Obadiah

The minor prophet Obadiah gives Christians today a glimpse into the past, into God’s character and His promises, and into His work in the future. Read it today!

Last spring, I decided to explore uncommon territory in my Sunday School class. I asked the members how many had read Nahum or Obadiah. A few hands went up, only because they had been on thru-the-bible-in-a-year programs. I then asked who knew what either of them was about. Not a hand was in sight.

I quickly realized that we would have to do a lot of back work to understand either book, so the next few Sundays we covered empires in the ancient near east, including Sumeria, Egypt, the Hyksos, the Hittites, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Greece.[1] Fortunately, I read and discuss history for fun and watch historical documentaries for entertainment, so it was no work.  Then when studied Jonah, which occurred about a century before Nahum.[2]

Obadiah is one of the neglected books in the Bible, nestled among the minor prophets of the Old Testament between Amos the Shepherd and Jonah the Reluctant Prophet. Only one chapter long, a distinction that it shares with Philemon, 2 & 3 John and Jude, Obadiah reveals the judgment of God on Edom, the descendants of Esau. Measured by how often books are read on Bible Gateway, Obadiah is the least popular book in the Bible, surpassing even Nahum in its obscurity.[3]

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Beyond isms

Modern society believes that “isms” are the greatest ills in society, and that destroying existing power brokers and structures is the only way to alleviate them. We are sadly mistaken, and our people will pay a terrible price for this delusion. Father forgive us, for we do not know what we are doing.  

A football coach loses his job after reading a comment aloud to his team, written by a player, that someone considers racially insensitive. A seminarian’s career collapses after a woman complains that he made her feel “uncomfortable.” A bakery owned by Christians is nearly driven out of business by a nearby college after some students accuse the proprietors of racism. Four border patrol agents on horseback, using reins to control their steeds, are punished after President Biden promised punishment, despite being cleared of whipping Haitian immigrants.[1] The esteemed Martin Luther King Jr. said that there were three evils in the world, racism, poverty, and war.[2] Sixty years later, “isms,” whether racism, sexism, or something else, are seen as the greatest evils in America. Some would say that America is the greatest evil in the world.

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Mallet Finger – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Rehabilitation

How to take care of and recover from a common but sometimes vexing finger injury.[1]

Mallet finger usually results from forced flexion of the distal (most distant) part of the finger (distal phalanx – DP) during active extension of the DP. The condition is caused by a rupture of the extensor tendon (on the back of the finger) that crosses the distal interphalangeal joint (DIPJ) from the proximal phalanx (PP) to the DP. Part of the bone may also be avulsed (pulled away). Mallet finger is the most common closed tendon injury in athletes.[2] Often, patients explain that a ball hit their partially flexed fingertip. Patients complain of pain, swelling, and an inability to fully extend their DP.

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Why Genealogies?

Genealogies and census data are some of the most skipped parts of the Bible. They are still important. Here’s why.

Every year my wife and I read through the Bible. Some sections fly by, such as the stories of Goliath, the fiery furnace, and the raising of Lazarus. Other parts crawl, like the sacrificial system in Leviticus. The slowest portions of all are the genealogies and the census data. “How?” we ask ourselves, “does knowing that Mikloth became the father of Shimeam, and that they lived with relatives in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 9:38) impact my life as a Christian?”  Likewise, we struggle to care that “The priests, the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, (numbered) 973 (Nehemiah 7:39)?” Isn’t this a waste of space in a book that calls itself the word of the Almighty God?

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Posture in Prayer

Posture includes the condition of our spirit and the position of our body. We will not have adequate power in prayer if we do not get our posture right.

The heart of Christianity is that God, not man (individually or corporately), is the center of existence. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and of all things. God contains within Himself all power, glory, knowledge, truth, goodness (righteousness, morality), and ultimately everything that is real inside and outside the created order. He is both near and far away. The One who made space and time is not bound by space and time. God does not hold Himself, and He is certainly not held by someone else, to a standard outside Himself. God is the standard.

