Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Awesome ...

"Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” - Job 26:14
What is the trailer for a blockbuster movie? What is a sample strip for a new perfume? What is a test drive in the latest and hottest sports car? They are all a small taste of the real thing. They create a hunger within and suggest that there's so much more just waiting for you around the bend. Eventually you see the movie, buy the perfume and get the car. But, did they all live up to the trailer, sample or test drive? Not always, and over time we learn the difference between Hype and awesome.
Job takes us on a short but impressive journey of God's creative works. Day by day, we observe all of which he speaks. The void of outer space on which earth hangs, the rain waters held high in the clouds, the orderly movement of the heavenly bodies, the calming of a turbulent sea and so much more. He pointed to earth and heaven, as a trailer, sample and test drive of God Almighty Himself. These are the outskirts of His ways, a small whisper, and suddenly we see the difference between hype and Awesome.
Every morning we are greeted with the trailers, samples and test drives that our Creator provides. He is a magnificent Creator that shows us His eternal power, divine nature, unique handiwork, and declares His glory from sunrise to sunset. In all of this he beckons to us that we might know him personally. Yet, do we listen to the small whisper and yearn for who lies beyond? Everything else in life is just hype compared to the One who is truly AWESOME. Do you know Him?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The purest Gold ...

“If you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver." - Job 22:24-25
Harry Pettit, Senior Digital Technology and Science Reporter recently published the following article, dated June 27, 2019: “MIDAS ROCK… Giant golden asteroid contains enough heavy metals to make everyone on Earth a billionaire – and NASA is heading there in 2022”. And so, the latest gold rush begins. Historic records tell us that approximately 65 different "gold rushes" have occurred over the last two centuries world wide. The lust for gold has been driving people into a frenzy for generations. Yet, the purest gold still sits in the heavens.
Eliphaz the Temanite may have been over zealous in his condemnation of Job, but his understanding of that which holds the greatest value was spot on. People, as far back as Job's time lusted after, and treasured gold above all other possessions. Gold has always been a major commodity in the world of materialism. Just like today, people would do whatever was necessary to accumulate the shiny stuff. Yet, Eliphaz knew that the purest gold still sat in the heavens.
The truth presses the mind and heart of the modern materialist. Can there be a something more valuable than the long desired metal called gold? Would it really be wise to leave the gold loaded asteroid Psych 16 alone? Why would anyone throw their gold jewelry, coins, bars, and portfolios away? If gold, and other earthly possessions, have become our greatest treasures, then it's time for us to find a better source. It's time to seek the Almighty as our gold and precious silver, because... the purest gold still sits in the heavens.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Slow down and THINK!

“Therefore my thoughts answer me, because of my haste within me." - Job 20:2
"I misspoke", "I didn't mean to say that", "I wasn't thinking"... and many more apologies are made daily for careless comments. I well remember such occasions when, were it not for the grace of God, I would have lost my front teeth. The temptation to snap back immediately in response to an insult is greater than most. But, the words that are spoken are more grinding than most.
If Job's friends were so wise and understanding, why did the Lord say in Job 42:7 “My anger burns against you... " about these three? We have a very long and detailed interchange between Job and these men. And the gist of their comments can be aptly packaged in the above confession..." because of my haste within me". Wise words may have been  spoken, but in the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason... all in haste. And all more grinding than most. 
This short, but poignant confession might be a thoughtful source of counsel for all of us. My father's unending word of wisdom through all my younger years was simple... "THINK!". Words wouldn't be misspoken if we would slow down and think before we speak. Only then will our words be more gracious than most. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Seek God ...

