Monday, December 31, 2012

Light the Lamp

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)

To know what God has said is not enough. We must know why the Lord has given us admonition. What lies beneath the commandment is the counsel. The counsel, or the teaching, is the light that the lamp produces. Consider that a lamp can be placed on a stand without ever being lit. It can be displayed and referred to and talked about but not used without being lit. Now consider the Bible on display on some table. It's never opened but we can point to it and talk about it. Within this Book is the Word of God that will guide us into the right way of life. But it's not enough to know what God has said if we don't use it to direct us. This kind of living is as useless as carrying a lamp into the darkness without ever lighting it. The teaching of God's word illuminates what God has said. It is the why of the what. It gives us the when and the how of the obedience required for our transformation. In other words, the teaching counsels us to apply the commandment to our lives and realize its value to godly living. No teacher is satisfied to disseminate information without testing. How will we pass the tests of life if we do not know the information that the Teacher has revealed to us? It is no less important for teachers of spiritual knowledge to remind, reprove, and rebuke if necessary. One disciple has responsibility to make a disciple…under the direction and authority of the Lord. We need to understand that amassing information is not the primary goal of spiritual instruction. Transformation is the goal of receiving information. Unless we are willing to hold one another accountable for the information we receive, we will not be disciplined or motivated to learn and be transformed. At this point, preaching and teaching of the Word of the Lord becomes an intellectual exercise to be accepted or rejected based on individuals being the standard of whether they think they need to be changed or not. The right view is that God is the standard. And we all need to be changed into the image of Christ. God has provided His commandments to guide…His Spirit to teach…and one another as disciples to discipline. The question becomes whether or not we have the desire to become like Christ and if we will submit to spiritual teaching and surrender to the Lord’s authority. After all, Christ is the Way…and the Life. And Christlike living is the way of life. As we prepare to enter into a new year that promises great challenges may we light the lamp so we can see where we are walking and have light where we are living.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Words...Foundations To Build Upon

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)

The only way the godless become godly is to hear how God designs for them to become godly. Titus is given practical teaching for practicing believers. This sound doctrine is the teaching that helps people see how God’s counsel looks when it all fits together. The Lord's word is the foundation upon which the church is built. The people of God are like building blocks that are joined together upon this foundation. The body of Christ is like a puzzle of different pieces, fitting together to help a community of believers be different than the culture from which they were rescued. Older men and women are to be examples and teachers of younger believers. Consider that older women are to be teaching the younger women how to love their husbands. I can understand that. Often younger people don’t really know how to love one another. But this sound doctrine includes teaching younger woman how to love their children. Wouldn’t that come naturally? Sadly, we all have to be taught how to love. Cretans are not the only people that need to be taught how to love like Christ. This is sound doctrine. This teaching is joins us together. Soundness, or integrity, is something that is foundational. These things are foundational to our faith and critical in building up the people of God. The sound doctrine that Titus is to preach is to live out the word of the Lord…beginning with his teaching. Titus is to be exemplary in living out this sound doctrine. He is to practice what he preaches! Speak about the things that you can build upon. The building up of the pastor is a priority for the Lord to build up the church.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The King's Domain

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him. (Esther 1:10-12)

Domestic disputes occur even in the houses of kings. Here we have the ultimate clashing of desires. The king desiring to put the beauty of the queen on display. And the queen desiring not to do what the king wants her to do. We don't know the reason for the queen's refusal…only that she did not come. She refused the king's command. Interestingly, we are given the king's motivation. I wonder how the writer of Esther knew this. The wise men interpreted that the queen's behavior will spark similar activities in households across the kingdom. Something must be done to act as a deterrent. Banishing the queen from the king's presence and selection of another queen is chosen as the best course of action. So much for equal rights. The reality is that the rule of the king is absolute. The queen does not share the authority. The queen serves at the pleasure of the king. At least that’s the king’s understanding, The king's edict is sent to all the kingdom. The message is that every man should be the master in his own house and the speaker for his people. Every man is to be the king in his castle, so to speak. The story of Esther is about the sovereign rule of Almighty God, the King of all kings. The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Almighty. So all events such as this one are under the sovereign authority of God. How God does what He does is a marvelous thing. He uses the obstinate attitude of Queen Vashti to create a selection process to place one of His people in a critical place at a crucial time. It is often said that the Lord will not overrule our will…that we have the ability to choose acceptance of His way or reject it. Maybe so…maybe not. But I see in this passage what the Lord will do with our will. He will use not only the subservient as well as the stubborn and rebellious will of men and women to accomplish His divine purpose. Our rebellion does not thwart the work of God. God is so great that He can use the rebellious will of humanity to accomplish His sovereign plan. And He is still in the process of daily arranging the affairs of kings, queens, people and peasants to fulfill His purpose. All of humanity and all of history rests within this King's domain. The Lord...He is God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Serious Agent of Radical Change

Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I purified them from everything foreign and appointed duties for the priests and the Levites, each in his task, and I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good. (Nehemiah 13:29-31)

Nehemiah executed the eviction of the man named Tobiah without notice. Other actions concerning mixed marriages and Sabbath observance got his attention and he attended to the situations. To rebuild a wall without rebuilding lives was fruitless in the mind of the man of God. Nehemiah courageously saw the wrong and began to make it right. The man of God today can take a lesson here. Some things don't need committee action. Some things and some people are out of place. When that happens, something has to be evicted. But the empty place cannot remain vacant. Nehemiah restores the right things to the Levites. The commitments that God's people made were put to the test with a man who was determined to do what he said. Nehemiah may have encountered resistance to the exclusion of foreigners from the community experience. He may have been opposed by running off someone who was shown favoritism because of family relations. He may have been inclined to shrink back from enforcing the observance of the Sabbath with the merchants. But in his statement of being willing to use force, he was not intimidated by the economical price that obedience often brings. It is costly. People's lives and livelihood are disrupted. God always shakes us up before He irons us out. The marriage of foreigners had corrupted even the language of God's people. It was serious enough that Nehemiah was physically able to carry out spiritual admonitions. The last phrase for God to remember him for good should be our prayer when restoration is called for. We need God to help us because restoration of God's people is often dangerous and difficult. It takes people who care primarily about God's name and reputation to be effective agents of change.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Don't Know Or Won't Know?

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. (Titus 1:16)

Ignorance and rebellion. Two hindrances to godliness are evident in humanity. Of the two I would much rather counsel with an ignorant man, one who desires to follow God, but may be lacking in instruction about the ways of the Lord. Rebellious men are a different breed. They will not be instructed into right doctrine because doctrine is not the issue. They have their own agendas. They want to be in authority, even though they oppose godly authority. Here Paul seems to be instilling battle plans into Titus. Some things you do not negotiate with and try to win over. Some things you oppose strongly, even attack preemptively wherever you find it. Like the ones who are teaching falsely about the Lord. They profess to know Him…they have said they follow Jesus. But what they do is practice rebellion. Titus is to reprove them strongly. Paul is talking about using the word of God…given to rebuke and reprove the rebel. Given to restore and reinforce the faithful. The goal is that the faith of those who follow God is strengthened. Paul’s counsel is to bring them all under authority. This is a word for us today. Do not tolerate opposition that tears down the work of the Lord. Refute the doctrine and reprove the false teacher. Do not tolerate and accommodate a different gospel. The fight of faith is to be fought. Spritual warriors are always at war. Rebellion is always to be engaged. And the ignorant, the one without knowledge is always to be educated. There is a huge distinction between the ones who don't know and the ones who won't know.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Sound of Joy

…And the singers sang, with Jezrahiah their leader, and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar. (Nehemiah 12:42-43)

When worship is done rightly, it produces a spirit of joy. Because God is there. And joy is from God. The account says that the people sang and rejoiced because God had given them great joy. We cannot pretend that we are joyful. We cannot manufacture it. We can only respond to what God does because of our desire to see Him exalted. We are told that the singers sang. We may think that is not a significant thing. But there are many singers who don’t sing. They just go through the motions, mindlessly mouthing the words, trying to stay in tune. When a singer really sings, it makes a difference in worship. The joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar. That's what happens when singers really sing. It is attractive and the message goes far from the place where the song is sung. The joy is "heard" beyond the boundaries. Oh, how we can mute the sound of joy…the many songs that are stifled…muffled…muddled. But how the people of God can make a difference when they remember they have reason to rejoice. Joy remains an effective message in the heart long after the tune has faded away from the ears. For Nehemiah and his people, the wall they rebuilt was secondary in priorities. Worship was primary. The need for the wall symbolized their helpless vulnerability apart from the protection and providence of God. The strength of God and His plan of community was lived out in their worship experience. All our joy flows from a right worship relationship with God. Significant in a previous verse of this passage is a reference to the musical instruments of David, the man of God. Had these things survived the progression of time even through the exile? Who had them? Where were they? Had they been silent till now? It would be truly significant if these things had been preserved. But more significant is the preservation of the presence of joy in the people of God. This is a timeless aspect to true worship. Sometimes we think we can't worship if we don't use the same musical instruments that our forefathers used. The things that make the music are not as critical as the sound of the music. Does it sound like joy? The joy of the Lord, found in the worship of God, is a tune that never goes out of tune…and always living beyond its time.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tough Man...Tough Mission

