Saturday, March 31, 2012

A New Body

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.  (Philippians 3:21 NLT)

Someday our bodies will change.  There is within all of us the seed of a new body.  It will be a real body.  Jesus' resurrected body was a flesh and bones body.  Read enough to walk on the road to Emmaus.  Real enough to eat a breakfast of fish and chips with his disciples.  Real enough to appear as a gardener to Mary.  Real enough for Thomas to put his hand in his wounds.  It was a visible body and will one day ride forth with his army of saints on a beautiful white horse.

   Is your body weak, racked with pain, crippled, arhtritic, or corrupted by disease?  Take courage because Jesus promised you a new body.  One that will be immortal, insocrruptible, sin free, physically perfect, and pure.  In that day, your soul and body will reunite, and you will be like Jesus. 

   In the meantime, what are you doing to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ? 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Never Forget

Remember the Lord your God.  He is the one who gives you powers to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.  (Deut. 8:18 NLT)

  There are events in my life that I always want to remember and never forget.  I don't want to forget how God spared my home from the revaging St. Patrick's Day flood in 1936.  I don't want to forget how God watched over my wife and I as we traveled to different countries sharing Christ with missionary kids.  Most of all, I never want to forget how God saved me from eternal damnation through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.

   The Israelite had a bad habit of forgetting all of God's providence's, protection, and provision.  He gave them manna in the wilderness and victory over their enemies, but they soon forgot and fell into wayward ways.  God had to constantly remind them of their covenant with Him.  

   Are you forgetful?  Why not spend some time today remembering all the good things God has done for you.  Write them down and see how long the list becomes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Godly Change

He will take these weak mortan bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything everywhere.  (Philippians 3:21 NLT)

   God is unchangeable.  The Bible says that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)But at the same time he loves to make changes in you.  He's a master decorator.  Give him a place in your heart and you will experience change.  The process may not be pleasant.  You may suffer some discomfort and pain, but in the midst grace abounds.  Old thoughts slowly disappear and new God like thoughts take their place.  Change comes gradually.  You may not notice it at all, but others will. 

   Paul says in Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure that God, who began making the changes within you, will continue his work until it is finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again." (my paraphrase)

    Your creator is remaking you into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.  He wants you to be just like Jesus.  Are you willing to allow the changes he wants to make take place?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's in a Name

"To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."  (John 10:3)

   Names in the Bible carry a lot of weight and meaning.  Abraham's son Isaac's name means "laughter" because Sarah, his mohter, laughed when she heard the angel says she'd have a son in old age.  What picture comes to your mind when you hear the names Ruth, Naomi, Rahab, Jezebel, Mary?  You will either have pleasant or unpleasant thoughts when certain names are mentioned.

   My father was given the name Benjamin Franklin after the famous Pennsylvania inventor and statesman.  The early pioneers gave their children names such as Charity, Joy, Purity, Angel, etc. hoping their lives would reflect the meaning of the names given. 

   The Bible tells us that Jesus' name is above every name, and at his name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is LORD.  We are also told that everyone who embraces Jesus Christ will have their name indelibly printed in the Lamb's Book of LIfe.  Someday those names will be read with great joy by our Father in heaven. 

    Is your name written in the book?


Monday, March 26, 2012

A Moment of Sadness

Bob Delaney

But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.  “I wish that even today you would find the way of peace.  But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from you.  (Luke 19:41-42 NLT)

            The throng grew in size and intensity as they approached the city through the Kedron valley.  As Jesus looked upon the city with its multitudes, he began to weep.  Why was he so grieved that it brought him to tears?  His heart was broken because so many of his people had closed their eyes to the truth of his mission, and who he really was.  They saw him only as a prophet and potential savior from political bondage to the Roman government.  Their eyes were blinded to the true reason for his coming – the promised Messiah who would sacrifice his life in payment for their sins.