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety." ~ Job 5:8-11 
Wisdom and truth is no respecter of persons. When the right words are spoken, it really doesn't matter who spoke them. I often mentioned this to those parishioners who thought the guest speaker wasn't as polished as others. I would just ask them if there was a truth from the Lord that spoke to them, and without fail, there would be an affirmative response. There is no greater wisdom spoken than, "I would seek God."
Job's friends were an incredibly critical lot. They seemed to believe that Job was a downright criminal and was being punished by a very angry God. There were very few positive words of counsel that were spoken from these poor confidants. But, in the midst of all their casting judgment upon Job, the words listed above pour out. These are like fine gold on a silver platter. No matter what the situation, in the midst of any trouble... "Seek God".
It has been reported that during the summer of 1863, Abraham Lincoln was overwhelmed with despondency. Most evenings before supper he would sit in the parlor weighed down from the war. Yet, after reading a few pages of Scripture, his countenance would brighten. Historians say that he spent much time reading the book of Job. For President Lincoln, as well as everyone else, there couldn't be any greater words of counsel for troubling days  than ... "Seek God."

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Our Redeemer ...

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God" - Job 19:25-26
Of all the songs that hit the charts during the sixties, there was one that came from the dark side, to be sure. Peggy Lee took it to number 11 on the U.S. pop singles chart and was followed by Tony Bennett in December of the same year. What was this dark and dismal, yet quite popular song you ask? A song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller entitled "Is That All There Is?" The lyrics of the song were spoken, rather than sung and told a tale of disillusionment and concluded with death being a disappointment as well. How sad that they didn't know that a Redeemer lives.
Job was swimming in depths of despair far beyond anything he had ever experienced before. He visited and revisited the emptiness and sadness of his life, only to be laid lower yet by his so called friends. What proves to be a great puzzle, yet so common to all of us, is the fact that Job had a steady faith. No matter how much grief and loss flooded his heart and mind, he was still able to look into the future and know that one day he would see God. Why? because Job knew beyond a shadow of doubt that his Redeemer lives.
Job is the oldest book in the Bible. While it dates so very long ago, yet our own generation shares the same sense of disappointment. The lyrics of the song I mentioned earlier went from a home lost to fire, a boring circus act, true love lost and when facing death saying "Is that all there is? Is that all there is? From the early days of Job to yesterday's sunrise, people have said to themselves ... "Is that all there is?" And the simple reason is found in one simple fact ... they haven't met the Redeemer that lives for them. Have you?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Live it to the full!

“Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not." ~ Job 14:1-2 
We yearn to be old enough to take control, and we grumble when the younger generation takes over. Life moves more quickly that we are able to keep up. We celebrate our earlier birthdays with great anticipation of the future, and we avoid much hoopla over being sixty-something and beyond, because it reminds us of how life is passing us by. Life is a gift. Some of us have a longer life than others, but the gift is still well worth living to the full.
Job's experience was quite similar to many. He suffered in so many ways that life seemed to be nothing but agonizing. He looked at life through very dark glasses and could only see shortness and emptiness. Yes, he was depressed, but his thoughts were well fueled by the lack of hope and focus on the future. Job couldn't see the forest for the trees. As long as he was alive, there were possibilities. With no knowledge of how short or long that life might be, it was still worth living to the full.
Nothing has changed since the days of Job. Life is short, and then we enter eternity. But, for every believer we have the following promise from a very loving and caring Good Shepherd ... "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) With such a promise of hope from such a glorious Savior ... shouldn't we make the most of our gift of life? Whether short or long, it is still worth living to the full.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Deep Things of God ...

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." ~ Job 11:7-9
Mankind has been studying the heights of the heavens and the depths of the oceans for generations. When discoveries are so amazing that it seems there is no more to be discovered, one more tremendous revelation pops up. While we have been busy sounding the ocean depths or reaching to the heavenly heights, have we searched to "find out the deep things of God" the Creator? The bigger question is ... Have we even tried?
Job struggled with his loss. He was overwhelmed with the sudden turn of events and wondered why? Where was God in all of this? Job's friends simply pointed him to a Sovereign God who judges evil. As we read one chapter into the next, it seems that the issue of who God is becomes most significant. The deeper things of God had not been considered, but ... Job and his friends hadn't even tried.
We must agree with Zophar, that God's ways are far deeper than what we see on the surface. But, in the unfolding of the events of life, we must remember that our God is very much in control. And with that control comes great wisdom and knowledge. Rather than ask the question why,  may we seek to understand who God is and rest in His great power and gracious purpose? When we can't trace His hand, trust His heart.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Our Arbiter...

