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.