            The shouts of “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; hosanna in the highest!”  (Mark 11:9-10)  sounded hollow in lieu of the fact that this same crowd only a few hours later would be shouting out, “Crucify him, crucify him,” and “let his blood be upon us and our offspring.”  Because of the hardness of their hearts and refusal to acknowledge their Messiah redeemer, divine judgment would engulf them with a fury unparalleled in human history.  (Matt. 24:21)

            There was a mixed reaction to the Savior’s procession toward Jerusalem.  The vast majority shouted adulations of praise only to change their sentiments a short time later. 

          During Passover week all kinds of emotions were displayed both on the part of the people and those of the disciples closest to Jesus.  It was a time of deep sadness and fear as Jesus revealed his coming arrest in the Upper Room, his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, betrayal and arrest along with the illegal trial and execution.  

          When arrested the disciples fled in fear, Peter denied his lord and swore he never knew him, Judas betrayed him and then hanged himself, the people mocked him, the soldiers struck and spite upon him, and cast lots for his garments. 

          In spite of all this sadness, there was joy as well.  Simon the Cyrene would find salvation as he looked deep into the eyes of Jesus and carried his cross.  He never could get away from those “eyes.”  The one thief on the cross adjoining Jesus would join him in paradise, Mary would get a new son in John, Thomas would later claim him as his Lord and his God, Peter would be restored, and all who believe on him from that day forward would receive the free gift of salvation.  (Eph. 2:8.9)      

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Act of Submission

Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  (Matt. 21:6-8 NLT)

            When the two disciples returned with the two donkeys, they took their outer cloaks and placed them over the backs of the two animals not knowing which of the two Jesus would ride.  Jesus selected the colt that had never been ridden.

            As the Savior rode down the road toward the holy city, two throngs of people converged upon him – a massive crowd out of the city, and the disciples who followed out of awe for the miracles he did – especially the recent raising of Lazarus.

            Some paved the way with their garments, while others laid down layers of leaves and palm branches from which we get the expression “Palm Sunday.”  It is significant that spreading garments before a king or dignitary of high rank was a symbol of submission.  (2 Kings 9:13)  Palm branches were used as a token of victory.  Some Jewish coins used in the first century contained palm leaf engravings with the inscription “the redemption of Zion.”  (Taken from an article “The Triumphal Entry” by Wayne Jackson in Christian Courier).

            There is no doubt that the Jewish followers were full of great expectation that Jesus would be the one to lead them to victory over their Roman oppressors.  Once before, after Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand, the people were emotionally charged to make him king because “Jesus perceiving that they were intending to come and take him by force to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone.”  (John 6:14-15).  Even the disciples were getting caught up in the frenzy, so Jesus put them into a boat to cross the lake to the other side.  He felt it necessary to get them away from the influence of the charged up crowd lest they become involved in the cry.  It was not his intent to come and rescue them from the Romans.  He had a much different idea of Kingship.  He wanted to become the king over their hearts and not over their government.   

            A year ago Elaine and I were in Yaounde, Cameroon on a mission trip which encompassed Palm Sunday, and the African Baptist church we were attending gave everyone a palm branch and we marched as a group up through the village and back singing hallelujah choruses while waving the branches back and forth.  It was wonderful celebration of joyful singing and praising the Lord.  Nobody can sing with joyful movement like the African Christians.

            I’m afraid that we sometimes view submission as a somber obligatory act of duty, but we see in this passage that great joy was being exhibited.  Submissive obedience to the Master is not something we have to do, but an act of worship that we want to do and is accompanied with great joy.  I love the hymn that says, “There is joy in serving Jesus.” 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Evidence of the Supernatural

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives.  Jesus sent two of them on ahead.  “Go into the village over there,” he said, “and you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it.  Untie them and bring them here.  If anyone asks what you are doing just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately send them.”  (Matt. 21:1-3 NLT)

            A throng of followers including the twelve specially chosen disciples along with Jesus were making their way to attend the Passover week in Jerusalem.  This would be Jesus’ final visit to the holy city prior to his crucifixion.  He was fulfilling the Law of Moses which required all Jewish men to attend at least three festivals – Passover, Pentecost (Firstfruits), and Feast of Tabernacles. 

            As they approached a village called Bethphage meaning “house of figs,” the entourage stopped.  Jesus sent two of his disciples who are unnamed into the village to get a donkey and her colt for the remainder of his journey into the city.