“For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself." - Job 9:32-35
Over the years I have been enlisted to mediate between a husband and wife, two family members or two church members. I qualified in other ways, apart from my role as their pastor. I could understand each side, having been a child, parent, husband, family member and church member. When there is a breakdown in relationships, it's best to have an arbiter.
Job felt lost in his relationship with his God. He knew that the Lord was sovereign and just in all His ways and it left Job with a sense that there wouldn't be understanding for his plight. He yearned for someone to lay his hand on himself and God, so he could speak without fear. He needed someone qualified to speak to the Almighty on his behalf... Job needed an arbiter. 
Do you ever yearn for someone to represent you before the court of heaven? Are there occasions when your relationship with the Lord is strained? Where can you turn? Isn't there someone who is qualified to speak on your behalf? Consider the words of Hebrews 4:15-16... "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." and 1 John 2:1..." My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  We have an arbiter... His name is Jesus!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lifting or kicking?

“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away," - Job 6:14-15
Most city baseball clubs suffer from the same treatment as do the New York Yankees. Since I have been a Yankees fan since the 1950s I should know a little about New York fans. When our team is on a winning streak, they can do no wrong, but when they lose a couple of games they can do nothing right. The sad truth is, most people find it quite easy to kick a guy when he's down.
Job's friends were like most people. Instead of bringing their friend some cool water of encouragement, they heaped coals of scathing criticism upon him. When he had been doing well they thought the world of him. But, now that he was suffering, they looked for every opportunity to accuse him of wrong doing. When Job needed a friend to lift him up, all that he got was a group of "friends", who were ready and willing to kick him while he was down.
Let's consider today's reading as a word to the wise. Are you a true friend to someone? Are you an uplifting presence in their life? Do you bring the love and healing care of Jesus to them? When your friend or the one that you may be mentoring falls by the wayside, how do you treat them? Are you ready and willing to bring them a cup of cool water of encouragement? Or do you occasionally find yourself guilty of kicking them when their down? 

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Father's Love...

"His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually." - Job 1:4-5
On December 7, 1988, northwestern Armenia suffered a deadly earthquake, killing approximately 25,000 people. A devoted father relentlessly dug through the rubble of a flattened school for his son. Long after rescuers had given up, in the 38th hour he found his son alive, along with 13 other boys and girls. He responded to the praise of townspeople... "I promised my son, 'No matter what, I'll be there for you." A father loves continually.
Job was just such a father. His children had grown up and were living their own lives. He could have simply ignored their activities and left them to their own devices. But, Job knew that their greatest need was having a right standing before God. He made every effort and great sacrifice to seek God's favor for them. A father loves continually. 
Here we find an excellent example of a father's love for his children. This is an encouragement for every father to give all he has for the spiritual welfare of his family. But, let us never lose sight of the love of our Heavenly Father. He made every effort and great sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus meet our greatest need. Our Father loves continually.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Best Investment ...

"And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the LORD their God. On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise." ~ Nehemiah 9:3-5 
It has been said that we make time for what we want to do. It might include the ball game, flea market, auto race, picnic, concert or whatever comes along. We are always willing to make exceptions for the fun things in life. We're even willing to spend long periods of time in such activities. But, since time is one of our most valuable commodities... is the benefit worth such an investment?
The people of Israel had just concluded a season of celebration and daily reading of the Scriptures. Now they assembled with fasting and humble confession. The word of God was read for three hours while the people stood in place. This was followed by another three hours of confession and worship. The hours were long, but they brought a great work of God in the lives of His people... a lasting benefit well worth such an investment.
Are we really bothered when a football or baseball game goes into overtime? Do we leave for the beach early in the morning and return after sundown, sorry that it took so long? Then why do we complain when we sit through a worship service, or a Bible Study that runs a little longer than expected? Since time is one of our most valuable commodities... which investment produces the best benefit?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Always "Pray-pare" for the task...