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you… (Titus 1:5)

It takes a tough man for a tough mission field. This is why Paul left Titus in Crete. To put in order what remains…this can be a hard task, almost overwhelming at times. Sometimes to put something in order you have to dismantle what is out of order. In ministry, this can be a daunting task. Sometimes we have to face tough opposition that may have been entrenched in false teaching and family idolatry. In the contest of the text, Titus is warned that many others would resist the sound teaching. But Titus is also to make disciples, to train leaders, in the midst of this fight. This is the key to building churches. Learn how to refute and answer ungodly opposition while earning the respect and trust of those coming into the faith. For the false teacher will always siphon off the new lamb in the fold…seeking to build his flock. Titus is told in effect to man up and raise up godly men! This is the way of the Lord. We are always fighting to gain and hold ground, advancing the kingdom, until the King returns to reign. The war never goes away until Jesus brings peace to earth and in heaven. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Singing Servants

Now the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, from the sons of Asaph, who were the singers for the service of the house of God. (Nehemiah 11:22)

Security and songs were necessary parts of this worship experience. Often we think we are safe when we come worship together. And when we come to worship as a ho-hum humdrum experience, we probably are. The enemy is not too worried about a lethargic worship experience. But one that is vital and committed to pursue God is a threat to his disorder. So one of the ways that we attack the enemy stronghold is to become strong in our worship of God. We need to be as vigilant as the people of Nehemiah's day. Look out for opposition and have in place a first line of defense. Have someone watch the gates. Spiritually and physically. Some of these people were chosen to live in Jerusalem. They, in effect, were offered for service. The sons of Asaph were known as singers of psalms. The song is a driving point in worship, even in our day. More conflict will come over music in our churches, even to the point of division. It should not be so. In Nehemiah's day these things were regulated and put in order. There’s an old saying I’ve heard that when the devil fell from Heaven, he fell into the choir loft! Sadly, this seems to have legitimacy in some of our church experience, doesn’t it? More segregated services today seem to cater over music styles. Contemporary, traditional, and blended seem to be the catch phrases. Kind of like a smorgasbord of what we would like…wonder what kind of music the Lord likes? Freedom in worship music is often hard to find. And in America, the length of the song seems to be a guiding principle. It must fit the order of worship. But the Lord will not be boxed into our design. Am I too caught up in this mindset of management to be real when I worship? Do we sing long enough to hear God praised? Or do we sing so long as to be vainly repetitious? Don’t get so caught up with meaningless controversy that we miss the meaning of worship. The One we worship determines the method of worship. Selah…meditate on that for a while…True godly worship truly pleases God. So who are we really trying to please? Who are we serving when we are singing?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Community Commitment

Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God's law, which was given through Moses, God's servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; (Nehemiah 10:28-29)

The covenant that is ratified here spelled out the details of the worship experience. They were to be faithful in their marital dealings with their daughters. They are not to be married to those outside the family of Israel. Their sons were not to marry daughters of pagans. Here is where God’s people had gotten into trouble. The people of God were not distinguishable among the nations that surrounded them. There was no uniqueness among them. So steps were taken to insure this. Agreement to be a set apart people was necessary to establish themselves as a unique nation once again. The danger in doing this is that it can foster racial discrimination when it reality it is spiritual discrimination. The admonition to have believers equally yoked can be applied here. When two people see the world through a different lens, then their purpose will not be a cohesive one. They will not travel life's road together. Their spiritual agendas and allegiances will be different. Their worship will be compromised because their gods are different. So here the people are restoring purity to their lives as it applies to worship. The Sabbath observance is next. Interesting that the domestic unity was brought forth first. Then the Sabbath. Because the Sabbath is only understood from the perspective of God's people. For example, when two people of unlike faith are joined together, the unbeliever will not stop selling merchandise to observe the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day. That’s not where the priority lies. More likely than not, the believer will stop observing the Sabbath to sell. It’s kind of like what happens when spotless white gloves that cover the hands are dipped into a bucket of mud. The result is muddy gloves instead of glovey mud. There is a commitment to giving as part of their worship experience. Unless we realize that we will not experience the fullness of worship. You can give without worship but you can’t worship without giving. Even in Nehemiah's day this was a reality. The context of this passage tells us even the details of the wood that was to be burned are spelled out. The supply of wood was a physical requirement and not to be overlooked. Kind of like heating and cooling in our buildings. These details are often elevated to a place where they should not be. But they are often overlooked and trivialized as well. Without wood, there would be no worship. What good would it be to bring a burnt offering when there was no provision for the burning? The giving of the firstfruits are highlighted here. We do well to remember that this is a personal requirement of worship. To freely worship the Living God, it should cost us something. We must let go of that which our hands tend to cling in order to open them to God and receive His blessing. Everyone had something to give, whether they could support the temple budget or not. The tithe is not to be forgotten. When God's people tithe, then they will support the worship of the house of God. In these ways, God's house is not neglected. But the house that we often get bound up in is made of bricks and sticks. The spiritual house of God, built on the foundation of the worship of God, is the House that God builds. And His people are engaged. The pattern I see here is the (1)dedication of our family structure is primary. It is hard to worship different gods. The unified worship in each family is brought together. They bring the desire to see the one true God worshipped as one committed people group. They give God their families. (2) Then they give God His Sabbath day. The setting apart of God's people precede the setting aside the time and manner of worship. Holy days are revered and observed once again. The purpose of God's people is being realized. Worship is central to their existence. (3) Then they give to fund the faithful worship of God. Their money is released as a resource. They realize that it is God's money after all. Once released in serious worship, people find that money does not hold power over them. (4) The commitment to attend to the physical aspects of worship is necessary. We need to make our physical facilities and trappings as functional as possible. Changing blown out light bulbs and cleaning the restrooms are things that are needful. (5) Regular first fruit giving and tithing are crucial to the spiritual life of God's people. It is here that the most are the least spiritually mature. The growth in a disciple is most likely stunted here. Do we worship God with our bank accounts? Ongoing ministry needs are met when people give in their worship experience. The house of God is not neglected when there is a healthy adoption of these 5 principles. They are critical to the worship experience within the family of God. The restoration of the house of God and the people of God continued in Jerusalem. The good news is that restoration is still possible today…in the house of God…wherever people have a desire to see God glorified. It works every time it’s tried.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crime Scene

They finished investigating all the men who had married foreign wives by the first day of the first month. (Ezra 10:17)

Have you ever passed by a place with the crime scene tape encircling the scene of the crime? I always wonder what might have taken place there, thinking about the change in the lives of the victims as well as the perpetrators. In the passage before us, we get a biblical drive-by observation of the aftermath of a spiritual crime scene. Much damage was done to God's people by generations of intermarriage. The restoration depended upon a heart-breaking remedy. Ezra grieved over what must be done. The men who had foreign wives must put them away or be excluded from the nation. As the investigation continued, the intermarriage seemed to be pervasive and common to all groups. The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the congregation of Israel were all affected. Families were affected. But the action was taken nonetheless. There was too much at stake not to act. To compromise and allow this behavior to remain, or to “grandfather” them in and only decree that it would no longer be tolerated, was not an option. The transgressors were not allowed to ignore this remedy. To put away their foreign wives would endeavor to undo what had been done least as much as possible. This is the way of sin. Even when we undo what should not have been done in the first place, people are still hurt and the damage is great and longlasting. The families that had been produced from these ungodly unions were devastated in the remedy. The high cost of sin is compounded and magnified in the lives of others that we never anticipated. Sin is a condition that keeps on giving out what no one bargained for. Sin takes in life and gives out death, destruction, and disorder. Here is another example of a godly man doing what God requires…and grieving over the devastation. God is at war with sin and His remedy is to restore His people and deliver them from its influence. Ezra points us to our Great High Priest…who never compromises with sin…and picks up the pieces of His people's lives to restore them in right relationship with God.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remorse, Repentance, and Restoration

But at the evening offering I arose from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe torn, and I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God; and I said, "O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens. (Ezra 9:5-6)