            Jesus told them where to find the animals, unhitch them, and bring them both back to him.  If the owner tried to stop them, they were to simply say, “The Lord needs them,” and permission would be granted.  This was not a pre-arranged agreement which allows us to make several observations:

(1)  Jesus exercises his omniscience by telling the disciples exactly where to go to find the animals.  He even knew that they were hitched because he said, “Untie them and bring them to me.”

(2)  Jesus uses supernatural knowledge in knowing in advance that the owner would give permission for their release.  Only someone with divine insight could have accomplished this task.

(3)  Jesus chose the colt that had never been ridden as the one to ride.  It is noteworthy that the young colt never bucked, lurched, or gave any resistance signifying his divine sovereignty over the animal kingdom. 

(4)  The two disciples chosen for the task obeyed his instructions without hesitation, complaint, question, or resistance revealing their trust and commitment. 

Their actions reveal to us the importance of following the Lord’s will without questioning his reasons or purposes.  It also gives us great confidence in knowing that God’s power to accomplish his plan and purpose far outweighs any opposition that might arise.  Finally, it reminds us that we are to be submission and follow the leadership of those that he places over us.
            It is obvious from the context that Jesus was in the process of fulfilling the redemptive plan that had been determined in eternity past by the Godhead.  His “time had come” to lay down his life as the Passover Lamb.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Foolhardy Decision

My child, if you co-sign a loan for a friend or guarantee the debt of someone you hardly know – if you have trapped yourself by your agreement and are caught by what you said – quick, get out of it if you possibly can!  You have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy.  Don’t put it off!  Do it now!  Don’t rest until you do.    (Proverbs 6:1-4 NLT)

            I don’t know if Solomon’s advice came from personal experience or whether it was given to him by the Lord, but it behooves each one of us to take heed to his wise words.

            Years ago when man’s word was law, my father signed a note guaranteeing a loan for his brother.  As it turned out his brother reneged on the loan and my father was stuck with the payments.  The issue was further compounded when his brother refused to apologize or make it right.  As a result, the relationship was broken and future trust was lost. 

            Solomon warns us to think twice before making such a foolhardy decision.  Not all such agreements are broken, but it only takes one for us to suffer dire consequences.  Financial losses due to broken promises not only sever relationships, but can severely affect the families’ stability. 

            Solomon is not telling us never to help a family member or friend in need, but to do it in such a way that won’t put our own family situation in jeopardy.  There are other ways to come alongside another in time of need.  You might help them save money for more serious needs by volunteering physical labor, material goods, professional services, or housing needs.  Letting them know that “you are there for them” will provide the needed encouragement to boost their morale. 

            I am so grateful that God has “signed off” on my debt of sin by sending his Son, Jesus Christ to pay the penalty that I deserved.  When Jesus hung on the cross, he said, “It is finished,” and my debt was stamped paid in full.  No longer am I obligated for the payments!  No longer do I have the sting of death hanging over my head!  No longer do I have to face the judge and hear him say, “guilty!”  I am reminded by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1 that there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

            How is your standing before God today?  Have you acknowledged your sin before God and embraced by faith the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

lWork not an Option

Work is not an Option

Read: Proverbs 6:6-18

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and be wise!  Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.  But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?  When will you wake up?  I want you to learn this lesson:”  Proverbs 6:6-9 NLT)

            Unfortunately, our society consists of two groups of people.  Those who are ready and willing to work and those who want everything without putting forth any effort.  Don’t get me wrong!  I know there are those who want to work and have been looking for jobs for a long time, but there are also those who would rather live off the welfare and entitlements of the government than go out into the work force. 

I have great sympathy and compassion for those who through no fault of their own have lost jobs and homes due to bad economic conditions.  My heart reaches out to them.  Their families and lives have been thrown into chaos, and many have been forced to live in homeless shelters.  Their sense of pride has taken a hit as they have to depend upon others for the basic necessities of life.  According to the Orlando Sentinel there are over 10,000 homeless children in Central Florida alone.  Last year, FBC of Orlando distributed 3,000 food boxes to homeless children while they were on spring break.  What are we doing to reach out and help these unfortunate families?  