"And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” - Esther 5:2-3
The practice is wise and most effective.. . preparation for a demanding task. You use a softening agent before you strip paint off old furniture. You soak a badly caked on pot or pan before scrubbing. Or you soak the shirt that's been deeply stained before you wash. It makes the job easier and the end result is far more promising. It's always best to prepare for the task. 
At the end of chapter four, Esther told Mordechai... “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (4:16) In understanding the full intent of the request, Esther asked for serious prayer preparation. As we read today... It worked in a very great way! It's always best to "pray-pare" for the task. 
When you face a daunting task that threatens to undo you, how do you approach it? Do take the "storm right in" approach? How does that work for you? Bathing life situations in humble and submissive prayer makes all the difference in the world. Not just a prayer minute, but a healthy season of prayer and even fasting. You'll find that the Lord softens hearts and opens doors in the most amazing way. It's always best to "pray-pare" for the task! 

Friday, July 19, 2019

For such a time as this ...

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14
The world had just left behind a war that wreaked devastation all around the globe. Countries were rebuilding and America was trying to provide a way to restore stability. In the midst of those trying days a young Southern Baptist evangelist by the name of William Franklin Graham Jr. began hosting evangelistic crusades worldwide. By the end of his ministry journey 2.2 billion people had heard "America's pastor" preach the gospel and 2.2 million had responded to his invitation to receive Christ. Who knows ... perhaps Billy Graham had come to the world stage for such a time as then.
Esther had been a recipient of unexpected privilege and the benefits that followed were beyond compare. Yet, her relationship to the King was at his pleasure and his beckoning alone. In every way, he alone was the decision maker for her life. Mordecai knew the risk for Esther to approach the King on behalf of the Jews, but he proposed a very convicting idea. Maybe Esther wasn't chosen to be queen by sheer coincidence... perhaps she had come to the kingdom for such a time as this.
For every life there is a divine purpose. Solomon puts it this way in Proverbs 16:9 ... "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." and Paul said this in Acts 17:26-27 ... "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God..." You're not here by coincidence my friend. Find the Lord's will and purpose for your life and go make a difference... perhaps you came to this moment for such a time as this?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Far and wide...

"And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away." - Nehemiah 12:43
There are all kind of light sources. You have light bulbs that illuminate your home. Then there are flash lights that are available in a wide variety of size and lumen power. If you want to go old school, there are candles and kerosene lanterns for inside and out. But, the one common denominator with every one mentioned is the limit of reach. Only the sunshine from our Creator reaches far and wide.
The unfolding events in Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah were both thrilling and overwhelming. People were bringing sacrifices of worship and praise with their whole heart. This was a season when God made them rejoice with great joy. It wasn't limited for the moment like man made light sources. It was a great sunshine of joy that was heard far away. Only the joy from our Lord reaches far and wide. 
What is it that draws an unbeliever to a child of God? It's not the pleasant personality that comes naturally. Nor is it the momentary exuberance that comes from the events of life. People are drawn to those who walk with a great God who makes them rejoice with great joy. When our joy shines with brilliance and warmth like a bright summer day, unbelievers recognize the difference. Only the joy from our Lord reaches far and wide. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Never neglect ...

"For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.” - Nehemiah 10:39
Have you ever traveled the back roads of rural america? What did you see? Aside from the beauty of God's creation, you will quite often see overgrown properties, old abandoned farm houses and barns. and small villages with empty buildings. For many reasons the decay began with shifts in the economy, community changes or family loss. The message is quite simple ... when significance is lost, then comes neglect.
The people of God were determined to fully restore and maintain the house of God. They were committed to a renewed and vibrant worship, and were willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Seventy years of absence had passed with the time taking its toll. Now it was a new day with a spring of new hope bursting forth. The message was simple ... when significance is regained, out goes neglect.
Where do you worship these days my friend? Is your church a place of vibrancy and life changing worship? Has your family and community been blessed by the ministries of your church? If all of the above is true, then your church is full of significance. That being the case, may you embrace the above spirit of the people of Israel and give your all to never neglect the house of God.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The joy of the Lord.