Repentance always comes before restoration. Repentance is the place where the Lord leads His people because His desire is to restore our ruination. How can we repent if we do not know where we are? Repentance is the place where the kindness of God leads a man. Ezra is overwhelmed with the grace of God, allowing them to return to rebuild Jerusalem and a godly culture. But the Ezra's realization was how can the Lord lead them into restoration while the people are in such a sinful condition? The prohibition of marrying outside of the faith had been ignored for generations. This was not a racial admonition, but a spiritual one. For how does a family worship the Living God when the family devotes themselves to the worship of idols? This kind of spiritually mixed marriage is fractured in their godly pursuits and the cause of many heartaches even in our day. Ezra knew their fallen condition. So did the Lord. But how about the people? Ezra’s struggle with the restoration is how would the people respond to the truth? How the Lord’s people deals with their sin is crucial to their restoration both in Ezra’s day and ours. Knowing the wrong, we must turn to the right. The grace of God is truly our guide. God reveals sin so we can repent. We can repent or change our life direction when we truly experience the kindness of God that leads us to godly sorrow. Restoration is only possible when repentance is practiced. When we become aware of the sin…and it grieves us because we sin against this Most Kind and Most High God, we are truly made aware of our constant failing and His consistent faithfulness. For God’s people of any age to move into real and meaningful restoration, repentance must be authentic. Repentance must be practiced. Repentance truly is a vital change of direction and our great hope for restoration.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wisdom Works

The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. (Proverbs 8:22-23)

Wisdom is the oldest thing in the universe but it never goes out of date. We need wisdom as much as any human ever has. And the Lord knows this. The Lord is timeless…and when He began His work of creation, He already had wisdom with Him. When we think that we have discovered wisdom, that it is some new thing, it is only new to us who are finite. Wisdom itself has an infinite history. It has been with the Lord all along. What are we to make of this? Do we not know that in the beginning there was only God? So what was wisdom doing there? If I read this chapter rightly beyond the text before us, Wisdom is the Agent of Creation. This passage declares that Wisdom is a Master Workman...a Maker of Wise Creatures, delighting in the sons of men. Wisdom is a Person. Wisdom is the Creator…God the Son…actively making the world and man in His image. This is the preincarnate Christ. This could be the One who walked with Man in the Garden. One who created the Man in His image. This God-Man was there in the Garden to warn about wise and foolish choices. This One would become a man who walked this fallen earth to restore the right image of God in man. Here we see Wisdom walking…in Eden…and we see Him through time walking in Jerusalem. So is He walking with me today? Is Wisdom my constant walking Companion? Has Wisdom possessed you at the beginning of your way? If we seek wisdom, if we seek Jesus …He will make Himself known to us. He will be manifested to man once again. When foolish people are born again…we have been breathed into spiritual life by the Wisdom and the Word of God. I have not found Wisdom as much as Wisdom has found me! Is your life a testimony that you are becoming a work of Wisdom?

Monday, October 22, 2012

God's Housekeepers

Now I assembled them at the river that runs to Ahava, where we camped for three days; and when I observed the people and the priests, I did not find any Levites there. (Ezra 8:15)

Ezra looked for the Levites. He saw the people, he saw the priests, but he saw no Levites. Why was he concerned about this? This tribe was assigned the task of taking care of the house of worship. If the house was to be restored, the Levites were to be involved. If they were being activated, they needed to be trained again in the mission that had fallen by the wayside. Their national identity of being the people of Yahweh was at risk. The Levites were the Lord’s housekeepers. This is a lesson for our day. Pastors and ministry leaders are not to forget the housekeepers in the congregation. They are an integral part. These people are the ones who quietly serve in the small places that escape the limelight. True godly men and women know the value of the housekeepers. And I am not only talking about custodial stuff and custodial staff. I am talking about the people who keep the house…preserve its integrity…looking out for the things that are out of order and being willing to do something about the disorder. They are the ones who pray and have a burden to serve the Lord by serving His people. They are the ones who have a spirit like Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, who was a Levite and had a heart to give. The New Testament writer describes him as one of these housekeepers. God is orderly and His authority rests in the orderly worship in the midst of His people. We need to be like Ezra. Take a look around for those that are missing in our midst. Are there any housekeepers missing from the house? Look around for the housekeepers. Know their value. Encourage them to serve. Give thanks for their gifts and encouragement. And don’t leave on mission to restore God's house without them!

Friday, October 19, 2012

War On The Home Front

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him. (Esther 1:10-12)

Domestic disputes occur even in the houses of kings. Here we have the ultimate clashing of desires. The king desiring to put the beauty of the queen on display. And the queen desiring not to do what the king wants her to do. We don't know the reason for the queen's refusal…only that she did not come. She refused the king's command. Interestingly, we are given the king's motivation. I wonder how the writer of Esther knew this. The wise men interpret that the queen's behavior will spark similar activities in households across the kingdom. Something must be done to act as a deterrent. Banishing the queen from the king's presence and selection of another is chosen as the course of action. So much for equal rights. The reality is that the rule of the king is absolute. The queen does not share the authority. The queen serves at the pleasure of the king. At least that’s the king’s understanding, The king's edict is sent to all the kingdom. The message is that every man should be the master in his own house and the speaker for his people. Every man is to be the king in his castle, so to speak. The story of Esther is about the sovereign rule of Almighty God, the King of all kings. The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Almighty. So events such as this one is under the sovereign authority of God. How God does what He does is a marvelous thing. He uses the obstinate attitude of Vashti to create a selection process to place one of His people in a critical place at a crucial time. It is often said that the Lord will not overrule our will…that we have the ability to choose our acceptance of His way or reject it. Maybe so…maybe not. But I see in this passage what the Lord will do with our will. He will use even the stubborn and rebellious will of men and women to accomplish His purposes. Our rebellion does not thwart the work of God. The Lord can actually use the rebellious will of humanity to accomplish His sovereign plan. And He is still in the process of daily arranging the affairs of kings, queens, people and peasants to fulfill His purpose.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Preach To Me

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. (1 Tim 4:16)

Preach to yourself…and the Lord's message will be more relevant to others. It will be more real and not some abstract theory if you are part of the process. It will be more practical if we are seen practicing the truths of the faith. For how will we teach others about pursuing godliness unless we are pursuing it ourselves? This young preacher is warned about false teachers teaching demonic doctrines. The power of godly teaching that effects transformation will always be opposed by spiritual forces bent on our destruction and the attempt to diminish God's message into irrelevance. To be the most effective teacher, I must communicate a firm belief in what I believe. One thing I believe is that the Lord is able to transform us into the image of Christ when we learn to live within the authority of His word...practicing His teaching...practicing what we preach. I must preach to myself. Godliness is the goal. Teaching godliness requires that I am becoming more godly and the example of my life will confirm this for all to see. When I do not practice what I preach I can become one of those false teachers…teaching doctrines of demons…one of them being that God is not true to His word. Doctrines of demons consist of any teaching not grounded in the truth of God's word. This truth will set us free to serve the Lord and free from slavery to sin. When we are living God's word and learning how to worship Him rightly there should be progress toward Christlikeness. People should be able to see my spiritual progression…not regression. I don’t want to go backward from where I’ve come. Forward… the goal. When I preach to me it is because I always need to be reminded of my destiny...and since I am going to be with Jesus it is required that I am to be more like Jesus.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

His Hand Upon Us

Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to adorn the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king's mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the Lord my God upon me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me. (Ezra 7:27-28)

Even the king could see it. It was hard to miss. The hand of the Lord God was upon Ezra the scribe. What does this look like? Often it is a generational thing…the hand of the Lord was upon Ezra and a long lineage of ancestors, all the way back to Aaron, the brother of Moses, and High Priest of Israel. Imagine being in Babylonian captivity at this time of the history of God’s people and being privileged to return to restore the worship of God in Jerusalem. Imagine going back to lead the people in spiritual worship and teaching of the word of the Lord and not knowing how. The Lord prepares those that He will use. He begins with a heart to know God. Ezra had set his heart to learning the law…so he could practice the law…so he could teach the law of the Lord. He had not abandoned his priestly lineage as some did. He set his heart on doing what the Lord wanted him to do…never dreaming how God would work it out in his life. God was known in Ezra’s heart before he knew God’s hand was upon him. This is a lesson for us. We should set our hearts on knowing God and practicing His ways. And perhaps someday, the hand of the Lord will be upon us, and we will be mightily used beyond our capacity. When the hand of the Lord is upon us, it can be plainly seen. And the hand of the Lord is placed upon those whose hearts are set diligently upon Him. His hand is upon us to steady us as we study Him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Danger...Ambush Ahead!

Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. (Proverbs 4:14)

The path is where temptation is more likely to be encountered. Traps are set on the path that the prey travels upon. Any hunter worth his salt scouts the landscape and sets up a blind from which to shoot ducks or places a tree stand along the path of the deer’s daily journey. The path is where danger lies in waiting. The threat of death or capture lurks in the shadows of the path of the wicked. So the wise counsel is resist temptation by staying off the wicked path and remaining on the path of the righteous. When we move off the righteous path and walk in the way of evil men, we should expect to encounter the snares of the enemy. We are his prey when we are in his domain. We have a trapper who has been at this a long time, studying the habits of the creatures called humans. But consider that when we walk in the righteous way, we are the hunters. The hunted has become the hunter. As we pursue righteousness, traveling the path of the righteous, any evil thing that is encountered, within or without, is to be vanquished. Righteous living begins with righteous thinking. Keeping our mind fixed upon the Person of Christ enables us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When our minds dwell on that which does not honor Christ, we are travelling the path of the wicked. The first place we are trapped is in the mind. It is always about what we think about God and about man that puts us at risk. The safest place for the godly person to be is wherever we are when our minds are encountering the ways or the paths of godliness. Think about it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Lonesome Preacher

At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. (2 Timothy 4:16-17

Often my impression with super spiritual people, you know, the ones that God uses, is an image that is larger than life. Giants in stature around many of their entourage. I think of these super saints as being accompanied with many companions, shielded from harm, and always encouraged in the journey. But that is how the world builds up its heroes. Super Men…with the emphasis on the man. Real men, made in God’s image, and restored to His likeness, will often be perceived as small in the eyes of the world. They will often seem insignificant…vulnerable…lonesome. So it is with the Apostle Paul. I am slow to remember his trials because he speaks so much of the victories that he had in Christ. And that is the key for understanding our purpose in God. We are not to be put on display, followed around by holy groupies and religious roadies. This is not the design of God. God’s best servants are the bruised ones and battered ones and the best ones are often the lonesome ones. You can be lonesome when there are others about you. You can be lonesome when you speak the truth that you know can bring suffering to you. You may be lonesome when all have abandoned you. But with the Lord, you will never be lonely. Lonely is the knowledge that everything depends on me and I’m the only one here. God uses lonesome people. But they are never lonely, because they are never alone. The Presence of the Lord is where His Power resides. And if He is always with me, never to forsake me, I am empowered to speak His message…no matter who’s there or who’s not. Paul’s purpose was to live out God’s purpose…to preach to the Gentiles. Not to be some appetizer for the enemy’s main course. The one who prowls about as a roaring lion, our adversary, cannot devour what the Lion of Judah has raised up for a mouthpiece. Who is trying to keep you from the purpose of proclamation placed upon you? Our main proclamation is to live long enough for the pagans to see that we really do believe Jesus is Lord! And God is in charge of that. Whether in word or deed I can surely die while proclaiming that…but I can never truly live if I don’t.

Friday, October 12, 2012


For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin. (Proverbs 5:21-22)

The Lord sees us when we travel the right road, walking with Him. He also sees when we walk the wrong way, the path of the wicked. The traps that are laid on the path of the wicked are often the traps of the traveler’s own making and sin’s design. These traps are designed to reveal the truth, that we are not masters of our destiny. Sin is our master when we walk the path of the wicked. And when we are traveling the righteous path, the Lord is our master and the journey is His design. This path is designed for a glorious destiny with God. This is why He watches the paths of a man. He sees us when we are pursuing Him and He sees us when we are pursuing sin. His eye is on the one that has grown weary of this sinful path and desires a different direction. His eye is on the heart of the repentant prodigal who realizes the goodness of His father’s place and determines to change direction. As long as we travel the wicked path of sin, we will be bound to it, eventually dying there. When we don't watch the path we are walking, we can be assured that God has His eye upon it. Somebody's watching you!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Passover Memories

The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. (Ezra 6:19)

When a Passover is celebrated, God’s protection and deliverance and sustenance and provision is remembered. In this passage, the ones who had been challenged by lesser authority saw the fruition of the blessing of God. God had ordained that His people remember His Passover. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people had been challenged in their belief. Would they trust God or turn to idolatry? Sadly, idolatry ruled in their hearts. Occasionally they would remember Him. This is one of those times. They could not have prevailed without Him. This is truth to me today. I could not have endured in this journey without the mercy of God. He passed over me when He could have judged me. He gave me life when I could have been given death. The history of the Passover lamb has always pointed to the Lamb of God in the heritage of God’s people. The children of the Lord are always in exile and alien sojourners in this world of sin. We do not belong here. We yearn to be free to worship the Lord. And when God makes that possible, we must remember the Lamb. How He passed over us…when death was so near… Hallelujah! There truly is life in the blood of the Lamb!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The King's Decree

Now if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king's treasure house, which is there in Babylon, if it be that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send to us his decision concerning this matter. (Ezra 5:17)

It’s always good to know the content of the king’s decree. When the enemies of the people of God were trying to stop the project of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, the people of God would not quit working as long as they had an authoritative order in place. Even though there had been a power shift, the edict of Cyrus had not been rescinded, at least as far as they had been informed. The appeal to Darius was brilliant. They requested that the king look at Cyrus’s order and then let them know of his decision. Authority was approached without any disrespect or dishonor or rebellion. But they would not stop the work at the word of a representative of inferior authority. They rested their case on the precedent of the previous order while acknowledging the authority of the present power structure. Learn this lesson. The enemy of our souls tries to stop our work in being used to restore righteousness in God’s kingdom. But we must appeal to the edict in place. What has the King said about the Kingdom of God? And has His order been modified or rescinded or is it still in place? Let all power and authority rest in the strength of God’s edict. Shall we stop the work because of the enemy’s attack or distraction or persecution? Not till the King says so…and there is only One Most High God. It’s always good to know the content of the King’s decree. The Bible, the Word of God, is indeed the King's decree. So work on until the Lord says it's time to stop the work. We have our orders. Thus says the Lord…It is written!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Difference One Man Can Make

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim 2:5-6)

In one man, all humanity sinned against God. It would take another Man to restore the rightful order of creation that had careened out of order. A different without sin. Why, a man would have to be no less than God to pull this off! After all, all men inherited the sin nature from one man. Sin is a genetic human flaw. But even if God would become a man, He would have to retain His goodness, never surrendering to the everpresent temptation to sin in this sin-infested world. This is the Man Christ Jesus. Just as in the beginning Adam surrendered his place of authority in Creation and sold humanity into bondage, Jesus came to restore the man to the rightful place that God had created for him to occupy. He came to purchase our freedom…He came to offer a ransom for the captives. He became the ransom! He offered the perfect for the imperfect. His life for ours. This is our destiny…to rule and reign with the Lord as creatures created in His image and joint heirs of the kingdom of God. The Mediator is the Man in the Middle. Touching God…touching man. This was the hope of Job. It is still the hope of mankind separated and estranged from God. In this desperate state, man is lost in his lostness. It takes a mediator to bring men to God. The Man Christ Jesus is our connection to God. First Adam lost it. Second Adam, the last Adam, the God Man, restored it. What a difference one Man can make!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tree of Life

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. (Proverbs 3:18)

Wisdom is what is in view here. Wisdom is equated with a tree of life. The mind goes back to the garden…two trees. Only one forbidden. The tree of life is ignored and the forbidden tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is chosen. Wisdom is surrendered because the human will is set in opposition to the will of God. And wise living became a foreign concept to the human race. Who would come and restore wisdom to humanity? The God Man, Wisdom Incarnate, would come and die on a tree. The cross, the tree of death, became the tree of life. Life is offered there for death…the outgrowth of sin and rebellion. Wisdom is only gained through acknowledging our foolishness of trying to live without God’s wise influence. Wisdom is gained when men recognize their desperate need for it. To gain wisdom we must access God Himself. Trying to live outside of God’s wise authority is foolish and fruitless. There are trees that our lives will represent. But if our life is to be one full of life and wisdom and bearing good fruit, we must be touching the tree of life. And we must hold on to it while the hurricane force winds of culture blow against us, trying to shake us loose. Wisdom is gained when we receive it from Christ…the Wisdom from on high. Wisdom brings a fruitful and blessed life. Hold on to the Wisdom of God. Let go of all other trees.