During the days of the early pioneers “work was not an option.”  History books record that Captain John Smith took a firm stand and established the “no work, no eat” policy.  This meant that each healthy person, whether laborer or gentleman, must gather as much food to eat each day as he did or be banished. 

My father, who was named after Benjamin Franklin, spent countless hours ingraining within his children the pilgrim style work ethic.  I was given certain chores and woe on me if they were not carried out.  Each spring it became my duty to spade up and prepare a garden spot of 100 x 50 feet.  It wasn’t an easy task, especially since the ground in Pennsylvania was full of small glacier type stones, but the job eventually got finished.  The taste of a juicy red tomato in the summer was worth the effort. 

The Bible backs up the work ethic by saying, “This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before.  As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT) 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's in a Name?

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:9,10)

   Names carry a great deal of significance, meaning, and power.  What picture comes to your mind when you hear the names, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Benjamin Franklin, Fanny Crosby, Martin Luther King, and Jesus Christ?  These are all powerful people who are noted for changing the world. 

   The chief priests, sribes, and Pharisees were so paranoid at the name of Jesus that they refused to even say his name and threathened the apostles never to mention or teach in his name. (Acts 4:20; 5:40)

   The early pilgrims gave names like Charity, Joy, Purity, Angel, etc. to their children with the hope they would develop the characteristics of that person.  Names of Bible characters are still being given to children today with the same hopes in mind. 

   God plaes great importance upon names.  In fact, the names of all believers have been placed in the Lamb's Book of Life, and someday those names will be read so all of heaven can hear. 

   We have been taught to end our prayers by saying in Jesus' name. 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Name That Tune

Blow the trumpets in times of gladness...and blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and peace offerings.  The trumpets will remind the Lord your God of his covenant with you.  I am the Lord your God.  (Numbers 10:10 NASB)

   Name that Tune was a popular TV game show in the 50s pitting two contestants against each other to test their knowledge of songs.  They were tested to see if they could name the tune with the fewest notes played. 

   Music's origin can be traced back to our great Creator God.  When God addressed Job out of the whirlwind he said, Who laid the earth's cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  (Job 38:6-7)

   Worship with instrument and song played a big part in the life of King David.  "Sing to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn, shout joyfully before the LORD, the King." (Psalm 98:5-8)

   What part does music play in your life?  Does it soothe your jangled nerves, or inspire you to greater heights?  Does music lift your spirits and draw you closer to God?  Try humming a gospel tune while you drive to work, clean the house, or walk around the neighborhood.  I'm sure God will hum along with you. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Musical Memories

David and his army commanders then appointed men from the families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to proclaim God's messages to the accompaniment of harps, lyres and cymbals.  (1 Chronicles 25:1)

   Forgetfulness -- it plagues us all.  Have you been embarrassed lately by meeting an old friend and not remembering his name?  Yes, it happens to the best of us.  As we get older our memory difficulties increase.  When we reach 55 -- we call them "senior moments."

   David devised a way for his people to remember God's messages.  He appointed men to put the messages into musical lyrics.  It may seem weird, but putting Scriputre to music makes remembering easier.  We can sing Bible verses over and over until they become part of us.  No wonder so many of the Psalms were sung!

   Try listening to worship music as you work around the house or drive back and forth to work.  Guess what?  While you are humming or singing God's words, you are worshipping Him.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Righteous Indignation Expressed