"They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading... do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” - Nehemiah 8:8, 10
Holidays bring joy. Weddings bring joy. Graduations bring joy. Babies bring joy. New homes and cars bring joy. But, does such joy last?  Do such occasions continue to pour out unending euphoria and uplift in our lives? Or are they not just moments that take our breath away?
The great work of building the wall was finally complete. The Temple had been rebuilt as well. There was an overwhelming sense of new beginnings. Then the Word of God was read and given sense. Sorrow came; the kind that brought repentance and a deep holy joy. This wasn't a moment that took their breath away... It was a breath from Heaven that took their sorrows away and gave them lasting strength.
Do you settle for just temporary joy my friend? Is your life a roller-coaster that rides from euphoria to emptiness and back? Or are you searching for the kind of joy that will give you all that you need for the journey? Come to the Word of God today and find a breath from Heaven that will take your sorrows away and give you lasting strength. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The right stuff ...

"I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many." Nehemiah 7:2 
Why did you choose that certain contractor last year? Or what was your reasoning for giving your dental care to Dr. John Doe? Do you have a special mechanic that would trust with your automobile needs? The truth is, you wouldn't go to anyone for help who didn't have the best skills to do the job. All of the above boils down to having the right stuff... qualifications.
Nehemiah spent considerable time in prayer before , during and after rebuilding the wall. He exercised spiritual maturity and great faith in the face of every opposition that came his way. He gave strong godly counsel when and where needed and he waited on the Lord for every decision. So, when the time came for him to pass the baton, what kind of man did he look for? ... "a more faithful and God-fearing man than many". It all boiled down to having the right stuff ... spiritual qualifications. 
Allow me to return to my initial queries. To whom will you choose to go when you have spiritual needs? Will you go to the local baker, chef, plumber or beautician? Or will you choose a man of God who is spiritually equipped to be your pastor? If this is true, why would anyone ask you to be a church or ministry leader? Think about it my friend, before you seek or accept a leadership role, be sure you have the right stuff ... spiritual qualifications.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Getting Better ...

"Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them." - Ezra 5:1-2 
Occasionally my wife or I come down with some illness that requires a visit to the Doctor. He sits with us and takes our vitals, asks a few questions and finally explains the situation. Prescriptions are given as well as certain instructions for our improvement. We're usually told to rest and drink lots of fluids, along with other inconvenient directions. No matter how much we dislike the encounter, the Doctor visit always pays off ... we get better.
The prophets of the Old Testament, as well as apostles and preachers of the New testament were not always a welcomed sight. The Biblical instructions and inconvenient counsel that they brought would often seem unpleasant. Many of these men of God would be persecuted and turned away viciously. But, those who received their message with submissive hearts would soon discover that the visit paid off and their spiritual condition got better.
When you begin to feel spiritually ill, why is it that you slip away from your Bible reading, going to church and visiting with Christian friends? Could it be that you know they will direct you toward the Lord and significant change in your behavior? Why wait until you are so sick that you're weak as a kitten? Your Pastor and church family desperately and lovingly desire the very best for you. You will find that making a visit with a submissive heart really pays off... and your spiritual condition will get better.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Who deserves the glory?

"So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God." - Nehemiah 6:15-16
Crowds gather with great enthusiasm at the finish line of every race. Special celebrations are conducted when a building program is completed. Congratulations are always in order at graduations. Why do we rejoice at such occasions? It's a wonderful opportunity to affirm and encourage those who have finished well. But, who deserves the glory?
Completing the wall in fifty-two days was quite remarkable. The opposition had been great and very few locals believed it could be done at all. Yet, the work carried on in spite of the many conspiracies and threats. The Lord provided all that was needed for the workers to succeed. In the end, the task was finished well, and the Lord received the glory.
When we have work to accomplish, it takes on a greater significance when we seek the Lord's help along the way. As we pray for his guidance and provision we can do remarkable things. But, when we finish well and encouraging words of congratulation come, may we be sure that the Lord always receives the glory. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Do both ...