The Illusion of Independence

Humans, vain and mortal creatures, yearn to be masters of our own world. We convince ourselves that we are. Our self-righteous protestations of personal power and independence sound funny to anyone with a modicum of insight:

  1. We claim to be independent, but how many of us make all our own clothes from fabric that we produce, or grow, prepare, and consume only our own food? How many of us live in homes that we have built, drive cars that we have designed and assembled, and use technology that we have invented? Materially, we are less independent today than at any time in history. A frontier family in a log cabin in the 1820s was far more self-sufficient than we are, and even they knew how much they needed others.
  2. We pretend to not need anyone else, but we falter under the weight of loneliness, substance abuse, mental illness, and even self-harm. We ghost people and never realize that excluding others make us lonelier.
  3. We say that we want to know the truth but exclude opposing voices from our lives. Our scientific institutions and societal leaders falsify or bury research that does not support their predetermined preferences. Worse, we forbid studies that might make us uncomfortable.
  4. We try to make ourselves and others believe that we are happy, well adjusted, and moral members of society, yet crime and instability reach all-time highs.

We want to captain our own ship because no matter how bad the results, we believe that self-determination, however illusory, is better than bowing to the authority of anyone else, including God.

Followers of Christ, cursed with the same sinful nature, share the same struggles. We know that we should want God to run our lives, but we recoil at the thought. Frank Sinatra crooned that he lived his life “My Way.” Billy Joel angrily demanded his way in “My Life.” We want the same, and incredibly, we believe that we can have it.

The Nature of Prayer

The Bible clearly teaches that prayer is man’s most powerful tool to shape the world around us. Prayer has stopped the destruction of God’s people, it has healed the sick, it has saved the drowning, it has caused a drought, it has saved souls, and it has raised the dead. Those who keep prayer journals realize that prayer makes a real and positive difference in the lives of both those who pray and those prayed for.

So why don’t we pray? First, we don’t believe that it works, so we want to spend the time doing something that we believe will have an effect. I have written many articles on the efficacy of prayer, so I refer the reader to those. Second, prayer can make us an object of ridicule both to ourselves and others when our prayers are disappointed.  Third, unlike singing, preaching, teaching, or acts of service, prayer is (or generally should be) done completely in private. No one except God is watching, and so the person praying gets no affirmation from others.  Fourth, prayer constantly reminds us of our utter dependence on God. All we can do is ask, and He is under no obligation to honor our request. Finally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, prayer can be humiliating. Consider the Lord’s Prayer, as explicitly commanded by Jesus Christ in Luke 11:1-4:

11 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

From the first phrase, man in prayer is reminded of his own lowly position. Even more, man is commanded to rejoice in his lowly position before God. The spiritual posture of prayer offends our human pride.

  1. “Our Father” is master over us, and we are not.
  2. “Who art in heaven” – He lives in heaven, and we do not.
  3. “Hallowed by thy name” – We honor and praise His name, not our own. We can’t even ask others to praise us, but only to praise Him.
  4. “Your kingdom come” – God’s kingdom will come, not our own.
  5. “Your will be done” – The Lord’s will is already done perfectly in heaven, and someday we believe and wish that His will, not ours, will be done perfectly on earth.
  6. “Give us this day our daily bread” – God provides our daily needs. We cannot even sustain our mortal lives. Like the beasts of the field, we trust in God for each morsel and for each moment (Psalm 50, Psalm 147).
  7. “Forgive our debts” – We are sinful, drowned in confusion, shame, and guilt caused by our own evil thoughts, words, and deeds. God alone can enliven our spirits and deliver us from our sin.
  8. “Forgive our debtors” – We must ask the Lord to forgive those who harmed us, or who sinned against us in any way. When someone causes us pain, we almost always want them punished, not forgiven. But God commands that we forgive them. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15).
  9. “Lead us not into temptation” – Humans hate to admit that we are weak enough to fall into temptation. Simultaneously, we hate to deny ourselves temptations that we enjoy.
  10. “But deliver us from evil” – God alone can keep us from evil; we cannot defend ourselves. Worse, God may keep us from evil that we want to be in.