Friday, October 5, 2012


It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

Salvation is what Paul was writing about. The only way we gain the glory of the Lord is to be saved. We are saved to know God...and gain His glory. What we are saved from is seeking to demonstrate the glory of ourselves. All of our lives before the gospel came to us was wrapped up in believing that the whole world turned around us and we were central to this drama we call life. When truth was revealed to us by the Spirit and through His word, we were given faith to believe the real truth… Jesus is at the center of all of history and He is central to our salvation. He saves us so that we can become like Him. We will not become like Him unless we know Him. When we hear the call of the gospel we can receive or reject this truth...that Jesus is Lord. When we receive it, we will be made holy, we will be transformed. And we will gain the glory of Christ because Christ will be in us. The Lord not only grants us life...He is our life! We are saved from serving self and exalting self. We are saved from self-worship and self-glorification. We are saved from self-destruction. We are saved to serve a Savior. We are saved to show His glory.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Too Much And Not Enough

A sated man loathes honey, but to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet. (Prov 27:7)

The one who has his fill of good things often takes good things for granted. To him, honey is something that he has had enough of…he wants no more…this sweet thing is too sweet. The children of Israel were dissatisfied with God’s provision of manna and they wanted meat. God supplied so much quail they became sick of quail. it was too much of a good thing. A human being is quickly dissatisfied because we are no longer satisfied with God and His provision. We can soon become bored with God. Contrast that with the hungry man. He’s not too choosy about the sweetness of what comes his way. Any thing is good. Even any bitter thing…is sweet. Anything is better than what he has. Without God, this man is in danger of swallowing every evil kind of poison that may be represented as something good. Any bitter thing and too much honey are the two extremes of the human spiritual condition when we hunger for God. We are so blessed to have the word of God coming to us in so many ways in our modern culture. We may be lulled into a sense of examining and tasting so many different offerings that they lose their sweet taste after awhile. This is possible when the sweetness of God’s presence may have been left out of the recipe. To the one who will swallow any bitter thing and call it sweet it is because the mind is deceived about the character of God. Stop sampling too many things and start studying one thing…the word of God. God is satisfying. Everything else is not. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Sound Of The Shout

Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)

The sound of the shout. Sometimes we cry loudly, sometimes we shout loudly.  For joy and sorrow...sometimes at the same time.  Sometimes we weep for our sin and God's response of mercy. Here we have an account of the old timers remembering what it was like to lose the place where God was worshipped. We read in this chapter that it was into the second year before the foundation of the rebuilt temple was laid. They did not rush into the restoration. Here is a lesson for our learning. The worship of God is not honored by hasty and slipshod preparation. The lives that were lived from the time of the exile until their return were empty of the place but always yearning for restoration. The emotional moment of the old men seeing the people return to God was a deeply moving experience. Joy is the fruit that comes out when we know deep sorrow and God's restoration. God's people who are seriously pursuing the restoration of holiness will find themselves on shouting ground. Whether we are sorrowful or joyful makes no difference. The world, the community, and God Himself hears the shout. The sound of a shout is one we give when we remember what has transpired and especially what God has done. There is a time and a place for shouting. You can use your outside voice to express inside joy.  You can even weep on the inside and shout on the outside.  So what's all the shouting about?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Radical Reformation

For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34:4-5)

So much for resting in peace!  Even the bones of the wicked priests were burned.  This young king was seriously practicing radical reformation.  Like radical surgery in our day, there is no place for leaving something deadly in place.  Spiritual reformation has been practiced through the ages but not always so fiercely. Imagine this response to idolatry in our day. Uncivilized, we would say.  But nothing has changed with God. And the destruction of sin rolls on. The good King Josiah was zealous about removing the evil influence and restoring the righteousness of godly worship in the kingdom. And this was before he read the law in the house of the Lord! God sees the destruction of the wicked as an already accomplished feat. This practical action of destroying the wicked in the physical realm is something God has decreed in the spiritual domain. The judgment of idolatry is severe. The judgment of idolatry is unwavering and nonnegotiable. It is complete destruction. Sin and sinners are judged forever at the cross. There are no living survivors.  It is written.  Lord, make it so!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Working On A Building

Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name. These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood. The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim. (Ezra 2:61-63)

You would think that going on an expedition to Jerusalem to restore the Temple, anyone would be welcome in whatever the position. It was after all a major undertaking and an arduous journey. Maybe the priestly standard could be relaxed just a bit. But not so. There is always a standard that is nonnegotiable when it comes to holy things and holy preparation. The first thing is for people who work in holiness to be holy…set apart…not just anyone will do when we do spiritual things. The Urim and Thummin was in some way a vehicle of revelation. The governor wanted to hear from the Lord. And the methods and the means were not to be compromised. My desire to be a minister of the gospel requires that the Lord bring that desire to me. I must be concerned and consumed with the thoughts of being a holy man. Holiness in God’s priests, ministers, leaders, and learners makes an eternal difference. For I, too, am building a temple of the Lord…I’m working on a building.  In words that are better sung than spoken, It's a Holy Ghost building, It's a Holy Ghost building, It's a Holy Ghost Building, for my Lord, for my Lord! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hiding And Seeking

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Prov 25:2)

When we’re faced with decisions of whether the direction before us is truly the Lord’s direction, we often assume that every direction before us is the Lord’s path. If this is a true assumption, then we really would have no decisions to make when traveling on this journey. Whatever the direction, whatever the action, whatever the thought, then it must be from God, right? We know this can be a very wrong assumption and also the lazy man’s way of following God. This belief says that every open door must be entered and everything presented must be received. It would be like the child making a choice to do something they really want to do and when they realize it was the wrong choice…to blame the parent for their foolish action. The child would say to the parent, “You should have stopped me….how was I to know it was wrong? This is how humanity tends to shift the blame from us to God for the lack of making a responsible choice. Sometimes the Lord does put up roadblocks and guardrails. Sometimes we do have a clear directive about our direction. But the glory of God is to conceal a matter. The Lord’s way is often hidden so that it can be revealed. It glorifies God to be asked…Lord is this the right direction…is this the right person to marry… is this the business deal I should make…how would you have me respond…which career path is the one that pleases You? Kings…leaders…people in authority are not to assume that every decision is made by assuming that God has taken our responsible responses out of the context of wise leadership. Wise leaders seek wisdom…wise kings search out a matter.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Lord's Mouthpiece

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

These words to a king are appropriate for God’s people…a kingdom of priests. The king’s speech has power. Edicts are set in place, pardons are granted, and causes are taken up by what he says. The powerless need a voice. No one hears them because they have no power. The ones who cannot speak need someone who can speak. The ones who are afflicted need someone who helps them. The ones who are needy are supplied by someone who can provide for them. The weak ones need a strong one. The powerless need a powerful voice. The defenseless need a defender. This is the role of the godly king. This is the role of the godly leader…the one in authority who may be embattled, but empowered and enabled by God to lead. The silent ones need someone who can speak a word to encourage and plead their case before the judgment seat. Our best avenue to secure help for the helpless is to plead their case before the Most High God. Godly leaders have access to ultimate power when they pray for these little ones, or the ones the world sees as small and insignificant. God’s great heart beats for the broken hearted people we encounter. Don’t miss the opportunity to speak words that matter. Open your mouth…and pray on their behalf.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Goes Up...

When the wicked increase, transgression increases; but the righteous will see their fall. (Prov 29:16)
Increase in the wicked does not necessarily mean in numbers…it can mean in strength. The wicked man will become more lawless…not less lawless. The transgressions will not only be more numerous in scope but more lawless in their wickedness. A wicked man will not become less wicked. He will become more wicked. The righteous man by contrast will become more righteous. We are not operating in a spiritually neutral zone. We are either becoming more like God or less like Him. The reason the righteous will see the fall of the wicked is that God is not opposed by an equal or superior force. Good will prevail because God will prevail. Therefore when the wicked fall, God is at work restoring righteousness. And righteousness will be restored in men and in the world. This is our hope. Whatever goes up…in opposition to God’s authority, whatever is raised up in rebellion, will surely come down. And great will be its fall. Don’t get damaged in its demolition.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pride's Place

King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. (2 Chron 26:21)

Uzziah’s prideful worship resulted in his affliction with leprosy. When he attempted to worship in an unauthorized way, without the priest’s mediation, he was called to stop…to repent. But repentance is hard for a king. Pride can keep a king from humbling himself. Pride is something that God sees within a man. And it is as ugly on the inside as leprosy is on the outside. Our lesson is that in this day, God was to be worshipped through the way God had designed. And Uzziah was out of order in his order of worship. This can also happen today. Some folks have the idea that they can approach the Lord in an unauthorized way. Now we do not need priests from the line of Aaron to mediate. Nor do we need pastors or ministry leaders to approach God on our behalf. But we still need a mediator. We need Jesus. No man comes to the Father except through the Son. No one will approach the holiness of God without Jesus as his Great High Priest. Pride that keeps us from humbling ourselves before Jesus is just as detestable before the Lord as it was in Uzziah’s day. Pride is never pretty…especially when you can see the outcome. Pride, like leprosy, can separate you from the goodness and glory of God. Pride can get us cut off from our sanctuary. Pride will not stand in the presence of the Lord. Pride's place is a desolate place. Pride will place us in the leper's house. God's house is the's where our heart finds its home.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Now...Is The Time To Worship

Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had prepared for the people, because the thing came about suddenly. (2 Chron 29:36)

The thing that came about suddenly was God’s response to the worship. The king and the priests and the Levites and the people had prepared to worship. We read that the Levites had prepared their hearts more than the priests had. And God honored that. He still does. God will work around a priesthood that takes worship for granted and is slow to prepare their hearts. God will raise up servants to step into worship roles. The thing that comes about suddenly is a response to preparation. To prepare my heart to worship is a priority with the Lord...and this takes time. Anytime the power of God is suddenly manifested in the company of God’s people gives us cause to look about and see who is prepared to worship and has been preparing for Him to respond. We worship Him rightly when we worship Him expecting a response from Him. For worship is our response to His activity. He moves us to worship Him. When He moves in our midst, joy is expressed. This joy has a source. We give to Him what He has imparted to us. True worship is the joy of the Lord in communion with the joy of the Lord. Worship is right recognition of what God has prepared when we have prepared to worship Him. It is a celebration of community with God. And it is a high time when we worship. In fact, it is high time we worship. the time to worship...all the time. All day. Every day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Grace...A Most Usable Gift

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)

I love to get gifts that I need or am going to need. Timothy is told by Paul that since he has received a gift from God…the Holy Spirit…then he will be able to use what he has received…the grace of God. We often don’t know all that there is to know about the gift of God’s grace. We may not understand what God has in store. But be assured that whatever life with God brings into our lives, His grace is enough. Timothy is exhorted to be strong…in the grace…that is in Christ Jesus. He will need grace to teach what Paul set forth. He will need grace to entrust these things to faithful teachers. He will need the grace of someone who suffers hardship and presses onward, looking upward. He will need grace to serve as a soldier of Christ…fighting battles that often look like lost causes. He will need grace to stay out of the everyday traps that would distract his ministry at the least and entrap and destroy his ministry at the worst. Timothy will need grace to compete as an athlete, training for the contest. He will need the grace that a farmer receives when a harvest has been yielded from his labor…the farmer knows he didn’t make it grow. Finally he needs the grace of remembering the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, a descendant of David. We need the grace to remember these things about Jesus…and to be strong in it. For our king died for us…raised to glory…and reigns as King. Be strong today. Remember how much you need the grace of God. And be strong in it when you see your weakness. Jesus is Lord. I need His grace today to give me strength.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guaranteed Deposit

Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14)

There are many who have trusted their treasure. But they have learned that it wasn’t enough. Many seek to live a long life and find out their time is short on the earth. Their treasure that they have amassed is stored in a bank building or a wall safe. And sadly they have learned that all the treasure cannot sustain a dying life. Many have accumulated treasures that others have envied, only to wake up one day to the devastating economic reality that the worth of their treasure is diminished because some banks halfway around the world have failed, and the monetary system has changed, and the standard of the currency is deflated. Some treasure seekers have invested their whole lives pursuing some mythical legend about treasure that has been buried in the ground or lies at the bottom of the sea. They borrow from investors who believe in taking this risk and find that they are digging in an empty hole…sinking their money into a money pit…bottomless and fruitless. The treasure that the Apostle Paul is counseling Timothy about is a treasure that has infinite value. The treasure that has been entrusted is treasure that does not need to be hunted or hoarded. It doesn’t have to be desperately searched for…because it is given freely by the Source. It is not the subject of fables or fantasies, but a reality that cannot be denied. Timothy had been given a deposit. God had given him faith through hearing the gospel and had placed a deposit within him. He was given the promise of God’s presence…a true treasure. The Holy Spirit which lived within him was his assurance that God was real and His truth was to be treasured. Imagine searching for truth and never finding it…searching for life and dying every day...believing that your security was wrapped up in financial securities…what a sad way to live. The Holy Spirit is our deposit, God’s earnest promise that the rest, and the best, is yet to come. The good news of the gospel is that God doesn’t only give us Himself as a treasure…He guards the treasure Himself! Imagine trying to get past God to steal my treasure....Go ahead...Make God's Day! This is why our salvation is secure. No one can take out what God has placed within. That would be an unauthorized withdrawal of an authorized deposit. God is keeping us...His Spirit is preserving us…we will never die if God lives within. God cannot die...since Life has overcome death.  That deposit is a treasured treasure. The ultimate guaranteed cetificate of deposit. It is written!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Courage and Cowardice

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

When God gives a gift…it speaks of His character. God gives us qualities that are manifest in Him. Here we read that God has not given us one thing, but other things…power, love, and discipline. When we realize that these things are gifts, we must receive them, and thank God for them. The power of God surpasses the power of men. My power has its limitations but God’s power is boundless. His power is more than sufficient for any human condition or circumstance. Death is not beyond His power to restore. Life is not beyond His power to sustain. Love is a many splendored thing, so the old song says. But our human understanding of love is insufficient for what God wants us to have. Love is wrapped up in His nature. And He wants love to be part of ours. The reason God loves is because He’s God. If He’s living, He’s loving. And God gives us the gift of sound judgment…discipline. He gives us what we need to judge rightly and live disciplined lives. He gives us a right standard to judge by…His Word, His Holiness, Himself. So God gives us gifts that are essentially His very nature. So what is it that He hasn’t given? Here we read a spirit of timidity.  But it’s more specific than that. A spirit of fear is what is displayed in some translations. But what is really being said is that God has not given us a spirit of cowardice. This is especially instructive for me. Cowardice is a type of fear that is particularly disabling. Cowardice is being afraid of doing the right thing...even when we know the right thing to do.  I have heard it said that courage is fear that has said its prayers. Cowardice does not talk to anyone. It’s too ashamed. Cowardice is too afraid of its fear. The reason God has not given us this kind of spirit is that God is not a coward. He knows the right thing to do and He does it.  When He gives us instructions in His word and we do it, we can overcome a spirit of timidity.  And when God gives us gifts, He brings them Himself...personally.  His presence brings His presents! This is the reason He consistently says to His people…fear not, I am with you. My encouraging word today is that God will give me courage, not cowardice. If fear is courage that has said its prayers, maybe that’s the problem. Cowards don’t talk much with God. If cowardice is found in you, talk to God about it. He is able to give you something different. Courageous people hear from God…and do what He says. They gain the courage that overcomes their cowardice.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Tears Of A Clown

Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13)

Now there's some sad things known to man…But ain't too much sadder than…The tears of a clown…When there's no one around…These words from a song of days gone by helps me to better understand the words of this ancient verse. In laughter…the heart may be in pain. But I really don’t need Smokey Robinson and The Miracles to confirm to me the truth of this proverb.  The miracle is that I can know God has said it and I can believe it.  My experience has proved it.  I have lived it.  And I’m probably not alone. Why is it that we can be laughing on the outside but crying on the inside? And why is it that we think we have to always show the gladness…and hide the sadness? I believe the human condition is outlined for us here. Sorrow and joy can coexist within us. And often we cannot explain this paradox and how the reality is demonstrated. In some of our saddest times, joy can burst forth. And in some joyful moment, we can have a meltdown in a flood of tears and sadness. How can that be? I believe that joy is a snapshot of the true reality. That the Lord God has come to restore the joy of His creation to a sorrowful and fallen world. So we are born of our flesh into this place where sorrow has made its home. But when we are born of the Spirit of God, we are given glimpses of the Creator’s purpose…joy.  Inexpressible…and uninterrupted joy. I believe that is God’s plan. To save us from the sorrow of infinite destruction into the joy of God’s infinite Presence. God is telling us when we are joyful in the midst of our sorrow…that one day, joy will rule completely…no more sorrow for tomorrow. But what about the times when no one sees the sadness? What are we to do? Surely, if we wept constantly, no one would want to be around us. So we put on a happy face, as another old song would say. When we sing the sad songs best, it is when no one knows that we’re singing them...except One. The Lord hears our songs of sorrow… and sees us in our seasons of grief. He is a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with Grief. This is the goodness of God. He not only has encouraged us to believe in this future state of uninterrupted joy, He Himself has lived this sorrowful existence with us. He, too, was born into this sinful world. He knows all about sorrow…and all about joy. He leads us into the fullness of His presence, where we can experience His strength and the joy of the Lord. Grief and sorrow are natural expressions of something that has been lost…something that is precious. Joy is experienced when the lost thing is found, and fullness is restored. We are made whole.  This is the joy of the Lord…when one sinner repents…and lives with God. Lord, You not only show me where I’m going…You are where I’m going! O Lord, be merciful to me…that sinner! Joy is my destiny… You are my destination.  Our tears are precious to the Lord and His tears are precious to us.  One more crying there...we are going to see the King.  The tears of a clown are sometime hidden to us.  So are the tears of a King...who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame...
Knowing this kind of joy might just make me cry all the way home!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Words From The Heart