"And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night." - Nehemiah 4:9
Religion vs Reality ...  Faith vs Facts ... Prayer vs Practice ... All of these contrasts are often seen as reasons to debunk the spiritual life of a Christian. Another phrase is also popular ... "You're too heavenly minded to be any earthly good."  The truth is, our family has been blessed with a "praying" and "practicing" physician and I have been close friends with many "praying " and 'practicing" law enforcement officers. It doesn't have to be a choice, for true believers it's both.
Throughout the many confrontations that Nehemiah had with local enemies, he faithfully prayed. Prayer was the first and most important step taken in the face of conflict. He knew the Lord was their refuge and protector in every moment of danger. The work of building the wall was God's calling in his life, but it also demanded man's commitment. So, in the face of danger, Nehemiah led in prayer and set a guard. He didn't have to choose, he did both.
Paul wrote to the believers in Philippians 2:12-13 ... "Therefore, my beloved, ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." He knew that there is a place for our practice and God's provision. In every challenge of life, God's people should pray and practice... we don't have to choose, we need to do both.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Are you all in?

“While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly." - Ezra 10:1
Throughout the years I've observed a great many altar calls. Some people would come very quietly and others would express great emotion. Confessing sin or surrendering our lives to the Lord doesn't require a set approach. Since it's a matter of the heart, each one of us is accepted as we come. But, somewhere in the back our mind we might want to ask... are we all in?
Ezra, along with a great assembly of men, women and children were incredibly broken and moved to confession. Sin was revealed and it had to be addressed in repentance. Sorrow was shown in tears and great emotion. This wasn't necessary, but it came from hearts that were overwhelmed with the situation. They desperately desired to make things right with the Lord... they were all in.
You don't have to weep over your sin my friend, but are you broken over offending your Lord? Do you see sin for what it has done to you and those you love? Have your selfish ways led you far from your "first love" for the Lord? Do you see the need to confess and genuinely repent? When you finally come back to the Lord, tears may or may not come, but the most significant question that you should ask is ... are you all in?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The right source...

"Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, 'The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.' So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty." - Ezra 8:21-23
As you watch those who darken the aisles of local bookstores, you will find the self help section to be one of the most popular. It seems that there will always be a market for such books. No matter how many answers and how much counsel can be found, people are still looking for just one more entry. Apparently, the best or most sufficient answer is still in the wind. Or could it be that they don't seek the right Source?
Ezra serves us as a wise and discerning example of how to deal with everyday needs. This man of God had spoken to the king about the great God that he served. His testimony was out in the public arena for all to hear about the way God works. For Ezra, there was no possibility for him to visit the local bookstore to find a good self help book or ask the king for help. He went straight to the Lord, since He alone was the right source.
What's the point you may ask? In light of his great faith, Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for help. Yet, after we lift our voices, praising our great God on Sunday mornings, we often run in every other direction for help on Monday. How many self help books or articles have you read this year compared to the hours spent "fasting and imploring our God"? Isn't it time to seek the right Source? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Study & Apply ...

"For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." - Ezra 7:9-10
It's always interesting to meet those who graduated high school or college with you. The most curious part is finding out where they ended up in the larger scheme of things. Did they succeed in their chosen field, or advance in further education and influence? Those who made headway in life most often were those who studied well and applied themselves. 
Ezra was a skilled scribe, well taught in the law of Moses. He was chosen, over and above others, to teach and mentor the people of God. This was an opportunity like none other, to lead the hearts of Israel back to God. But, why was Ezra the one selected for such a challenging task? The answer is found in our passage... he had "set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to do it". In other words, he studied well and applied himself.
Where are you today, since you came to Christ my friend? The question doesn't center on worldly success or academic advancement. It's really focused on your spiritual growth and maturity. Are you better versed in the Scripture than you were in the early years? Is your walk with God deeper and stronger? These things don't just develop over the passing of time. They only come to those who ... set their hearts to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it. In other words, they study well and apply themselves spiritually.

Monday, July 8, 2019

New Beginnings ...

"And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid." - Ezra 3:10-11 
I've attended numerous churches over the years. Having grown up on eastern Long Island, I experienced a few church plants in new communities. The most exciting times were the laying of foundations. Old historic buildings can often be spectacular and full of rich memories, but laying bricks for a new sanctuary is exhilarating. Working alongside fellow members with the joy of serving Jesus can't be equaled. These moments remind us again of our God of new beginnings.
Israel had suffered years of separation from home and the loss of their place of worship. When they returned home, there wasn't a beautiful temple waiting for them to renew their worship. They had to start from scratch and build an altar to present their offerings to the Lord. Then the day arrived when they broke ground for a new temple. According to the directions of David, the ancient king of Israel, they laid the foundation. With great joy they gave thanks to their God of new beginnings.
Are you rebuilding this year my friend? Are there areas in your life that have been in disrepair? Do you need a fresh start? Well, come to the altar and seek the Lord afresh. He gave you a new heart on the day you first believed, and he will meet you again where you are today as your God of new beginnings.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Stepping out ...