When I heard their complaints, I was very angry.  After thinking about the situation, I spoke out against these nobles and officials.  (Neh. 5:6-7)
            Moses learned early in life that it was easier to dispose of an Egyptian taskmaster than it was to settle a grievance between two Hebrew brothers.
            The same situation holds true in church and family life.  Husbands can settle differences in the workplace, but it’s not an easy thing to settle disputes and issues at home.  Pastors have to deal with issues outside the walls of the church, but to bring two brothers together who are at odds with one another is no easy task.
            I recall an occasion while teaching fifth grade where two boys were slugging it out in the restroom.  When I endeavored to break up the melee they both turned on me.  All three of us ended up in the principal’s office.
            When Nehemiah heard the complaints of the people he became “very angry” (v. 6).   His was not a fit of sinful anger, but an expression of righteous indignation at the way the nobles and officials were extorting illegal gain from their brothers.  Nehemiah acted in a way that a true leader should.  He called a town meeting to set the record straight. 
            Moses and the Lord Jesus Christ both expressed this same kind of holy righteous indignation during their ministries.  Moses broke the stone tablets containing the law (Exodus 32), and Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers out of righteous indignation for using his Father’s house as a “den of robbers.”  (Mt. 21:12-13)
            The test of true leadership isn’t that you do what is expedient, political, or safe, but you do what is just and right.  After pondering over the situation and examining all the facts, the rightful approach is the one Nehemiah took.  He chided the businessmen for causing the community to become a reproach before the enemies of God.
            A building program places heavy demands upon leadership and is a test of their faith and patience.  While it brings the best in some people, it can often bring out the worst in others. 
            Nehemiah exercised true leadership by defusing the problem before it got completely out of control.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Great Outcry

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.
Nehemiah 5:6 NIV
            The overriding sin in Nehemiah 5 was “selfishness.”
I agree with what Warren Wiersbe says about selfishness in his commentary “Be Determined,” (p. 71), “When the enemy fails in his attacks from the outside, he then begins to attack from within; and one of his favorite weapons is selfishness.  If he can get us thinking only about ourselves and what we want, then he will win the victory before we realize that he is even at work.”
            What exactly is selfishness?  Selfishness is described in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “concerned with one’s own welfare excessively or without regard for others.”  (P. 449) 
            When I insist on getting what I want when I want it, I am practicing selfishness.  Many times this involves taking advantage of the kindness of others or using their friendship for personal gain.
            This is exactly what was happening in Nehemiah, Chapter five.  As a result, a great outcry developed that ultimately reached the point where Nehemiah had to confront the participants and take bold action.  The outcry came from four groups of people:
 Group 1 - were the non-landowners.  These people didn’t own any land, but they were desperately in need of food. (v.2)  the population was growing and a famine had struck the land. 
Group 2 – were the landowners who had mortgaged their fields, vineyards and homes to get grain (v. 3).   Inflation and prices were skyrocketing.  Does this sound familiar? 
Group 3 – were tax borrowers who had to use sons and daughters for collateral to pay their taxes.  The collected tax monies were not being used to benefit the economy.  Much like what we see today isn’t it?  (v. 4)
Group 4 – were wealthy Jews who were exploiting their own brothers and sisters by loaning money and charging exorbitant interest rates.  Usury was forbidden according to Jewish law. 
            If allowed to flourish, selfishness can spread like a cancer in the local church.  It takes bold action on the part of leadership to stem the tide.
Thought for the Day: When God looks at us; he is looking for selflessness not selfishness.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we are all selfish by nature, but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and help from the Holy Spirit we can keep it under control.   

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nehemiah's Defensive Strategy

Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows.  (Nehemiah 4:13 NIV)
            The enemies of Israel said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”  (Neh. 4:11 NIV)
            The threat of secret attacks caused fear in the hearts of the wall builders.  Fear is contagious and paralyzes others.  Nehemiah was not afraid of the enemy because he knew God was powerful enough to meet the challenge.  But he also knew the fear of the people, and devised a defensive plan to encourage the hearts of his workers and confound the enemy.
            Nehemiah’s first step was to post guards at the weakest points along the wall.  The enemy could see that the Israelites were prepared.  He armed entire families, knowing that they would stand together and encourage each other.  Each family worker repaired the section of wall nearest his home giving them a greater sense of accomplishment.  He reminded everyone of the awesomeness and greatness of God.
            Nehemiah was a great strategist.  He may have been the first leader to use shifts to keep the work moving forward.  Half worked during the daylight hours, and then switched places with the people who were guarding the work, so that they could take over the night shift.  He also devised a method of signally the troops to gather at any spot of trouble.  When they heard the sound of the trumpet everyone came running to the battle point.
            When the enemy learned that the workers were armed and ready, they backed off (Neh. 4:15).  God had frustrated their plan.  The Psalmist tells us, “The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the LORD’S plans stand firm forever, his intentions can never be shaken.” (Psalm 33:10-11 NLT)
            The church of Jesus Christ is only as strong as its leadership.  For this reason, we need to be in constant prayer for those in positions of leadership, asking God to give them a strong faith and wisdom to guide his people.  Prayer is one of our most powerful weapons in the battle against Satan and his adversaries. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Satan's Two Key Weapons