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)

Have you ever seen a mama cat licking her kittens? Sometimes she licks them to clean them…(Yuck) or licks their wounds to heal them, (probably not in the best veterinary treatment manuals).  But could it be that she licks them to comfort show them affection? I’ll have to say that the kittens sure seem to enjoy it. Enough of this talk about licking…is this what a soothing tongue is all about? The writer of this proverb is referring to the words that roll off the tongue. Soothing, or comforting words, are good for us. Encouraging words are sustaining…they keep us going. Soothing words, according to the translators, actually are healing words. So I am provoked to ask myself the question…when I am hurting, what kind of words help me the most? What words do I need to hear? And more to the point, am I a person known for a soothing tongue, healing words, or something different? The contrast is perversion which is a twisting of something’s purpose. I am created to speak words that heal…not hurt. When I speak hurting words, it is like I stab and twist a knife into someone.  The writer says that I crush their spirit.  When I am perverted in my speech, I serve a different purpose, a twisted purpose, an evil purpose. Sometimes we may use our words to shame someone into behaving better. Sometimes we use words that wound because we are wounded ourselves. But when we wound because we are wounded, that does not help our healing…the scabs are torn off, the wound is reopened, and the process begins again. Interesting thing about scabs and scars. Scabs are the sign of a healing that is not yet healed. And scars are the evidence of healing of wounds inflicted long ago. Consider the scars upon the Lord. And consider His wounding. Consider His words. But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. (Matthew 15:18) When I speak words that do not heal…maybe the problem is with my heart.  The Lord can help us with that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Babbling Or Bubbling?

The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. (Proverbs 18:4)

The difference between babbling or bubbling is like the difference between foolishness and wisdom. Have you ever started talking about something and quickly realized you were in over your head, like treading water in deep end of a pool? So it is with the words of a man’s mouth. Foolish speech that gushes forth can quickly overwhelm us and submerge us into deep waters. But on the other hand, the wisdom that is stored up in a man’s heart can be like a deep reservoir. You can be one that others look upon as a deep person and not shallow and superficial. The source of deep waters can be defined as foolishness or wisdom. Most of us don’t have a problem filling a deep pit of foolishness…we’re babbling some sort of foolishness continually. Where does this come from? Our hearts are a constant source of what the mouth will speak. In other words, some of us are filled to the brim with foolish thinking that flows out in foolish speaking. But if the deep pool is a reservoir of wisdom, the source is different. Wisdom is a fountain, bubbling like a brook…the thought of that sound comforts me greatly. So does a never ending supply of wisdom. And if I am tapped into that fountain, God Himself, then I can be seen as deep in the things of life that really matter…knowing God…and knowing how God wants me to live. The wise counsel for us today is to shut off the babbling so we can listen to the bubbling!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hush My Mouth

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. (Proverbs 17:28)

I don’t always know I’m looking at a fool…but I always know when I’m listening to one. When a fool begins to talk, the subject of discussion is usually focused on himself. Because a fool doesn’t think that anyone knows more about him than him, it’s hard to convince him that there is any opinion that matters more. Because the fool says in his heart there is no God, his words convict him of his own foolishness. By his own admission, he’s a fool. But let him keep quiet and some will consider him wise. Some days I act like a fool…I act as if God is not influencing my life. When I speak as though God is not listening, I’m acting as though God’s not watching and my folly is screaming out loud enough for everyone to hear! So what’s the wisest course of action? As they say in the South…Well, hush my mouth!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Emptied Out Thrones And Hollowed Out Homes

It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. (Proverbs 16:12)

Have you ever seen what happens when a house is deserted and left without someone to "keep up the place?"  It's like someone vacated so fast that everything that made the house a home was emptied out, hollow and desolate, a shell of what it could have been.  Righteous authority is the ultimate authority. God is good…wise…and…sovereign. He is the basis of Righteousness. We wouldn’t know what it was unless we have a standard to observe. Therefore, God shows us Himself…in His word…in His world…in His Son. He reveals righteousness. We know that God is good for we see His goodness manifested. But we don’t see everything good as yet. But it will be restored in the earth once again. It was here before the fall of man. Since righteous authority is God’s plan this is why we’re told that wicked acting kings are abominable in God’s sight. Now we aren’t under the domination of a king in our land. But I think the principle here to discover is the principle of righteous authority. And when leaders of nations, churches, and families act outside of the revealed righteous standard that God sets before us, we are operating in illegitimate authority. This is dangerous to many, but especially to the leader. Wicked, or ungodly, acts are an abomination to the Lord. And the Bible declares that anything the Lord determines as an abomination never turns out well. Sin is the rejection and refusal to accept God’s righteous authority. Sin brings judgment. Kings can lose their thrones.  Fathers can lose the trust of those he leads and whole families can become abominations, imploding and caving in on the hollowness and emptiness that the lack of righteousness brings. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Scandalous Speculation

Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent." And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things. (Luke 23:47-49)

Everyone had a different response to this scandalous spectacle. The cross has always been provocative and scandalous.  Something that cannot be ignored.  Something that won't go away.  It demands a response in every age.  Even if men reject it, they will respond...and speculate.  Like today's spectacular tragedies, we are drawn to them and we speculate as to their cause and try to interpret their meaning.  The one closest to the cross, a pagan Roman soldier, spoke one of the tenets of our faith as he speculated about its apparent meaning. The innocence of Christ on the cross, the only one ever truly innocent of all sin, is central to the gospel message. The crowds, who may have cried out for His crucifixion, beat their breasts in sorrow. Surely they did not know what they were doing. Some of them didn't care.  And of the disciples who followed, most of them stood some distance away. Here’s a common response to those of us closest to the Lord’s heart…to remain some distance away from the cross. Nothing else provokes humanity more than the cross. It's like pointing a stick at some wild beast...some are hostile and some are humbled.  Our response at the cross is crucial. We cannot remain unmoved by the spectacle. So what is your response? How close can you get to the cross today? Why did this happen?  What does it mean?  What is your speculation? 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Word Of God And The Worship Of Men

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God… Now because of all this we are making an agreement in writing; And on the sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites and our priests. (Nehemiah 9:1-4,38)

Nehemiah and his people got real with the reality of God. They come into His presence…and the cost of admission is high. They have been humbled from their high place by other nations and they have come to the place when they realize that without the presence of God in their lives, they are living lives far below God’s good design as His people. They have come face to face with their sin. Their family lives and social lives have been radically altered as they have turned away from their idolatrous influences and ungodly relationships to encounter a right relationship with the Lord. This is a lesson for God’s people for all times. Are we seriously seeking the presence of the Lord while clinging to things that offend His holiness? Are we willing to pay the cost of change? Abandonment of things that do not please God? The only way to get right with God is to confess the wrong, agree with His assessment and change according to His standard, adhering to His word and dependent upon His help. God will not be satisfied with a pretense of holiness. He wants to be worshipped by people who really know His nature. He has revealed Himself to His people. And His people soon forget Him. So as these exiles are seeking to restore the place of worship, the place of worship is restored first within them. They confess their sin, the sin of their generations, the iniquities of their fathers. Sin does not go away. It will continue its destructive advance throughout the generations until a nation of people is hardly recognizable. Then one generation stands up…and bows low. They get serious with the seriousness of faith. They make a commitment here and write it down. This is what God has done in His word. He has revealed Himself to a group of people in one certain time…and wrote it down for all time. The people of Nehemiah’s day discovered the way back to God’s heart.  It is found in His Word.  It is written.  Serious worship is the way.  The Word and Worship shows us the Way.  Are you worshipping Him when you read His word?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homeland Security

Now when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed, then I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. (Nehemiah 7:1-2)

