Spiritual Olympians

Exactly two months two months from today, the 2021 Summer Olympic games are set to begin in Tokyo, Japan. I don’t know about you, but I am excited to watch the best athletes from across the world participate in a wide variety of sports and athletic disciplines. The agility and ability of the men and women who will compete will be wonderful to see.

Olympians train for years to be at their absolute peek when the games begin. Their devotion to both physical and mental conditioning is exemplary. They are fixated with achieving the pinnacle of their respective sports. Few actually make it to the top, and those who do have a host of hungry competitors ready to defeat them.

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When the Jews were carried away captive to Babylon it occurred in three phases. Likewise, they left their place of bondage in three stages. In 538 B.C., Darius, the Persian king, issued a decree for the Jews to go back to their homeland—to Judah. The first returnees were led by Zerubbabel (536 BC), the second by Ezra (458 BC), and the third by Nehemiah (444 BC). Haggai was in the first group. He began to prophesy 16 years later, during the second year of King Darius (1:1) in 520 BC.

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Salt and Light

by Keith Sharp

In February 1992, while I was in Nigeria, the late brother Joseph Onyemaechi took me far out into the bush near Aba to preach on Sunday evening to a new congregation he had started. We were honored with the presence of several village dignitaries. When I was through preaching, the chief spoke for the villagers. He welcomed me and the new, little church. He acknowledged I had spoken the truth. Then he observed, “We will watch the people you convert. If they live good lives, you will convert many from our village. If not, you will not.” The chief was both wise and a fine judge of human nature.

In Matthew 5:13-16, the Master teaches us our responsibility to the world. We are salt and light. By successfully so acting, we will lead the world to glorify God. How can we
effectively be salt and light for Christ?

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Zephaniah prophesied “in the days of Josiah” (1:1), between 641-610 BC. Not only was Zephaniah of the tribe of Judah, but his ancestry was of royal blood. His great-great-grandfather was king Hezekiah (727-698 BC).

Zephaniah warned, “the great day of the LORD is near,” a day of noise and wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of trumpet and alarm (1:14-16).

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To Be Sin For Us

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
– – – – 2 Corinthians 5:21 – – – –

Several years ago while teaching a Bible class, I was confronted with how perplexing the apostle’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:21 can be. As we studied from the Scriptures, I appealed to Paul’s declaration in this text to clarify a point. To my surprise, I was immediately reprimanded by a member of the congregation for suggesting that Christ was made “…to be sin for us…” Asking that we turn to the passage, I insisted that it was not my thought, nor even my words, but that Paul himself had written it by the Spirit of God. Reading it directly from the Scriptures didn’t seem to help my assailant. Thus, we devoted the rest of our class time to deciphering Paul’s words. Let us spend a few moments today doing the same.

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We know nothing about the man Habakkuk except he was a prophet of God. Habakkuk doesn’t tell us who was king in Judah when he wrote, but from 1:5-6, we can determine it was sometime before Babylon had risen to prominence as a world power (626 BC), but after the Lord had decided the condition of Judah warranted destruction and captivity which happened in the reign of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-16).His reign was from 698 to 643 B.C..

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Saul, the Convert to Christ

In the New Testament, we read about crowds of people being converted to Christ. Many of them are unnamed—we don’t know their stories—just that they heard the gospel and responded in obedience to the Lord. However, the Spirit of God gave us several details about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and not just his conversion but what he did thereafter. Let’s spend a bit of time considering Paul, the convert to Christ.

Obedience To The Gospel

In Acts 9, Saul received permission from the religious leaders in Jerusalem to go to Damascus to persecute and bind Christians. Along the way, he was intercepted by the Lord. A great light blinded him and he heard Jesus speak, “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Soon, Saul was sent to Damascus, not to persecute Christians but to learn the gospel (Acts 9:6). Though Paul believed in Jesus prior to arriving in Damascus, he was not saved yet. Ananias, a Christian in the city was sent to Saul to teach him, which culminated in him urging the future apostle, “…why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). He was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38; Luke 24:47), and became a Christian. Now what?

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Two of God’s prophets were commissioned to address the Assyrian capital of Nineveh directly. Jonah was sent to proclaim a message of judgment and to provoke repentance (approx. 760 BC). God would then employ the Assyrians to judge Israel for her sins, resulting in the eventual destruction of the northern kingdom in 721 BC. Approximately 100-150 years later, Nahum proclaimed “the burden against Nineveh” (1:1). Unlike the former prophet, Nahum’s message was not to provoke repentance. Nineveh had returned to her old ways, and so the prophet pronounced judgment upon them. There are two details which help us know the timing of the book; the prophet mentions the destruction of the Egyptian city No Amon (3:8, better known as Thebes) which took place in 663 BC, and Nahum foretold Nineveh’s fall, which happened in 612 BC. Thus, the book was written sometime between these two dates.

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The Christian’s Responsibility To God And The Government

Over the past year, we’ve faced many Covid-19 related restrictions from the federal, provincial, and regional governments. Non-essential travel has been restricted with closed land borders. Any who do travel must submit to a mandatory test, costly hotel stay, and forced quarantine upon their return. The economy has been shut down, stay-at-home orders and curfews have been issued, social gatherings have been limited, masks are compulsory in almost every indoor setting (and some outdoor settings), etc..

There have been vastly different responses among citizens to the Covid-19 rules. Some have meticulously obeyed every order while others have brazenly flaunted their disobedience. What should we as Christians do? What should be our response? Let us consider what the Bible says about our responsibility to governing authorities.

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Micah was contemporary with Hosea and Isaiah, prophesying during the reigns of the Judean kings, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). His message is identified as what “he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” (1:1), which are the respective capitals of Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah (the southern tribes). His message to Samaria is limited to the first chapter; in fact, he foretold their fall to Shalmaneser of Assyria which took place in 722 BC (1:6).

There is very little revealed about Micah. We know he was from the village of Moresheth (1:1), which is on the border of Philistia and Judah, near the city of Gath a per Jerome and Eusebius. His name exalts God, meaning “who is like Yah?” (Yah, being an abbreviated form of Yahweh)

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