"And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed." - 2 Chronicles 20:20-22 
On July 15, 1859 Daredevil Charles Blondin walked 160 feet above Niagara Falls several times back and forth between Canada and the United States. It is said that he asked the crowd, "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?" Everyone cried out with a loud affirmative response. Then he asked who would go with him. There was dead silence. Faith spoken out only becomes real when faith steps out.
The account before us started with a very frightened king. But, after a season of prayer and a message from the Lord, this king was no longer afraid. He spoke with courage and called the people of God to renewed faith as he commanded them to..."Believe in the LORD your God". His faith soon became tangible as he appointed a number of singers to go before the army singing, "Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever" His spoken out faith became stepping out faith.
How great is your faith my friend? Do you believe that the Lord can help you through the present situation that your dealing with? Are you waiting for his intervention before you move forward? Has there been a long period of silence during your wait? Well, maybe the Lord is waiting on you to show your faith in a tangible way. If you really believe, stop speaking out and start stepping out by faith.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

No Remedy ...

"The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy." - 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 
I greeted Ron after the Sunday morning service, and once again I asked if he'd seen a doctor. His wife chimed in that everyone in the family had been after him to make an appointment. But, Ron was determined to ride it out until he felt better. Tuesday morning I received a call. Ron had passed away at home from advanced cancer. The warnings were many and persistent, but after months of resistance... there was no remedy.
The people of Israel pushed off the persistent messengers and mocked at the Lord's compassion. They despised the "archaic" words that called for confession and repentance. The time passed by with very little notice until everything changed. The day came when Lord gave the nation into the hands of the enemy, and they had no compassion for young or old alike. After years of sinful rebellion ... there was no remedy. 
Sin is spiritual cancer. It can eat away at the soul with very little notice. We hear the warnings from pastors, counselors, family and friends. But, we resist the compassionate and loving words, believing that we're all good. Sin deafens the heart to wake up calls over and over again. The Lord is persistent as he seeks to deliver us from spiritual danger. But, if we determine to have it our way, after a while the harvest of sin will become ripe and ... there will be no  remedy.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Finally looking up ...

"The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." - 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 
I visited a fellow classmate some years ago. He had just entered a release program from serving 33 years in prison for murder. We reminisced about the old days, but he eventually shared his spiritual journey. I had witnessed to him numerous times during our high school years, but it wasn't until he found himself in prison for some time that he came to the end of his rope. For some people, they have to reach bottom before they will look up.
Manasseh reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem, with great power and prestige. He abandoned the godly ways of his father and reinstated the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth. No matter how many years he had served as king, Manasseh never understood who the Lord was until he was captured and bound up in Babylon. Finally, when he was in distress he called out to God in humility. He traveled far from the Lord until he came to the end of his rope. This king had to reach bottom before he would look up.
How are you doing these days my friend? Is your life full of success and great material gain? Is the sun shining down on you every day? If so, is it the result of a strong walk with God and his incredible blessings? Or could it be the lull before the storm? Is it possible that you have been so busy building your own kingdom, that you've forgotten all about the Lord? Don't wait until it all crashes down and you wake up in distress. You don't have to reach bottom before you look up.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Always a few ...