Nehemiah is setting in order an orderly settlement. First order of business is security against their enemies. They do not assume that with the wall rebuilt that they are safe. He is ever mindful of the threat the outside forces pose. We do well to heed this lesson. We are always in danger of attack. We need to take our security seriously. The Enemy of our souls is constantly looking for open places in our walls and gates to send in his soldiers. Nehemiah entrusts this security task to God fearing men. So should we. The assignment of security for each homeowner is significant. They have a vested interest in protecting their property. It pays to have good neighbors. Nehemiah is restoring the dignity to the people of the land. So their ancestry is legitimized. Some might be willing to relax the priestly standards but Nehemiah and his people are not. The temptation to take whoever we can get to commit to service is a temptation that our churches deal with annually. Who is qualified to teach or to lead? Often it is the one that is willing and available. But being willing and available does not always mean able. In Nehemiah's day the people were facing hardships that comes out of restoring order from chaos.  Even so, the people still gave. So often we hold back on our monetary giving in the church because of trouble. We are afraid to waste our money.  The truth is that our money or our plan never really belongs to us. We are obligated to give back to God what is belonging to God. We are obligated to follow His plan. What we really fear is the loss of our security. Here is a step of faith practiced in Jerusalem. Some of the rich people may have wanted their name memorialized on some rock in front of their house. Or they may have wanted it known that they gave a special item of worship utensil. But here we see no evidence of such activity. They gave money, basins, and clothing for the worship experience to take place. Even the governor. No separation of church and state in God’s kingdom. It is truly a theocracy. This Sovereign God really does rule. He has a plan for us to be safe at home and we can trust Him to provide for our social security.  The security of God's people is a priority with the Lord.  Sometimes our subtle rebellion will keep us blind to that fact.  To fear God is to trust Him with your life.  Faithful people fear God.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Standing Straight...Walking Tall

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

“Stand up straight!” This was an older pastor's counsel to a younger one. The younger pastor was being opposed by some church members who were questioning his authority as their leader. The older pastor explained that he was not to lean into the fray or lean away from the fight. Stand up straight! Timothy was told by Paul in an earlier letter to fight the fight. So was Paul’s counsel here contradictory? How does God expect the spiritual leaders among us to handle conflict and opposition within the church? Are we never to correct and rebuke? This passage says that sometimes correction is necessary…but God’s way is not to quarrel about it. We are to gently correct. And gentle responses can also be firm and resolved. The overarching goal is not to win arguments but restore those captured by the enemy. This is easier done when we remember who we are…a bond-servant…and whose we are…the Lord’s. Remembering that we belong to the Lord helps us to know that He knows who are in the opposition position. And the Lord knows best how to handle conflict. My fight…Timothy’s fight…is to fight the fight of faith. To continue to trust the Lord when we are under attack from the enemy. And remember that the enemy has others who will fight his fight. It's all about belonging.  A quarrelsome spirit does not belong in the pastor...the battle belongs to the Lord…and I belong to Him.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gated Community

Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. (Nehemiah 3:1-2)

A gated community needs a significant and substantial gate.  It is significant that the priests repaired the Sheep Gate and significant that the name of the High Priest is mentioned. The Lord, our Shepherd, the Great High Priest, is also called the Door of the sheep. In His great redemptive and restorative work He became the entrance for us, the sheep of God's pasture. This gate is substantial because no man comes to the Father except through the Son. The way to God's place and God's presence was not accessible or even visible until Someone hung the gate... Someone hung the Door. The cross is where the door of the sheep was consecrated and sanctified through sacrifice. The cross is symbolic of an entryway from ruin to restoration. From helplessness to hope. In Nehemiah's timeframe in Jerusalem, repairs were necessary because something was broken. And it was more than a wall. There was a broken sense of community amidst personal responsibility that suffered disrepair. The effort of the community is seen here with a common purpose. The walls and gates were repaired. The officials and their offspring were involved. Even the daughters were working. It seems that the community responsibility for the walls and gates was immediate. And the personal responsibility for the area around their house was assigned. It is here that we see that we are personally and corporately responsible as people of God for our lives. If someone neglects their section of wall, the whole community suffers. They are at risk from marauding bands who are not concerned with their wellbeing. We also cannot give ourselves to community at the expense of personal family responsibility. It is often here that we as God's people fail miserably. It can come as the greatest shock that someone's family disintegrates, falls apart from neglect, while the leader of the family is so devoted to church life. Our first calling is to our family. Strong and secure families make strong and secure communities. They were not only trusting in God to rebuild the wall, they were trusting in the effort of God's people. God would help them rebuild. But He wasn't going to lay the stones. They had to work at their part. We need to hear that today. We are given something that is precious. It should bother us to see God's intended honor, His spiritual treasures, that which we have been given as God's people fall into disrepair, disgrace, and reproach. It bothered Nehemiah greatly. It kept him up at night. The condition of God's people in which He has placed His name to dwell should bear heavy on us. We are not who we used to be or supposed to be. We have become a symbol of irrelevance and the name of our God is a mockery. So how does the wall look adjacent to your house? Is your neighbor's trash blowing into your domain? If your property is secured, are you helping your neighbor? Are they part of the community of the people of God? Does this concern you? If God were to change the nature of your neighbor, the strength of your community would increase. Sounds like a wise investment. Are you representing the Door of the Sheep well? Are you easily accessible and able to share the truth about how one enters the Kingdom of God? The Truth is the Door…tell ‘em about Jesus, the Great High Priest who is our Shepherd. We are the sheep of His pasture.

Friday, August 31, 2012

On The Wall

So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:3)

Nehemiah learned a lesson in doing a work in the name of God. He was moved in his spirit to restore the ancient walls of Jerusalem, restoring the faith of God's people in the process. Rest assured that any time this is tried, opposition to God's work will manifest itself. Here we see the enemies of Nehemiah and God's people continue to use the tactics of fear. See how they continuously sent messages and tried to conceal their true agenda. Nehemiah responded with a basic way of working while being bullied, deceived, threatened, and intimidated.  You'd better know who you are working for and the plain purpose of the work. Nehemiah was working to restore the glory of God. He was working on the wall, and could not come down. Focused on the Person and purpose for that which he worked helped to keep him working amidst the threats of fear. It still works today. While we are distracted, threatened and harassed by forces that oppose the will of God, if we know who we serve and why we serve, it keeps us on track. The threat of slanderous lies are brought to Nehemiah and he responds with a denial of the lies. Our only true defense is the truth. We don’t need to justify what we are doing when we serve God…we just continue to faithfully serve God. Constantly fighting our fear can certainly discourage us. But Nehemiah learned the secret of being courageous. Staying close to God and His purpose builds courage. Believing the lies of man and doubting the truth of God brings discouragement. We will give up the fight when we don't know why we fight. Nehemiah was in a fight to glorify God and restore His name. He was in a fight to overcome the reproach of God's people among other nations. When the wall was completed, many of the surrounding people, the nations, believed that God was helping His people. Nehemiah's success was only because God was successful. The people of God today do well to heed the lesson that Nehemiah was learning. When God builds our faith to persevere through the trials it is always with an eye to the future. More trials and bigger tests are coming. We can pass the bigger tests when we begin to see a bigger God. It is an easier thing to rebuild walls out of stone cold stones than to restore life to stone cold hearts, petrified by the trials of life. Some things only God can do. When God is doing His work we must do our part. Our part is to trust that He will…and He can… revive us again. God's people had been in exile many years. They were now in a position to trust God again. Would those who witnessed the rebuilding of the walls surrender their broken lives to God and be rebuilt? Will we bring our brokenness to God to be restored? The only one who can trust God for you is you!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Planning The Work of Working His Plan

Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)

Plan your work and work your plan. I heard this a few years ago and it stuck.  Some days this works out for me and some days…not so much. Some days I over plan. I’m too optimistic about too many things, not the least being the energy available for me to work the plan! Some days other people seem intent to getting me involved in working their plan and pursuing their agendas. Many days I have interruptions that were unforeseen and unplanned.  They distract me when the urgent overtakes the important. But mostly it is the unknown. Things that come up that I had no way to foresee because I could not see the future. This is where the truth of this proverb comes into my everyday world. God really does order my day. And some of these interruptions that break into my schedule comes from Him. I wish I could say I anticipate these and turn my attention to them immediately. But often, I don’t see these divine interventions and God ordained appointments for what they are. They are parts of the many pieces of the working out of His purpose. God is the ultimate multitasker! He does all things and many things well. Many of my plans may be fruitful. Many will be frustrated. But the counsel of the Lord will stand. When I hear what God wants to do…and how His plan fits into that in what I do, then life seems to get easier. He leads…I follow…pretty good plan when I hear God’s plan...and my plan becomes working out His plan. I was created to serve His purpose. How about you?  Why not lay down your planner for a while and seek counsel with the Planner. His Word works out His plan.