Physically, Christians are taught to pray with heads bowed in submission to God, eyes closed so that our spiritual sight may focus on Him, and hands folded in rest. Many Christ-followers in Catholic and other traditions kneel in prayer. Some people pray lying prostrate on the ground. Others stand up while raising their hands to God. These positions generally humble the man before God. Kneeling, for example, is done by a knight before his king. Keeping the head down, eyes closed, and hands folded makes a man vulnerable to attack. It is hard to do something else while properly praying. The posture of prayer doesn’t look powerful in photographs and the silence and lack of motion in prayer don’t make for compelling video.

In George Orwell’s classic 1984, the protagonist Winston thought that he could resist the overreaching government, known as Big Brother. Winston knew that his body could be tortured and made to do what his overlords demanded but thought that he could continue to resist in his mind. By the end of the tale, Winston’s resistance collapsed. In the chilling conclusion, Orwell writes that “he loved Big Brother.” In every part of life, including our prayer life, our physical posture profoundly affects our attitude, our endurance, and our performance.

Conclusion

Prayer enlists the help of the Almighty in the affairs of His people. It is the most powerful action of the Church, as it actively brings the power of God to bear on struggles that vex us. And yet, prayer forces us, spiritually and physically, into a posture utterly contrary to our sinful natures. Prayer accentuates and illustrates the gulf between man and God. Until we accept the posture of prayer, physically and mentally, and all that such a posture means, our humility before God, we will not find the power, the peace, and the Presence in prayer. As the puritan John Owen said, “we are what we are in prayer…and no more.”

Related Articles

  1. Asking for a Sign from the Lord in Prayer
  2. Beseeching God in Tribulation
  3. Magic, Science, and Prayer
  4. Posture in Prayer
  5. Prayer in Life and Ministry
  6. The Purpose of Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

David and Bathsheba – the Inside Story

The story behind one of the most infamous crimes in history, and committed by one of the most virtuous men in history.

In the pantheon of world leaders, King David stands at the pinnacle of faithfulness, courage, and honor. Jews, Muslims, and Christians revere David as a warrior, a poet, a prophet, and a man after God’s own heart. God Himself honored King David uniquely among the kings of Israel.

Yet the Bible is clear that David was not a perfect man. In fact, his powerful character was marred by equally powerful iniquities. As recorded in the Bible, 2 Samuel 11, the New American Standard Version:

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How and Why to Praise the Lord (Psalm 100)

Praising the Lord, acknowledging all that He is and does, is the best way to experience joy. How can we do it?

How many people that you know lack joy a lot of the time? What do they do about it? Some people eat. Others sleep. Many binge watch movies. Some drink or use drugs. What do you do when you lack joy? How does a lack of joy impact your confidence, your clarity of mind, your strength? Though it can be hard, the best thing that any of us can do when we lack joy is to praise the Lord.

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength is an old song derived from Nehemiah 8:10

G                             D

The joy of the Lord is my strength

                                G

The joy of the Lord is my strength

                                C

The joy of the Lord is my strength

G                     D                G

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Psalm 100, and many other passages in Scripture, tell us that the key to joy is praise. Of course, believers don’t praise the Lord so that we can have joy. Instead, we praise God for who He is. We thank Him for what He has done for us. In acknowledging the magnificence of our Creator and Sustainer, in focusing on His truth, beauty, and righteousness, and in marinating our souls in His awesome love, we receive joy. As surely as the sun rises in the morning, honest praise with a clean heart will bring joy to all those involved. Over and over again, the Bible records God’s people praising Him. Psalm 100 provides a fine example.