Meanwhile, the people of Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”  (Neh. 4:10 NIV)
            Where do the roots of discouragement originate?  Quite often discouragement within the ranks has its beginnings from outside pressures instigated by Satan and his henchmen.  Discouragement is one of the key weapons in Satan’s arsenal.  The other weapon is fear.
            It was discouragement and fear that kept Israel from entering the Promised Land at Kadesh-Barnea.  (Numbers 13)  When the twelve spies came back from spying out the land to give their report ten of them said, “But the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.  We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.  (v. 28 and 31).  The ten weak-hearted spies discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel.  As a result, the people wandered in the wilderness for forty years until a new generation was born and prepared to go in and possess the land. 
            Why did discouragement and fear overcome the tribe of Judah?  At least four reasons can be suggested: 
(1) Some of the people, including nobles, were hobnobbing with the enemy.  Cooperating with the enemy forces is paramount to treason.  (Neh. 6:17)
(2) Some of the people were cooperating with the enemy because of mixed marriages.  The ties of marriage were stronger than the bonds of commitment to the Lord. (Neh. 6:18)
(3) Some of the leaders were more interested in making money.  Their devotion to the task was in question.  (Neh. 13:15-22)
(4) Countless rumors (ten times) from outlying villagers warned of imminent attack.  This caused undo fear in the hearts of the workers.
When we face a situation that creates fear and discouragement in our hearts, we need to do like Nehemiah and remind ourselves of our great and awesome god that we serve.  If we walk by sight and view God through the problems, we will fail.  That’s what happened to the Jewish people at Kadesh-Barnea.  But if we look at the problem through the greatness of God we will experience confidence and success. 
           That was the approach David took when he faced Goliath. (1 Sam. 17:45-47)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Fourfold Plan

            “A common enemy and a common cause brought four different groups together to stop the work on the walls of Jerusalem,” says Warren Wiersbe in his commentary, Be Determined, p. 63
            To understand the gravity of the situation you have to experience being surrounded on all sides by enemies who are armed to the teeth to destroy you.  That is exactly what Satan endeavors to do in order to intimidate believers into making bad decisions.  Fear will often cause you to act impetuously.  A good example is the Apostle Peter warming himself by the fire in the camp of the enemy.  Out of fear and intimidation he denied the Lord three times, swearing and cursing that he never even knew him.  Then the cock crowed!
            Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the men of Ashdod plotted together to make a secret attack against the builders of the wall.  Because of his diligence, Nehemiah learned of their secret plot and immediately prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. 
            What steps can you and I take to ensure victory when the enemy plots against us with his army of deceivers and adversaries?  Spiritual warfare is an ongoing battle of good versus evil, and God has not left us defenseless in this struggle.  God has provided offensive and defensive weapons for us to utilize.
            First, we are to claim the victory because it has already been won.  (1 Cor. 15:57 – “But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (NKV)
            Second, he has provided us with body armor to turn aside the fiery darts of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:10-18). 
            Third, we hold the high ground by being seated with Christ in heavenly places.  (Ephesians 2:6)
            Fourth, we are told to be prayer warriors in the battle for the truth. (Philippians 4:6)I
            Nehemiah took advantage of the spiritual and physical weapons at his disposal, and we should do likewise.  By standing firm daily clothed in the righteousness of Christ and fully yielded to the Holy Spirit, Satan cannot touch or defeat us. 
            Are you prepared for the battle?
Thought for the Day: God’s weaponry is available to all Christians.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help each one of us claim the victory that has already been won through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
To do: Make a list of all the weapons God has provided for you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ridicule for Christ's Sake

Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall.  He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they are doing?  Do they think they can build the wall in a day if they offer enough sacrifices?  Look at those charred stones they are pulling out of the rubbish and using again!”  (Nehemiah 4:1-2 NLT)
            The enemies of the cross use whatever means at their disposal to cripple the work of Jesus’ followers.  Ridicule, mockery, intimidation, false accusations, and scorn are just a few of their strategies.  Our enemies don’t play by the rules.  Lying and falsifying the truth are part of their arsenal.
            As long as the people in Jerusalem were content with their sad condition, the enemy left them alone, but as soon as they showed an interest in following the Lord, Sanballat and Tobiah formed a protest. 
            Opposition serves a twofold purpose.  On the one hand it acts as evidence that God is blessing and involved in the process.  On the other hand it provided an opportunity for growth.  Persecution has a way of bringing out the best in people and increases their faith. 
            In 1953, while serving in the U.S. Navy at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California, I accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.  Within a week’s time four other sailors became Christians.  I recall being ridiculed and laughed at because of our faith.  They called us “preacher boys, religious fanatics, do-gooders, holy rollers,” and other less glorious names.  This only served to stiffen our resolve and strengthen our faith.  Instead of cowering in fear, we started a Bible study on the base, and began taking Bible correspondence courses from “The Navigators.”  We also memorized three verses a week until we had mastered 108 verses in the NAVS topical memory system.  These verses became our witnessing tools.
            It is not without precedent that the enemy insults the servants of the Lord.  Goliath ridiculed David, “sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy,” he said, “Am I a dog that you come at me with a stick.” (1 Samuel 17:43 NLT)  Jesus was mocked by the soldiers during his trial (Luke 22:63-65), and by the rabble while hanging on the cross. (Luke 23:35-37)
            Take heed brethren.  When the opposition to the work of Christ increases, so do the blessings of the Lord.  Follow Pauls’ advice in 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on guard.  Stand true to what you believe.  Be courageous.  Be strong.”  (NLT)
Thought for the Day: God is able to vanquish the enemies of the cross.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me stand true to your word in face of worldly opposition.  

Beware of Enemy Tactics

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “The stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”   (Nehemiah 4:3 NLT
            Whenever Satan sees the people of God putting their shoulder to the task of building the kingdom of God, he begins his attacks.  Nehemiah was besieged by insults and ridicule even before the work on the wall began.  Using Sanballat and Tobiah, Satan unleashed his divisive tactics in an effort to destroy the work.
            First, Sanballat ridiculed the workers.  He said, What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they are doing? (v. 2)  It’s true they were “poor” in terms of wealth, but “feeble” they were not.  The word feeble means: withered, miserable, faint-hearted.  At times, the people of God appear to be feeble by the world’s standards, lacking human resources, but what they don’t see is the vast amount of spiritual resources provided by God. 
            Second, Sanballat ridiculed the works by asking three taunting questions: (1) Will they restore the wall?  (2) Will they offer sacrifices?  (3) Will they finish in a day?  (Can they bring the stones back to life from the rubbish heap)  v.2
            Third, Sanballat ridiculed their worship by saying, “Will they offer sacrifices?” (v. 2)  To what was Sanballat referring?  He was denying that God would help his people.  Little does the world know of the many ways God comes to the aid of his people who are determined to stand true to his word.  Missionaries are standing true all over the world as evidence of God’s unending loyalty to their cause. 
            Finally, Tobiah ridiculed their workmanship.  “What are they building – if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stone?”  (v.3)
            How did Nehemiah respond?  How do we respond when all looks hopeless?  Like Nehemiah, we pray and ask God for wisdom and strength to complete the work.  Paul says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”  (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)
Thought for the Day: God rewards those who are faithful and stand true to the task.
Prayer: Dear Lord, you are merciful and gracious for which I am ever so thankful.  Continue to give me strength and resolve to finish the work you have begun in my life.   