"So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem." ~ 2 Chronicles 30:10-11
While I attended Bible college in the seventies I joined together with two other students and built a platform, purchased a sound system and hundreds of gospel tracts. Every weekend we would pack up and hit the road, preaching in flea markets, across from saloons or the bus station. We would hand out gospel literature and share our testimony with anyone that would listen. Most would laugh at us in scorn, but every now and then someone would listen, and with humble hearts turn to the Lord.
The king and his princes came under conviction to return to the Lord through worship in the Passover celebration. The Passover observation was commanded by the Lord to remind the people of His great compassion and redemptive grace. They were to celebrate the Lord and remind the next generation of the historic deliverance by the Lord. Not all were willing to obey the King's call, and they laughed with scorn at the couriers. But, there were some who listened, and with humble hearts returned to the Lord.
Spreading the good news of a gracious and redemptive Savior is a great joy. As we go out into the world, we hope that there will be a great harvest of souls. But, the larger number who hear our message will laugh at us in scorn. It's a timeless response and comes from hearts deeply lost in the darkness of sin. But, never stop sharing your faith my friend. Because there are always a few that will listen, and with humble hearts turn to the Lord.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Your future ...

"Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done, 2 but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made metal images for the Baals, 3 and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel." ~ 2 Chronicles 28:1-3
"Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them." ~ 2 Chronicles 29:1-3
Over the years I have met adults that grew up in the churches I pastored. They would tell stories about Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, pastors and friends from way back. Their memories were always full of good times in church with their godly parents. But, when I would ask the big question, "So, where are you worshiping now?", the very disappointing response would often be, "Nowhere". Our past doesn't always determine our future.
The two passages listed above for our consideration today tell a similar story. The level of depravity chosen by Ahaz was a far cry from his father Jotham and grandfather Uzziah, both godly men. Yet, when it came time for Hezekiah to choose his spiritual path, he chose to abandon his father's apostasy and return to the old paths. One man strays from a godly upbringing and another leaves a depraved family behind. Our past doesn't always determine our future.
Just because you're born and raised in a garage, it doesn't make you a car. Because you grow up in a godly family and go to a good church doesn't make you a Christian or a true follower of Christ. On the other hand, Just because you grow up in a broken family with an ungodly lifestyle, doesn't mean you have to follow that path. It's a matter of choice, as Joshua challenged the people of his day with these words in Joshua 24:15 ... "...choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Our past doesn't always determine our future.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Influence ...

“And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest... Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.” – 2 Chronicles 24:3, 17-18

Throughout my life I have been influenced by many people. Thankfully, those who have had the greatest influence have been godly people who wanted the very best for my life. Yes, there have been others that sought to influence me in the wrong direction, but by the grace of God they failed. I found, that influence, like paths in the forest, must be chosen wisely, or the destination may be devastating.
Joash was a godly king for many years. His devotion to the temple restoration and worship of the Lord was commendable. He followed the lead and counsel of a godly priest and brought great blessing to the people of God as a result. The princes and all the people gave to the work faithfully with joyful hearts. Joash was influenced for the very best until he wasn't. He discovered far too late that yielding to the wrong influence would be devastating.
You will hear many voices and observe many lives over the years my friend. Who will you allow to influence your daily walk? The right influence will mold godly and lasting character into your life. As you stand at the fork in the road ... choose every source of influence wisely my friend, or the destination may be devastating.

Monday, July 1, 2019

What to do about FEAR...

"Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD." ~ 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 
What are you afraid of? When we were children many of us were afraid of the dark. Now that we're adults we may be afraid of ... heights, spiders, clowns, dogs, flying, peanut butter, and yes, even ... phobophobia (fear of fears). Fear is a very real emotion and it can cripple us quicker than greased lightning. (Some people are afraid of lightning too!) While there are many proposed cures for our fears, the greatest way to find courage is to seek the Lord.
Some men came to Jehoshaphat and told him trouble was coming! When he heard the report he was overcome with fear. What did he do? He didn't run away, hide in a closet or put on a "thundershirt" (a thundershirt is made for dogs who fear thunder). We're told that he "set his face to seek the LORD". Then he gathered all of Judah together to fast and seek help from the LORD. This king knew that the greatest way to find courage was to seek the LORD.
Time and again Jesus encouraged his followers to fear not, don't be afraid or be not troubled. Fear is expressed abundantly throughout the Scriptures because we are a fearful people on more levels than we are willing to admit. The question comes though ... what do we do about it? Where do we turn when we are afraid? Jesus said in John 14:27 ... "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." The greatest way to find courage is to seek the LORD.