How to Praise the Lord

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50 Ways to Beat Inflation

How to reduce spending, save resources, and thrive financially in this time of rampant inflation

Inflation is higher than it has been in America since 1974. It is not merely a policy problem, but a major financial threat for every family in America, and most families throughout the world. Regardless of what one thinks about policy, we all need practical ways that we can fight inflation. Here are a few:

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How to Decide How to Invest

The American economy is struggling. Inflation is worse than at any time in the past forty years and the stock market has lost a quarter of its value since January of 2022. Retirees, many on fixed incomes, have lost $3 trillion in the same time.[1] Many are struggling just to get by. Necessities like food, fuel, clothing, shelter, and often health care, slip out of the fingers of millions of our countrymen.

Simultaneously, inflation is 9.1%, and the average interest on money in savings accounts is less than 1%. This means that in terms of purchasing power, savers are losing over 8% on their money.  For example, one hundred dollars in a savings account now could rise to $101 one year hence, but would only be able to buy $93 worth of goods and services.

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Nahum – The Four Fears

Nahum, an oft-overlooked minor prophet in the Old Testament, details God’s final judgment on the neo-Assyrian Empire and its leading city, Nineveh. The prophet Jonah, famous for his episode with a fish, had preached in Nineveh a century earlier and sparked a great repentance. In the intervening decades, the Assyrians returned to their wicked ways. Nahum, while showing none of the ethnic animus that so vexed Jonah, felt burdened by the sins of the Assyrians and the oppression of Israel. He asks the Lord what He will do about it, and God replies that His patience passed its limits, Nineveh would soon be destroyed.

Nahum chapter 1 overflows with the power of God, His wrath against evil, and His determination to punish the guilty. The Lord of Hosts reminds His prophet in a thousand ways about His strength to crush His foes and save those who trust in Him. The prophet concludes chapter 1 with the joys of bringing good news – being a herald of peace.

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In Christ Alone

How can man approach God?[1] People from the Aztecs to the Zulus have asked this since the dawn of humanity, and man has imagined thousands of answers.[2] These answers boil down to three possibilities.

  1. Man cannot do anything to approach God, and therefore can never approach Him.
  2. Man does something, or a group of things, to earn the right to approach God.
  3. Man cannot do anything to approach God, but God in His grace brings man to Him.

These possibilities are exclusive, as each includes a world view that is inconsistent with the others. It is logically impossible to select 1 and 3, for example, or some other combination.

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The Encroaching Tyranny

America has been a force for good, most of the time, for its history. If we don’t celebrate it, we will lose it. Tyranny encroaches.

For at least 70 years, America has been the preeminent diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power on earth. By and large, we have used our power for good. After World War II, we did not demand land, establish colonies, or institute an international economic system intended to make America richer. We opposed communism in all its forms, and tried to spread democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity throughout the world. It is difficult to find another such example of benevolence in history. The British endeavored to improve the world as they understood it, but still accumulated colonies, acquired territories, and tilted the economic playing field in their favor. The Ottomans, the Mughals, the Mongols, the Arabs, the Romans, the Chinese, and other empire builders were not so munificent. The United States made mistakes, supporting dictators in an effort to stop communism, which we considered a greater evil. But internationally and overall, America has been a force for good.

Domestically, we have been equally idealistic. The reforms of the 1960s, from Johnson’s Great Society to the Civil Rights Act, have been attempts to right wrongs. The subsequent 60 years has been an attempt to right more wrongs, and correct problems in the fixes that we implemented earlier. America has been a force for good. And yet we take no joy in our successes. Instead, many Americans, especially younger ones, wish to hand more and more power to the government. They deny our victories and focus on our failures. They want socialism.[1]

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How Companies Can Attract, Hire, and Retain Good Workers in a Population Challenged Future

How can companies attract, hire, and retain enough high-quality workers in the population-challenged future?

The future of HR is inexorably tied to the future of demography and technology in the United States and throughout the world. Cultural changes will also play an important role. These changes are overwhelming in their power and even in their novelty. Chief executives who wish for their companies to succeed will have to lead their companies and their communities through these daunting challenges. How can they do that?

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