Monday, March 5, 2012

Taking a Trip with a Purpose

With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please Your Majesty, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”  So the king agreed, and I set a date for my departure.                      (Nehemiah 2:4b,5,6b NLT)
            For the past eight years my wife and I have taken a trip.  Some trips are leisurely excursions for the purpose of pleasure, relaxation, or getting away from the cold northerly climate.  Other trips are for the purpose of serving the Lord.  Our trips were a combination of both.  We called them “working vacations.”  During the work week we did volunteer ministry with Wycliffe Associates and Campus Crusade for Christ.  On the weekends we enjoyed the warm beaches and sights. 
            Nehemiah’s journey was a Trip with a Purpose.  When the report reached him that the returnees from captivity in Jerusalem were in great trouble and disgrace he sat down and wept.  For days he mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.  He confessed his sins and the sins of the people, and pleaded with God to hear his prayers.  He asked, “Please grant me success now as I go to ask the king for a great favor.  Put it in his heart to be kind to me.” (1:11)
            Prayer has a way of helping us isolate the problem and put things in proper perspective.  When we take our problems and needs of others to the Lord, he reveals a course of action and shows us how we can get involved.  The Lord has chosen to work through his people. 
            When I read of Nehemiah’s great compassion for his people, I have to ask myself.  How concerned am I about the needs of others, the church, my family, my colleagues, and my neighbors?  Like Nehemiah, do I sit down and weep?  Am I willing to confess my sins, and plead with God to hear my prayers?  Do I go to Him boldly and ask for grace to help in time of need?  (Hebrews 4:16)
            Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem with a sense of urgency and passion.  The walls needed to be built and the temple project protected from outside adversaries.  He got personally involved, and put his energy to the task.  Are we willing to get involved?  It may be as simple as making a phone call, sending a note of encouragement, visiting a shut-in, or we might be called upon to mentor a new disciple, teach a class, participate in Awana, or join a mission team.  Regardless of where we go, or what we do, we will be fulfilling our passion as a servant of the Lord. 
Thought for the Day: God is looking for ordinary people to do extraordinary service.
Prayer: Dear Lord, speak to my heart, and give me the compassion to get involved in your work.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Nighttime Reconnaissance

After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates.”  (Nehemiah 2:13)
            A preliminary survey to inspect the extent of the broken walls was conducted by Nehemiah three days after his arrival in Jerusalem.  This was a secret mission carried out by Nehemiah and a select group of followers.  Apparently, he felt it good strategy to get a first-hand assessment of the damage before confronting the Jewish leaders.  A daylight survey would have tipped his hand and given the enemies Sanballat and Tobiah the opportunity to intimidate and cast threats in the faces of the Jewish people as noted in verse 11, “What are you doing?  Are you rebelling against the king?”  Nehemiah correctly anticipated their outrage and defused it beforehand by his nighttime reconnaissance. 
            Nehemiah wasn’t the only Bible character who used the nighttime for an offensive thrust.  Abram was the first person to make a night time attack when his nephew Lot was captured.  He took 318 of his trained men divided them into two companies and attacked Kedorlaomer’s army. He chased them all the way north to Damascus, and rescued Lot’s family and goods. 
            The second person that used the cover of darkness as a means of attack was Gideon.  He took 300 men equipped them with a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch inside, and stationed them on the hillside surrounding the Midianite
camp.  Shortly after midnight, Gideon gave the signal and all 300 men broke their clay jars and holding their torches in their left hands blew on the ram’s horns and shouted “A sword for the Lord and Gideon.”  (Judges 7:20)
            Nehemiah’s nighttime reconnaissance paved the way for God’s plan to be executed.  When the people heard his plans, they replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!  So they began the good work.”  (Nehemiah 2:18b)
            These accounts teach us how important it is to be properly prepared before launching out into the fields that are white to harvest.  (Matthew 9:37-38)  We need to count the cost before making the commitment to follow the Lord’s will.  Once the commitment is made there is no turning back.  (Luke 9:62)
Thought for the Day: God is the manufacturer and we are the distributors.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help each one of us to count the cost of discipleship.
To do: Make an inspection of your life and see what areas need to be turned over to the Lord.