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!