of Jesus.
       B. Champions prepare all their lives to meet the King that final moment.
    • Esther prepared for 1 year for that one night with the king.
    • We need to prepare all our lives for that one "night" when we finally meet Jesus Christ.
       C. The preparation has two parts:
    • Inner man preparation -oil of myrrh preparation. The oil of myrrh, according to tradition, was steamed while the contestants were lying down over it. This made the myrrh soak through the skin for cleansing and making the fragrance go deeper into the skin.
          We need to be well cleansed with the Word and have it go deeper into  our inner beings through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.
    • Outer man preparation -Esther had cosmetics and perfumes on her to please the King.
       D. Our outer "cosmetics and perfume" should be the life and ministry of Jesus. Our oil of myrrh treatment should be the spirit and mind of Christ in us. God wants to see Jesus in and on us. We should die to self and have Christ formed in us [Gal.4.19].

       E. The life of a faith champion is a life of utter dedication (dedicating one's whole life) to please the King, not just get His favor.

3. Trusting Hegai. Hegai was the king's well trusted eunuch. The king put him in charge of the entire Harem. Hegai knew the king in a very personal way.
    • Esther wisely decided to get instructions on how to please the king only from Hegai.
    • Other contestants trusted in themselves, in what they thought was best for the king. They never consulted Hegai.
    • They did everything except what the king wanted.
    • Esther wanted only what the King wanted. She never trusted her own insight, or what she thought was best for the king. So she asked Hegai what to do.
    • Hegai can symbolize Jesus Christ, the Person closest to the Father. 
    • Hegai can also symbolize a spiritual mentor or discipler who is extra intimate with Jesus.
    • Do you have a Hegai in your life?
4. The Final Moment. Daily we must face the King of kings, aside from facing Him finally on Judgment Day.
  • Daily, and each moment, we should have a special final moment with Jesus. This needs thorough preparation in the Spirit.
  • It's a preparation for perfection. "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," [Matt.5.48].
  • One imperfection in that final moment and we are demoted at once to being a mere concubine.
Two kinds of Christians:
  • Concubines - Yes, they live in the King's Harem (Kingdom) and get blessed there, but they: [1] don't get the King's favor. [2]They cannot get intimate with the King. [3]They cannot go to His inner chamber, to His secret place. [4] They get to see His face only during the few times they are needed for a task.
  • Champions - [1]They are able to sleep with the King of kings. [2]They get God's favor, not just blessings. [3]The King Himself teaches them the Word of God deeply so that, [4]They are able to do what the King wants. They live in the center of God's will.
Key thought here: Be desperate to know the King, know what He really wants, and please Him accordingly.

Truth Versus Experience

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